Carson had voiced his concerns to me long before things started to get out of hand. It was almost as if he already knew what was about to happen, although that must have been impossible.
He'd always viewed Lansbury's death with suspicion, and was the first person to rule out murder.
The call came around February I seem to remember. Carson and I hadn't been working with each other for too long, a year perhaps. There was always a bit of tension between us, although we got on well enough. The call came around 9 in the morning from a lad around the age of 17 - a young farmhand that helped old Lansbury out at his farm.
Myself and Carson went down in the car straight away. We were met by the rather shaken farmhand at the gates, and he led us straight to Lansbury's body. As we got to the small gate, the young lad said he couldn't go any further. Carson said that the farmhand didn't have to show them the rest of the way, but had to stay in the farm premises. Carson led the way through the small paddock toward the pond, and we quickly saw the figure of Lansbury, still clothed in his pyjamas and dressing gown.
We both stood on the very edge of the pond and observed the floating corpse, Carson with very rapt interest indeed.
"Looks like murder." I said, more to myself than Carson.
"I don't think so, Mark. Only one lot of footprints." He replied.
"He could have been carried."
Carson shook his head. "No, the imprints aren't deep enough."
Sometimes, Carson could be extremely annoying with his 'know-it-all-ness'.
"Suicide then." I said wisely.
Again, Carson shook his head. "It's impossible to kill yourself by drowning, not unless you tie yourself to a rock that is. No; you see, even if you kept yourself under water with the greatest will in the world, at the last possible moment the body would cause a reflex reaction which makes you swim to the surface."
"Well, if it's not murder and not suicide then what is it, Mr Holmes!?" I said loudly.
Carson took my outburst with only mild indifference. Suddenly, he turned round and began walking off. "We'd better go and look in his house." He called back to me. Shaking my head in frustration I ran after him.
When I caught up with him, he was telling the farmhand to call an ambulance to collect the body. The young lad nodded quickly and ran off to make the call on his mobile phone. This left me and Carson alone to search the farmhouse.
To our surprise, the back door was unlocked; in fact it was swinging openly. Whereas I took a more cautious approach to the search, Carson sauntered round as if he owned the place: opening cupboards, reading opened letters, tasting some of the food leftover from the previous night's meal.
Carson disappeared upstairs while I continued to search the living room, not that I knew what I was searching for. Suddenly, I heard Carson calling me. Such was the urgency in his voice I bolted upstairs to his aid. I rushed into Lansbury's bedroom (where I assumed Carson's voice had come from) and saw what had made Carson call for me. He wasn't in any danger, he had merely wanted for me to see the odd spectacle in the room. Dotted around the room - on top of cupboards, on the floor, resting on the windowsill - were hundreds of glasses of water. The bed itself was surrounded by tables of all shapes and sizes, all covered with an assortment of glasses and bottles, all filled to the rim with crystal clear water. Even the bed was soaked through, with what I assume was the same crystal clear water.
"My God." I murmured, "Lansbury must have gone insane…"
"Yes…you could be right, Mark." Carson continued to look around for a few moments before shaking his head in disgust and heading out of the room. I followed him out after scanning the room for a few more seconds. When we stepped out of the front door, we saw the ambulance arriving, accompanied by Healey, a fellow officer. As Carson took Healey and the stretcher crew down to the paddock, I saw indeed that there was only one set of footprints, as they were caked in the mud around the house. From the patch of wetness on the ground near to the hosepipe, it would appear that Lansbury dowsed himself in water, probably before going down to the paddock. I shook my head sadly, Lansbury was a popular bloke in the village and nobody would like to hear of the manner in which he died.
"Poor bloke must have gone insane." I snapped out of my morose reverie and turned to see Healey behind me. "Sorry if I startled you." He said.
"Not at all, don't worry about it. I was just wondering how we'd explain this to the villagers."
"We'll tell them the truth, of course." Replied Healey.
"Nobody will like to hear how it ended for him."
"Nobody will like to hear it whatever we told them." He replied wisely. "I've left Carson down with the paramedics. They should have the body out in a few minutes."
"And then the fun begins!" I joked.
Healey looked at me in confusion.
I chuckled, "The post-mortem. The great mystery! Why did Lansbury kill himself and how! Carson seems to think he didn't drown, says it's impossible or something."
"And right he is!" Healey snapped. "You know, Mark, I don't think you give Carson the respect he deserves! He was solving mysteries before you could even say 'Mummy'! You take his word on this one, Mark; Carson usually has the knack of being right about things." With that, Healey went back down to the paddock. I stood pondering for a few minutes. Was I not showing enough respect? It's fair to say I didn't really get on well with Carson, but I still respected him for all the things that he'd done in his career. I decided to be a bit more affable to Carson in future.
A few minutes later, the paramedics pushed Lansbury (now enclosed within a body bag) up to the ambulance, placed him inside and then rushed away to the morgue. Having nothing else to do, Carson and I returned to the station, leaving Healey to take the young farmhand back to his home, and to find somebody to maintain the farm in Lansbury's "sudden absence".
On the journey back Carson didn't say a word, his face a picture of confusion. Only when we got back to the station did he begin to speak.
"His face was so serene…so peaceful. It almost looked as if he were smiling…" he began whimsically.
"He definitely drowned though?" I enquired.
"Looks that way, but we won't know for sure until we get the results of the autopsy. I suppose he could have taken something, like a cyanide pill, at the edge of the pond and then fallen in, but then…"
"But then that doesn't make any sense!" I said with a smile.
Carson glanced at me and smiled back. "No, it just doesn't add up…" "I think we can safely say he went insa…a bit barmy." I said.
Carson nodded in agreement. "Yes, all those glasses of water in his bedroom…almost as if he were transfixed by the water…" And with that, Carson went off into another deep chasm of thought, trying to piece the puzzle together.
A few hours later the telephone rang, and Carson snatched it up immediately. "Carson…ah yes…really…that's very interesting, Sarah…thank you…yes…no…I see…thank again…bye." He put the phone down and leant back in his chair.
"Well?" I snapped.
He glanced at me almost casually, "Well, old Lansbury definitely drowned, no doubt about it. The tinge of the skin, lungs full of water - it could only be drowning. They say his stomach was completely empty, bar a pint of water or so. They also say that his bladder was completely full as well." He went back into deep thought.
"That Lansbury bloke seemed to be obsessed with water!" I joked. Carson slammed his fist on the desk. "But why was he so obsessed with the water!?"
"I was only joking to be honest, Carson."
"No, Mark…it's something to do with the water. Almost as if he were transfixed by it…"
I shook my head. "God only knows, Carson. I reckon the old bloke lost his marbles - nothing to worry about."
Carson slowly shook his head. "But his face…was so…tranquil. This wasn't a man in pain."
I sat quietly and pondered this for a few minutes. With a shake of the head, I soon got on with my work, eventually forgetting about the mysterious death of old Lansbury…
It was around three weeks later, and although Carson had been preoccupied for most of the time with the mystery surrounding Lansbury, the whole ordeal had basically been forgotten. It was mid-March and another normal day - i.e. nothing of real importance that would require professionals like myself or Carson. Until the telephone rang at 1:30 pm.
I answered the phone as Carson was out of the room at the time. On the other end of the line was a Mrs Vaughan from the village of Newtown. At first, I had trouble understanding her, for she was breathing heavily and obviously in shock.
"Is that…Mr Carson?" she rasped.
"No, it's Detective Inspector Mark Stanton. Do you have an emergency to report, madam?"
For a few seconds, there was only the sound of her heavy breathing coming from the receiver. "Of sorts…" she replied slowly.
"What sort of emergency then?"
"Well…" she started, "It's…rather difficult to describe. I was down in the city, doing some shopping. I normally shop in the village, but I sometimes go to the supermarket in the city…but that's not important. I left at about 11 o'clock this morning and came back about an hour or so ago…and I saw them…"
"I couldn't find anyone…and there they were…"
"Vaughan, Liz Vaughan."
"Ms Vaughan, who are they?"
"Everyone!" she shouted, "They're all there!"
Carson entered the room.
"Look, Ms Vaughan, I'm coming down now! Now where are you exactly?"
"Newtown…just south of the city."
"Right, we'll be there as soon as possible. Is there anywhere you can meet us in the town, a landmark or a lake or something?"
"No…not the lake! Anywhere but the lake!"
"Ok, how about the main road?"
"Stay right there, Ms Vaughan, we'll be there as soon as possible."
Carson and I went down immediately. I filled Carson in with the details as we sped south of the city towards Newtown.
As we slowly pulled into the town, we saw a rather distressed woman standing expectantly by the road - this was obviously Ms Vaughan. Apart from her, we could see nobody else. I rolled the car to a gradual halt next to her, lowering the window as I did so.
"Ms Vaughan?" I enquired.
She nodded quickly. Carson and I climbed out of the car, the small woman reclining from us slightly as we did so. As I looked around, I noticed how completely still everything was. There were no sounds, bar the wind and the occasional titter of birdsong.
"Now," I began, "what would be the problem, Ms Vaughan?"
She stuttered for a bit. "It's rather difficult to describe, Mr…Stanton?" I nodded. Carson was slowly walking down the pavement, looking at the empty shops with interest.
"You know I went down to the city. It was when I came back…I noticed how empty everything was. I couldn't find anybody! My husband was gone…everyone was…"
"Are you trying to tell us everyone in the village has vanished?" I asked with a hint of disbelief.
Ms Vaughan shook her head, looking to the ground sadly. "Not vanished exactly…"
"Then you know where they are?" Carson asked as he made his way back towards us.
She nodded and began to shake slightly.
"Where?" I asked.
She opened her mouth, but the shaking overcame her. Tears began to well up in her eyes.
"Where are they?" said Carson in a more measured tone.
"The…lake…" she said, still shaking.
Carson and I looked at each other, Carson with a look of knowing on his face, almost as if he were expecting that reply.
We started to walk towards the lake, Ms Vaughan following at a distance. As we neared the lake our pace picked up, and Carson was practically running by the time we turned the corner and faced the lake.
As we rounded the corner, our fears were met with a horrible sight - that of over a hundred people floating face down in the lake…