Reverend Riddell Mysteries

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Reverend Riddell has committed to helping the people of his community anyway he can

Submitted: January 24, 2016

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Submitted: January 24, 2016

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EPISODE 1

A gentle mist curled in from Vancouver Harbour enveloping the harbour front and rail yard. Building, it drifted mystically over Crab Park, across West Waterfront Rd. and finally enveloping the quiet by-ways, alley-ways and streets of Gastown. It created a magical aura about the street lamps and dispelled the late afternoon shadows.

And night settled in like an old friend. 

Thadeus McCann. It was a name the owner had misplaced a decade ago and which he was only reminded of when the police rousted him from his drunken digs…where ever that might be on…. any given night, demanding  he produce some sort of identification. It was not a good life but it was the only one he could navigate. Too many horrible memories were etched in his mind to maintain a sober existence.

He stood beneath the steam clock at the  intersection of Water and Cambie Street. The harbour mist swirled in, carried on a cool, autumn breeze. The last of the  leaves fell gently to the red, cobblestone side walk. He watched as the white globes of the street-lamps flickered on, glowing like miniature moons through a thin layer of cloud.

At that moment a lone tourist accosted him leveling a camera to take a picture of the clock. Thadeus motioned to step aside but the tourist beckoned him to stay. He offered the photographer the best smile he could but it was ruined by yellowed teeth and sadness. Little did he know that the innocent snap shot would weigh heavily on the events of his near future.

“Perfect.” Cheered the photographer as he stuffed  a five dollar bill in his subjects hand.

“Perfect for what?”  Thadeus muttered but his words wisped away with the breeze and the mist. “But what does it matter.” He thought as he jammed the bill into his pocket. It was five bucks he didn’t have to beg for.

The old bum, The Gastown Beggar, he was known to by the locals, moved slowly from his leaning perch shuffling south bound on Cambie St.  At Horner he stopped, quickly glanced about and, finding he was alone he pulled a bottle of amber fortitude from the pocket of his gray, stained and worn trench coat. A mouthful to ward off the chill. A swig to dull the memories and a quick pull just for the hell of it.

Half the contents swallowed he pushed the bottle back into the pocket and continued his shuffle to maw of shadows and darkness, Trounce Alley, tonight’s digs, hopefully undisturbed. “But can anyone go undisturbed in a place they call Blood Alley.” Thadeus muttered, his words nearly slurred beyond recognition.

For a moment some ancient memory seeped out of the past, before the horror took his mind. He was a young man again, just for a few seconds. A smile twisted his weather wracked lips as he recalled reading how some comity had dubbed the alley way, Blood Alley. It was misleading at the time destine to become a tourist trap, but had earned its name in the years since.

Just inside the shadows Thadeus paused and leaned against the wall….his balance and navigational skills abandoning him as the amber fortitude coursed through his veins. Too weakened to go on  he slid down the wall his back scraping against the bricks.

In such a stupor he sat there, his knees brushing his beard and his hands,  wrapped in shredded, fingerless gloves rested on the ground to keep him from toppling over. As he sat there something blurred in the haze of his clouded eyes.

First a young woman….he had seen her before. Seconds later a man, just a faint shadow…tall and stretched.

“Come back. You have to understand.” A plaintive voice cried out. Then a scream with…”Noooo,” gurgling in the background.

Then there was silence for a long minute.

At last Thadeus heard some shuffling followed by the hump of heavy feet running, diminishing down the alley way and finally fading out.

Thadeus woke, shivering, oblivious to any thing except finding somewhere to sleep.

 

 He struggled to his feet and went on a sweeping staggering shuffle deeper into the alley until at last he came upon a green dumpster with a sign that read,  Cardboard and Paper Only. For the likes of him, it was high and dry and with a little shifting of the contents it could be warm.

But Thadeus was not quite ready for bedding down. The grumble in his gut reminded him he had not eaten since early morning when he had snatched some doughnuts from a coffee shop destine for the garbage. With any luck he could grab a morsel or two from the taco joint at the other end of the alley. It was always a good place for scraps. If the right cook was on he might even get something fresh from the table.

But first.

Thadeus lifted the lid of the dumpster just to make sure he wasn’t horning in on someone else’s digs….causing a fight which easy to do on a cold autumn night.

When he looked in he froze, starring in horror, his throat clenched in a restricted scream…a scream he had known before. A scream that  sent him on this drunken journey a decade before.

But that new horror filled cry never made it past his lips. Instead Thadeus wretched….and wretched…..and wretched  until his throat burned and his gut ached.

It went on for five, then ten minutes felling him to his knees and crawling away, trying to escape. His knees were soon scratched to blood so he struggled to his feet and stumble, turning about, heading straight back to the dumpster. Looking down he saw his torn trousers soaked in blood. He rubbed his knees with the shredded gloves on his hands, losing his balance. In desperation he grabbed to lip of the dumpster . His fingers slipped and he crumbled to the ground. For a long time he slumped there in the shadows, wracked with horrifying memories mixed with this new terror.

And he wept uncontrollably until his eyes burned dry.

It was still dark when Thadeus came to consciousness. He made his feet and stood there unsteadily until he found the nerve to examine the dumpster.

“It’s real. He winced.

 

 

 

EPISODE 2

Retirement. It wears the face of an old man put out to pasture. It was nothing at all like the life Reverend Riddell wanted to embrace or even think about. And given his family history he was surprised, and thankful on a daily basis to have survived the family curse among its males.

Yes he had survived, but the old ticker still had its short-comings.  He refused to let it stop him but reluctantly slowed down to a modest stride.

He had long ago decided that when this time came, even in retirement, he would continue as  he had been doing for years.  helping  the community of Gastown in whatever way presented itself. Unfortunately that help often came when he examined the darker side of life that somehow always manages to work its way into any community….affluent or otherwise.

Gastown had experience a wonderful transmutation from ‘Otherwise’ to a community of artists, professionals and the more affluent with a population around seventy nine thousand. It is a community of younger folks in their 30s and 40s. There was also a substantial gathering of retiring folks like Reverend Riddell whom, as a matter of record, was not unknown in the community. Even before he had been put out to pasture he had made his mark as……well….there are many words to accommodate his mark. Suffice to say he was well liked and respected and trusted as a confidential listener.

He like walking…or….as he put it…. “Strolling the  streets and avenues of Gastown.”  It did his heart wonders which was well since it had a habit of missing a beat now and then. Strolling was his own regime of therapy and seemed to work as well as any and was much more pleasant. Strolling in the evening, especially misty evenings, was among the best times. Yet none were bad and some were uplifting, enlightening and eye opening. Some evenings a stroll meant helping a lost soul step back from their shadowy, despairing existence into the light of hope.

On this evening Reverend Riddell had gone but a short distance from the door of his apartment building on Powell Street.  He was about to step into a café when he felt a tug on the right sleeve of his blue pea jacket. When he looked he was met with a pair of wet, rummy eyes filled with such an anguish he could barely contain the rasp of horror threatening to burst past his lips. Instead he simply breathed out, “Thadeus!”

“Come with me now. I’ll buy you a meal and you can tell me…..” The Reverend was offering.

“No…No.No You must come with me now. I have discovered something terrible.” Thadeus argued and tugged insistently on the Reverends coat sleeve.

Reverend Riddell was reluctant. With Thadeus, something terrible could mean something he perceived in his mind. But as he searched the old drunkards eyes there was something in their depths that warned him that Thadeus had seen something far more viable that a twist of his imagination.

“Very well. Where must we go.” He asked.

“Follow me Rev. Its this way.” Thadeus urged with an almost sober tone.

With only slight staggers and shuffling the Gastown Beggar lead the Reverend back to the green dumpster in Trounce Alley. “

“Ugh. Blood Alley.” Riddell groaned.

 “Its horrible. You had better prepare yourself.” Thadeus warned, lifting the dumpster lid.

Without looking in Thadeus pointed. “Look Rev. She is dead.”

Reverend Riddell bolstered himself then peered into the dumpster. It was not horrible. It was far worse. No word or words could describe the mutilation his eyes perceived. “Her head. What did they do to her head?” He gasped then quickly turned away. After a minute in silence with his hand over his heart he caught his breath and told Thadeus to close the dumpster lid. After collecting his wits he lifted his cell phone from a pocket and dialed the police.

When the call was answered by the electronic voice he keyed and extension. A weary worn voice responded.

“Detective Inspector Lance.” It was simply a statement of fact , dilute of emotion or even a hint of community politeness.

“Inspector Lance. This is Reverend Riddell. I am calling to report what looks to me like a murder. A young woman.” The Reverend began then described the scene and the recent movements and discoveries of Thadeus.

 

 

EPISODE 3

Sometimes I think Reverend Riddell has a crystal ball or at least a ghost or two doing his watching for him. I think this because most often when I arrive at the door of his apartment on Powell St. announced or on a whim, he beckons me enter before I have knocked. And for a point of interest, there is no door-man or land lord/lady to warn him. When I accost him with this ponderance he simply points up. I learned long ago what that means and I am sure you too, will figure it out in time.

On this particular visit everything went along as usual until I opened the door and stepped through. To my surprise Riddell had a guest, which was a rare thing for eight am. 

I fixed my gaze on the man and saw at first a stranger. Then, to my second surprise in a matter of seconds I realized the man sitting at the breakfast table, gingerly placing some egg and bacon in his mouth, was the Gastown Beggar.

Riddell gave me a sparkled glance and an amused smile. “I see you quickly recognized this polished version of Thadeus McCann.”

“Polished! The man is as transformed as Gastown itself!” said I. “How did you manage to pry the bottle from his fingers let alone get him to bathe and shave….and are those your clothes?” Thadeus was wearing a light blue sports shirt, grey, pressed trousers and clean white socks.

His hair was combed back and as a third surprise in a very short time; when he smiled his teeth were considerable more white than ever I had seen them.

Upon spying the expression of awe in my eyes Riddell explained with another of his telling grins, “It is amazing what a solution of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can do for ones oral appearance.”

What struck me next was, under that foul veneer of drunkenness and filth lived a gentleman of some culture. Thadeus stood and greeted me, faintly smiling “Hello Harry. I hope you are having as good a morning as this old Soggy soul.”

“Old. I thought so before but you don’t look a day over fifty.” I replied.

“51 actually.” Thadeus directed then reclaimed his chair and continued eating his breakfast.

I did at that  point notice a tremor in his hands which I knew from experience would get worse the farther Thadeus moved away from the booze. By tomorrow he would be a bundle of quakes and jerks as the alcohol began purging from his system. I suspected the good Reverend Riddell was responsible for this treacherous transformation leant with a good heart and purpose.

“I suspect it is news of that young lady found in the dumpster in Trounce Alley that has brought you here.” Riddell changed the focus of my thoughts.

“Sure is. A murder in Blood Alley is just what my column needs. Inspector Lance gave me the earful. Said you called it in. I was pressed to figure out what you would be doing so far from home strolling about in a place like that and  peeking into dumpsters.”

“Well the fact that I called it in was simply because I was the one with the cell phone. It was actually Thadeus who discovered the young lady and came to me for help. Drunk though he was he had enough sense not to stagger to the police station with such a fantastic story. I suspect the police would have ushered him off to the drunk tank without even bothering to investigate his hallucination.”

“And now you are taking him under your wing and….”I began but Riddell quickly interjected.

“I am taking him to Dr. Fenlly’s rehab clinic this very morning. Mr. McCann’s need will be better served there than any assistance I could offer beyond moral support.” Riddell directed.

“Will you be looking into the death of this girl?”

“Ah. The literary mercenary reveals his true purpose. A story for that crime column of yours.” Riddell chided playfully. “I really hate to disappoint you Harry but this one is fully in the hands of the police. You will have to get your story from Inspector Lance.”

“How many times had I heard that story?” I pondered silently followed by a low, swift snicker.

“Well. Maybe Thadeus can give me his story.” I suggested.

Thadeus McCann scowled at me and said, “No. It was too horrible. I don’t want to remember it. I have had enough horror in my life so leave me be.”

Riddell grinned and invited me to leave…I suspect so I would not undo the work he had begun turning Thadeus to the lighter side of his existence.

I know Reverend Riddell well. I should after fifty years. Behind the word of denial I saw that spark of curiosity.  All I had to do was wait until something ignited that spark into a flame.

It did not take long. In fact the very next morning Riddell called me and requested my presences. “I believe that literary mercenary shadow inside you will be quite excited at a discovery I have made concerning the young woman found in the dumpster.” He held out a tid-bit to lure me in. By nature I went for it. My existence in the newspaper world depended on such bits of mayhem and the likes of the good Reverend. Not many folks can pass up a good mystery to read about.

I was coming up to my deadline fast. It was Riddell and the lady in the dumpster or a generic tale of murder and mayhem from the past I conjured up an opening for A killing In Trounce Alley and filed it with my editor. I made sure to include Reverend Riddell’s name and Inspector Lance, a combination that always captured the readers of my column. When ever those two crossed path the results were….. well how can put it….hmmmm…..the results were explosive.

 

EPISODE 4

I was hanging around the police station waiting for Inspector Lance so I could get something juicy for my column. I already knew her name. Melamie Sharpe, and how her assailant had bashed her over the head several time. It didn’t take a pathologist to figure out the cause of death. Just an idea what a lead pipe can do to the human scull.

Lance showed up just after ten pm, took one look at me and scowled. “Don’t you have….” He was about to make a wise-crack when a man, looking as important as he could rushed into the lobby of the station, moving straight in on the inspector.

“I heard Melamie Sharpe is dead….murdered! Its all over town. You’ll want to talk to me. I know who did it. I saw him follow her into the alleyway.”

Lance’s eyes opened wide and nearly popped out of their sockets, but he managed to grow a professional mask on his face and reacted calmly to the man’s claim. :You had better come with me and tell me everything, all the details.”

The man followed Lance to his office giving me the, “ You stay put”, frown.

But I am a news paper man and my ears are big and work well. I stood close to the inspector’s office door and did what I do well. I eaves dropped and scratched out notes in my personal style of short-hand.

“So. You saw the attack.” Inspector Lance prodded.

“No. Not exactly. I was hanging around the Steam Clock. That old drunk that lives…well….where ever, was there too. I was actually a little ways away.

I watched him for a while then I went and took his picture and gave him five dollars.

As we stood there a young lady went by. Thadeus nodded and the lady greeted him with a casual familiarity. It was of course Melamie Sharpe. I am not acquainted with her but I know who she is.

Anyway. After she passed by the old drunk followed her. When she went into Trounce Alley he followed her there too.

I was going to follow them but I checked the time and realised I was late for a very important meeting. It never occurred to me that that drunk would kill her.”

I caught the man’s name and jotted it down then hurried home to get the next day’s column ready. I did submit a story but it wasn’t that one because what happened next….what I learned from Reverend Riddell put a whole new light on the witnesses statement.

I arrived at Riddell’s Apartment just on 11 am. “Come in!” I heard him beckon before I knocked. I rolled my eyes, pushed the door open and stepped over the threshold only to stop dead in my tracks. Of all the people,  there sat Inspector Lance having a coffee to Riddell’s tea.

“What gives” I queried.

“Inspector Lance has requested that I go over the discovery of Miss Melamie Sharpe, whom Thadeus found last evening. I found it prudent as well to tell him what I have learned about the woman. We have been waiting for you so that I only need to describe my discoveries once.” The Reverend explained in a tone that said, “Lance caught wind of my inquiry and wants the information because he ran smack into a brick wall.”

“Well then. I have arrived so lets get on with it. I have a deadline to meet and my editor is riding me.” I replied curtly offering up a slow grin. Inspector Lanced snarled and ordered Riddell to get on with it and quit wasting his time.

I was waiting until Lance was gone to tell the Reverend what I had heard the night before.

I made a note of the static bouncing around the room.

“Very well. Miss Melamie Sharpe has an interesting history. She is an aspiring actress first and foremost. However she is also a partner in The East Hastings Art Gallery. In fact she holds most of the title…rather held most of the title. Three others share the Gallery and each has a room to display their work. The main gallery is used to feature local artists, changing artists each month. They take fifty percent of the gross sales and I understand the Gallery does well.”

“Where did you get all this, Reverend.” Lance grumbled.

“I simply asked about, Inspector. People tend to loosen up more for a white collar than a badge and considerably more quickly. Besides that I had seen the young lady before, at the café’ I frequent, just down the street from here.

“So you asked the people in the café “,  Lance grunted moodily. “I could have done that!

Before I could put a lock on my lips I blurted, “Then why didn’t you?”

Inspector Lance glared at me but held his tongue, but I knew what would have come out.

Riddell smiled and replied. “It seemed the most obvious thing to do.”

Lanced moved on. “What are you up to next?” The streaks of red anger faded from his cheeks.

“Going to have talk with Melamie Sharpe’s partners seems to me to be the way forward.”Riddell suggested

Reverend Riddell donned his grey fedora and midnight blue pea jacket. As he made the door to leave he reached out and captured his walking stick, uncommonly known as a Cold Steel Fighting Stick. I think I have not seen him out of doors without it in a couple of decades.

It was not  far from Riddell’s apartment to the gallery so we walked, or as my friend put it, “It’s not so far that we wouldn’t enjoy a good stroll Laddie.” So on foot we went while Inspector Lance hurried ahead of us in his car.

Reverend Riddell smiled as the non-descript brown sedan raced past us. He said in an amused tone. “I suppose I should have mentioned that the gallery is not open yet and that I made arrangements this morning to meet with the other partners. It was made clear to me that they would not talk to the police, but Samual, one of the partners seems to have had some small association with me in the past and is willing to discuss Melamie’s death. I believe he has information that will set us on the right path to discovering at least a motive for her murder.”

“Lance is not going to be happy my friend.” I noted.

In response Riddell’s lips bent slowly into a sardonic grin.

“There’s something you ought to know. If he hasn’t already Lance is going to arrest Thadeus for Melamie Sharpe’s murder.” I announced then described the conversation I eaves dropped on the night before.

“He is good cop but sometimes he jumps before he looks.” Riddell replied.

 

EPISODE 5

As we turned on to Main St. the trees lining the curb side were in full autumn bloom. The late morning sun seemed to make the leaves sparkle and I suppose the dew drops clinging to them created much of that effect. It was a scene that momentarily caused me to wonder how such beauty could be sullied by the crude, angry action of murder, but as we approached Main and east Cordova a soup step-van pulled to the curb. It reminded me that there was still a very dark side to the city, despite attempts to improve it.

The pretty picture I had conjured in my mind was further pushed into the shadows as we turned on to East Hastings and were accosted by graffiti walls, dilapidated buildings, panhandlers and an old bag lady.

Riddell glanced about nodding toward a building under renovations. Said he in a saddened tone, “One can paint a piece of rotted wood and make it look pretty for a time, but unless the foundation is replace the rot will break through or more likely grow like mold, hidden for but a short time.”

And then we came to the East Hastings Art Gallery where we found Inspector Lance leaning against the curb side of his car, smoking a cigarette. The look on his face fell far from the notion of cordiality. “Ya just gotta stick it to me every chance you get.” He grumbled then fell into place next to me as we moved down the alley to the side door of the gallery.

It was open for any one to enter.

Reverend Riddell led the way in. The door approached a short set of stairs that rose to a hallway. The hallway went several feet then turned left and continued on another few feet to a door with a sign that read, Rear Gallery. The door open soundlessly.

As Riddell stepped through he suddenly halted and sniffed the air. “Dear Lord.” Rushed anxiously past his lips. A second later I understood the oath and so did Inspector Lance.

“Don’t go any further!” The Inspector ordered as he extracted his cell phone from his inside coat pocket.

Once you have experienced it, as all three of us had at one point or another in our lives, Lance and Riddell more regularly than I, you never forget it. The scent of death.

*****

I found Reverend Riddell contemplating a cup of  Espresso, which he does when his mind is trying to organize a puzzle into something that looks like a recognizable picture. On this particular morning he was digesting information he had acquired while examining the latest crime scene located at the East Hastings Art Gallery where the remains of Bradwyn O’Dally, was found. Of the third partner of the gallery there has been no sign. Inspector Lance automatically put Shayne Fordwhich on his most likely list and had issued a city-wide search for her. We had thought that he would forget about arresting Thadeus but somehow he had managed to keep the two death’s separated and log them in as unrelated. There was nothing to do but try and find information to hand off to the Inspector that would put him on a different course of investigation. “

As often he did Riddell reminded me. “I am a Reverend and I understand many things Harry, but, I am not a detective. I am not a Sherlock Homes to your Watson, Harry. Still. I know what it is like to be in Thadeus’ place so I will do what ever I can to help him….get him lawyer if it comes to that.”

“If it comes to that it will cost.” I replied.

Reverend Riddell pointed up. “A way will be found.”

 

 “ I believe the good Inspector is chasing snow snakes in the desert.” Riddell replied when I asked his oppinion on Lance’s assumption. “He has missed the picture all together. He has not taken a clear look at the fourth party involved with the gallery. Edward Casemount, Melamie Sharpe’s confidant.”

“Where did you come up with that tidbit?” I asked in total surprise.

Riddell bent his lips into that funny grin he gets. “Miss Sharpe kept a very detailed journal and she recorded some suspicion about Casemount’s financial indescresions. It seems he acted as the Gallery’s accountant.”

“In plain lingo, he was skimming the cream off the top.” I interjected.

“Not exactly, but that analogy will suffice.” Riddell countered.

“I suppose the next step is to find him and Ms. Fordwhich if we want to get the clearest picture possible.” I suggested.

“Will you be turning the journal over to Inspector Lance?”

“I already have and I am sure he will make good use of it.”

“Just so you know Rev. I have heard the name Edward Casemount before. He was the witness who turned in Thadeus.”

Riddell stared for a long minute into his espresso then responded to my suggestion. “We leave finding Fordwhich and Caemount  to the police. They have the resources to accomplish the task that we do not. I will put a bug in his ear about Edward Casemount, just in case he misses the connection.

“For the time being I want to have a word with Thadeus McCann.”

 

 

EPISODE 6

I accompanied Riddell on his visit to Thadeus McCann. What we found was a quivering, half crazed man curled up in the corner of his cell like a frightened child.

Reverend Riddell went to his side and gently put his hand on his shoulder. I did not hear what he whispered in McCann’s ear but after a few minutes the man sat up, and though still quivering, was able to control himself enough to talk to the Reverend.

“Thadeus. I need you to answer me honestly. Did you hurt that woman?”

McCann shook his head no and whimpered.

“Good. I believe you.” Riddell smiled softly

“Now Thadeus. Tell me everything you can remember about the night you found the body in the dumpster.” Riddell’s voice had a quality to it that would sooth the most agitated soul.

It took some doing…. Prompting…. to keep him going and focussed, interrupted every few phrases with the demons of detoxing, a state you can only understand if you have experienced it. Each time the Reverend placed his hand on McCann’s shoulder and waited the flare out patiently.

It took nearly an hour to get the complete picture of which has already been described. However there is one point that did not quite stand out in the first rendering.

“That night after I turned into the alley I sensed some-one was watching me. When I saw Melamie head down the alley I thought at first it might be her I sensed. But after she passed the feeling did not go away. And now that I can remember a little better I have realized that the tourist who took my picture was the same man that followed Melamie.”

“You knew Melamie Sharpe?” Reverend Riddell queried thoughtfully.

“Yes. She was a kind soul. It was the most horrible, horrifying thing I have seen since…well….in a long time. She was a member of that Street Theatre Group and she use to pass by the old clock most every night.”

“Did she always use Trounce Alley?” Riddell inquired.

“Never. She usually went on Cambie St. to Cordova.” Thadeus answered then for a minute we lost him to the ravishes of the DTs.

Riddell put his hand on the man’s shoulder and closed his eyes. He was speaking but it was barely a murmur to me. I stood silent watching Thadeus slowly calmed to stillness then he laid out on his cot and fell into the soft rhythm of slumber.

Standing,  Reverend Riddell turned to me and asked. “ Is it possible you could report this conversation in your column?”

“Can do old friend, but knowing why would help me.”

“I will explain later. Right now I must go visit a lawyer friend and get Thadeus out of this hell hole.” Riddell replied and rushed off.

I went to my office at the paper and banged out the story as I had seen it unfold, emphasizing the good Reverends feat of calming the DTs from Thadeus and his bent for helping the poor fellow out of a mess he would never escape on his own. Selling the column to my editor took a bit of convincing but he accepted it at last, once I promised to make it all fit together.

********

Lampton Craddock brushed a piece of lint from the sleeve of his dark grey suite coat., all decked out to enter the court room. He glanced at Reverend Riddell and smiled warmly. Their history belongs in the annals of crime journal and one day I shall relate that tale, but for the moment Thadeus McCann needed the skill of a solicitor like Craddock and that was Riddell’s goal….to acquire it.

“You are the charmer Reverend Riddell. I could see that in you back when we both camped out on the boats. Let me get through this day in court then I will go have a chat with Old Thadeus.”

“Lampton. Thadeus McCann is younger than both of us.”

“Really.” The lawyer replied with a grin.

“Please Lampton. For now, just get him out of that jail cell and into a proper facility. We can deal with getting him cleared of this mess after that.”

“From what you have told me that won’t be a problem, however it would help if you could discount this witness’s account against McCann.”

Riddell left his friend to the business of the court room pleased that he had shifted some help in business he knew that he had a heart, from experience. Now to pry into those regions Inspector Lance would inevitably badger him about….”Interfering with police inquiries is against the law Reverend!” he could her the Inspector growl. Nonetheless, he was off to confront Edward Casemonut despite the danger it evoked.

Tracking down Casemount proved some-what easier than Riddell expected. “Too easy.”He thought. Who would believe the rantings of an old drunk over a respected accountant. “That is what I have to do. Make Lance realize that Thadeus was the one accurately describing that night.” Worked its way out to foreground of thought.

Edward Casemount sat at the desk in the main office of the East Hastings Art Gallery. He was perusing the books. When Reverend Riddell entered, though unannounced the accountant did not seem surprised.

He said. “Ah. The Righteous Reverend Meddlesome.

Riddell offered one of his sardonic grins and replied. “Only those who have something to hide would think of me as meddlesome. Most would be delighted I am lending a helping hand to get to the bottom of Miss Sharpe’s death.”

“Indeed. But I don’t see what help I could be. I told everything I know to the police.”

“You gave them your version. Thadeus McCann has his own and now has a solicitor to present his side of the story.”

I watched silently from the shadows of the hall way. I saw Casemounts face turn blood red. Riddell had scratched a nerve and the accountant got antsy about it.

“You are trespassing Riddell. Get lost before I call the police, or better yet….”

Casemount began to stand from his chair. It was a moment both of us suspected could happen.

I did not budge. I kept the video camera rolling.

 

EPISODE SEVEN

No matter what you understand about human nature sometimes things happen that you simply never expect.

Edward Casemount moved slowly around the desk and edged toward Riddell. I did not see why at first but the Reverend quickly side-stepped and wielded his walking stick like an Epee’. At the same moment a gun shot split the air causing me to duck and scramble. Not for cover but directly into the room.

My camera hit the floor as I hit Casemount with a tackle. Riddell finished the job with a whack over the accountants wrist.

So it seemed that all was going our way. We would have something that could be construed as evidence, at least to raise doubts as to who had told the truth, Thadeus or Casemount.

But sometimes when you think you got things all locked up it all goes for a header into the preverbal toilet.

The next I saw, Riddell had stood aside and let Edward Casmount dash out the door with no thought of giving chase.

At the look on my face Riddell pointed out my fallen camera and the gun still laid beside it on the floor.

“Leave everything exactly where it is Harry.” The Reverend instructed then slipped his cell phone from his jacket pocket. As the phone rang he said, “Inspector Lance can decide what to do with this.” Then, “Hello Inspector. Its your favourite Reverend calling.”

I passed out not having realized the bullet Casemount had fired was lodges in my shoulder. I never felt a thing and in the end it did me little harm being a small calibre and barely went bellow surface of the skin. The doctor said I probably did not take a direct hit. It did cause me considerable bleeding though which was the reason I passed out. The good Reverend managed to stop the bleeding before the emergency services arrived.

*****

Thadeus sat on the edge of his bed at Dr. Fenlly’s store front rehab clinic. Lampton Craddock had done his magic in the courts, at least so we thought. The reality was he went a better, quicker route and took his appeal directly to Inspector Lance, who, in fact had not yet charged Thadeus with anything. It had been more than twenty four hours since McCann had be taken in. Why Lance had not laid charges was known only to himself, but I suspect he listened to Reverend Riddell a little more than he let on. Riddell responded to the circumstances much as he always does, Pointing up accompanied by a knowing grin.

With Thadeus safely tucked away the fingers of law-enforcement reached out in search of Edward Casemount who had ‘gone to ground’ as is the fashionable way to put disappearing suspects.

Four days passed.

*****

Like I said before, no matter how well you may be attuned to human nature some folks can turn your tuning askew in a heart beat.

Riddell had spent the last four days going about his usual routines, having left the business of criminal investigations to the experts. He was just returning home from visiting Thadeus McCann at the rehab clinic when a rapid knock came to his door.

Yes I was there having a cup of Espresso and going over a few details about my next instalment of my column.

Riddell grinned. “So she has come up up for air.”

“Who.”

Again Riddell grinned then made for the door. I could hardly believe who he invited in, but after a few minutes understood how much sense it made.

Shayne Fordwhich was no beauty, or would not be to those who put physical attributes as the prime scope of beauty. At the same time she was not what one might construe as ugly.  I guess I would put her in the category of plain and simple, which in itself has its finer attractions. What really made her eye-catching was her lingering ways of old, still wearing the flowery garb and the colourful beading so peculiar to the hippy era. She was about that age too. Certainly, she not, at a glance, come across as a murderer.

Reverend Riddell invited her to sit for a time and join us for coffee. She accepted the invite but request a tea…herbal if it was available. She was not nervous in the least and seemed a little aloof to the distractions of the deaths of two of her partners.

As we waited for the tea she said something completely unexpected…at by me. Riddell seemed to understand or should I say, he seemed to have a cleared view of the passing of things.

“Reverend. I am not at all surprised that those two got themselves killed. They are…..were not as clean and polished as they might have seemed. I don’t mean they did anything illegal but….”

She was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Come in Inspector.” Riddell invited.

The door opened and Lance came through.

“How?!” I began, but Riddell cut me off with a grin.

“Harbouring wanted witnesses these days Reverend!” Lance accused half heartedly.

“If I was I certainly would not admit it to you.” Riddell replied.

Inspector Lance accepted a coffee and for several minutes there we all sat staring at one another waiting for someone to start…or should I say….re-start the conversation.

Finally Riddell said. “You were saying Ms. Fordwhich.”

Shayne glanced at the inspector then, “Yes. I do not think they were into anything illegal, but it was nonetheless dangerous.”

Shayne Fordwhich paused and sipped her tea. For the first time I could see in her eyes that she was a little apprehensive about talking about her partners with the Inspector present.

Finally she said. “The Gallery was in financial trouble one day, then the next, after a visit from a gentleman I can not name, the gallery was flush again. Bradwynne and Melamie told me the fellow was an investor, but I have been around long enough. I don’t know the man’s name but I know the look. Smooth and as crooked as an old bent nail.”

EPISODE EIGHT

Inspector Lance went about his investigation just as one my think. Suspecting any one who was even remotely acquainted with the dearly departed. He stared menacingly at Shayne Fordwhich and asked in a cold, clinical tone. “Who benefits from the deaths of Sharpe and O’Dally. I doubt the investor would kill them off. There would be no chance at getting the money back in that case.”

“The business goes to the survivors when one of us passes away.” Fordwhich answered truthfully.

“That would be you. That could be a powerful motive.” Lance replied in an accusatory manner.

“Yes Inspector, it is, but I assure you, I killed no one. That is why I am here. I had no idea Melamie andhad gone to a…….” Shayne stumbled.

“Loan shark is a common name for that type.” Riddell put in for her.

“I guess that’s it. I know the same man came to the Gallery about a week ago and had…..stiff words with Melamie. I could not make out what he was saying but after he left Melamie came out of the office and she looked frightened and pale. I asked what was wrong but she did not answer. She just pushed past me and ran out of the Gallery.”

“I will certainly look into the matter however in my long experience loan sharks do not kill off wayward clients. They make them suffer yes but death does not get their money back.” Lance replied. “You and McCann are my number one suspects and I am pursuing that avenue of inquiry.” The Inspector advised then stood and without further word left us, somewhat disgruntled at his attitude.

“Inspector Lance is an excellent detective,  however he is sometimes like a pit-bull in a fight ring. Once he latches on to an idea it takes something spectacular to get him to let go.” Said the Reverend  thoughtfully. “So we will do just that with help.” He added with a grand deal of heart born faith as he pointed up.

*****

I think the good Reverend understands the evil as well as he does the good that runs through the human heart. I believe he also recognizes that what sometimes appears to be good is not always and so true in reverse. “Each individual situation must be examined separately to unravel the true mysteries of our troubled streets.”

When the good Reverend gets into these contemplative moods I am certain he is conversing with someone far above our mortal standing. When he returns to this corporal existence he has often discovered some scheme in the drama of life being played out before us. On this particular occasion he was traversing the corridors of Melamie Sharpe’s life…with knowledge beyond that which he had revealed to any one…including your truly. Why?  “Because some things do not belong to public knowledge.”

So we sat there over coffee for a time until finally he said. “There is more Melamie Sharpe can tell me, even from the beyond. I must get into her home. There are secrets there that will shed a very illuminating light on this mystery my friend.” Riddell explained then stood and said, “I must do this alone. Some things, as I said, should remain between her and her maker. What I learn beyond the necessary will remain with me and him.” The Reverend as so often was his habit pointed up again.

It was three days before I was able to visit Reverend Riddell again. During that time Inspector Lance pursued his line of inquiry and did his best to get either Thadeus McCann or Shayne Fordwhich to confess but  neither  one would oblige him.  That I could see in his cold blue eyes was very frustrating for him. I knew that Lance did not like complicated cases…or better yet, does not like a mystery. “If people are going to kill each other why not do  it simply and fess up since we will catch them any way. It would avoid a lot of extra work and save a lot of tax payer’s money.”

Mistakenly I told him one day, “You just don’t like the idea of earning your keep Inspector.” A statement I don’t think he has ever forgiven me for, nor will he ever I suspect. Nonetheless one way or another I can cajole him into talking and thus I manage to get enough information to keep my column alive. which I did for three days just with the notes I had.

 

EPISODE NINE

I am not privy, directly, what Riddell did for those three days he went searching about on his own. I can guess though from the next conversation we had. Rather from the information he afforded me for my column, which I expect was an edited version, with-holding facts that he chose were for him, the folks he was helping and the fellow up stairs.

I wrote this version of our conversation in my next column.

After Reverend Riddell’s three day hiatus he contacted me by text message to meet him at the Steam Clock in Gastown. I thought it a curious meeting place at the time but went along anyway because I am well aware that the Reverend does most if not all things for and with a purpose.

It was just on 7pm when I arrived at the Steam Clock. Darkness had settled over the autumn bound street. The street lamps glimmered playfully and a dozen scents of fall wafted gently along the avenues.

The Steam Clock piped out its tune announcing 7pm as I met the Reverend who was leaning against it. “It’s a delightful sound, wouldn’t you say Harry.” He said with a sad smile. “I believe it piped about the time Melamie Sharpe took her fateful journey along Trounce Alley.”

“So Rev. Have you put the finger on her killer and the fella at the Gallery?” I queried.

“Not  exactly, however in Ms. Sharpe’s case I know who to look for. As far as O’Dally is concerned well I am certain that was not connected to Melaimie’s death.”

“Two victims.  Two killers. Inspector Lance is going to love that.” I replied.

“So, if it was not Thadeus who killed Sharpe then it had to be……” I started but Riddell cut me off.

“It was not any one we or the Inspector suspected. We all were too focussed on the obvious information. That information simply did not add up so I went looking for other sources.

“Ok. Tell me what you learned about Melamie’s death.”  I requested and pulled out my note book.

“No one examined other aspects of Melamie Sharpe’s life, one being her association with the theatre.

But first let’s eliminate the obvious. Thadeus was far to inebriated to kill a mosquito let alone a healthy young woman. As the Inspector suggested the loan shark would not and did not kill her. In fact he gave the Gallery an extension as long as they gave his brother a spot to display his work. The argument had nothing to to with the money. I did not learn what that was about and did not pursue an explanation. I was lucky to get what I did.

That brings us to  Casemount.  Other than our Thadeus he seems the most likely suspect, having nicked cash from the till, so to speak and nearly bankrupting the gallery by doing so and finally getting found out by Ms Sharpe. He had motive and it seems oportunity. But I must tell you Harry. Even with all that. It just did not sit right. It did not fit that he would go all the way to that end of Trounce Alley so close where Ms. Sharpe met with her theatre troop. Mr. Casemountswore he did not kill Melamie. He said he did follow her but when he saw Thadeus he kept on going down Cambie Street. He followed her because he believed she was seeing some one from the theatre company. He was correct, but as yet I have not discovered the identity of that person. But I shall. I believe Thadeus knows more about that night than he is telling us.  

 

EPISODE 10

I don’t remember seeing Thadeus’s eyes so clear, nor do I recall ever seeing him so bright and clear minded. Apparently he had suffered through the DTs thanks to the support staff at Dr. Fenlly’s store front rehab clinc and a helping hand from Reverend Riddell now and then. He met us in the cafeteria at the clinc with a smile that lit up the room. Through that wondrous stretching of the lips he said cheerfully. “My Dear Reverend. I know why you are here and you are quite right in coming. I recall something of that night now that had got lost in the haze of my drunkenness.”

Thadeus’s words had just trailed off when Inspector Lance joined the meeting

“Good. Every one that needs to be here has arrived.” Thadeus cheered. Please have a seat and Inspector I ask that you of all to listen the closest because if you do at least one of  your mystery murders will be solved and you might find a lead to the other.”

“Assuming you are not just trying to throw the scent off your own guilt.” The Inspector replied sceptically.

“An open mind sees more, Inspector.”  Reverend Riddell issued with a charge of distain.

“We shall see. Now on with it.” Lance ordered. “I can’t spend all day lolly-gagging around here.”

Reverend Riddell shot a hard glance at the inspector then turned his gaze to Thadeus asking, “What else about that night have you remembered?”

Thadeus cleared his throat. “I remember coming too and thinking that there was someone else in the alleyway. Two men, in fact,  because I saw one walking away and one coming into the alley. What confused me at the time was that they were dressed the same and neither of those two were Mr. Casemount. It was only yesterday that I recognized one of the men. Devon Shanksbury who is one of the financiers of the Gastown Street Theatre Group. Then, having seen him I remembered the other person whom I have seen with Melamie on several occasions. I am not sure of the name but he too is a member of the theatre group.”

“If you don’t have a name for this other person it doesn’t do me much good.”  Inspector Lance interjected.

“Of course Inspector,I do not know his name but I know his place in the group. I believe he is the stage manager….at least I saw  him working in that capacity this past summer.” Thadeus replied, then added. “That in itself must be of some help.”

“Marginally.”  Lance replied. “Is that all you have McCann.” He demanded sceptically.

“No Inspector. There is something else but before I share that I must check and make sure my information is not misguided or misguiding. Once I am sure I will inform Reverend Riddell to pass on to you.” Thadeus responded flatly.

“OK.  I will look into these other two men but remember my sights are still set on you McCann and will stay there until something better comes round.” Lance informed.

“Look closely Inspector because once you have furthered your investigation I may have more information for you.” Riddell advised.

“You lot are trying my patience.” Lance grumbled then took his leave.

When the inspector was gone Thadeus said. “I know that other fella’s name but I wanted you, Reverend to look him up first. Just to make sure I haven’t seen things wrong.”

“Where do I find him?” Riddell inquired.

“He will be at the East Hastings Art gallery this evening. He is launching a show.”

I glanced knowingly at Riddell as the bits and pieces of the puzzle quite abruptly began falling into place.

 

EPISODE ELEVEN

Examining things by logical process does not support a sense of oddities in the passage of events. In fact things that seem strange and difficult culminate into a very clear picture when all the aspects of the situation are logically assembled. Reverend Riddell has an amazing talent for creating that clearness by picking relevant and often obvious information out of the chaos and confusion. One piece of information set aside and forgotten is most often the key to resolving a mystery. Such was the case of the two deaths not directly connected but certainly not a million thoughts apart.

We arrived at the East Hastings Art Gallery just as the doors were opening to accept a line up of would be clients for Arthur Mannallia’s show. My first impression of his work was… “It’s rather apish.”

I moved about the main exhibition hall casting glances here and there taking mental notes of who was attending. It was no surprise to see all of the people involved in Reverend Riddell’s mystery and find a corner of the room dedicated to the two slain partners of the gallery in memorial.

Reverend Riddell and Inspector Lance circled the room like a pair of eagles, Riddell plainly stopping at the memorial table of Melamie Sharpe where he placed the diary she kept next to her photograph. Then he moved away.

Champagne was being served to the visitors as they entered the gallery. When Thadeus arrived it was a sight to see when he made a broad statement by refusing the alcohol offering drawing attention to himself. To me it appeared very staged because Riddell and Lance observed the reaction of certain people in the room. My eyes were diverted when all others seemed intent on Gastown’s refurbished, broken down drunk.

It was just a flash I caught with a side glance. A hand reaching for the diary beside Melamies photo.  Then I saw Shayne Fordwhich hurrying away from the table snapping her purse shut. I thought she was going to run off but instead she went to stand next to Arthur Mannillia.

Quickly I went to the Reverend and told him what I had witnessed. “The pieces are falling into place my friend.” He replied then went to find the inspector. I followed not wanting to miss any details exchanged between the Reverend and the Inspector.

Riddell described what I had reported. Lance nodded and casually made his way toward the memorial table. I noticed Thadeus edging up on Casemount and Reverend Riddell advancing on Fordwhich and Mannillia.

Then to my surprise several of the visitors moved toward the exits, two to each door. Plain-clothes officers I guessed.

My own thought was Riddell had put all the pieces of the puzzle in place then started a new game. A game of chess, manipulating all the key players into a position they could not escape.

 

EPILOGUE

If I have witnessed tense moments in my career the one I was experiencing that evening was probably the most electrifying of any. I could almost see the static in the air and flashes in the eyes of all concerned in this mystery.

I circled the room like a vulture, not sure if I had any other role than an observer in this parody of tragedies and intrigues born out of a detective dime novel. I was amazed to see in the good Reverend not a glint of fear, but his right hand was pressed against his heart. Then in a voice of such authority it startled me Inspector Lance spoke out. “Everyone remain exactly where you are. Reverend Riddell has an announcement to make.”

Lance waited for a response for several seconds. When no one seemed to have heard him he raised his voice and repeated his announcement, this time with an air of police authority.

The din of the room faded as Reverend Riddell moved to a central location, his walking stick tapping ominously on the marble floor.

He cleared his throat and began to speak, his eyes shifting pointedly at certain people.

“I must say first that it was never my intention to discover who among you has committed murder.” His eyes shifted briefly to Inspector Lance, who nodded. “The only thing I wanted to do was show the inspector that Thadeus McCann did not kill Melamie Sharpe, which I believe I have done.” Reverend Riddell again fixed his eyes on the Inspector.

Inspector Lance returned the gaze and said. You have accomplished your Goal Reverend Riddell and with the information you have submitted in this report”, Lanced waved a file folder in the air as he continued his announcement, “the police will be making arrests for the murders of Melamie Sharpe and Bradwyn O’Dally soon”

There was a tension in the air that could be felt like a low grade electrical charge.

Suddenly the crowd shifted and in an explosion of excitement a small group scattered.

“GUN”, someone yelled and a panic broke out as everyone crowded toward the doors, pushing the police officers out of the way.

“Let them go.” Lance ordered

A shot went off and the smell of gun powder filled the room. At the same time Thadeus McCann made a leaping dive at Edward Casemount who was running for the back door brandishing the gun. Thadeus tackled him by the knees and the gun flew from his hands. Within seconds three police officers had him settled and cuffed.

Casemount put up a minor struggle yelling…. “I didn’t kill Melamie. I…..I.....loved her.”

“We believe you Edward.” Said the Reverend, “but what about Bradwyn O‘Dally. He was going to report your theft to the police.”

Casemount fell silent and stared at Riddell in total disbelief, and then sputtered, “How did you know?”

“The truth is always revealed.” The Reverend replied bluntly.

“Then who murdered Melamie?”

Inspector Lance shifted his gaze to Reverend Riddell who returned a small grin. Then he began to speak. “It is my opinion that….” He was interrupted before he could finish.

Shayne Fordwhich strode brashly across the room and stood before Arthur Mannillia. In an angry voice she accused. “It was you who murdered Melamie. I heard you two fighting the afternoon before she was killed. She said that after your showing she never wanted to see you again and that…..”

“You are wrong Ms. Fordwhich.” Reverend Riddell interrupted…. “Or should I say you are trying to divert our attention away from the real killer….which would be yourself….I would suggest. Mr. Mannillia and Me. Sharpe did have a tremendous argument but it was not over the subject you claim. You are the one who wanted Mannillia out.”

“That is ridiculous. His work, his uncle would bring a lot of business to the gallery. Why would I want him out?” Shayne argued.

“For the oldest reason that has caused so much strife among humans, jealousy. Melamie postponed your showing for a month to accommodate Mr. Mannillia. I believe you had intended to make things appear much different than actually happened and that you had planned on getting rid of Arthur Mannillia as well. At least that is what Melamie suggested in her diary.” Reverend Riddell challenged the woman.

“I did not kill her. It was not me. I could never do such a thing.” Melamie argued.

“I agree. You could not have managed such a brutal killing. You would not have the strength.” Inspector Lance supported. Then added. “But your consort could have very easily committed such a heinous crime.”

“What consort?”

“Why Bradwyn O’Dally of course.” Replied the inspector.

Shayne Fordwhich stood there with her mouth wide open trying to come up with an argument but no words would come in her defence.

“It was all very clever. You played it up with O’Dally and got him hooked on the idea of having you. Then you told him all about Mr. Casemount’s financial indiscretion and suggested that he go to the police, which he agreed to do. You also told him that Melamie was in on it and that the two of them were going to take over the gallery and put you two out. Which was something you made up but it was enough plus a little of your wiles and promises of delight drove O’Dally to kill Melamie. Then you told Casemount that O’Dally was going to turn him in, which was a bit of a risk because he may not take it to mind to kill Melamie, but he did. In the end you would claim sole owner ship of the Gallery and put Mr. Mannillia out.” Inspector Lance described.

“You are reaching into an empty bag and coming up with a scenario you think fits the crime. To say Inspector. You have no proof.”

Inspector Lance grinned slyly and replied. Ah but I do, thanks to Reverend Riddell all of which will come out during your trial;”

Reverend Riddell nodded at the Inspector and took his leave from the gallery. I followed close behind a little confused.

As we walked along the late evening streets of Gastown, in the embrace of a familiar autumn mist I asked. “What proof did you give Lance that Shayne Fordwhich basically orchestrated this whole thing?”

Riddell smiled as he stared into the mist. “It will all come out in the trial my friend. He will always bring the truth to light.” He said glancing skyward. “What really matters at the moment Harry is that I accomplished what I set out to do. I helped a fellow man, Thadeus McCann, out of a situation he might never have escaped on his own and that sir is my lot in life. To help others in what ever way I am called upon to do, even if it means helping in solving a mystery!”


© Copyright 2018 Donald Harry Roberts. All rights reserved.

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