The Last Word-Conclusion
“I am afraid you will have to settle at seven Mister Gray,” the words were delivered by a cool female voice that came from the hallway behind Carmichael.
Carmichael turned slowly and saw a red haired woman stood there, smartly dressed and more importantly holding a small revolver pointed at Carmichael with a steady hand that suggested some considerable experience with firearms. The light in the room suddenly increased as the lamp on the bedside table was turned up.
“I would move very carefully Mister Gray; you wouldn’t want to unsettle Miss Collier.” Luscombe’s voice had lost its querulous and rasping tone, except that Carmichael now realized the man in the bed could hardly be Luscombe.
Cautiously Carmichael turned back to face the figure in the bed and now he could see that the lines in the face and the sunken cheeks were the product of skilfully applied stage make up and the white hair nothing but a wig, one that the man in the bed began to remove along with the whiskers and uttering a sigh of relief as he did so, “Who are you sir?” Carmichael demanded.
“My name is Augustus Fancy, perhaps you have heard of me?”
“I have of course heard of the most famous private detective in the country, I have an obituary prepared for you in my files.”
Rosalie Collier let out a snort that might have been a suppressed laugh but Augustus Fancy looked far from amused, “Under the circumstances you will forgive me if I do not find that particularly flattering.”
Carmichael ignored that, “Clearly you have uncovered me but I am at a loss as to how you could have done so.”
“Have no fear Mister Gray Augustus will be only too happy to explain.”
The words were uttered in a tone that seemed affectionate rather than disparaging and Augustus Fancy smiled in response.
“Well since I have listened to Mister Gray’s account of his actions it seems only fair he listen to mine, and after all he did ask.” Fancy had been wiping the make-up from his face with a cloth and now he cast it aside and all traces of amusement disappeared as he fixed his gaze on Carmichael, “I was hired by the brother of a gentleman named Clark Morris to investigate his death, I trust you are not going to be so crass as to deny knowledge of him?”
Carmichael decided to say nothing and Fancy continued with his explanation.
“As it happened there was a quite venomous sibling rivalry amongst the three Morris brothers, the one who approached me wished to prove that the other surviving brother was guilty of the murder. Needless to say I was able to swiftly prove that Clark Morris had not fallen victim to any familial jealous, whilst at the same time proving to my own satisfaction that he had indeed been the victim of foul play.”
This time Carmichael was spurred to respond, “But I was most careful to ensure that Mister Morris’ death would appear accidental.”
The look that drew from Augustus Fancy was one almost of pity but his words were harsh, “And there lies the eternal mistake of the amateur criminal. You entered a place, you committed a dastardly murder, and whatever you may have done to mask that fact cannot eliminate the imprint you have left behind you. That imprint may go unnoticed by others Mister Gray but not by me.”
Being permitted to see past the normally affable and charming exterior of the detective to the ruthless analytical mind that lay beneath shook Carmichael but he did his best not to give the detective the satisfaction of showing it, “But even if you found this ‘imprint’ you speak of it could not have pointed to you to me.”
“It did not,” the detective admitted, “But it caused me to seek out every piece of information I could obtain on the life and times of Clark Morris, including reading his obituary, and there I found your written confession to the crime.”
Now Carmichael could no longer continue even the pretence of composure, “What nonsense is this? I did no such thing!”
“Oh but you did sir, in five simple words you revealed everything, ‘recently engaged to be married’, you do remember the words your ‘higher power’ compelled you to write I trust?”
Carmichael did remember all too well and dread crept over him as he admitted, “it was not the spirit that commanded me, I added that detail at my own volition.”
“Because of course you could not deny your drive to craft the most precise and complete obituary, even if meant including a detail that had, according to my investigation, been known only to Mister Clark Morris and his intended as he had yet to seek permission from the lady’s father. A detail I have no doubt he revealed to you as he pleaded for life, a detail that turned my entire focus upon you Mister Carmichael Gray and a detail that leads directly to my discovering your next intended victim and concocting this ruse to ensnare you.”
Carmichael was immune to the venom in the words, all he could think of was how he had finally failed the muse that had called him to action, “And now you have had your say I imagine you intend to summon the constabulary?”
“Naturally, the body of circumstantial evidence I have amassed, plus the statements that myself and Miss Collier can bear witness to should be more than adequate to see you charged and convicted; assuming that you choose to prolong the agony by protesting your innocence. However if I judge you correctly I do not believe that will be an issue.”
Carmichael shook his head, “No I will not sully my calling with such falsehoods. I have failed in my duty and I must be punished for that.” He reached for the inner pocket of his coat, and halted as he sensed Miss Collier gun hand tensing, “I am not reaching for a weapon, simply an item that I wish to pass into your custody rather than the churlish hands of some dim-witted constable.”
“Very well Mister Grey but be quite sure that if you try any trick Miss Collier is an excellent shot.”
Slowly Carmichael drew a long white envelope from his pocket, its condition immaculate despite the length of time he had been carrying it with him.
“And what does that contain Mister Grey?” The detective enquired.
Carmichael’s lips quirk into what might have been a smile, “Can you not surmise that for yourself?” Without another word he let the envelope flutter to the floor and lunged. He did not throw himself towards Miss Collier in an attempt to escape, nor did he try and grapple with Augustus Fancy in some undignified effort at petty vengeance, for if the detective had been the instrument of his downfall Carmichael Gray knew he had been its architect. Instead he threw himself towards the large sash window that looked out on to the street.
For the last time Carmichael Gray felt the power reach out to aid him and he was oblivious to the pain as he crashed through the glass and plunged downwards, instead he felt a brief moment of satisfaction before he met the pavement and oblivion claimed him.
Augustus Fancy climbed out of the bed and walked to the ruined window, a brief inspection of the figure lying on the pavement confirmed that they would require the services of a pathologist rather than a physician.
Behind him Rosemarie Collier has retrieved the envelope, “And have you deduced the contents of this my dear?”
Augustus turned to her, trying not to appear smug and not entirely succeeding, “It was not any great feat to do so; it can only be the obituary of Carmichael Gray, written by the only hand he would ever trust to do it justice.”