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THE PAWN OF THE IMPOSTOR
THE PAWN OF THE IMPOSTOR

THE PAWN OF THE IMPOSTOR

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That which is known merely as deductive reasoning is based on the foundation of a specific conclusion, as compared to inductive reasoning that is a method of logic, in which the main premise supports the absolute finality of the truth.

The prima mobilia is what is particularly indicative of the irrevocable interest of the masterful criminal, with the indistinct pretense that inhibits the sine qua of the purport of the crime, such as the one that was displayed in a duplicitous manner, in the memorable case of 'The pawn of the impostor'.

The year was 1904, and I was at the Hotel Seymour on West 45th Street in New York City, with the prefect of Paris Hugo Bonheur, when we were informed of a heinous murder that occurred in one of the rooms upstairs adjacent to our rooms. The victim was a well established broker of the New York Stock Exchange, by the name of Mason Hurst.

We were in New York to attend an international conference that we were invited to be guest speakers. However, the insoluble murder of Mr Hurst would involve us in solving an inimitable mystery that would include other murdered individuals as well, as a deliberate plot to kill the president of the United States.

Since there were no other immediate police officers in the hotel or vicinity, we had identified ourselves and demonstrated our credentials to the hotel staff, who despite the macabre discovery were extremely professional, under the unpredictable circumstance.

It was at night when the unforeseen murder had happened. Once we had entered the room and saw the dead body of Mr Hurst, it was apparent that he was obviously murdered. He had a noticeable gash in his neck that was caused by a sharp object that slit his throat completely. Bonheur was not confident to declare whether or not, his death was of a sudden or gradual corollary. After examining closely the area of the wound, I knew he had most likely succumbed to a rapid death in my adductive observation.
Bonheur was not yet convinced of that unproven analogy.

'How can you be certain that he died a swift death inspector?'

'It is simple Bonheur, if you observe the gash on the neck keenly, you will see, how precise and efficient the killer was in the murder of Mr Hurst.'

'I see, but it does not tell us much of the murderer or palpable motive'.

'Perhaps! But it does establish the fact that there was a crime committed'.

'But the question is why?'

As we were discussing the issue of the horrific murder, a police officer had entered the room therewith and identified himself, 'I am Edward Gordon, from the New York Police. Who are you two gentlemen?'

The police officer had not fully recognised our peculiar European clothing, in particular Bonheur, who was dressed in his distinctive accoutrements of a French kepi and cape. I was dressed in my Bowler hat and English three-piece suit.

We shook hands and I had introduced myself and Bonheur, 'I am Inspector Jack Cauvain of London and this is the prefect of the Prefecture of Paris Hugo Bonheur'.

'Inspector Cauvain, I have heard of you, but never met you until now. What brings you to New York?'

'An international conference!'

'The both of you are far away indeed, from the familiar settings of Europe'.

'Qui monsieur, but the crime always is consequential here or there!' Bonheur replied.

'What do you mean by that?' Officer Gordon had enquired.

'What the amiable prefect is implying, is regardless of the method, the outcome is predictably accomplished'.

'If so then what are we to opine of this murder, inspector?'

'If you allow me to proceed Officer Gordon, I shall attempt to propound my theory on the unfortunate death of Mr Hurst'.

'Proceed!'

'First, judging from the wound in the neck displayed so patently, I would surmise that the victim was murdered by a sharp weapon that was lethal. Second, upon touching the victim, his cold rigidity has not reached complete rigor mortis. Third, there were no objects of real value purloined. Therefore, I have deduced from the inference of the evidence established that Mr Hurst was murdered'.

'And the motive?'

'Presently, that I have not determined. But I shall discover that motive soon!'

It was then that Bonheur had discovered next to a phial, a singular object that was a black pawn of chess.

In the beginning, it did not seem to be a pertinent clue, but it did intrigue my active perception.

Officer Gordon took from within the victim's waistcoast afterwards, a torn paper with the number 322 clearly written.

I was not certain what these two unique intimations signified or had in common, but Bonheur was absolutely baffled as I was, and Officer Gordon too. In all my years of investigation, never had I confronted such unusual clues of this nature left behind, by the murderer. Nevertheless, these were the only viable clues retrieved, from the crime scene. Officer Gordon had told us that he would take charge of the investigation and have the body taken to the morgue, for the pathologist to examine the dead body.

'Perhaps the coroner can determine, for how long was Mr Hurst dead. Although I don't really know if the autopsy will reveal any clues inspector'.

'I doubt as well that he will find any more tangible evidence of this murder Officer Gordon'.

The New York Police were in command, and we returned to our rooms to attempt to sleep for the remainder of the night, since the international conference we were to attend and address as guest speakers was the next day.

Upon that following morning, we awoke to the mention of the terrible death and name of Mr Hurst, in the daily newspapers distributed. From the information provided, Mr Hurst had been a successful broker and had gained a noteworthy reputation. Notwithstanding that fact, there were numerous individuals who attested that he was involved in illicit activities, such as in a criminal essence. I was not prevalent to the impact of the criminal involvement in the city, but I had heard of the influential presence of the Italian Mafia in New York and other organised criminal gangs. Thus, this suspicion was enough to satisfy the police in their conclusion, since it was discovered that Mr Hurst had insurmountable debts yet resolved.

Bonheur had assumed that the murder of the stock broker Mr Hurst was due to his criminal affiliation with the Mafia. I on the other hand was not truly convinced of that eventual link being the contributing factor to Mr Hurst's ultimate demise.

'I know we must leave for the conference Bonheur, but I am not satisfied that Mr Hurst was murdered by the Mafia, or someone sent by them to kill poor Mr Hurst'.

'What are you suggesting inspector?' Bonheur had queried.

'I am not suggesting anything out of the realm of possibility. Instead, I am merely stating the fact that from the few clues recovered, nothing would indicate the involvement of the Mafia'.

'How can you so easily exclude them?'

'I am no expert on the Mafia, but it seems highly unlikely that the Mafia would apply these measures, such as leaving behind a pawn'.

'Excuse me, but the black pawn does not imply anything. On the other hand, the number could, since he was a broker, from the New York Stock Exchange'.

'That I have not forgotten! There must be in the end a significant motive for this murder'.

'The question is, what was that particular motive?’

'If we assume the application of logic, then the motive must concur with the modus operandi of the murderer. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to the facts'.

'But the facts have not yet indicated the motive'.

'In due time, the motive will manifest, as the killer becomes more dauntless in his conduct'.

'You speak, as if the murderer will kill again'.

'I hope not, but my incisive intuition tells me that we have not seen the last of the undetected murderer!'

We had left my chamber in which we were inside speaking, and left afterwards, for the international conference that was in the dining hall of the Hotel Seymour. The horrible death of Mr Hurst was still fresh in my mind, and I must confess it is an intuitive thought of an inspector to solve, any unsolved murder that has been committed, regardless of the applicable consequences.

Unbeknownst to us, the security of the hotel had increased. We were told that it had to do with the recent murder of Mr Hurst and that the New York Police had truly considered the death, as a plausible connection, with the international conference we were to attend on that day. The police were extremely vigilant, and we had sensed their presence, as we made our way to the conference.

The people gathered there were anxiously awaiting the commencement of the conference. But as the people had amassed together, another disconcerting murder in the hotel was perpetrated. This time, the victim was a Mr Nichols, who was a prominent banker from the Bowery Savings Bank. He was found dead in his room, like Mr Hurst. There was little trace of evidence, with the exception of the familiar number 322 and the black pawn of chess.

Bonheur and I did not enter entirely into the room, but we could see from the edge of the entrance, Mr Nichol's dead body. The nature of his murder was as horrific, as that of Mr Hurst; and the mystery of the murderer was unfolding with impending celerity. There were then two inexplicable murders that the New York Police continued to believe were linked to the infamous Mafia. On the contrary, my reflective impression was that these two murders were more aligned to an undetermined group, who wished to remain in total anonymity.

Bonheur, who had known me and had worked on several cases with me, began to assess that actual contingency. Neither one of us was cognisant of the intimate details of the lives of the victims, but our general experience with the criminal disposition was exceedingly reminiscent, in its comparison to these prepense murders.

The pawn was not the telling evidence I surmised, instead the number 322 and its peculiar attachment to the case. Bonheur made reference to the fact that the victims' occupations had something to do with the reference to that number. I had agreed and further more acknowledged that conspicuous intimation presumed.

The postponement of the international conference had left us in New York City, without an addititious itinerary to adhere. Yet, our involvement with the case had been directly intrinsic to its complex resolution. Instead of staying in the hotel, we decided to visit the area where Mr Hurst had last been, before returning to the Hotel Seymour. Subsequently, we took a cab to Broadway and 73rd Street. According to Officer Gordon, several witnesses had seen him in the company of an unidentified gentleman. When we arrived at the area, there was a noticeable multitude of people, trolleys and carriages crowding the street of babeldom. I was wont to the hectic ramble of London, but the bustle in New York was considerably incomparable. The thought of finding some related clues there was difficult to imagine advantageously. To locate this unidentified stranger was a predictable challenge. Therefore, we concentrated our continuous effort and investigation on the aspect of a probable collusion in the murders.

'If there was a sinister collusion involved in the nature of the murders, then what exact motive could be applied to this affiliation?' Bonheur queried.

'Perhaps the most contingent motive Bonheur, the irresistible implication of power'.

'What do you mean?'

'If my theory is correct, then the number 322 is a mere subterfuge, to conceal an abditive agenda'.

'Such as?'

'I am afraid at the present moment, I don't have that definite answer. But rest assure, if there is an inspector capable of solving the enigma, it is your assiduous compeer from London, Chief Inspector Jack Cauvain'.

'Does this mean, we are officially investigating these murders? You realise at the moment, we don't have the time or the assistance of the New York Police'.

'I am fully aware of that! Perhaps, it is better that we return to the hotel forthwith and see if Officer Gordon has discovered any recent clues'.

Once we had returned to the Hotel Seymour, we were fortunate enough to find Officer Gordon and converse with him afterwards. He was very pensive in his expressive mien, but was still convinced that the Italian Mafia were behind the two murders committed in the hotel. I felt that I could not dissuade him, from his presumable assertion of the Mafia; although I had attempted in my persuasive endeavour.

'I admit that I am somewhat foreign to the operations of the Italian Mafia here in New York City Officer Gordon, but surely you cannot preclude other nefarious groups or a madman; although I much prefer my first notion than the latter'.

'With all due respect inspector, we have been dealing with the expansion of the Mafia from Sicily, for a decade now'.

'If I can interject, what then, was the ultimate objective of these murders?' Bonheur insisted.

'Their objective prefect, is the monopoly of the city, under their total control'.

'I do not dispute your observation Officer Gordon, but I am not absolutely convinced it was the Italian Mafia. Perhaps, as with the pawn of chess, the murderer wants us to believe that the Mafia are the actual culprits'.

'Explain!'

'I shall proceed to elucidate Officer Gordon. You see, the deaths of Mr Hurst and Mr Nichols were planned concisely, with the utmost precision and time.'

'And?'

'Naturally, it implies that the killer had adequate time to murder and above all, must have befriended the victims'.

'Then you believe that the murderer knew the victims?'

'In sooth, I believe so!'

'If so inspector, then it does not explain the number 322', Bonheur said.

'Yes, I was wondering the same thing!' Officer Gordon uttered.

'True gentlemen, but whatever that number means, it is the key to solving this case.'

'That I do not doubt!' Bonheur replied.

Officer Gordon had left the hotel to resume the course of the investigation, whilst we had remained at the hotel to ponder, when the criminal would strike anew in the city. New York City was divided into five major boroughs, and it was facile to get lost or hide, amongst those populous boroughs. The Second Avenue Mansions, the row houses and the shabby tenements demonstrated a large gap, between the opulent and the poor citizens of the large metropolitan city.

That night the murderer had killed once more, and this time, the crime occurred outside the Saint Patrick's Cathedral. The victim, a Mr Williams, was discovered in the pavement dead. In the following morning, we had read in the New York Times, about this destined death. Bonheur had immediately noticed my ruminative gestures and realised that I had been studiously reading the details divulged. It was apparent to me that this murder was not an isolated incident, instead, a deliberate death at the hands of an unknown assailant. The retrievable clues were the familiar black pawn and the number of 322. As with the previous deaths, nothing of worth was stolen. The pawn was found nearby the amort body and the number, inside the victim's waistcoast. When we had reached the crime scene, Officer Gordon was present with other police officers. I spoke to him about the crime, and I sensed his urgent need to solve these murders.

'Three murders and yet, no actual suspect until now Officer Gordon,' I said.

'Inspector Cauvain, it would seem to be the case. I am glad you and the prefect are here. I wanted to show you both something that was found at the crime scene, but was not reported in the newspapers'.

He had showed us a notebook that was found that stated the names of reputable men of the city. If proven to belong to the murderer and relevant, then this was substantial proof of a conspiratorial plot emerging. He had demanded our discretion and asked for our assistance in the ongoing investigation. Naturally, we had offered our immediate participation in solving the murders, since we were directly involved in the procedure already. Bonheur had suggested that we search the registrations of hotels in Manhattan, including the Hotel Seymour in which we were staying, to see the list of names of the registered guests. The conceivable thought of our possible suspect from amongst the guests of one of the Manhattan Hotels was a logical assumption that was prevailing, as a palpable option.

'That is indeed a feasibility that we cannot ignore so passively, gentlemen!' I uttered.

'I will have the officers check on those hotels, inspector!'

'Pardon messieurs, but I fail to understand the signification of the number itself!' Bonheur interposed.

'Precisely on that very subject I have been cogitating,' I responded.

'And what exactly have you determined, inspector?' Officer Gordon enquired.

'At first, I had the conventional impression that the number 322 was linked to an intricate code, but I am not convinced of that'.

'Then what?' Bonheur insisted.

'It could be the number of a hotel room, a building or even the number of a train ticket gentlemen'.

'I must agree with that analogy also!' Officer Gordon replied.

'And the names written in the notebook?' Bonheur asked.

'Until we know more considerable information, we can only assume there is a mysterious correlation, between the names and the murders'.

'You are correct inspector!' Officer Gordon said.

'What is unmissable gentlemen, is that we are dealing with a sophisticated complot of something of great importance', I stated.

'And the black pawn?' Bonheur asked with intrigue.

'As it was aforesaid, the black pawn is nothing more than a deceptitious ruse to befuddle the investigation'.

'Officer Gordon, do you still believe that the Italian Mafia is behind these murders?' I asked him.

'To be quite candid, I cannot rule them out yet, without more evidence!'

I thought much of the credible notion of a conspiracy attached to these horrid murders. The modus operandi was too similar to the activity of a complex nature that was utilised, by secret societies that exceeded the normal incriminated criminal organisations, such as the Italian Mafia. Whoever, we were searching for, were resolute to achieve the ultimate objective. Our task was to prevent the murderer and decipher the case effectively. Before I could apply any punctilious retrospection, I had to understand the absonant mindset of the argute criminal.

Bonheur and I had returned to the hotel, for there was nothing else we could have done at the crime scene. I was well acquainted to the art of duplicity and by rote of ordalium, when referring to criminal interaction. Our criminal was innovative ad hoc in his method and we had to be tenacious in our imposition.

Another day would transpire and another calculated murder. The body of the victim, a Mr Robinson, was located, at an abandoned building, between Reade Street and Lafeyette Street in the same borough of Manhattan. There were then four murders, with the same clues that were acknowledged and no suspect to be apprehended. Mr Robinson was the proprietor of the Lyric Theatre. Apparently, he had been stabbed multiple times in the neck. I had previously dismissed the significance of the black pawn, but then after finding another one, I began to conclude that it was perhaps an allusion that had intimated the proclivitous behaviour of the murderer.

That late afternoon, we had received our first important revelation, about the identity of the unknown killer. A lone witness had come forth, with valuable information on our suspect. A gentleman by the name of Guido Calamonaci had seen a mysterious stranger speaking to Mr Robinson, before his death. We had accompanied Officer Gordon to the shabby tenements of New York's Little Italy in Manhattan. The area was parlous and known for its abundance in crimes. It was there that we found and spoke to the witness. He had a peanut stand and was not that difficult to find, amongst the accolent onlookers. At first, he was extremely hesitant to respond to our enquiry. After sensing the obligation to comply, he had acquiesced willingly. We spoke to him in privacy, about the murder. When asked to describe the murderer, he was very detailed in his vivid description. According to him, the stranger was of medium height and built. He was of a pale complexion and well-dressed also. He made the clear distinction of his New Jersey accent, and he had appeared to have been an acquaintance of the victim.

This interesting piece of information was tangible evidence that was ad rem. The question I had was it sufficient to consign our trust in the testimony of a peddler, who had a glib tongue? In spite of a potential suspect, we were unable to unravel the mystery of the number 322. The peddler had no idea what the number meant, nor where we could locate the surreptitious man. The only thing he had mentioned was the fact that this man left in a cab and his destination had remained unsolved.

Whilst we were with Officer Gordon, we were apprised of another dead body. A fifth victim was found in the East River, adjacent to South Street. The body was badly decomposed and had been in the river for some time. It was impossible to identify the person, except that the gender was male. We had no name for this recent victim, and until the forensic pathologist or as it is known in America as the coroner examined the body in the morgue, our victim remained nameless. The newspapers of the city had begun to sensationalise the fathomless murders and attributed them to the Italian Mafia, as a blatant vendetta. There was an intense search then, for the criminal throughout Manhattan and the other major boroughs.

Soon days had passed, and the murders had abated for the nonce. Perhaps the killer had been frightened off and left the area, or he simply vanished. We had discussed this amongst ourselves in Times Square, near the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel and Restaurant on 58th Street, where we had decided to gather on that eerie morning to talk, about any adscititious information.

'I find it very strange that the murders have ceased. What exactly do you believe is happening, inspector?' Officer Gordon enquired.

'Your guess is as good as mine Officer Gordon!' I replied.

'Could it be that the killer is watching us, at this moment?' Bonheur insinuated.

'I prefer to believe that the killer is on the run', Officer Gordon said.

'Whether the killer is observing us or is on the run, there is one thing that is evident, and that is the killer's awareness of our serious pursuit'.

'If I was the killer, what would I be thinking? Bonheur asked.

'That all depends!' Officer Gordon interjected.

'If I were the murderer Bonheur, I would finish the mission I had been assigned'.

'Then you believe the murderer will kill again?' Officer Gordon wondered.

'I would suggest, we do not underestimate our foe gentlemen!' I responded.

We had finished the engaging and analytical conversation. Officer Gordon headed towards Chinatown to deal with another crime, and we had returned to the Hotel Seymour. At the hotel, I had perused the file that was composed of the murdered and those who were on the list of names found at one of the prior murders. My immediate thoughts were to approach this information obtained subjectively, but it also required an extrapolation to infer. Bonheur was in his room taking his meal, as I was busy with the file. There had to be a definite connection between the selected victims. After a meticulous study of the file, I soon uncovered that hidden connection. Not only were the men killed salient, but they had all attended Yale University and were actual members of a fraternity called 'The Skulls and Bones'. The question that I had ruminated was this a mere fraternity or a secret society in the grander scheme of an Aesopian vision? My knowledge of this association was I had to admit non-existent, but if I were to resolve this pending case, I would have to have a broader reference to speculate an irrefutable correlation. This new revelation if proven reliable supported my theory that these were no random or adventitious murders. Instead, they constituted, as scheming murders that involved planning and direct participation.

I had risen from my chair of the table to summon Bonheur, when an individual surprised me. He was pointing a gun at me and was determined to murder me. He was dressed as the hotel bellboy, and his eyes imposed a sudden, perceptible threat that produced a reaction in my circumspect mien that was not pleasant in its nature.

'It seems that I am at a great disadvantage. Am I to deduce that you are the murderer?' I asked.

'You could call me what you wish inspector!' The murderer spoke.

'Have you come to murder me? If so, then you must know that my dear friend the prefect Hugo Bonheur is nearby, in the other room.'

'By the time that he arrives, I will be long gone!'

He was about to pull the trigger, when I had interposed, 'Before you shoot, and I succumb to your imposition, there is one thing that I need to know. What is the purpose of the number 322, with these murders?'

He had paused before he replied, 'You are a clever man inspector, but I am afraid you will die not knowing!'

I sensed I had a minute to attempt a daring distraction.

Thus with my foot, I knocked down a glass that was on the table to the ground.

This was enough to be heard by Bonheur, who promptly left his room.

The murderer perceiving his arrival, dashed out of the room to escape into the street outside.

Once Bonheur had entered, he quickly enquired about the incident with the murderer.

I had thwarted the killer's attempt to murder me, but he had absconded capture.

'Are you alright inspector? What happened?'

'Yes, I am alright, and I was visited by our murderer'.

'Who was he?'

'I don't have the slightest intimation Bonheur. Did you not see him scurry in the corridor?'

'Qui, but I could not see much of him!'

'Of course, since he was totally disguised as a bellboy. Surely, this is how our manipulative murderer has been entering the rooms to kill his unsuspecting victims'.

'Then what are we to do next?'

'We must speak to Officer Gordon immediately! I have uncovered the mystery of the murders and the concatenation of the evidence established'.

'What evidence are you alluding to?'

'Oh, I don't have time to dawdle in the minutiae or explicate in my assertion. I shall inform you along the way!'

We had departed the hotel and took a cab to the New York Police Station in Manhattan to speak to Officer Gordon, about the lethiferous encounter I had with the murderer. He was occupied with the pathologist's report, on the unrecognisable man found dead in the East River earlier. We did not know that he had a shocking revelation to disclose. In accordance to the recent discovery of the pathologist, the victim was a middle-aged man, who had been suffering from a rare form of the morbid condition known as jaundice. One of the police officers had related to him that the Toronto Police in Canada had reported the disappearance of a wealthy aristocrat, who fit the exact profile of the victim found in the East River. The victim was then identified as Mr Oscar Chandler, a Canadian citizen. The pathologist had determined that he was killed, before being thrown into the river. There was a stab wound in the neck discovered by the pathologist that was a clear indication of this horrendous occurrence.

When I related what had betided in the hotel with the murderer, Officer Gordon had immediately suggested that we no longer stay at the Hotel Seymour, and that he would find another safe place. I thanked him for his concern, but my preoccupation was more on apprehending the dastard criminal, before he murdered anew.

'What do you propose we do then?' Asked Officer Gordon.

'If this man is an impostor assuming the identity of this poor chap found in the East River, then we must conclude what is the genuine inducement for these murders?'

'And the number 322? Bonheur enquired.

'From what I understand of the Skulls and Bones organisation, it is a secret society. Howbeit, I have not been able to collocate the facts with the importance of that clue. Hitherto, I can only appose the theory, to a possible conspiracy.'

'If that is true Inspector Cauvain, then how do we prevent another murder?'

'We have to find where he is staying at, or where he has been staying at. We have spoken to the staff of the Hotel Seymour, and they did not know anything about the bellboy'.

'I will inform the other officers to enquire at the hotels in New York, about the registration of an individual, with the name of Oscar Chandler'.

I was not unsettled by the ruse implemented by the killer as an attendant of the hotel, instead I was more interested in his complicity in the murders. His absolute involvement in the murders was no longer, a mere averment that was refelled, nor was it a confutation of the truth. Our confabulation with the few witnesses, who provided information after the murders was not an avouchment of the disposition of the murderer. What we had was mostly an assortment of clues that were intrinsic factors to arranging our case. However, without collating the sequence of events, the antevenient concept of the motive was a conjectural theory that eluded my apperception.

I had focused on the timeline between the conception of the murders and the actions taken by the criminal. The conflation of ideas was extremely vital to the conducive outcome sought, and I was au courant to the conceivability of the interposition of sabotage. The murderer had until then demonstrated an indefinite measure of aplomb on his part and less irresolution. There was no assurance for us that the killer would be caught sooner than later, but we were in concurrence that his irrepressible and concomitant need to finish his task was irrefutable.

Bonheur and I accompanied Officer Gordon to Hester Street in Manhattan west of Norfolk Street. It seemed, there was an arrest made at the St Regis Hotel on East 55th Street. When we arrived on the scene, one of the officers had informed us that the New York Police had a possible suspect. Quickly, we headed to one of the rooms upstairs where he was being detained. The individual was identified, as a Mr Edwin Basford from Toronto, Canada. His description was that of a middle-aged man of medium height and weight, like the description given of our murderer. He was very nervous and fretted, as we had entered the room to interrogate him. He appeared to resist the notion of compliance to our questions, but when we directly threatened him with imprisonment, he nodded his head in assent. I noticed he did not have a New York accent, as was stated the murderer had. He would reveal to us the incredible story of his involvement in the murders, as an accessory to the murders, and the ultimate plan that was to develop to its fruition.

‘Mr Basford, you are telling us that you were supposed to partake in the duplicity of the final crime? In what nature were you to be involved in that final criminal act?’ I queried.

‘I was to be a double for the actual killer!’ He answered.

‘Who was to be the target of that criminal act?’ I insisted.

He had paused before he responded, ‘The President of the United States and the mayor of New York!’

His shocking confession had left us speechless for a moment, but I had promptly regained my mental faculties, ‘What you are stating is of a serious accusation and matter Mr Basford?’

‘Where will this take place?’ Officer Gordon interjected.

‘That I do not know! I was supposed to meet up with my double this evening’.

‘Where?’ Officer Gordon persisted.

‘At this hotel!’

We had stepped out of the room to discuss in privacy, the information divulged by Mr Basford.

‘What are we going to do?’ Officer Gordon enquired.

‘Shall we wait here for the criminal to arrive?’ Bonheur wondered.

‘No, since I am convinced that the criminal is probably watching us at this moment in time gentlemen!’ I replied.

We had returned to the room where Mr Basford was being interrogated by us and I asked him, ‘Now that you understand the grievous predicament you are in, you will reveal what targets were being planned’.

‘All the major areas of the city that are populated!’

‘Are you insinuating that the killer is planning to put a bomb somewhere?’ Officer Gordon interrupted.

‘I don’t know! Honestly, I only know that I was paid to be a double’.

‘Who paid you? Was he a member of the Skulls and Bones Society?’ I asked.

‘I am afraid that I don't have the answer to that particular question!’ Mr Basford affirmed.

'Surely Mr Basford, do not take us for incompetent fools. If you think that your denial of any knowledge of this perfidious secret society indicated will be accepted at face value, then, you are sorely mistaken!' I said.

'You may think what you want, but I am telling you the truth'.

There was no absolute necessity to berate Mr Basford, with any more questions at the time. Immediately, Officer Gordon had informed the other officers of the New York Police, about the urgency to patrol the busy areas, such as Times Square at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, The New York Stock Exchange, Grand Central Station at Park Avenue, Macy's Herald Square, the Flatiron Building at Fifth Avenue, the New York Times Tower, the bridge of New York, and the New York Circa amongst other locations.

There was no arbitrary notion of the concealment of the incorrigible motive, nor was Mr Basford’s revelation an improbable concoction. The irrefragable facts had substantiated our avowal that there was indeed, an agenda of a secret society that had manifested. Mr Basford had inadvertently given us the principal motive for the murders that was extrinsic evidence in the beginning. He was then taken to the nearest gaol to be further interrogated and processed. Before he was taken, he gave us the name of George Herford, an important man of Toronto Society.

Officer Gordon had spoken at once with Mayor McClellan, about the plot to kill him and President Roosevelt. We knew of the treacherous plan and the intention, but there was still the irresistible question of where and when was this deleterious assassination to take place? President Roosevelt was a maverick as they say in America, and he was not about to be petrified, by any possible assassination attempt. Despite the risk of public exposure to the murderer and imminent threat to both the mayor and president, they only ordered for the vigilance to be heightened in security and number of officers. There was no specific date given for the assassination attempt or did we know where to locate the criminal.

As we stood before the Flatiron Building at Fifth Avenue, I pondered once more, the meaning of the number 322. I told Officer Gordon that I wanted to speak to Mr Basford, anent the number. Bonheur had naturally accompanied me, whilst Officer Gordon remained behind. When I spoke to Mr Basford about the connotation of the number 322, he said that it was a reference to the year (322 BCE) of the death of the Greek orator Demosthenes, which was a turning point in the transformation of ancient Athens from democracy to plutocracy. That was all he knew about the number. He was not a fervent member of the secret society. This all then had a political reference or denotation in the end.

The constant thought of the motive had obsessed and compelled me to solve this baffling mystery. I was soon told after I had finished my conversation with Mr Basford by Officer Gordon once I saw him again that the president was in New York already. He did not tell me the reason, nor did he know of the event yet.

Bonheur had accompanied me to Toronto, by way of the train. The trip was wearisome, but it was necessary to the incontrovertible facts of the case. We had to locate Mr Herford to confirm our suspicion. When we arrived in Toronto, we were informed by Canadian Police that Mr Herford had been mysteriously found dead at his home. The cause of death was not determined, but I had the disturbing premonition that Mr Herford's death was related to our New York murderer.

I was unaware of the significant events that were scheduled, during this time period. When we had returned to New York, I subitaneously picked up the local newspaper from a nearby newsagent's shop and saw the mention of the St Patrick's Day Parade in New York City that was for the following day. I knew at that precise moment that the murderer would attempt to kill the mayor and president, during the procession.

‘What is it inspector? You are on to something!’ Bonheur had asked me.

Straightaway, I showed Bonheur the newspaper, ‘Good God, if I am not mistaken, the murderer will attempt to strike at the St Patrick’s Day Parade that is tomorrow!’

‘If this is true, then we must warn Officer Gordon and the others. They must cancel the parade at once!’

‘Let us hope for the sake of not only the mayor and president, but the citizens of New York that we are in time to prevent this catastrophic event from occurring’.

We left the area and found Officer Gordon at Fifth Avenue. When we told him of what we had considered, he was flabbergasted in his reaction. He had informed the mayor afterwards. Unfortunately, it was too late, the mayor was pressured to not postpone the parade, due to internal persuasion.

It was unthinkable to know of that decision and the process that was predetermined. There was no manner to convince the mayor of the president for that matter. The parade was not going to be cancelled, and it was to begin at eleven o’clock at midday and abate at five o’clock in the late afternoon.

That night none of us could sleep, as we were in our rooms, at a block of flats in Manhattan. We had the security of a dedicated officer patrolling the vicinity and our observant eyes, if the criminal had discovered our discreet latibule.

The next morning we awoke to the obstreperous sounds of flapping pigeons that startled us. We got dressed and waited for Officer Gordon to arrive at the flat. The morning was chilly, and it was the date of the 17th of March of the year of 1904. It was the day of the parade! Bonheur was eager as I was to know what was to unfold on that day. I was eagerer to apprehend the criminal at last and reveal his actual identity. Anon Officer Gordon arrived at precisely 9 o’clock in the morning, two hours before the commencement of the parade.

‘What have you to tell us Officer Gordon?’ I asked.

‘I wish I could tell you both that the parade was going to be cancelled, but the mayor has informed us that the parade will go on as planned, and that the president will be participating in the parade’.

‘What do you mean by that?’ Bonheur enquired.

‘Yes, I would like to know that as well!’ I said.

‘President Roosevelt has told the mayor that he wants to be part of the group of the Rough Riders, who will be participating in the parade’.

‘Rough riders, who are they?’ Bonheur asked.

‘The Rough Riders was a nickname given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, one of three such regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish–American War and the only one of the three to see action’, I told Bonheur.

‘I did not know you knew much about American history inspector!’ Bonheur remarked.

‘Neither did I!’ Officer Gordon replied.

‘I pride myself in my knowledge of not only current events, but as well, historical events of pertinence gentlemen. Now that we have finished with the historical reference, let us talk about what shall be our response’.

‘We should leave at once, and head toward the area of the parade in preparation’.

‘Agreed!’ I had acknowledged.

We left the flat and reached the area of Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street, where the parade was to pass us. I had the killer in my mind, but the number 322 was also in my mind. For some reason unknown to me, through an instinctive nature, I looked at my pocket watch and stared at the hands that indicated 3 o’clock. Why? I do not know with precision, except that something I felt was going to transpire at around that hour. Time had elapsed, as we impatiently waited and observed for any strange and illicit activity to occur.

There were manifold persons on the streets, during the parade. Men, women and children had gathered, along the edges of the streets to see the parade in its entire grandeur. The killer could have been amongst the spectators watching or partaking in the parade. Was he in one of the roofs or windows of an adjacent flat? It was 3.20 in the afternoon, when the Rough Riders had approached from the distance. I could see the image of the president clearly as he walked forth. I knew then that the number 322 meant the time 3.22 in the day. The murderer would attempt to assassinate the mayor and the president.

I ran over to where Bonheur was at and informed him. I pointed to Officer Gordon, who was near the Rough Riders. It was then that from amongst the crowd a stranger had burst on to the scene and attempted to shoot at the president.

He yelled out loud before he shot, ‘Death to the president and to the mayor!’ He shot one shot at the president as he fell to the ground.

The murdered had failed to kill the president and the bullet had hit his shoulder only. Consequently, he was captured by the police, after several men from the crowd had taken the gun away and seized him. We scurried to where the president had fallen and learnt that it was not the president at all. Instead, he was a double, who bore the likeness of the president. The president and the mayor were safe and secure in an undisclosed location. We were unaware of the switch and the plan of the president.

The murderer was taken afterwards to the nearest gaol to be interrogated. We soon discovered that his name was Alton Hobbs, a miscreant from New Jersey. Mr Hobbs never revealed the names of his accomplices or the members of the Skull and Bones. He took their names to his grave. His adamantine will was never broken. He was found guilty of attempting to assassinate the president and the mayor. A month afterwards, he was sent to the gallows to hang outside of the Sing Sing prison in the village of Ossining 30 miles north of New York City. Mr Hobbs was a fond admirer of chess. Unfortunately for him, he was checkmated! We had learnt the meaning of the number and as for the pawn, it was solved also. The black pawn that was left by the murderer was as I suspected a mere distraction.

Officer Gordon had thanked us for our involvement in solving the case of the ‘Pawn of the Impostor’, and so did the president and the mayor. I had admired the president for his maverick persona, and Bonheur as a Frenchmen would, had made the unusual comparison, between the president and Napoleon the antecedent crown emperor. We had left New York City, but not before we gazed at the wondrous marvel that was the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island.


 

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Franc68
Franc68
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