Of all the inexplicable cases I had investigated in all these years, none was ever as lethiferous, as 'The poniard of death'. I can recollect through the certain retrospection of my quondam experiences, the particular details of this riveting case. On the 18th of April of the year of 1902, I had arrived at the bustling port of Constantinople, Turkey, amidst the inspissated fog that shrouded the area of Levent, in the unusual midday. It was spring, and the weather of the Black Sea had been unpredictable in its unsteady fluctuations in temperature, with chilly winds from the northwest and warm gusts from the south that I felt upon my florid cheeks and bowler hat instantly. The sway of the billowing currents of the Bospherous Strait soon would begin to decrease, at the forefront of the awe-inspiring image of the city.
Constantinople was the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural, and historic centre of the Ottoman Empire. It was a transcontinental city in Eurasia, extending the Bosphorus Strait that divided Europe and Asia, betwixt the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical centre lied on the European continent, but about a third of its population dwelt on the Asian continent. There were abundant commercial ships and private ferries that utilised Constantinople, as a main route to the Black Sea. The Bosphorus was one of the active waterways in the world that transported the exchange of goods from Europe to Asia.
I was requested by a certain gentleman, with the name of Sir Martin Redfield to investigate the murders of two prominent English diplomats, who were mysteriously murdered in Constantinople. My name you enquire is Jack Cauvain, a resolute and established inspector from London. I was not alone in my endeavour or trip, but in the worthy accompaniment of the Prefect of the Prefecture of Paris Monsieur Hugo Bonheur. The trip to Turkey was the first time, either I or the prefect had visited the exotic country before. I had perceived in Bonheur as our ferry had approached the harbour, a sudden look of hesitance that occupied his pensive thoughts unwittingly. He was as well sea-sick, as he looked pallid and nauseous. I, on the other hand, was contemplating the grievous nature of the murders of the two British diplomats.
The engrossing mist of the vast sea had presented this eerie sensation of entering the parallel passage, between the two worlds of Western and Occidental cultures. Unfortunately, we did not come to Turkey for mere leisure time or an empressement of cultural relevance. We had taken the famous Orient Express from Paris at the Gare de L'Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, we were ferried across the Danube to Ruse, then to Varna and to Constantinople, since we had missed our scheduled train. Once we had descended from the ferry, we were in front of the vibrant bustle of Constantinople.
My English Bowler hat and Bonheur's recognisable French kepi hat had produced, such an unmistakable impression that did not go unnoticed, by the curious local peasants of the port. There was a clear representative mélange of distinctive nationalities from Assyrians, Kurds, Bosnians, Greeks, Armenians, Albanians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Arabs and Jews that arrested our attention.
'Voilà Bonheur, the land of the memorial Ottoman Empire that once was governed, by the glorious sultans of Mehmet the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent', I said to Bonheur.
'Qui inspector, and there is so much history here to unravel. I wonder, if we shall be able to solve the mystery of the murders.
'Verily, I am inclined to believe that in every mystery, there is a definite answer to the riddle that beguiles the investigation'.
'I would hope that, this will be the case!' Bonheur muttered.
'Cheer up Bonheur—for you look too glum and wan. The trip through the sea has enfeebled you in a momentary enervation. You will regain your vim and vigour anew, once we are at the hotel. Where is your Bohemian spirit, my friend?'
'My Bohemian spirit? Oh, a good warm bath would do for a beginning!'
After approximately ten minutes at the harbour, we were immediately taken to our hotel called 'The Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah' located in the Beyoğlu district in Constantinople, by a local cab that was sent by Sir Redfield. We were afforded the native hospitality of a soothing Turkish bath called the 'hammam' to rid ourselves of the lingering effects of the long and wearisome trip, and we were grateful for the amiable reception given to us, as Bonheur was glad to feel the steamy vapour of the bath invigorate his manly vitality.
Bonheur's interest in coming was the horrible murder of the French diplomat Monsieur Guerin.
After the Turkish bath, we rested in our individual rooms, until the eventide had arrived. Then, we were kindly escorted to the home of Sir Redfield for dinner. He was an aristocratic diplomat in charge of the British Embassy in Constantinople, who welcomed us with his enigmatic presence. He was fairly tall and slim in constitution and spoke with a typical lordly accent that denoted his intellectual upbringing. He was smoking a Turkish cigar and the puffs of smoke had reached us eventually. I was eager to learn about the intrinsic details of the murders, so that I could initiate the investigation subitaneously with Bonheur. It was after we had finished our lautitious dinner that Sir Redfield apprised us of the unfortunate murders committed in the city. Bonheur was attentive to the words expressed by Sir Redfield, but he gazed at my scribbling that I had jotted down in my notebook. I was accustomed to write certain details of my cases in notebooks to organise my thoughts effectively.
'From your explication Sir Redfield, the murders of the British diplomats were perpetrated in their own homes within secrecy. The local police retrieved no important clues, except the fact that the diplomats were killed in the manner of an execution effectuated, by a seasoned professional. But what I don't understand is the genuine motive for these atrocious murders', I stated.
'The motive Inspector Cauvain has not been yet determined, but there seems to be the implication that some evasive organisation attached to a secret international plot is behind the murders', Sir Redfield insinuated.
'Are you suggesting that there is a secret plot that has been devised by a foreign association? Although it does seem quite feasible, what do you base your assumption on?'
'I rather believe that the world of the early 20th century has begun to differ than the previous century, but much to my chagrin, it has not!'
'The Utopian vision of the artists!
'Pardon me monsieurs, but I am more of a realist, who deals more with facts and implications!' Bonheur interposed.
'Indeed Bonheur, no one else is suggesting otherwise. You French have forsaken the savoir-faire of yester', I told Bonheur.
'As for the original question gentlemen, there was a note received by one of the officials at the British Embassy that inculpated, an anonymous group that claimed the murders', Sir Redfield disclosed.
'It must be an anarchist group Sir Redfield—for they have been infiltrating my country of France for decades', Bonheur proclaimed.
'I doubt that prefect, but I can comprehend your actual concern. What we are dealing with is a secret society I fear. This is the prime reason I solicited the detective's investigative service and agency', Sir Redfield replied.
He then showed us the note that was written by this Middle-Eastern group, and although the brief contents were written in English, the seal dripped in blood was of Arabic calligraphy, ٱلْحَشَّاشِين 'This was addressed to our embassy Inspector Winsor. Have you ever heard of the ancient order of the Al-Ḥashāshīn that was commonly known as the Assassins? They were a formidable Moslem sect formally known, as the Nizari Ismailis, who had engaged in mortal conflict. Because they lacked their own army, the Nizari depended on these warriors to carry out calculated espionage and assassinations of key enemy figures, and over the course of 300 years successfully murdered two caliphs, and prominent viziers, sultans and Crusader leaders. The Assassins were destroyed in the end, by the invading army of the ravaging Mongols, but the origins of the Assassins can be traced back before the First Crusade, around 1094 in Alamut, north of modern Iran, during a rapid crisis of succession to the illusive Fatimid Caliphate'.
'I have heard the mention of the Assassins before in my research of secret societies sir, but I was led to believe that this ancient order had long been exterminated and was now a mere historical reference of the past.
'So did I inspector, but if this ancient order has resurfaced from the grave, then we are confronted with a very direful predicament'.
'Are there any other substantial clues or information Sir Redfield?' Bonheur queried.
'No, except the note and its vivid contents!' Sir Redfield remarked.
We had abated our fascinating conversation with Sir Redfield and departed his home afterwards. We had decided to continue elsewhere our investigation, at the local Police Station of Constantinople at İstiklal Avenue. There, we had conversed at length with a Captain Ramazan Özgün of the Constantinople Police. He was a short and stocky fellow, who wore a fez on his head. The fez was typically worn by many people in the city. Fortunately for us he spoke to us in English, since my Turkish was not that refined and current in its vernacular usage. What limited information he provided was of partial significance to begin to construct a ratiocinative analogy based, on the inference of the possible motive and pattern for the murders.
I was loath to make the disclosure of the mysterious note or reference to the secret society of the Assassins to the captain, since I did not want to inopportune him with unfounded speculation that was perhaps manipulated by the killer to make us believe, in the culpability of the Assassins. What was instead my priority was proving the motive first and then, the principal affiliation of the culprit. It appeared that the murderer was swift and agile on his feet and execution of the crime that he was able to not only abscond the police, but avoid so easily being detected as well, by any nearby witness.
Sir Redfield had provided us a motor vehicle or automobile that allowed us to freely have access from the hotel to the affluent quarter of Beylerbeyi near the Bosporus, where some of the foreign diplomats resided. Besides the British, there were French and German nationals in this particular area. Naturally, my driving experience of this new revolutionary machine was not precisely extensive, but we managed.
'Do you think it wise inspector to drive this machine, upon these cobblestone and dirt roads of Constantinople?' Bonheur queried.
'Perhaps not Bonheur, but as the adage goes "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". Besides, it can't be that difficult'.
'Have you ever ridden one of these new-fangled contrivances?'
'Indeed, my experience is limited, but rest assure that you are in good hands!'
'I don't see that many other vehicles on the streets, except the occasional foreigner'.
'Exactly! We are in the 20th century now. Don't be so pessimistic, my boy!'
It did look very inusitate to see two middle-aged investigators in their early forties driving a vehicle, along the side of late 18th century waggons and 19th century carriages with Arabian horses. There were evident signs of Turkey becoming a modern country in this region. Constantinople was progressing into the Eastern Paris in the Middle-East, and I had always been fascinated with the interminable history of the Ottoman Empire. From a casual glance we could see the peripheral shores of the wonderful Bosphorus.
Bonheur was exceedingly nervous as we continued down the path to the French Embassy that was on the other side of the city. Occasionally, the automobile would strike the surface of a rock or bump in the road that would move us from side to side or from up to down, in an unsteady motion. At times, during the trip, I noticed the prefect's subtle concern for our immediate safety. He was pensive in a preponderance as we approached the embassy at last. The death of the French diplomat Monsieur Guerin was a serious matter and he knew that the case would be difficult to resolve, with insufficient evidence. Therefore, he was anxious to examine the crime scene in depth afterwards, so that he could inform the French Embassy of the investigation and know any possible information given to them by any witness. I had waited outside of the embassy, as Bonheur had entered to speak with the officials. After he had finished and returned, I took Bonheur to the crime scene of the murdered French diplomat.
The murder had taken place outside of the private home of Monsieur Guerin, in the colourful garden of his Turkish villa. It was manifest as we had examined the area that the murderer had ample space to escape surreptitiously, after his precise act of deviltry. Bonheur was truly convinced that the murderer had assistance in committing the brutal crime. He could not fathom the murderer being capable of being that stealthy or fleet on his feet, without any detection, since unlike the other two murders of the British diplomats, Monsieur Guerin was killed in broad daylight. His reasonable perception was not contrary to the rational concept of logic, but I had broadened my purview and surmised the murder.
What could not be contentiously disputed was the fact that Monsieur Guerin had been killed, whilst he was in the company of someone who was smoking a Turkish Ootz cigar, in the gentle comfort of the lovely garden. We learnt afterwards from one of the servants that he did not smoke and that he had a guest with him in the morning.
'There is a definite setting of an elaborate murder that took place here. And one that could allow us to better understand the criminal mind in our effort,' I asserted.
'How? I am not sure that I follow your analogy,' Bonheur quaeritated.
'Naturally, I shall proceed to expound on this theory. First, look conscientiously at the landscape of the vicinity and you will see that it is quite accessible, for the escape of a criminal. Second, observe the angle of the spot where the murder most likely occurred in the garden, where we are now standing, to the actual distance to the villa. You will see the ornate window yonder. That tells me that if there was a person inside, that person would be able to see outside clearly, the garden. One more thing, we know that Monsieur Guerin was killed like the others, with a sharp object. Now, that sharp object would have to had punctured the neck in one swift blow that would minimise the victim's opportunity to scream'.
'If I understand entirely your analysis, the murderer would have definitely been a professional and no novice gone astray?'
'Then, do you believe that someone else had assisted in the murder and was inside the villa, when Monsieur Guerin was killed?'
'That I cannot be certain of yet, but it does appears so! Let us enter the home and see!'
We were granted permission by the servitude to enter the villa and examine the window.
'What do you think?' Bonheur queried.
'I cannot be a hundred percent accurate. However, if you gaze from the window as I have done, then indeed you will see the spot where Monsieur Guerin was murdered,'
Bonheur approached and stared out of the window, 'If someone had helped the killer commit the crime, then who was this person inspector? Was it one of the servants? Was it a personal acquaintance?'
'That I do not know. For all I know, this individual could have been a friend or foe'.
'Are you suggesting that whoever this person was befriended Monsieur Guerin or betrayed him?'
'That would be the case!'
'But there is one thing that I don't truly understand yet. You said the killer struck Monsieur Guerin in the neck'.
'How can we be certain it was not a downward blow?’
'I am not! Until, we examine the cadaver, I can only offer a conjectural speculation at this moment'.
'You mean at the morgue?'
We had visited the local morgue to examine the body of Monsieur Guerin and the British diplomats as well. I had to know whether or not the murders were similar, not only in the modus operandi, but in the method of execution too. It was imperative to the investigation to establish forthwith, these vital details. The Turkish pathologist, who had performed the necropsies on the cadavers allowed us to make our studious examination, without any interruption. I was interested in the punctured marks and the possible impressions on the victims. Once I could answer the questions that pertained to the necropsies, then I could enable my preconception predicated on the facts that were incontrovertible. It did not take me long in duration to discover that the punctured marks were done in a rapid upward movement, to the jugular vein killing instantly the victim. It was probable that the murderer used one hand to kill the victim and the other hand to cover the victim's mouth briefly. The marks also seen on the victim's bodies were consistent, with those perpetrated by the use of a dagger. The marks and the method of the murderer had convinced me of a masterful plan, at the hand of a ruthless killer.
When I had explained my discoveries to Bonheur, he concurred with my penetrating percipience. I directed my thoughts on the object and the audacious apprehension of the culprit or culprits afterwards. Bonheur had coined the weapon utilised in the murders, as the poniard of death. The connotative meaning of that reality would produce a confirmatory result that would alter the investigation.
'Inspector, we are dealing then, with a proficient murderer,' Bonheur uttered.
'Nay, we are dealing with a masterful assassin Bonheur!' I averred.
'If so, then how do you propose that we find and capture this elusive assassin?'
'I have not figure that out yet, but I suspect that the assassin will kill once again'.
'We must investigate more, about the secret society of the Hashashins. That will be difficult!'
'Difficult, but not totally impossible! We must apply our innate introspection'.
The pathologist had answered several remaining questions that I had afterwards. The evidence manifest described the furtive tactics employed, by the assassin and the methodical process that was perfected. The impassive assassin had been capable of murdering the three distinguishable European diplomats and was clearly evasive enough to abscond.
As we were pondering our next step, we would be informed of another horrible murder. This time the crime scene was the market of the Grand Bazaar, Mahmutpasha Bazaar that was an open-air market that extended, between the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar, which had been Constantinople's major spice market for centuries. Captain Özgün had appeared on the scene, within a matter of minutes. I had recognised his short, stocky constitution and the salient fez cap that he wore. His officers wore pith helmets on their heads that reminded me of the English lads of the Boer Wars in South Africa. At first, there was absolute pandemonium within the market, as the police attempted to quell the unsettling crowd of curious merchants and customers. Captain Özgün had feared it was an attack by an anarchist of the local Young Turks Movement that had been plaguing the Turkish authorities recently. The movement was mostly concentrated in the bigger cities, but they had dispersed to the towns and villages. The Jandarma or the Gendarmerie were employed to stop any potential uprisings. Once we were able to examine effectively the crime scene with the assistance of the Turkish Police, there was a dead body of a man of lofty stature. We were told it was a foreigner, another diplomat. The man was identified, as Jean Claude Portier, a Swiss.
'Mon Dieu inspector, but what do you supposed truly happened here?' Bonheur enquired.
'If you are referring to the murder, then without a doubt, this murder was committed by our assassin', I stated.
'How can we be certain of that?'
'Once more, by the modus operandi! If you look closely, you will see the pool of blood pouring on the ground and the slashed wound on the victim's neck'.
'Qui! Your point is valid, but we must know if there were any witnesses, who saw the murder or murderer'.
'Indeed Bonheur! Let us enquire with Captain Özgün, about that matter. Any tangible evidence that could be crucial to the investigation is welcoming news.'
Captain Özgün had related to us the scant details or clues that were retrieved. Basically, there was only one witness who descried the murder, from amongst the multitude of people gathered at the market, which I found remarkable. According to the witness who was an elderly merchant, the Swiss diplomat Monsieur Portier was walking in the avenue towards the Grand Bazaar, when he was accosted from behind by a stranger. The incident happened so fast that the description provided by the witness was too vague and unclear. The culprit had succeeded once more in absconding and his disguised was enough to conceal his true identity from the Turkish Police. It was highly unfathomable to accept that in broad daylight the assassin would be bold to murder in the middle of the bazaar Monsieur Portier.
However, as we would soon discover in person, our assassin was no ordinary killer to dismiss so plainly. Even after investigating the murder and speaking to the witness, the Turkish Police believed the murder involved a clever anarchist plot. I had concurred in one aspect that the murderer was clever, but there was an overlooked detail that was not noticed before by the police, because of the commotion stirred. There was another note that had been left behind by the assassin. Bonheur had discovered the mysterious note, on the ground nearby the street. When he showed me the note, I had immediately read it. The familiar seal in blood of the Hashashins was visibly represented, within the Arabic calligraphy that was revealed. I thought it more prudent to not disclose this note to Captain Özgün or the Turkish Police, since they would assume that the anarchists had written it, instead of the ancient order of the Hashashins.
Bonheur had asked me whether or not we were certain that the unruly anarchists were in the end, not involved in the murders of the Western diplomats. I had always considered my greatest virtue was my accuracy. However, I was not positive that my intuitive nature had not deceived me. Unlike Bonheur, I had been sanguine that this was not a mere discrepancy, between the anarchists and the government. I had told Bonheur that there had to be something more concrete than the assertion of rebellious whims of change. To the Turkish Police this was the despicable act of the anarchists, and the local newspapers of Constantinople had begun circulating the rumours of the devious doings of the anarchists.
The newspaper the Bâb-ı Âli Street that was at the centre of Turkish print media, alongside Beyoğlu across the Golden Horn had printed the murder already. The Cağaloğlu Street on which the newspaper was printed was quickly the centre of controversy. There was a nightly curfew imposed on the city by the Turkish Police that was issued, by Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
Although the victims were all Western Europeans, the Ottomans had placed guards, at important monuments, such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Ortaköy Mosque in front of the Bosphorus Bridge and the Hagia Sophia. There was an unsettling sense of a foreseeable chaos and unrest interspersed in the major parts of the city of Constantinople. This recent murder had tightened the security on the residents and important areas. There was also tremendous indignation in the Western countries, with the lack of security for their diplomats.
Bonheur had discussed the intimidating danger of the anarchists with me, and he was familiarised in France with their unlawful influence and impact. Naturally, I had expressed my concern to him and the undesirable difficulty of resolving the case. The abhorrent death of Monsieur Portier had hastened the necessity to apprehend the assassin. The mystery of the secret society of the Hashashins had to be investigated more in depth and study. I had thought of Sir Redfield, but I wanted the expert opinion of a Moslem historian. Therefore, I had asked one of the officials of the British Embassy, where I could find such a man. There was more security added at the embassy, after the recent murder.
Thankfully, I was fortunate to be referred to a Mr Sayeed Abdullah Rahman. His residence was in the Bebek neighborhood of the city, and we were greeted by him upon our arrival. We had changed our clothing to not be recognised, as foreign investigators. We took the vehicle provided by Sir Redfield to Mr Rahman's address. He was a very distinguished professor at one of the local universities and was interested in speaking to us, after we explicated our intrigue with the legendary Hashashins. I had explained as well, who we were and why we were in Istanbul. However, he wondered about our interest with this particular secret society. I had understood his engaging curiosity, but I did not admit the actual reason for our enquiry. I had told him that we were inquisitive foreigners passing on to Aleppo in Syria and were interested in Moslem secret societies. He had acquiesced and began to relate details about the Hashashins. I was mostly interested in their superb tactics for execution, and so I asked.
'Mr Rahman, what can you tell me of their tactics employed?'
'The Hashashin were said to be adept in furusiyya, or the Islamic warrior code, where they were excellently trained in combat, disguises, and equestrianism. Strict codes of conduct were followed, and the Hashashins were taught masterfully in the art of war, linguistics, and strategies, sir'.
'Enough to kill and go undetected?'
'What can you tell me of their daggers Mr Rahman?'
'Oh, their daggers were deadly'.
'Enough to swiftly murder someone?' Bonheur asked.
'Who would employ these men Mr Rahman?' I queried.
'Powerful men, who wanted their foes killed'.
'Could these assassins or type of assassins actually exist now in our century?' I asked Mr Rahman.
'That is a fascinating question inspector. Now, as for an answer. Any assassin can claim to be from the Hashashins'.
There was nothing more that Mr Rahman could produce in the manner of information about the Hashashins. We had thanked him for his useful service and left his home. Mr Rahman had not only verified a pertinent profile of the assassin, but the ancient tactics utilised also, by the fierce members of this secret society. The irretrievable clues had formed the convolution of the identification and the procrastination of the truth. The procurement of the urgent capture of the assassin was becoming of utmost significance. It was difficult to surmise how could we obviate the assassin from killing another Western diplomat? Why was the assassin murdering these influential diplomats and not any Turkish diplomats?
So much of this investigation was shrouded in an uncertain secrecy that was of a discrepant nature. I had to admit that the case had challenged my ratiocination and intuition. However, it only strengthened my resolution to unravel the inabatable mystery. There were no conclusive suspects to question or presume, except the tendentious anarchist or hired professional. This is where I started to ruminate the possibility of someone hiring a professional assassin. It was too coincidental I thought that none of the victims were Turkish.
Bonheur was still convinced that the anarchists were involved in the murders, and the Turkish Police concurred with that analogy. They had planned for the disbandment of the anarchist movements. Although it was common for me to not agree on everything with Bonheur, I respected him. There was no other determined compeer, who knew me better than Bonheur.
We got into the vehicle and had decided to visit the home of Sir Redfield and when we arrived, we were told that he was at the Robert College that was an American boarding school, near the Liceo Italiano. He was conversing with a German diplomat, when he saw me.
'Inspector Cauvain and the prefect, it is good to see you. What brings you to see me?' He asked me.
'We didn't mean to interrupt you Sir Redfield, but we came to apprise you of our diligent investigation', I answered
'Allow me a few minutes to finish my conversation. But let me introduce you and the prefect to Herr Adolph Grossman'.
I shook the hands of the German diplomat, 'It is a pleasure to meet you,' I told him.
Bonheur had reciprocated the same gesture. After he finished speaking to the German diplomat, we spoke to him privately. He was extremely eager to know the progress, about our ongoing investigation. We had revealed the facts that were accumulated and established, but there was still no independent verification of who the assassin was, or whether they were assisted by others. The notes with the reference to the secret society of the Hashashins were not sufficient to base the constructive foundation of the case. Consequently, I had expressed my fascination with the methodical manner the assassin had murdered the diplomats. I had asserted the notion of the assassins as a probable subterfuge. When Sir Redfield heard that claim of mine, he smiled and wished me luck on capturing the veracious killer. He had appeared to be mindful of the current tidings, but I perceived that he was contemplating something with this curious look of dubiety, as we spoke. Bonheur had sensed this peculiar reaction in him too. Sir Redfield had urged us to not entrust our investigation to the Turkish Police, who he deemed seemingly incompetent. The obvious distrust he had for them was a patent and genuine dislike. He excused himself and explained that he had a serious engagement to attend to in the Cağaloğlu quarter nearby Topkapı Palace, where the buildings of the Sadrazam or Grand Vizier and other Viziers were located, and where foreign diplomats were received by the Grand Vizier of Constantinople. He had suggested that we relaxed a bit for the day and enjoy the splendours of Constantinople . He had recommended the Cité de Péra or Hristaki Pasajı, with its rows of historic cafés, wine houses and restaurants on İstiklal Avenue. We had agreed, as Bonheur had insisted.
We had left Sir Redfield at the American Boarding School and headed towards the Cité de Péra in our automobile, 'It does smell very good in this part of the city', Bonheur said.
'Oh, it is the Middle-Eastern aroma of the city's merchants and traders Bonheur!' I answered.
'It does remind me to a certain degree inspector of the Parisian scents of the Rue de Buci or the Rue St-André des Arts'.
'I believe the main entrance to the avenue is through there. Let us park our automobile and thus, walked our way on foot!'
'There is a place!'
We had parked and walked to an old Parisian café that delighted my good French friend and prefect. We sat down at a table provided, and chatted, 'Oh, I am certain that you shall be at home here. Although it is not the Le Café de la Paux or the Café Procope in Paris, nevertheless, it does seem suitable to your liking!'
'Ah, What I would give, for that to be the truth!'
'I see the thought of that contemplation brings a smile on your face'.
'Good, now that we are here seated amongst the cafés and wine houses of Constantinople, we can discuss at length, the issue of the death of the Swiss diplomat, Monsieur Pontier'.
'Pardon, but what is there to say? The diplomat was obviously murdered by the same assassin.'
'There is something queer about these murders that incommode my analytical persuasions'.
'What do you mean? I do not comprehend!'
'All these murders and the unique nature of their developing circumstance'.
'We know that the assassin has killed numerous Western diplomats, and that the tactics used resemble the method of execution, by the secret society of the Hashashins. But what we still don't know, is who is behind this contriving operation?'
As we were continuing with our engaging discourse on the subject of the Hashashins, a strange man dressed in dark, obscure colours had approached us from the front of the café. He was wearing a turban that covered his facial expressions, except his sable eyes that were penetrating and beady. At first, Bonheur did not perceive this unsettling foreboding that I had sensed of the stranger. However, as the stranger advanced I realised that he was heading towards us, and his intentions were not that amicable. Swiftly, he had pulled out a sharp dagger and threw it at us. Fortunately for us, he missed. I had seen the dagger coming, and I hid under the table, as I told Bonheur to do the same. The dagger had not missed by much. It struck the brim of my Bowler hat.
We rose up to our feet, but the assassin had jumped on to the tram on İstiklal Avenue and had escaped. The incident did not go unnoticeable with the crowd. Notwithstanding, no witnesses had been able to describe the assailant with effectiveness. I felt with immediacy that we were the targets chosen, but the question was, why? Bonheur was outraged and demanded that we speak at once, with Captain Özgün of the Constantinople Police. I had understood his umbrage, but I told him that we needed to maintain our firm composure. He had acquiesced, and we left the café and returned to our hotel in the automobile.
The application of our cognitive percipience was required, if we were to verily solve this insoluble mystery afterwards. This reprehensible attempt on our lives by the daring assassin was a deliberate act imposed upon us. The question was by whom? The assassin was only the accessible pawn utilised, in this deadly game of precariousness. Yet, there was someone more devious and cunning than the assassin, who was the main conniver of this intricate plot.
At the hotel, we were visited by Captain Özgün, who had been informed of the shocking occurrence at the café. He had questioned us then, about the description of the attacker. I had explained to him the details and the limited view I had of him. There was indeed, not much to formulate an accurate profile. After he had departed, I began to discuss with Bonheur the harrowing experience. Instead of directing our attention on the sole issue of the incident, we had decided to concentrate on the prospective inducement, behind the murders. This was a congruent conglomeration of confutable thoughts that had enveloped the essence of the investigation. Thuswise, I thought it prudent to return to the crime scene, but not the one that involved us. I was more interested in reinvestigating the murder at the Grand Bazaar, with the Swiss diplomat Monsieur Portier. I had told him that I had an intuitive presupposition that could begin to answer several pending details of the murders.
Bonheur's natural curiosity had caused him to query about my reason for revisiting the crime scene. He was uncertain of what exactly, were we to search for and he was extremely concerned for our safety. I had asserted to him that there was something suspicious about that specific murder at the bazaar. Bonheur was still confused about my ratiocination and needed to disencumber his anxiety. I began examining the area in hope of any plausible traces of the calculated murderer. I had started as well to fathom in my mind the terrible scenario that had betided, before Monsieur Portier was murdered so brutally. There appeared in the beginning to not be anything out of the ordinary that could signify a tangible clue. However, as I surveyed the particular bazaar, I had noticed that there was a man at a shop that had belonged to a merchant. I had studiously gazed at the man and felt a strange sensation that was compelling me to investigate this shop therewith.
"Where are we going?' Bonheur enquired.
'I have an intuition! Follow me!'
'Where? Tell me!'
'To the bazaar ahead!'
We had reached the bazaar, ‘Now, what?'
I articulated in the form of pantomimes.
'What are you trying to tell me?'
I took him to the side and whispered into his ear, 'That man there dressed in Moslem garb was the man, who I saw attack us yester'.
'Mon Dieu, are you certain? How can you be assured of that assumption?'
'Oh, I cannot forget those penetrating and beady eyes'.
The man at the bazaar never espied our presence. We saw him depart the bazaar and get into the tram that took him, as we followed him in our automobile.
'If this man is our assassin, then where do you believe, he is heading to?' Bonheur asked.
'That we shall discover shortly!' I replied.
'How do you suppose we shall trap him?'
'Oh, the general impression I have is that, he will lead us to the real culprit'.
'Do you mean the mastermind?'
We had continued to follow the tram as it passed one street to another, until the tram had reached the Cağaloğlu quarter near Topkapı Palace, where he got off the tram, and a familiar man was standing. It was the German diplomat Herr Adolph Grossman, who we had met at the American boarding school with Sir Redfield. This was an alarming revelation that I did not expect. Bonheur was astonished as well, with the realisation of the occurrence. The German diplomat had become the number one suspect to Bonheur. I was not convinced of Herr Grossman being the mastermind behind the murders. I did not doubt his complicity in the plot, but I was confident that the German diplomat was another pawn in the conspiracy. I did not have time to elucidate my theory I had propounded to Bonheur. Thus, I told him that we were close to solving this case. When Bonheur had insisted in knowing more essential details, I urged his patience. Bonheur had insinuated that we should have informed Captain Özgün about the new revelation, since we needed their assistance. I understood Bonheur's point of view, and his argument was justifiable. Nonetheless, I preferred to wait, until we could discover the identity of the mastermind.
I had suggested to Bonheur that we immediately follow the assassin. He agreed, and we followed him to the neighborhood of Ortaköy. Bonheur had recommended that we informed the Constantinople Police to arrest him before the assassin fled again. I had told Bonheur we did not have time, instead, we entered secretly in the eerie neighborhood. The assassin had then entered into a house. We had prepared our pistols for the deadly encounter. Afterwards, we entered and the assassin upon hearing us had scurried off into the streets. It was eventide then, and our vision was impeded by the lack of the sunlight, and the Moslems, who were approaching the nearby mosque. The call to prayer could be heard from the distance. We had returned to the house where we found the assassin. There was not a clear description of him, since his face was covered. Bonheur was anxious to find an important intimation of substantial substance that could provide his identification. And fortunately for us, we found evidence that was more of a redounding consequence. There were notes that had been written in advance that were identical to the Hashashins' notes in Arabic calligraphy. We knew at that moment that the assassin stayed in this house. We had located objects left behind that suggested that assertion, and we located also government documents and itineraries of Western diplomats. But from amongst those official documents were payments that were paid by lo and behold, Herr Grossman. I was mindful of that implication and what it meant.
The only thing that was yet unresolved, was the specific reason for his direct involvement in the murders. Why was he involved? Bonheur was flabbergasted, when he had read the receipts. Why would he want for Western diplomats to be terribly murdered in a succession of deaths? There were still pieces of this intense mystery that had remained undetermined. Bonheur was then even more adamant, about reporting our findings of the assassin to Captain Özgün of the Constantinople Police. I told him that we would stop by the Police Station and present our proof. Thereafter, we took all the incriminating evidence we found at the assassin's place, and showed it to the captain. At first, he was reluctant to accept our evidence, until he perused over the payments that had the name of Herr Grossman, with the German Embassy seal. This was convincing evidence of Sir Grossman's involvement in the murders of the Western diplomats. The question was, where was he?
'What do we do now?' Bonheur uttered.
'We must pay a visit to the home of Herr Grossman!' I responded.
'What if he is not there or worse has escaped?'
'Let us hope, we are not too late!'
Captain Özgün and the officers of the Constantinople Police accompanied us to the home of Herr Grossman. We had travelled in the automobile, whilst Captain Özgün and his men did in carriages. The prevailing thought was that Herr Grossman was probably apprised of our recent discovery of his inclusion in the scheme. Something was indicating to me that there was much more to this unfolding plot of murdered Western diplomats that we had overlooked. When we had arrived at the home of Herr Grossman, he was not present. It appeared that he had fled Constantinople speedily, after being warned of our awareness of the developing situation. Bonheur was certain that Herr Grossman was the great mastermind, but I was not sure of that apparent inclination. Although it had seemed that the evidence suggested Herr Grossman's presumable guilt, I was still troubled by my lingering suspicion of him being the primary mastermind, behind this particular embroilment that was this magnified investigation. I had intuited the involvement of another sinister individual that possessed more ingenuity than Herr Grossman. For some inexplicable reason, my emerging thoughts converged on Sir Redfield.
Captain Özgün had ordered his officers to patrol the city and search for the dastardly culprits. He immediately had instructed that the port be closed and the roads leading out of Constantinople also be closed, until the culprits were discovered and ultimately arrested. Bonheur and I had left the Police Station, and we headed to Sir Redfield's villa. Bonheur was unaware of my extemporaneous presupposition and naturally he enquired.
'What are you musing that your circumspect mien is troubled?'
'We shall soon know, once we speak to Sir Redfield!' I exclaimed.
'Know what inspector?'
'Hush Bonheur, let me concentrate on the road, if not, we shall not reach Sir Redfield's villa!'
When we had arrived at the villa of Sir Redfield, like Herr Grossman, Sir Redfield was absent.
'Where could he be?' Bonheur asked.
'That I do not know! Let me think!' I replied.
'Where are the servants? I do not see anyone here!'
'True, and that is indeed peculiar!'
'What do we do next?'
As we were standing outside of the home, I noticed there was a particular cigar that was lying on the ground. I picked up the cigar with my glove and examined it.
'A Turkish cigar, whose cigar could this be?'
'It looks familiar to one I saw before'.
I cogitated in my mind, as I observed the cigar, 'I found one of these cigars at the murdered scene, at the home of the French diplomat Monsieur Guerin'.
Bonheur examined the cigar 'This cigar could have been smoked by anyone. What does this prove?'
It was then I thought of the other instant that I remembered this Turkish cigar, 'It matters Bonheur. This is the most relevant clue we have of our mastermind!'
'What do you mean?'
'It is the gentlemen's cigar of Western diplomats. And if my theory is correct, then, this cigar could lead us to solving the case'.
'There is no time for a disquisition! Let us be off!'
'To the Police Station?'
'To speak to Captain Özgün!'
We left the villa of Monsieur Guerin and had returned to the Police Station to talk to Captain Özgün at once. I had requested that he investigate the schedules of the Western diplomats, before the murders had occurred, whilst we attempted to locate Sir Redfield. We headed to the building of the Sadrazam, where the foreign diplomats met the Grand Vizier. He was not there at all. Then, we had visited the British Embassy to enquire about Sir Redfield, and we would receive information that would be shocking. Sir Redfield had left the city of Constantinople for Austria. We had returned to the Police Station, where we were informed of the schedules of the Western diplomats. I had perused the daily schedules and in each murdered diplomat, they had previous engagements with Sir Redfield.
'Good God Bonheur, we have now found our mastermind!' I ejaculated.
'Sir Redfield?' Bonheur muttered.
'He cannot leave, we have the port and the roads leading out of Istanbul closed and monitored!' Captain Özgün responded.
'There is one other avenue of escape gentlemen that we have forgotten, the train. Do you have men at the train station Captain Özgün?' I asked him.
'Not yet inspector!' Captain Özgün answered.
'Then, we must go now to the train station!'
'The Orient Express sir! He could be already in one of those places that stop along the way!' Bonheur suggested.
We hastened to the International Rail Service from Constantinople. We had checked the passengers and discovered that Sir Redfield's name was on the list. He had departed the city of Constantinople a day ago. Captain Özgün had remained behind to continue the difficult perquisition for the assassin and Herr Grossman, whilst we left the city and boarded the train to locate and apprehend Sir Redfield. He had assigned a faithful Kavas, who was a military guard to assist us. He was dressed with trousers, a vest and jacket. His splendid red fez over his head and his long Turkish sword at his side. His thick moustache and piercing watchful eyes were noticeable, with his preservable features.
We took the Constantinople's Sirkeci Terminal, which was connected with the terminus of the Orient Express, from Constantinople to Budapest stopping in Varna, Bulgaria. There we would travel to Vienna, Austria our ultimate destination. We took the schedule of the Orient Express and had contemplated the daily stops of the train. It was almost impossible to know where Sir Redfield had descended the train, if he had. He could have been in any of the designated cities of the route. We were not even certain he was heading towards Austria in the end. Bonheur was extremely eager to know more, but there was nothing I could say in my asseveration to assuage his excitement, except the incontrovertible facts established.
At Bucharest we received a telegraph from Captain Özgün informing us that they had captured and arrested Herr Grossman, and he had confessed his participation in the murders. We were told as well that Sir Redfield's ultimate stop would be in Vienna, Austria. There was one disturbing thing, the assassin had not been caught yet. That meant he was still on the loose. Our plan was to reach Vienna, and then search for Sir Redfield there. Once we had arrived at Bucharest, we about to depart the city, when suddenly I descried those familiar eyes of the assassin. He was dressed in Western clothing Quickly, I had informed Bonheur, and we followed him. He did not perceive us. When he stopped, he spoke in broken English to an unidentified gentleman, who answered him with an English accent. I had recognised that gentleman's voice. It was the voice of Sir Redfield. Slowly, we had approached them, with our pistols. The compartment was empty except them. When we had reached them, they were startled to see us standing before them with our pistols. Sir Redfield had addressed us with a devilish grin, as he smoked his Turkish cigar.
'Inspector Cauvain. I was not expecting you so soon! Do you have tidings of the investigation for me?'
'It is over gentlemen! We know everything Sir Redfield. You are under arrest!' I told him.
He laughed, 'Do you think you can arrest me here? You have no jurisdiction!'
The Police of Vienna had entered the train and were present inside and outside of the train. Their voices could be heard palpably.
'How did you know? How did you find me?'
'I admit you were a daring challenge Sir Redfield, but like all criminals there is always the smallest clues left behind. First, there were the meetings with the Western diplomats. You were the last person reported to have been with them. Second, there were your clandestine reunions with Herr Grossman. Third, your bank transactions that denoted the mysterious deposits in your bank account of this lucrative agenda. This evidence I was apprised, by a telegraph sent by Captain Özgün. Lastly, your familiar Turkish cigar found at the crime scene at Monsieur Guerin's home. It was the assassin who had been inside the house before the murder. You signalled him from the garden outside. Your fingerprints were discovered afterwards, when they were matched to any Westerners, including diplomats, such as you. That I must thank the Constantinople Police in concurrence with the British Embassy. Did you actually think you would get away? You had planned on killing the sultan and kaiser in Ankara, and had used the pretext of the Hashashins and sought to blame the anarchists for your elaborate subterfuge. Checkmate!'
Sir Redfield's expressive gesture had changed into an urgent desperation to flee. He rose to his feet to distract us, as the assassin had lunged at Bonheur who was the closest to him. They tousled on the ground, whilst Sir Redfield had blinded me for a moment with laudanum powder he threw at me. I had chased him on to the other compartments, until he leapt off the train. Unfortunately, for him another oncoming train had passed and killed him instantly. I had returned to where Bonheur was fighting with the assassin and the Turkish guard. I was able to shoot the assassin, before he could kill Bonheur or the Turkish guard. There on the ground dead lied the assassin and outside the remains of Sir Redfield. The case of ‘The poniard of death’ was finally resolved.
We had learnt that the motive was to murder in the end the sultan and blame the murders on the rising anarchists in Constantinople. Sir Redfield had secretly been meeting with Herr Grossman. Kaiser Wilhelm the II was supposed to be murdered as well. There was a meeting to take place a week afterwards in Ankara, between the sultan and the kaiser. The German authorities in Germany were informed, as were the Turkish authorities. With the Kaiser and Sultan, dead Sir Redfield and Herr Grossman's influence would increase through corruption. We returned to Constantinople and had thanked the Turkish Police, especially Captain Özgün for the Turkish collaboration in the case. He had reciprocated the noble gesture, and we departed Constantinople the next day on the Orient Express to Paris.