Centuries of delitescent secrets and riddles of Christendom are enveloped in the intertwinement of the Catholic Church, which we are not cognisant to its actual validity and consequence. Therefore, these incessant and ineffable secrets remain insoluble, within the dark and gloomy halls of the statuminated cloisters of the cathedrals. They are forever to endure in the history that records the deeds of their actions, even if they are inherently criminal and nefarious in nature.
It was precisely one of these intricate cases that had dealt with the immemorial mysticism of these crimes that brought attention to my active fascination, as I was sitting in my escritoire at the building of 23 Whitehall Place in London pensively, in the year of 1899. For those who wonder what my reputation is, I shall proceed with the worthy disclosure of my public persona. I am Jack Cauvain, a resilient and analytical chief inspector, who had worked and solved numerous cases of meritorious supererogation before.
An urgent telegram of extreme importance from the city of Paris, France, had reached my attention. The telegram was sent by my favourite French acquaintance, Hugo Bonheur, the diligent Prefect of the Prefecture of Police in Paris. I had recently been writing my memoirs on the infamous case of the murdered infants in Liverpool by Amelia Dyer, when the telegram of the Prefect had arrived. I had not been to Liverpool, since my involvement in solving the case of 'The Black Widows of Liverpool' in 1883.
When I saw Bonheur, he was in front of the colourful patio, nearby the ancient Gothic cathedral of Seville in Andalusia, Spain, where we were supposed to see each other in person. His traditional French kepi hat I had spotted from the distance. I had travelled in ferry the two-hour trip from the port of Dover in southern England to reach Calais in northern France. Then, I took the train to Paris and Madrid to finally reach the city of Seville in southern Spain. Naturally, I had reposed in Madrid a night, before I departed the city the following morning. I had the knowledge that my urgent assistance had been associated to a horrible series of murders that were attributed, to an unsolved mystery and case that was called 'The purge of the maleficence'.
The month was April, and the weather was approximately 17 degrees Celsius or 63 Fahrenheit, but I felt the imposing rays of the sunlight permeate, within a certain Andalusian setting that had reminded me of those Moorish tales of Washington Irving. Seville was the birthplace of my mother Maria Belmonte, who was Andalusian. I had been to Seville several times, never for a murder. The people of Seville, who walked the city had seemed amenable and talkative in their stroll and parlance, but beyond the adjacent patio was the murder scene hidden from my partial view.
Bonheur who as usual was revealing with his facial expressions could not conceal the concern in his inquisitive eyes and comportment. It was natural for him to be so overtly expressive with his succinct candour, although at times he was conscientious. He was more practical, and I was more analytical in my approach. Bonheur had explained to me the recent murder that had occurred in the city. It was not until we reached the murder scene that he apprised me of the incontrovertible facts that had been diligently retrieved. The murder scene was at the St Mary of the See Cathedral. The cathedral was the largest of all medieval and Gothic cathedrals of Seville, in area and volume. The interior was the longest nave in Spain, and was splendidly decorated, with an abundant quantity of gold manifest. Indeed, it was an impressive masterpiece wrought and elaborated of architectural wonder of Western Europe.
The unfortunate victim was hanging unmercifully, from a daunting tower that was known as the ancient Moorish tower of La Giralda. This particular tower was attached to the cathedral that had dated back to the twelfth century. It was originally built as part of a historical mosque, when the Moors had ruled in Spain and was later added as a unique attachment, by the devout Christians. The ghastly sight of the victim was a haunting and portentous reminder of the sheer brutality of the criminal to superbly detail his nefandous acts publicly. I would soon be informed afterwards, that the poor devil murdered was the French Cardinal Jean Paul Mathieu of Paris, who had been visiting the cathedral and the city of Seville on a religious and private matter. I had understood then, the troubling and demonstrative countenance displayed, by the honourable prefect, who did not eschew his immediate preoccupation for the murder. After all, the cardinal was a very significant clergyman in the Catholic Church of France. I began to examine with my magnifying glass the murder scene up in the tower, after I had seen the hanging body of the cardinal from below.
'What are you thinking inspector? Have you formulated any clues to the murder?' Bonheur had eagerly enquired.
'Without a doubt, we are dealing with a calculated murderer Bonheur, who may appear callous in nature, but was very meticulous in the accomplishment of the crime', I exclaimed.
'In the manner it was executed. You see, look at the position of the body. The angle is facing towards the Basilica de la Macarena in the east,' I said as I had pointed to it in that direction.
'I don't understand exactly what you are alluding to? What does the basilica have to do with the murder?' Bonheur had insisted.
'Perhaps not much, but I sense that there is a viable connection, between this recent murder, and the prior murders at the Basilica de la Macarena and the Monastery de San Isidro de Campo in Triana in the west'.
'To what degree? Please explain?'
'The perimeter of the murders that have been committed coincide, with the distance from one place to another. I suspect that the monk killed at the monastery, the priest killed at the basilica, and the cardinal here at the tower of La Giralda were all connective to the pattern of these murders. If my assumption is correct, then, these murders are not a mere coincidence'.
'How do we prove this?'
'We must speak to the captain of the local Spanish Civil Guard forthwith and to any reported witnesses'.
Bonheur had introduced me to Captain Salazar, whose distinctive tricorn hat was noticeable, as his steadfast determination to assist in the case. I had considered myself a polyglot, and we conversed at length in Spanish, 'Captain Salazar, if I can impose on you with my candid inopportunity. Can you investigate the itinerary of the monk, the priest and the cardinal for me?'
'Sí, Inspector Cauvain, but if I can ask, what for?' Captain Salazar queried.
'For the purpose of establishing the pattern and the timeline of the murders'.
'I understand there was a witness?'
'Sí, the caretaker!'
'Where is he presently, so that I can speak to him?'
'He is at his home I believe, but he had given me his statement. Unfortunately, the only important thing disclosed was the fact that the culprit was tall and slim'.
'I still don't comprehend the basis of your analogy inspector,' Bonheur had muttered.
'Then, I shall expound with my subjective theory. We know that each victim was found in religious and remote places of accessibility. The monk in the mausoleum of the abbey, the priest in the cellar of the basilica, and the cardinal in the tower of the cathedral. It cannot be an unusual coincidence nor a hypothetical conjecture'.
'Are you implying a conspiracy plot?'
'Until I have more solid facts, I cannot preclude that logical contingency'.
'Now, let us go to the Comisaría or the Police Station, to see what more information they have on the case'.
We had left the old tower of La Giralda and headed to the local Comisaría in Seville in a Spanish cab that was different than the hansom cabs in London. The horses of the cabs were much more agile, but the cab was less refined in elegance. The narrow cobblestone streets of the main arterial roads of the city were compact and full of the bustling sounds of the quotidian interactions of people. When we had reached the Comisaría located in the quarter of Triana, I was notified of the information I had requested. One of Captain Salazar's officers had handed me a sheet of paper that divulged that pertinent information. I then had the knowledge I needed to determine, whether or not my suspicion was accurate. After my perusal of the sheet, I immediately noticed that indeed the hour of the victim's deaths had occurred, at the hour in which they were present in their respected sanctuaries. The monk had his neck slashed, the priest had been strangled and the cardinal hanged. The murderer had taken into such careful and planned consideration, the fact that the victims were at their most vulnerable period of solitude and attention. There was a detail of extreme pertinence that had captivated my sudden intrigue. Apparently, their murders were coincidental to the beginning of the veneration of Holy Week. I had learnt that the French cardinal had met with the monk and the priest, who were murdered, but I still did not know the specific reason for their meeting. Bonheur was mostly occupied with the death of the cardinal, and it was the primary priority, for his urgent involvement in the case.
'It would seem that my theory of the connection of these murders has become more plausible Bonheur,' I declared.
'How inspector?' Bonheur had asked.
'That is simple to elucidate. You see the victims were members of the Catholic Church and had most likely organised, for the cardinal's visit to Seville, during Holy Week. Regrettably, we were too late to prevent these murders, but there is something that I have not yet figured'.
'What is that?'
'Verily, I have not concluded the genuine motive of the murders, nor the correlative incrimination of these horrific acts to our murderer or murderers'.
'Murderers, you say? Are you insinuating that we are confronted, with more than one murderer? What do you base that on?
'On the sound inference of the multiple fragments of the corpus delicti discovered'.
'You mean the essential evidence pertaining to the crime?'
'Then, you strongly believe that we are dealing, with a clever international scheme?'
'That has remained yet to be proven, but rest assure, we shall confirm that independent supposition, with the irrefutable facts of the case. One other thing, we must investigate the nature of the convocation of the deceased victims murdered'.
Captain Salazar had arrived at the Comisaría and had informed us that there was a letter found by one of the priests on top of the tomb of Christopher Columbus, inside the Cathedral of Seville. Fortunately, the tomb of the famous navigator had not been violated, but the contents in the letter were disturbing and gave us the logical intimation to the reason of these murders. It was not clear at the time, who we were dealing with, since there was no absolute mention of an identified association, but there was a definite reference to the murders and a stern warning for the continuation of them, throughout the Holy Week. The ominous message conveyed in this letter had asseverated my suspicious perception of the intention evoked, by the murderer or murderers. I still did not overlook the direct involvement of more than one murderer in the case.
There was another significant thing discovered that was perhaps more of a reliable clue than the original contents written. A patent impression was imprinted with blood, at the lower bottom of the right side of the letter. The blood had appeared to have read, 'La fraternité de la sange'. This anonymous organisation implicated was foreign to me, and I had only vaguely heard about its existence, amongst European secret societies. I was bemused by their possible participation in the crimes, but I had perceived an unexpected gesture of perturbability in Bonheur, as his gesticulations were limpid. Immediately, I had deferred to Bonheur's knowledge of this particular group.
'What is it Bonheur that has unsettled you into a plain disquietude? What do you know of 'La Sange?'
'You are always so meticulous in your intuitive prowess inspector. As for your question, yes, I know about this group, and I had feared that they would act on their threat to kill the cardinal. There were letters sent by them anonymously to the Prefecture of Police in Paris'.
'Good God, are you disclosing the fact that you had received letters of threat from this secret society before, and told me nothing? I had interposed.
'I seldom keep secrets from you. How was I to fathom, such a tragedy and the maddening whims of vengeance to transpire?'
'Vengeance you say? Tell me more!'
He began to relate to me the inscrutable history of 'La Sange' The 'Brotherhood of the Blood' are a dark and mysterious sect that had sworn to defend and preserve the Holy Blood of Christ. They are unknown local Catholic groups of penitents, who are clothed in white garments and scourge themselves, during Holy Week. The groups are the original descendants of the White, Black, Grey, Blue, Red, Violet, and Green Confraternities of Penitents. There were hundreds of distinct orders, and they do not go only by the cryptic name Brotherhood of the Blood, which erroneously implies that it connotes the Holy Bloodline. The sundry flagellant groups are not essentially related directly to one another. These orders are all in league with one another and they have a secret knowledge, into what truly happened, during the crucifixion of Christ. The original flagellants had emerged in the 1300s and 1400s and were severely suppressed, by the powers of the Inquisition'.
'The question that we must answer is what exactly is the final objective of this organisation, and where do we locate the murderers?'
'That I do not know inspector. Seville will be busy with the daily processions. It will be extremely difficult to apprehend them'.
'Difficult, not impossible Bonheur'.
'What is our next step?'
'Let us go and visit the old monastery in Triana'.
'So that we could speak to the only witness reported to have seen a stranger leave, the scene of the murdered monk there'.
We had departed from the Comisaría and headed towards the monastery in the quarter of Triana. There we were greeted by the caretaker Mr Galván, who was kind enough to let us enter the monastery. I thought it odd that Mr Galván was the caretaker for the monastery and the cathedral as well, but I did not come to speak of his plentiful duties as a caretaker. The place was an ancient sanctuary for the monks, who were solemn and pious in reverence. Mr Galván was helpful and receptive to our enquiry, but I had perceived his reluctance to answer specific questions on the murdered monk. When he was asked about the description of the stranger, he said that he was not able to accurately describe the individual. Bonheur had suspected the same thing I suspected that he was not telling us the whole truth. There was no need for my persistence, since I could not coerce him to articulate. In his verbal description of the stranger the only tangible piece of evidence was the height of this person, and that he was dressed in dark colours. This was the same description he had offered of the culprit back at the cathedral. I began to speculate, if this was an unpredicted and unprecedented coincidence. For the nonce, I would have to delay my doubt, until further proof was established.
Naturally, for Bonheur, this narrative had offered insufficient clues to make a thorough surmisal on his part. Perchance, it was immaterial evidence, but that was all the evidence we had at our disposal. The thought of this queer stranger mentioned by the caretaker had arrested my attention, but I was occupied with the lingering thought of what was the real objective of this organisation. Bonheur had as well ruminated this contemplative notion, and we quickly concurred, with the analogy of its considerable implication. Since neither Bonheur nor I were native to the city nor knowledgeable of its main streets, we had to defer to Captain Salazar's assistance, in order to be able to solve this unfolding case that required certain introspection.
There was not much else we could do for the rest of that day. Thus, we had located a hotel in the old Jewish Quarter, where we would not be that far away, from the streets of the centre of the city. There was no curfew imposed by Captain Salazar. When I had pondered the reason, he simply stated that disclosing to the public the murders of the clergymen, as a connected plot of a secret society would stir an unnecessary controversy that would disrupt the processions of Holy Week and cause enormous losses in revenue to the city. I was mindful of the passionate devotion of Semana Santa as the Spaniards named it, but I had failed to fully comprehend his practicality. Bonheur was not that easily persuaded, but there was nothing he could do, since he did not have jurisdiction over the city, nor its local citizens. His prime objective was to eventually bring back to France the dead body of the French cardinal, and capture the fiendish murderer or murderers. Whatever objection I had was to be subdued for another day. That night we had slept little, and the streets were boisterous and teeming, with the nocturnal festivities of the sombre commencement of Holy Week in Seville. I was not much of a religious man, nor did I share the passion of Holy Week, but I soon would be marvelled with the devotion expressed by the faithful Andalusians. I thought of my beautiful mother, who was wont to Holy Week as a child in Seville.
I was awakened in the morning by a knock on my door, and it was Bonheur, who was anxious to continue the investigation. He had informed me that there was another murder that betided, and the victim was the caretaker of the Gothic Church of Santa Anna that was beyond the bridge leading, to the old Moorish quarter of Triana. We had left the hotel of the Patio de la Alameda, and headed immediately to the crime scene and vicinity, where we were the day before. When we arrived, Captain Salazar had related the clues of the murder inside the Gothic Church, 'Inspector Cauvain, I am glad you and the prefect are here. The caretaker Mr Saavedra was found lying dead nearby the altar. We have not been able to retrieve many clues, nor know the motive of the crime, except for the fact that nothing was stolen it seemed'.
'The fact that nothing was stolen is remarkable. Why was the caretaker killed?' Bonheur had uttered.
'The intent was not thievery, instead something more complex in nature that cost the life of this poor fellow,' I told Bonheur.
'What are you suggesting Inspector Cauvain?' Captain Salazar queried.
'If you examine the body of the deceased caretaker carefully, you will see that the marks on the head were caused by a solid object. This would assume the conclusion that the murderer did not plan on killing the caretaker,' I had asserted.
'How can you be so confident of that?' Captain Salazar asked.
The lighting in the church was dim, but as I was searching for more relevant clues, I smelt blood on the ground that had penetrated through the ancient pillars of the church, 'There is a heavy smell of blood!'
'Blood you say, where?' Bonheur had asked me.
I told the men of the Civil Guard who were present with us to open up the draperies of the windows of the church. It was then that I had pointed to the fainting traces of blood on the ground that led on to the altar, 'Look, at the trail of blood. You will see it leads to the altar'.
When we had reached the altar, I immediately pointed to the heavy gold chalice that had drops of blood coming down from the side. I gradually grabbed the chalice and saw that there was blood inside, and a visible indentation on the bottom right side of it. One of the officers of the Civil Guard had spotted partial footsteps that extended to the patio and ultimately the street outside. I had examined the footprints thoroughly and saw that they reached the street that was closest to the principal thoroughfare of the city. It was difficult to surmise any feasible conjectures of where the criminal had absconded, but I had contemplated the bridge and its facile access in and out of the city. Certainly, this would enable the killer's viable escape and an undetectable presence that would not be understood as too suspicious by curious onlookers nigh. Unfortunately, this theory was merely based on retrievable circumstantial evidence.
My pensiveness had triggered a notion of the consecutive sequence of the murder, but there was this peculiar and overpowering sensation that the murderer was someone, who the caretaker recognised or did not feel was an absolute threat to him. I could not conceive so rationally that this murder was intended by the killer. The scant evidence had suggested that he did not expect to murder the caretaker. Therefore, I had pondered in my mind that there was no comprehensive motive for the death of the caretaker of the church, except that it had occurred coincidentally. Bonheur had known of my introspective aptitude for solving such complicated cases of renowned murders, but he was distracted in his meditative thoughts.
There were no more important clues we could extract from the crime scene. Thus we left the church and returned to the Comisaría, in hope of any new developments in the case. Once there at the Comisaría, we had analysed the facts and evidence. We could not forgo any trivial minutiae nor inexplicable possibility. The murder of the caretaker, unlike the other murders, had lacked the discernible signs of an impassioned crime. The concatenation of the proof established was minimal and attached to the inculpated secret society of the Brotherhood of Blood. The apparent nature of the vagile murderer's whereabouts was a great concern for us, as we were aware of the imperceptible vestiges of intimations that the murderer had left to be discovered. In spite of the anomaly of the murders, there was some measure of progress I had concluded that would allow us to proceed ahead with the investigation. At the Comisaría, we would be informed of the arrival of the vicar general of the Catholic Church in Paris. His name was Maximilien Cloutier, and he was sent by the Pope to return the body of the cardinal to Rome and to know about the pending status of the case.
Although I was explained by Bonheur the reason of the cardinal's visit to Seville, I was still not satisfied with the explication given. There had to be something much more profound in significance to the convocation that the clergymen had participated in to sustain a credible extrapolation. His presence had reflected the sudden urgency in Rome to solve these murders, and I had sensed in Bonheur, this laden pressure to adhere to the vicar general's demand, for expediency. I had sympathised with Bonheur—for I had experienced before, such similar strenuous toils in concentration. I had spoken briefly with the vicar general, after he had finished his conversation with Bonheur and I assured him, for not Bonheur's sake, but for Rome's sake that we would resolve the murders and catch the criminal or criminals anon. He had looked into my eyes and simply told me that there would be no objection from the Vatican and that he confided in our investigation. I was taken aback by his directness, but he did interject an interpellation. That interpellation was that there would be no mention to the public about 'The notorious Brotherhood of Blood' or as he had called them in French, 'La Sange'.
There was an aspectabund expression of an agelastic preoccupation seen in Bonheur that had transcended the empirical sense of the cerebral solver that he was. I had not seen my poor friend before, in such obvious unsettledness displayed. The vicar general then had departed the Comisaría and was escorted to a private location, where he was to stay during his visit to Seville. I had been told that he was invited to remain in the city, for the festivities of Holy Week, and he had agreed afterwards. Naturally, for Bonheur, this was even more added strain on him and the investigation.
I had told Bonheur that perhaps it was best to return to the tower of La Giralda. When we had arrived at the tower, there was a lengthy procession passing before the tower. We were fortunate enough to enter the cathedral, through the rear door and headed towards the top of the tower. Bonheur was eager to know my intention in returning to the crime scene at La Giralda. I had explained to him that my intuition and inclination to resolve a curious doubt that I had been formulating in the back of my mind, since the death of the cardinal had impelled my necessity to answer that inquisitiveness. We had climbed the tower by walking up a series of ramps that were previously used by officials, who rode their horses to the top of the tower in the days of yore. We had been given special permission by the cathedral officials to climb on to the tower to continue with our investigation. The actual distance from the church to the tower was not that considerable, as I had previously imagined in my firm calculations.
'What are we doing here up in the tower inspector?' Bonheur asked.
'Think Bonheur, for a moment'.
'If my theory is measured with accuracy, the murderer not only had sufficient time to escape from the tower, but he was somebody who the cardinal had confided in also'.
'You are basing your assumption on an unfounded theory?'
'Not precisely! Instead, on the consecutiveness of the actions of the murder on that night'.
'You mean the pattern developed?'
'Exactly! You see, if the murderer had been a stranger or a thief, he would had not had accessible entrance to the cathedral. Therefore, he would not have had to be necessarily disguised, as we believed. This is the interesting part. We had assumed that the killer was disguised in some elaborate disguise, when he probably was dressed in attire that was recognisable to the cardinal'.
'You always possess a perceptive mind inspector and give, such keen details of the murders'.
'You can credit my noetic tendencies, but there is still much in this case to effectuate I fear'.
The methodical process of ordalium had always stirred my fascination to establish the validity of the facts ascertained, in every investigation I have elaborated with my constructive resolution. From above in the tower, we could see the impressive images of the processions of Holy Week, as the streets were crowded with the faithful onlookers and participants. I had never witnessed in all my years, such immense demonstration of faith. We were forced to exit the cathedral in our departure, through the back door, since the procession had occupied the front door. As we were departing, I could not help but notice the mysterious penitential robes with capirotes, tall, pointed hoods with eye-holes that were worn by the members of the church brotherhoods as they had passed. The image of the robes, the capirotes, and the hoods had left an indelible impression. I had sensed underneath all of that religious garb that perhaps one of those members with their countenances concealed was our killer.
Of course, this was extremely difficult to substantiate as a counterpoise, to the additive effect of our limited evidence provided. Bonheur was very receptive to that notion, and he too had derived the same conclusion. We had kept our commentary of the matter to ourselves, since we did not want to interrupt nor make a frivolous insinuation that could be interpreted, as effrontery to the Spaniards and their local traditions of Holy Week. When we finally left the cathedral and the massive crowds of the loud processions, we had returned to our rooms in the hotel, to cogitate our next step.
Bonheur had worried that with the beginning of the processions, we would be at a clear disadvantage, and the murderer would have the perfect pretext and cover of people to blend in with. He was also exceedingly concerned with the safety of the vicar general, who would be exposed to the public, as a potential target. This did not go unperceived by me, and I had realised that the impassable processions would exacerbate and undermine our ongoing investigation. The gradual interspersion of the throng of people had to be taken into serious consideration that required, an indicative degree of profound circumspection. The continuous processions were hourly, and the sounds of the music of the marching bands were heard, as the 'nazarenos' had walked in delassation, the cobblestone streets of Seville accompanying the 'Paso'. This was an evident thing that could not be pretermitted, and there was no time to perendinate, for a lengthy period of time our options and concepts.
Thus, we had decided that we would concentrate our efforts on observing the processions, whilst the vicar general was present amongst the people. Captain Salazar's men were occupied with the processions, but there were reinforcements brought in from the neighbouring villages to assist the Civil Guard of Seville. We had pondered with our perspicacious cognition, what 'La Sange' would do next. Bonheur was convinced that they would strike during one of the processions, but we did not have a valid profile of their possible victim yet. That concise viability of information was not developed enough to our satisfaction.
I could not dismiss the bell tower known as La Giralda of the Seville Cathedral, where the cardinal was viciously murdered. If the cardinal, a man with tremendous influence in French politics and religious affairs, was killed, then who could be the next victim of 'La Sange' that held any significance of power or peril to them. There were so many disputatious themes, within the church that could easily irk the addle-pated minds of religious zealots. This is, when the pragmaticism of our minds began to enhance the exploratory cause of 'La Sange', as we had wondered, about that next victim. We forsook at that moment, the theoretical or ideological differences of the organisation. Instead we had united our nous and judiciousness efficiently.
We had attempted to base our arguments on the clues that did not controvert the facts nor the confutation of the evidence established. This was an imperative and correctible approach that would allow us to circumvent the secrecy of the association. As Bonheur began his reiteration of 'La Sange', I had centralised my thoughts on the message elicited by them, the secret of the real truth about the death and resurrection of the Nazarene.
'I am no theologian of the Catholic Church nor Christianity for that matter, but this story of the Nazarene must mean something to these people that exceeds the simple need for revenge,' I stated.
'What do you mean?' Bonheur had enquired.
'According to 'La Sange, Jesus never died and was not crucified. Then, where are the supposed remains of him at?'
'The Brotherhood or La Sange alleges that they have in their possession the mummified body of Christ in southern France. Supposedly, the Nazarene was removed from the cross whilst only appearing to be dead in body, thus explaining his immaculate resurrection. This controversial claim was proclaimed by a French neo-Gnostic Louis-Sophrone Fugairon, a psychical researcher, in the year of 1897, and he based the claim on disputable information he had read. If we believe his version of Christian history, Christ had to have been married and with child'.
'Now, from what I have read of this account, there was a text written in the South of France in 720 that had referred to the construction of a dedicated underground tomb, for the historical Jesus, within the same geographical area in the first century AD, as suggested by this researcher in Narbonne. This coincided with the arrival of Mary Magdalene to France'.
Bonheur intervened, 'This is all mere speculation inspector, and whatever we read or hear of this unfounded theory is nothing more than fanciful rumours. It does not help in solving the murders'.
'Perhaps, it can be construed as mere balderdash, but you are incorrect in your analogy. This unusual belief may have everything to do with solving the murders'.
'Simple! I shall proceed to elaborate my point, until you have effectively understood its purport. Empowerment is a natural inversion that can be profitable, when properly utilised. In this case I am speaking of propaganda. What is important is not the thing that we dismiss as actual or impugn as an absurd fallacy, but what can be propagated for posterity. La Sange wants us to believe that this story of the Nazarene is the main inducement for their claim and for the murders, when it is not!'
'What do you mean by that?' Bonheur asked confoundedly.
'They want power. Where does that power exists currently? In the Vatican with the pope.'
'Mon Dieu, if that is true, then the murders are only a concocted ruse implemented by La Sange!'
As we had continued with our ruminative thoughts, the sound of the next procession was heard passing, by our hotel. We had stepped outside to the balcony of our room and saw the procession pass. The obstreperous sounds of the band were audible, but I had noticed that from the distance, there was a strange individual who was on the watchtower known, as La Torre del Oro, 'Look over there Bonheur!' I pointed.
'Where?' Bonheur had asked.
'At La Torre del Oro by the river!'
Bonheur had seen the mysterious man, and we both immediately left the hotel to reach the tower. When we had reached the streets, we were confronted with the advancing procession and the innumerable persons, who were on the streets at that hour of the day. It was impossible to bypass them through that busy street, but we were impelled to reach the tower. I had the predetermined premonition that the individual seen was connected to the murders. Bonheur was not certain of my intuitive hunch, but he had followed my impetuous lead. When we arrived at the tower, the stranger had disappeared. The vibrant sounds of the procession made it impossible for us to verbally communicate, but as we were standing up in the tower, I had noticed a strange coincidence. I could see from the tower, where we were standing high, the tower of La Giralda. Bonheur had seen me gazing at the other tower, and perceived that I was contemplating, a steady observation in my mind. Indeed, Bonheur was absolutely correct in his assumption, and I had conceded this affirmation to him at once. There was an intrinsic connection I had sensed, betwixt these two ancient towers.
The problem was that I was not totally certain of the extent of its meaningful ramification. Therefore, I thought it wiser to keep in mind that unique irony. What was more of an exigency was the protection around the churches and processions. We had descended the tower and walked towards the street, as the procession was distant. Then, we had returned to the Comisaría to see whether or not there were no tidings of the case. One of the officers of the Civil Guard had handed me a note that was sent and addressed to me. There was no name mentioned and the contents were succinct. The only pertinence acknowledged was the address of a street, where I was to meet unaccompanied, the author of the note. I was intrigued by this new revelation in the case.
Bonheur was busied in his apparent uncertainty and after knowing of the note sent to me, he was sceptical of me meeting the mysterious stranger alone. I knew the risk I was confronting in meeting the stranger by myself, but I was aware of that feasible danger. I had assured Bonheur that with the processions the stranger would not dare to kill me. After all, what was not defined was whether the author was a witness or a suspect. Eventually, I had headed to the street of our encounter in the neighborhood of Triana, and the bridge was not that far away. My main concern was if it was the killer who had wanted to meet me, then would he be daring enough to attempt to murder me? There was an unsettling sensation I had felt, as I reached the designated street for our encounter. Bonheur had acquiesced to wait at the hotel, until I returned from my encounter with the mysterious individual. At first, a few persons were walking within the vicinity. When there was no one present, an imposing figure had emerged from behind me dressed, as one of the Nazarenes in dark shadowy colours that reflected in his clothing. I was quickly startled by his sable appearance, and he swiftly began to speak to me, in a voice that had sounded foreign to my ears.
'You were expecting me Inspector Cauvain?' The stranger asked.
'Who are you? Are you the murderer?' I had enquired.
'You can call me Santillán. Who I am does not matter. What is important is that you know, who the killer is,' he responded.
'Santillán. What is his name if this is the truth?' I had insisted.
'Cloutier. You have met him,' the stranger answered sarcastically.
'You mean the vicar general? Why would he be the killer, since he was sent by the pope? I persisted.
'Inspector, that is for you to unravel. Surely, such a man of intellect as yourself knows that the duplicitous nature of the criminal mind has no moral boundary. I shall give you one clue, Cloutier has a mark on his right arm that is the symbol of La Sange. You have seen this symbol before', the man had retorted.
The sound of the band of the procession had resounded, as the procession was nearing. The stranger had terminated the revealing conversation and joined the procession. My instinct was telling me to follow, and I did, but as I attempted, the stranger had disappeared, into the onlookers of the crowded procession that was passing. The baffling words uttered by the stranger had created an indefinite ado. I had returned to the hotel and apprised Bonheur of my interesting encounter with the stranger. When I mentioned that this man had claimed that the vicar general was the actual killer, Bonheur's expression became dramatically altered. He was too incredulous to believe that the vicar general was the killer and associated to the horrible murders.
This created an instant dilemma for Bonheur, and he was visibly affected by my disturbing disclosure. It was not my intention to burden him any more than what he was. My priority was solving the murders and apprehending the culprit or culprits therewith, before another death had occurred. The intensity of the case had augmented with my brief encounter with the stranger. The secrecy of the murders and the Brotherhood of Blood had become more entangled, with the thickening plot that was evolving surreptitiously. Without a doubt, discretion was warranted, and time was of the utmost importance.
Captain Salazar had arrived at the hotel and knocked on our door. Bonheur had agreed with me that we would not reveal the information given by the stranger, until we could verify that claim.
'Captain Salazar, I hope you have good tidings for us,' I expressed.
His look had a genuine expression of a troubling nature, 'I am afraid there was another murder committed inspector.'
'Near the embankment of the river, by the tower known as La Tore del Oro'.
'Who was the victim?' Bonheur had interrupted.
'The victim has not been yet identified’, Captain Salazar admitted.
We had left the hotel and went to the crime scene. There was a natural eeriness attached to the propinquity. The dead body of a man was discovered lying in the greaves and mire with numerous flies. The naked body had evident signs of bite marks that were more probably attributed to the river rats. I was not certain that this particular murder had any analogous connection, with our murders. I examined the deceased man meticulously, until I calculated his height to be identical to the stranger I had met the day before. Was he the stranger I spoke to? Bonheur had made the same assumption as I, but that postulate would be changed by the fact that we had learnt afterwards that the man was a member of the fraternities of the processions.
The victim Mr Romero had belonged to the procession that had passed the exact place, where I met the stranger, in the quarter of Triana. This indisputable fact was not a mere coincidental abnormality. Regardless of the truth of the victim's identity, the correlation between the victim and the stranger could not be corroborated, with proper assurance. Indubitably, we needed more of a reasonable clue to assist us in this proficient endeavour. Shortly, we would find that intimation that had provided the consequential details.
A witness had attested at the Comisaría that he had seen the dead man accompanied, by another man, who was fully dressed in religious attire that resembled a priest or a clergyman of higher status. When asked to describe the other man, the witness said that he was a middle-aged man who was fairly lanky in constitution. I was curious about the name of the witness and his identity. Captain Salazar had notified me that his real name was Juan Carlos Santillán. Straightaway, I recalled that name given by the stranger I had met recently. When Bonheur had heard that name uttered, he deduced that this Santillán chap was explicitly involved in the murders.
It was a provisory presumption that had implied an incriminating piece of evidence, but it was an indeterminate clue that required more investigation. I had pondered the significance of the account of the witness and as I had mused, I suddenly recalled that another witness had related that the stranger he saw exiting the cathedral was not lanky. I asked Captain Salazar, where I could speak to the witness. He gave me his address, and I spoke to him. His name was Mr Dominguez, and he was kind enough to answer my questions, but he was vague and inconclusive in his replies, as the other witnesses interviewed. I had asked before I finished speaking to Captain Salazar, if there were any processions from the cathedral that were scheduled for that day or night, and I was told by him that the next procession would be during the late night. This was enough time for me to investigate something that was beginning to consume my thought. We had left the hotel and headed for the cathedral once more, and along the way, I would explicate my theory to Bonheur punctiliously.
'Let us hasten to the cathedral anew!'
'What for inspector?' Bonheur bemusedly queried.
'Time is of the essence Bonheur. I shall inform you along the way. Now, let us be gone!'
'Have you deciphered the mystery?'
'If I am correct, then we have no time to waste!'
We had hurried to the cathedral in time to investigate my growing suspicion. I had suspected that the mystery in solving the murders would be unveiled at the cathedral. It was by a fortuitous occasion that as we entered the cathedral, I stared at the configuration of the cathedral, and I had noticed something that I had dismissed previously. The manifold doors that the cathedral had in its façades, I had not observed much before. Bonheur was gazing at the interior of the cathedral. Afterwards, I began to stare at the columns of the structure and had recalled that there was once a private tunnel, which the Caliph used to move freely, from the mosque to the Alcázar Palace, so that he could prayed in the Mihrab, when he chose willingly.
According to Muslim tradition the prayer from Seville to Mecca was southeast. I had computed the direction as I stood in the cathedral, and that direction was pointing to the monument of Christopher Columbus. His tomb was held aloft, by four allegorical figures that had represented the four kingdoms of Spain during Columbus' life, Castille, Aragon, Navara, and Leon. We had found the prior note of the Brotherhood of Blood there and I started to observe for any visible clue that I could locate. As I had observed, I noticed that in one of the countless chapels of the cathedral was a secret narrow door that appeared to be closed. When I pushed to open the door, it had opened. Apparently, someone had recently entered, through this door that led to a mysterious unknown passage. Bonheur was as surprised as I was. We looked at each other and then, we had gradually entered the long passage prudently, but not before we inspected the cathedral to see if anyone was watching us in the rear deliberately. The passage was extremely opaque and dreary as we walked ahead, until we had reached the end of this passage. Ultimately, we had reached a hidden chamber of human torture and flagellation. The tunnel led to the entrance of the glorious Palace of the Alcázar.
There in one the chambers of the tunnel stood three hooded and disguised men as Nazarenes. I had ordered them to remove their hoods with my pistol. When they did, I saw the faces of the vicar general, Captain Salazar, and an unsuspected guest, Mr Galván. It was unclear what the three were doing together in the tunnel, when the processions were occupying the denizens of the city. Bonheur was bewildered, and he held his pistol close to his hand tautly. The immediate thought of what Santillán had said caused Bonheur to be apprehensive in his judgment. The speculation of their gathering was either intentional or coincidental. Had they been in total collusion with the Brotherhood of Blood, or were they deceived to appear at the tunnel by the brotherhood? Bonheur had attempted to remain composed and attentive, but he was too impatient in his peering mien and had interjected.
'What is the meaning of this? Why are you here vicar general?
The vicar general along with the others gathered was dumbfounded to see us, 'Did you not summon me to come Inspector Cauvain?' The vicar general had replied.
'Yes, I received a note telling me the same request,' Captain Salazar said.
'What do you mean?' Bonheur had queried.
'We all received a note informing us of this urgent request of the inspector, and we were told to come in disguise', Mr Galván interrupted.
'It would seem gentlemen that either we have been hoodwinked by the murderer, who is amongst us, or we are in the middle of a very parlous game of duplicity to which only the murderer had concocted in this complot,' I asserted.
'What are you implying inspector? Who is the murderer then?' Bonheur queried.
'That we shall soon discover Bonheur!' I exclaimed.
'How?' Bonheur had uttered.
'Gentleman, we are all aware of the murders in Seville. Nay, it is not true that I have requested your presence here at the palace. Mr Galván you are the only witness to have truly seen the possible murderer. Captain Salazar, you have known since the beginning every detail of the murders. Lastly, you the vicar general, you were sent by Rome supposedly,' I said.
'Are you insinuating that one of us is the murderer? That is preposterous inspector!' The vicar general rebuked.
'Perhaps, but one of you is the actual Santillán,' I spoke.
'Surely, this accusation is grievous', Bonheur had remarked.
'It is not a question of a code of just ethics, nor is it based on an arbitrary supposition, instead the incontrovertible facts of the case that will produce the evincement of the truth,' I stated.
'What truth?' The vicar general asked with intrigue.
'The invariable truth vicar general!' I had replied.
'What reason would anyone of us have to commit these atrocious acts of murders?' Mr Galván asked me.
'The pelf of the Catholic Church and the consistory in Rome!' I told him.
'What about the Brotherhood of Blood? Bonheur anxiously asked me.
'Mere subterfuge to immask the original intention,' I had answered.
It was then that I had stared at the penetrating eyes of the murderer and pointed at him, as I nodded to Bonheur, 'You almost had fooled me Santillán, or should I say Mr Galván! Yes, I can finally reveal that Mr Galván is the mysterious Santillán, but this is not the only revelation. You see, the vicar general and Captain Salazar are also members of the Brotherhood of Blood. Santillán was just a figurehead to mislead our investigation Bonheur. Their objective was to steal the riches of the treasure troves of the grand cathedral and make the vicar general part of the new council of cardinals in the Vatican. The cardinal was an unfortunate victim of this planned scheme of theirs. Simply, he was at the wrong time, the wrong place'.
'What about La Sange?' Bonheur had queried.
'As I said before, it was a clever ruse intertwined in the death of the cardinal and Holy Week', I replied.
'How did you determine that conclusion?'
'When we were at the cathedral, I remembered one small detail that Mr Galván had made in his declaration to the first police officer at the scene, but was easily omitted, by Captain Salazar. You see Bonheur in Mr Galván's report he stated that he had recognised the man who he saw to be tall, when in fact he told the first officer he was not tall. Galván had forgotten that the vicar general was going to arrive sooner than later. Santillán wanted us to believe that the murderer was solely the vicar general, but this had an inverse effect. Who else would have ample access to the cathedral and the crime scenes, if not the vicar general, the captain of the Civil Guard and the innocent caretaker?'
I had ordered the vicar general and Mr Galván to roll up their sleeves, and they both had the denotative symbol of the Brotherhood of Blood. Then, as we held our pistols at the three men, I had demanded their admission of guilt, 'It is over gentlemen, you are all under arrest for the murders of the caretaker, the monk, the priest, and the cardinal!'
'You are astute Inspector Cauvain, but no one will believe you. La Sange will live on, beyond our deaths!' Mr Galván professed.
'Perhaps, you are correct and the memory of La Sange will continue to grow, but it is highly unlikely you will see that day Santillán. As for your assertion that no one will believe me, I suggest you do not attempt to escape—for you will not get far', I told them.
Their reactionary action was to abscond, but it was too late, the officers of the Civil Guard were waiting to apprehend them in the cathedral or the Alcázar Palace. I had informed them of the unmistakable evidence I had presented to them. The culprits were all arrested and found guilty, for their horrendous crimes of avidity and demonstrable fervour of devilment that blinded them. In the end, we were able to solve the mystery and the case of 'The purge of maleficence'. The familiar imperturbability of the city had been regained, and the daily processions of Semana Santa continued their course and duration, without an attachable danger that was present. It was the assumable culmination of a week of an unmitigated week of terror and death. We had stayed for the remainder of Holy Week, and I returned then to London to finish my memoirs and expound on the methodical exposition of the idea of the criminal mind. As for Bonheur, he had returned to his assiduous duties, at the Prefecture of Police in Paris.