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The Ruby Assassin
The Ruby Assassin

The Ruby Assassin

Franc68Lorient Montaner

It was the year 1908, when I was summoned to India, to assist in an ongoing investigation that had required my immediate involvement, by a prestigious member of the British Society in India, whose name was Lord Alfred Barrington. My name is Jack Cauvain, and I am chief inspector from London. I was in Calcutta with the prefect of Paris, Hugo Bonheur attending an international conference, when I had received the letter informing me about the unusual case in Patna. It was disconcerting to hear about a string of murders that were occurring there suddenly. All of the victims were reputable men and well-known. I had invited Bonheur to come with me and assist me. Naturally, he had agreed, and we soon left for Patna, upon the next train heading towards the city, which was under British paramountcy, like much of the country. Our train had traversed several places and long hours, before reaching our destination. Patna was a major trading place in India. Once we arrived there at last, we were kindly greeting by Lord Barrington, who was waiting, for us, at the train station.

'Inspector Cauvain, I am glad that you were able to arrive at last to Patna'.

'And I am glad to be here and to be of genuine service, in whatever manner I can assist in the investigation Lord Barrington,' I replied.

'There is much to disclose inspector, and I hope that these unsolved murders are finally resolved, for the sake of our community and members of our elite society.

'That I hope as well will be the case'.

I then introduced him to the prefect, 'Allow me to present to you, the honourable prefect of Paris, Monsieur Hugo Bonheur'.

'I have heard of you mentioned before prefect, by the chief inspector in his correspondence to me'.

'Whatever you have heard about me monsieur, is nothing comparable to what you have heard about the chief inspector,' Bonheur responded.

'You can believe me when I say prefect that I equally value both of your abilities'.

'No need to be modest Bonheur, you are a worthy man of prowess', I had interjected.

'It is good to see the dedication that you both display gentlemen. It is not often that I find myself before men of such reverence'.

'As for the case Lord Barrington. What pertinent facts can you reveal that will allow us to begin, with the process of finding the culprit or culprits of these abominable crimes?'

'Until now inspector, there is only the intimation that the murders are all connected, and a lone gem that is a singular piece of ruby that was found on the ground, next to the deceased bodies'.

'In what way?' I enquired.

'Perhaps, it would better, if I take you gentlemen to the last crime scene, where the murder had occurred. It happened in a cul-de-sac of one of the main streets of Patna'.

'By all means!'

When we arrived at the crime scene, the first thing that I had noticed with my perceptive acumen, was the peculiar setting. It was the ideal setting for a murder and for a hasty escape afterwards. The intrinsic nature of the murders were at the time only speculative, because I did not have sufficient clues to form an accurate deduction and proper analysis. I was able to determine that the culprit had some type of relation with the victim. There were actual footprints that were visibly seen coming and going, from the direction of the murder. What was more convincing was the realisation that there were fresh footprints, beside the ones from the day of the murder that happened the day before. This was relevant to the case and the indication that the murderer had returned to the original crime scene the day after. There was a red ruby piece that apparently was discovered too. Bonheur had seen me contemplative in my familiar gestures and expressions.

'What are you musing in your mind inspector? I know that punctilious reaction of yours instinctively'.

'I would expect no lesser of you Bonheur, and if you must know, I was pondering in my thoughts about the unique footprints that I have spotted with precision'.

'Which ones?' He pointed then continued, 'The ones that lead into and out of the cul-de-sac?'

'No, not those in particular'. I showed him, 'These that are evidently fresh'.

Bonheur had not noticed the fresh marks, 'I see now inspector. Are you thinking what I am thinking?'

'Yes! The culprit has paid a visit to this area recently'.

'Then, that would mean that he had returned for something'.

'Would he be that bold to risk capture?'

'It all depends on who we are dealing with Bonheur, and whether or not he is keen on disguising his intentions and presence'.

'And the ruby? Did he leave it behind, because he had forgotten it or dropped it?'

'As for the ruby, that would seem to be plausible. I would dare to say that it was left behind accidentally,' I told Bonheur.

'How can you be certain that the piece of ruby was not a mere ploy of deception inspector?'

'Perhaps it could be Bonheur, but my intuitive sense is telling me that there is more to the suggestion of subterfuge'.

'What do you mean by that?'

'I mean that the ruby is possibly intended to be the main clue left behind by the culprit unwillingly. I suspect that it was not his intention. You see, there is always a distinctive pattern that is involved, when examining the clues that are discovered'.

'I see your point now. Who do you think is behind these murders inspector?'

'I can only offer a speculation at best, because to do otherwise is counterproductive. I believe that we cannot dismiss so easily the notion of a secret society behind these murders, as it tends to be the case in my involvement with bizarre murders'.

'Then you think that a cult is who we must seek and reveal their treachery?'

'To be frank Bonheur yes!'

We had left the crime scene and had returned to the residence of Lord Barrington. We were his guests and invited to stay at his home, for the duration of time that was necessary to solve the crimes perpetrated. I had gleaned from the facts stated that the murders had a purpose, and this would imply that whoever murdered the men of prominence that were killed, knew his victims in some personal manner. What I could not predict was the relation of the victims to the killer. Was there an association, beyond the simplistic notion of which these dead men represented? All the victims were British. Six murders in one week, but how? It was exactly the one thing that I could not determine with accuracy. I could not rule out the probability that there was more than one culprit involved in the murders. If that was the case, then I would have to begin to ponder more, about the method of execution than the horrendous nature of the crimes. It was obvious that whoever was behind the murders, had a cause or reason to justify the actions committed.

In the privacy of my chamber, I had read the precise details on the reports that were handed to me about the murders. I was eager to investigate the link, between the victims and the gemmy ruby. Bonheur was more occupied with connecting the events and time of the murders elapsed. He had mentioned to me that the murderer had to have known his victims, and that he did not just ambushed them in the darkness with untamed audacity. I had concurred with his analogy, but I had contemplated the one thing that was queer about the clues, and that was the lone red ruby piece left behind. I was able to examine it meticulously with my magnifying glass, and it had appeared to belong to a particular ring. I had taken into consideration Bonheur's logical approach, and it made me concentrate on the supposition that the killer knew his victims well. This made absolute sense to me, but we had no tangible proof yet to base that indisputable conclusion. We had to wait, until the culprit struck anew. In the meantime, we would have to be satisfied, with the scant clues retrieved.

I awoke the next day, to the unfortunate tidings of another murdered victim. This time the body was discovered in another cul-de-sac that was not that far from the one that we had visited the day before. A few kilometres only, and the victim was a businessman, who was British like the others. His name was Lord William Watford. This time, we were able to examine the body from our close observation, and we could determine that the modus operandi of the killer was exactly as we had intimated. The consecutive sequence of events was precisely the same as the previous murders. In particular, the footprints. I had noticed that there were fresh footprints to be seen. From my examination of the body, it was evidently clear to me that the murder was not committed by a deadly weapon, but instead, by a choke applied to the neck. There were no major traces of blood found trickling on the ground, nor slashed marks with punctured wounds.

'This poor man was strangled to death Bonheur'.

'That appears to be the case inspector, but what I don't understand is how could it be that no one had witnessed this murder?'

'I would not make that assertion just yet, until we have spoken to the locals'.

'What do you expect any of them to tell us?'

'That I do not know, but we must make an attempt to find valuable witnesses. If not, we will be at a disadvantage'.

'Are we not at a disadvantage inspector?'

'For the moment we are. However, I am confident that we shall come across him soon'.

'Do you mean, we shall meet him in person?'

'That does seem to be likely an occurrence'.

'And the piece of ruby? What are we then to determine about the ruby?'

'I was thinking that we should visit the local jewellers in the city and enquire about the nature of the rubies and where they are sold or purchased'.

'When?'

'Now!'

The streets of Patna were full of plentiful carts, bazaars, merchants and women with saris, whose local language was Magahi, not Hindi. We were fortunate in our endeavour to locate several jewellers, whose shops were not that distant from the area of the crime scene and spoke English. I was not certain if that was a mere coincidence or did the culprit purchase or utilise rubies from any of those shops? Once we had spoken to them and asked about the rubies, in particular, the one that the culprit had dropped as I believed, not any of the jewellers could tell us that the piece of ruby that we had demonstrated was purchased from their shops. I found their statements to be inconclusive and not reliable. The ruby could not just be an oddity. It had to have been purchased somewhere in the city of Patna. Simply, because it would be much easier to purchase them in the city, and for the criminal to be able to conceal his identity or reason for the rubies, with the locals. Bonheur had agreed with my assertion conveyed. They did provide one piece of information that was interesting, and that was that the piece of ruby that we presented had probably belonged to a ring.

We had returned to the residence of Lord Barrington, to inform him about the murder and what we had discovered at the crime scene. We had apprised him about the evidence and had established the compossible link, between the murderer and the victims. We had also discussed the mysterious piece of ruby that was left behind by the killer at the first murder. This time, we had witnessed the aftermath of the crime and had much more insight, into the frame of mind of the criminal. He had utilised a silent method of killing and judging from the murder, his method of execution was uniquely effective, but there was one thing that made him flawed, and that was his apparent obsession to revisit the murder scene. I had pondered whether or not I was dealing, with a perverse individual or one that was taking direct orders. It was facile to convince myself that he was a madman, but from my experience I had realised that there is always an argute mastermind, behind the simplicity of the actions of the criminals.

After we had visited and spoken to Lord Barrington, we headed towards the vicinity of the main market, where we had attempted to converse with some of the locals, hoping to find any credible witnesses that could describe the culprit at length. Apparently, there was a language barrier that would necessitate the need to involve an interpreter. We had contracted the service of one, whose name was Rajesh Tiwari. He would assist us in our task at hand. At first, there were no witnesses that would offer us any important clues that could be revealing. I had the general impression that the locals were not that hospitable towards foreigners, in particular, the British. Not many of them would divulge much information, nor volunteer to be interviewed. There would be from amongst them gathered, one witness who had told us that he had seen the culprit. Much to our surprise, he gave us an accurate description of him.

According to the witness, the culprit was approximately of a medium build, neither tall nor short. His hair was black and so was his eyes. There was one thing that stood out, and that was that he was not from the area nor the city of Patna. This would imply that he was a stranger. The most significant question that I had, was he from India or abroad? His answer was that he was not certain, but he was probably from the country. The plot of the mystery had thickened. I had enquired about his accent and his speech. I was informed by the witness that he spoke perfect Hindi and Magahi. This was still not sufficient evidence to surmise his true identity. It was at least, something that would facilitate us to have the instinctive impression of what type of person we were confronting. Bonheur had shared with me the thought that the culprit was likely an Indian. Before we had finished talking to the witness, he did manage to tell us that the assumed killer had a ring that was missing a ruby piece.

The night was spend speculating about the identity and character of the murderer. The piece of ruby was a theme that Bonheur and myself had opined and discussed with keen interest. We were both convinced that the piece of ruby was dropped by the murderer, during his struggle with the first victim he had strangled. Was the ruby a part of an elaborate ruse? The question that had occupied our mind was, what message was the murderer trying to convey with the ruby that was left behind at the crime scene? The idea that the culprit was some lone lunatic was discarded by both of us. We had seen our fair share of madmen in our experiences to know the distinction from them and a calculated murderer. Bonheur had suggested that we concentrated our effort on his apprehension than spending time with the ruby. I had no real objection, except one, how would we arrest the criminal, if we could not even solve the mystery about his identity?

A week would pass before another crime was committed. This particular crime was not in the usual place of the cul-de-sacs. The body was discovered in a winding hill near the River Ganga. The identity of the deceased victim was another member of the British Society, a certain Lord Thomas Howell. The place was different, but the murder was exactly the same method, forced strangulation. The murders had begun not only to disquiet the public, but they had also caused the locals to distrust us the foreigners. The pressure was on us to solve these murders and prevent any more harrowing sequence of events. The local police was ineffective. They had just as much evidence as we did, but there was a noticeable difference, we were much more experienced in cases of this nature. Thus, it was extremely vital that we did not dismiss any potential clues that we had overseen or failed to see. I was certain that we would confront the killer sooner than later.

'Do you think that the killer chose this area to commit his crime, because he felt that we were on to him?' Bonheur enquired.

'That could be the case, but I truly doubt that,' I responded.

'Then what have you surmised inspector?'

'I believe that this murder was nothing more than a cunning attempt to distract us, but he has failed at his mission'.

'Could it be that he wanted us to find the body?'

'That would seem to be highly likely. However, there is one thing about this murder that has arrested my attention'.

'What is that inspector?'

'Look and observe the crime scene. There are no fresh footprints to be found that would indicate he had returned'.

'Mon Dieu, that is correct!'

'I have the strong hunch that this was intended?'

'What do you mean?'

'Simple Bonheur, our culprit is either desperate, or he has decided not to risk his immediate capture in the city'.

We had decided to return to the former crime scenes of the earlier victims that we had visited, with the intrigue that we would locate more valuable clues that we had failed to discern before. We had not created yet a genuine profile of the killer, because we had lacked the adequate evidence to describe entirely, his identity. Nonetheless, we were certain of several things that had provided us with some relevant clues, his modus operandi, the ruby piece and the selection of his victims. The local Indian police had assisted us in our task to apprehend the criminal or criminals, but we were assigned to solve the case. Bonheur was consumed with the thought that the killer had belonged to a secret society. I too had reached the same conclusion about his malice prepense, with my deductive reasoning. It was evident that we were dealing, with a functioning organisation that was assisting the murderer with his crimes and had an ulterior motive. We had not unveiled the name of this organisation.

We had returned as well, to the busy streets of the markets and shops, with the intention of finding more evidence and witnesses if possible. The people of Patna were conspicuously dressed in their native garments, whilst Bonheur and I were dressed in our Western garments. They had appeared foreign to us, as we did to them. It was strange for them to see a Frenchman, with a kepi on his head and an Englishman with a bowler hat. I with my pointed moustache and Bonheur with his curled moustache. Bonheur was not confident that we would find any other clues that were not discovered in our prior visits to the crime scenes. After an hour of investigating and our failed attempt to find any more witnesses, we had left the area with no clues, except one that perhaps was telling. On the ground in a cul-de-sac, we had found a letter that was apparently dropped. At the time, we did not know, whether it was dropped intentionally or by mere accident.

The contents of the letter were written in what appeared to be Hindi, with an unusual seal that was attached at the bottom of the letter. Because Bonheur and I did not know how to read the language, we took the letter with us and had shown it to a nearby shopkeeper, who had proceeded to inform us that the contents were actual names of potential victims on a list, and the rest of the letter were instructions on how to find their residences. All of the names were English. This was extremely vital, and it had permitted us to investigate this clue and lead. Bonheur thought that at the building where the elites of the British Society would gather, we would discover the necessary answers to our pending questions. The letter was indeed the one clue that had accelerated this case, and my intuition was telling me that we were close to exposing the murderer. We had visited the building that was a former hotel, where the members of the British Society elites would gather. We wanted to see if we could match our list of names, with their active members.

There at the building, we were able to speak to only one member, who was present. He was a gentleman by the name of Lord Richard Chatfield, who was British in nationality. He had informed us that the rest of the members had left the city of Patna, until the murders were resolved. When I asked him about the specific reason, why he had remained behind in the city, his response was that he was not afraid for his safety. I had requested a list of all the present and surviving members of the British Society, and he had provided a list that had included the names and there was one in particular that was Indian, the name of Balfour Kumar. I had asked Lord Chatfield, and he had explained to us that Mr Kumar had left with the others. That was all he would divulge to us about him or the other members. Before we left I had enquired about his knowledge about the seal that was on the letter. He was reluctant to speak about the seal, and there was another peculiarity about him that I had noticed, and that was that he had a golden ring, with scarlet rubies that were surrounded by four impressive cobras. Immediately, I had remembered the piece of ruby found at the crime scene that probably had belonged to a ring. Thus, we left the building and headed to the residence of Lord Barrington. Along the way, Bonheur and I were conversing about our visit to the building and what we had discovered; as well we had discussed the ruby.

It was around the afternoon, when we had visited the residence of Lord Barrington. He was waiting for us to apprise him about any new tidings on the case, 'Gentlemen, I was expecting the both of you'.

'Lord Barrington, we have brought fresh tidings indeed, but we have come as well to ask you about your knowledge about the meaning of something that has troubled me, since we have discovered it'.

'What have you discovered?'

'A seal!' I replied.

I showed it to him, and after further examination he was able to decipher the meaning, 'Where did you find this at Inspector Cauvain?'

'At one of the crime scenes'.

'What can you tell us about the seal?' Asked an intrigued Bonheur.

'It belongs to an ancient organisation that once existed in these parts of the country'.

'What organisation is that?' I enquired.

'The Nine Unknown Men, a secret society created by the Emperor Ashoka. He had created the society, so that knowledge and wisdom could be preserved in the end.

'I have never heard about these men?'

'What do they have to do with the murders?' Bonheur interjected.

'You said the preservation of knowledge', I replied.

'They have knowledge in subjects such as alchemy, cosmology, propaganda, physiology, sociology and politics. You see gentlemen, this part of India that is the province of Bihar, has been ruled by the Gupta, Pala, Mughal, Portuguese and British Empires, and yet, this organisation has survived them all'.

'Lord Barrington, if I may enquire again. What do this organisation have to do with the recent murders?' Bonheur asked.

'Everything Bonheur. Do you not understand?' I interrupted.

'Understand what inspector?'

'They want to expel the British from their region and country'.

'That is true inspector. I am afraid at whatever cost', Lord Barrington affirmed.

'Now that we know who is behind the murders, we still need to apprehend the murderer'.

'That will be a tremendous challenge inspector,' Lord Barrington admitted.

'Indeed! But I am always inclined to accept a challenge and one that is solvable. I do not accept cases that I cannot eventually resolve'.

We left the residence of Lord Barrington, with the knowledge that we had discovered the organisation of the secret society that was perpetuating the crimes. There was something odd about the ring that Lord Barrington had on the index finger of his right hand. I could see it well enough to make an actual description from afar. It was exactly the same, as the ring that Lord Chatfield was wearing. I had suggested to Bonheur that we visited the local shops once more in the principal streets, to see whether or not the piece of ruby was part of a ring. Much to our dismay, there was an actual purchase of ruby rings, but was more surprising was the fact that they were sent to the building of the British Society. There was no real mention of the name of the purchaser, or much about his description. I did not think the killer was audacious enough to expose himself to his capture, but evidently I was incorrect. I was under the general impression that he was either playing a risky game of chess with us, or he was naive to commit such a noticeable and tactless blunder.

Time was of the real essence and we were rapidly unmasking the criminal. It was a matter of time, before we would ultimately come face to face with him I had intuited. As with the case with all criminals, their instinctive behaviour is what dooms them to their abrupt finality. We had returned to the cul-de-sacs of the previous murders, where we would experience a deadly encounter, with a minacious serpent that was a large cobra. I was about to grab an object that I had thought was a clue, when the serpent had gazed into my eyes with a serious intention. It was hidden behind a basket ready to strike at me at any time. Bonheur, who was behind me, had told me to stay still. Naturally, my instinctive behaviour was to remain quiet and immovable. I had no intention of allowing the cobra to bite me, with its venomous fangs.

As the cobra had approached closer to me, Bonheur would swiftly react by striking the serpent, causing it to slither away into the recesses of the walls. I was grateful for Bonheur's agility, but I was concerned that the murderer had placed the serpent in that exact spot, attempting to have me killed. Perchance, this was nothing more than an ironic circumstance. I was not convinced of that and had believed that the cobra was intended to be more than a mere ploy utilised. Whatever the culprit had devised against us, it was necessary for us to outwit his ambitions and ingenuity. It was apparent to me that we were now included in his pending list of victims. That was a bit unsettling, but I was accustomed to the charades of the criminal mind. Bonheur had concluded that it was wiser that we not stray too far from the city.

I had been deeply musing in my contemplation, the emergence of the tactic that the murders were intended to be effectuated. I strongly believed that the key in solving this mystery then, was associated to the members of the British Society in India. From amongst my few potential suspects, their members were top on my list and priority. Whoever was instructing the murderer had to be someone of a higher power or position. The ring was also something that was occupying my mind, with heightened intrigue and cogitation. Why were two prominent Englishmen such as Lord Barrington and Lord Chatfield, wearing rings that could be defined, as the secret society of the Nine Unknown Men? I had been informed that the British Society had replaced their former deceased members, with interim members of Indian descent and status. This was seen, as a token gesture to appease the local nobility of Patna. The clues were gradually materialising, into proven facts. I had discussed the ring with Bonheur in privacy.

'I suspect that there is more to the ring than a mere association between two Englishmen'.

'I was thinking the same thing inspector,' Bonheur replied.

'But what reason or objective could these two known men of prominence share with this secret society? It cannot be just to gain unwanted notoriety'.

'I had the intuitive sense that both men are involved in the murders or the benefit of the murders'.

'What do you mean by benefit?' Bonheur asked with curiosity.

'I shall attempt to explain with a brief and rational discourse. You see, there is indeed a hidden agenda that we both have suspected from this secret society, and it most likely has to do with the plight to expel the British influence from India'.

'But you forget they are British, inspector.'

'That I have not forgotten Bonheur. I think that from amongst these two men is the mastermind, behind the murders and the other is merely an accomplice, much like our murderer'.

'If so, then how are we going to make an arrest, if all we have up to this point is circumstantial evidence? That is not sufficient to apprehend them'.

'I know that, but if we can trap them in their deception, then we might be able to finally determine, who is truly behind these murders'.

'That sounds reasonable and a good idea, but the question that I impose upon you inspector is, how do we achieve that trap? Will it result to our advantage or disadvantage?'

'I am counting on it being a clear advantage for us'.

'Then please explain your plan in details, so that I can understand what your are attempting to convey', Bonheur enquired.

'I was thinking that one of us could be offered to the killer'.

'Do you mean as bait?'

'Yes indeed!'

'Please continue with your explanation', Bonheur urged.

'Once we are in position. By that I mean the police who will be in disguise, then we can lure the murderer in one of the cul-de-sacs and capture him'.

'That sounds like a risky plan inspector'.

'It is Bonheur'.

'Are you certain that it will result in his capture?'

'Only time will tell!' I responded with a certain measure of candour.

We had planned on implementing our tactic, but we wanted to visit again the residence in which we were staying at, the home of Lord Barrington. We were prepared to catch him in his duplicity and lies, but I would not have the opportunity to confront him in person, about his affiliation with the Nine Unknown Men. Upon our arrival, we would discover the unfortunate news about his untimely death. One of the servants had discovered his deceased body inside in his private study. This was a shocking revelation to us, for we did not predict his death. We would discover upon further examination of the body that he was choked to death, like in the other murders. This did not rule out the possibility that he was still involved, in some nefarious capacity with the case. Immediately, my suspicion was towards Lord Chatfield.

When we went to the building of the British Society to speak to him, he was not present. We then headed to his residence and were informed by a servant that he had left the city of Patna and was heading to New Delhi for a personal matter. Bonheur had immediately suspected that Lord Chatfield had fled the city to not be apprehended, nor associated to the murders. After all, an affluent man such as Lord Chatfield could not have his reputation tarnished by these heinous crimes. The local police were apprised of Lord Chatfield's departure and Lord Barrington's death. A telegraph was sent to New Delhi at once, concerning the whereabouts of Lord Chatfield and our suspicion of his involvement in the murder. He was a prime suspect, but not the only one. There was the looming presence of the murderer, who was still on the loose.

As we had planned in trapping the murderer, we headed towards one of the narrow cul-de-sacs of the city, in our attempt to capture the callous culprit. We had decided that I would be the bait, and Bonheur along with the local policemen would be observing closely from a distance, every action taken. At approximately, an hour after we had been in position, a stranger would approach the area, wearing an inconspicuous disguise. He was covered from top to bottom, so that his face could not be detected so easily. This, I had imagined was not the usual tactic used by the killer. I had my back faced to him, pretending that I was lost, when suddenly he lunged at me and tried to strangle me. Fortunately, for me, Bonheur with his sharp acumen had seen what was about to transpire and shot the man in the back. He would lie in the cul-de-sac dead from his wound.

We would soon learn the true identity of the man, and his name was Devesh Tiwari. There was not much known about him, except that he was originally from Calcutta, although he had an affinity with the province of Bihar, through his grandparents, who were from the area. We had assumed that he was also a member of the Nine Unknown Men, in some regard. We had found a ring on his right index finger that was missing a ruby piece. The exact ring that the others had. We knew then we had our ruby assassin. We would later learn that Mr Tiwari knew his victims and had gained their trust. Even though it meant, at last, the end to the murders, the case was still pending. Lord Chatfield had not been yet arrested or interrogated. We had captured the murderer, and our task was complete in Bihar, but we would have to locate Lord Chatfield to finalise the case. That would be a difficult task, because we needed to find more evidence linking him to the murders and his direct association to the secret society. The motive was still obfuscating. I had concluded in my deduction that he killed the other members of the British Society, for the one thing that drives men to greed—absolute power.

We had purchased a ticket by train to New Delhi, with the intention to locate Lord Chatfield. I was conscious about the realisation that he would not be confessing to his involvement in the crimes willingly. I had suggested to Bonheur that we gathered all the necessary facts that were gleaned and written down in our notes, plus the exact dates of the murders. It was imperative that we presented our evidence in an irrefutable manner, and within a proper timeline. I had wanted us to be prepared to confront Lord Chatfield, with the facts at our disposal. Lord Barrington would be buried afterwards. His connection to the secret society would not be mentioned or released to the newspapers. We had concealed that information, for the purpose of the investigation. It was not propitious for our cause to disclose, such a damaging revelation about a prominent man. Along our trip to New Delhi, we had discussed what Lord Chatfield would do, once we confronted him with our undeniable evidence.

'We should have paid more attention to the deceptive nature of Lord Chatfield, and have seen how involved he was with the secret society', Bonheur had uttered.

'But how could we Bonheur, for there was not much information that could have indisputably caused us to believe he was actually behind the murders?'

'The ring and his membership in the British Society. Is that not sufficient for his involvement?'

'While I agree with your analogy, we did not possess the evidence needed to arrest him'.

'If I may enquire inspector, do you believe once we have found him that he will try to dismiss our evidence and make no acknowledgement, about his affiliation with the Nine Unknown Men?'

'I would not expect otherwise. His defence will not lead to an
admission of guilt. Instead, what I think will occur, will be that he will discredit every basis of our facts, including the ones that we can prove and our admissible'.

'That appears to be something difficult to achieve', Bonheur had said.

'Cheer up old boy, for we have time on our side. He, on the other hand, has little of it to comfort him in his moments of privacy and reflection'.

'I shall try inspector, but not only for our sake, but for the sake of international affairs, I hope we can apprehend him and prove his guilt'.

'That is the spirit Bonheur. I knew that I could count on you for the daring challenge that is presented to us', I replied.

When we had arrived at New Delhi, we were met by one of the local policemen, who would be assisting us in finding the evasive Lord Chatfield. We had no conclusive clue about his whereabouts in New Delhi, and we would have to start from some random place. Thus, we began our immediate search in the principal areas of the city. Naturally, New Delhi was larger than Patna. It was not going to be a facile task to accomplish, but we were resolute to find him wherever he was hiding from us. Bonheur was eager to search in every nook and cranny. We did not have an address, nor one place in particular to know where he was at. After several days of searching for him, we had failed to locate him. This was a temporary setback for us. We knew that sooner or later, we would encounter him. That was the reward to our satisfaction that was awaiting us with his apprehension.

One morning as we were having breakfast at a local restaurant, I had spotted who I had believed was Lord Chatfield, walking on the pavement of the street where we were at. He was at the corner of the street, when I had instantly informed Bonheur of his appearance. We rose to our feet with an urgent need to follow him, and we did. We had followed him all the way until a hansom cab had taken him to another place. I had recognised his distinctive attire and familiar look. He was a man in his late sixties, tall and lanky, with brown hair and a brown moustache. We had grabbed a hansom cab ourselves and followed him, but to no avail. We would loose him afterwards, with all the hectic rambles and bustle of activities that were occurring in the city. It was impossible to know what was his final destination, but we had confirmed that he was still in New Delhi. For how long? That was the question.

The local police of New Delhi were apprised of the incident with Lord Chatfield, and they had vowed to catch him. We did not have that many clues to his whereabouts. The only thing we could do was to check the main areas of the city, hoping that he would be spotted again in public. We had given a broad description of Lord Chatfield to the local police, as they patrolled the areas, whilst we investigated more the possible connections that he had with any prominent Englishmen of the city. If my assumption was correct, then he was not only in New Delhi for his concealment from us, but to meet with another member of the Nine Unknown Men. We were able to gather a list of reputable Englishmen in the city who were registered. There was one in particular that had arrested my attention. His name was Howard Fletcher. He was a businessman, who imported rubies from Calcutta. This had immediately made me remember the piece of ruby that were found at the crime scene. Bonheur was attentive to my developing thoughts.

'What are you contemplating now inspector?'

'The ruby Bonheur'.

'I thought we had dismissed the ruby, as a mere distraction?'

'Not yet!' I replied.

'I am afraid that I don't understand'.

'I shall proceed to explain. If my suspicion is proven correct, then the ruby could belong to a part of an international smuggling operation that is, of course, illegal'.

'That is an interesting analogy. I must admit that I did not think of that before'.

'Now, if this is true, we shall assume that Lord Chatfield and this Fletcher fellow are involved in this profitable scheme'.

'Then it is money that they seek', Bonheur asked.

'The oldest of all of man's greed', I responded.

'How do you expect to capture either of these men?'

'By using a trick that the criminal uses often'.

'What trick are you referring to inspector?'

'The oldest trick of them all, a disguise Bonheur'.

'Please explain to me how'.

'It is simple, I shall dress myself in a disguise, pretending to be a business man and buyer of rubies'.

'But why not me, I am French and know much about precious stones'.

'I do not doubt your skilful prowess Bonheur, but in this case, it is obvious'.

'Obvious?'

'I am British and would be more trusting'.

'Are you implying that we French are not?'

'Those are your words, not mine Bonheur. Enough with the foolishness and let us concentrate on our plan if we are to progress'.

'Proceed inspector!'

'While I am occupied with Mr Fletcher, you along with the New Delhi police will be observing our meeting. Once I have established a conversation with him about purchasing rubies, then I shall signal you to alert the New Delhi police'.

'Would it not be wiser to follow him instead? He might lead us to Lord Chatfield'.

'That I had thought of before but at this stage of the investigation, we cannot afford to let him get away, like Lord Chatfield'.

'But will he confess?'

'I am counting on it!'

'You realise that you are playing a calculated game of chess?'

'Indeed Bonheur!'

'If he does not confess then what?'

'We shall see then!'

It was a precarious game to play, not knowing what to expect from my meeting with Mr Fletcher, but I was confident that he would be nervous by my imposture to reveal to us, the information we needed to apprehend Lord Chatfield. We met that midday at the local café, where we cordially introduced each other like gentlemen. I had presented myself as a dealer of antiquities. After the exchange of formalities, we began the discussion, and I had enquired about the price and quantity of his rubies. He then proceeded to inform me about these things in depth. When I asked him about where his factory was located, he only disclosed certain details but never the specific location. I could tell that he was beginning to suspect something odd in my questioning. Thus, I desisted from asking him about the location and had offered him a reasonable price for the purchase of the rubies. We made a verbal agreement and shook hands. It was then that he rose to his feet and walked away, but he did not get far. The local police had arrested him.

I had told Bonheur about the information that was given to me by Mr Fletcher. It was not sufficient to tell us where Lord Chatfield was hiding, but at the local Police Station Mr Fletcher would confess to supplying the rubies to Lord Chatfield. He would never confess to being an actual member of the secret society of the Nine Unknown Men. When he was asked him to provide proof, he would hand over business transactions he had with Lord Chatfield implicating him. He could not give us an address to where Lord Chatfield was at. He only revealed to us that he would stay at local hotels. It was not the information that I was anticipating, but it did offer me an insight into the whereabouts of Lord Chatfield. Their contact was minimal, and only limited to business affairs. Nothing that involved the criminal activities of the secret society. I had suspected that Mr Fletcher was not divulging us the entire truth. At that moment, we had to be satisfied with the details that he had provided for us.

Bonheur was anxious to trap Lord Chatfield as I was. We could not afford for him to escape, or notice our presence in the city. Therefore, I had planned on capturing him, by utilising the same tactics that were effective. We had no idea where he was staying at. We had searched all the potential hotels he could be at, and were able to narrow it down to a few in numbers. Naturally, he did not register with his name, but was using an alias name to conceal his veritable identity. I would pose as an interested purchaser of rubies. It was at one of these hotels that we found named in English the Royal Inn, that we located the vulpine Lord Chatfield. From what we were told by the receptionist, a man of his similar description was staying at the hotel. Thus, we had arrived there, waiting for him to pass the lobby.

Once we saw him heading towards the exit, I then had approached him and introduced myself to him. I was in disguise, and he did not notice me one bit I felt. I was forced to alter my voice, so that he would not perceive the regular intonation in my speech. He was pressed on time and had given me an address of a residence in which I could locate him. He was leery about his apprehension. The address I was told afterwards by the receptionist was located on the outskirts of the city. It was dangerous for me to accept this address, but I realised that we had come too far to allow him to escape. I had accepted the invitation and had told Bonheur about the occurrence. It was settled, we would go to this anonymous place prepared. Bonheur had asked me if I had thought that he did suspect who I was and was baiting us into a trap. That was a feasible deduction, but I was willing to take that necessary risk.

Before I was to meet up with Lord Chatfield in person, I had received the terrible news that Mr Fletcher had been murdered, in the prison cell that he was occupying at the time. He had been strangled to death. He was our principal witness to the case, but fortunately for us, he had given us damaging evidence that implicated Lord Chatfield. Perhaps it was foolish of us to believe that he be would safe in the confines of a gaol. It was manifest that the secret society of the Nine Unknown Men had urgently sent a member of theirs to kill Mr Fletcher. There was no doubt within me that he was murdered to silent his voice forever. It had seemed to me as well that the organisation was much more powerful than I had previously assumed.

Bonheur and the local policemen would be assisting me there from a nearby distance, watching every step that was taken by Lord Chatfield. We could not afford to underestimate his abilities. He had proven to be a worthy adversary. It was close to the late afternoon, when I had arrived at the clandestine place that was surrounded by a forest of ample trees, with a mountainous range in the background. The place was an abandoned Hindu shrine. It was not a residence at all, as I was told before. It was an ideal place for a secret meeting or a planned murder. It was somewhat humid, as the clouds had begun to darkened with their colour. There was this particular eeriness that was prevailing, over the landscape of the area. It was then that the figure of Lord Chatfield had appeared, from behind the ancient shrine. He was carrying a gun in his hand and pointing it directly at me. He had his golden ring, with scarlet rubies that were surrounded by four impressive cobras.

'Inspector Cauvain. It is good to see you again. I regret it must be under these unexpected terms. I must commend you, on discovering the ruby and the ring'.

'Give up Lord Chatfield, you have no other recourse but to surrender'.

'Surrender? Did you honestly believe that you could fool me? I knew from the start it was you inspector'.

'How?'

'Let us say that I am a better actor than you'.

'If so, then why did you permit for Mr Fletcher to be arrested? Why did you not inform him of my presence?'

'Because, I had no need for him to assist me any longer'.

'So that is the reason why you had him killed?'

'If you say so!'

'And Lord Barrington?'

'The same!'

'You are aware that I have direct evidence to link you with the purchase of the rubies and your involvement to the murders of the members of the British Society in Patna? I know that you are a member of the Nine Unknown Men'.

'You have not established a motive inspector?

'The motive is simple Lord Chatfield. It is the oldest form of greed—power! Will you not concede to that fact?' I said.

'You want me to acknowledge my guilt?' He interjected.

'I want you to admit that you are defeated!'

'Not exactly, you see I still have one pawn left, and that is a gun pointing at you,' he said with a sarcastic expression.

His supercilious grin and his eyes of imposition were penetrating, as his finger was ready to pull the trigger at any moment. It was then when from the deep shadows of the forest had emerged a wild Bengal tiger, who was lurking behind Lord Chatfield. The haughty lord did not sense the immediate peril of the tiger, and he would not have time to react. The massive tiger would pounce on him and kill him instantly. A shot to the air was heard, as Lord Chatfield tried to shoot at me. One of the policemen who was nearby had scared the tiger away with several shots. Bonheur had rushed towards me, to see if I had not been wounded in the skirmish. I was unharmed and had avoided the attack of the tiger. Lord Chatfield was not that fortunate to survive the brutality of the tiger's rage.

'Inspector Cauvain, are you injured?' Bonheur enquired.

'No, I am fine Bonheur. I have only a few minor scratches from the fall that had occurred, as I tripped'.

'I am glad to hear that'.

'Have you checked to see if Lord Chatfield is alive?'

'He is dead inspector'.

'I was not expecting this to end like it did. In particular, for a tiger to end the life of Lord Chatfield. I thought he would be captured and sent to prison'.

'Sometimes, the criminal seeks his own death', Bonheur uttered.

'I see that point very lucidly. Mauled to death by a tiger, is not the way that I would choose to die'.

'I don't think anyone would disagree with you inspector'.

'The good thing is that we shall have all the evidence needed to resolve this case'.

'What is there to resolve inspector? The killer is dead'.

'True Bonheur, but I would have wanted for Lord Chatfield to have confessed to his participation in the murders, and pay for his crimes'.

'Ultimately he has, with his life'.

'Well, perhaps it is better that we leave this sacred place and permit the New Delhi police to deal with the body of Lord Chatfield'.

Bonheur and I would leave the area and return to the centre of New Delhi, to wait for the next train that was taking us to Calcutta. We had thanked the local police in New Delhi, for their participation in the apprehension of Lord Chatfield. His body would be sent back to England to be properly buried. His involvement with the murders would lead to a scandal that would incriminate other prominent British elites. As for the unveiling of the secret society, we would never know the full extent of their members nor organisation. It was indeed one of the most bizarre cases and endings that I had ever experienced, in all my numerous encounters with the criminals. One thing that was certain in my mind, it would not be the last time that I would have to confront the influence of a secret society.

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Franc68
Lorient Montaner
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4 Mar, 2024
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