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Mystery at Corbett Place

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28 NOV 19—




The weeks-long investigation concerning the whereabouts of ex-Col. Walter MacDonald has come to a grim close. The colonel, our readers will remember, vanished when details of his treason and disgraced dismissal by General Mortimer Duncan came to light.


Police, suspecting foul play since the colonel’s disappearance, had been thoroughly searching the counties surrounding his home, but he seemed to have left no trace. “We had done everything in our power to find him,” said Detective Inspector Fergus Anderson of the Scotland Yard, “but our efforts remained fruitless.” Fruitless, that is, until one young constable thought to bring the search closer to home.


Constable Hector Brown was patrolling the grounds of the MacDonald estate when he “noticed something fishy”. Brown said that, as he was walking past a pond on the grounds of the estate, he saw the water was discoloured and that there were many ravens and other birds in the area. “I looked in the pond, and there was an awful lot of fish there, and then I went and got the inspector, and then we searched the pond, and we found him,” said the constable, looking a tad green.


The body of Walter MacDonald was pulled from the lake. Police, speaking in conjunction with General Duncan and his attendants, say that there is no sign of any violence done to the deceased, and that this must be ruled a suicide.




These letters given to Inspector Coor by Mary Banning.


5 March 19—


My dear Mary,

What a time you have picked to shut yourself up in a monastery!  I have just received the most exciting invitation — which I shall copy down for you in a moment — and, were you here, I am sure you would have been invited too. Although you might not have gone, parties being such frivolous things. (I am only teasing!) Here is the invitation:


Col. Roy and Mrs. Cochran

request the pleasure of

Miss Lydia Banning

At Home

Thursday, the fifteenth of March

at nine o’clock


Kindly send reply to Three Corbett Place 

Dancing, Costumes

 A séance has been planned


And written on the back: Your reviews are well known, and we look forward to reading your thoughts on our little gathering. — Mrs. R. G. C.

Please, Mary, don’t scold me about this. You know I don’t believe anything that happens at a séance is at all real, and I only pretend because it is so fashionable lately. It’s all mumbo-jumbo and scientific trickery. I cannot follow your example and shut myself away from all society! I suppose, between the two of us, we’ll balance the scales all right.

Anyway, invited to a ball by the Cochrans! And with their express permission to write about it! They have become quite popular since the colonel’s promotion; I’ve written one or two short pieces on them, and, with any luck, the party will give me some excellent fodder for a few longer articles.

I am sure I’ll have a lovely time. I have met Mrs. Cochran once or twice around town, and she is always so charming and beautifully dressed. I hope I manage to age as gracefully as she has.

I hope this letter has not shocked you too awfully!

Your loving Sister,



11 March 19—



A séance. Can you be serious? I know you think it is nothing but smoke, mirrors, and the latest scientific fripperies, but I am not sure it is as innocent as that. The vast majority of mediums may be fakes, I grant you that, but why take the risk that this one is not? Even if it is for your column.

Well. I suppose you have already considered how I would warn you, and have decided to ignore these imagined (but probably correct) instructions. I hope, for your sake, that I am wrong about it all.

I have heard of the Cochrans and their rise to fame. I’m not so shut up as all that — we do read the newspaper here. There was a photograph of them a month ago, I believe, and I see why you are so impressed with Mrs. Cochran. At the time I thought she looked familiar, but I cannot remember why. I’m sure that I shall remember as soon as I send you this letter!

I do hope you have a wonderful time at the party.

Your loving (yet worried) Sister,




Transcript of a conversation between C.C. and M.D.


MD: Mr. Coor?

CC: Yes?

MD: I have come to consult on a matter of some urgency. There is someone — someone who — who I have trusted, and I am afraid that —

CC: Afraid your trust was misplaced?

MD: To put it delicately, yes.

CC: And how would you like me to assist you in this? For someone of your position to meet with me is... irregular, to say the least.
MD: I — *he looks around hurriedly* You are certain that this office is secured from any outside?

CC: Absolutely sure. I have taken all precautions against any man hearing any conversation any one


MD: *interrupting* Very well! I have considered all my options. The others that I might have gone to might not be trustworthy, or might have been suspected by —him. You, however, are an unfamiliar face.

CC: I understand, sir.

*MD throws an envelope onto the desk.*

MD: All the details and necessary items are in here. At the appointed time, go to the place mentioned with the engraved letter. I will be there, but do not let anyone know you know me.

CC: Very well, sir.

*MD turns to go*

CC: *tapping desk* Sir, we have neglected to mention my fee.

MD: All expenses, your hourly rate, and a bonus if the information you find proves useful to me.

CC: Very well, sir!

*MD exits*



Telegram from MB to LB





Notes taken by CC on the evening of 15 March.

8:30 P. As per my instructions, I am heading to the Cochran’s ball. Luckily this is a semi-costume ball, so my notebook shouldn’t rouse suspicion. If anyone asks, I shall confuse them utterly by telling the truth: I am dressed as a private investigator and taking notes throughout the evening on anything I find suspicious. That should do the trick.


8:50 P. Hung about the entrance until a large group came. The doorkeeper was too busy to pore over any invitations, so I am now inside without any trouble. I shall begin mingling.


9:37 P. Have found nothing suspicious yet. Guests are still arriving. Quite a few have asked about the notebook.

Was expecting to see MD, but so far have not. Still early, though. Would be quite odd if he didn’t show — he is a man of his word.

The hors d'oeuvres are quite good.


10:00 P. Dinner has started. There’s a woman who also has a notebook, but no one seems to be bothering her about it.


11:15 P. Three men arrived and are standing near the balcony doors. They seem to be trying to catch the Col.’s eye. I’ll see if I can get closer to them without arousing suspicions.


Lydia Banning’s society column notes.


Dear Readers,

As I write this, I am sitting outside Corbett Place. It is a miserable night for a party — the rain is far too thick for me to see more than twenty feet in front of my face — but I shall carry on!

The little I can see of the garden is austere but tasteful. Despite the rain, I can see three or four workman busying themselves around one of many statues. If I may be honest, they are rather rather ugly statues. The statue nearest the gate, where the workmen are, for example, is of a large man with —— Dear - - -!

My apologies. There was. . . there was a flash of lightning, and I thought I saw. . .

Well. I suppose I shall go in.

The Cochrans are, as always, elegantly dressed by Starveling of Athens. The Colonel is wearing a sharp suit and furs, and Mrs. Cochran a gown and veil that could almost be mourning clothes. All the guests are wearing their finest, except a strange man in a trenchcoat! Readers, if ever you are invited to a ball of any sort, even a costume ball, do NOT wear a trenchcoat! It is utterly ridiculous. But enough on him. Time for dancing!




11:45 P. The Col. has been walking among the guests since dinner started. His walking seems random, but he has been working his way steadily towards the three men. I have situated myself behind a pillar near them, and should be able to hear their conversation. I will write it down.


11:48 P.

Col.: There’s blood on your sleeve, Darnall.

Darnall: Not mine. The General’s the only one who bled.

Col.: He is taken care of?

Darnall: I took care of him right to the throat, sir.

Col.: Excellent. And his son?

(None of the three said anything.)

Col.: I cannot afford to have that boy alive —!

(There he broke off and composed himself.)

Col.: Gentlemen, it is late, and you have done me a great service, this blunder notwithstanding. Enjoy yourselves. And Darnall — for ---’s sake, change your shirt.


12 P. The General is dead, and I am in his murderer’s house. This rather complicates things.

The séance is beginning. I think I will investigate the premises, instead.



Dear Readers,

Mrs. Cochran certainly knows how to set the mood! At midnight precisely the dancing ended, and we have all come into a parlor for the séance. I have Mrs. Cochran’s special permission to write through the séance, so that you all may know just what we have seen from beyond.

Mrs. Cochran has invited a medium from the north: Mrs. Zenith Wildermuth. A circle of chairs has been set around Madame Wildermuth, and we all take our seats. Col. and Mrs. Cochran are on either side of Madame Wildermuth, and I am directly across from them, in the place nearest the door.

Madame Wildermuth instructed us to close our eyes, and I will admit freely that I have almost fallen asleep! We must have been sitting for nearly fifteen minutes. I am quite sure that this is nothing but a hoax, and poor entertainment to boot.

Ha! As soon as I wrote that, Madame Wildermuth looked up and glared at me, almost as if she could read my writing. Now she has begun muttering, almost chanting, and although I cannot hear what she is saying, it is having a great effect. I feel quite uneasy, as if something is pressing against my head and chest, and several of the other guests seem uncomfortable as well.

Lights are flickering along the walls. I suppose there is some sort of electrical rigging, cleverly hidden among the panels and bookshelves?


Readers, there is a man standing behind Col. Cochran, where there was no man before. All of the guests are still seated. Madame Wildermuth has not stopped chanting. The man is still standing — is it only one man? it may be more — and the colonel has seen him.

There are two children standing next to Mrs. Cochran. They should not be standing, they are far too young to stand, they are speaking to the colonel and I cannot hear them.

I must leave.



Police transcript of call.


OFFICER: Scotland Yard.

CALLER: I’m calling to report a murder.

O: Where are you, sir?

C: 3 Corbett Place. I am a private investigator, hired by Gen. Mortimer Duncan to investigate Col. Cochran. But the general is dead! I found his body still warm in the library, and I am sure that fzzszswzsfdwsszzz

O: Sir?

O: We will send officers right away. Sir? Sir?



Dear Mary,

I am sure I cannot publish this, but I must tell someone, and so I tell you.

You were right. I confess I was so frightened by the séance that I hardly knew what I was doing. My only thought was to get as far away from that medium and Mrs. Cochran as I could. So, of course, I got quite turned around, and found myself on the roof in the driving rain! The wind up there was miserable, howling and shrieking and sounding just like someone crying. For, in fact, it wasn’t the wind at all.

I looked along the parapet, and there, on top of the wall, was a woman! Her ankles were bound, and she was waving a handkerchief despairingly and wailing, trying to catch someone’s eye. I rushed over.

“Ma’am, are you all right?” I asked as I untied her. “Who did this to you?”

She coughed delicately as she sat up. “Thank you so much,” she sighed. “I was beginning to think no one would come.”

“We must get you downstairs,” I said, but she shook her head.

“I am not quite up to walking, yet. I am too dizzy, and I am afraid that whoever did this is watching the stairs.”

“Did you see them?” I asked.

“No. It was a man in a mask; he did not speak, so I cannot be certain of who it was. But...” She paused, and peered through the rain around us before whispering, “I believe it was, if not Col. Cochran, someone employed by him.”

I gasped. “Why do you think so?”

She pulled me to her, and despite her claims of disorientation, she was a strong woman. “Because,” she whispered, “the Colonel murdered my husband, Lord Nigel Wimble. I am sure he would have killed me, too, but I was in the country during — the attack. I came here to have my revenge, but I was surprised and taken here.”

“We must leave!” I cried. “Lady Wimble, we must go!” I pulled her to her feet, and ran toward the roof door. Before I could open it, it was thrown wide. In the door stood Colonel Cochran.

He was an awful sight. Somehow, in the few minutes I had been with Lady Wimble, a fire had started, and its smoke billowed around the colonel. Sparks had caught in his beard and fur coat, so as he stalked toward us he looked like a very demon. I screamed.

But Lady Wimble, in defiance of her weakness, leaped towards him like a lioness. She had pulled a fan from her pocket, and began beating the colonel about the head with it. “Run!” she cried.

Mary, you know I am not brave. I ran.


Police Report, filed by Detective Inspector Fergus Anderson


16 MARCH 19—

9 AM


At 12:15 am, I was dispatched with Constable Hector Brown to 3 Corbett Place to investigate a murder. We were called by a private investigator, Mr. Calvin Coor, who had found the body of General Mortimer Duncan in the library.

When we arrived the guests were in a panic. Some had tried to leave, but had been prevented by Mr. Coor and Detective Constable Ian Johnson, who had been undercover at the party. D.C. Johnson had been witness to the murders of the general, that night, and Col. Nigel Wimble, two days before.

I arrested Mrs. Cochran. The constables and Mr. Coor searched for her medium, Mrs. Zenith Wildermuth, but before they left the ground floor Miss Lydia Banning came running down the stairs.

“Fire!” she cried. “The roof is on fire! The Colonel and Lady Wimble are still upstairs!”

Constable Brown attempted to climb to the roof, but the heat and smoke were too terrible. The fire was as strong as if it had been burning for hours and started with gasoline. We brought the guests outside, narrowly avoiding being crushed by falling chunks of masonry. On the roof, silhouetted by the flames, I could see two people fighting. Lady Clarissa Wimble and Col. Cochran were wrestling along the roof’s edge. Several of the men ran next to the house to catch Lady Wimble should she fall.

The fight went on for some minutes. Lady Wimble seemed to be bearing the brunt of it, until a stand of trees near the house caught fire. A large branch broke off suddenly and flew toward the house. The branch struck Cochran on his shoulder and he stumbled back. Lady Wimble, seeing the crowd on the ground, jumped and was safely caught.

Col. Cochran staggered to the edge of the roof. He seemed to consider jumping too, but just as he took one step forward, the flames surged up with a roar and the roof collapsed, and the Colonel was engulfed. Lady Wimble and Miss Banning both said that they saw something like a large bat fly from the roof just before it collapsed. They have been taken to the hospital to be treated for shock and other injuries.

All our efforts at fighting the fire were fruitless. Despite the rain, the house burned to the ground and it was all we could do to stop the fire spreading. All the guests except Mrs. Wildermuth were successfully rescued.


End File 34.