The Butcher of Barclay's Hollow

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Conroy and Walcott led Bottle down to the village, where he was locked in a room inside the village hall whilst they waited for transportation to Dorchester. Doctor Edison was not far behind, although he first elected to check that the girls were none the worse for their experience and return them to places of safety first. They waited there for an hour, refusing to speak with Bottle but keeping him under close watch until a couple of constables from Dorchester arrived with a carriage to take him away.

Walcott went with them, as was his duty as the local magistrate. He didn’t say a word to Conroy - not one word from the moment they brought Bottle from Babbington’s cottage until the carriage hauled him away. As the murderer and the magistrate disappeared up the lane and left Barclay’s Hollow, Conroy admitted to a feeling of emptiness, almost as though his exertions in the past few days had given his life some sort of meaning and purpose in this quiet village.

This feeling was only made worse by Doctor Edison who, once the carriage was completely out of view, turned to Conroy and said:

‘You had best get back to your shop, Paddy. Can’t have you loitering around the village feeling important, can we?’

Despite these words, Conroy hoped that, in some small way, the murder of Charles Babbington might bring him some standing in the village. Even as he trudged back up to the shop, he imagined that he might, at last, be able to stand in the front of his shop proudly – that people would stare at him in the street, not because he was ill-favoured, but out of respect for his achievement.

That honour was not to be.

It was a few days later that Conroy heard any news of the Babbington mystery. The day after the extraordinary arrest of Edward Bottle, a large wooden chest was discovered beneath the floorboards near the front door of Babbington’s cottage. Although the contents were not remarkably valuable, it was reportedly enough that it would be capable of keeping Constance in the manner to which she was accustomed for the rest of her life.

With her new-found wealth, Constance endeavoured to rebuild her life and, with the help of the village people, reunite herself with her father. Doctor Edison led the search party, apparently discovering her father in a makeshift hut in the woodlands not two miles away from the village. With the help of the good doctor and Constance’s wealth, the old man was nursed back to health and lived out the rest of his days with Constance in Babbington’s cottage.

Despite all the furore of these events, it did not escape Conroy’s notice that he was not invited to take part in any of the searches. For all his brilliance in solving Babbington’s murder, the village residents still could not bring themselves to work alongside him, no matter how good and just the cause was.

As the days went by, Conroy slipped into a pit of depression. He took to withdrawing to his back room, plying himself with whiskey – delivered personally by Mister Armitage – and drinking his days away with the memories of exploits that were already forgotten by all those who knew him.

The only time the monotony was broken was the day when Adam Collins of the Dorchester Gazette reported on the trial of the famous pirate, Captain Edward Delaway. That day, Conroy waddled down to the village, brought himself a paper and fetched it back for the boy to read to him.

There was little mention of the murder of Charles Babbington – save for a small reference where Delaway’s capture was accredited to the efforts of people of Barclay’s Hollow. There wasn’t even a single word of credit for Patrick Conroy - not even a mention of The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow – although Reverend Walcott had more than his fair share of the publicity for his ‘heroic part in bringing the notorious pirate to justice’.

Conroy supposed that he should have expected it. After all, Collins had said himself that he was on the hunt for a bigger story to make his name – what could be bigger than the trial of a notorious pirate.

Conroy’s memory, just like that of his wife and child, was soon to become nothing but dust.

It was a few weeks before he saw Hannah again. One morning, as he was preparing the shop to open, he noticed a flash of green through the hedgerows as a small, red-headed girl scuttled along beside the house. For the first time in weeks, Conroy felt himself smile and quickly made his way to the end of the hedgerow where Hannah was waiting for him.

‘I’d thought you’d forgotten me,’ he sighed, sitting down with a groan on the stones next to her.

The little girl smiled.

‘Mother was most angry about what I did,’ she explained. ‘She kept me locked in my room for two weeks until I’d learnt my lesson.’

‘And what lesson was that?’

She shrugged.

‘I’m supposed to stay away from you.’

Conroy laughed. ‘You learnt it well, then.’

Hannah looked up at him, her face screwed up with concern and worry.

‘It’s not fair, you know?’

‘What isn’t?’

‘What they did to you,’ she replied. ‘Bottle was only caught because of you…’

‘Because of us,’ Conroy corrected.

The little girl beamed.

‘I mean, why does Reverend Walcott get to take all the credit? All he did was cower in the corner whilst you and Doctor Edison arrested him. It isn’t fair.’

Conroy leaned over and patted her gently on the back.

‘Sometime life isn’t fair, Hannah. Sometimes people think the worst of you just because you are different to them. No matter how hard you try or how great you are, they will always find a way to bring you back to the dirt. It’s the way of the world.’

‘Well, it shouldn’t,’ Hannah replied, crossing her arms defiantly. ‘People should respect you for who you are.’

Conroy chuckled to himself.

‘I doubt that day will ever come.’

They sat for a good hour, talking about Bottle and Babbington – recalling the great adventure they had together. It was just like they were back in those old times and, for Conroy at least, he felt like he had regained the only friend he’d ever had in Barclay’s Hollow.

But their time was up too soon and Hannah was gone, skipping down the lane in the direction of her house. As Conroy watched her disappear, he wondered whether he would ever truly be happy here. Through the stillness of the countryside, the clock on the church tower tolled the hour and Conroy, with a heavy heart, returned back to his dark room, filled his glass with whiskey and drank until his mind was embraced with a warm slumber and he drifted into darkness…

‘Mister Conroy.’

A month had passed since he’d last seen Hannah. For a moment, Conroy thought he had imagined her for here she was, stood in his back room, shaking his shoulders as hard as she could. He slowly rose from his sleep, stretched out his legs and stared, bleary eyed up at the young, cheerful girl.

‘Hannah?’ he said. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘You must come quickly, Mister Conroy,’ she blurted out, grabbing hold of his heavy arms and trying desperately to pull him to a standing position. ‘Mister Walcott is expecting you.’

‘Expecting me? Why? What’ve I done now?’

Hannah shook her head excitedly.

You haven’t done anything, Mister Conroy,’ she said quickly. ‘Not yet anyway…’

‘Then what in Hell are you talking about?’

Hannah leaned forward and tapped Conroy playfully on the head.

‘It’s time for work, Mister Conroy,’ she said.

It took her a good long while to convince him to finally climb out his chair. But soon, as the sun began to set behind them, Conroy and Hannah began their long walk down into the village centre.

Heading off to a new mystery.

Hand in hand.

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