(December 19, 1926—8:30 A.M.)
Dead bodies and despicable crimes had always been my breakfast and the execrable criminals had been my chefs. They are serving death as their main cuisine, more than I have always ordered, and they have topped it with a lot of onions. But this case—a wretched human soul who have gulled an innocent woman and bullied her ignorance—will be the last breakfast I will take.
I was peeking inside with my head pressed against the window with a thick rope gripped in my hand. An old Hohepriester in ivory overalls approaches the altar of Kaiserdom Sankt Bartholomäus. This Gothic-looking church stood tall in this small town here in great, old Germany. Its spiked towers and the redness of its red sandstone walls made it looked intimidating and tall even though it only stands at ninety-five meters. Germany, without a doubt, bears a thousand glories.
The old man stood silently in front of a delighted groom and bride. The old man caressed his white flowing beard that was large enough to hide his chapped lips. He holds a bible with his right hand, opened halfway to the middle. Relatives and friends sat in the pews; some brought gifts with them, sitting nicely on their lap. As the priest cleared his throat, all the conversation that made the rumbling noise stopped.
The old priest held his head high, wearing glee on his face. “If anyone can show just cause why this couple cannot lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”
Through the long, narrowed stained Norman window—almost looking like an elongated bullet—far behind the priest, came crashing a man, tied upside down. The man who was hanging swings around like a pendulum freely moving. His rope was tied on one of the church’s towers. Suspended in air, dangling in front of everyone and wiggling his body, he tries to let loose of all the rope that was wrapped tight around his body. I hope the rib-vaulted ceiling of the cathedral can carry this morbidly obese lump of evil.
I bawled, barging through the humongous church door, apologizing. All guests jerked their head to me, their face an assortment of all emotions. “Detective’s pipe! I-I let go of the rope far too early, didn’t I?”
The priest had now his forehead full of creases, kept nagging me who I was to have the confidence to interrupt such holy ceremony.
Who am I? my mind rumbled. That doesn’t matter. I’m here to collect my pay. I was admiring—quite enthralled, I might add—as I gazed the rib-vaulted ceiling of the Kaiserdom. Don’t worry, Gray; I kept soothing myself. All you need to do is solve the case and collect your pay for the first-class ticket, I kept thinking.
One kid wearing a homemade tailored suit stood from the pews. His parents were, at the moment, concerned with their kid’s bold attitude—intercepting with such a pointed question. He spoke in deep German. “You’re Bass Gray, aren’t you? I’ve seen you in the papers!”
Murmur amongst the crowd rose like a bee’s buzzing. I’ve been accustomed to the light in some ways. Not that I like it though. It’s just come in a package deal when you reach the higher ranks of being a detective in NSID. Over the time, I loathed the spotlight that was beaming above me at all times. It takes the private out of the private eye, sometimes.
“Bass Gray?” the bride asked, as her veil dangles in front of her face. “That small man… is Bass Gray?”
Danke, kid. Thank you very much. Now, these people will list me on their Christmas list, under the column “people I want to kill”. And don’t she try calling me that! I’m not small! I’m just below average!
“Why are you doing this?” the priest was definitely crossed. He forced his face to stay as calm as he can. But beneath his composed shell, he’s steaming like an old train with all intent to shove me out of here by force. I can see it clearly in his emerald eyes. “It’s a blasphemous behavior!”
“With all due respect, this ceremony is about to become way, way chaotic for all of you here than you can all imagine.”
Slowly, with his common usage of the American foul language, his true colors slowly seep through. They were all shocked to hear profanity coming out of the priest’s immaculate mouth. It was only after a few seconds after he finished pinning me down with profanity that he realized what he had done.
I looked around and sat in an empty pew, reclined my back and let the tension be finally released from my shoulder. They were all waiting for any valid response but I was preoccupied with the noticeable dirt on my shoes, dusting it off. I’ve just passed through an under-construction road on the way here so I must have picked up a lot of dirt and coarse ashes along the way. I jerked my attention back at them who was still silent and waiting for a clear answer, right after I finished busying myself on my shoe.
“Oh, if you didn’t notice—the man suspended by the rope is your real groom. The fake groom who is standing before you is nothing but a selfish jerk.” I eyed the hanging man, then quickly shifted my eyes to the fake groom.
All of them jolted their heads at the man suspended in air by a thick rope, who resembles a lot like the groom that stood before the bride. He looked so much alike that they’re practically the same, except for the recognizable mole in the back of the fake groom’s ear. The bride raised her veil and squinted her eyes at the man hanging. She was slowly falling deep into confusion. The fake groom wiped a sweat on his forehead and took a gulp. His hand was fidgeting so much that he tucked it into his pockets.
“Ask not, they’re identical twins—secret identical twins, to be exact. Robert, the one hanging, is your real groom and Jules is the fake one…” On I went, explaining details to satisfy their curiosity. By stalking his secret brother for months, Jules found out a couple of weeks back that his secret twin’s bride was very, very rich. He got envy of Robert, so he stashed him inside their barn yesterday and took the bride as his own. He plans to take all the bride’s money and insurance; leave her penniless until she rots in poverty then die.
“Die?” the bride quickly snapped her eyes back to me.
Jules began to sweat up and bawled, “Nonsense!” His jaw was rigid and trembling. His voice echoed throughout the spacious cathedral.
I eyed him with piercing eyes. “Will you please be silent? Our distance is not miles away so need to shout. Whisper will do the trick. I can hear it anywhere.”
The bride lifts up her finger and pointed at Robert. She jerked her head to me and asked, “Then why would you tie Robert as if he was the one who did something wrong?”
“You see—Jules wants to rob you and leave you to die, but Robert here and his horny bollocks, wants to rape you.” I rested my feet on the empty pew in front of me. “He’ll then kill you, throw you in the Main, all those funny little things. Now tell me, which of those two do you want to be your groom? Either way, you’ll end up dead.”
Jules ranted and threw his real color all around. “You motherf-”
“Please Jules. We’re in a church,” I softly reminded. “And there are kids around. And a priest!”
“Who are you to accuse me of this lie with such certainty?!” he pointed his finger right at me.
“I’m Bass Gray, arsehole.”
After the controversy had been settled and the priest suspending the wedding, the polizei came in and took both men into custody. Jules will serve a much shorter sentence than the horny Robert. Clearly, this wasn’t the bright day the bride was expecting. She was taken to an ambulance after she collapsed because of shock. When she regained consciousness, she wanted Jules jailed, while placing Robert in a death row. Obviously, no one can demand the authorities who to put on death row but… hey, at least they’re jailed.
The priest kept asking who’ll pay for the broken glass. To be fair, I’m not completely responsible for it. Robert was planning to bomb the church’s inside by rappelling to the side and planting dynamite explosives. I don’t know why so I just thwarted it. If anything, the priest should be thanking me!
Robert was tied with four ropes to help support his immense figure. I simply discovered the other end of one rope hanging loosely on one side of the cathedral, untied it with the help of the polizei then asked them to hold for a moment. They became unusually cooperative when I said that the one tied to the rope was the new Vice President of one of the largest company in the country—Volkswagen. Then on my cue, I asked them to transfer the rope to my hand. Then I let go of the rope and the rest is history.
Obviously, this would be the last case before I leave. I want to be a part of every single great moment, hence me dropping Robert instead of the polizei. I do want the splash of drama.
The best man, who was Jules long-time best friend and also the bride’s brother, approached me in a confident gait and handed me the fee. Ausgezeichnet! I thought. Excellent indeed!
“There—four hundred Pounds, just like we agreed. Danke, sehr, for saving my little sister from them,” he said as he hugged me tight and rubbed his cheeks on my trimmed beard as he goes. “I was lucky that I found Dead Man’s Trail.”
He wrapped his hands around me like a tight anaconda would do around its prey. He was caressing the back of my head as if I was his damn dog.
“Bitte sehr, that’s… a very good pay anyway,” I grabbed his shoulders and politely shunned him away from my body. He kept resisting and tried to lean forward but my arms remained on his shoulders and slowly, I straightened my elbow—pushing him harder.
A polizist called me from behind, holding an envelope on his right hand that was tightly wrapped in a bandage. I jerked my head to the policeman, then the best man suddenly kissed me on my cheeks when my defense had already lowered before dashing to the exit as he squealed with joy.
The policemen took a few seconds before he found his words. “I didn’t know sir that you’re into… men.”
“He sure does,” the policeman insisted. He was rubbing his thumb on his bandaged palm as if nervous about something.
I cleared my throat and shifted my attention to the letter he was holding. I asked what it was, and he shrugged his head, saying that he had no damn clue what it’s about. He stretched his arm, handed the nicely folded piece of paper. By the mark on the front face of the paper itself, a hunch began to crawl into my psyche.
“A dame earlier asked me to give you this while you were busy with your… revelations,” the policeman said, retreating his wounded hand back to his pockets. “Quite unfortunate that I didn’t see her face. She had her head down and was wearing a veil. Though, she seems to be limping with her left leg.”
This is the fifth time, I thought. The sender gave the first herself as a passing woman on a street. I’ll never forget the terrifying image that she has. All cloaked in a black gown and black veil. I wasn’t able to catch her because the client whom I was meeting at that time had already come.
A folded letter was inside. The message was scrawled in blood and as my eyes led up to the end of the letter, it delivered a certain sensation inside me. Both a rush of fury and an unsettling rhythm of my heartbeat made a cacophony inside my mind. What the Veiled Woman had written… as if she was entirely sure of what she had claimed. But it can’t be true. There was no one there…
What if she was telling the truth? I can’t just let this slide. I need to find this woman. She’s in more danger than she thinks if what she had written in this paper is indeed true. I already took too much blow after my partner’s death, but this…
The Veiled Woman had been sending me a total number of four letters now, but this time… it’s entirely to a whole new degree. The handwriting was jagged and deep and I can smell the salty tears that had already dried. The paper wasn’t bought. Reictenskag Bier’s logo was marked on the lower left corner. She doesn’t work there, otherwise, she would have led me to her quite easily. Her effort of being so cryptic would be easily put to waste.
I need to find this woman before she goes to everybody. I’ll handle this matter overseas. Working here is too toxic for me at this moment. I need to identify her fast…
Her life will be very much at stake.