The Monster of Beaulieu

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Dr. Henry

The door to William’s room was unlocked. William placed his bag on the dresser and looked around. The room itself was rather spacious and had a generously large bed. A tapestry hung on the far wall depicting the Woman, Eve, being tempted by a wicked-looking serpent. Against the foot of the bed sat an old chest. The chest blended quite well with the bed; both were ridiculously ornate and likely petrified with age. A small desk and a few cushioned chairs were at one side of the room and a fireplace was at another.

As enticing as his room looked, there were far more important things at hand than an old, Gothic chamber. William dug through his bag and pulled out his journal and pencil. He would pay a visit to the magistrate.

⁕~⁕~⁕

“Preposterous!” huffed the magistrate, pulling an embroidered handkerchief from his waistcoat to mop his perspirate brow. “The body is already buried! Has been for nearly two weeks! Mrs. Clarke wanted her husband buried immediately. The poor woman could hardly stand the sight of his butchered figure. He has surely decayed by now!”

“Permit me, sir; I wish to help,” William said. “But I must first learn more about the body.”

The magistrate frowned. “Out of the question. If you wish to help, give consolation to that unfortunate widow, Mrs. Clarke, and stop meddling in affairs which aren’t yours. The case is settled, or have you not heard?”

“Call it morbid curiosity,” William said, “but I must search this case for myself. Pray open it again, if only for a day or two.”

The magistrate fervently wiped his brow, huffing indignantly. “I think you a queer and obscene man, Mr. Saville. Your attitude towards this situation is thoroughly deplorable. You are a barrister, you said? Your place is the courtroom, not the graveyard.”

The magistrate hurriedly dismissed his guest with much huffing and brow-wiping. William found himself once again on the streets of Beaulieu, no wiser than when he had started. He set to wandering through the eyesome village, admiring the green hills and quaint houses as his mind wandered. Where to start? Any useful evidence was bound to be buried with the unfortunate Mr. Clarke. Perhaps the shepherd, Thomas Wright, had something worthwhile to share. He, after all, had seen the Creature on the day of the murder. But there was no way to know whether the Creature was truly involved in the death of Mr. Clarke. Could its sighting have been a mere coincidence? What would drive this Being to kill?

William’s mind reeled, but he could think up no answers. He resolved to pay a visit to the coroner’s office and perhaps the mortuary. If he could not see the body for himself, he would speak to those who had. Although he had no idea where to go, the townsfolk were kind enough to point him in the right direction. William came to find that Beaulieu had no coroner but instead had commissioned one from a different town. In addition, the coroner had returned to his hometown long before William had arrived.

However, the village had a doctor. Two, in fact. Both of whom had examined Mr. Clarke’s body shortly after it was discovered. The first was Dr. Lawson, a stout middle-aged man of few words but many credentials. The second was Dr. Henry, who was far younger than the first (a few years shy of thirty) and had dropped from college before he could earn his license. Dr. Henry really wasn’t a doctor at all, but he had a gentle, caring air about him that made many a villager trust in him.

William decided to visit Dr. Lawson first. Lawson was sure to be of greater help than the quacksalver. William found the doctor in his office.

“May I speak with you?” asked William. “My name is William Saville. I’m a barrister.”

Dr. Lawson looked up from his desk where many books and papers were scattered. “Of course,” said he. “What about?”

“Mr. Clarke.”

At this, Lawson frowned. “What about him?” he asked.

William held his pencil over an empty journal page. “What did he look like when he was pulled from the river?”

“Like any other dead man.”

“Anything particular?”

“Bruises around the neck here”—Lawson gestured to his throat—“but no other wounds to his person, ’cept a few small lacerations to his elbows.”

“He must have fallen back,” William mused. “Anything else?”

“He was wearing a fine coat. Looked new. Very well made.”

“Is that all?”

“That’s all that stuck out to me.”

William excused himself politely then made his way to Henry’s office, which turned out to be merely an extension of Henry’s house. Although smaller than Lawson’s, it contained much of the same equipment.

The first thing William noticed about Henry, besides his youth, were the large, brown eyes which gazed at him from behind wide, round spectacles. They reminded William of the eyes of a puppy and were strangely welcoming and endearing. Nothing about this man seemed threatening or unfriendly. His features were soft and rounded, and the corners of his lips seemed naturally inclined upwards.

“Good day to you,” said Henry as William walked through the door. Even his voice was mild.

“Good day, Dr. Henry,” William returned. “My name is William Saville. I’m a barrister.”

Henry had previously been pounding together a strange concoction of herbs but now gave full attention to his visitor. “How may I help you?”

“You examined Mr. Clarke’s body, didn’t you?” William asked.

That soft mouth curved downward. “I did,” answered Henry grimly. “I suppose you wish to know its state. I see not why it matters anymore. A body won’t bring the Monster to justice.”

“That is why I’m here,” said William, “to bring justice. But I hardly think one man’s circumstantial sighting of the Creature is enough to condemn it.”

“You believe it is innocent?” Henry asked. “I shall prove to you that it is not. Come with me.”

Henry swept his herbs into a small pouch then set out into the street. William curiously followed after him. Henry walked surprisingly quickly, and William had to maintain a brisk stride to keep up with the long-legged quacksalver. Henry eventually stopped in front of a door. A worn sign hung overhead reading “Bear’s Haberdashery”. Through the window, William could see the store was poorly-lit and void of people.

Henry knocked on the door. “George, it’s me: Victor,” he called. “May I come in?”

Entrer,” came the weak reply.

The door creaked as Henry pulled it open. “You must be very gentle around M. Bär,” he said. “He has suffered greatly, and the Monster still haunts his mind.”

“What happened to him?” William asked.

A pained look filled Henry’s doe eyes. “He was strangled by the Monster, just like Mr. Clarke. Heaven knows how he survived. Since then, he has fallen into dreadful fits at the mention of the Creature or ever anything touches his neck.”

William looked around the empty haberdashery. “Where is he?”

“In his room—there.” Henry pointed to a closed door at the back of the shop. He strode over and knocked on it.

Entrer, mon ami,” Bär replied.

“M. Bär is French, I presume,” William said quietly. “He speaks English, does he not?”

“M. Bär is Swiss,” Henry said. “And he speaks English very well.”

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