Death At Sea
The next morning, Percival and Charles travelled together to see a doctor in London. They used Charles' carriage to transport the dead body in the coffin.
''Good thing you changed the man's clothing, Charles. Imagine what questions would be asked of us if we had left on those strange garments,'' Percival said to Charles as they rode atop the carriage.
''Ones we could not begin to answer, I presume,'' Charles responded.
''Well, let's determine what exactly happened to him,'' Percival said. They had arrived in central London, in the borough of Westminster, and proceeded to dismount from the carriage. They had arrived outside a doctor's practice, a physician by the name of Edwin Carter, and they went ahead to take the coffin out of the carriage.
''Right, in we go,'' Charles said before the pair entered the house, with the coffin in tow. Once inside, the men took the coffin towards the back of the house where the physician was examining a body.
''What are you doing in here, Charles?'' the physician asked. The doctor was a thin, slender and tall man, with dark hair and round spectacles. He was wearing a white apron over a white shirt and black trousers and black shoes. He looked to be between forty-five and fifty-five, though his hair had not started greying yet. Charles and Percival set down the coffin on the ground, and Charles walked towards the man.
''We have the necessary paperwork, Doctor Carter. We have a body that needs to be examined immediately,'' Charles said, reaching inside his coat pocket to retrieve an assortment of folded papers.
'I didn't know he had done that. But it would explain how we would be able to come here without being asked suspicious questions,' Percival thought, startled by Charles' preparedness to the situation. Edwin Carter looked at Charles, then at the pile of papers in his hand.
''All right, I have nearly finished with this one. I will be with you shortly,'' he spoke in a crass manner. Charles put the papers aside on a table, and waited for the man to finish before he and Percival opened up the coffin. Once Edwin finished his examination, he washed his hands, washed off the body and covered it. He then put the body into a coffin and sealed it.
''Would you please place the body on the table please?'' Edwin asked the pair. Percival and Charles looked at each other.
''All right,'' Charles replied. They reluctantly looked at the coffin, then back at each other.
''Please, hurry. I do not have all day,'' Edwin moaned. He prepared the table for the body to be placed.
''Oh, he's quite heavy. And he smells like...salt,'' Percival commented as he and Charles picked up the corpse and placed it on the table. The man studied the paperwork Charles had given to him before he came over to the table.
''All right, then, thank you. Now let's get him undressed, and then I can examine him,'' Edwin said. Percival and Charles looked at each other again, and then helped Edwin undress the corpse, before standing back to let the physician inspect the man. He had a variety of instruments at his disposal on a table behind him, and used one to open up the man's torso.
''From outside appearances, on the front, there seems to be no obvious trauma to suggest the cause of death, so I need to identify from within if there is a possible cause instead,'' Edwin spoke aloud. He opened the chest up slowly, as Percival looked away in a grimace.
''Hmm,'' Edwin made a sound as he probed the man's internal organs.
''Aha!'' he then exclaimed to himself. Percival and Charles looked up at him in surprise.
''What is it?'' Charles asked him.
''Well, his lungs...are filled to the brim with a liquid solution, which I surmise to be sea water. The body was pulled from the sea, yes?'' Edwin asked for clarification.
''Uh, yes, it was,'' Charles answered, somewhat nonchalantly.
''Right,'' Edwin said before he examined the body further. Percival and Charles observed him in silence as he continued to peruse the contents of the corpse.
''There seems to be no other damage to any of his organs to suggest another cause of death. Extensive examination however is required of the back of the body before I can establish a definitive answer,'' Edwin said before he set down his instrument and went to wash his hands once more. Percival and Charles then waited for a while as Edwin sewed up the front of the man and turned the body over.
''Now, the back has no immediate signs of trauma...however...'' Edwin began to say before he noticed something on the back of the corpse's head.
''What's wrong?'' Percival prompted, noticing the physician's change in expression. Edwin took up another instrument from behind him and scrutinized the head.
''There's a wound at the back of his head, almost unnoticeable. It's possible he was hit before he drowned, but it is too early to tell whether this was the actual cause of death, or if he had been knocked unconscious by this force of trauma and then died in the sea,'' Edwin surmised. Percival and Charles looked at each other in shock.
''Are you saying...someone could have murdered him?'' Charles asked in disbelief. Edwin looked up at him.
''Yes, it is possible. I'm not sure what type of instrument was used against him, but it was heavy enough to cause a deep gash on his head. It was quite deep; it seemed to have shattered his skull. Then his body may have been dumped into the sea. It's possible it could have happened on a boating or shipping incident. Either way, I need to inform the police,'' Edwin informed them. Charles looked unsure of himself, whereas Percival stared at the body.
''We did not see any instrument at the scene,'' Percival spoke. Both men looked at him.
''Where did you find the body?'' Edwin asked. Percival's face turned white.
''We found it at…Southend, in the sea,'' Charles interjected quickly with a lie.
''Southend, was it? Explains the smell of the saltiness on him. Right, well, I will let the police know of this. You may be called on to direct them of where you had found it, but other than that I believe that I've done all I can to assist you,'' Edwin responded.
''Oh, well, thank you very much for doing this on such short notice, Edwin,'' Charles said to Edwin.
''That is all right, Charles. Anything for a friend. I hope you find the relatives of this unfortunate man; they must be worried sick about him,'' Edwin remarked.
''Yes...of course, we will. Have a good day, Edwin,'' Charles said to the doctor.
''You too, Charles,'' Edwin returned before Percival and Charles left. The pair emerged from the doctor's practice and mounted the carriage.
''Why did you lie about where we found the body?'' Percival questioned Charles. Charles looked at him as he ushered the horses to move.
''You know why. We can't have the police scouring Tuckerby Bay,'' Charles replied in a low tone. Percival looked away, realising that if he had said anything, he could have very nearly gave the police the authority to search Tuckerby Bay.
''Oh, yes. Then they would have found out about the rift,'' Percival said.
''Not exactly. There has been no invention that can reach the depths that the Nautilus can. That is where you found the body,'' Charles said. Percival thought about what he said as they journeyed back home.
'Charles is right, though; I nearly gave away our secret. I need to be more cautious,' Percival resolved.