23. June 2022 · Comments Off on From Luna City 11 – An Excerpt · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book, Luna City

Another excerpt from the untitled and unpublished memoir of Alasdair Duncan Magill, 1987. Chapter 53 – The Matter of Political Murder

 Miss Amory, our clerk-typist, called my attention to the telephone on a chilly spring morning, early in March, 1935. It was already past 8 o’clock, and I was uncharacteristically late, as our youngest son was teething, and had kept my dear wife and I awake for most of the night before.

“It’s Mrs. Mills,” Miss Amory said, covering the receiver with her hand. “Calling for you, personally, Chief. She says that she has just found the body of her husband, out by the alligator pond.”

“God save the mark,” I exclaimed. “The old reprobate is dead at last! What are the odds, hey? Bludgeoned, stabbed or shot by a jealous rival or fellow miscreant, do you think?”

“Really, Chief,” Miss Amory sniffed. “That’s not Christian of you to say such an unkind thing! The poor man is dead!”

“It may not be Christian, Miss Amory,” I replied. “But it is most brutally realistic; Charley Mills was a thief, a pervert, and a blight on the community of Luna City – and those were his good points. I’ll take Mrs. Mills’ call in my office.”

“Yes, Chief,” Miss Amory still sounded disapproving. On my way to my own office, I looked into the chief investigator’s small office next to mine, to see if John Drury had arrived; he had. And he was in confabulation with Sgt. Grigoriev, who’s countenance bore a worried frown upon it. John looked up at my rap on the door frame.

“Chief, it’s bad news,” he said with a grave expression on his own face, “There has been a message from the Marcus place. Sgt. Grigoriev has just been briefing me. The Professor’s oldest son has been found dead this morning – his face bashed in with especial violence – with a stone, round in back of their house. No idea of who did it the foul deed. Mrs. Marcus called us, just now. This last week the Professor was helping his son and some of their friends build a working ballista – and it’s one of those stones they were stocking up to throw with it which killed Sergei Marcus.”

“Oh, my god!” I exclaimed. “The professor – is he in especial danger, do you surmise? This is appalling news! We were charged with keeping him and his family secure!”

“I don’t think so, Chief,” John replied. “And we don’t know for certain if this was just some random mischance … or malice on the part of an assassin. In any case, I ordered Constable Vaughn to remain on guard at the Marcus’s house, until we can sort out the situation – if it is murder or merely an accident. Has there been any reports of unexplained strangers in town? We were charged with keeping track of that kind of thing…”

“Kapitan,” Sgt. Grigoriev spoke up. “There is one stranger in town … a young man riding on a …what-do-you say … an Indian motorcycle. With a sidecar. A very nice motorcycle. I wish for one of my own, Kapitan-sir. This young man, he has a dog with him, a splendid large dog. No, I do not wish for a dog. But this stranger in town – he is camping in the field by the Mills place since last week.”

“Most interesting, Sergeant,” I said, having come swiftly to a decision, knowing that Mrs. Mills was waiting to speak to me on the telephone. “John, I believe that I will go and speak to this person first while you and Sgt. Grigoriev begin investigating the death of Sergei Marcus … since I will need to go out to the Mills property anyway.” At his interrogative eyebrow lifted, I added an explanation. “It seems also that Charley Mills has also been found dead, out at his place. Miss Amory just told me. I still must speak to Mrs. Mills. We should compare notes this afternoon, upon completing a preliminary review of our respective corpses.”

John Drury whistled in astonishment. “It never rains but it pours, Captain! Two dead bodies in a single day! Some kind record for Luna City.”

“I know,” I sighed – for on the rare occasions when my police were lumbered with dead bodies, they usually arrived singly, and it was usually a matter of simple observation and deduction to arrive at the reason for their deceased state. The great (and purely literary) detective-sleuth Sherlock Holmes would have little in the way of exercising his deductive skills in Luna City; in fact, were he real, he would perish of sheer boredom, unless he took up the profession of deducing which dog or coyote was killing chickens. Once in my office, I picked up the receiver, a little astonished to still find Mrs. Mills still waiting.

“Mrs. Mills,” I said, by way of apology. “I am so sorry to have kept you waiting. It seems that we have experienced another sudden death in Luna City – but let me extend to you my sympathies on the loss of your husband …”

“It is of little import to me,” Carolina de San Pedro Mills replied, sounding as if distraught with grief were the farthest thing from her mind. “We were married as a matter of convenience only – for the business, you see.”

“I hope that he did not suffer,” I ventured. I privately hoped the opposite very much. Mrs. Mills snorted, in a somewhat derisive manner.

“No, I rather think he did not,” she replied, decisively. “There was no mark upon him, save where he had lain heavily as he had fallen to the ground. He went down to feed his disgusting caimán – those three giant lizards in the pond – at sunset last night, and never returned.”

“And you did not think it strange that he never returned? And raised no alarm? Strange that would be, for a married couple…”

I swear that I could almost feel her shudder of revulsion, at a distance and over the tinny-sounding telephone line.

Dios mia!” Mrs. Mills exclaimed. “Think you that we shared a bed?! A room, even! No, my husband had his place, and I had mine. And that is all that you need to know.”

“One thing that I should ask, Mrs. Mills – have you touched or disturbed your husband’s body. It might complicate the investigation, so I should be informed if you have done so.”

“I did turn his body over,” Carolina de San Pedro Mills confessed. “For I thought that he might still be alive … I did not wish my husband dead, Senor M’Gill. But at the hour of sunrise this morning, he was quite cold and stiff. I … brought a blanket from his quarters to cover him. It seemed a decent thing to do. Besides,” and Carolina de an Petro, late the wife of Charley Mills sounded quite brutally practical. “Those dreadful black scavenger birds were already circling over the pond.”

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