Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chapter 2.2 'Murder in the Alley'

Both images in this post are purely inspirational and come from Deutschland 1929

From the Journal of Misteline

The Evening of the 14th Augustus, in the Eel and Spindle:

Several militiamen and Bartholomus Pyle, and Horatio Kingsneedle entered the main bar.
Apparently Bartholomus had seen Marius Coppercup dancing on the evening before he died.
We ordered food (and I enjoyed Magda Featherlock's excellent pickled eel pie), and observed and talked with the other patrons, including Bess; a fat woman with some sort of function in the kitchen of the Captains tower.
Captain Woodrow partook of our drinks, and produced Doctor Cinder's report of his examination of Marius Coppercup:

Doctor Cinder’s report to the City Marshal regarding the death of Marius Coppercup


I recognised the deceased immediately having seen him at numerous social gatherings, and having been employed by other members of his family in my medical capacity.

Coppercup was killed by a single upward stab to the heart with a long slender blade. The blade slid between the ribs easily and in my estimation, the kill was swiftly executed. The body was fairly drained of blood, indicating a serious wound to the heart, and I do not believe Coppercup could have been saved once the stabbing had taken place. Death was probably swift but shock may have rendered Coppercup too helpless to resist. There was also a strong smell of wine about Coppercup’s mouth and he had soiled his linen. According to the militia guards, Coppercup had spent several hours in the local inn, ‘The Eel and Spindle’, and was observed drinking heavily and making merry.

Coppercup’s body showed signs of flagellation with fresh wounds over old scars. As with the previous cases you have asked me to investigate, I estimate the deceased was likely indulging in unnatural acts of a sexual nature. I can make no guess as to the meaning of these scars beyond that.

Coppercup’s body also bore several other unusual wounds. Both hands were blistered, particularly the palms. These wounds appear to be eruptions of the skin and showed signs of extreme irritation with some pus and bruising. I cannot guess what caused these wounds.

Coppercup also had a brand scar on his thigh, though I cannot make out what the brand is meant to depict. It appears to be a highly stylised house containing the symbol of what I take to be an eye. I estimate this mark is several years old.


I have 3 immediate observations:

§ I have no clue as to the cause of blistered palms. Marius' note was written in a shoddy manner, consistant with his hands having been painful.
§ The Eye in House symbol is the mark of some secret society, but I am not familiar with it.
§ Both Marius an Captain Murder had been killed with a similar weapon, possibly the same person, but in an utterly different way.

Mr Murdoch (a guard of Augustus Marrow) was watching us. Drake engaged him, and noticed that he also had at least one blistered palm.

Waldo Scuttlebut came in and performed for much of the rest of the evening.

Bartholomus Pyle is an ordered man who wears silk gloves, though he is not effete. Drake noticed something wrong with the skin around his mouth and eyes.

Albrecht Greengrass is the printer; a quiet, insular man, though interested in some ideas that I have for the improvement of printing of images.

Also present were Horatio Kingsneedle and Tomas Fennel (I feel sure that he knows everything, if only I can find a way of persuading him to tell me the whole truth without embellishment.

15th Augustus:

Griselda Honeycomb was in the Inn, briefly, before I arose.
Some workmen started constructing hitching rails outside the Inn for the forthcoming market.
An urchin arrived with a message for me:

My Dear Misteline

My mistress asks me to pass on her fondest regards and assure you that recognizing the body of the accursed pirate should pose no problem once the corpse has been brought to the Hall of the City Marshal.

My mistress also expresses her gratitude for the way in which you handled this discovery, and proposes you be paid one third of the reward sum; 3,333 Marks, the two thirds going to the various agents who will acquire the body today and bring it before the City Marshal and a person of excellent reputation of whom we are aware and who can be trusted to make a trustworthy identification, should the body indeed prove to be the hated buccaneer.

In the light of your investigations, it may interest you to know that ‘Captain Murder’ was in fact the infamous Struggler called Phelonius Addlegate. I’m sure you recall the dreaded Bodgersfield Gang. Addlegate was once their leader...

I am convinced that this matter, though trivial in of itself after so many years, need not concern any one besides our selves.

Yours most sincerely,

This is a fairly definite hint that I should not concentrate upon the death of the pirate beggar, but I feel that it is the heart of the matter.
And a little background:

The Bodgersfield gang

A secret society of philosophers, students and political radicals formed sometime around the year 1588 (when Misteline was 16 years old and an apprentice in the workshop of his old master, Titus Sodbottom). The Bodgersfield gang were rumoured to be militant followers of the philosophy of Carl Marcus Peat [Moif couldn't resist that one] who wrote in the late 1400’s that the common labourers were the true nobility and The Creator had never intended for one man to have power over many, that it was actually a crime against nature for one man to own another. Peats work was printed in a comprehensive book titled ‘The struggle within’, which enjoyed a brief popularity amongst young radicals and students who became known as ‘Strugglers’, but which gradually fell into obscurity when Peat committed suicide whilst being detained for questioning by the City Militia.

With the rise in power of the Merchants Guild, Peats book became an inspiration for a new generation of student radicals. In 1584 the book was banned after a student demonstration set fire to the office of the City Chancellor. Arrested students and other youths admitted during interviews with the City Militia to have been inspired to illegal and immoral actions by the book. They were labelled ‘Strugglers’ and several were subsequently hanged.

After the disturbances of 1584 most people avoided the Strugglers movement and it appeared to dying out until 1590 when several businesses were set alight. Proclamations of guilt were pasted nearby each burnt down shop or business explaining that a ‘people’s court’ had found the shop keeper guilty of immoral practices. The city officials quickly retaliated by labelling this court as an illegal band of Strugglers, and set a price for any information leading to the capture of its members. By 1591, the common name for this group was the Bodgersfield Gang because rumours spoke of a secret hide away, complete with an underground court and a dungeon, hidden some where in the Bodgersfield district of the city. No one knew for certain how many people were involved in the Bodgersfield Gang. Officially it was described as ‘a group of malcontents, probably no more than ten or twelve members. Others put the number far higher, some describing the gang as a veritable army.

Most people regarded the Bodgersfield gang as mere rowdy trouble makers and initially many were secretly pleased to see rich merchants and shop keepers made to suffer. When the gang began to issue demands for a republic however, the city authorities began to arrest any one even remotely considered to be connected to the Bodgersfield gang, with some people dragged away in the night and never seen again (though totally innocent, Misteline was himself dragged in for questioning twice during 1591, the second time he had to be rescued from a particularly sadistic interrogation by Titus Sodbottom who called in several favours from highly placed officials). Theodor Malleados’s School of Excellence (a small university) was shut down, and several of its faculty arrested, and in the summer of 1591 the Bodgersfield Gang retaliated. They kidnapped, tried and executed a well known merchant banker named Laurent Grabblenook, leaving his naked body in the Grand Plaza of the city with a placard tied to his neck bearing the single word; Guilty.

Public opinion turned against the Bodgersfield Gang after Grabblenooks death and people stopped calling themselves Strugglers. Grabblenook had not been a particularly popular man, but the rude nature of his death incensed people and it was not long before the Militia were tipped off as to who the leader of the Bodgersfield Gang was. A reward was posted for one Phelonius Addlegate, a former student of Theodor Malleados’s School of Excellence and a well known orator in Struggler circles. Addlegate was never caught, having fled the city days before. Rumours circulated that he was hiding in the lawless desolation of the Salten Reach.

After 1591, the Bodgersfield Gang gradually faded from the public eye, but every so often a rumour would surface of dark plots and threats against the city.

In 1597 the notorious Captain Murder, who had been a plague on merchant shipping for several years, suddenly attacked the city with a fleet of some twenty to thirty vessels, setting fire to the docks and doing the utmost to cripple Takshendal’s fleet of warships. The attack came as a complete surprise and much devastation was wrought, but ultimately the pirates fled in disarray as the city roe up against them. A bounty of 10,000 Crowns was put on Captain Murders head but the pirate captain had disappeared after the battle and the reward was never claimed. It stands to this day.

After the pirate attack, it transpired that several turn coats within the city, even it was said members of the Militia had actually assisted the pirates, and had attempted to assassinate the Grand Duke of Takshendal. Several of the arrested were former members of Theodor Malleados’s School of Excellence and were described by the authorities as key members of the Bodgersfield gang. They were all executed and their heads placed on the city’s gates. Their leader was a man named Helios Shuttlepot and his old tarred head is still displayed as a warning on Takshendals north gate (facing the sea and the Salten Reach).

Naturally, ‘The struggle within’ remains a banned book [which I have in my private collection].


I resolved to talk with Griselda, as her establishment overlooks the back alley in which the murders took place. On the way we could not fail to notice Lord Beauforque, a notable duelist, mounted and with 4 retainers. He is, apparently, a guest of Augustus Marrow, and a representative of the Association of Boltsworth (a rival to my own patrons). Rufus, attempted some subtle insult, but I fear that he merely insulted himself.

Griselda is a fine woman, with a keen intelligence and a body that I would love to paint. She had been looking for her housemate Sandy, who had not been seen for a few days. I insisted that we open Sandy's door, which I achieved through my arts, and discovered her dead upon the bed. She had been strangled by a large person with muddy boots, who had entered through the unlocked back door, overpowered her (she had a torn fingernail, and the chamberpot had been overturned), partly covered her with a sheet, locked the door and departed with her key. In my opinion she had been killed a day or so after the murders behind the house, and at night or early morning (as Sandy was in her night clothes).
Rufus fetched the militia.

Griselda would not break her clients' confidentiality, who are, for the most part, not locals. Sandy entertained at least 1 local [Bartholomus or Albrecht?].
She had seen the Eye in House symbol before (and hinted at clients who enjoy whipping), but did not admit to knowing its significance. She had not noticed anyone with blistered palms.

Captain Leander Quartermoon and I discussed the murders. His comment was that the tramp (Capt Murder) had been killed with great violence, but that Marius had been killed in cold blood.
I did not inform him of Marius' letter, but I probably will, in due course (I had told Drake to tell Murdoch).

In the afternoon we went to see Consuela Brackenbridge. She is a keen observer of people, and noticed my special friendship with Drake at once. She is also a gossip, but did not know of any people with blistered palms or Eye in House brands. She had observed young women being thrown out of Marrow's house after some sort of abuse, and professes to know nothing of his wife Aurore Marrow.

In the evening, there was a commotion; townsmen had seen a great flaming ball traverse the sky; a Phoenix, an omen and portent no doubt, and I failed to split its light with my prisms.

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