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Inspector Charles.Aldridge: The Charlseby Murder
Through all my years as a professional detective, I have never dealt with such an extraordinary case as the Charlsebey murder. It was peculiar in many ways, not least the fact that all the victims were children, fifteen of them, murdered all in one night.
I learned of this case through one of my dear friends, who runs the local undertakers. His son is desperately obsessed with being a detective, and he quite often comes to me with made up cases, wasting my time and asking me how I?d solve them. So when this young boy who goes by the name of Jack Morris, came to me early one morning, face red and panting, and told me of this case, I was tempted to turn him away. But something he said made me listen.
?Sir, I beg your pardon for coming round and disturbing you, but I?m scared. Scared for my life. I really do need your help this time, sir, honest.? said young Jack. At this my ears picked up. It took a lot to scare Jack. I could remember when he insisted on coming with me to solve the mystery of the disappearance of dame Windford, and was only slightly flustered when he accidentally stumbled upon her dead body! Why, for him to be scared, it must certainly have be something rather serious.
?Now, Jack,? I said ?Sit over there and calm yourself down. I?ll brew you some tea and get the biscuits. I won?t be gone long? jack sat down in the seat I had told him to, then got up and started pacing around the room. After much consideration, he finally said,
?Sir, I beg your pardon, but would you mind if I came with you?? this question puzzled me, but I couldn?t see a reason why not.
?Certainly young man. Of course you may come with me.? I answered, still trying to figure out the reason for his apprehension. ?In fact, if you?re that worried, we can go without the tea. Now, please, sit down and tell me why you?re so worried.?
Jack sat down again in his chair, and looked around him, checking the windows for any sign of people. He had obviously heard or seen something he shouldn?t have, and was scared of being caught for telling. I walked over to the windows and closed the shutters. Jack sighed, looking somewhat more at ease, but still perching on the edge of his seat.
?So, Jack. Please tell me what has got you so worked up. And maybe I can help you.? I offered. After a last glance round the room, Jack finally revealed the reason for his worry.
?Well, sir?? he began. ?All this morn?, father has had people coming in to talk to him about last night. Fifteen children sir. FIFTEEN!!! Even the bobby?s has been coming round. The customers all reckon its murder. Murder! Yes, that?s what scared me sir. Someone out there is murderin? children. An? all of them my age!!! My age, or there about. And that?s fourteen years old sir, for your information! An? I was the only kid that age that wasn?t murdered! Now that is scary. Know what else? I heard my dad talking. Talkin? he was, with this man I don?t know. An?, I ain?t no grass or nothin?, but what they said scared me. So?s I ?ave to tell you.
It was this lunchtime, and I had just finished sweepin? out the shop, and was making my way upstairs, when I heard muttering coming from me old man?s study. Now I?m not nosy, but I wanted to find out if they knew who did them murders. So I went up to the door an? listened.
?Mr Green,? said my dad ? I think that would be excellent. I?ll drop him round tomorrow.? Then this ?Mr Green? started talkin?.
?Fantastic? he said. ?And make sure he?s alone. None of his little friends. If they come along with him, well, I can?t do anything. In fact, it?ll be a lot easier if I just get him tonight.? When he said that?? Jack stopped suddenly, unable to go on. He had gone deathly pale and was shaking. He was obviously traumatised.
?Carry on Jack.? I said, trying to encourage him to finish his story. ?Come on Jack, and tell me what he said next.? Jack took a deep breath, and then carried on speaking.
? Then I gasped and my pa and this Mr Green heard me, an? came out of fathers study, faces like thunder, and pa started shouting at me, askin? me why I was earwiggin?. So then I ran, sir. I ran out of the shop, and down the street. I ran all the way to your office, an? when you weren?t there, I ran all the way to your house. What if they come after me, and want to get revenge? What will they do to me? They?ll be even more angry now that I ran!? and with that the poor boy fainted.
I stuck my head out the window, and called to a group of boy?s standing on the corner of the road.
?Here, lads!? I shouted. They looked up at me. ?Fancy earning a couple o? bob??
They disappeared momentarily, before knocking on my door and asking how they could be of service. I sent them with a note to my assistant, Thomas Jones, asking him to care for young Jack whilst I investigated. I did not have to wait long for Thomas, for he is ever eager to go out solving crimes with me, and he sensed this would be the beginning of another of our adventures.
I rushed around my house, hurriedly stuffing useful bits?n?bobs into my coat pockets, whilst giving Thomas instructions on looking after jack and trying to find my magnifying glass at the same time.
First I called at the police station. I found it strange that they hadn?t contacted me with the details of this case sooner, but then I remembered the last time I worked with the police. It had ended in a blazing row between the constable and me. Not good. I took a deep breath, put my shoulders back and strode in. the policeman behind the desk shook his head when he saw me, then went into the office to fetch a senior policeman. After a brief apology from me, the policeman told me all the details. They just didn?t add up.
Fifteen children, all between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, had been found dead in their beds that morning, with severe stab wounds to their necks. The post mortems had stated that the deaths must?ve happened in the middle of the night, for the blood around the bodies was dry. The murdered children had all been from the area of Charlsebey, in the west of the city of Kesdon, on the shores of lake Coniston. This particular area of the city was not known for being greatly upper class, nor was it renowned as being extremely lower class. There hadn?t been a murder there in twenty-five years! The policeman got me a sheet with the statistics and details. I looked at the names of the deceased.
Adam Lyle~13} twins}
Anna Lyle~13 } twins}
I looked at the list, puzzled. As far as I could see, there was nothing joining the children together. No common link. They were all of different ages, families and streets. The only similarity I could find between them was the fact that they all lived in Charlsebey, and that they were all around the same age. On the sheet there were also addresses and names of parents. I folded the sheet and put it in my pocket, thanked the police officer and headed out into the cold streets of Kesdon.
Next I stopped at 33 Welbourne Street, the address of the Lyle twins. When I knocked on the door, no one came to answer it. But there was clearly someone home, for there was noise coming from inside. I knocked again; still no one came to the door. I crept around the perimeter of the small house. All the curtains were drawn, and the windows shut. All except for one, which, I assumed, must?ve lead into the kitchen. I scrambled through it, cursing as I bruised my shin, then tumbled into the tidy room. It was deserted. I crept through into the hallway. Hearing sobbing coming from a door to the right of me, I crouched down at the keyhole and listened. The Lyle family was definitely in there. I knocked. There was the sound of hushed panic inside. The poor family must?ve thought it the murderer come back to get them.
?Who is it?? asked a voice from inside. ?State your name.?
?Hullo.? I replied, my face pressed up against the door. ?It?s detective Charles Aldridge. Nothing to worry about. I just came through you kitchen window. Hope you don?t mind.? There was silence. ?Hello?? I asked.
?How do we know its you?? a rather suspicious voice replied. ?You could be anyone!?
?Oh, for goodness sakes, just let me in. Hazel, are you in there?? I asked. Hazel Lyle had worked in my office for a while, before she fell pregnant with her baby boy, William.
?Yes?? she replied.
?Then let me in.? I asked. I was trying not to sound impatient, but I had important business to attend to. The door opened a crack, then, when Hazel saw it really was me, she opened the door and broke down in tears.
?Oh, detective?? she sobbed. ?I have lost my nephew, and my niece. What have we done wrong? What did we do to deserve this??
?I don?t know Hazel, I really don?t. But if you and your family are willing to help me, I can try to get to the bottom of this.? The whole family looked at me and nodded. After comforting hazel?s sister, Marie, and discussing deeply the murder with some of the more grounded members of the family, I left, feeling a whole lot more knowledgeable on the case.
That whole day was spent visiting the traumatised families, which, let me assure you, was tiring work. Jack was still frightened to go home, so I agreed to look after him, as long as he helped me and did not get in the way. After dinner I sat down in my study, and tried to piece together the evidence I had gathered.
The children were linked by very few things, but the similarities I could find were that they all lived in Charlsebey, they all went to st James? church on Eastbourne Road, they were all around fourteen years of age and they all came from Christian families. None of these provided a motive for anyone to murder them. However, Shortly before their death the Lyle twins told their mother they had seen the new vicar in their back garden. Marie Lyle had just dismissed this as an irrelevant daydream, and took no notice. Oddly, the other murdered Children had reported the same thing as well. Now this is peculiar, because the new vicar had volunteered to preach to the younger children. If she loved children so much, why would she kill them? Besides, the old vicar still taught the children that had been murdered. Also, the new vicar was said to be a life long friend of the undertaker. Could this perhaps be a partnership? And who was this Mr Green that Jack mentioned? Could he be involved? It could be a prosperous set-up. The vicar could murder all of the children he felt comfortable killing, and then there would be a wave of customers for the undertaker. He could give half the profits to the vicar and they?d both be wealthier. How horrifying! A vicar killing for money. Would they do that? I decided I would sleep on it.
The next morning I went straight to the undertakers. Mr Morris ran to the counter when he saw I was there, and immediately started asking after Jack. I told him that I hadn?t seen jack for at least a week, although it broke my heart to see Mr Morris look so concerned and worried.
?Sir.? He asked me. ?You don?t think that?the?um?murderer?s got him, do you?? he was trembling, his eyes welling up with tears.
?No, Sir.? I answered. ?Jack knows how to look after himself. Why, is he missing??
?Oh yes.? Replied Mr Morris. ?We had an?argument?yesterday. He looked so frightened and ran off!?
?Oh? And, if you don?t mind me asking, why do you think he looked so frightened?? I probed.
?Well. Sir. I?ll let you into a little secret. Jack has always helped in my shop dutifully, but I know that his heart is set somewhere else. He loves animals, does our Jack. Always playing with that dog that belongs to the baker?s daughter. So I have arranged for him to go and work on a farm, out in the country. The farmers name is Mr John Green. A very respectable gent. Says he?ll farm anything that?ll fit in his fields. He was supposed to pick Jack up last night, but because of the snow and jack going missing, that wasn?t possible. Anyway. Mr Green and I were discussing this yesterday, when I caught Jack earwigging. Of course I was angry, I?d been trying to keep it as a surprise for the lad. But I don?t think I said anything that bad. I suppose?? Mr Green stopped, confused.
He was glaring at me as if I?d stolen his life savings. I then realised that I was laughing.
?Sir.? Mr Morris said seriously. ?My son is missing and there?s a murderer roaming the streets. And you?re laughing. Why, may I ask??
?I am sorry.? I apologised. ?I seem to have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick. I would?ve told you sooner, but I wasn?t sure about how safe you were. Your son is at my house, being looked after by Thomas. Don?t worry, he?s safe, just slightly scared. I?m afraid he only heard the end of your conversation, and thought you were arranging for him to be murdered. Oh it is a terrible mix up! Don?t worry, I?ll return him to you this evening.? The undertaker shook my hand firmly.
?Thank you, oh, thank you so much.? He said. I would have loved to have stayed and chatted with the undertaker, but I had a job to do.
My next stop was st James? church. It was the time for confessionals. I had hoped that the new vicar was there so I could question her, but the old vicar, Lithanual Blik, was whatevering.
I took my place in the line of people going into the church. When it was my turn, I sat in the confessional box.
? Forgive me father for I have sinned.? I started. ?I have committed a terrible crime. I have done something terrible, and ignored a begging orphan in the streets.?
?Oh?? asked the vicar, intrigued.
?I need to ask your opinion on something.? I lied. So far the vicar believed me.
?Oh, asked the vicar. What on??
?Is there any time when it?s acceptable to kill a child?? I asked.
?Do you want my opinion or the churches opinion?? the vicar replied.
?Your opinion Father. I value yours over that of the church.? More lies.
?Well,? replied the vicar, ?If I tell you, you are not to tell a soul, or I swear I will send you to hell.? Something had changed in the vicar?s voice, but I couldn?t quite put my finger on it.
?I will tell no one.? I lied.
?Very well then. I will give you my opinion. It depends what child. Some children have been influenced y the devil, and it is our duty, to rid our beautiful land of these possessed children. They are in league with Satan himself, trying to drag us all down.? He was shouting now. ?They must be killed, and sent to their fiery hell before they corrupt us all and cause the end of the world. We must act now, before it?s too late, and crush Satan?s child army before they crush us. And we shall destroy the children, and finish what I have already started!? it was obvious. This man was possessed, or mentally ill.
I ran out of the church and to the new vicars house, desperate to explain all of my findings to her. I told her, I great detail, what had happened in the church, and she seemed astounded. But one thing still puzzled me.
?But the dead children saw you in their beck gardens.? I said. ?Why was this??
?Ah.? he replied. ?I knew of the vicars plans. I tried to warn the children, but I?m afraid they didn?t understand me. And before you ask, no, I did not help Lithanual to plan his murders. He told me about them, and I was too scared to tell anyone. He can be incredibly violent, and if he has no problem killing innocent children, he wouldn?t give a thought to killing me.?
?Oh. I see.? I said. Then I went. I had a report to type up, a vicar to arrest and a lost boy to return home.
Case: The Charlsebey Murders
Adam Lyle~13} Anna Lyle~13} twins} Clara Hill~14
David Smith~14Ethel-May Robson~13Elizabeth Thomas~15
Fred Thompson~15Harry Rause~14Joseph Grant~13
Lillian Saunders~15Martha Lawson~13Ned Lewe~14
Percy Graham~14Ralph Allen~15Rose-Anne Wills~13
Murder(s): Lithanual Blik
Details: name: Lithanual Blik
Motive: (murderer mentally ill)
Detective: Charles Aldridge