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CALL ME DATCHERY. Others call me Dick, or sleuth, or shamus. I’m white-haired, whiskered, wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I’m neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I don’t care who knows it.
Some say I remind them of Sam Spade, except for the white hair and whiskers. But I’m everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. And I’m renting a room below John Jasper, the choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral, in Cloisterham, England.
Cloisterham’s Orphans. I forget what brought me to Cloisterham, except it seemed to have a helluva lot of orphans.
There was Edwin Drood, Jasper’s nephew. There was Rosa Bud, a phony moniker if I ever heard one, another orphan and Edwin’s sorta fiancée. These two were no lovebirds; it was their fathers’ idea. And what about Rosa’s inheritance? Was it kissed off if they didn’t marry?
Along come Neville and Helena Landless, twin orphans from Ceylon, though no one seems to know whether they’re Ceylonese or not.
Geez, all you got to do is watch if they eat with their fingers or with forks, knives, and spoons like proper people named Landless.
A rare non-orphan is Rev. Septimus Crisparkle, a minor canon of Cloisterham Cathedral. He’s Neville Landless’s mentor, and one of the few people in town with a sensible handle.
A Romantic Quadrangle. Edwin and Rosa are only so-so about their coming nups, especially once she learns the pot of cash remains hers hitched or not.
Rosa and Helena both attend the Cloisterham Nuns’ House boarding school. They become BGFs and, as is often the case, Helena’s bro Neville gets the hots for his sister’s best friend.
John Jasper isn’t that much older than these others and, wouldn’t you know, he has an unrequited throb for Rosa. What’s more, he notices a mound of quicklime in the cathedral crypt.
More Herrings. Red? Or Not? On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick. It’s for hiking around the countryside. Yeah, sure.
Edwin tells the jeweler he has no more jewelry than his pocket watch, watch chain, and shirt pin. He neglects to mention Mrs. Bud’s gold ring, entrusted to him to give to Rosa, which he still carries around even though the wedding is off.
Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, and I should mention he often visits a London opium den run by a haggard babe who goes by the name Princess Puffer.
Your guess what this moniker means.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. To a shamus like me, a dark and stormy night sounds trite, but weather reports are weather reports, and it is England, after all.
There’s a dinner with Edwin, Rosa, the Landlesses, and Jasper. You might think it’s when the sleuth reveals the culprit, but I have nothing to reveal because no crime has been committed.
Unless you count tedious English lifestyles.
The reconciliation dinner ends with Edwin and Neville leaving for a walk down by the river to look at the raging storm.
As any self-respecting sleuth would say, “I mean, really now….”
A Pocket Watch, Chain, and Shirt Pin. The next morning, Rev. Crisparkle goes down to the river weir and finds Edwin Drood’s pocket watch, chain, and shirt pin.
High marks for the Rev. Even a non-shamus knows that river weirs always accumulate evidence. If not bodies.
Princess Puffer Puts the Finger on the Perp. A half-year later, Princess Puffer follows Jasper from the London hop joint back to Cloisterham, and I get involved. At a morning cloister service, I see Puffer shaking her fist at Jasper from behind a cathedral pillar.
What a great scene this’ll be when they make the movie.
And What About That Gold Ring? From here on, I’m winging it (because Charles Dickens took the big sleep after episode six of twelve).
My Ken. Remember that mound of quicklime in the cathedral crypt? Remember Jasper’s scarf of strong silk? Remember how in The Thin Man, Nick Charles identified thin man Clyde Wynant’s decomposed body by its piece of shrapnel?
Gold doesn’t dissolve in quicklime, and Jasper neglected to remove Mrs. Bud’s ring from nephew Edwin before he deposited the strangled body in the cathedral crypt.
What about Neville Landless’s heavy walking stick? It was just a blunt-instrument red herring. Sour racket. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021