There were deep slashes in the wood floor that followed no discernable pattern. They were long and numerous as if made by a deranged lunatic stabbing at the defenseless floor repeatedly. Splintered shards of glass and twisted metal littered the ground and gave voice to the violent struggle that had taken place here. However, there was far too little blood to suggest that the victim had met his demise here as The Telegraph and the local Constables had reported.
Detective Inspector Gerald Clarke removed his black wool felt bowler and ran his sweaty palm over the rapidly thinning hair in the center of his head. He was a short and portly fellow, with long wispy sideburns that he assured his wife he had not grown out to compensate for his diminished hairline. No, the additional hair on the sides of his face merely added some warmth to the cold nights he spent in the service of Scotland Yard.
He was at a complete loss as to how Mr. Gray's assailant had entered or exited the second story room. The interviews with the servants all told the same story of an eccentric gentleman who locked himself away alone at night. The steel bars on the door stood undiminished in a testament to their strength. Several constables had reported that the room was found soundly locked and empty. The Valet had been found but swore that only Mr. Gray had the key that unlocked the bars to room—and he had vanished without a trace. A locksmith was summoned but so far had been frustrated by the stalwart and expensive mechanism forestalling their entry. This had prevented him from making a more thorough investigation of the scene and limited him to observations that could be made from outside of the room.
With that entrance eliminated, the assailant could only have entered through the large window overlooking the gardens below. The glass was shattered and the metal frame bent and twisted outwards as if from an explosion. The lack of any burn marks made that theory unlikely. So what could have caused that level of damage to the window? He had already examined the soil below the window and the tile of the roof above. Regrettably, the steady rain that had begun falling two days before his arrival had mired any clear signs that might have been found there.
The only other items of note that could be observed in the room were a single overturned chair, a faded looking table, and a torn screen on the floor. That and of course the presumed murder weapon. It was a silver Garland knife and it was covered in dried blood. The small blade appeared to have an engraved handle and would be the sort of instrument that a gentleman would use for opening his letters.
An audible click sounded and a smile came over the locksmith's face. "Ah, that's got it. There you are, Inspector. A fine piece of workmanship this was but no match for a determined mind."
"Nor is any problem. Thank you for your service, my good man. One of the constables downstairs will have your fee for you. You have my personal thanks as well as that of Scotland Yard. Constable Mcdonaugh, please come in here immediately."
The eager young constable bounded up the steps from his assigned post with wide eyes, thirsty to take in the details of the mysterious crime scene. He was a sturdy lad, well proportioned and just under two meters tall. His constable uniform was clean and neatly pressed. His face held a strong jaw with a precise beard and mustache that contained a hint of reddish tint. He carried himself well, but it was his lack of confidence when speaking that identified him as newly trained by the Metropolitan Police.
"Yes sir, Inspector. What is your pleasure, sir?"
"Constable, I want you to set a tight perimeter with the other men below. The door is finally unlocked and I want no one coming in or out until my analysis is complete. Conduct a rotating patrol of the entire grounds with a sweep every quarter hour."
The man saluted and allowed his eyes to stray from the inspector's face and to the room behind. "Right away. Erm, are you certain you won't need my assistance with the crime scene?"
The notoriety of Mr. Gray coupled with the baffling circumstances of his disappearance had naturally aroused the curiosity of all of London and the police force was no exception. Nonetheless, the green constable could not be allowed to distract Inspector Clarke's from the task at hand.
"That won't be necessary Constable. Now see to your duty."
The man's face fell visibly before being quickly replaced by the blank stare that only a previously enlisted man could master. "Yes, sir." He turned smartly on his heel and hastily retreated down the stairs to establish a perimeter. It was best to keep the constables busy with patrolling rather than standing around. A man felt more useful when put to action.
Now alone, the Inspector slowly slid open the gate and entered the room. Upon closer inspection, he found that his earlier observations still held weight. There were precious few new details to discover after examining the floor and overturned furniture. The knife handle was scratched and bloodied but offered little more. He moved over to the purple screen lying on the floor. It was made of an expensive looking thick fabric that was ornate if not faded from age. The kind that might be used to cover a statue or work of art in a gallery. He raised his eyes to the wall that had been hidden from view outside of the room. As he saw the painting hanging there on the wall, he gasped in surprise.