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Title: A Murder Myth-tery
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 4454
Summary Steven and Tris investigate a series of murders
Author's Note: I wrote this for a mythology course showing how mythology influences popular culture.





27 A Murder Myth-Tery


April 1958

Police Constable Rogers was patrolling his beat in the East End. Of all the assignments given, this was the worst. They alleys were just like a maze. Without a map or experience, people could get lost. Every time Rogers was given this particular beat, he always attempted to penetrate the maze little by little so he would know it by heart.

Near the end of his beat, a small mutt came by with a bone in its mouth. Rogers, who had a weakness for dogs, knelt down and began to pet him. He picked up the bone the dog had dropped and looked at it, shocked. It was a human finger.

At first he felt disgusted and sickened. Then he realized it might just advance him in the force if he solved it. He wrapped the bone in a handkerchief and refused to give it back to the dog. The dog knew where he could get more and Rogers followed it, writing every turn down in his notebook. After fifteen minutes of twisting and turning, a reeking stench filled Rogers' nostrils. In the gutter was a decomposing body of a woman. The dog trotted over and gnawed off another finger. Rogers looked at the body carefully from all angles. "Oh, what a story this'll make!"

As he backed away from the body, he noticed a tattered piece of paper by the sleeve. He picked it up and read:

It was the hour when earth is glistening
With rime, and leaf-hid birds begin to sing.
Scarce half awake as I lay on my side,
My drowsy hands to clasp my Theseus tried--
In vain! I drew my hands in, tried again,
Stretching my arms to sweep the couch. In vain!
Fear shook off sleep; I sat upright in dread
And flung myself from the deserted bed,
Beat on my breast with palms resounding deep,
And tore my hair still disarranged from sleep.


He replaced it exactly and retraced his steps to the main road and the nearest call-box.

"This is P.C. Rogers reporting in. I've just found the body of a woman who looks as if she's been dead at least three days."

"We'll notify the coroner. Inspector Dolittle's on duty so he'll be right over. Stay where you are; you're the only one who knows how to reach it."

"Okay." Rogers hung up the phone. "Fine. Dolittle's just the man I want to see." Inspector Dolittle and Rogers had never gotten along. Ever since Rogers' friend Tristan Forbes had left the force to become the duke of Edinburgh's "partner", there was no one to help him control his temper. He walked to where the labyrinth began and waited.

************************************************

Steven Taylor felt comfortable behind the wheel of a car, especially when it was his. It had just come out of the shop, and, after driving Tristan's second-hand jalopy for two weeks, he wouldn't have minded and early Model-T.

The two of them had been enjoying a nice, quiet Saturday brunch when John Dolittle called asking them to Scotland Yard. What a way to ruin breakfast!

Steven had known John since 1942 when they met during the war. Tristan Forbes he met only a few weeks ago when he had amnesia and someone was trying to kill him. Since they worked well together, Tristan quit the force and became his partner: the modern Holmes and Watson.

They walked straight into Dolittle's office. "What's going on that you asked for our help?"

"The body of a woman was found in the East End in an advanced state of decomposition. The coroner could not be definite on the cause of death, but said that the heart was extremely enlarged as if some type of poison was used. How, we can't say."

"What type of woman was she?"

"She was a waitress at a pub a few blocks away from where the body was found."

"Who found her?" asked Tristan, curious to find out if it was someone he knew.

Dolittle made a wry face. "It was your friend, P.C. Rogers. He reported it right away and led us to it."

"Why did he have to lead you?"

Tristan answered him. "That particular area of alleys is like a maze. Tom's been trying to memorize it a little at a time whenever he's assigned to it. None of the rest of us know it as well as he does. He used to tell me it was the best way to pass the time."

"I take it that's not one of the favorite beats in London?"

"One of the worst. I hated it every time I had it. Tom hated it at first, but then began to enjoy it a bit more. Some of the guys thought he had a bird on the side, but he told me it was the maze."

"Rogers is waiting downstairs to show you where he found the body." Dolittle rose and walked to the door. "Ease up on the sarcasm during this, Steven. This is too strange a case. The only clue was this poem." He handed a copy of it to Steven who read it and put it in his pocket.

When Tristan saw Tom, he shook his hand and slapped him on the back. "I guess your exploring finally paid off."

"Yep. You don't seem to be doing too bad either." He nodded his head towards Steven.

"It has its advantages."

*******************************************************

When they arrived at the entry to the labyrinth, Steven glanced around and noticed the dilapidated buildings mixed in with the pubs and stores. Tom led the way. He only paused a few times to get his bearings. Steven was amazed that he could have memorized his way among all these side streets. But then, he realized, since the discovery of the body, that particular way had been heavily trafficked.

Steven saw the chalked outline of where they body had lain and knew they had reached the spot. He walked over and studied the position. Dolittle stood beside him. "That was the best we could do. The body was in such a state that it was quite hard."

"Was she positively identified?"

"We found a receipt from a pub down the way, The Sleepy Dog. We checked it and found out her name was Irene Leary and she worked there as a waitress."

"Good. Maybe I'll stop over there and ask some questions." He looked at Tristan and saw him conversing with Rogers. He walked over and caught the tail-end.

"...was unbelievable. I didn't know what to think. I mean, I know we've been trained for facing death, but nothing could have prepared me for that." He sounded shaken. "It's not often you see a dog gnawing on a body's fingers."

"Tris, I'm going off now to ask a few questions with Dolittle. You can take the car and go with Tom."

"Okay. See you this afternoon. Good luck."

The Sleepy Dog was a small establishment run by the same man for fifteen years attracting the same crowd for at least ten. The owner/bartender's name was Pete Hewson and he was in his late fifties. It was said that if anything major was going on in the East End, he would know all about it. Pete noticed Steven and John once they walked in. It had only opened a few hours earlier so only the older regulars were in. "Wot c'n I do f'r ya, gents?"

"We'd like to ask a few questions about one of your waitresses," said John.

"Oh, ya mean Irene? She were a darlin' gel. Sooch a bad thin' t' happen." There was genuine sorrow in his voice. "Wot d'ya want t' know?"

"Home life, how she did at work, if she had a boyfriend; the little things."

"She 'ad no fam'ly, but she lived wit' anotha gel, May, I think 'er name is." He looked through some papers by the register. "Yeah, Mary Evans. 'Ere's the address." He handed it to them. "She was a good worker, she was. Ev'ryone liked 'er."

"What about boyfriends?" asked Steven.

"'Er first left 'er abaht two monfs ago. But abaht a monf later, a man came in and started payin' close attention to 'er, givin' 'er fings an' goin' out wiv 'er. She never said 'is name, just called 'him 'my man'."

"Thanks, Pete. If you hear anything else, call Inspector Dolittle at the Yard."

"If ya find out 'oo killed 'er, I'll give ya a drink on th'ouse!"

They went to visit Mary Evans in the flat she shared with Irene. It was located at the opposite end of the maze from The Sleepy Dog. John knocked on the door. "Miss Evans? May we ask you a few questions?"

She cautiously opened the door. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. "It's about Irene, isn't it?"

"I'm sorry, but it's procedure. We won't be long."

She let them in. "Excuse the mess. Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you. Why don't you sit down and try to relax?" said Steven. She did.

"We've already been to The Sleepy Dog and talked with Pete Hewson. He told us about her 'mystery man' and we were wondering if you could tell us more."

"The first time she ever mentioned him to me was about three weeks ago, but only after I asked her where a bracelet she was wearing had come from. She never said his name, but called him 'Mr. Smith.' Now, I know there aren't that many Smiths with that kind of money. In my guess, he was probably some rich lord or something come down to see how the other half lives."

"What kind of gifts did he give her?"

"Mostly jewelry, the kind she couldn't afford herself. That's really all I know."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. No, wait. She was supposed to meet him Monday."

Steven figured the dates in his head. He looked at John. "That coincides with the day the coroner said she died."

Mary looked first at John, then at Steven. "Do you think he killed her?"

John spoke before Steven had a chance. "So far, that's the only lead we have."

They walked to the door. Before he closed it fully, Steven stuck his head back in. "One more thing: did he quote poetry to her?"

"Yeah. It wasn't direct love poetry, though. It told the story of two lovers."

"'Kay, thanks." He shut the door.

"What was that all about?"

"Remember the poem found by the body? That told the story of two lovers."

It dawned on John. "So you think he could be the one?"

"Yes."

"It could be a frame."

"It could be, but then again, it couldn't."

****************************************************

John dropped Steven back at his townhouse in St. James. "Let me know about further developments." John nodded and drove off.

Tris was sitting in the kitchen pouring over a volume of poetry. He looked up. "That poem sounded so familiar, it's driving me crazy."

"Find anything out from Tom or the constable who had that beat Monday night?"

"Tom kept saying the same thing over and over. The constable who had the beat that night was a transfer, I didn't know him. Name of Mike Butler. According to him, he didn't hear anything out of the ordinary. No screams, no running footsteps, nothing."

"Well, John and I found out some interesting things. She was well-liked at the pub and worked hard. She had been seeing a mystery man for about a month. She had apparently been thrown off by her old boyfriend before the new guy showed up. According to her flatmate, this guy gave her expensive jewelry."

"So?" asked Tris, unimpressed.

"The clincher is that he wrote her poetry."

"He's our first suspect then." He cleared the book off the table. "Shall we get some dinner together? If I spend too much time on something, I get confused and can't think at all."

"You must think a lot." He smiled. "What time is it?"

"Half five."

"That late? Yeah, we should start."

*********************************************************

The girl left the pub. "G'night, Paddy. I'll see ya tomorrow."

The kindly-looking bartender warned her. "You be careful now, darlin'. Remember what happened to th'other lass."

"I'll be very careful, Paddy. I wouldn't want to make you unhappy." She smiled.

"Don't be foolish, now."

"G'night, Paddy."

The girl walked briskly down the street. Work was usually happy and fun. Tonight, a melancholy atmosphere hung overhead like a raincloud. Nothing was the same since Irene Leary was discovered last night. She got a chill up her spine as she passed the spot where they had found her. She quickened her pace. She was near the edge of the alleyway when she heard footsteps behind her. "Who is that?" She wheeled around. She saw a man walking towards her. "Oh, it's you. I've been so nervous since Irene...died."

"Why are you walking by yourself, then? I'll walk you the rest of the way home, if you like."

"Thank you so much." She began to walk. She felt a sharp pain in her back, then nothing.

The body slumped to the ground. "Now you don't have to be nervous anymore, Ariadne," he said. "I've released you from mortal pains and fears." He walked off.

*************************************************************

At 10:00 Sunday morning, just as he was waking up, Steven's phone rang. It was Dolittle. "We've found another one, Steven. Can you and Forbes come over here?"

"Okay, give us a half-hour." He hung up. He took a quick shower and dressed. he then walked into Tristan's room and yelled, "C'mon, Tris! We've been called to work by a member of Her Majesty's government!"

Tris groaned. "Why couldn't you just say 'It's time to get up'?"

"No fun." He became serious. "They found another body."

"Fine." Tris sat up. "I'll take a quick shower and you can get me a cup of coffee."

"How late were you out last night? You look like you drank an entire brewery dry."

"Please, not so loud. Just go make the coffee." Steven smiled and left.

When Tristan came down, Steven gave him his coffee and they went to the garage. When they pulled out into the sun, Tris stretched out with his mug and put on dark glasses.

When they reached Scotland Yard, they went straight to Dolittle's office. Dolittle gave Tristan a disgusted look then ignored him. Tris refilled his mug with coffee and sat down. "What's happened, John?" asked Steven.

"We found another body. She was cleanly stabbed in the heart from behind. The look on her face showed she wasn't expecting it."

"Has she been identified?" Dolittle looked down at his desk and didn't answer. "Well?"

Still looking down, he said, "Mary Evans."

Steven stood in shock for a moment, then fell into a chair. "No."

Tristan lowered his glasses and asked very politely, "Who's Mary Evans?"

"Irene Leary's flat-mate," Steven answered softly. "John and I talked to her yesterday."

John handed him a piece of paper. "Just like before. Seems like part of the same poem."

Steven read:

The moon is up. I search if I can spy
Aught but the shore: shore only meets my eye;
Now here, now there, I run, and all unplanned;
My tender feet sink deep into the sand;
And 'Theseus!' all along the beach I cry;
'Theseus!' the rocks and hollow caves reply;
Oft as I call, they call in sympathy,
As if to aid me in my agony.


"Yes, it's definitely in the same vein as the other. It's the story of Ariadne and Theseus after he abandoned her."

Tris said, "According to what you told me last night, Irene's boyfriend left her. Did that happen to Mary?"

"Not that I know of. Do you know anything about it, John?"

He shook her head. "I haven't gone to visit the pub where she worked yet, the Pot o' Gold. I was wondering if the two of you would come along."

Steven nodded, then looked at Tris who was quickly recovering. "I think you've got the both of us."

They first went to the pub and spoke with Paddy. "I warned her about walkin' back by herself through the alley. And know she's been killed by a stranger."

"No," said Steven. Noticing Paddy's shocked face, he clarified himself. "She wasn't killed by a stranger, it was someone she knew."

"What do you mean?"

"The expression on her face showed she didn't expect it, and, since she knew her own flatmate was killed there, the only person she'd stop for would be someone she knew," said Tris.

"Did she have a boyfriend?" asked John.

"Yeah, but he left her awhile ago."

"Did she start seeing anyone else, get any expensive gifts?"

"No. She mentioned Irene had a new guy, though."

"Had she been acting strange or unusual before Irene's death?"

"No, not at all. Please let me know when you find out who did this."

"Sure thing, Paddy," said John as they left.

They went to the site of the murder. Steven noticed that she had almost been home. "If she hadn't stopped, she would have made it. Since it was this close, it definitely had to be someone she knew."

Tristan went back and retraced her footsteps. "It seems that when she passed the point where Irene was found, she picked up the pace. About here, she slowed down and stopped; she must have heard something. She then turned and saw the murderer. Since she knew him, she wasn't afraid to start walking again. That's when it happened."

John looked at him in amazement. "That's remarkable, Forbes. I didn't know you could do that."

"There are a lot of things you don't know about me, Dolittle." Tristan smiled back at him.

"There's not much more to look at, is there?"

"No." John looked at Steven. This was something new; he never gave up on something like this. "We'll go back if you want."

They headed back to the car. "Don't think I'm giving up. It's just that there's nothing else to look at here. Besides, I've got an idea cooking in my head."

Tristan and Steven picked up the car at the Yard and headed back to St. James. Tristan asked to be dropped at the library. "I think I know this poem and I want to find out who it's by."

"Sure. Do you have enough for a taxi if you need one?"

"Yep. See you." Tris walked up the main steps and once inside, headed for the card catalog. He looked up Mythology, Greek: Poetry. He jotted down some titles on a piece of paper and went to check the shelves.

He was going through the fifth book, almost ready to give up, when he saw a name out of the corner of his eye: Ariadne. He flipped back the pages and recognized two verses. There was one more left before she met Dionysus, the one where she sees Thesus' ship leaving her alone. Tristan copied the three verses so they could be studied further. As he was doing this, he realized that the murderer thought he was Dionysus granting the girls immortality!

When he reached the house, he ran in and called, "Steven! I've found the poem! There's one verse left! Steven, where are you?"

Steven came downstairs. "What did you say? Slow down."

"I found the poem. It's part of "Ariadne to Theseus" from Heroides by Ovid. There's a chance of a third murder!"

"Damn!" He moved to the phone. "I've got to call John. If there's going to be another murder, it's going to be tonight." He turned to the receiver. "Inspector Dolittle, please." He looked at Tris. "Do you have some old clothes?" He went back to the phone. "John? Steven. Tris found the poem and there's another verse concerning Ariadne being left by Theseus. Now, if our murderer has this thing for waitresses who've been dumped by their boyfriends, he'll strike again tonight."

"Great. We'll just warn all the pubs in London to tell their waitresses that if any of them have lost a boyfriend recently not to go home alone."

"Don't be so narrow, Lestrade. Look, he's only been striking those pubs near the maze. I think there's one he hasn't hit yet. Tris and I are going drinking tonight."

At these words, Tris looked over at him. "I love it. This morning you complained about my drinking too much and now you plan a pub crawl!"

Steven hung up the phone. "John's agreed to the plan. Let's go scrounge a disguise for you."

************************************************

That night Steven and Tristan walked five blocks from the parked car to the remaining pub. They both had baggy pants and old boots. Steven wore an old Irish-knit sweater with a cap while Tris wore a flannel shirt and pea-coat. They stepped up to the bar and ordered their pints. When they had them, they moved to a table in the corner. Steven cast his eyes across the whole room. It wasn't all that crowded, a few scattered around. Then, it was still early, only 9:00. It would fill up soon.

The waitress, whose name they learned was Amy, kept their drinks coming. Tris was still holding his own, as was Steven. Amy recognized Steven despite his disguise and asked if he was working on the murders. "My boyfriend used to walk me home, but he left me about two weeks ago. I was really scared after the first one. Now I'm terrified. I know I can trust you. Will you walk me home?"

Steven couldn't believe their good luck. "We were going to ask if you wouldn't mind."

She smiled. "Thanks ever so. I'll be done at about 1:00. You can wait for me at the back door after closing." She left.

Steven and Tristan kept to themselves, watching to see if anyone was closely watching Amy. They couldn't pick anyone out. At 12:00 closing, they paid their tab and walked out. They circled the block a few times and Steven explained his plan to the receptive Tristan. At 12:45, they were at the back door waiting for Amy.

She came out with a light coat over her shoulders. "It's so nice of you to do this."

"We decided it was the best way to catch the murderer," said Tris.

Steven said, "Don't worry, but we have something to ask of you. Could you walk ahead of us so it won't look like we're with you? That way the murderer won't be suspicious. We'll be behind you the whole time. Are you willing?"

She nodded. "If you're going to be there and if it'll help catch the murderer, I will."

"Good girl." Steven motioned for her to go ahead. "Walk slowly around the corners so we won't lose you."

She walked off and Steven and Tris waited until she was about fifteen feet ahead of them before they followed. They conversed about practically anything just in case they were being watched.

After they had passed where Irene was found, Amy turned down a different street from the one Mary had. Tristan tried to memorize the turns they made so they could get out safely once Amy was home. Steven nudged him with his elbow and stopped. Tristan looked towards Amy and saw a shadow on the wall opposite from an adjoining alley. The shadow became more defined as it got closer.

Amy heard footsteps that sounded closer than Steven and Tristan's so she turned and saw a young man walking towards her. He was familiar, but she couldn't place him. She looked over his shoulder but didn't see the others. "W-w-what do you want?"

"Why do you have to ask, Ariadne? I'm here for you."

"Ariadne? You're crazy! Get away from me!"

"I'm here to release you from all the encumbrances of mortality. Why fight me?" He flashed his knife. "Don't fight, Ariadne."

Steven and Tristan saw the moonlight reflect off the blade. They moved out of the shadows and Tristan grabbed the arm with the knife from behind. Steven took Amy and pushed her out of the way before going to help Tris.

The man had a large hat which, in the shadows, covered most of his face. During the fight, both men hit the ground and the hat fell off. Tris couldn't believe it! In that moment of recognition, the tables turned. The murderer had been groping for the knife and found it. By the time Tris had realized what had happened, the knife was at his throat.

Steven saw he had to make a move now. He looked around and saw a pile of bricks two feet away. The only problem was that the murderer was watching him and he couldn't do a thing. He looked over at Amy and made a throwing motion. He took awhile before she caught on to what he wanted her to do. She unslung her purse and threw it. It was just enough to distract the murderer and made him move the knife. Tris rolled away and stood. Steven ran to the pile and threw a brick. It hit the murderer on the side of the head.

Steven walked over to Amy and put an arm about her shoulders. They went to Tris who was kneeling beside the body. "I can't believe it," said Amy. "Why did he do it?"

"I don't want to bore you with the technical jargon. He was a psychotic who thought he was a god, able to take life. The poem he left with the bodies were the verses before Ariadne met Dionysus, who made her his immortal wife." Tris went into the jacket pocket. "This is the last verse." He handed the paper to Steven.

"C'mon, we've got to call John and tell him. Would you mind if we use your phone?" he asked Amy.

"After saving my life, that's the least I can do."

They walked the one block to her flat and Steven phoned Dolittle. "I can't believe it. I was never really fond of him, but I wouldn't have thought him a murderer."

"I guess the only way to explain it would be that he was suffering from a split-personality," explained Tris. "Talking with him showed he wasn't hiding anything. He couldn't hide anything he didn't know."

"I'll send someone to get the body." He hung up.

"Will you be all right?" Tris asked Amy.

"I'll be fine, thanks. Thank you both for saving my life." She kissed them both as they left to await the police.

Back in the alley, as immortal as the god he thought he was, lay the body of P.C. Tom Rogers.

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