Josh works in marketing by day and writes fiction in the evening. He lives just outside of Chicago with his wife (who is happy to see him spending his time writing rather than playing Playstation) and their cat, Bella.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE MINIMAL
The dot of light quivering on the ground between them is no bigger than a half-dollar.
Nearly hidden among overlapping grass blades, it seems innocuous, but Sarah Ledonne knows better. Knows it's probably already too late.
She switches to thermal and her daughter's small form burns into existence in front of her, white-hot against the darkness of their backyard.
Where have you been don't you know they see us we've gotta run we've gotta --
A distant, muffled boom somewhere overhead stops her short.
She tries to scream, but it comes out as a yawn.
"Mommy?" Jeannie's eyes are wide beneath her bowl-cut bangs. "Did you hear me?"
Sarah blinks, ripped out of a trance she doesn't remember entering. Color roars back into the world, and suddenly her daughter's eyes are as green as the Bermuda grass stains on her overalls. Behind Jeannie, a desert willow sways in the warm summer breeze, scattering flamingo pink blossoms onto the lawn. Further off, the Vegas skyline burns blood-orange as its towers catch the setting sun.
The dot of light is gone.
"Sorry, Jeannie. Mommy was, uh..." Sarah massages her throbbing temples. "What did you say, honey?"
"Ugh!" Jeannie stamps a foot on the lawn, and the sole of her shoe erupts into an LED-driven frenzy. She turns away from Sarah. "I asked if it hurts them!"
Sarah furrows her brow and takes a closer look at the tree. It takes her a moment to realize Jeannie is talking about a neon green sticky trap hanging from a low branch. Intended for the nefarious wasps who take over their backyard each summer, the trap has performed admirably - it's covered in so many bugs that Sarah can barely tell its victims apart until the wind swings it around.
Near the bottom, Sarah sees a single ladybug pedaling its legs uselessly for a few moments before going still.
"That's so sad," she mutters tonelessly. She looks back at her daughter's impatient expression and smiles. "They're bugs, honey - they don't feel a thing."
"Not them, Mommy! The people you shoot from the sky!"
Sarah's intestines clench as gravity's hold on her suddenly feels very tenuous. "What -- who told you Mommy does that?"
"Grandma said so."
"Grandma doesn't understand what she's talking about sometimes, honey," Sarah says after a few seconds. "Mommy just...Mommy helps the other good guys figure out who the bad guys are, and what to do about it."
"Do you hurt the bad guys when you find them?"
"Sometimes. But only if they're going to hurt other people."
Jeannie considers this for a moment. "I guess that's okay," she finally says. "Does it ever make you sad?"
Sarah opens her mouth to reply, but hesitates as the wind carries a raspy hiss to her ears. She looks out to the desert, where, high above, a vulture rides the thermals up, only to bank back down in slow, lazy turns. She swallows thickly and closes her eyes, reminding herself it's not real, but when she opens them, the scavenger persists in its patrol.
"Sometimes," she repeats, turning back to Jeannie with an effort. "Now come on - it's time for bed."
Jeannie stands on her tippy-toes, reaching up with both hands, and Sarah is only too happy to oblige. She lifts Jeannie up, and in a single fluid motion, the girl wraps her legs around Sarah's waist, interlocking her fingers behind Sarah's neck.
A fresh gust rocks the trap as they walk back toward the house, and the ladybug dances once again.
Once Jeannie's in bed, Sarah heads to the kitchen. Her mother, Betty, is hunched over their small table, filling in the Daily Jumble with a tooth-worn Bic. Her apron is strewn casually across the coffee-stained Formica, its faded Tom's Diner logo folded over on top of itself. A box of menthols and a Bic of a different type peek out of one pocket.
As Sarah puts her lunch together, she goes over the script she's orchestrated in her head one last time. She's halfway through when Betty's pack-a-day rasp cuts into her thoughts.
"Are you going to blow anyone up today?"
The question stops Sarah cold. Her mind goes blank. "What did you say?"
"I asked which Thermos you're taking," Betty glances up from the Jumble, and Sarah can see she's telling the truth. "Green is chicken soup; blue's tomato."
"I don't--" She glances down. "--green. Mom, did you say something to Jeannie about what I do at work?"
"At work?" Betty flashes a wry smile. "You talk like you're going to an office, not that awful shipping container out in the desert."
"For the hundredth time: Ground. Control. Station." Sarah rubs her forehead. "Seriously - did you say something to her?"
Betty rolls her eyes. "She was supposed to write a paragraph about your job and read it to the class. She had been putting it off and forgot about it, then remembered it the morning of." She shrugs. "You weren't home from your shift, so I helped."
"Mom! What the hell is wrong with you? There are other Air Force kids in her class -- what if something gets back to Creech or Nellis? I could get stuck with a psych eval if anyone thinks--"
"I didn't tell her anything you couldn't find online," Betty interrupts. "Did you really think I'd tell her about your nightmares?"
Betty sits forward. She's barely twenty years older than Sarah, but under the light she looks twice that: the wrinkles and cracks and crevices in her face run as deep as any of the dry riverbeds crisscrossing Al Jazira. "I found you passed out right here--" she taps her pen against the table "--with a handle of Skol. Dreams don't make people do that."
"That's not -- look, the Air Force takes this stuff seriously." She shoves two small bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos into her lunch pack. "And I don't want Jeannie getting the wrong impression of what I do. I'm a Sensor Operator, not a pilot. I just guide the--"
"I know, I know. We don't need to go over it again." Betty studies the Jumble for a moment, then scrawls an answer. "Never thought I'd see the day where I actually missed you talking about motocross."
"Yeah?" Sarah stands up a little straighter. "The bike's not that busted up, you know. When I make Staff Sergeant, maybe I could..."
She trails off as Betty shoots her a glare that would wilt a Saguaro.
"Uh...leave it just the way it is, and start thinking about an apartment for me and Jeannie," she continues, trying her best not to make it sound like a question. "Besides - with all these plates and screws in my crotch, riding the rhythm section just wouldn't be the same, you know?"
"Mhm." Her mother sets down the Jumble. "Did you say when you make Staff Sergeant?"
Sarah chews her lip, bringing her thumb and forefinger up to her eye. She can barely see Betty through the gap. "I'm this close. But I'd have to re-enlist."
"Are you joking, Sarah? You'd really consider another four years of this?"
"Four years isn't that long."
Betty's quiet for a moment. "You know, we're still looking for someone to replace Sharon at the diner," she finally says. "With tips it'd pay enough for a decent apartment - why don't you let me see what I can do?"
"Because then I'd be working at the diner." Sarah zips her lunch bag closed and rams it into her backpack. It fits snugly against her bulletproof laptop. She slings the backpack over her shoulder. "I gotta go, Mom."
Betty's shaking her head as she picks the Jumble back up. "Love you."
"Roger that." Sarah pushes the screen door wide open, stepping out into a pool of light that's much brighter than the one in the kitchen. By the time the door clicks shut, she's halfway to the garage, where a lonely Suzuki hangs pegged on the back wall.
She absently calculates the cost to repair the grotesquely bent front fork and install a new set of shocks, and for a moment, things feel a little simpler.
Tucked away on a far corner of Creech Air Force Base, the Ground Control Station - which does indeed look like a steel shipping container - holds some of the most advanced and sensitive technology available to the United States Air Force.
Most of the light inside the GCS comes from the twin drone control consoles set up against the far wall, but the soft-blue LEDs overhead are bright enough that Sarah can fish one of the Cheetos bags out of her backpack without too much effort.
She leans back in her oversized leather chair, popping one of the crunchy pieces into her mouth. Next to her, in an identical oversized leather chair, Captain Hunter adjusts his big, football-player hands on the controls. The LEDs gleam off his bald head, but his muscular frame fills the flight suit nicely, which is appropriate, considering he used to wear it in the cockpit of an F-16.
Sarah has never worn hers in anything that moves faster than her Silverado. She feels slightly ridiculous every time she puts it on - even moreso when it inevitably rides up - but protocol is protocol.
Their MQ-9 Reaper drone is currently orbiting the outskirts of Al Makan, a small town along the Iraqi-Syrian border. Over the past couple weeks, she's spent enough time staring at the town that she knows it at least as well as she knows Vegas, if not Spring Valley. Even the town's residents have taken on a strange, voyeuristic familiarity.
"Looking like a slow day in the Mak," Hunter says. "Let's head a little further up country."
"Sandstorm's brewing out west," Sarah cautions.
"We won't go too far out." The world on their camera feeds suddenly turns vertical as he banks the drone into a wide turn. Hunter grins. "I just want to see what Kartman's up to."
"You mean besides shuffling goats around his ranch?"
"Come on now, don't do him like that!" Hunter's grin widens. "I got fifty bucks that says today's the day we find him scooting around on that thing."
"You have yourself a bet, sir."
As they leave Al Makan behind, their conversation drifts back to more pressing matters in Las Vegas, and Sarah recounts her discussion with Jeannie.
"I wouldn't worry too much," Hunter says. "Kids are going to find out sooner or later. At least it came from Betty."
Sarah nods. "Thanks, Captain."
"You betcha. Hell, I'm a regular encyclopedia of parental wisdom, as long as you don't ask Emily."
"Uh oh. You guys still haven't figured out the right balance for Charlie?"
Hunter grimaces, shaking his head. "I gave up my Falcon and reconfigured my whole AFSC to get this gig so I could spend more time with the boy. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad he's getting some exercise, but driving around to eight hundred practices a week is not my idea of quality family time."
"No arguments here." Sarah gnaws on a Cheeto for a moment. "You ever miss flying? Like, really flying?"
"What do you think? 'Course I do. There was something about it -- not like you want to get killed, but out there, your ass is on the line. In here?" Hunter lets go of the controls, and the drone flies on, undisturbed. "We're the Finger of God. Our most dangerous enemies are carpal tunnel and boredom." He grips the controls once more. "Speaking of which, you never really answered me the other day. You gonna re-up or what?"
"Probably." Sarah grasps for more Cheetos, but the bag is empty. She glances inside just to make sure. "Four years will go by pretty quick, right?"
"Hell of a lot quicker here than in a diner - no offense to Betty. Besides, Staff Sergeant is just over the horizon."
"Oh, I know." Sarah smiles, and so does Hunter.
"Eyes on the prize! I like your attitude, Ledonne! I like it. Commander recommended you?"
She nods. "Already got my 5-level. I hear the exams are tough, though."
"You should be fine. Any standout performance reports in your file, though? Might help round things out just in case."
"Nothing recent." Sarah sits forward as an unusual bit of foliage catches her eye on the screen. It zooms by too quickly to form a clear image, but somehow she knows it's a desert willow.
Kartman's house is a squat, flat-roofed building situated just off the main road to Al Makan. It backs up to an expansive, fenced-in section of desert, where a rusty go-kart sits in its usual spot - tucked away behind a disused pickup.
Some distance away from the building, two forms tend to a herd of goats.
"You can pay me in cash or cash," Sarah says.
Hunter groans. "Alright, alright. You called it. Let's hang around for a minute - maybe they'll spend some quality time on the roof again."
"That's fucked up, Captain. Besides, the sandstorm -- hold on." Sarah points to a part of the screen where a small plume of desert dust obscures the road. "Check it out."
Hunter sits forward. "Is that a guy on a dirt bike?"
Sarah's already adjusting the zoom. "Honda," she says. "Looks like a CRF450 - Dungey down there's got taste."
"What's your point?"
"Not exactly a cheap ride, even Stateside."
Hunter looks at the feed for a minute. "Did you catch where he left from?"
"No, but he can't be too far from home with that thing's range." She leans forward. "That a weapon on his back? I can't tell from this angle."
"I'll bring our bird around."
The rider pulls off the main road and zips toward Kartman's house. Out back, one of the forms - a lanky, bearded man - pulls away from the goats and heads towards the structure.
"Kartman's on the move," Hunter says. "Can you zoom on the front door when I come around? Better start tossing whatever you capture into the relay chat, too."
"You got it," Sarah says. She does so just as the rider parks, capturing stills for upload to the IRC - their direct link with US intelligence and military assets around the globe.
Kartman emerges and shakes Dungey's hand, then motions for the rider to enter his home.
"Looks like an AK on his back," Sarah says.
"Roger that. Anyone got something on this guy?"
Sarah glances at the IRC, then shakes her head. As the two men emerge into the backyard, the rider is talking into a cell phone.
Hunter points, but Sarah's fingers are already flying across the keyboard.
"I'm on it, I'm on it!"
*Unk. male on phone. Coords. attached - get signal?
A few moments later, a response flashes across the IRC.
**Signal identified; confirmed mention of high-value target: Barracuda. Target possibly en route. Maintain position; continue surveillance.
"Hunter," Sarah says. "I think Barracuda might be coming to the farm."
"Get the fuck out." But it's not disbelief Sarah hears in his voice. It sounds more like hunger.
She dismisses the notion as she realizes her flight suit is riding up.
Before long, Dungey, Kartman and his wife head inside. Sarah watches the shadows of scraggly trees and bushes creep along the dust and dirt: knobby, grasping fingers that almost have the farm in their clutches. She loses count of how many times they orbit the site. The sandstorm is out west is roiling, covering more ground each time they circle the farm.
"Looks nasty out there," she says.
"Tell me about it." The camera feed pixelates briefly as a particularly rough gust rattles the drone. Hunter banks through another turn and the signal settles down. "These crosswinds are a real bitch. We can't hang around all day."
"We might not have to," Sarah says, scanning incoming text on the IRC. "Our backup spotted a potential match on Barracuda leaving Al Makan in a Land Rover."
"Backup's sticking around Al Makan though, right?" Hunter glances over.
"Looks like it."
"Good," Hunter says, his lips pulling into a tight smile. "Got him all to ourselves."
Sarah says nothing. Before long, a new dust cloud appears on the horizon. "There!" She zooms in and captures their first image of the truck just as its driver tosses a cigarette out the window.
Hunter's eyes are fixed on Sarah's monitor. Gone is the family man, her genial compatriot in this dark box. Someone else is sitting next to her now.
"Game time," he says. "You ready?"
"That's what I like to hear, Ledonne." Hunter sucks in a deep breath of recirculated air. "Nothing like going fangs out."
Fangs out. The notion always awakens some small, secret part of Sarah, shortening her breath and rushing a shameful heat to her groin.
She usually showers twice after a strike shift.
The Land Rover begins making its way down the dirt path, coming to a stop in front of the house. Shifting winds carry the dust plume from behind it forward and over the dwelling, masking the men as they exit the vehicle.
"Four unidentified males," Sarah says. "Can't get a good look, though. Switching to thermal." The dust cloud vanishes as the infrared scope renders the world below in grayscale. The four men by the Range Rover look like cheap special effects ghosts; their heat signatures leave milky trails each time they move. "I can't see their faces. Can you get us another angle?"
She keeps the camera pinned to the men as the drone banks, but on Hunter's screen she can see that the sandstorm's already advanced another mile toward the farm. Maybe two.
Hunter catches her gaze. "Don't say it," he growls. "Don't even think it. Just get the pictures."
As they come out of the turn, Sarah sees Dungey standing on the porch with Kartman. The latter is excitedly waving the group in. Saliva thickens in Sarah's mouth as she captures stills for the IRC. Even with the infrared on, the camera captures images with high enough resolution to make facial recognition possible. She doesn't know most of the men, but one is a dead ringer for the files she's seen on Barracuda. Kartman shakes this man's hand, then bows slightly to the rest of his entourage as they walk past. A moment later, he and Dungey follow them in.
Sarah exhales softly. "Got 'em." She packages the images and requests permission to strike.
"What do you think?" Hunter asks.
"I think you're the officer here," Sarah says, watching the IRC feed as the strike request makes its way up the chain.
"Don't give me that shit. I want to know - what do you think?"
"It's him. Kartman shook his hand."
It doesn't take long for the approval to come back down.
**Barracuda and his personnel are valid targets. Minimize collateral damage.
Sarah relays this to Hunter.
"Took long enough," Hunter mutters. The sandstorm is closer than ever now, savaging the drone with relentless gusts. "Signal's gonna break up if we stay out much longer, so as soon as Barracuda leaves that house, I wanna nail him. Understood?"
Sarah bites her lip. Next to her, the IRC lights up with a new message, and she glances over.
**Does it ever make you sad?
"Huh?" She glances at Hunter, then back to the IRC.
"I--" Sarah swallows, but it feels like there's a cholla digging its spines into her throat. "Copy, Captain."
Hunter studies her for a moment. "If you've got a problem, I need to you tell me. Now."
"I'm worried about Kartman." She blurts the words before she can stop herself. "We don't know how or if he's involved with Barracuda. I mean - Jesus Christ, Hunter, we've never seen him anywhere but this fucking farm!" She looks to Hunter, but his expression is impassive.
"They told us to minimize collateral damage, and we will," he finally says. "But I'm not missing my shot at Barracuda. Do you read me?"
Sarah tries to picture what would happen if she said no, and her mind takes her back to the kitchen.
This time, it's her filling out the Jumble.
"Yes, sir," she says.
A furious gust from the sandstorm jolts the drone, and for a brief moment, the anxiety crushing Sarah's lungs releases its grip. Relief surges through her body.
We're going to have to abort. We'll head back to base and our backup--
"Movement out back," Hunter says.
Fuck. Sarah repositions the camera and adjusts the zoom, placing the targeting reticule on the six men leaving the house. The infrared scope makes it look like the figures are gliding across the sand toward where the goats are milling around.
"Targets have reached minimum safe distance from house," Hunter says. "Adjusting launch angle; twenty degrees off azimuth."
"Roger." Kartman, if you can hear me, after the boom you'll have two point five seconds to run as fast as you possibly can. It won't be long enough, but still.
Kartman and Dungey line up with Barracuda and his escorts, forming a half-circle around the goat herd.
Sarah keeps the reticule pointed at the center of the group.
One of the men motions towards a goat, but Barracuda waves him off and points at another. Kartman shakes his head, then points to two of the other goats.
Barracuda strokes his beard for a moment, then extends a hand. Kartman shakes it.
Smoke and gouts of flame obscure Sarah's screen.
"Hellfire is off rails." Hunter's voice fills the GCS and a knot of excitement forms unbidden in Sarah's belly. She wants desperately to look away, to shut off the monitor, to guide the missile into the mountains beyond. Instead, she leans forward ever so slightly.
The men look up as one, then scatter as the missile screams towards Earth. Sarah inches the reticule away from Kartman.
The infrared feed darkens as a white-hot plume of fire curls up out of the desert. The shifting winds do their work, and soon all that's left on the screen is a ragged crater, yawning amid glowing pieces of men and goats. They gradually darken to match the ebony sand.
Sarah tells herself that all she did was guide the missile Hunter fired, that they'd neutralized a major extremist leader and saved innocent lives in the process, that they'd followed procedure and gotten all the appropriate approvals, that they didn't leave much for the vultures.
All of this is true, and for about three seconds, it does help her feel better.
Then Kartman's wife sprints into the frame.
Her jilbāb is stark black even against the IR-darkened ground. The wind whips the garment as she runs, breaking up her form until she looks more like a banshee than a human.
She falls to her knees at the edge of the crater, and Sarah's stomach turns. Hunter's voice comes to her from somewhere that seems very far away.
"Great work today, Ledonne. Major target eliminated based on intel you sussed out?" He whistles. "Hell of a good look for your file. Staff Sergeant might be closer than you think."
She hears the words, but the 1080p nightmare unfolding in front of her is the only thing she can process. She forces herself to look at the IRC. The strike recording is already being dissected and reviewed, but even so, her text log will be an important part of the official record.
Her fingers shake as she types.
*I think we killed an innocent goat farmer today.
She blinks and finds a different set of words staring back at her.
*Barracuda and cohorts neutralized. Collateral damage minimal.
Back on the screen, Sarah can see people from surrounding farms making their way towards the crater. Some are crying. Others try to comfort the woman wailing at the edge of the pit, but she shoves them away.
Sarah pans the camera and begins to catalog the mourners as the drone makes its last pass over the farm.
By the time Sarah pulls back into Betty's driveway, the first touches of morning light have filled the sky behind the mountaintops. A fresh trap hangs from the willow branch.
Inside the garage, her Suzuki still looks lonely on its pegs. She wonders what's going to happen to Dungey's CRF450, because if she allows herself to spend another second thinking about Kartman's wife she will have a psychotic episode.
She doesn't remember entering the house, but before long she's standing in the doorway of the bedroom she shares with Jeannie. She kicks off her boots and lays along the edge of the bed.
"Four years will go by pretty quick, right, honey?" she whispers.
Jeannie murmurs something, but doesn't quite wake up. Instead, she worms her way into her mother's arms.
Sarah squeezes her tight, and before long her mind starts to drift.
In the restless sleep that follows, she dreams in infrared.
Keith Burkholder has been published in Creative Juices, Sol Magazine, Trellis Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, New Delta Review, Poetry Quarterly, and Scarlet Leaf Review.
He has a bachelor's degree in statistics with a minor in mathematics from SUNY at Buffalo (UB).
David was just like any other person one would see on planet Earth. However, something really amazing happened to him. He has a second life now.
Scientists discovered that David had nerve endings in his neck that still worked after his head was decapitated totally in an automobile accident recently. They were able to make a new head for him and now David functions normally like he did before. His new face and head look like similar as before, but he is a totally new person now.
David’s qualities of being nice and considerate still remain. However, now he is more cautious in the world. He doesn’t trust people as he did. The accident from the past still lingers in him even though he has a totally different head than before. It is as if he can feel the past in him.
David no longer works for the company he was employed at. He now works full-time as a freelance writer. He likes being his own boss and being published any chance he can get. He gets a pension and social security due to the accident he had before. David wonders what life will be like this new way.
David feels more in tuned with life with this new head and face. The scientists did a marvelous job in keeping him alive. Everyone is amazed he is still alive, but the nerve endings in his head continued to function.
Second chances in life are rare, but they do happen. David understands this concept a lot and feels grateful to be alive and well now. What will David write about now that he is working this way? He has always wanted to write a book and now is the perfect time for him.
Science fiction appeals to him a lot and he knows that he himself would love to see a new world in outer space. He is now alone in his apartment and is now creating such story. He talks about a character that goes through the similar events he has gone through in life.
This character will now travel to a planet in the solar system that has just been inhabited by human beings. This concept makes David feel great as he starts to brainstorm new ideas about this adventure.
David’s new head and face continue to work as he writes. He has never had thoughts like this before. Science fictional ideas are now coming easily to him.
David loves to brainstorm as he writes. This makes the process a lot easier for him and he feels that he can really be a part of the story even though it is fictional in sense.
David has ideas for the kinds of characters he will use in this story. He just loves the idea that this story will go well for him.
Before being decapitated, David wrote very little. However, now with this new head and face, he really can’t stop writing.
The planet David writes about in this story is a world that is newly developed by humans. Humans can survive there in the same way they do on planet Earth.
The planet Earth needed a sister world that is similar to itself. This planet David writes about is such a planet and the whole concept of this reality in a short story really appeals to him as an author.
David wants this planet in his story to be as productive as planet Earth over time. This would really be an amazing plot to such a tale.
David continues to keep writing now. His life was saved by the scientists who helped in his operation with the surgeons who attached this new head and face to David.
Operations such David’s are rare, but he was saved. He now has a new found feeling toward life because of this.
David has never been married and has no children. He loves his life now as it is and wants to continue to live life now as he knows it.
David now feels that he can be accomplished as a writer. Before his head was decapitated in the accident, he never knew that he could write well.
The kind of work that he creates makes him happy. This is the case with the story he currently writing.
David believes that he can write great work. His imagination is really amazing now and he feels complete as a person.
David thinks the world will get better for him. It has taken him some time to get used to his new head and face, but everything is working greatly for him.
David believes in creativity in every which way. This is how his mind works when he writes a short story.
David would love to write books. He believes his creative mind works well for a longer journey in writing.
This story topic came to David out of the blue. His imagination works in funny ways and this is such instance.
David loves his life when he writes now. He feels really empowered in so many ways when he is writing.
Empowerment comes in different forms for different people. In the case of David, it is now in the form of writing.
This new head and face have allowed David to create while writing. It is like he has a new life and this makes him feel happier inside, too.
The surgeons and scientists have told David that his new body parts will continue to get stronger over time. This comment really made him feel great inside.
David really never had a chance of surviving until he received this operation. However, now he is alive and thriving.
Surgeries like this never happen. However, in this account it did. David is thriving and is happy to have this second life.
David loves to have this kind of life. He loves the fact that writing takes it over and he can create whatever he wants to in a story.
David wonders how much he can write right now. He doesn’t care if it a little or a lot. He just wants to be productive.
David believes in his work entirely. He writes on his own and feels that his work has gotten better over time.
David feels so grateful to have a second chance at life. Not everyone experiences such events in their lifetime.
David is alive and well. Medicine in this case worked in a way where life is happening for David and his writing career will take off hopefully soon.
David wonders more about this story. He wonders about a possible ending even though he hasn’t reached that stage yet.
David hopes to remain in good health for a long time. His health is really paramount in his life right now and it should be no matter the circumstances.
The thought of such a surgery that David has is unheard of, but it happened. He is a new person now writing a book.
David is a person who is willing to persevere as a person and a writer. He knows that the writing world is subjective and over time he knows his writing will turn great in style.
Perseverance is a trait a writer learns to understand. The process of writing can be challenging and even more challenging to get published.
David’s mind works well with writing. He knows that writing is in him and the more he creates as a writer the better he feels spiritually and psychologically.
David is totally alone in his apartment. He is brainstorming and coming up with new ideas for his novel.
The more David adds to this story the better he feels about it. This is just the way he feels in general now and continues to write as time passes him by.
Nobody really heard about this accident that David went through. His parents are both dead and he really doesn’t have friends.
David knows people in passing, but doesn’t really have friends that are true to him. This kind of life doesn’t bother him. However, he needs to really trust someone to be their friend. Trust is something that means to the world to David.
David wonders how long he should make this story. He doesn’t have a set plan, but knows it will be long.
He knows that his writing has improved greatly over time. This is just something he understands and believes in. He feels really content with his writing for the time being.
It has been quite a life for David. Most people would have never survived such an operation in the way he did.
Decapitation is devastating. There is really no change anyone can be saved from this. However, David did and his life has become greater because of it. Writing is what really inspires him now and will for as long as he lives.
The amount of work performed on David was amazing. Blood was all over the place in his vehicle when he was found.
Nobody, I mean nobody really knew if he was going to survive. However, scientists and surgeons found a way for him to live. This seems really surreal, but David is alive and well now.
David is truly a survivor in every meaning of the word. He is a person who will continue to persevere in life.
David is a person who is to be admired. He was granted a second chance of life after being almost totally killed in the car accident he was in.
The story continues forward for David as he writes it. He becomes more confident as the story continues to unfold.
David loves the whole topic of this story. He never knew that it could develop this way and continues to make more sense to him as he writes it.
David adds more characters to this story. It is going better than planned and this feels great to David.
David feels that this story will be great because it is totally original in plot. This is what he wants out of a story no matter what he writes about.
David hasn’t had any health problems after going through this complicated surgery. He actually feels like a better person.
David believes that the future will be bright for him. He doesn’t feel agitated or annoyed with anything and this is definitely a positive way to view life.
David before is surgery liked life, but never had the creative bursts he uses now to write. He rarely wrote before his horrific accident.
He has been writing a lot now and feels great about it. He believes that this story will be great because it is original and it is a story that will entertain other readers.
As the years and time passes, David becomes great at writing. He has had books and short stories published.
David’s health has remained great. The decapitation was horrific obviously, but he feels better that his life is totally on track.
What does the future continue to hold for David? This is really only a question he can answer. However, he will continue to prosper as a freelance writer.
This is the mystery of life. The future is a concept that is hard to understand and predict. If one works hard toward a goal, anything can happen. In the case of David it is freelance writing. Take care, David, and continue to write for as long as you can.
Jack Coey believes the writer’s unique view of the world – point of view, is his talent. The individual writer has a point of view original from everyone else, and it’s that which makes his writing distinct.
It was a hot August night when Mr. Rich asked me to drive the buggy to the farm so he could talk to old man Dean. I could tell he was perturbed, and I didn’t exactly know why, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it wasn’t because of Susan. She’d been acting funny, and she and Mr. Rich were very close. They worked at the bank together, and he was like a father figure to her which made sense because our Dad was killed in the war, and she never got over it, and I think Mr. Rich offered her succor. He showed up at our farm, and they would go into the barn together, and I stayed busy with chores because you didn’t want to cross Mr. Rich. Besides which, he was very good to me. He helped me get appointed Superintendent of the Water Works, and he was looked up to by everyone in the village as a very smart man who graduated from that big college down in Boston where the engineers go. Mr. Rich was twenty years older than Susan, and was the head cashier at the bank, and moderator of the town meeting, a former senator and representative to Concord, a member of the National Guard, a municipal judge, treasurer for the school, choir director at the church, and a Mason. And if that wasn’t enough, he started an insurance business. I had the feeling Susan wanted more from Mr. Rich than he could give her. With the war on, there weren’t a lot of men around to give Susan what she needed. I didn’t fight because of my Dad, and I had to provide for my sister and mother. From what I could tell, Susan started fooling around with Dr. Dean as a way to get to Mr. Rich. She was in her mid-forties and started to feel her time was running short. Dr. Dean loved to flirt with women, and so he was a set-up for this. His wife was suffering from softening of the brain, and he came to the village from his farm two miles out by himself, and he didn’t have to watch his behavior the way Mr. Rich did. It was a hot night, and Mr. Rich was silent the whole ride up to the farm. Dr. Dean milked his cow at eleven thirty or midnight, and slept in late in the morning which was a peculiar habit for a farmer, but Mr. Rich wanted to be alone with him, and knew from his friendship of over twenty years, that this would be a good time to do it. As I remember, we didn’t leave the village until eleven thirty. The only other person on the farm was Mrs. Dean since the Colfelts moved out last June. He finally spoke, and told me to park the buggy by the barn, and wait on the porch in case he needed me.
I grew up in the town where Mount Monadnock is, and for some time now,
there’d been talk about lights from the mountain. I went to look a couple of times, and didn’t see much, but for one time, I thought I saw something, but then figured it was automobile lights. People whispered about it, and it wasn’t till several men who’d been to sea told that the summit of Monadnock is the first land sighting from the sea that it dawned on us that the lights could be sinister. A rumor became current that German spies were living in the Pumpelly cave near the summit, and were signaling from there. There was talk among the young bucks in the town about forming a posse, and going after the spies, but like a lot of things, it was just talk. Several more responsible people like Mary Ware of Rindge, and Mrs. Morison of Peterborough got in touch with The Department of Justice in Boston about the signal lights, and in April of 1918, two agents, Robert Valkenburgh and Feri Weiss, got off the train from Boston to investigate the lights.
It was the morning following our ill-starred visit to Dr. Dean in August of 1918 that Arthur Smith, a twenty-one year old farm hand drove onto Dean farm about seven in the morning to finish up a mowing job he began the day before. He was on loan to Dr. Dean from Mr. Ingraham who had a farm nearby. The other farmers knew the Deans were having a hard time making enough money so they would loan out workers whenever they could to help out. Arthur drove onto the farm in a horse and buggy with six-year old Josh Ingraham, his boss’s son. He drove up the farm road with the bungalow on his left, and the big house up on the hill and the barn across a field. He stopped near the field where he’d finished yesterday. He got down and began changing over the horse to the mowing machine. He heard a scream, and jerked up, and saw Mrs. Dean clumsily trotting across the field. He ran towards her.
“Dr. Dean is dead in the barn! Please go look!” she screamed. Arthur said he was momentarily stunned, but gathered himself, and went to Josh, and told him to stay where he was, and ran to the barn. He pushed open the sliding door, and went inside, and found nothing unusual. He climbed the ladder to the hayloft, and came back to the main floor, and exited the barn. He walked to where Mrs. Dean was, and said,
“He’s not there.”
Mrs. Dean, in a heightened state, told Arthur how Dr. Dean went to the village late yesterday afternoon, and came home around nine-thirty, and went out to do his milking, and never came back. She came out at dawn to look for him, but didn’t find him, and thought he must have died somehow. As she was talking, Arthur saw a wagon come up the road with two people in it which, as it got closer, he recognized as Matt Garfield and his son.
Garfield and his son got down from the wagon and walked over to where Arthur and Mrs. Dean were. Garfield’s son was thirteen or so. Mrs. Dean went over her story again how her husband went to the village, and came home around nine-thirty, and went out to milk the cow at eleven, and never came back. She said she was up most of the night, and came out at first light, and went to the barn, but didn’t find him. She called out to him with no answer so she thought he must have died. Garfield wasn’t so sure about that. Like everyone else, he knew she was suffering from senility, and besides which, Dr. Dean was liked by everybody, and who would want to kill him? More likely he had a seizure of some kind and wandered off somewheres on the farm. Garfield patiently listened to Mrs. Dean, and said,
“Let’s have a look around.”
Garfield walked Mrs. Dean back to the bungalow. It was 350 feet between the bungalow and the barn, and 200 feet between the barn and big house on top of the hill. The Dean’s built the big house, and the bungalow was the original farmhouse. The big house gave a panoramic view of Monadnock and Pack Monadnock, and was rented to the Colfelt’s from New York City until June of 1918 when Dr. Dean, according to hearsay, evicted the Colfelts from the farm. The big house remained empty since the Colfelts left. The group split into two, and went over the fields, and joined back up together by the big house. Garfield’s son tried the door and windows and everything was locked until he found an open window by the front door. He crawled through, and opened the door for the other three.
Lawrence Colfelt had a supercilious attitude towards the locals. He had a trust fund which allowed him not to work, and resulted in us locals being suspicious of who he was. We had a “work or fight” expectation for all able-bodied men. He showed up at the same time the lights from the mountain started, and Johann Von Bernstorff, the German ambassador, made two trips to the next town over. It was Mr. Rich’s idea to have the Dean’s rent the big house to him when he returned to Jaffrey in August of 1917. As I said, the big house had great views. Dr. Dean and his wife had been on the farm for almost thirty years by themselves, and even though Mr. Rich’s advice was good, it was a bad idea. The Colfelt’s were wealthy enough to hire domestic help while the Dean’s were struggling. Dr. Dean resented Colfelt’s condescending attitude towards him. Colfelt spent his time riding around in his Marmon touring car or riding horses.
The group was in the cluttered big house; the Colfelts left a lot of stuff behind which hadn’t been cleaned up. As the group moved around, they heard echoes. A couple of them went to the second floor and came down. They gathered again in the kitchen: no Dr. Dean.
They left the house and split into groups of two. Garfield, after looking around the barn, sat on the porch, and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. He looked at the mountain, and thought about what Oscar Dillon told him the other morning about a cave. Josh Ingraham came and sat next to him. They simultaneously looked down at the grass, and saw blood stains, and Josh reached down, and plucked a blade of grass, and held it up, and asked,
Garfield felt anxious, but made light of it.
“Looks like Dr. Dean killed a chicken or something,” he answered the boy. Garfield became more anxious when he saw more blood on the grass. He decided to call down to the village. He told Josh he wanted to use the telephone, and they walked back to the big house. Garfield went inside, and picked up the receiver, and told the operator he wanted to speak with Selectman Coolidge. When Coolidge came on the line, Garfield told him how Dr. Dean was missing since last night. Garfield heard static on the line, then, Coolidge’s voice saying he would round up some men, and be there as soon as he could.
It was a little after ten when the automobile came up the farm road, and stopped near the bungalow. Selectman Coolidge, Selectman Hogan, and Charlie Nute, the Chief of Police, got out, and walked up to the big house where they met the four on the porch. Garfield told the newcomers how Dr. Dean went to the village last night, came home, and went out to the barn to milk the cow, and never came back. Garfield said they searched the fields and barn and big house.
“No sign of him anywhere, eh?” asked Charlie Nute.
“He can’t be far off,” offered Arthur.
“I’ve come across something down here,” said Garfield.
Garfield told the boys to stay on the porch, and led the men down by the barn, and showed them the blood stains.
“Oh! This doesn’t look good,” said Coolidge.
The men became more urgent. They walked over to the bungalow, and walked around the bungalow, when Hogan came across a well. He called to the other men, and slid the cover off, and looked down into it, and saw it was empty.
“Any other wells on the place?” he asked.
“There’s one by the big house,” answered Garfield.
The men walked up to the big house, and found the well next to the foundation. Coolidge took the cover off, and looked down into it.
“There’s water in this one. Can I get a pole to poke around with?”
Garfield went into the big house, and came out with a broom, and handed it to Coolidge. Coolidge straddled the well, and plunged the handle down into it, and moved it around, and said,
“He’s there all right.”
The men were stunned. They froze until Coolidge said,
“If I can get a hook of some kind, I’ll pull him up.”
Coolidge’s face was sweaty and white.
“There’s an ice pick in the barn,” said Arthur.
“Yes, that should work,” answered Coolidge.
Arthur headed for the barn, and saw an auto coming up the farm road. The auto drove up to the big house, and parked, and Mutt Priest and Charlie Stratton got out. They sensed right away something grave was going on. Stratton said Mrs. Dean called him about the livestock. After a few more minutes, Arthur returned with the ice pick, and handed it to a somber Coolidge.
“Looks like Mrs. Dean is coming,” said Mutt Priest. Mrs. Dean was coming to the big house after hearing the auto go by the bungalow. Coolidge said,
“You fellows look after this, and I’ll take the boys, and see that Mrs. Dean doesn’t come up here.”
He handed the ice pick to Stratton, and headed off with the boys. Stratton got down in the well, and dropped the pick, and pulled up. The men saw a pair of legs with rope wrapped around the knees.
“Oh! My God!” someone exclaimed.
“Let him down,” ordered Hogan. Hogan paced back and forth.
“State law says we have to call the county coroner before we move the body,” he said, “don’t do anything further until you’re told to do so.”
Hogan walked off looking for Coolidge who as Chairman of the Selectmen would have the responsibility of calling the county coroner. Hogan found him in the barn with the boys and Mrs. Dean feeding turkeys. Hogan told Coolidge what they found, and that he would have to call the coroner. As he walked across the field to the bungalow, Coolidge had the idea to call up Mr. and Mrs. Rich who were long-time and good friends of the Deans who could comfort Mrs. Dean. They could distract Mrs. Dean while they took her husband’s body from the well. When he got inside the bungalow, he picked up the receiver to call the Riches, and out a window, he saw an auto park near the bungalow. Will Leighton, the undertaker, and Mr. Rich, and his wife, Lana, and his sister-in-law, Georgiana Hodgkins who was visiting from New York, got out, and Coolidge thought,
“How does anyone know we need an undertaker when no one knows he’s dead yet?”
Mr. Rich had a large black eye that was unexpected like a priest or schoolteacher or doctor suddenly appearing with a black eye. Because of the urgency of the situation no one said anything. The group walked up to the big house by the well where the men were standing waiting for the county men. Mr. Rich was standing by the well looking down on it with Garfield next to him, and Garfield said,
“We’ve found him here in the well.”
“I guess it’s a case of suicide,” said Mr. Rich.
“I don’t think so,” said Garfield, “how can a man tie his knees, and pull the cover over him at the same time he’s drowning? If you would like to see him, we could have him drawn up again.”
“No, I don’t care to see him.”
As the men waited, the sky was getting darker and darker, and they could tell a bad storm was coming. It was after two in the afternoon, when the auto came up the farm road with the county men. Two men got out of the auto, Dr. Dinsmoor, the county medical examiner, and Roy Pickard, the county attorney. Mr. Coolidge told them about how Dr. Dean went to the village, came home, and went to milk his cow, and never came back. The men knew a storm was coming so Dr. Dinsmoor, Mr. Leighton, and Mr. Coolidge gathered around the well, and Mr. Coolidge hooked the body with the ice pick, and pulled up, and when the legs were out of the water, Dr. Dinsmoor embraced the legs, and pulled the corpse out of the well. He laid the corpse on the ground. The men saw how Dr. Dean’s hands were tied behind his back, and there was rope around his neck, and knees and ankles. They saw the sack pulled over Dr. Dean’s head, and when Dr. Dinsmoor cut away the sack with a pocket knife, they found the stone.
“Save everything as evidence,” said Roy Pickard.
The men saw the horse blanket wrapped around Dr. Dean’s forehead which when removed showed the gash marks. It started raining.
“Help me move the body into the house,” said Leighton. Dr. Dinsmoor and Mr. Coolidge helped Mr. Leighton carry the corpse into the big house. Not long after a full-blown storm started with heavy rain and stiff winds. Much external evidence was lost.
The day after the body was found, I was at the water works when Susan called me on the telephone, and said Mr. Rich wanted to see me right away. I went to his office and he bade me close the door. He had that morning’s copy of The Peterborough Transcript on his desk.
“See the paper?” he asked.
“Here.” He handed me the paper and right away I saw:
Brutal Murder at East Jaffrey
William K. Dean’s Body Found in Rain Water Cistern.
Had been Beaten About the Head
Bound and Tied in Weighted Sack
~No Cause for Murder Known~
One of the most brutal murders in Cheshire County was unearthed by East Jaffrey and County officials Wednesday at East Jaffrey, in the discovery of the body of William K. Dean, a retired farmer, with his hands bound, his scalp battered from some blunt instrument, burlap and blankets tied over his head, and a stone weighing about 20 pounds attached, in the bottom of a rain water cistern some 200 yards from the house where he lived with his wife.
Sheriff E. H. Lord and County Solicitor R. M. Pickard are making every effort to solve the mysterious crime, but as yet they have no clue. Mrs. Dean, who is ill, and has not been in her normal condition, mentally, for some time, reports that on the return of Dr. Dean from the village, Tuesday night, he went to the barn to do his milking, and in her bewildered condition, she did not mind his presence until the next morning, when she telephoned to friends in the village to come up and see to the stock, as they needed attention.
Selectman William F. Coolidge and Acting Chief of Police, Perley H. Enos, with George L. Stratton, went to see what the difficulty was as Dr. Dean seldom left home except for trading visits to the village.
After a long search, the body of the farmer was found in a rain water cistern about 200 yards from the house. Both hands were tied behind his back, with two ropes in six square knots, A heavy burlap bag was over his head and tied to his wrists. Within the bag was a horse blanket, tied over his head, and a heavy stone weighing some 20 pounds.
Upon the removal of the blanket, severe bruises on the head were discovered, but the skull was not fractured, indicating that he had been struck on the head and stunned but met his death by drowning. The legs were bound at the knees. In the barn nearby there were some blood stains and there were others on the piazza of the house. Dean was a quiet man and had lived in town about 30 years. He rarely carried large sums of money with him, so, authorities are at a loss to know the motive. They are making a close investigation of the premises.
“I want you to go up and get rid of the blood,” said Mr. Rich.
“Of course,” I said.
Army intelligence was watching Lawrence Colfelt from an incident near West Point involving flashing lights. They watched his movements from New York to New Hampshire. In April of 1918 after the Colfelts spent the winter on Dean farm, Army agents interviewed Dr. Dean who said,
“Colfelt is one hundred percent American.”
Some people said Colfelt was the illegitimate son of Johann Von Bernstorff who spent time in 1916 in Dublin, NH, the next town over. We never knew for sure why Dr. Dean did it, but in June of 1918, he threw the Colfelts off his farm. In July of 1918, Walter Lindsay, a part-time Jaffrey police officer told me this;
“I met Dr. Dean in front of the post office, and he noticed my police badge, and asked me if I was still on the force. I told him yes. Then, he said, ‘I have lived on the farm for twenty-eight years, and I have never been molested in any way, shape, or manner, but if I wanted police protection, to where would I telephone?’ I told him either the station, Duncan’s, or Fred Stratton’s livery stable.”
Mrs. Morison was a wealthy woman from Peterborough who contacted The Department of Justice in Boston about sending agents up here in April of 1918.
I knew a couple of the maids that worked in the house. The agents, Valkenburgh and Weiss, ended up staying at her house, and watching for lights from her telescope in the library. It was the morning of August 13, 1918 that Mrs. Morison visited Dean farm. She was with two other women. The women got out of their auto around mid-morning and walked to the bungalow. Mrs. Morison knocked on the screen door, and Mrs. Dean came to the opening. Mrs. Morison saw the food stains on her dress. Mrs. Dean thought they were religious people, and when Mrs. Morison tried to tell her why they were there, it only confused her. Exasperated, Mrs. Dean invited the women into the bungalow. The women were awkwardly standing in the middle of a somewhat shabby sitting room when Dr. Dean came down the stairs. Mrs. Morison thought this was rather late for a farmer to be starting his day. Dr. Dean was surprised and pleased to see the women. Mrs. Morison told him why they were there, and he enthusiastically responded. He said he had a painting he could donate, and he went out of the room to look for it. He came back several minutes later, and said it must be in the big house, and invited the ladies to walk with him up to the big house. Mrs. Morison could see the other women didn’t want to go so she offered to go. Dr. Dean and Mrs. Morison walked up the road to the big house. He unlocked the front door, they went inside, and there were boxes and articles strewn all over the place.
“Please overlook the mess,” said Dr. Dean, “you wouldn’t think the Colfelts would behave like this.”
She stood while he looked around the rooms, and then, he climbed the stairs to the second floor, and she heard echoes in the musty house. He came down the stairs carrying a spinning wheel.
“Oh, Dr. Dean are you sure you want to donate something that valuable?” asked Mrs. Morison. He told her he would be more than happy to, and they started back to the bungalow. They were half-way down the road when Dr. Dean stopped walking and asked,
“Mrs. Morison do you ever see lights from your house?”
Mrs. Morison hesitated.
“Why, yes, I do.”
“Could you show me from where? Could you show me the place where they come from, from here?”
Mrs. Morison looked and walked to a spot in the field where she thought she saw lights from her house. Dean farm was a higher elevation than her house, and she admired the view.
“I would give anything if I could see the lights from here some night,” she said.
Dr. Dean collected some stones to mark the spot from which she saw lights. They walked back to the road, and Dr. Dean’s face was quite serious.
“Do you have any idea who we can report these lights to?” he asked.
“Why yes, Dr. Dean, I’m in contact with the Department of Justice.”
“Really? Could I ask you to do something for me?”
“Certainly, Dr. Dean.”
“Can you get a message to send me up one of the best men they have? I want the very best, not just an ordinary man who doesn’t know his work.”
“Dr. Dean, couldn’t I do better than that? Couldn’t you tell me what it is, and I will get a message to them at once? I’ll telephone as soon as I get home.”
“No. I don’t want you to telephone, it’s too dangerous. I can’t tell you what I know because you’re a woman, and I have no right to burden you with it.”
“Why, Dr. Dean, if it is as serious as that, why haven’t you sent for someone before?”
“Because I wasn’t ready; two agents were here last spring, but I wasn’t ready; I wanted to be perfectly sure. Now, the quicker someone comes, the better.”
“I think you can trust me, Dr. Dean. If you could tell me I think I could give the message sooner.”
“No, no, it’s too dangerous for a woman. Would you go to Boston for me, and ask them to send a man? A good man?”
“You want me to go to Boston?”
“I know I’m asking a great deal, and I wouldn’t do it unless I thought it was that important.”
“If you think it’s necessary, then, I’ll certainly go.”
“Good, good,” he said.
Dr. Dean started walking again down the road, then, he stopped.
“What do you know about the Colfelts?” he asked.
“Why I don’t know anything about them,” Mrs. Morison answered, “I think you would know more than anyone else as they are living on your place.”
“I did Mrs. Morison. I knew just a little too much. I gave them twenty-four hours to get out.”
“What do you mean, Dr. Dean? What was the matter?”
Dr. Dean looked away and didn’t answer. Then, he said,
“Well, I needed the rent very much, but I’m too good an American to keep people of that kind on my place.”
They began walking again and he asked,
“How late can I reach you on the telephone tonight?”
“You can get me at any time as I have five telephones in my house and one right by my bed. I’m always up late, and you can reach me at any time. You needn’t hesitate to call me.”
“If I come out here tonight and see the lights, I’ll call you up.”
“Why, Dr. Dean, would that be safe?”
“I can call you up because we might talk about the turkeys even if it is late. I might say something about bringing the turkeys over, and you would know what that meant. Then if you will look out, and see what you see from your place, we can compare notes afterwards.”
They walked back to the bungalow, and Mrs. Morison rejoined the other ladies who were eager to leave.
Later that night at about eleven-thirty, Mrs. Morison went up to her bedroom. Her husband was in Washington on Army business. She sat at a desk looking out onto Old Jaffrey Road which connected Peterborough to Jaffrey and went by Dean farm. She wrote letters and was distracted by a noise in the distance. As it got closer, she recognized the sound of a high-powered automobile going by her house at a high-rate of speed. She thought there was an emergency of some sort because it was rare for an automobile to be out this late. She went back to her task, and about an hour later, was surprised again by the high whine of a car engine coming back down the road from the direction of the Dean farm. She looked out the window to see if she could recognize the vehicle, but its headlights were turned off, and it was going so fast, she couldn’t make anything out.
“My, that auto is going awfully fast,” she thought.
Lawrence Colfelt was in Portsmouth that night, and it took two and a half hours to drive from Portsmouth to Jaffrey. Valkenburgh and Weiss from The Department of Justice checked with the manager of the Rockingham Hotel, and he couldn't say for sure that Colfelt had been there that night. Daniel La Rose reported seeing Mr. Rich driving a car on Main Street at the same time this car was going by the Morison’s. Colfelt told the agents his car was in the shop in Nashua, but Valkenburgh made the observation,
“What? A guy with his money couldn't rent a vehicle?”
Mr. Rich called me to his office. He told me how he and Mrs. Rich tried to get rid of the clothes he was wearing the night we visited Dr. Dean in a dump by Mrs. Richardson’s house. He said they did it after midnight so they wouldn’t be seen. From what he said, I guess, they were seen by Mrs. Richardson who was telling people about it. He said his wife and sister-in-law walked by the dump, and told him they could see the clothes from the road. He was mad at himself for being so clumsy, and asked if I could go get the clothes? I had a better idea, I told him. We were going to have to dig a water line to a new house that was being built near there, why not dig it now, and throw the dirt over the clothes? He was ecstatic; I thought he was going to kiss me. The next day I dug the ditch, but we didn’t lay the pipe until a year later.
Mr. Rich started talking about how Mrs. Dean killed her husband. I thought it was crazy at first, but he kept talking about it, and trying to get me to talk about it. He said she was insanely jealous of her husband, and killed him in a rage. I never saw anything like that from Mrs. Dean, but she was incapacitated, so maybe people would accept it. He had me go down by the train station where the day laborers gathered for work, and talk to the waiting men about how Mrs. Dean killed her husband. I would say,
“It’s a damn shame she would do something like that?”
and the men didn’t catch on to what I was talking about, and one of them would say,
“What? Who?” and I would say,
“It’s it a damned shame Mrs. Dean killed her husband like that,” and there would be some muttering, and one day, I saw a man who I didn’t know, who watched me pretty closely, and I wondered who he was, and it turns out, he was Robert Valkenburgh, a Department of Justice agent. He came to the water works to ask me about why I went up to Dean farm the day the article came out, and I told him to muck the barn, and then he asked what was I doing in the big house, and I told him I was turning off the water so the pipes wouldn’t freeze.
“In August?” he asked.
I could tell he didn’t think much of me. He wanted to know who sent me up there to do that, and I told him no one, and he didn’t like that much either. I don’t care what some flatlander thinks if it means protecting Mr. Rich and Susan.
Mrs. Dean was living on the farm with round the clock police protection and two nurses, Miss Hiller and Mrs. Bryant. Mr. Rich told the selectmen that it was costing the town a considerable amount of money, and what he didn’t tell them was it would be a lot easier to promote Mrs. Dean as her husband’s murderess if she weren’t available for people to see she wasn’t as insane as he made her out. It was a week after her husband’s murder that the two nurses and Dr. Childs moved Mrs. Dean to the Herbert Hall Sanitarium in Worcester. It was quite the ordeal. Mrs. Bryant told this to Valkenburgh and Weiss, the federal men.
“This talk that Mrs. Dean killed her husband is absolute foolishness. She is incapable of that kind of violence, but there is talk from the Rich household about her killing her husband, and the Riches and the Deans were such good friends for so many years that I marvel at what people can say about each other. Mrs. Rich warned me about Mrs. Dean – not to be alone with her – as she might be the murderess. We moved Mrs. Dean to the hospital in Worcester yesterday, and I must say plainly, I’m ashamed of my part in this. Mr. Coolidge told me and Miss Hiller to help Dr. Childs. Mr. Coolidge said it was costing the town money for police and nurses, and they wanted to see if she was insane or not. She’s no more insane than I am. She’s forgetful and absentminded, yes, but insane? Not on your life. Somebody wants her out of the way so they can say what they want about her. She is a kind and gentle woman, and what people say about her, especially people who profess to be her friends, will make your blood run cold. Dr. Childs was in charge, and he told me to have Miss Hiller help me because we were forcing Mrs. Dean to do something against her will, and she could be difficult. I tried to make it as easy as I could; I tried to coax her. I kind of suggested to Mrs. Dean if she would like to take an automobile ride with us. She wanted no part of that so when it became obvious we were going to have to be forceful, Dr. Childs gave Miss Hiller a hypodermic needle with a sedative, and she snuck up behind her, and injected Mrs. Dean. Very shortly, Mrs. Dean began to get drowsy. Her face flushed which worried me, and she said,
‘What if I died now? You wouldn’t need to come over anymore. You have been awfully good to come here every night to stay with me.’
We helped Mrs. Dean out to the auto, and got her in the back seat – Miss Hiller on one side, and me on the other. Mr. Dillon drove. Dr. Childs followed us to Jaffrey where he left off, and we drove onto Massachusetts. Mrs. Dean would nod off and wake again and complain about being tired. She kept asking if we were taking her back to her farm, and I lied to her, and told her we were taking a roundabout way. I feel terribly about this. I’m ashamed of myself for deceiving a vulnerable, trusting woman like that. I would feel the same way lying to a child. She was getting more and more agitated about not being at home then something funny happened. I started to hum, and she said,
‘I didn’t know you could sing,’ and she calmed right down. It was funny how my humming calmed her down even more than the sedative. When we arrived at the asylum in Worcester, she got out of the auto, and wanted to know what time it was, and I told her it was half-past three, and she said,
‘We have been going for a long time. I am going to rest awhile, and then, we will start home again.’
Mrs. Dean had no idea what was going on. We got her in a chair in the waiting room, and when she closed her eyes, the three of us got out of there as fast as we could. I felt so bad; I felt like crying. We played an awfully dirty trick on that woman, and the poor dear had just lost her husband. The selectmen tried to tell me it was for the best, but I didn’t feel good about it when we did it, and I don’t feel any better talking to you right now. I realized after she could have stayed with me in Jaffrey, but of course, I always think of the better plan when it’s too late.”
It was on Saturday, the 17th of August when Dr. Dean was buried with no autopsy, and without his body being embalmed. Roy Pickard, the county attorney, would be responsible for those decisions.
Charlie Wilson and I went to high school together, and had been friends over the years. He knew I was friendly with Mr. Rich, and one day, pulled me aside coming out of Goodnow’s store, and said,
“Russell I haven’t told anyone this story, and I wanted you to know first. It was about a week after the murder, I was hauling hay from the Hardy Place, my grandfather’s old place in Sharon to my farm here in Jaffrey. It was early evening about five o’clock. While on the road to Jaffrey, I saw a man on horseback, he was coming from Temple way around the bend in the road.
He passed me on the left, going the same way I was, towards Jaffrey. Just as he drove past me, he ducked down, perhaps, to avoid the hay which was hanging over the side of my wagon, but I think he wanted to hide his face so that I couldn’t see him. I recognized who it was, and wanted to tell you first. It was Mr. Rich. Coming through the way he did, it would be a nearer way, and less traffic than the main road, and no houses to pass. It was a short cut to Temple about nine miles. The main road is about eleven or twelve miles. It was a road to Temple that a stranger would not be apt to know or use. I got the impression that he was keeping in touch, and posting the Colfelts who were still residing at Temple, what was going on in Jaffrey. He kept leaning over until he passed me some distance, and then, he straightened up before he reached some houses ahead of him. The next time I was in the bank, he wouldn’t make eye contact with me.”
I didn’t know what to say to Charles and thanked him. I knew that Mr. Rich and Mr. Colfelt were friends, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had business relations because Colfelt was a wealthy man and Mr. Rich was a banker after all. The Colfelts moved to a hill-top house in Temple after Dr. Dean kicked them off his farm and from what I was hearing, Mr. Colfelt got a job at the Atlantic Shipbuilding Corporation in Portsmouth and started his job the day before our visit to Dr. Dean. I thought about Mrs. Morison’s story about the automobile going by her place at a high rate of speed around the time Mr. Rich was talking to Dr. Dean, and wondered if it couldn’t have been Colfelt driving from Portsmouth. I didn’t see Colfelt the night we visited Dr. Dean, but then again, I wasn’t with Mr. Rich all night either.
I knew he wasn’t from around here; I saw he was strikingly short, I saw he was strikingly handsome, I saw he was strikingly-dressed. His name was Willie Wendt Dekerlor, and he arrived on the train with Dr. Dean’s brother and sister-in-law on Friday night, August 23rd. His wife was Elsa Schiaparelli who became an internationally known fashion designer like Coco Chanel was a plain woman who dressed to distract from that. The other couple was Frederick Dean and his wife, and Frederick had been here before to see his brother. The story was that Frederick Dean and Dr. Dekerlor were lecturers together on the circuit in New York City, and Dr. Dekerlor was a criminal psychologist who’d helped solve other murders, and so, Frederick Dean asked him if he would travel to Jaffrey to help solve his brother’s murder. Dr. Dekerlor was a writer and lecturer and psychologist in this world, and a psychic and clairvoyant in the next. He wrote free-lance for four papers: two in Boston, and two in New York. Dr. Dekerlor wanted to get into the big time, and he needed a vehicle to get him there, and a murder of a patriotic farmer by German agents might be just the thing. Frederick Dean had met Mr. Rich before, and knew he was the man to see, so that Saturday morning the two men went to see him at the bank.
Dr. Dekerlor and Mr. Rich didn’t like each other right off. Both men had strong egos, and Dr. Dekerlor was skeptical of Mr. Rich’s story, and Mr. Rich resented the interference of an outsider especially an outsider as outside as Dr. Dekerlor was. Mr. Rich told the men what he knew about the crime, and the whole time, Dr. Dekerlor studied his face. Mr. Rich told how the body was found, and how he was tied up, and the gashes on his forehead. Placing a monocle in his eye, Dekerlor asked,
“These gashes you speak of, how many were there?”
“Three,” answered Mr. Rich.
“How would they get there?”
“A garden cultivator was found at the scene – a three-pronged garden cultivator with which he was struck.”
“How long were the gash marks?”
Mr. Rich impatiently sighed.
“I don’t know about that. I think an inch and a half.”
If Dr. Dekerlor was irritating Mr. Rich before, he found a way to make it worse.
“Looks like you got quite a whack on your face?”
Mr. Rich peevishly told the story how his wife asked him to take the pea shells from dinner, and feed them to the horse, and because of the fresh sawdust on the barn floor, the horse was startled, and kicked out, hitting the basket, and knocking the pipe he was smoking up into his eye. Mr. Rich stopped talking, and there was silence. Dr. Dekerlor thought,
“Well, how can a horse kick a man’s face, and make a cut here, and a cut there? The whole side of the face would be smashed. Looks more like a fist than a hoof to me.”
Mr. Rich started talking about how Mrs. Dean was the likely suspect, and how they moved her to a sanitarium in Worcester for her safety, and she was the last person see him alive, and it was well-known that Dr. Dean liked women, and that Mary Dean had plenty of which to be jealous. Frederick Dean and Mary Dean didn’t like each other, but Frederick Dean found himself angry at this description of his sister-in-law. Frederick Dean wisely decided to end the interview. As the two men walked out of the bank, Dr. Dekerlor said,
“Let’s go have a look at the crime scene, shall we?”
The two men rented an auto, and drove up to Dean farm. Dekerlor had with him a magnifying glass and camera. Dekerlor believed photographs captured a crime scene, and if one had the gift, one could read the photograph for clues; even clues that were otherworldly. Dekerlor stood next to the auto and admired the view.
“Lovely view of the mountain,” he said.
The two men walked around the farm, and stopped at the barn porch. Dekerlor carefully examined the barn porch with the magnifying glass, and then took photographs. They walked up to the well, and Dekerlor examined the well, around it, and found scratch marks in the foundation of the big house which he photographed. Confidence came over Dekerlor when he told Frederick,
“I have a hypothesis.”
“Yes. You see, there were scratch marks on Rich’s face as there are scratch marks in the barn porch and foundation of the big house, and Rich told us of the gashes on your brother’s forehead, so if I can connect the scratches from all four locations, then, wouldn’t that place Mr. Rich at the crime scene?”
“My brother’s already been buried.”
“We’ll exhume him.”
“I thought you could talk to the dead? Wouldn’t that be easier?”
“Communing with the victim of a violent death is difficult.”
“Oh?” said Frederick.
Mr. Rich may have called Roy Pickard after his interview with Frederick Dean and Dr. Dekerlor because that afternoon, Roy Pickard was in Jaffrey asking where Frederick Dean was. The three gentlemen met in the lobby of The Granite State Hotel, and Lawyer Pickard listened as Dekerlor explained to him how he could match the four locations of scratch marks, the one of which, of course, was the face of Mr. Rich. None of this sounded good for Mr. Rich, and Pickard’s impression of Dr. Dekerlor was that he was a nut, and he was panicked at a way to discredit him before he did any damage. Sunday morning good fortune struck when Pickard had a conversation with Feri Weiss, one of The Department of Justice agents, who’d worked as an immigration inspector in New York Harbor before becoming a federal agent. Feri Weiss knew of the Dekerlors’ from immigration, and told Pickard they were suspected of Bolshevik sympathies, and that they’d been deported from England in the summer of 1915 for cheating people out of their money. Pickard was overjoyed at this intelligence from Feri Weiss, and thought if he could tell Frederick Dean the truth about Dekerlor, that would stop Dekerlor in his tracks. He underestimated the ego of Dekerlor. On Sunday night, Sheriff Lord showed up at Frederick Dean’s hotel room door, and informed him that Lawyer Pickard wanted to see him privately at the Keene jail on Monday night.
Mr. Rich told Frederick Dean that the selectmen would have to give permission to exhume Dr. Dean’s body for Dr. Dekerlor to do his investigation. Mr. Rich told Frederick Dean he’d call Mr. Coolidge to schedule a meeting. On Monday morning, Dr. Dekerlor and Frederick Dean met with the selectmen. The selectmen didn’t feel comfortable with strangers, foreign strangers’ even worse and foreign strangers’ who were doctors even worse than that. Frederick Dean spoke first,
“Gentlemen, thank-you for seeing us this morning. May I introduce Dr. Willie Wendt Dekerlor who’s here to help me investigate my brother’s murder. Dr. Dekerlor in the vice-president of the International Congress for Experimental Psychology, and the author of several books, and a correspondent for The New York World and The Boston American.”
The selectmen slowly nodded their heads.
“Dr. Dekerlor has completed a preliminary examination of the murder scene, and has gathered evidence which leads us to make the following request. We ask permission to exhume my brother’s body…”
“What?” Peter Hogan cried out.
Dr. Dekerlor opened his mouth to speak, but Coolidge got the attention.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, gentlemen, before we go any further, I would like an opportunity to talk with our visitor to get to know him better. It is unusual for us to have such a distinguished visitor in our town. Good morning, Doctor.”
“I hope you’re finding the village of Jaffrey friendly, sir?”
“Quaint might be the word.”
“Yes. What is your occupation?”
“I am a psychologist – a criminal psychologist, and a doctor and lecturer.”
“Very good. When you say doctor, do you mean physician?”
“Doctor of Philosophy.”
“Interesting. Where are you from, sir?”
“My wife works in fashion and helps others with the occult so we reside in Paris, and have an apartment in Greenwich Village as well.”
Coolidge chuckled, and the two other selectmen, after picking up on the cue, chuckled too.
“My! You must find New Hampshire boring?”
Dr. Dekerlor removed the monocle from his eye.
“Quaint, like I said, but I gave my word to my friend; I would help him uncover the circumstances of his brother’s death.”
“How do you know Frederick Dean?”
“We are lecturers in Manhattan. Same circuit, different topics however.”
There was silence until Boynton asked,
“You speak more than one language?”
“Yes, I speak five languages. I speak German and French best of all. I speak English, Polish, and Italian next best, and Spanish afterward. I have studied about eighteen other languages besides; I can read them, but I don’t speak them much. I know some Russian. I travel extensively, and am very well-known, not only in New York, Washington, and in France, as well as, England and Italy, but I am very well known probably all over the world through my various writings, and my various activities.”
There was silence while the selectmen tried to grasp the magnitude of the man across from them.
“Your English is good,” said Hogan.
The two other selectmen slowly turned and looked at Hogan.
“You want to exhume Dr. Dean’s body?” asked Coolidge.
“Yes,” answered Frederick Dean, “Dr. Dekerlor has…”
“If I may sir,” interrupted Dekerlor putting his monocle in his eye.
“You see, I have measurements taken at the crime scene which when I match them to the scratches on an individual’s face will place that individual at the crime scene.”
“Remarkable,” said Boynton.
“But for me to be reliable, I need the marks from the victim’s forehead.”
The selectmen didn’t like the sound of that, and there was silence until Coolidge spoke,
“Well, I would ask that we adjourn this meeting until after lunch which would allow the selectmen time to consider your sensitive request. We would have to consider the family…”
“Mrs. Dean is in Worcester,” interjected Frederick Dean.
“This meeting is adjourned until one o’clock,” stated Coolidge.
The selectmen adjourned for half an hour for a quick lunch, and reassembled in the conference room. Coolidge stood at a window, and watched Frederick Dean and Dr. Dekerlor on the street below. He heard a voice in the background, and turned from the window, and realized it was Boynton talking.
“Just tell him while we respect – or maybe even admire his expertise, this is a town matter, and has to be dealt with by town authorities.”
Hogan agreed, saying,
“We don’t want an outsider like that poking around in our town business. Which of us has not benefitted from a favor from Charles?”
Coolidge sat at a desk, and put his head in his hands, and loudly said,
“You’re overlooking something.”
The two selectmen looked at Coolidge.
“What?” said Hogan.
Coolidge dropped his hands and looked up.
“The man writes for two major newspapers. He could make us the laughingstock of the country.”
No one spoke until Coolidge said,
“No gentlemen, I think we let him have his way.”
“But Bill, he’s going to make trouble for Charles,” said Boynton, “We all know Charles can rub people the wrong way especially people that don’t know him.”
“I agree, Ed, but there’s nothing we can do about that. This exhuming of the body is a crack-pot idea, and if we make a stipulation we have to be present to observe his findings, then, all we have to do is claim that his findings were inconclusive, and this whole trick will go nowhere.”
“But what if he is conclusive?” taunted Hogan.
“You’re going to prove murder with scratch marks?” answered Boynton.
“Remember this man is world renowned.”
“So what’s he doing in Jaffrey?” argued Boynton.
“Putting one over on the country-bumpkins,” answered Coolidge.
Dr. Dekerlor was thrilled about the selectmen’s decision to let him exhume Dr. Dean’s body. Sheriff Lord made it clear to Frederick Dean that his meeting with Roy Pickard was private. Frederick tried talking Dr. Dekerlor out of coming to Keene with him, but the moment Dekerlor smelled intrigue he became more stubborn. Monday night, the two men had dinner at a restaurant, and went to the Keene Jail to meet Roy Pickard. The sheriffs detained Dekerlor in a holding area while Frederick went into the jailer’s office. Roy Pickard and Sheriff Lord were there, and they introduced themselves to Frederick.
“This man you’re traveling with, how well do you know him?” asked Pickard.
Fredrick Dean shifted in his chair.
“I know him from the lecture circuit in New York. I see he’s eccentric, but he’s also highly charismatic which most people misunderstand.”
Pickard studied Frederick, and then said,
“Do you know he’s being followed by the British Secret Service for possible ties to the Bolshevik Party?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“It’s not my decision, but I would caution you; your association with him is more dangerous than you think.”
“Besides the investigation is focused on Mary Dean who we believe killed her husband in a jealous rage.”
“Well, sir, I don’t know about that. Mary never liked me, and the feeling was mutual, but even with that, I have a hard time believing she could do something like that.”
“I understand your sentiments, Mr. Dean, but you don’t know how much her mind may have deteriorated from the last time you saw her.”
“But the more pressing problem is your association with Dr. Dekerlor, and I want to ask you if you would consider going back to New York, and taking him with you? You can see we’ve got enough problems around here as it is, and the last thing we need is a flamboyant character in the middle of it, trying to make a name for himself.”
“I don’t know as I have much influence over Dr. Dekerlor. I will try, if that’s what you think is best, but I don’t hold out any promises.”
“I understand,” said Pickard.
Dr. Dekerlor would not have been good at what he was if he weren’t acutely aware of others’ feelings. On the auto ride back to Jaffrey, he sensed a change in his friend, Frederick Dean, and was wily enough to be patient to see what was revealed. It was the following morning, after a visit to Mr. Rich, that things became apparent. The men walked out of the bank, and Dekerlor asked,
“Did you see the cuts on his face were healed?”
“He never had cuts on his face,” answered Frederick.
Dekerlor abruptly stopped.
“What Mr. Dean? We’ve spoken all the time about the cuts on Rich’s face. Now you want to deny it? Do you, Mr. Dean, resort to lying?”
“You’re a fine one to accuse me of lying.”
“I thought you wanted justice for your brother’s murder, and here, you let some small-town lawyer talk you out of it.”
“These people don’t want us here, Dr. Dekerlor. I’m telling you, Dr. Dekerlor, they don’t want us here. I’m going back to New York, and you should come with me. You should leave with me.”
The men started walking.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Mr. Dean. I don’t run away from difficulties. I’m sorry that Lawyer Pickard has talked you out of what you really want.”
That afternoon, before getting on the train, Fredrick tried once again to get Dekerlor to get on the train with him, but got on the train alone.
About a week later, an ad appeared in The Peterborough Transcript:
World Renowned Clairvoyant & Palmist, Dr. Willie Wendt Dekerlor is available for tea readings at the Granite State Hotel, Room 302, from three to five, Wednesday afternoons. Fees Negotiated. The Future Is In Your Palms.
Two married women: Adele Johnson and Edith Foster came to the door and knocked. Edith slipped her wedding band off her finger. The door opened, and there stood, the short, but handsome, Dr. Dekerlor in his black suit. He slightly bowed and motioned the women in. The shades were drawn, and the room was lit by candles. There was a table in the middle of the room with a crystal ball.
“How can I be of assistance this afternoon, ladies?” purred Dekerlor. The women smelled incense. Dekerlor pointed to a chair at the table, and brought another for the second woman. Dekerlor placed the monocle in his eye, and studied the two women.
“I would like my palm read, and maybe some clairvoyance after,” said Adele.
“Hummmm…yes, I see,” said the doctor, “clairvoyance is for the living and the future, and a medium is to commune with the dead and past.”
“I want to talk with Martha Washington,” blurted out Edith.
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. You see, you must have some corporal connection to the person you’re communing with.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Edith.
“I would like you to predict my future,” asked Adele.
“All right, then – let’s close your eyes and concentrate. Your hand, please.”
Adele hesitated, and then, gave her hand. Edith giggled.
“Shhh!” hissed the doctor.
Edith blushed. Dekerlor moved his thumbs over Adele’s palm while looking at the ceiling.
“I see three children,” he said
“That ain’t right!” exclaimed Edith.
“Two. A boy and girl.”
“I’m sorry that’s not right either,” said Adele.
“Quiet please! You’re interfering with my concentration.”
Dekerlor refocused his concentration.
“I see one child,” he said.
“Brilliant!” exclaimed Edith.
“There’s negative energy in the room that is interfering with my ability to read accurately,” complained the doctor.
“Bet there’s no interference when it comes time to pay the bill,” observed Edith.
“Your child is a boy,” said Dekerlor.
“Wrong again,” pointed out Edith.
“I see the number forty-five,” said Dekerlor.
“I don’t know what that is,” said Adele.
“Your age perhaps?”
“Wrong again!” snapped Edith, “You charge people money for this?”
Dekerlor gave Edith a dirty look.
“There’s too much negative energy in the room.”
“Try me then,” suggested Edith extending her hand, palm up.
“Of course, Mademoiselle.”
“Ha!” exclaimed Edith as she pulled her wedding ring from her pocket.
The day came for Dr. Dekerlor to dazzle the men of Jaffrey with his investigative methodology. It was the end of August when the men gathered at the headstone which read: William K. Dean, 1855-1918. The selectmen were there: William Coolidge, Peter Hogan, and Edward Boynton; and the undertaker, Mr. Leighton; and Dr. Dekerlor; Reverend Enslin; and two doctors, Childs and Dinsmoor; Charles Rich; and Charlie Nute, Chief of Police. Mr. Johnson who owned the photography shop in Jaffrey was there to take pictures; he was setting up his tripod and camera. The casket was out of the ground, and Mr. Leighton was wiping off the dirt. Mr. Coolidge stepped forward, and said,
“Gentlemen, may we bow our heads?”
The men removed hats and bowed their heads while Reverend Enslin said a prayer. After Amen was said, the men stirred. Mr. Leighton went to the coffin, and loosened the top with a hammer and pry bar. When the corpse was revealed, several men stepped back. The rest of the men moved out of the way so Mr. Johnson could take photographs. He took a photo, and moved the tripod, adjusted the angle of the camera, and took another photo, and repeated it again. Then it was the Doctors’ turn to examine the body. Dr. Dekerlor watched with a paper in his hand. The doctors noted the gashes on the forehead. When they finished, Dr. Dekerlor came to the casket. He closely looked at the forehead before placing the paper over the gashes. He traced the gashes marks onto the paper. He straightened up and said,
“Gentlemen, if you would be so kind to meet me at Dean farm.”
About a half and hour later, the group of men gathered near the barn porch. Dekerlor spoke,
“Gentlemen, I’ve found scratch marks in three locations that if I can match to a fourth location will place that individual at the scene of the murder. Marked on my paper – which you observed me do – are the scratch marks from the victim’s forehead.”
Dekerlor bent over and lined up the scratch marks on the paper to the scratch marks in the barn porch. Several of the men moved closer. When he was satisfied the men saw what he wanted them to see, he walked up to the big house, and when the men gathered, he said,
“The third set of scratch marks is here on the foundation.”
Again when he was satisfied the men saw what he wanted them to see, he walked up to Charles Rich, and placed the paper up against Rich’s face, and said,
“Strange to relate, these marks on the paper fit the marks on Rich’s face. Mr. Rich tell us, where did you get your black eye?”
“At the right time and place, I will tell,” answered Rich.
Mr. Rich was angry at Dekerlor for his accusation with the scratch marks, and there was a rumor about the night watchman at Bean and Symonds seeing Rich’s horse and buggy at the saw dust chute at the time Rich claimed he was kicked by his horse. Theresa Murphy was a friend of Susan’s who was a parishioner at St. Patrick’s told the story of how Albany Pelletier went to Father Hennon for help. I knew Albany or Pelkey as we called him, for about eight years, and he was a simple, hard-working fellow who was devoutly religious. One night late, he walked to the rectory. A single window was lit in the rectory. He knocked on the door and waited. He was about to knock for the second time, when the door swung open, and a woman holding a candle stood there.
“Is Father Hennon available?” he asked.
The light receded down the hallway, and after several moments, came back again.
“Come in,” she said.
He entered the door, and followed the woman down the hallway. She knocked on a door before opening it, and guided him into a room where Father Hennon was reading. She left the room, closing the door behind her, and Father Hennon took off his glasses. He was a handsome man with a thick crop of black hair and a well-proportioned face.
“Albany,” he said, “this is unexpected.”
“I know Father, and I’m sorry to disturb you like this. There is something weighing on me, and I don’t want another restless night. I hate to disturb you at this late hour, but I know I won’t be able to sleep until I can share this with someone.”
“I see,” said the priest motioning Albany to a chair. “You couldn’t share this burden with your wife?”
“I have, Father, but I need to tell someone in authority.”
Father Hennon smiled.
“Albany, I don’t know how much corporeal authority I have.”
“I need some guidance as to what to do,” Albany earnestly said.
“I see. Tell me what’s troubling you, and we’ll see if I can help.”
There was the rumble of thunder in the distance.
“Father, the night of the murder, I saw Charles Rich’s horse and buggy at the sawdust chute at nine o’clock.”
The two men made eye contact.
“I don’t think I understand,” said the priest.
Albany leaned forward in his chair.
“Rich is telling everyone he was kicked in his barn right before nine; he swears to it. How can it be if I saw what I saw?”
The men heard a clap of thunder.
“Oh yes, yes, indeed, I see your problem. You saw Charles Rich at the sawdust chute?”
“No, no, Father, it was Ed Baldwin, but it was Rich’s horse and buggy. That I know for sure.”
“Why would Ed Baldwin be driving Rich’s horse and buggy?”
“They share a barn, and sometimes Baldwin comes to the chute for bags of sawdust.”
“With Rich’s horse and buggy?”
“You’re certain of this?”
“Yes, Father, I am.”
There was a loud clap of thunder. In the silence after, Albany asked,
“What should I do, Father?”
The priest stood up and walked to a window, and looked out for several moments, before he said,
“Albany is difficult as this is, I’m glad your shared your burden with me. The authorities should be notified of what you saw. What were you doing at Bean and Symonds at nine in the evening?”
“I was the night watchman that night, and I was making my nine o’clock rounds, and that’s when I saw Ed Baldwin at the chute. I was fired a week after when I told my supervisor about what I’d seen; he claimed I was sleeping on the job which wasn’t true.”
“No wonder you can’t sleep.”
“Rich has a lot of influence in this town, and I know if I say anything, it will bring me trouble.”
“You’re doing the right thing, Albany, and the problem now is who do we talk to so we won’t be ignored? I think our best chances are with the Federal men.”
“You cross those town guys and it makes it hard to get a job,” said Albany.
“I understand Albany.”
There was the peal of thunder.
“Sounds like I’m going to get wet,” joked Albany.
Roy Pickard said Mrs. Dean killed her husband, and he believed an autopsy was not necessary. Mr. Rich and the Masons were angry at Dr. Dekerlor and somewhat frightened too, because he wasn’t from Jaffrey, and they had no control over him. Pickard had tried to get Fred Dean to take him back to New York. The Masons figured out Dekerlor was a self-promoting fake, but he had the capacity to embarrass Jaffrey in the newspapers. The selectmen cooperated with Dekerlor, and gave him the keys to the buildings on Dean farm, and it wasn’t long after that he announced he’d found important new evidence. A group of farmers, shop clerks, and a newspaper reporter gathered in the lobby of The Granite State Hotel to see what he had. He’d found some postcards in Natalye Colfelt’s bedroom which he thought were significant. He started this way:
“Gentlemen, I have been investigating the buildings on Dean farm, and am pleased to announce, I have found important, new evidence that I feel will explain why Dr. Dean was murdered.”
He held a cardboard box in the air.
“Inside this cardboard box which I found in the former residence of the Colfelts contains fifty or so postcards made up from photographs taken by Colfelt’s daughter for her college friends. Seemingly innocent postcards until you examine them more closely. All fifty postcards contain the same objects, but it is the order of how the objects are arranged that becomes significant.”
Dr. Dekerlor set the box on a table, and held up a single postcard.
“This postcard, which can be made up at any photographer’s shop, was made up from a photo negative of Colfelt’s daughter. In this postcard, you will see various, and apparently, random objects on a mantelpiece. You will please observe the objects on the mantelpiece are a toy dog, a stuffed teddy bear, a child doll, and a clock. A seemingly innocent postcard, Gentlemen, until you begin to go through all fifty or so of the postcards, and it is then, you will observe the significance of the postcards.”
He took his monocle from his eye, and spun it, flashing light around the room.
“What you will observe upon further examination is that the order or sequence of the objects on the mantelpiece changes every eighth postcard or so, and I submit to you, Gentlemen, that this is a code used by the Germans to communicate intelligence.”
The men murmured.
“At every eighth postcard in this box, the order of the objects on the mantelpiece changes, and the position of the hands on the clock change in each postcard, and I say to you, Gentlemen, that the objects on the mantelpiece represent constellations in the northern sky, and the hands on the clock tell the time the signals are to be sent. Each object on the mantelpiece represents a constellation. The toy dog represents the constellation, Canis Major, and the stuffed teddy bear represents the constellation, Ursa Major, and the child doll represents the constellation, Perseus.”
Dekerlor replace his monocle.
“I am European, and know how clever the Germans are with astronomy, and when I discovered these postcards, in the former residence of the Colfelts, I saw through their ruse, and interpreted them as a code of some kind. Further examination of my theory reveals these three constellations form a triangle in the northern sky. These three constellations form a forty-five degree triangle in the sky which the Germans use to communicate their messages. If you examine it, you see the bear constellation is on the left, the child constellation is at the apex, and the dog constellation is on the right. There’s your forty-five degree triangle. Now, those three constellations are the positions in the sky where the lights are to be flashed which gives the message, and the hands on the clock give the time the messages are to be sent.”
Dekerlor paused to give his audience a moment to assimilate his brilliance.
“Now, if the first signal light is at the apex of the triangle or the child and the second signal light goes to the right or the dog, and the third goes to the left, the bear, that would be one message. The direction of the light goes from right to left. To change the direction of the signal lights in the sky, the spies change the order of the objects on the mantelpiece in the postcard. Like I said, the order of the objects in the postcard changes every eighth postcard to change the direction of the signals in the sky. If the child is first, then the bear, and finally the dog, the lights go from left to right, and then back to the child. They’re using the same forty-five degree triangle, but the direction the signal light travels changes the message.”
A big farmer asked,
“What you’re telling us is if the first signal is at the apex of this triangle you’re talking about, and the second signal is to the right, and the final one is to the left, the message would be – let’s say, Boston, right?”
“Yes,” answered Dekerlor.
“All right then. If the first signal is at the apex, and the second signal is to the left, and the last signal is to the right, the message would be different, something like, say, Portsmouth?”
“Exactly,” said Dekerlor, “the Germans use the same triangle, and change the message by going either left to right or right to left. They could even use multiple flashes in the three positions to have more messages.”
The man holding a notebook, and pencil asked,
“The signals are flashed from Monadnock?”
“I’ve been told there’s a cave near the summit which would suit their purpose.”
The man wrote what Dekerlor said, and then, asked,
“Do you think this guy – the tenant on Dean farm, Coldfield, was signaling, and Dean was onto him?”
“These postcards prove that.”
“Some people are angry with you for accusing Rich,” said the man with the notebook.
“Mr. Rich is a banker, and Colfelt has money from somewhere so the idea they maybe confederates is not out of the question.”
“You think both men killed Dean?”
“Why does that surprise you? Good day, Gentlemen,” said Dekerlor.
Norman Gifford was the assistant superintendent of the Boston office of The Department of Justice. He was in his mid-forties, bald, and single. He started out as a cop on the beat in south Boston, and had gathered plenty of experience with depravity in humans. He loved his work; he loved trying to outsmart the bad guys. He’d learned to do the unexpected to get information. When suspects are confused or scared, they give information they wouldn’t otherwise. He knew Valkenburgh and Weiss were good, strong agents, but the investigation appeared to be stalled. He sent a telegraph to Valkenburgh in New Hampshire: Return to Boston, Post Haste, NG.
The three men sat in Gifford’s office with the window half-opened, and a breeze that fluttered papers on his desk. Gifford sat behind the desk, and Valkenburgh and Weiss sat in chairs; Weiss was reading a newspaper, and Valkenburgh looking out the window.
“Ruth’s having a good year,” murmured Weiss.
“It was smart to move him,” distractedly agreed Gifford who was reading. The sound of a truck going by on the street below came through the window.
Gifford put down the paper he was reading, and said,
“All right. What’ going on in New Hampshire?”
Valkenburgh and Weiss looked at each other, then, focused on Gifford.
“I’m not sure we know,” admitted Weiss.
“From what I’m reading in your reports there seems to be some funny stuff going on. Do you have any leads on the lights?”
“We get reports from women mostly that seem overblown. They see colored rockets and balloons, and space ships, for Christ Sakes,” said Valkenburgh.
“Not always though,” interjected Weiss, “there’s some that seem reasonable.”
“But you don’t have any solid leads or do you?” asked Gifford.
“Dean was murdered,” proposed Valkenburgh.
“Because of the lights?”
Valkenburgh and Weiss looked at each other.
“We can’t say that definitely, no,” said Weiss.
“Who was the chap with the black eye…?”
“Charles Rich, a banker, and good friend of Dean’s who showed up when the body was found with a black eye.”
Gifford looked up at the ceiling.
“In New Hampshire, the County Prosecutor has to order an autopsy from the County Medical Examiner, and in this case, Roy Pickard didn’t do that…” explained Weiss.
“Who’s Roy Pickard?”
“The county attorney...”
“I think we can agree that not ordering an autopsy in an unsolved homicide is an odd choice. Why would they do that?”
“Charles Rich and Roy Pickard are pushing hard Mrs. Dean is the suspect in her husband’s killing. They’ve got her in a sanitarium in Worcester.”
“So they didn’t autopsy the body because of the evidence that might make Mrs. Dean less of a suspect?”
Valkenburgh and Weiss looked at each other.
“I wouldn’t say no to that,” said Valkenburgh.
“It’s a small farming town, and there’s a group of men who are very tight, and who pull the strings so to speak, and that’s why it’s as murky as it is. Roy Pickard is taking orders…” said Weiss.
“Well, I don’t take orders so I’m going to hire Doctor McGrath to do an autopsy on the body, and we’ll see what that brings us. Now wasn’t there some business about the horse?”
“The Catholic priest told us that one of his parishioners who was the watchman at Bean and Symonds saw Rich’s horse at the sawdust chute at the time he was being kicked in his barn…” explained Weiss.
Gifford tapped his fingers together.
“I see,” he said.
“A French Catholic workingman would be ignored by Protestants. That’s why the priest is talking to us.”
“I would stay on that unless you discover something that disqualifies it. I think we have to do something unexpected to see if we can catch them off-guard. Sometimes if you do the unexpected, the subject will cough up something they didn’t want to.”
“I don’t know. Small towns are tough to crack,” observed Valkenburgh.
“Surprise somebody who doesn’t expect it, but you think would have information you want is the idea. And be tough in the interview to scare them if you can.”
“You mean a supporting player so to speak?” asked Weiss.
“Georgiana Hodgkins,” said Valkenburgh.
“Perfect!” exclaimed Weiss.
“Who’s Georgiana Hodgkins?”
“Charles Rich’s sister-in-law who was at his house the night of the murder.”
“Perfect!” exclaimed Gifford.
We got word on Monday afternoon, the llth of November; the armistice was signed in France. The mills and factories let out, and people gathered in the common, and were joyous at the deliverance from a great evil. That night there were bonfires and a parade up Main Street, and when I woke the next morning, I had a headache from the cheap whisky we used to buy in Fitchburg.
Georgiana Hodgkins lived with her mother on Long Island, and taught English at the Washington Irving High School in Manhattan. She visited her sister and Mr. Rich on weekends and holidays. Lana Rich understood how taxing their mother was, and felt sorry for her sister. Valkenburgh and Weiss took the train from Boston to New York, and went to the Washington Irving High School. The Principal was surprised at why they were there, and even more so, by whom they wanted to talk. He led the men to an empty classroom, and several minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Georgiana came in, her face pale, and her eyes darting around the room.
“Please, have a seat,” offered Valkenburgh.
She sat at a student desk not looking at either man.
“I’m Agent Valkenburgh and this is Agent Weiss from The Department of Justice, and I assume you know why we’re here.”
Georgiana coughed, and took a beat to compose herself.
“Yes,” she whispered.
Valkenburgh asked her to tell them how Mr. Rich got his black eye. Between her coughing and whispering voice, Valkenburgh, several times, had to ask her to repeat herself.
“Are you positive that Mr. Rich had a black eye, and bruised face, at the time Dr. Dean left?”
Mr. Rich said that Dr. Dean visited him right after he was kicked by his horse.
“What did Mr. Rich say as to how he got his black eye?”
“He said he went in the barn, where the horse was eating, and he put his hand on her, and she kicked out, and hit Mr. Rich in the face, and knocked his pipe in his face.”
“What time did this happen?”
“Right around nine o’clock.”
“What was he carrying?”
“I don’t know.”
She had a spasm of coughing, and Valkenburgh offered her a handkerchief which she declined. Valkenburgh asked her,
“Did you talk it over with Mr. and Mrs. Rich in reference as to what to say when anyone would ask you?”
“Your answers are the same as Mrs. Rich’s,” accused Weiss.
“That’s because we have been talking about it between us which is only natural.”
“How did Mr. Rich hear of the murder of Dean?”
“Some rumor from the village.”
“Are you sure Mr. and Mrs. Rich didn’t receive word over the telephone?”
“I’m sure they didn’t receive word over the telephone.”
“Then the records in the telephone office calling Rich’s house from Dean’s house are wrong?”
Georgiana had a fit of coughing. She said,
“I wish I could talk more, but I have such a very bad cold. I hope Mr. Rich won’t be mixed up in this – for you know – circumstantial evidence is very bad. Mr. Rich appeared the next day with a black eye. You know Dr. Dean saw the black eye when he was at Mr. Rich’s house, but he is dead, and there is no one else except the family to prove he had a black eye.”
“That is a problem, isn’t it?” commented Weiss,” especially since Mrs. Dean testified her husband was back on the farm when Rich said he was at Rich’s house.”
“And she was the last to see him alive…”
“Presuming no one came onto the farm,” said Valkenburgh.
Georgiana coughed so badly she excused herself.
In January of 1919, John Bartlett was sworn in as Governor of New Hampshire. He was a Mason. He appointed Oscar Young as his Attorney General, and he was a Mason. On January 6th, Dr. Magrath performed an autopsy on Dr. Dean’s body. It was a bitterly cold day.
It took soldiers from Fort Devens working with pick axes to get the coffin out of the cement-like ground which they carried into a receiving tomb. At two in the afternoon, Valkenburgh and Weiss, the selectmen, and Mr. Leighton, the undertaker arrived at the receiving tomb to watch Dr. Magrath perform an autopsy. One of the selectman brought a small oil heater to off-set the cold. Dr. Magrath handed out oil-scented handkerchiefs to the spectators which they quickly used when the top of the coffin came off, and a stench filled the tomb. Valkenburgh and Weiss helped Dr. Magrath lift the partially decomposed body of Dr. Dean out of the coffin, and lay it on a wooden platform. Dr. Magrath removed the coat and shirt. He went over the body. He took out a saw to cut open the skull, and held Dr. Dean’s head like a football. When he began to saw, the head slipped from his grasp. Feri Weiss took the head in his hands and held it while Dr. Magrath sawed. As the doctor sawed, body fluid splashed up onto Weiss’s face. Valkenburgh took out his handkerchief, and wiped Weiss’s face. When Dr. Magrath had an incision, he stuck his finger in. Magrath said he wanted to turn the body over which Weiss helped him do. After he was finished, the two agents helped him return the body to the coffin.
Dr. Magrath found that the victim’s skull was fractured, and his neck broken and it was now realized the attack was more violent than thought. Valkenburgh was curious as to what the doctors treating Mrs. Dean thought of the autopsy findings so he and Weiss took the train to Worcester. They met the head of the hospital, and told him of the autopsy finding.
“Doesn’t surprise me,” said the doctor.
“That’s what we thought too,” said Weiss.
“Mrs. Dean is not capable of that kind of violence, neither physically or temperamentally. I have spent much time observing and evaluating Mrs. Dean, and it is a total physical impossibility for her to have murdered her husband the way he was murdered.”
“More like two men, I should think,” suggested Valkenburgh.
“Yes, that makes more sense,” agreed the doctor, “or one very angry man.”
The autopsy findings made Mr. Rich more withdrawn, and caused Father Hennon to start a petition to pressure Roy Pickard into convening a grand jury. Lawyer Pickard said Mrs. Dean killed her husband, and that there wasn’t enough evidence to call a grand jury, and the autopsy findings contradicted both those statements. As the signatures on the petition grew, there were two names missing: Delcie Bean and Merrill Symonds, both fellow Masons and friends of Mr. Rich.
Many people figured out that Dr. Dekerlor was more interested in self-promotion than in solving the crime. Certainly the Masons felt that way, and that he was holding Jaffrey up for ridicule. There was open hostility between Roy Pickard and Dr. Dekerlor. Neither man was happy when they ended up at the January meeting of the Grange in Jaffrey. Both were asked to give an appraisal of where the murder investigation was, and Roy Pickard spoke first. He said Mrs. Dean was the suspect, and furthermore there had not been enough evidence collected to justify a Grand Jury Hearing which was being proposed by Father Hennon. Speaking first gave Pickard the chance to cross-examine Dekerlor when he spoke.
“Gentlemen,” began the doctor, “it is my pleasure to report to you the most startling discovery that I made from taking photographs of the crime scene. I took photographs of the barn porch where Dr. Dean was attacked, and blood stains were found. Later on, when I was developing the negatives, there was nothing out of the ordinary, until I saw a small, whitish formation on the negative. I looked at it more closely, and amazingly saw a man’s face. There was no mistaking it: I recognized the face. When I looked further, three other faces appeared, one of them a woman’s”
A murmur went through the audience at the extraordinariness of this information punctuated by Pickard’s voice,
“Can you show us the photograph? I’m certain we’re all most curious to see the photograph.”
“I’m afraid not. It’s with a psychic colleague in Boston.”
“Of course, of course, making an exorbitant claim with no evidence!” exclaimed Pickard.
“I didn’t know I would be asked to speak tonight,” snapped back the doctor.
“It is against my better judgment, but I’ll ask the question regardless, who was the face you saw in the negative?”
“Just as I thought. And that was the only face you recognized?”
“There was another face, but it revealed itself only to one who has extrasensory powers.”
“Would you be willing to share that information with those of us who aren’t as gifted?”
“The lawyer, Mr. Smith.”
“Reginald Smith of Boston?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Pickard turned to the audience.
“How can that be? Reginald Smith didn’t know anything about the murder until after it happened.”
“Your ignorance is that you don’t comprehend metaphysics. This is something that is known only to a very few. I would suggest there are various categories of thinkers – there are thinkers who are within the bounds of the philosophical, and others who go into metaphysics, and others still who are, perhaps, more advanced than either, whom besides having a metaphysical understanding have a metaphysical vision.”
“Metaphysical vision? Metaphysical vision?” boomed Pickard, “Who in God’s Name knows what metaphysical vision is?” Pickard paused and stared at the audience to give greater affect to his question.
“I don’t quite understand you sir,” he continued, “Let me see if I can make this more understandable to those of us who don’t have metaphysical vision. The reason why Charles Rich’s face appeared in the negative was because he was there when the blood stains which were part of the negative were made. Have I got that right?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“So how is it that Lawyer Smith’s face would be in the negative when he didn’t even learn about the murder until a considerable time after it happened? He wasn’t there when the photograph was taken.”
“Those of us in the occult know this to be a prophetic picture, a prophetic projection of the event.”
Pickard paced back and forth.
“You mean to say the negative that was developed from the blood stains on the porch – put there at the commission of the murder, prophesied the future connection of Mr. Smith to that murder?”
“I would say so, sir. I would say that in reality all the lives of men form but a very small link in the bigger chain of cosmic events, and I would say, in the life of man, the future is nothing, but the past unfolded. That is to say: we reap what we have sown. And if in the consciousness of man which is made up of his past and future, and is in his blood as an electric charge, could attach itself to negative plate such faces that appear on that plate would be either acknowledgments, or perhaps, projections of future events.”
Pickard was motionless.
“So, in essence, you can predict the future?”
“I would say so if we understand we have access to our destiny.”
“Sounds to me like what we shovel out of a stall. You say there was a woman’s face?”
“And did you know the face?”
“It was not Mrs. Dean.”
“Whose was it, then?”
“I didn’t recognize the face.”
“Then how do you know it wasn’t Mrs. Dean?”
“Because it was a younger face.”
“So you could make out a face, but couldn’t recognize it?”
“Maybe it was a prophetic projection?” sneered Pickard.
“Or maybe it was Susan Henchman.”
Pickard was angry at himself for falling into the trap.
I never met anybody as flamboyant as Dr. Dekerlor; you either laughed at him or were furious with him, no middle ground. There were plenty of people who wanted him out of town on the next train. I heard all kinds of stories about him: he was a homosexual, he was a Bolshevik, and he was a Muslim. Feri Weiss said Dekerlor asked him once if he kept money in his house, and when he was out of town, broke into his house. Feri’s wife, Marion, told it this way:
“It was Sunday night when I came home with Lillian, and I had a funny sensation like someone was here. Then, I saw the muddy footprints on the carpet. I took Lillian upstairs with me, and locked our bedroom door, and barricaded it with a chair. She fell asleep, Thank God, and I lay down on the bed next to her. I lay there in the dark, and I was almost certain there was someone in the hall when I heard the chain for the electric light being pulled, and I see light under the door. I slowly get up, and go to the bureau, and take out the revolver, and drop the holster, which makes a noise. I was terrified. I heard a noise from Lillian’s room, and then, the sound of a window being opened. I went over, and looked out our bedroom window, and saw Dekerlor run along the roof, then crouch down, and jump from the roof. When I was sure he was gone, I checked the house, and saw the papers on your desk were tampered with, and thought he must have been looking for some reports.”
Feri said his wife told him she was a heart-beat away from shooting him.
Father Hennon wanted a grand jury, and Roy Pickard said no. Mr. Pickard believed the church wanted to disgrace Mr. Rich and the Masons with an indictment of murder. Mr. Pickard said Mrs. Dean killed her husband even though the autopsy showed that to be highly unlikely. Valkenburgh and Weiss saw the investigation was going no where, and went to see Norman Gifford.
The two men traveled to Boston to meet with Norman Gifford. Again, Gifford was behind his wooden desk reading, and Valkenburgh and Weiss sat in straight-backed chairs with a belt and holster hanging on the back of Valkenburgh’s chair, and a newspaper on the floor near him.
“I read this sad story about Ty Cobb’s mother. Do you know anything about it?” asked Valkenburgh.
“What’s that?” murmured Gifford while reading.
“I say, did you ever hear the story of how Ty Cobb’s mother accidently shot his father?”
“Cobb’s a helluva ballplayer though,” mumbled Gifford.
“Why would she do that?” asked Feri.
“Cobb’s old man was highly jealous, and was convinced his wife was cheating on him, and spied on her when she was in the bedroom through a window, and one time, she saw him, and thought he was a burglar, and shot him with a pistol he gave her.”
“Sounds Shakespearian,” said Weiss.
“Helluva ballplayer,” said Gifford.
“They say that’s why he’s so nasty because of his father.”
“I would believe that.”
Gifford returned to reading, and when he finished, he asked,
“In your opinion, the autopsy hasn’t moved the investigation along?”
Valkenburgh and Weiss looked at each other.
“No,” answered Weiss, “Pickard is still saying Mrs. Dean did it, and refuses to convene a Grand Jury to examine the evidence because they’re afraid of a Catholic night watchman who saw Rich’s horse at the time the horse was kicking Rich in the barn.”
“Pickard is stifling the works?”
“The autopsy wouldn’t have been done unless we did it,” said Valkenburgh, “there’s a petition in town asking the county officials for a Grand Jury Hearing, and it hasn’t been signed by Bean and Symonds because they believe it will be a witch trial for Rich.”
“Who’s this nut that can see faces in photographs?”
“Dr. Dekerlor a highly controversial criminal psychologist.”
“How did he get involved in this?”
“He was brought from New York by the victim’s brother,” said Weiss.
“I can’t see where he’s any help,” said Gifford.
“Probably not, but he might just be nutty enough to be a help to those who don’t want to look too closely at the evidence,” speculated Valkenburgh.
The men were silent.
“All right,” said Gifford, “our strategy is going to be to rattle those who are holding up the investigation into making a move of some kind. I say we go after some of Rich’s fellow Masons, and see, if we can get them angry enough to make a move.”
“How though?” asked Weiss.
“We interview them, and treat them like criminals. If my sense of Bean and Symonds is right, these men are community leaders who would be highly offended if they were treated as criminals. That’s what we’re going to do. It’s a gamble, but we have to do something bold especially in a small town like this where everything is so tight. We’re not interviewing Bean and Symonds, we’re interrogating them, and purposefully trying to get them angry so they make a poorly thought out move is our hope. The other thing, of course, is surprise. We don’t let them know we’re coming so they’re caught with their guard down.”
Valkenburgh and Weiss looked at each other.
“I’ll buy the tickets this afternoon,” said Valkenburgh.
It was a Friday afternoon in March when unannounced the three agents walked into the office of Bean and Symonds. Gifford showed his badge to the young secretary.
“Department of Justice,” he said, “we want to talk to Mr. Bean and Mr. Symonds.”
Not intimidated, the young girl shot back,
“Do you have an appointment?”
“I would be happy to make one for you.”
“Government business takes priority. We’re not going to waste the time and resources to come back some other day. If you like, we can issue a search warrant and go through the whole place or you can quietly produce Mr. Bean and Mr. Symonds, and we can, with a minimum of interruption, conduct our business.”
The young secretary looked like she’d been slapped in the face.
“One moment,” she said. She stood up and walked into an office. After a good five minutes, the office door opened, and out came the young secretary with a man.
“Hello,” he said, “I’m Delcie Bean.” He shook the three men’s hands as Valkenburgh made introductions. Another, taller man appeared who introduced himself as Merrill Symonds. Gifford and Bean went into his office, and Valkenburgh and Weiss went into Symonds’s office. About half an hour later, the young secretary heard raised voices through Bean’s office door, and not long after that, Agent Weiss came out of Symonds’s office and went into Bean’s. The young secretary felt tension, and when the agents left, neither Mr. Bean nor Mr. Symonds said a word.
It didn’t take long at all for the Gifford strategy to work; the next morning the desk clerk handed Valkenburgh a note which read: Come see me, Urgent. Mrs. Bryant. Valkenburgh and Weiss walked to the infirmary, and waited while Mrs. Bryant finished with a patient. When the door closed, she said,
“There’s a secret meeting at a hotel in Winchendon at one.”
“How did you find out about it, then?” asked Weiss.
“I was called to the Symonds’s house last night for a child with a fever, and through a partially open door, I heard Mr. Symonds on the telephone; he was pretty angry.”
“Do you know who he was talking to?”
“He asked the operator for Keene.”
“Pickard?” guessed Weiss.
“Why are you telling us?” asked Valkenburgh.
“I didn’t like the way they treated Mrs. Dean.”
“How many hotels are there in Winchendon?” asked Weiss.
As they walked out of the infirmary, they realized they had no auto to drive to Winchendon, and Valkenburgh pointed to the library where the selectman’s office was. They ran into Peter Hogan on the steps.
“If we left it with a full tank, could we borrow your auto?”
Hogan was confused by the unusual request.
“My auto? What on earth for?” he asked.
“We just got a tip, and we need to drive to Winchendon.”
“Oh, yes, I see. A full tank would be fine. Watch the back passenger tire, it loses air.”
“Thanks. We appreciate it,” said Weiss.
“I parked behind the building. A Ford sedan,” Hogan said.
It was at The Toy Town Tavern that the clerk told Valkenburgh and Weiss he had a reservation for a one o’clock from a man who called that morning from Jaffrey. Valkenburgh asked about the room next to the meeting room, and was able to get access. They went up to the adjoining room, and saw a doorway that connected the two rooms. Weiss went back down to the lobby, and hid behind a newspaper to watch who came in. Around one, Delcie Bean and Merrill Symonds came in, got the room number from the clerk, and climbed the stairs. Several more minutes went by, and Homer White and William Webster came in, followed, after a brief interval, by Roy Pickard and Sheriff Lord. Weiss went back to the room where Valkenburgh was listening through the door with a water glass. After twenty minutes, the men left the room.
“Looks like they’re going to have a grand jury after all,” said Valkenburgh.
Several days after the secret meeting it was announced by Roy Pickard there would be a County Grand Jury on the murder of Dr. Dean at the Keene Courthouse with Judge John Kivel presiding, with the State Attorney General, Oscar Young, and the County Prosecutor, Roy Pickard as the lawyers. Valkenburgh and Weiss got a message from Father Hennon who they went to see at the parish house. After the amenities, Valkenburgh and Weiss sat in chairs offered by the priest.
“I saw in the paper about the convening of a grand jury, and I wanted to share my concerns with someone who would be sympathetic.”
“Of course, Father, please continue,” said Weiss.
“I have doubts about Roy Pickard, and I want to see that Albany Pelletier is called to testify.”
There was a long moment.
“I don’t know what we can do about that,” said Valkenburgh, “the county grand jury is not under our jurisdiction. We can ask that he be allowed to testify, but the decision is up to them.”
The room was still until Weiss said,
“Wait a minute! What if The Department of Justice approaches Judge Kivel with a request to allow a Federal attorney to assist the county prosecutor on the grand jury? Our justification would be that if Dean was murdered as an act of espionage, and there was to be a Federal grand jury on espionage, we wouldn’t have to duplicate our work from the murder trial?”
“Excellent, Feri,” said Valkenburgh.
About a week before the start of the grand jury, Valkenburgh got an appointment to meet with Judge Kivel. Father Hennon and the Jaffrey selectmen came with Valkenburgh and Weiss. Valkenburgh could tell Judge Kivel wasn’t in the mood for this. Weiss started,
“Your Honor, the Department of Justice would petition the court if Albany Pelletier would be allowed to testify before the grand jury?”
“Is that all?” asked the judge.
“No sir, I have another motion.”
“In the event of a Federal grand jury called on espionage matters and the possibility of Dr. Dean’s murder being an act of espionage, would you allow a Federal attorney to assist the county prosecutor in the county grand jury to prevent duplication?”
“No. Motion denied.”
The judge recognized Father Hennon.
“Your Honor, I too, would ask the court to allow Albany Pelletier to testify as he is a humble man who could be easily overlooked in the excitement of a grand jury hearing. I too would ask for a Fed…”
“No. Motion denied.”
Judge Kivel recognized William Coolidge who, once it was clear he was asking the same question over again, was cut off with,
“The State of New Hampshire doesn’t need any help from outsiders. Good day, gentlemen.”
Valkenburgh wired Norman Gifford the frustrating results of their interview with Judge Kivel. Gifford wired back,
Stake out the courthouse. NG.
The county grand jury started on April 11 and ran until the 22nd. Oscar Young who was the state attorney general ran it with Roy Pickard. Oscar Young was a Mason. I knew Albany Pelletier and Arthur Smith, and heard their stories.
Arthur Smith came to Keene to testify before the grand jury, and when he checked in at the courthouse, Sheriff Lord told him to go see Lawyer Pickard on Roxbury Street. Arthur followed the direction the sheriff gave him, and found the office on the second floor. The secretary asked him to have a seat. When Lawyer Pickard came to get Arthur, he took him to a storage room instead of his office. He offered Arthur a box to sit on.
“You called for this afternoon?” he asked.
“That’s only natural. You there when the body was found?”
“That must have been a shock?”
“What was Mrs. Dean like?”
“What do you mean?”
“How was she acting?”
“Like she’d done something terrible?”
Arthur looked at Pickard.
“No. She was confused about the whereabouts of her husband.”
“She was the last person to see him alive, right?”
“Not necessarily. Someone could have come onto the farm.”
Pickard was frustrated, and took a different tack.
“Did you ever see lights?”
“Probably automobile lights, wouldn’t you say?”
“Autos have two lights, I only saw one.”
“Maybe it was a star then?”
“Too close to the ground. Where I saw lights there were no houses or roads.”
“What about around Dean farm?”
“I haven’t seen them there, but I’ve been told by others they have.”
“Where have you seen them?”
“From Temple Mountain and Monadnock.”
Pickard looked away, and when he looked back, he asked,
“Who do you think did it?”
“You think a man as upstanding as Mr. Rich would commit murder?”
“Mr. Rich has a temper.”
“I think Mrs. Dean did it. Don’t you think Mrs. Dean did it, Arthur?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I think she was jealous of him paying attention to women in the village.”
“It’s easy to accuse Mrs. Dean now that she can’t defend herself, isn’t it?”
“I will be interviewing you this afternoon,” curtly said Pickard.
Ed Baldwin was a friend, fellow Mason, and neighbor to Mr. Rich. He was the Financial Secretary of the Masons and Rich was the treasurer. The two men had an arrangement where Baldwin let Rich use some of his land for a garden, and in return, Rich let Baldwin use his barn and horse and buggy. The night of the murder, Baldwin took Rich’s horse and buggy out, and made a trip to Bean and Symonds to get bags of sawdust. During his testimony, Pickard asked him,
“What time did you get back to the barn?”
“I couldn’t have taken – the trip might have taken – the way I would usually drive in there and out, which is just exercise for the mare, and I would have to leave the sawdust, might have been done in thirty minutes. Not over forty,” answered Baldwin.
“What was the latest time you got back to Rich’s house that night?”
“Couldn’t have been later than 8:45.”
“Could it have been nine?”
“No, sir. I couldn’t have used that much time unless I had walked the mare, which I naturally wouldn’t do if I was out to give her a little exercise.”
“Was it as late as quarter to nine when you were at Bean and Symonds for the sawdust?”
“No, sir, I went to Bean and Symonds first.”
“Supposing some person had said you were at Bean and Symonds at 8:45, just starting from there with the bag of sawdust, what would you say to that?”
“I wouldn’t care to say very plainly just what I think of it.”
“That you weren’t there that late?”
“I wasn’t there at that time, no, sir.”
“Is there any doubt about that in your mind?”
“There is none, no, sir.”
Roy Pickard knew that Albany Pelletier’s testimony would contradict what Ed Baldwin’s testimony was, and so, Albany got to testify on the last day of the hearing only hours before a verdict was returned. Albany was the night watchman at Bean and Symonds the night of the murder. Pickard asked Albany,
“Were you on duty there the night of August 13 last?”
“Did you see Mr. Rich’s horse that night?”
“Right down there by the sawdust chute.”
“What time was this you saw him?”
“Nine o’clock at night I saw him. Yes. I go around every hour. I go once every hour with that clock. As I go around every hour, you know, I went at nine, and I would go again at ten o’clock, as you know.”
Several hours later the jury returned the verdict:
Murder by Person or Persons Unknown.
There were people who didn’t believe the grand jury verdict and others who wanted it as an explanation for what happened. There were bitter feelings between the Catholics and Protestants in town, and the Masons wanted the verdict to exonerate Mr. Rich. It did but not completely. When Mr. Rich died fifteen years later, people gathered outside his house to hear his confession. I think Sheriff Lord said it best when he said,
“People got questions about the Grand Jury. Way I see it; it was just in this sense. Charles Rich had over thirty years of service to the community, and he made a mistake. He was a victim of his faults no different than any other man. He killed Dean in a lightening strike of anger. You sort of have to weight it out – thirty years of service on one hand, and a loss of temper on the other. Granted a life was lost. Those of us who’ve benefitted from his good service are going to destroy his life for one mistake? We’re a small community so his good work helped a lot of people. Who among us is faultless? His character was in his service – not in his mistake, so judgment is not as easy as it seems.”
I feel bad about what happened. Dr. Dean was a nice chap, and didn’t deserve to die that way. I wasn’t there when it happened so I don’t feel directly involved, but then again, I didn’t say nothing either. That would have been a double-cross to Mr. Rich who helped me out. He wasn’t so good to Susan though. He played her along, and she was getting older and wanted real companionship. No, I never liked that too much, and looking back maybe I should have done more. I don’t know. There’s a lot about this that I don’t know. The day after the Grand Jury ended, I went into the bank to deposit some cash, and when Mr. Rich came to the window, he gave a small smile that was meant just for me.
Kyle Foley is the founder of www.deductivemetaphysics.com, a website which can calculate the truth-value of metaphysical statements. He lives in San Diego, California.
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