1st December. Winter progresses as it wants without obstruction. Regular frosts exhaust the ground of its stored autumn warmth, and the season removes precious daylight from the clock. We soon settled into a new routine and discovered Quincey was the earliest and most regular riser among us, an act so precise it rivaled that practiced by Holmes himself.
To Sherlock’s irritation, it became the boy’s habit to take to the newspapers before anyone else. Quincey often removed small news squares as he detached with surgical precision articles of interest, leaving toothless gaps in the pages. The boy would stow them until the evening, then categorize them within his journal. Again, this is something the great detective would see as an essential habit. Holmes solved the most complex cases by adhering to a strict routine, remaining observant, and always looking for details. While his habits may have appeared eccentric to some, they were essential to his unique approach to detective work.
Quincey made it to the table, and Mrs. Hudson set the usual selection of the daily press as an accompaniment to her breakfast fare. The Westminster Gazette, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, and, today, of particular interest, The Illustrated Police News. This morning, Quincey sat in stillness, his concentration directed at the front page of the latter. A headline held his gaze. Prince sat by his side with his head in Quincey’s lap, the dog’s dark brown eyes fixed on his master’s face. I looked over Quincey’s shoulder, studied the title, and read the article to myself.
VAMPIRE – A TRUE STORY.
There are rumors around this town of recent events which may be linked to strange murders and disappearances. Those questioning the recent activities at Tower Bridge may be interested in reading about events that occurred on this day a little over forty years ago. A series of atrocities committed in Paris by a creature who, for a long time, baffled the efforts of the police and the authorities and gained for itself the unenviable designation of ‘The Vampire.’
More terrifying was that the recent dead appeared to be the subject of this individual’s strange and horrific nocturnal activities. At first, the incidents occurred within a small area of the grounds of the Père Lachaise cemetery, in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. The desecration continued for several months before a council of war ordered an investigation. The council’s findings concurred a gross profanation occurred at the graves nightly. An interview by a local journalist of the groundskeeper, Monsieur Raymond Arthaud, taken at the time of the events, is reprinted here. Note the words are in translation:
“Monsieur Arthaud, please tell me what you found the morning of the first?”
“Yes, I arrived just as dawn broke and opened the gates as I would do. I walked a few steps into the west section and found the ground had been dug deep enough to release the coffins beneath. The most shocking sight hit my eyes. I see the remains of the dead scattered over the ground, torn, and mutilated.”
“The bodies buried in the week?”
“Yes, the burials only from the day before. Two members of the same family lay side by side. Both taken by the anémie fever.”
“What happened after the discovery?”
“The Sûreté attended to the mystery and ordered guards to keep a watch. They took positions to encircle the cemetery’s boundary wall and provide a human barrier to unauthorized entry.”
“The guard encircled the whole cemetery?”
“Yes and stationed themselves at all the entrances. But It did not stop the intruder. Because, after only two nights, the guards observed a mysterious figure flitting about in the moonlight among the tombs. A dark shadow they could never lay their hands upon. The next morning, they would find graves open, with their caskets torn apart.”
“The guards gave chase?”
“Many times. On the occasions they got anywhere near the figure disappeared like a phantom. The guards let dogs loose upon the form only for them to stop short and cease to bark as if hypnotized by some spell.”
“What evidence did they find?”
“They could not find any signs, so at first, the investigation first threw suspicion upon the guards and worse, upon the relatives of the dead. It’s graverobbers, I thought.”
“Graverobbers, they found them to be responsible?”
“That’s what I thought until the Ministry called in Dr. Adelon, the forensic chief at the university. Without hesitation, he declared the cuts made on the remains were not of surgical precision and that the dismemberments were without doubt caused by the claw or tooth of an animal of some sort. That’s when the perpetrator first received the name ‘The Vampire’ from people in the area.”
“The events and the desecrations continued?”
“Yes, without abatement. They doubled the guard at the cemetery, but to no purpose. ‘The Vampire’ continued his nocturnal profanations as if he were a ghoul and cared naught for human power. Well, that was until the intrusions ceased just as excitement was running wild. Then, the disinterment’s renewed, but now, in another cemetery.”
“A different cemetery?”
“Yes, ‘Cimetière du Montparnasse’. I feel that the only effect of increased surveillance was the perpetrator moved to a different location. During the next week, the exhumations grew to the extent that the authorities were at their wit’s end. The news became a sensation all over Paris, and the immediate neighborhood was in an uproar. Because of the proximity of ‘les catacombes’, many proposed and thought a link between the perpetrator and caves is possible.”
“Tell me what happened?”
“In a most upsetting incident, a seven-year-old girl, who died from the anémie was laid to rest at Montparnasse. The following morning, they discovered the grave violated. The body torn from the coffin with no evidence of its whereabouts, other than remnants of the dress she wore on her most recent birthday.”
“So, the guards were in attendance at the cemetery when this happened?”
“Yes, at the main entrance. The cemetery, surrounded by high walls and secured by tall iron gates, is difficult to access. The walls are all of smooth stone, making them difficult to scale by any man without help. However, at one spot, where the height of the wall was more significant than one and a half the size of an average man, several marks of a creature’s claw tearing away the mortar scored the surface.”
“Marks on the wall, how so?” At this moment, the groundskeeper took his right hand, formed a claw not unlike an eagle’s talon, and waved it in front of this reporter’s face. The groundskeeper continued.
“A veteran of the Sûreté took matters into his own hands and designed a gadget that should explode if anyone attempted to enter the cemetery again in the same place. At midnight, an explosion lit the sky, and they made pursuit of the figure who was seen climbing the wall. But, before the guards could seize the creature, it leaped over the wall with an agility that surprised them all. Although they fired their muskets, the figure escaped.”
“The guards were confident they had hit and wounded the figure. However, they found no trace of blood besides the intruder’s footprints. They discovered fragments of a woven light blue material. The musket balls had torn the fabric as they passed through the tunic.”
“The next day, I spoke to one gravedigger of Montparnasse while he was preparing the ground for two army deserters who were to be executed. He relayed a conversation that he chanced to overhear. A group of sappers of the 74th Regiment was talking about the disbursement of Napoleon III’s Imperial Guard around the affected cemeteries. The word soon spread, and the Guard became a comfort to the citizens. Afterward, the disturbances at the graveyards subsided, with no further reports being made.”
To this date, the identity of the figure remains to be discovered. ‘The Vampire’ is likely an abandoned and manifest villain; in everyday life, he is Dr. Jekyll, with no outward indications of the murderous Mr. Hyde within, whose garb he puts on and takes off as darkness arrives and his thirst impels him. But it is unsafe to prophesy, and we leave the mystery unraveling to time, which brings about its eventual acts of revenge.
Quincey jolted upright, and for a moment, his breathing stopped. Then, he turned to look over his left shoulder at me and exclaimed as he exhaled. His cheeks were full of the complexion that had been missing since the event.
Quincey hesitated. His eyes darted to Sherlock and back to me.
“This must have been the work of Dracula, don’t you surmise?”
“Quincey, it does bear some resemblance, does it not, to the events we have experienced ourselves?”
Sherlock looked into the blaze of the hearth. His pipe gripped between his teeth. The fire spat and creaked, then fell silent as though it waited to hear his words.
“My good friends, although I understand your urgent excitement in what you read, there is, however, no evidence to prove your proposition. Furthermore, and as yet, you can bring none to this discussion.” Said, Sherlock. His pipe, balanced as usual on his bottom lip, stopped bobbing and fell, spilling its contents of cold, burnt tobacco onto his shirt. With a swipe of his hand, he brushed the soot off towards the fireplace. Its roaring flames leaped to accept the gift, which sparkled as the remnant embers reignited like orange stars in the night sky. His expression turned to a daze, remembering the recent experiences with the creature. Holmes looked at us both.
“Do we have evidence Dracula was in Paris during these events? And what of the timeline, which I should say is somewhat of a juicy morsel, don’t you think?”
“It may be possible. It would have occurred before the creature’s demise at the castle. The time before Dracula was first extinguished.” I said.
“So, it would be my friend, so it would be,” Sherlock said. He repositioned the empty pipe between his lips and clasped its end with his teeth with a chomp. It bobbed again as his concentration returned.
Quincey reanimated, took the page in one hand, and engaged Mrs. Hudson’s scissors with the other. The blades snapped in a flurry, and he extracted the article with the skill of a surgeon. Smoothing the square of print against the table, the boy placed it to one side on top of five other cuttings taken earlier from the same paper. As was his routine, he would add them to his journal after school. The article would only pass our minds later, and we only wished we had taken the time to think more about it. Sherlock furrowed his brow in frustration at observing the fluttering of the hole in the newspaper, but said no word in protest. He never did.