Duped by Dupin

By Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Part of the Sinclair Narratives

It was a fine November day. All Hallows Eve had just passed and the dance of crimson and saffron spurred forth from the bowers above. It was a beautiful day to walk through the Greenlawn Cemetery. It was once Nathaniel Hawthorne’s uncle’s arboretum; for a time he even lived across the street from here. After my stroll I went to sit on my favorite bench, but I found it occupied. So I asked to share it with the man who was already perched to the left.

This man dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf, just nodded quietly as I asked to share this wood and wrought iron structure, divided in half by a third ferrous rail, with room for two on each side of this common apparatus that pigeons and squirrels alike gathered in front of as if it was a Celtic shrine of old, where these critters believed once they supplicated in front it, it would deliver a cornucopia of sustenance.

After sometime I found myself lost in my own thoughts, descending back to a far gone notion, interrupted by a resolute x-president espousing his familiar moniker —‘Bully!’ A phrase he used so often that many thought it was his Christian name, as he fought through a haze intermingled with green fairies within an artemisia absinthium forest, espousing a contradiction to my premise over the essence and pace of reality; I had almost forgotten the man who sat besides me when I heard, “May I interrupt your sojourning for a moment,” he didn’t wait for my answer.

“See for some time my companions and myself have found ourselves left in limbo. A lurch that has gone on for what seems an aeon at the mercy of the uroboros stretched upon a Möbius strip. The parlour is getting stuffy. Longfellow has become long-winded. Holmes has no clue, but his scientific speculation upon the great matter weakens one to talk with an hour more than a day’s fasting would do...We all dread if the ‘Great Orator’ gets started. Sturgis keeps excusing himself to venture with the Orient dragon. His wife, Susanna—the sister of the missing man, sitting closest to the hall attached to the water closet, was suffering from the stupor that the dragon’s secondhand smoke brings on. Littlefield keeps eyeing up my skeleton to sell it at a future date and Chief Francis Tukey and his constable Starkwater just sit their slack-jawed contemplating the turkey that they were forced to abdicate...” the man stammers to my left, as he brings me out of my reverie.

He was dressed like a cossack Merlin in his fur robe with his kufi just touching the tops of the largest mutton chops, I dared to say, I ever saw; Tom Sawyer was seen entering them last week and we are still waiting for him to exit. Popular consent fears he will die before we can extricate him...

Now I must say, this is Salem; with all of the spiritualists and gurus that proffer the commercial space downtown—I must say, that he didn’t stand out at all; he was just another character Nikola and myself would have begrudgingly rubbed elbows with at Hammond Castle.

“Sorry, do I know you?” I asked, still half in and half out of my thoughts of being interrupted by Roosevelt, trying to recall that lost thought I had, all those years ago.

“It is my fault dear sir. I can’t expect you to remember me in this reality, for we in truth met in another. Honestly, we never met directly, for you were merely a fly on the wall on the other side of the white and black that proffer between calfskin stretched over two boards. Nevertheless, you made your presence felt—indelibly upon us all, just as much as the Honorable C. Auguste Dupin.” He then stood up and gripped my hand firmly in between his and shook. He looked me deep in the eye with a smile, and grasped my forearm with a warrior’s greeting. “May I introduce myself? For I am Eben Horsford.”

He was known to me as the man known for baking up a fabled Viking city just across the river from Boston with his own famous powder. He brought to life the dream of Longfellow’s wish to have a statue dedicated to the true explorer who founded an already discovered continent. Many thought it was an endeavor just to bring ire to the newly settled Catholic population that rankled the protestants within the Ivy Halls of the city. He even had a Norse tower built just off the Charles River, where he believed this fabled city existed.

In truth, he never found Vinland or Norumbega. For I fear, I never found Vinland myself—even though I was searching, but I did arrive here almost a hundred years before that Italian and his Spanish crew.

Was I seeing a ghost—I was sitting in a cemetery, for Horsford had been dead for nearly a score? He fully assessed my silence and bewilderment.

“Do you remember a work you were reading by one Henri Rennet detailing the events of the Parkman-Webster murder case? The Doctor’s Affair?”

“Why yes! I never did get a chance to finish it; I do believe I left it on a train some years ago, figuring a rare proof by that famous author would never surface once more. I never went looking for it,” I answered him, as I tried recalling the yarn Rennet created around that celebrated case involving the premiere families that sledded down Beacon Hill. The tale concerned one Doctor John White Webster, a Harvard professor who was accused of murdering and dismembering his lender, Doctor George Parkman. It was premised that he had shoved him into the furnace of his Harvard laboratory.

“We know! We have been waiting in the parlour for almost sixty years now—waiting for you to read out Dupin’s rationalization of who was the murderer! Why would you put down the story right where the climax was? Do you not have any sympathy or compassion for others? Please, find the book before Prescott imagines another dry tome of a history best forgotten! For myself and the other characters in the book, I plead for you to finish the tale and remove the agony we have found ourselves within all these years,” Horsford begged with deep sincerity.


(In this excerpt and those following I am reading out loud to Horsford, as a bard or storyteller would have with a mixture of tone and style of the original author mixed with...my own voice, as we traveled to find the book. This device was devised to help you, my reader, be informed on the mystery the book examines as well as to move our poor friend Horsford, who has found himself trapped with the others within the book, through to its climax.)

Sometimes unbelievable events occur that are at once so horrid that we wonder about in abject futility to the loss of control to our Christian bearings as we are drawn against, or along with our primitive being to the tantalizing temptation to stare, boldface, into the gore that is inevitable from a train wreck. That is where the citizenry of the ‘Land of Cod’ found themselves. Following the Ides of March, John White Webster’s long-standing debts were being called in to account for the assassination of the caesar of Beacon Hill.

It was 1850 and we were twelve months and eleven days into Zachary Taylor’s sixteen month presidency. Webster’s April Fool’s prank was that he was to hang for a murder that never happened, but fate had found a way in which he would not escape his complicity in another unsolved murder. John White Webster was indicted on January 26th. The New England papers were split on their opinion of the murder:

“Scarcely one man in ten thousand can be found who does not agree with us in the opinion that the evidence is that Webster is innocent. Secondly, there is serious doubt if Parkman is dead.”

— Evening Bulletin, January 28, 1850

“We have scarcely met a man of intelligence, since the evidence has all come out, who did not profess to believe in Webster’s guilt.”

— Massachusetts Ploughman, January 29, 1850

Below are the public facts given by the Salem Gazette on February 1st:

“The inquest jury, in an eight-four-page decision, determined that the body parts found in Dr. Webster’s furnace were Parkman’s, that he had been killed and dismembered at the medical college, and that Webster was to be held accountable. Thus the grand jury returned a True Bill and indicted him. According to their report, the jury believed that John White Webster had beaten and struck George Parkman, and then assaulted him with a knife until he was dead. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw would preside over the case. Daniel Webster was asked to prosecute, but declined.

It was twenty years ago that Daniel Webster assured Shaw’s position as Chief Justice, after the prior Justice, one Isaac Parker, was found dead the night before the commencement of the Joseph White murder case. As celebrated in Stephen White’s biography of Daniel Webster, Webster’s involvement in the most infamous murder of the nineteenth century brought about the execution of the two Knapp brothers for striking White on the head and stabbing him several times. For in that murder the blood was missing on the sheets, but at least they did find the body of the man who was murdered beyond a reasonable doubt. At this point, the public is not convinced they found the body of Dr. Parkman.

Chief witness in the murder of Dr. Parkman is one ‘Swamp Yankee’ named Littlefield. A ‘resurrection man’ by trade. He had been in the employ of John White Webster and several other professors in Harvard to obtain cadavers, no questions asked, for their dissection and study. Becoming suspicious of Webster after overhearing a heated argument with Parkman over a long overdue debt, Littlefield became concerned. When Webster went to a dance, he snuck back through the tunnel leading from the river, at low tide, under the trapdoor Webster used to drop the bodies through after his experiments. Later the tide would carry them away. Many locals have complained about the body parts washing ashore, to the fright of many children. Littlefield had noticed the furnace that shared a wall with the tunnel was ‘hot’...This led him to break through the other wall into the Doctor’s privy. Amongst the feces and urine of the good doctor did he say he found the remains of the good man Parkman. Later, other pieces were to be found within a tea chest. A common crate Littlefield would use within his ‘resurrection’ trade. In this paper’s opinion there is more than a whiff of doubt in his testimony…

Here is the breakdown of the affair that has Boston on the edge of their seats:

Prior On November 22, a week before Thanksgiving, Parkman went to the college to look for Mr. Pettee, the Harvard cashier, to give him the proceeds from the sale of Webster’s lecture to repay his debt. On November 23, Parkman was out collecting debts when he visited Parkman’s home; it was suggested that they meet at Harvard that afternoon at 1:30 pm. At 1:45 pm, Parkman had been sighted entering the college on North Grove Street, wearing a dark frock coat, dark trousers, a purple satin vest, and a stovepipe hat. Later that afternoon, Littlefield found Webster’s rooms locked and heard Webster running the water. Webster was home by 6:00 pm to dress for a party at the Treadwells. On November 24, Parkman’s family reported him missing.

On November 26, Parkman’s family proffered a $3,000 reward and had 28,000 copies of a wanted notice distributed; a little later, $1,000 was offered for his body. On November 27, Webster worked at the college in the evening. At first, Irish immigrants were blamed. Many wondered if Parkman had simply left the city; others thought he had been mugged. Unsigned letters proposed various scenarios. City Marshal Francis Tukey had the Charles River and Boston Harbor dragged and sent officers to neighboring towns to make inquiries. Parkman’s buildings, both rented and vacant, and even abandoned buildings that he did not own were searched. Tukey’s newly formed professional police force made their first search of his rooms, each time placing special emphasis on the laboratories and dissecting vaults, but they found nothing to indicate that Parkman had been there.

On November 28, Webster was early at college; Littlefield watched him from under the door, moving from the furnace to the fuel closet, making eight separate trips. On Thanksgiving, Littlefield had entered the tunnel and began to dig into Webster’s ‘shit’. He returned the next day to break through the wall to find some human remains. Tukey was informed.”

Now we found ourselves within the parlour of George Parkman, hosted by his sister Susanna and her husband Nathaniel Russell Junior, the grandson of the scion of the American partner in Barings Brothers & Co. Joining us was the great Senator Daniel Webster and his Hartford Convention conspirator’s son William H. Prescott, the writer of great histories, George Parkman’s want-to-be historian son, Francis, the poets—or as Dupin called them, “fools”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, John White Webster’s horrified wife Harriet (Prescott’s aunt) who mostly just sat there in a catatonic state. Officially Chief Francis Tukey and his constable Starkwater were interrogating everyone within. I was called in to bring Dupin here to investigate by Eben Norton Horsford, who now found himself teaching John White Webster’s classes.

Horsford held the Count Rumford professorship, a position in which John White Webster procured for him against much opposition. Horsford raised his fortune from a new formula for baking powder by replacing cream of tartar with calcium biphosphate. With these assets, he pursued a course of monuments and literature along with Longfellow to prove that the Norse founded America before Columbus. He also claimed that many place names like Naumkeag, the Indian name for the city of Salem, were in fact old Norse.

Dupin, being Norman French himself and proud of his Viking ancestors, took to Horsford quickly and was happy to oblige his concerns over the innocence of his dear friend.


Horsford and I rode a cable car down to the station on Washington Street. There we waited for the 12:00 train to Boston. It was a large gothic structure with two towers. Inside all of the wood was darkened by the smoke. We went to the restaurant and had an early lunch while we waited. Our destination was the lost and found box inside the Old Customs House for the purpose of looking for the book.

“So who do you think did it?” asked Horsford.

“I cannot say; little of the story’s ending do I remember,” I lied. I was first propositioned to publish Rennet’s tale, but I referred him to Calvin F. S. Thomas in Boston, with whom Rennet was already familiar. He would be able to print a much larger run and cheaper than I could. Nevertheless, Rennet asked me to look over and edit an advance reader edition. I started making my comments in a notebook which I planned to hand to him once I finished, but Rennet was caught up with complications—which I was not surprised about. At that point I stopped reading the work, fearing it would not be pursued any further.

In time, I would see glimpses of Rennet; shadows merely turning a corner, maybe a mention of his name. There was talk of false starts made by Thomas. He needed a distributor. At all points, there was Ticknor & Field publishing blocking his progress. Even when Thomas found a foreign firm that made inroads into our nation, there was Ticknor & Field. They were not only after the destruction of the book——but that of Rennet himself.

In truth, soon I forgot about the book and Rennet. For it was years since I had heard his name uttered or seen his visage.

I was reading a copy of the Royal Society Journal I found in the station when I had seen an etching of an assistant of Michael Faraday that looked queer.

“Are you going to have one of these Chop Suey sandwiches?” asked Horsford.


Another excerpt from Henri Rennet’s Novella The Doctor’s Affair from my memory

“Now Prescott, If you were writing a history of this murder, where would you start your narrative?” Dupin prodded. “Would you begin with a history of the families involved? Would you bring out their skeletons into the light of the new dawn, sins of the father and all? How would you lay out this narrative?”

“Pride in family and our accomplishments. We are an elite bunch, filled with grand plans, some fulfilled and others stalled, but we all are what we are becoming,” Prescott answered. “We are the true city on the hill, lighting the beacon for all to see. I would show this murder as a fluttering of that candle.”

“Madam Sturgis, you look away from Prescott’s suggestion?” Dupin probed. “Would you not want your kin’s tales brought forth?” She made no movement; she kept looking over her shoulder at the potted fern in disgust. “Maybe, you would be further moved if we brought up your husband’s part in his uncle’s opium trade. I see now your husband is rubbing his hip.”

With that, Nathaniel stared at me with his hand on his hip. It was common knowledge that an opium fiend will lay on his side while smoking, so much so he builds a callus on his hip. Thus making him a ‘hipster’. He quickly dropped his hand and gave me that look only a wounded poof could deliver; a look that said ‘smell you.’

Harriet stared at Prescott with a look of a scared animal ready to pounce on her nephew’s jugular, but remained quiet as a church mouse.

“Now Senator, you seemed to scowl at me; do you not like the mention of your legal clients? Is it true that you’re on retainer for Sturgis’ uncle Thomas H. Perkins, slave trader and China merchant?” Dupin continued as he took a bit of snuff. “Is he not now the leading old Federalist in Boston? I dare say you should have had that honor; were you not with Prescott’s father at the ill timed Hartford Convention. Too bad Parker, before he died, could not prove it was more than hearsay…”


“My dear sir, you are searching for what was the desire of Pasiphäe. Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear, Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then Open’d and clear’d…” Daniel said with a finger extended out at me like some Puritan preacher on Lecture Day.

“...and ye shall be as gods,” answered Dupin. “I abide that boast so vain under what torments I inwardly groan, While they adore me on the throne of hell. How mighty Lucifer has fallen…” With that the Senator dropped into his seat and fell silent. “Longfellow, you are filled with quotes; Thomas Bulfinch was a neighbor of your father, was he not? Daniel knew his Mythologies well and your father knew Daniel well too. Was he too, in Hartford?” Then Dupin looked at Littlefield, “Henry, how many times have you let Littlefield use your tunnel from your home to appease your friend Oliver here? A corpse here, a corpse there. How hard would it be for Littlefield to sneak another corpse into John White Webster’s laboratory?”

Everyone besides Dupin remained silent.

“Francis, you walked home from Webster’s laboratory with your father; were you the last to see him alive?” Dupin turned quickly to accuse the missing man’s son. “Did he just rip up your tickets to London? What you wanted the most was to be a famous historian like young Prescott here. Did Prescott promise you a meeting with Prince Albert?”

Longfellow was making his way to the hall for the door. “Henry, you seem much healed after your holiday in Arkham? Were you not working with Holmes and Lowell on a translation of Dante’s Canto Inferno from the Divine Comedy?” Dupin said over his shoulder with Longfellow to his back. Dupin then lit his meerschaum pipe. “Is it not true that you spent some time in Arkham Asylum for the attempted murder of one of your critics? You had left your victim in his garden to be eaten alive by strategically placed maggots along with a bevy of hornets? Was that not one of Dante’s punishments? Did George Parkman see you in McLean Asylum for the Insane after your transfer? I expected as much from one of your literary groups, to exact revenge on Poe, but you, my refined friend...you all almost did so after Lowell had booked him at the Federal Street Theater. If you had done it to him, no one in Boston would have blamed you…Parkman was friends with physician Rufus Wyman. Now, it is Rufus’ son Jeffries who has identified the bones found in the tea chest and privy to be Parkman. He also swears that the false teeth found in the stove fit into the skull of what he says is Parkman. I don’t know what to make of it, but his other son Morrill was having dinner with John White Webster on the night of Parkman’s disappearance.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes looked aghast at Longfellow.

“Oliver, you had concerns with Jeffries and George Parkman. Not only did Parkman donate the building to McLean, but he donated the Medical College to Harvard. He had a lot to say about what the University believed and taught. Was it true that he believed in Darwin’s assumption that man was descended from apes? I had questioned Jeffries when he was in Paris when I was solving the ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ about the practicalities of an Orangutan loose in Paris murdering people. Jeffries did believe man was descended from apes as well. Was Parkman going to ask the board of overseers at the University to promote Darwin’s evolution theory? Well, your Christian ideals could not allow that!” Dupin said as he pointed his pipe at him.

“Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions. It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen, but we shall try to have courage to act and not react. A child’s education should begin at least a hundred years before they are born. Will Harvard want their students to believe in the primogeniture of apes? Is it right to move the providence of creation from the creator down to the primate and chance? Does God roll dice? Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up. Maybe it is for later generations to decide, but how dangerous of a fate is that?” responded Holmes as he lit up his own pipe.

“Don’t flatter yourself, my dear professor, that privilege authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your peers. The nearer you come into superiority with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. Was it for you to take providence into your own hands and to remove Parkman’s influence from those Ivy Halls? If you did not kill him sir, did you leave your friend to learn unpleasant things from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell him.?” Dupin said, laying his pipe down.

“My dear sir, I did not kill George or expose him to his fate. Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future. I was willing to let Parkman and fate choose the university’s path, but I was going to have it heed my influence as much as I could. I swear to you I know little to nothing about what had befallen dear George,” Holmes said as he fell back into his seat.

“Francis, is it not true that your grandfather had your house built by Bulfinch’s father, Charles?” Dupin asked. I could see him switching gears in his astute mind. He sometimes looked back at what he had said in one context to realize it had much more depth and impact in another. “Your father did walk to work to Mass General and the Medical School through the tunnel.”

“Yes, how did you know about the tunnel?”

“Bulfinch is well known-in the right circles that is—for his mastery of architecture, not above ground, but below. When he rebuilt the Capitol Building after the War of 1812, he built the elaborate network of tunnels that connect the city together. His first venture was to connect the Massachusetts Capitol Building to the homes on Beacon Hill, where you preside, and beyond. I believe your grandfather was in league with him. He had bought up the swamp area on the westend for Bulfinch to smuggle his tunnel dirt into, under the disguise of the public works project, to level Tremont Hill. Subsequently, he had built up much of the commercial property that you now stand to inherit,” Dupin explained.

Francis adjusted his glasses nervously and finally took them off and absently cleaned them, as he stood stark still out of fear of Dupin’s accusation, “I did not! I mean yes, I would inherit them, but I did not kill him. I did resent him for forbidding me to venture to London. How is one to write the history of a geography if you do not, can not, feel the earth between your toes. I swear to you sir, I can be peeved at the man I loved, but never enough...to kill him.”

His mother just stared at him.

“Longfellow, the tunnels travel to McLean as well?” Dupin continued his train of thought.

“Yes sir, but what are you getting at?”

“Now Daniel, Bulfinch had built your home too?” Dupin prodded the old blue-blooded eagle.

“My dear sir, Daedalus constructed Minos’ labyrinth as a private pass and for you, there will be no Ariadne’s thread; for you my dear sir I say—may Poseidon’s bull be distracted from Pasiphäe and find you picking up pennies for Charon. For you are flying higher than Daedalus’s son…”


“I must stop you; I was in that room and I heard Daniel first hand, do not torture me once more! You know that man once gave a five-hour dinner speech at Harvard,” Horsford had cut off the narrative of the murder mystery as I recalled it.

Luck would have it we just passed the spot in Lynn where a full train derailed heading to Salem to hear Senator Daniel Webster speak. I am guessing it is in Horsford’s opinion—those riders were lucky that the train derailed.

I was lucky enough to have a Vinland expert at my disposal. I might have been here one hundred years before Columbus, but I never felt I found Vinland. I looked for it in Nova Scotia and here in Salem. Horsford was more under the opinion it was off the Charles. Other’s mention Provincetown, some Newport. Benedict Arnold’s grandfather owned what some thought was a Norman tower in Newport.

That reminded me that Daniel and Timothy Pickering chose Hartford for that ill-fabled convention, due to Arnold. The last time he had met George Washington, before the nation found out he was a traitor, was at the Hartford Conference. These men from Salem met those from New Haven who were Arnold’s business associates.

“What is your true opinion on the whereabouts of Vinland, my dear professor?” I had asked as we sped past Chelsea.

“Honestly, I had lots of time to think while waiting in that parlour—sixty years and all, ha, ha! I do believe Lief’s kin ventured to many places; as his brother, I do believe died on Bass Rocks in Gloucester, but Lief himself I believe sailed to where President Hanson hailed from, the northern section of the old Swedish colony in New Jersey. The shape of Vinland fits the southern peninsular of that state. Also, the sagas mention sailing with the coastline to the east. If they were sailing along the continent, the sea would be to the west.” Horsford was almost jumping out of his seat, bent over with his face close to mine sitting sideways and shaking his fits just above my lap. “I’m sorry, I had no one to share this thought with for, you know...”


Another excerpt from Henri Rennet’s Novella The Doctor’s Affair from my memory.

Tukey and Constable Starkwater had just returned. I gave them a nod when the great Senator began his dissertation. They followed me out. Dupin remained to see what the cast would subconsciously devolve. We went down the cellar stairs and found the iron door that led to the tunnel through the fireplace arch.

“What is that Dupin going on about—Ah he knows nothing more than we did before he arrived,” Constable Starkwater complained as his lantern led the way.

“Dupin is like a doctor; he pokes and prods—in the right areas to find out where his patients are sore, but he is a doctor of the psyche who tries to alleviate the guilt of the soul, much like our missing Parkman. It is really a shame Wyman took McLean hospital away from him, after all, he founded the institute,” I went on.

“Now what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” complained the good Constable.

“He is examining his patient’s soul. Like Dostoyevsky, he realizes all men need a confessor. He just tries to be the first person they come to,” I explain.

We left Parkman’s corridor and joined the main one under the sidewalk of Cambridge Street and began to transverse the hill like the dwarves of old under Joy Street. At the confluence of Joy and Beacon, we took a right. Many of the Brahmin’s of Beacon Hill we passed; Constable Starkwater and Chief Tukey barely kept their hats on as they passed the upper echelon. It was a rainy day and none of them traveling to work, to their mistress, a lover, or begrudgingly to a parent to beg to remain in their will, was willing to walk through another nor’easter. Long gone were the days of cargo moving through these chambers, but memories of our first president, John Hancock, unloading his sloop The Liberty into his basement before the British arrested him. That basement is now part of our fine State House.

We still had another half hour to arrive at the Medical School. On the way we passed a Crispus Attucks, of sorts, wearing a top hat. “Where did you get that hat?” I asked.

The man, seemingly afraid that I might bring a possible threat of theft, was slow at first to answer, then Tukey assured him he would be safe with his answer and he said he found it within the tunnel.

“When did you find it?” Tukey asked.

“It was back in November,” the man said.

“Could it have been on the 23rd?”

“It was. I just finished a job…” he looked at Tukey and gulped. Tukey asked him to continue and he looked at his shoes. “Well, it was around 2:30 for I could hear the new Farmer telegraph clock (Horsford’s telegraph was bypassed for this one), calling out the time for the cable car station above. I saw these two men hurry another forward. In my trade, this is common, I ask no questions and few people stop me when I am rushing people through myself. The tall one dropped his stovepipe hat. It looked so fine, I didn’t want to see it go to waste. See, I’m a bit shorter than the man who previously owned it. There are a lot of low spots in here which could knock it off.”

“What did the two look like?” I asked.

“Well, both looked like familiar people. Like they would have been in papers at some point. One had a lean Irish look, sunken cheeks, and mean eyes. The other was balding, in bad health, shaggy brows, with an eagle’s beak. The tall man looked like one not accustomed to unhappiness—like a deer in the lantern lights he was.”

We continued on to the school. We investigated the tunnel leading to the river where Littlefield dug into the privy. Then we took the fork toward Longfellow’s house. Chief Tukey’s presence would be enough for us to be granted access from his staff to the street. From there we expected to catch a cab back. On entering the fork, the good constable walked into a spider web that went from floor to ceiling.


“I think I recognize your visage, do I know you from somewhere prior to today?” asked Horsford.

“I fear not,” I answered.

“I swear we met somewhere before, but that could not be. If I did know you, you would be over sixty—at least! Well, that cannot be, but I can’t let go of how familiar you look.”

We just exited North Station and were calling a cab to take us to the Old Customs House on the water.

Who else would you expect to pull up—than Louie. He had been moonlighting in Boston as of late. Not only did he have a new niece to help feed, but his sister had twins. So when I did not need him he set off for Town.

“Surprise to find you here; why didn’t you tell me to stay in Salem today? I could have driven you in!” scolded Louie. In the city he had an old nag pull his carriage about; he did not want to put the extra miles on our Packard Electric. Plus he could not speed anywhere in the city, and get away with it…


“It was unexpected. I did not know I had to venture in till I met this gentleman in Greenlawn,” I said. “Louie this is Horsford.”

“I’m honored meeting you my fine friend!” Horsford said with his hand raised up to shake Louie’s.

Horsford was getting some strange looks, but Louie paid no mind to his appearance. Louie has lived in Salem as long as I have.

We got in the back of the carriage and Louie was off.

“Now how do others see you?” I asked.

“Well, I learned to break the fourth wall from a little Norwegian girl named Sophie and her philosophy professor who learned to row a boat across a pond into reality,” Horsford explained.

“I once went for a row with my girlfriend and I lost our oars. Then ten months later she was my wife after she broke her fourth wall,” said Louie.

“Louie, I think that was a different fourth wall…” I said.


Another excerpt from Henri Rennet’s Novella The Doctor’s Affair from my memory

I returned with Chief Tukey and Starkwater. I informed Dupin of what we found out in the tunnels. He had seemed amused that Starkwater had run into the spider web and Starkwater was embarrassed over his reaction.

“Now here, Dupin! You will respect those who serve me. I have been quiet so far—on account of your mother, God rest her soul. Do not push me, Boston never wanted you. Even your sister did better in the theater here; she walked through the front door with your mother to ovations and flowers. How did you leave the theater? You left under the theater through the tunnels with the rats as an orphan to avoid the angry mob,” Tukey let loose.

Dupin took his cane and swiped the back of his knees. The friction of that strike pulled the sword out of its sheath which now he poked into the throat of the chief who laid flat on his back. Just pricking the skin. His muscles tensed to move forward when I took my cane and knocked his sword out of his hand.

“Auguste, that is enough. Spenser will not be able to protect you if you kill him; there are enough people out to kill you, especially in Baltimore.” I yelled at him. John C. Spenser hired us when he served as President John Tyler’s Secretary of War. He started a secret agency to protect the presidents and the moral direction of this nation against it’s popularly elected representatives who are a threat of removing the balance. “Now let’s get back to Spencer’s work. Henry, when we were leaving your house to catch a cab...”

“You entered my house without permission…” Longfellow said indignantly.

“Yes, we were not going to walk the half-hour back here; we had seen all we needed to see of the tunnels,” I retorted. “Can you explain why I found this in your basement?” I pulled a money clip from my pocket with the initials JWW on it.

Longfellow examined it. “Whose is this?”

“You know full well. When was the last time John White Webster was in your home? Why would he need to exit the tunnel from your home?” I asked. Prescott jerked and Daniel Webster calmed him by placing a hand on his forearm. Holmes looked questioningly at him.

“Well, why did Prescott and Webster bring him there?” I prodded as Webster smacked the table knocking his drink to the floor as Prescott jerked away from Webster and recomposed himself, gritting his teeth, more. His muscular cheeks became more prominent. Susanna, went down to clean Daniel’s scotch. She dabbed a spot and quickly picked up the glass and excused herself for the kitchen. Daniel readjusted in his seat and stepped on some ice cubes. Harriet ignored everything that was going on in the room.

Dupin nodded at Starkwater. Starkwater looked to Tukey; Tukey said, “Go!”

“Where is Sturgis?” asked Tukey.

“I have a feeling Starkwater will find him,” Dupin said with indifferent confidence. “Now my dear Horsford, with John White Webster’s arrest, you now have taken over his position in the university. Was it not true that John was against your’s and Longfellow’s plans to establish a statue of Lief Erickson within the city.”

“My dear sir, John fought for me to get the Rumsford chair! We are long term friends,” Horsford yelled back.

Dupin nodded at me before he asked Horsford his question to watch Prescott, as he watched Longfellow. Prescott shifted in his chair, I noticed. Dupin watched Longfellow as a quizzical look formed on his face.

The only one who looked more quizzical than Longfellow was Holmes. Webster just composed himself. His cold eyes just rested on a random spot on the wall over Dupin’s shoulder. The stare of an eagle who is pretending to ignore his prey. Francis still was looking quite clueless. His mother was much the same.

Littlefield made a run for it, but Starkwater caught him as he was returning with Sturgis and his daughter. Susanna placed a new scotch on a napkin next to the eminent senator. The eagle kept on staring at that spot.

Sturgis seemed much more collected than last we had seen him. So much so he was the only person who was not feeling tense at this point. He seemed a little too relaxed.

I walked to Webster’s napkin, he never broke his stare over Dupin’s shoulder’s and Dupin looked directly below his bushy brow. I grabbed the napkin. Prescott gritted his teeth. Longfellow started taking notes and conversing with Holmes. Horsford smiled. Littlefield looked scared and confused as Starkwater held him by the scruff of his jacket.

I handed the napkin to Dupin. All that was written on it was T.H.P.

After reading, Dupin said, “Something smells fishy, and it ain’t anyone from Innsmouth…”

Webster slammed the table once more, spilling his scotch again. For a famous drunkard like old Black Dan, he must really be upset, to waste quality scotch like that.

Webster stood up and grabbed Prescott by the shoulder to leave; Dupin’s sword was still out and made its way to Webster’s throat.

Sturgis had a hand in his pocket and had an eye on Dupin.

I grabbed Sturgis’ arm and Tukey grabbed Susanna by the shoulders.

“I suggest everyone have their seats once more,” Dupin said as he tapped his sword against Dan’s throat, suggesting that he should listen.

“Now gentlemen, let me tell you how I came to my ratiocination,” Dupin said as he sat and began to light his meerschaum pipe. “Starkwater, the good constable, had walked into a spider web. This tells me that the route to Longfellow’s was not used as recently as the one leading to this house. Prescott had forced George Parkman back through the tunnel to his own house. Now my companion here found a man wearing Parkman’s hat in the tunnel leading to this house; he mentioned three men coming this way—one against his will. Chief Tukey had informed me that Daniel was recalled from Washington and was seen entering Parkman’s house three days after his disappearance. This was earlier on the same day that Tukey questioned Littlefield about the remains he had found breaking into the privy from the tunnel. Daniel and Prescott must have found him trying to get the remains back that they were trying to disguise as Parkman’s.

Now it was prior to Parkman’s disappearance that Prescott had walked through the tunnel from Longfellow’s House, for Starkwater walked into a female wolf spider’s web. My companion brought me back her dehydrated body; hatching day for these spiders was the evening of Parkman’s abduction. These spiders spin a web for their children and wait for their offspring to devour the fluids from their bodies. Prescott had used the tunnel earlier that left from Longfellow’s and the spider made her web after he entered the lab.

Prescott’s and Longfellow’s fathers were members of the Essex Junto. The War of 1812 was a ploy to force America to create a new national bank after they closed the first one in 1811. A bank in which Barings Brother & Co. had major involvement...To do so Daniel Webster, his banker Stephen White, Joseph Story, and the murdered Captain Joseph White all received bribes from Barings Brothers Bank in 1811. They were to be prepared to become directors and the president, respectively, of the new bank that was created to handle the war debt in 1816 at the close of the war. These men then sought out Barings to handle the debt, at a high interest, to finance it. T.H.P. , Thomas Handasyd Perkins was brother-in-law to Nathaniel Sturgis Sr, Sturgis’ grandfather, who was the American partner in Barings Brothers & Co. along with Perkins’ nephew Joshua Bates. Perkins has become the head of the Saturday Night Fish Fry Club; an organization which links control over the National Republicans, Whigs, and old Federalists. Prescott was seen entering Longfellow’s house along with Webster and Perkins on the day of Parkman’s disappearance. Webster barely got to Washington before he had to come back.”

Tukey interjected, “So what does all of this mean? Is Parkman alive?”

“We cannot tell, but it will serve this group’s purpose to see the weakest link be punished for his possible murder. Without a body, I can not help you, my dear chief, but I fear this will not stop Black Dan from conjuring up some new laws to send his kin to the gallows,” Dupin explained. “It did not stop him from prosecuting three people as the sole murderer to a single victim. He even tried one twice for the same crime. Ha, Ha! John White Webster’s judge will be the one Daniel appointed to be Chief Justice during that prior trial.”

“What do we do with the lot of them?” yelled Starkwater, still holding Littlefield.

“Nothing,” Dupin answered as he put his pipe down.

“Nothing. You telling me we have no choice but to let them all go?” Tukey asked aghast.

“I brought you here to free my friend John—and you will let them hang him?” Horsford yelled as he grabbed Dupin by the lapels.

“I am sorry Eben, there is nothing I can do. It is all up to their ability to convince a jury that the body that Littlefield stole is Parkman’s,” Dupin said as he gently freed himself from Horsford. “Though I am sorry to say me and my companion must leave from here in haste.”


I went over the last part of the novella after we found the book in the lost and found in the Old Customs House. After we walked back down the wharf from the office, we went to Columbus Park. Horsford looked up at the Columbus statue and exclaimed, “My Lief statue will look much better and will be a testament to the truth.”

“It did my dear friend,” I said. His statue would be built on the west end of Commonwealth Avenue. Also, a Viking ship would be added to the Longfellow Bridge. Some things a little towhead would learn to appreciate living under the Bridge near the swan boats in the Public Garden. A member of the Chase family I believe.

“I still can’t get over the fact that John was to hang. There was nothing Dupin could do to save him?” Horsford said with his hat in his hand.

Before we got to Quincy Market we found Louie once more. He had taken the train back to Salem to get our Packard. As we sat there and talked to Louie for a little, an Irish trio just struck the bow, flute, and drum. “Was it not the Irish who first made it to Boston?” asked Louie.

“Why do you say that?” Horsford said even more distressed.

“Well, when the Norse arrived at Iceland—they scared the Irish monks off the island,” Louie was explaining. “See the Irish did not sail east back to Ireland, but west. Also the Norse mention in their sagas a tall fair skin tribe that spoke old Norse and Irish who wore white robes like those monks.”

“He is right, it is written in the sagas,” I said and Horsford dropped his head into his hands.

“I wonder if the first Irishman to step foot in Boston looked like me? It could’ve even been my great grandfather?” Louie pondered. “Imagine a statue of me?”


We returned to the Greenlawn Cemetery where I first met Horsford. He joined me on the bench on which we first met. He thanked me on behalf of himself and the other characters. Horsford was still disappointed that his friend John White Webster had hanged for a murder he didn’t think he could have committed. Then in a flash, he disappeared.

I didn’t read him the end of the book.

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