What He Saw

Editor's note: This is the second of the runners up in our writing competition.

The Butler glared. He was not used to receiving visitors at this hour. Nor in this state. "The master will see you now"; the words seemed like a personal defeat. The butler could not define himself as part of the master's world, when constantly reminded about how little influence he had there. "Thank you, I know the way." The Butler, smarting at this second nasty reminder went to his room to get drunk.

The process began with a glass of gin and tonic. At this stage he could still say that it was a single drink, to unwind after work. But the single drink could not quell the anger, so a second followed. However, as the night wore on the butler found himself unable to release himself to the euphoric oblivion of drunkenness, the angry impotence of his position acting as an anchor around his neck. Yet the alcohol was not without effect, serving to destroy the rationality and the reason, the concern for the future that would usually keep his actions in check. Suffice to say, the butler was no longer civil.

Unable, unwilling to control his urges, the butler strode into the hall. Once he was out of the room, the self imposed cage he had been concentrating all his mental energy on escaping, the Butler achieved the joy he had been seeking all night, the joy of freedom. He was now presented with a vast array of possibilities. No longer restrained by any code of conduct, and in a house built on the principles of pleasures satisfied, the Butler became giddy. The only blackness in his mind now was regret that he had not done this sooner. The only emotion restraining him was indecision; where to go first. He stumbled towards the lounge, noisily opening the door.

* * *

"The Butler did it."

The policeman was pleased with his wit, even though Inspector Marks had heard the same joke 5 times already that morning, as he suspected the policeman also had.

"Yes, well, that does appear to be the case."

It more than appeared to be the case, it was the case, but the very cliché rattled his bones. He hadn't earned his reputation as "The Modernist Detective" with such decidedly Edwardian solutions. Marks vowed to discover the real murderer, and that the real murderer would astound the establishment. He decided to start his investigation with the innocent victim of this whole affair. "So, Mr. Butler, what have you to say to yourself?"

Marks was lounging on the divan, a cigarette between his teeth. He had no idea how to smoke, but thought witnesses were more forth coming when they had something else to concentrate on. He even attempted to blow smoke rings, which had the desired effect of making the butler feel confused and unsettled. The Butler muttered something, and tried to look out the window, but there was no window so this unsettled him even more. "Is this really necessary?" asked Sergeant Mazzini, "I mean, it's not like he can tell us anything we don't know."

"Ah, but what do we know?" said Marks, oblivious to the mumbling butler.

"Well, we know he did it, don't we? We know he got drunk, then went and smashed his master's head in."

"Incorrect; all we know is that he got drunk, then went into the room, where 12 seconds later he was discovered with a vase in his hand and a corpse at his feet."

"But, there was no-one else in there, it had to be him!"

"Incorrect again. While it was undoubtedly his arm that bought the vase down on the young squires head with enough force to crack it open and end his life, we do not know who actually committed the crime!"

"I'm hungry." The butler stared aggressively at Marks.

"Of course you are, dear sir. Mazzini, make this man some sausages."

As the two men left Marks sank further into the cushions. This was tricky. He could feel the limitations of his own intelligence, the walls of reason and rationality that restrained him, disabled him from making the leaps of intuition needed. He was sure that the visitor who had arrived late at night, and left minutes before the crime was integral to the affair. Staff had heard him enter and leave, but no-one had seen his face or heard his voice but the master and his butler, and one was too dead, and the other too boring to question. He decided it was time to invoke his power of free form be-bop thinking.

Two hours later he was sat with Mazzini in Bra World, a small underground jazz bar. On stage was a small moustachioed man wearing a trilby and playing the piano, while a middle-aged woman in a green dress hummed and squeaked. Mazzini clicked his fingers and drunk rum, while Marks stared at a floorboard. "It's all around us, you see," he whispered.

"What is?" Mazzini was smiling, enjoying himself.

"Everything. Everything is around us, which means that somewhere is what we're looking for."

He shut his eyes, and concentrated on his thoughts, but kept finding himself paying more attention to the music being played. His mind drifted and swam in the uplifting and surprising noise. Each piece began as a familiar standard, before the ingenuity and rapport of the performers twisted and built it into something new and revelatory. It all seemed to strike a chord in him.

"That's it!" Marks exclaimed, standing up.


"We need clues!"

* * *

They got a taxi back to the crime scene, and Marks put his glasses on.

"Right Mazzini, let's look around, see if there's anything that might shed some light on this affair."

"Alright, but I don't think we'll find anything new."

"It's not what we find, it's how we find it!" Mazzini sighed as Marks scuttled off.

He found him again later in the garden admiring a freshly dug hole. "Well, I've found some cigarette ends that seem to be quite an odd brand. No one in the house smokes them. And there was this business card left in the lounge. No name on it, just a large letter T."

Marks waved his hands dismissively. "What do I care about cigarettes or business cards? Look at this!" He gestured towards the hole.

"Do you want me to ask the gardener about it?"

"No, you ask the gardener and he won't know what you're talking about. You're too close to this thing, take a step back. No, further; further; there, what do you see?"

"I ... um ... ooh, it's not ...?"

"It is, Mazzini, a giant footprint! The greatest clue of all! Now, what would have a foot this size?"

"The only thing like it I've ever seen was a dinosaur footprint down at the Natural History Museum."

"Then to the Natural History Museum we will go."

* * *

The Professor's office was surprisingly smart, no piles of papers or obscure specimens in jars. Mazzini suspected he was an impostor, but kept quiet. He stood against the wall beside the door while Marks paced up and down asking questions and the Professor played with a desk toy, a small wooden fox with adjustable limbs. "And you're sure, sir, that there is no possibility of a dinosaur being alive today?"

"No, as I say, dinosaurs have not walked this planet for millions of years. With today's cartographic techniques we have mapped the world to such an extent that I can say with certainty there does not exist an area of land undiscovered that could hide a breeding stock of any species of dinosaurs. Especially not one capable of leaving a footprint such as the one you describe."

"How about space dinosaurs?"

"Certainly not. What was this in relation to, anyway?"

"The murder down at Walton Manor."

"But the newspapers said the man was bludgeoned to death with a vase. No dinosaur would ever bludgeon a man. It's absurd."

"Of course!"

The professor flinched at Marks.

"How could I be so stupid. Here we are at the Natural History Museum investigating a murder, when murder is the most unnatural event there is, a perversion of all society stands for!"

Mazzini started. "What could have left that footprint, then?"

"Well, if it wasn't natural, that means it must've been some kind of mechanical creation. Like the good Professor's fox, only taken to monstrous proportions."

"But who would have the technology to create a mechanical man of such dimensions?"

Marks grimaced. "I can think of only one man!"

* * *

The elevator door pinged open. "Top Floor, Presidential Suite," the bellboy smiled. He held his hand open, but Marks just grimaced again.

The occupant, presumably alerted by front desk, was waiting to greet them. "Good Evening, Inspector."

"Good Evening, Mr. Ford."

"Please, call me Henry!"

He ushered them into the suite. It was a modern room, which mainly seemed to consist of windows, works of art fighting it out with the doors to the bedroom and bathroom for the remaining space. However, this was a hotel favoured more by travelling businessmen than the idle rich, and so desks and other apparatus of business littered the place. Henry Ford took a seat behind the most imposing desk, the centre to the room, and gestured towards a group of armchairs.

"I must admit inspector, I'm at a loss to think what I might've done in the two weeks I've been visiting this lovely country that might warrant such a visit, but anything I can do to help!"

Marks glared at him "Why did you visit Lord Walton last night?"

Ford carried on smiling "I'm not sure I've met a Lord Walton. There was a Lord Hummenberg, and a Lord Pfancy, but I'm fairly sure there was no Lord Walton."

"So, you didn't travel to his house last night in some kind of giant mechanical suit?"

"Why, sir." Ford could hardly conceal his smirk. "I don't know how you think we're doing technologically over in the States, but I think giant walking machines are still quite a way off!"

"Well then," said Marks as he strode over to a large wardrobe, "how do you explain this?" He threw open the wardrobe to reveal a bright orange boiler suit, splattered with oil stains.

"Why, it must belong to one of my -" Without missing a beat, Ford had reached into a drawer and thrown a small walnut sized item onto the carpet. As Marks and Mazzini leapt up, thick black smoke filled the room. Mazzini threw a chair through the window to clear the smoke, and ran to where Ford had been. He caught a glimpse of Marks' brogue disappearing through a passage that had appeared behind a bookcase, but as he reached it, it slammed shut. He stood, pounding and coughing as the room slowly cleared of smoke, until the sound of screaming from outside caught his ears and he ran to the broken window. Once there, he was presented with a spectacle that he could hardly believe.

Striding through the streets was a giant copper contraption. It was so large, the tallest buildings only came up to its shoulder. Pocketing its skin like bristling hair were valves and pipes bellowing out steam. As if to dispel any doubt on the inhumanity of Ford, he had fashioned his creation as a strange cross between monkey and man, its lips in a perpetual sneer.

More spectacular than the behemoth flailing wildly at fashionable boutiques was the sight of two men grappling on its head. The size of the machine, however, gave the whole affair the air of a man with two squirrels wrestling on his head. Mazzini squinted, and could make out the shiny topper of Ford and the flamboyant overcoat of Marks. He held his breath as Ford toppled Marks with a sly kick, and stood there in bewildered impotence as the industrialist stood over his prey, ready to send him flying to his doom.

He was just as powerless to prevent the "Huzzah!" that left his lips as he saw Marks dodge the blow, and in a fluid motion send a sharp kick into Ford's side. Ford readjusted his weight to try to prevent his fall, but it was to no avail as he slipped down the smooth surface of his devilish machine. He flailed wildly at nothing, as he fell screaming to the ground. By the time his screaming was punctuated by an abrupt crack, Marks had already leapt through the eye of the metal man monkey, and under his control the creature sat gingerly on the ground, then remained motionless.

* * *

The next day, at Marks' dinner of honour, Mazzini felt he had to have the answers, though he knew he would be mocked for his own ignorance.

"So, sir, how did Ford make the butler commit murder? Some kind of mechanical mind control ray, I'll wager ..."

"Your problem, Mazzini, is your overwhelming ignorance. You must look at these things so literally. But think of this. Man is a social animal. The presence of his soul allows the kind feeling and gentle actions towards his fellow citizens that allow society to function, so much so that it becomes like a living organism."

"Like Hobbes' Leviathan?"

Marks sighed. "Well, the crushing monotony, the grey impersonality, of today's culture, as created by that devil Fords confounded 'Production Lines' is killing off our society's soul. In this climate of evil, it is of no surprise that acts of evil, such as our tipsy butler's drunken violence, occur. Though our gentleman's gentleman actually swung the vase that cracked the head, the anger was put in him by Ford's scheming ways. He is no more to blame for his actions than a schoolboy who burns down a school."

"Ah," said Mazzini.

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