The train pulled into the quiet rural station at Okehampton just after four. The jounery had been a tiring one, and as they stared out of the carriage windows between Exeter and Okehampton they had been able to glimpse something of the bleak and wild beauty of Dartmoor.
As Mr. Cribbins the Station Master helped them with their luggage, Sebastian was approached by an elderly man in an overcoat and bowler hat, well muffled against the cold.
“Young Mister Sebastian Sir? Is that really you?” the man enquired.
“My word! It’s Jacobs! " exclaimed Sebastian. “How are you doing Mr. Jacobs?”
“Very well Sir, thank you” replied Jacobs.“The present trouble aside that is.”
Jacobs had a trap waiting outside, and into this they piled their luggage. Henry had a quick word with the Station Master about a delivery they were expecting from London, which would hopefully early next morning: they had made a quick trip to a Gentleman’s outfitters after they had left Lady Amelia.
It was a good half hour drive to the Hollies, as they left Okehampton along the Tavistock Road, and then turned off to the left on a minor track into Dartmoor.The light had almost faded when they turned into the Drive of the Hollies, a largish two story red brick Country House typical of the rural Esquire: a modest dwelling for a Lord perhaps, but still a very respectable dwelling by the standards of most. As the cold mist of Dartmoor descended they were shown to their rooms and settled in.
“I will serve tea presently Sir. Dinner will be at eight.” offered Jacobs.
Half an hour later, briefly refreshed and changed, the group sat in the library while Jacobs brought in tea. They took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about recent events.
“I understand you found the body of his Lordship Jacobs: what can you tell us about it?” asked Sebastian.
“Well it was quite a shock Sir, but I will offer what help I can” replied Jacobs.
“Good man. What can you tell us?” nodded Sebastian.
“Well Sir it was around 7.30 pm. His Lordship liked a glass of Port at that time, so I knocked on his study. There was no reply so I just went in. He was lying in front of his desk on the floor Sir, in a pool of his own blood.” Jacob’s face blanched slightly at the memory.
“Take a moment Jacobs” said Sebastian. “What were his injuries?”
“I am not really qualified to say Sir, but it appeared to me that he had been stabbed, though i cannot really elaborate further. I drove the trap into the village and informed Doctor Locock, the local physician, but he did not discuss the injuries with me. I also sent a telegram to Lady Cotterill, and informed the local constable, Sir.” answered Jacobs.
“I say” chipped in Bertie, “Has anyone been in the room since, What?”
“No Sir I was most careful, and I avoided the blood so as avoid spoiling the carpets further Sir. I did have to board up the broken window however, for fear of the damage the rain might cause.”
“A broken window you say?” asked Sebastian.
“Yes Sir, the central bay window Sir” responded Jacobs. “The central pane was completely smashed.”
After discussing the matter, thye decided to examine the ground outside, before checking Lord Cotterill’s study upstairs. As they exited they saw that a Full Moon was rising above the mist, and they walked round the side of the house with lanterns to check the flower beds below the dead man’s study.
Henry checked the ground below the thick ivy, which would have made a climb up to the first floor quite straightforward for an active man.
“This is deuced odd” he said. "I make out THREE sets of footprints. One pair of boots, and two barefooted sets of prints-one a bt larger than the other. As he examined the ivy Bertie frowned and started to scrabble among the flowers.
“I say there is an awful lot of broken glass down here. In fact most of it, I’d say” he surmised.
“Most of it? But that means….” started Henry.
“It likely means the dashed window was broken from the INSIDE” said Bertie. “And that’s not all- look here.” He pointed. Down at the edge of the flower bed were a pair of very large barefooted footprints- and the prints were buried very deep into the soil. There were also some traces of blood.
“I’d say some dashed big chap either jumped down through and broke it, or jumped down when it was already broken and landed on some broken glass.”
“You missed something else too Henry old chap” said Bertie smugly. “Mr. Boots seemed have arrived after the two barefoot gents. See? His footprints always overprint those of the other two.” Henry nodded, slightly embarrassed for having missed it. There were also signs that the footprints may have led off across the lawn, but this task they decided to leave until daylight, and headed up into the study.
Jacobs unlocked the door and walked over and lit the lamps. According to his account, the room was as it had been left, apart from the boarding up of the broken window.
Sebastian looked round, and immediately noticed a coat hanging next to the door: checking this he found Lord Cotterill’s wallet and a small set of keys.
“Those open his Lordship’s desk Sir”, said Jacobs.
An ashtray on the desk contained an expensive cigar stub. When asked Jacob’s suggested that it was not Lord Cotterill’s, who had not been a smoker. In fact he had hated the smell of cigar and cigarette smoke so much he would usually open a window if someone else indulged: the cigar had most likely belonged to Mr. Burtle.
The desk contained a few papers but none which seemed of interest, and a large key-apparently for the safe, which was wide open. Lady Glossop examined the lock, and observed that the lock was of high quality: however, it was her opinion that it had been opened nevertheless, by a cracksman who knew his business. Inside were plans and some private letters, but these seemed to be for nothing extraordinary. Bertie however, pointed down at the carpet, next to dried pool of blood.
“It looks like Mr. Boots trod in it-there’s a slight heel mark painted on the carpet.” he commented.“There’s also quite a small amount of glass in here.”
“My guess is that Msrs. Bigfoot and Littlefoot were at least outside. Mr Bigfoot climbed in, and then left in a hurry, jumping right down and smashing through the window. Then Mr. Boot climbed in.”
“And opened the safe” added Lady Glossop.
“Well that’s all logical” said Sebastian, “But I have no idea what to make of it.”