Clay Darcy And The Murder Of Jacob Worley
It All Comes Together When it Comes Crashing Down
Echoed a sickening thud as the towering Frenchmen hurled his body against the solid, immovable door.
The Titanic was merely 4 days into its maiden voyage. A coveted journey only the most prestigious aristocrats could afford. A voyage of such enviable proportions that everyone wished to travel aboard the mansion-like vessel any way they could. Yet here, in a dark, secluded supply room, hidden deep within the ship’s heart, four strangers wanted nothing more than to be anywhere else but the mighty Titanic that was now sinking toward a watery grave.
Resounded another attempt from the French hulk, bellowing a warcry as he charged, loud enough to shatter an iceberg as large as the one struck by the Titanic.
As Jean Lafoe, the man from France and chiseled from granite, once again drew back several paces for another attempt, the slowly rising, frostbitten water sloshed around his ankles.
He had stripped off his suit jacket and let down his suspenders to accommodate for his level of exertion in attempting to break down the door. His sleeves were rolled up also, revealing his massive, muscular forearms and biceps.
Miss Leslie Carlisle sat, perched on one of the hefty supply crates less than a few paces from him, watching intently. Her hands were clasped and held at her chest, and with a look of concern, appeared as though she were offering a prayer that maybe, just this once, flesh could break steel.
The ridiculously large coat she wore looked to have once kept a bear quite happy and warm through many a hibernation.The sleeves alone could have fit a small child in each arm. But rather than keep a mother and her cubs warm, the fur found itself wrapped around Miss Carlisle's bejeweled, crimson ball gown and her perfectly youthful, curvaceous figure.
Beauford Ambrose, still somehow clad in his pristine tuxedo, top hat, and cane, looked like an artist's exaggerated caricature of a wealthy bureaucrat. He was clinging to the seat of one of the few chairs in the room. He held his legs up to his chest, maintaining a fair distance between himself and the watery floor beneath the way a person cowers on a stool when they see a mouse scurrying about. He waved his cane in the air like he was rallying an army.
The enormous ring he wore cast a blinding reflection off the one working light that violently swayed back and forth in the room. The shimmering, silver insignia of a raging bull was distinctly visible on the ring despite the darkened room.
“That's the way, my boy,” Ambrose said in a hoarse voice through his bushy, gray mustache, “give it your all this time!”
He coughed with a fair amount of flem dislodging from his throat in the process.
Jessabelle Tennyson, whom Beauford had so gentlemanly procured the last chair from, came to his side. Her hands trembling and shaking violently as she softly set them on his shoulders.
“Are you alright, Mr. Ambrose?” She asked.
Clearing his throat, Ambrose spoke:
“Quite alright, madame. Though I find it a damnable atrocity the architects of this ship neglected to put more chairs aboard. It's terrible that a beautiful girl such as yourself should freeze in this water without some means of higher ground.” He said, placing his hand over hers.
Jessabelle quickly retracted her hands, wincing in pain, and stepping away from Ambrose. The old man was careful to turn only enough to see what the problem was, but not enough to disturb his prestigious perch of safety above the hypothermic water.
“Why, my dear lady, what a ghastly discoloration! Your hands are completely frostbitten! Ambrose said, attempting to sound concerned.
“Perhaps if I use my dress to dry and cover them.” Jessebelle said, quivering.
“A sound plan, my dear!” Ambrose said, pumping his fist with gusto.
Jessabelle returned to pacing around the flooding room. She held the bunched up end of her plain, brown dress close to her chest and wrapped her arms and hands as best she could. The only piece of her wardrobe that drew any attention to itself was a glimmering, silver wedding band.
Underneath her gown, it was visible that she lacked a corset, simply some tattered garters and a pair of ragged brown shoes. She was slender, tall, and lacked any possible way of keeping herself from freezing aside from the tattered dress she now squeezed tightly to her bosom.
With a little less wind in his lungs, Lafoe forced a half-hearted hurrah, and charged at the unforgiving steel door one last time.
Lacking the same force as before, Lafoe’s body hit the door and slid down it like an egg thrown against a wall. The effort, although valiant, had won the travelers nothing but a ghastly swell starting to form on Lafoe’s left shoulder.
“Monsieur Lafoe!” Cried Miss Carlisle as she ran to his side.
Her burly, beastly, pelt of a coat bounced up and down as she rushed to his aid. Bending down to help him to his feet, the massive coat practically devoured the frenchmen, causing him to almost entirely disappear as she helped him to his feet.
Lafoe shook his head as he stood up, he then briefly locked eyes with Miss Carlisle before looking back at the door.
“Merde tout!” He shouted as he stepped back, brandishing a small handgun and pointing it at the door handle. He held the gun with a firm aim, shoulders steady and knees bent.
Lafoe’s hand made the pistol look like a child's toy as he fired it. The gun’s blast made a pop that was no louder than a firecracker, but it still got Miss Tennyson to jump and grip her dress more tightly.
Beauford, equally startled, had lost hold of his stability on the chair and tumbled off into the water as gracefully as a boulder rolls off a cliff.
“What in the blazes?” Ambrose hoarsely shouted, rising out of the water and sloshing toward Lafoe as he wildly waved his cane above his head.
"Tais-toi, old man!” Lafoe shouted back.
Ambrose raised his fists under Lafoe’s nose, taking a stance as laughable as it was commendable for trying to look like he knew how to box. Lafoe slapped the poor man’s doughy hands away with an audible smack.
Not far behind Lafoe, Miss Carlisle looked on with wide eyes, shrinking into her coat and putting her hands into her sleeves.
“Wait,” Cried Jessabelle, “Surely whoever left me this note is on their way to help us, the note says there are extra life boats that the main crew kept hidden somewhere in this part of the ship.”
She reached into her breast pocket and pulled out a folded note. Carefully unfolding it, she held the paper in front of the three others as they examined it with wide eyes and open mouths.
“You mean…” Mr. Ambrose began to say.
Both Miss Carlisle and Mr. Ambrose reached into their respective coats and pulled out identical notes with the same message written on it.
Looking at Mr. Ambrose, Miss Carlisle snidely raised an eyebrow.
“They must have a lot of room in these lifeboats.” She said in a perturbed tone.
“Either way, someone must be on their way to find us!” Jessebelle replied.
“They already have.” a low, smooth, and resounding voice abruptly said.
Two hard heeled, light tan, leather boots thumped onto a waist high crate in a far corner of the dark room. The creaking of a water worn, fine wood ballroom chair echoed in the ears of the four strangers who were now shaking from more than just the frigid water flooding into the sinking ship.
All that was readily visible were the souls of the monstrous boots propped up on a crate that Miss Tennyson and her frozen feet were wishing they had known about earlier. The one working light in the room swung back and forth, reflecting off something shiny and metallic somewhere behind those enormous boots.
Then in one slow, bone chilling motion the boots withdrew into the shadows. To what apparition the boots belonged was as uncertain to these four strangers as the chances of escape from the disaster that had befallen the Titanic.
The bewildered silence of the four was broken by what sounded like a finger tapping against a small metallic box.
A moment of agonizing stillness lingered, before breaking like a flimsy tree branch.
A thunderous smack shook the crate. A gorilla sized hand holding a small can of snus was all that was visible.
The hand holding the snus then disappeared just as the boots had before. The room became a silent nightmare, as each of the four passengers waited and stared, petrified with dreadful anticipation. The can could be heard opening, followed by a dignified, short sniff. A cool and controlled exhale came only seconds after, smooth and steady like breathing through a yoga pose.
The wooden chair creaked once more. Then came a sound like a crocodile was moving through the water. The boots, now planted on the floor, were slightly visible as the giant they belonged to slowly waded through the water and into the light like the chthonic boatman of the River Styx.
“But one of you won’t be doing much rowin,” the enormous man spoke, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a pair of handcuffs, then dangled them from his fingers and said, “less you think you can do it in a pair a’ these.”
The man wore a stylish black suit and a bolo tie, his sheen slacks tucked into his boots, with a long, brown duster jacket that rested gently on the surface of the water. He sported a thin black mustache with stubble as coarse and sharp as porcupine quills.
Miss Carlisle waded through the water in a sloppy, haphazard jaunt, mustering all the energy that she could to make her way toward the man.
“Oh Clay, thank heavens you're here!” She shouted as she collapsed, wrapping her arms around him.
“Clayton Darcy?” Ambrose remarked.
Clayton Darcy stood as still as a stone statue in a mausoleum. Miss Carlisle groped at his long jacket, desperately looking up at him.
“Clay?” She said with a breathless quiver.
A horrifying sound immediately caused Miss Carlisle to straighten up and release her grip. She slowly paced back as the click of a Colt Single Action Army revolver echoed throughout the small supply room. Clay held the gun firmly, with a long, outstretched arm. It was as if Death himself stood before the travelers, coming to collect his due.
“Nothing personal Miss Carlisle, but you’d best knock off the sweet girl act and stand with the others.” Clay said with a soft, yet stern voice.
A look of intense focus came across his face, as he shifted his gaze, looking at each of the members of the group one by one. Miss Carlisle stepped back and joined the line that the other three had instinctively formed.
“You’ll pardon me for gathering you all here like this, but I saw an opportunity and just couldn’t pass it up.” Clay remarked.
“An opportunity for what? You’re a mad man!” Lafoe shouted.
Clay’s aim moved dead between the eyes of Lafoe who gazed cross eyed down its barrel. He wisely raised his hands and stepped back.
“No, Mr. Lafoe, not mad. Distraught. I tend to get this way when something like this happens.” Clay said. His eyes shifted away for a moment then back at the group.
“Something like what?” Asked Jessebelle.
“There’s been a murder.” Clay replied.
“Thousands have been murdered, sir,” said Ambrose, “thousands more will, I suppose, from such a calamity as this. Are we going to hold an investigation for every passenger aboard this vessel who meets their demise?”
“I’m not talking about deaths related to the Titanic's current dilemma, Mr. Ambrose,” Clay said in a slightly more forceful tone, “no, not long ago someone was shot and killed before they ever hit the water.”
“Look where we are, Clay! Can’t this wait until we’ve made it out of here?” Miss Carlisle asked.
“Perhaps, but I can’t give the killer the chance to escape, or ascribe the death to the Titanic’s sinking. Things have gone on long enough, it all ends right here.” Replied Clay.
“Whose death is so much more important than us escaping our own?” Miss Carlisle asked.
Clay paused a moment, then spoke again. “Jacob Worley’s.” He said.
The four strangers stood still. A gut wrenching silence permeated the room. Slowly holstering his pistol, Clay continued:
“Each of you has a motive. Each of which I deduced over the course of the past four days. I just needed a chance to get all of you together at once. Although my original plan was much more orderly, it still involved uncovering the true nature within each of you. But when the ship began to sink, an opportunity arose. What better time to see the true nature of each suspect, and in turn the killer, than in a life threatening crisis? After all, people show their true selves when their lives are on the line.”
Lafoe stepped forward, a bit more trepidatiously this time.
“But, didn’t you say he was killed a short time ago? How could you plan so elaborately in such little time?”
“Here, here,” added Ambrose, “and what business is it of yours anyway, hm? A cattle rancher investigating a murder, indeed! You should leave such things to the proper authorities.”
“I am the proper authorities, Mr. Ambrose. True I am the owner of the Decatur Ranch in Eastern Oregon, and I did come on the Titanic to find prospective buyers. But such business is much more of a side venture for me really. Most of my time is spent in my duties as a U.S. Marshall.”
“And yes, I have been planning this for quite some time, just not under these particular conditions. You see, I've been chasing down a killer whose victims include some of the most prominent politicians from Utah, California, and Oregon. My searchin led me here where I knew I’d find the killer. Just can’t say I pictured it looking quite like this.”
“Ridicule!” Shouted Lafoe.
“Clay, please, just let us out of here.” Said Miss Carlisle.
Clay turned to the side, looking down and away from the four as he paced about. He rubbed his hand against his face and stroked his rough, sandpaper cheeks.
“Well, ya see, much as I’d like to get outta here too, I don’t have a way of opening that door either.” Clay said.
“Sacre bleu, you have killed us all!” Shouted Lafoe, lunging at Clay.
Lafoe lept, reaching for Clay's coat, but before he could, Clay had shifted his body lower than the brawny brute, grabbing around his waist and hoisting him high in the air before bringing him crashing back to earth through the wooden crate behind him and into the freezing cold water beneath.
Clay held the struggling Lafoe tightly by the collar like he was ready to brand a small calf. Writhing and thrashing about, Lafoe gasped at the frigid arctic liquid that held him in an icy embrace.
“Now, where I come from, we listen to folks when they got something to say. Comprenez-vous, Monsieur Lafoe?”
“Oui! Yes, yes!” Lafoe shouted, gurgling and choking on the ocean water that filled his mouth and nose.
Clay released his grip as Lafoe’s sad, soaking body slunked its way toward Miss Carlisle, hoping to be welcomed back into her coat. But Miss Carlisle, as cold as the icy water, turned her back toward Lafoe leaving him to shudder alone.
“This won’t take long, mind you. You see, all the evidence I need, you’ve already given me in this very room from the moment you arrived. Seems my unorthodox methods paid off.” Clay said, laughing.
“What do you mean?” Miss Tennyson asked.
Clay reached into his pocket and pulled out his can of snus. He looked at it, softly rubbed his thumb across the raised lettering, then looked at the floor and squeezed the case tightly in his massive hand.
“I’ll start by presenting you with the facts of the murder itself; what happened outside this room. Certainly wouldn’t want anyone to get confused.” Clay chuckled softly, then continued, “Then I’m gonna refresh our memories on what brought us to this very place and time; how you each played into my plan. Then, I’ll begin my cross examination using only what I’ve said about the murder and what we saw happen in this room. If by then the ship still hasn’t sunk, I’ll be taking the killer with me.”
“This is absolutely…” Ambrose began to say before Clay cut him off.
“Let it be known that around 12:40am, approximately 1 hour after impact, Jacob Worley was shot dead in his chambers. There were obvious signs of a struggle, evidenced by the disarray I found the room in. I discovered Worley strewn on his bed with a lead bullet lodged deep in his chest, his flintlock pistol on the floor close by was still warm, and a large ring with the sigil of a silver bull in the center on his left hand.”
“I quickly searched the room for any remaining evidence and found next to his cigar box a note addressed to him, warning about a potential assailant aboard the Titanic. This led me to believe that Mr. Worley brought the flintlock revolver as a means of protection. He was able to bring it on board, I suppose, under the guise of it being a family heirloom.”
“Among the debris in the room there was one additional point of interest. A pile of black gunpowder, suggesting the weapon had been loaded rather hastily.”
“Having become aware of Mr. Worley’s demise, I knew it was my last chance to find the killer. I quickly readjusted my previous plan and devised a last minute plot to catch the culprit. A means of bringing together all my ideas, suspicions, and evidence at once. I’d find the killer in a person who cares little for the lives of others. A person who cares so much about saving their own life they'd come here alone, taking spare lifeboats that might have saved others.”
Clay stopped, put his snus back in his pocket then slowly began to clap his hands and shake his head. After the chastising applause, the room once again fell silent before Clay continued.
“Thank you. You’ve all shown your true colors. And now there’s no doubt.”
He paused, then pointed his finger, shaking it at each person like he was unloading a bullet for each one of them.
“No doubt in my mind who the true killer is.”
“For heaven's sake, just tell us so we can get out of here, Mr. Darcy!” Miss Carlisle shouted hysterically.
“Gladly,” replied Clay, “as you know, each of you received a note informing you of several spare lifeboats being kept hidden, and instructions to meet in supply room 7A. You probably also know by now, but I feel it's only fair that I tell you, there were no spare lifeboats.”
Clay chuckled again as Lafoe gritted his teeth, kicking up some water and shouting French profanities at him.
“And with that, let’s start putting the puzzle together. My first piece of evidence is the very fact that each of you are here in this room. I sent the same note to several others aboard the Titanic. Some were suspects and others I knew to be upright, selfless individuals. I did so as a means of weeding out as many as I could, and you four are the ones who responded. You came alone. You selfishly believed yourselves favored over every other person on this boat?”
“I say each of you came alone, yet there is one of you that must have brought someone along, considering there are only three of you with notes.”
Ambrose, Miss Carlisle, and Miss Tennyson all held out their respective notes, then turned to Lafoe. His face glowed a deep crimson.
“What about it?” Lafoe shouted, “When so many fled to the main deck, I found it strange that others were running the opposite direction, so I followed behind. Besides, I did not kill this man Worley.”
“Perhaps,'' replied Clay, “but the person you came here with wanted him dead. And I’m not just talking about this room, you came aboard the Titanic together didn’t you?”
“Tu es fou! You’re crazy, I came alone!” Lafoe protested.
“I would believe you, Mr. Lafoe, but there seems to be enough room in Miss Carlisle’s coat to have smuggled an entire army onboard, or at least their artillery. Ya see, something bothered me after your final attempt to break down the door.”
“How dare you, what are you implying?” Said Miss Carlisle in a miffed tone.
“You’ll recall, Miss Carlisle, that Mr. Lafoe had shed his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and freed himself of anything that might inhibit his ability to charge full speed at that door. A door that quite frankly got the better of him.” Clay said, chuckling as Lafoe angrily rubbed his shoulder.”
“Tell me then, how was it that he managed to hold a gun in all that commotion without a pocket, holster, or sleeve to conceal it? For a brief moment after the third attempt of breaking down the door, you rushed to his aid. In that moment you enveloped him in that absolutely ridiculous coat, completely concealing him and anything else from sight. Only after that did Mr. Lafoe wield the small pistol, the one you secretly handed him inside that mastodon pelt.”
“That's ridiculous,” replied Miss Carlisle, “I hardly know this man! Even if I had a firearm to give him, why do so secretly? It would have been much easier to simply hand it over. The gun was his and his alone!”
Clay squinted at Lafoe and Carlisle, then stooped down to the floor, placing his hand in the water. He rummaged around then pulled up the small pistol Lafoe had fired before. He took one end of his coat and used it to dry off the pistol.
“I must say I commend Mr. Lafoe for even being able to pull the trigger of quite a small gun with such large hands. I can sympathize with such a struggle. But, despite the level of experience and finesse he displayed in using it, I’m afraid it was not his, rather it was given to him by the person holding its twin. Custom fit for her hand.”
“But with all that said,” Clay remarked, “Mr. Lafoe was not the one who killed Worley, despite possessing all the capabilities and experience to do so.”
“You brought up a fascinating point before, Miss Carlisle, one which serves as a perfect means of turning our attention to you. You say you never met this man, yet you rushed to console him when he appeared hurt. Why?”
“He was falling into the freezing water, I would have done the same for anyone.” She protested.
Clay smiled a wry smile then said, “So tell me, why didn’t you rush to help Mr. Ambrose when he fell into the same icy water?”
Miss Carlisle was silent. She looked at Clay like he had slapped her across the face.
“You went on to secretly pass a small firearm to Lafoe, then stood closest to him during his argument with Mr. Ambrose, during which your hands were conspicuously tucked away in your coat sleeves.”
Walking toward Miss Carlisle, Clay reached by her side and took her left hand in his. Turning her palm face up, he placed the small pistol into it. The gun rested perfectly within her small, soft hand.
“What else are you hiding inside that mammoth pelt of yours, Miss Carlisle?”
Miss Carlisle smirked and let out a small, quivering chuckle. Suddenly, she pulled her hand and body away in a single motion. Clay staggered back, his right hand open, hovering over the holster on his hip.
“Hmph. We’re all going down with this stinking ship anyway,” she said, “so what the hell?”
Attached to Miss Carlisle’s arm, underneath her sleeve, was an extension apparatus that placed a small pistol in her hand, identical to the other one. Pointing directly at the Oregonian, she smiled in a way more suited to the likes of the vilest of Western outlaws than a woman of high society as herself.
But before she had a chance to pull back the hammer, a loud bang rang in the ears of everyone followed by a ping of metal on metal. Miss Carlisle’s gun flew out of her hand as all eyes turned to the smoking barrel of Clay’s revolver. With one hand still holding his gun and the other reaching into his pocket, Clay took out his handcuffs and walked toward Miss Carlisle and Lafoe.
Clay made a motion with his gun for them to turn around, then with one hand began latching the cuffs to Carlisle and Lafoe.
“What difference does it make? We’re all dead anyway. Miss Carlisle remarked. “Besides, we didn’t kill Jacob Worley. You said it yourself, it was a lead bullet from his own gun that killed him.”
“You’re right, but you and your mercenary friend are responsible for the political assassinations that led me to the Titanic.”
“So, who did kill Worley?” Lafoe asked, wincing at the tight cinch of the cuffs.
“I’d think it’d be obvious by now?” Clay said.
Upon hearing this, Ambrose straightened up like a soldier during bunk inspections, holding his cane with a tight fist and pounding it to his chest like a gorilla. He cleared his throat and raised his chin up high.
“You’ll not pin such a ghastly crime on me. Why, I’d never dream of taking another life, sir. Never!” He proudly declared.
“Perhaps not, but you have no problem stepping on one, do you?” Clay sharply replied. He stepped closer to Ambrose, holding the still smoking gun just below his chin.
“You couldn’t bring yourself to offer your chair to Miss Tennyson, nor could you be bothered to help escape this flooding room. You may not have killed Jacob Worley, but you and the society you both belonged to obviously cared very little for him. You share at least some form of commonality by nature of the group whose symbol you bear on your rings, yet you offered him no help or protection against assassins attempting to take his life.”
“How dare you use such slander against...” Ambrose began to say.
Clay blew the smoke of his barrel into Ambrose’s face, causing Ambrose to have a violent coughing fit.
“Still, it wasn’t you that killed Mr. Worley,” Clay said.
Clay faced Miss Tennyson who had turned her entire body away from the group. She looked down at the floor, cleaving to her dress more tightly, and biting down on a small piece of it as she rocked back and forth.
“Miss Tennyson,” Clay began, “You can let down your dress now.”
She turned about, tears streaming down her blushing red cheeks. She sobbed and breathed out deeply as she let her dress down revealing her scarred and blackened hands.
She fell into Clay’s arms, sobbing more loudly than before as Clay tightly embraced her. As Clay gently brushed her hair with his hand, her sobbing slowly softened. She sniffled and drew in a staggered breath before speaking.
“I’ve tried so hard to care for our son. Jacob never knew about him, and when he left it became impossible for me to provide for us both. But when I heard that Jacob would be sailing on the Titanic for his political campaign I knew I needed to try and see him. I saved every scrap of money I had, but it still wasn’t enough, so I stowed away. When I got here I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find Jacob. It wasn’t until the night of the crash, just before we hit the iceberg, I found out where he was staying.”
“Then the ship crashed and started to sink. I knew I only had one chance. When I got to his room Jacob was there, but it was dark. I guess something must have scared him before I came because he was loading his gun with powder when I walked in, and I’d made him spill it everywhere. He must have thought that I was someone else because he grabbed my throat and–”
She paused and swallowed a huge lump in her throat, placing her hand gently to her neck.
“I didn’t know what to do so I grabbed his gun, but when it fired the extra gunpowder was all over the barrel and handle and it backfired, and burned my hands. I hurried to find anything I could use for money. I looked in his dresser and found a small box and inside it was…”
Jessebelle struggled to force the words out, “It was our wedding band.” She whispered as though each word drove a dagger deeper and deeper into her heart.
She buried her face in Clay’s hefty shoulder and sobbed once again.
“All I wanted to do was make a good life for my son.”
A great stillness filled the room. For a moment, the Titanic seemed to cease its inevitable plummet into the hellish deep.
“I’ll have a place waiting for him on the Decatur.” Clay said softly.
A loud creaking pierced the air as the handle of the supply room door turned. Bursting through the entryway, a large group of officials and crew members filed in, quickly filling the room. The head official stepped forward, removed his cap and spoke.
“We heard your signal, Mr. Darcy, we got here as quick as we could.”