Reggie drove the body into town, while Chief Superintendent Detective Sergeant Muldoon rode alongside on his bicycle, indicating the way with quick and efficient hand signals. Together they carried the body into the local mortuary, which also served as a taxidermy shop, a beauty parlor, and a hair salon.
The mortician/taxidermist/cosmetologist proved to be one of the dullest men Reggie would ever meet, notable, if for anything, for his lack of squeamishness. In fact, while his multitudinous occupations might suggest he would become a recurring feature of these annals, in fact he was so free of imagination or personality that he will probably never be mentioned here again.
The unpleasant task complete, Reggie drove back to Grimbly Hall, where he found Neville standing by a front window, staring out across the woods toward the distant horizon. Reggie had spent enough time in Neville’s employ to know that something was up. He took one look around the room and saw half a dozen books scattered about end tables and on the floor. Volumes of folklore, including one specifically on the unexplained mysteries of Westchester County.
“Find anything?” Reggie asked.
“Not a single mention of dragons or giant bats,” Neville said. “Nor giant owls. Or over-sized hawks or flying beasties of any kind. Oh, there’s an old Indian legend about a giant snake or two. You find those everywhere. People do love their giant snakes.”
“Probably nothing to it, then,” Reggie pointed out. “Muldoon had just taken a nasty hit to the old brain-bucket when he mentioned a giant bat. Maybe he was confused.”
“Perhaps,” Neville agreed. “Alright,” he said, with a sigh. “I’ll let it go. I would like to meet a dragon, but… as the man said, the scientific facts of biology preclude their existence. Any trouble in town?”
“Nope,” Reggie said. And maybe he could have just left it at that. Should have, definitely. Almost certainly was going to kick himself later for what he said next. “One funny thing, though.”
“Nothing that makes sense, but… you remember, back in New York, there was that rash of guys sitting on flagpoles? Like Shipwreck Kelly.”
“Oh, yes,” Neville said, a bit of cheer returning to his voice. He’d always found the antics of such daredevils enthralling.
“Well, back in ’22, I think it was, there was one of them fellas, tried to break the world record for flagpole sitting. I remember him because tried is kinda the operative word here.”
“He fell?” Neville asked.
“Pretty hard. And it was peculiar, when I was looking at that poacher today, all I could keep thinking was there was something missing. You know, something that should have been there. It didn’t occur to me ‘til later what it was, when I remembered that flagpole sitter.”
“And what was it? What was missing?” Neville asked.
“A whole lot of blood. Not as much a drop down there in the woods. Nor in the car, either.”
An intriguing detail, perhaps. Neville certainly seemed interested. Yet there was no immediate conclusion to jump to, and they left it there.
And didn’t bring it up again, until the following morning.
Neville woke early and had his breakfast brought into his bedroom by Mrs. Patavatsky, the housekeeper of Grimbly Hall. A dour woman who was far more interesting than time allows us to speak of here. Oh, alright, maybe just a little of her story: Mrs. P had been a gourmet cook in her time, and then a Bolshevik revolutionary. She had been employed to bake a Mayday cake for Comrade Stalin, in point of fact. In even more interesting point of fact, the cake had contained a bomb. A bomb that failed to explode, which explains something of subsequent history, and also how she came to be keeping house in upstate New York.
“Is just like capitalist, lie in bed while workers busy around him,” Mrs. P said, placing a tray athwart Neville’s knees. “Is eggs today, eggs hard boiled. Some of grapefruit, also. You will like.”
“Your cooking is divine, Mrs P,” Neville said, “and your political insights, as always, trenchant.” He watched in gleeful anticipation as she lifted away the silver dome that covered his meal. Neville was at his brightest and most affable early in the morning. For a man who had been dead four thousand years, every morning when he actually woke up was a new treat.
He lifted his spoon and struck the first of his eggs and listened to the shell crack. Perhaps he made some mental connection, then, between eggs and flying animals and that spurred him to speak before Mrs. P could leave the room. Perhaps it had just been on his mind every waking moment since he’d seen the dead body.
“One last thing,” he said. “If I’m not keeping you.”
“Have nothing better to do, than serve parasitic master,” Mrs. P said.
“You’ve been here a while,” Neville said. In fact, she’d been one of the house’s caretakers before he bought it. She had briefly served Septimus Grimbly, the man who’d built the Hall.
“Seven years,” she agreed.
“You’ve never heard of a Pinemont Dragon, have you?” he asked, reaching for the newspaper folded next to his plate.
“Yes, of course,” she said. “Is myth.”
Neville set his spoon down carefully. “Myth, you say.”
“Is impossible. No lizard so big can fly. Is no dragon.” She shrugged. “Maybe bat.”