I learned this morning of the death of Gabriel St. Eustace, a young man from a polite and respectable family. He had been working in Boston, taking the train in each morning, and riding it home in the evening. In August of 1915, he never returned home. There was, of course, the general belief that he had simply decided to move on, but few knew the family as I did. Gabriel wanted nothing more than to stay with his parents. He was, to be perfectly blunt, afraid of the world at large.
Gabriel took pains to be safe and to associate only with those he knew. It was no great feat of intellect to surmise that he had been killed by someone who knew him.
Someone he trusted.
There was only one man other than his father that Gabriel felt comfortable confiding in, and that was the Honorable Judge Matthew Davis. Judge Davis was retired, and he lived alone in a home off Olive Street. He was a great reader and collector of books, and while I had known the man most of his life, I did not trust him.
After I finished lunch, I went to Davis’ house and knocked on the door. It took several minutes for the man to answer, and when he did, he looked displeased, as though I had interrupted him in important business. He was reluctant to let me in, but he did after I pressed the issue.
When we stood inside his hallway, I smelled it. The bitter chemical odor of formaldehyde. I remarked upon the scent, and he paled, suddenly insistent that I leave. I unholstered a Colt and encouraged him to show me the source of the smell.
We went upstairs to his library, and he opened a hidden door. Behind it was a wall of jarred human heads, and on a small table was a freshly severed head floating in an uncapped container.
I saw Gabriel’s face among the dozens of others, and I wondered for a moment how long Davis had been collecting. I didn’t ask.
Instead, I forced him to lift up the open jar and to drink deeply from it.
He died badly.
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