The Vicar’s Last Homily – and – Haversham Hardwick (The Hated)

 Little Matters of Small Import: This is yet another of my unpublished books. It is a collection of light poems on a wide variety of subjects, some previously published in newspapers or magazines, others not. 

The following two story poems are from the section entitled  “Detectiverse.” This is a series of story poems about such luminaries and subjects as Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allen Poe, Elizabeth Borden, The Lost Flying Dutchman mine, and other subjects that intrigued me enough to write about them.

“The Vicar’s Last Homily” was originally published in “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine” in the 1980’s.

“On Trial for Murder: Haversham Hardwick (The Hated)” sees light of day here for the first time

A Closed Room Murder Mystery: The Vicar’s Last Homily

            At St. Swithins, town of Hampden, where the lilacs bud and bloom,

There the vicar, Dr. Critchley, went into his private room.

Yes, he went into his study, closed and barred the sturdy door,

And was heard from, as Poe’s raven said (Poor Vicar): Nevermore!

 

            Detective Sergeant Saunders was soon called upon the scene,

By the sexton, Arthur Perkins, who had dreamed an awful dream:

Arthur dreamt he saw the vicar, with his hands atop his head,

Slumping forward on his writing desk, and looking rather dead.

Detective Sergeant Saunders got some stout lads from the town,

And by dint of axe and hatchet, hacked the sturdy portal down.

Then they stood there, struck with terror, for with hands atop his head,

Sat the vicar, Dr. Critchley, who was silent, cold, and dead.

The body was unmarked they saw, each hair in proper place,

Though they mentioned later in the pub, the glazed look on his face.

The vicar was a robust man, and never sick a day,

His death under such circumstance could only be foul play

The windows all wore shutters of a most secure design,

They looked for points of entry, but they couldn’t find a sign.

Just a study with a writing desk, a bookcase and a bed,

And the Reverend Dr. Critchley, who was definitely dead.

The roof and walls were English Oak, and Saunders tapped around,

           But the echoes were unblemished by a weak or hollow sound.

           The floor was quarried marble, and it made a proper tomb,

For departed Vicar Critchley, who had somehow met his doom.

And so Mycroft, town of Hampden, stood to take its shameful place,

As the scene of locked-room murder, and a national disgrace.

Then Widow Piggott, housekeeper, demanded to be heard,

And Detective Sergeant Saunders copied down her every word:

“The Vicar, bless ‘im, used that room to write his Sunday talk.

‘Eed go in there each Saturday at seven by the clock.

On Sunday morning ‘eed come out, and pause to smell the flowers,

Then off ‘eed go to Services, – and preach for several hours.

“Eed rant at this, ‘eed rave at that, he waren’t very good,

And no one paid him any mind, for no one understood.

They’d itch and twitch and fidget, and just look out at the sun,

And pray a private prayer or two that vicar would get done.

“That night, he wrote a little talk that made ‘im very proud,

‘So good,’ says ‘ee, ‘that just this once, I’ll practice it out loud.’

So you see, it waren’t murder when the vicar drew last breath,

Ee just read his ‘omily aloud, and bored himself to death.”

 Ed. Note: One of my long time pet peeves is the Sunday morning homilist who is incapable, or unwilling, to take the time and effort to produce an interesting short talk with a message. I have sat there many a time while the preacher drones on, thinking to myself about their experiencing an appropriate fate, like Vicar Critchley (Rest His Soul).

 

On Trial For Murder: Havasham Hardwick

(The Hated)

            Havasham Hardwick had money – in real estate, bullion, and jewels.

He earned it in sums beyond measure, through the hydrogenation of fuels.

Yes, Havasham had the equation, the Nazis had lost on the Rhone,

He made millions of barrels of petrol, by squeezing it out of pure stone.

You ask if this wealth made him happy. Had he loved ones and peace unabated?

I regret that I have to inform you – that Havasham Hardwick was hated!

            (If we hate what we fear is our baseline, then my point may be somewhat revised:

Just some of his friends found him hateful; by the rest he was merely despised.)

His partners all felt they were cheated, on monies invested or lent,

And no one would ever discover how much he had stolen and spent.

His parents still lived in the ghetto, financially stretched to the brink,

While his staff just grew more disenchanted, as he fell into gambling and drink.

His children were much disappointed, when he named “Fifi BonBon” his heir,

His wife was embarrassed and angered, by this tawdry and public affair.

So nobody found it surprising, when they found him on top of his bed,

In a fashion suggestive of murder – and totally, thoroughly dead.

He was shot fourteen times with a rifle, two arrows stuck out of his chest,

In his side was a bone-handled dagger, which had made seven holes in his vest.

The silk rope from which he’d been hanging, was casually coiled on his hips,

The coroner recognized poison, from the burnt almond smell on his lips.

The pool cue with which he’d been beaten, was found neatly hung on its peg,

And the marks of whatever had bit him, could be seen on his arm and his leg.

There were signs of a terrible struggle – like an army invaded the place,

And the body of Havasham Hardwick, with a pillow taped over his face.

Detectives swarmed over the townhouse, and much to the public’s dismay,

Reported an early opinion: His death had been caused by foul play.

They locked up his mother and father, an old spinster auntie named Molly,

His widow and all of his children, and Fenwick – the family Collie.

They brought in his staff and his partners, and all his associates too,

And as they learned more about Hardwick, they’d go arrest somebody new.

The suspects were clogging the prisons; the public was paying the bill,

For it seemed if you ever met Hardwick, you had ample reason to kill.

His uncle, Judge Frankfurter Hardwick, was assigned by the court to the case,

A man of impeccable honor, who had never been tinged with disgrace.

He quickly released all the suspects, called an end to the searches and strife,

For he said, without question or challenge, “Haversham took his own life.”

“A suicide, simply and surely.” Some cheering broke out in the stands,

“And Haversham Hardwick is guilty, of death by his very own hands.”

The chanting began in the lobby, “A Solomon brings us the law!”

The textbooks would quote his opinion: “I ruled as I thought as I saw.”

The verdict pleased all involved parties, all of them glad he was dead,

The court system’s honor and glory, preserved by this scholarly thread

They carried the Judge on their shoulders, to even more fame and respect,

And he smiled as he muttered to no one, “The dullards don’t even suspect.”

Ed. Note: Haversham Hardwick was inspired by the thriller novel, “The Formula,” by Steve Shagan, and the 1980 movie of the same name starring my favorite “Ebenezer Scrooge,” “General George Patton,” and many other memorable characters, the actor’s actor: George C. Scott. It was all about a Nazi plan to fuel their army by retrieving petrol from deep mine ore. It was a fascinating premise and, I understand, a scientific possibility.

           “What a great and dangerous way to get rich,” I thought. That led me to write Haversham….

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