It was a dreadful sight which met us as we entered the bedroom door. I have spoken of the impression of flabbiness which this man Blessington conveyed. As he dangled from the hook it was exaggerated and intensified until he was scarce human in his appearance. The neck was drawn out like a plucked chicken’s, making the rest of him seem the more obese and unnatural by the contrast. He was clad only in his long nightdress, and his swollen ankles and ungainly feet protruded starkly from beneath it. Beside him stood a smart-looking police-inspector, who was taking notes in a pocketbook
“Ah, Mr. Holmes,” said he heartily as my friend entered, “I am delighted to see you.”
“Good-morning, Lanner,” answered Holmes, “you won’t think me an intruder, I am sure. Have you heard of the events which led up to this affair?”
“Yes, I heard something of them.”
“Have you formed any opinion?”
“As far as I can see, the man has been driven out of his senses by fright. The bed has been well slept in, you see. There’s his impression, deep enough. It’s about five in the morning, you know, that suicides are most common. That would be about his time for hanging himself. It seems to have been a very deliberate affair.”
“I should say that he has been dead about three hours, judging by the rigidity of the muscles,” said I.
“Noticed anything peculiar about the room?” asked Holmes.
“Found a screw-driver and some screws on the wash-hand stand. Seems to have smoked heavily during the night, too. Here are four cigar-ends that I picked out of the fireplace.”
“Hum!” said Holmes, “have you got his cigar-holder?”
“No, I have seen none.”
“His cigar-case, then?”
“Yes, it was in his coat-pocket.”
Holmes opened it and smelled the single cigar which it contained.
“Oh, this is a Havana, and these others are cigars of the peculiar sort which are imported by the Dutch from their East Indian colonies. They are usually wrapped in straw, you know, and are thinner for their length than any other brand.” He picked up the four ends and examined them with his pocket-lens.
“Two of these have been smoked from a holder and two without,” said he. “Two have been cut by a not very sharp knife, and two have had the ends bitten off by a set of excellent teeth. This is no suicide, Mr. Lanner. It is a very deeply planned and cold-blooded murder.”
“Impossible!” cried the inspector.
“Why should anyone murder a man in so clumsy a fashion as by hanging him?”
“That is what we have to find out.”
“How could they get in?”
“Through the front door.”
“It was barred in the morning.”
“Then it was barred after them.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw their traces. Excuse me a moment, and I may be able to give you some further information about it.”
He went over to the door, and turning the lock he examined it in his methodical way. Then he took out the key, which was on the inside. and inspected that also. The bed, the carpet, the chairs, the mantelpiece, the dead body, and the rope were each in turn examined, until at last he professed himself satisfied, and with my aid and that of the inspector cut down the wretched object and laid it reverently under a sheet.
“How about this rope?” he asked.
“It is cut off this,” said Dr. Trevelyan, drawing a large coil from under the bed. “He was morbidly nervous of fire, and always kept this beside him, so that he might escape by the window in case the stairs were burning.”
“That must have saved them trouble,” said Holmes thoughtfully. “Yes, the actual facts are very plain, and I shall be surprised if by the afternoon I cannot give you the reasons for them as well. I will take this photograph of Blessington, which I see upon the mantelpiece, as it may help me in my inquiries.”
“But you have told us nothing!” cried the doctor.