Hello, and welcome to my 2023 A to Z Blogging Challenge! For a detailed explanation of what I’m up to this year, see my Theme Reveal. But basically, I’m taking all the suspects I made up for my A to Z last year (with help from several commenters!) and putting them all into an actual murder mystery. See the sidebar for links to last year’s posts; if your device doesn’t display sidebars (if, for example, you are visiting on your phone), the links will be under the comment section, right under my A to Z 2023 participation badge.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Yuri
“Yes, these bones are mine,” said Yuri. “They were part of the evidence my expedition found in the Yeti’s cave, on that ill-fated Himalayan adventure so many years ago.” Yuri’s eyes travelled over the bones, his gaze as ardent as a lover’s. “Yes,” he said, running a finger along a rib, “This is it. See here, the marks of the monster’s teeth. We took the whole skeleton away with us to provide context, and in case there was more evidence of the attack that we couldn’t detect with the naked eye.” Yuri’s voice was barely more than a whisper. This was, Crowner knew, characteristic of the man.
Crowner blinked. “Your Yeti…ate…a human?”
Yuri nodded. “The cave was full of such horrors,” he said simply.
“But the lock of hair,” said Xavier, “in the little bag. So like Belinda’s hair.” He took a little oilcloth bag from the dark recesses of the trunk, and poured a pile of shiny black tresses into his hand.
“Yeti fur,” explained Yuri. “We found it grasped in the lifeless hands of his most recent victim. That body was but partially consumed, and bore quite clearly the imprint of the teeth of the monster. But it was not practical to haul away so much flesh, which might rot, and which would cause all manner of trouble. So we took only the fur, and we selected the best of the skeletons for our sample.”
“And Sir Adam was part of this expedition?” asked Crowner, fascinated.
“There was a man, he travelled under the name of Mr. ABC,” said Yuri. “He joined us at the last moment. Seemed to have connections with some of the organizers, or pretended he had. I think now he joined us to escape some trouble he had gotten into while travelling in Darjeeling. The man was no explorer. He was a poor climber, and mostly remained at base camp. That was where he was when the avalanche hit. He must have believed we had all been killed. He was very nearly right.” Yuri winced at the memory. “All killed save one, myself, and I so nearly dead it took me years even to recover the use of my legs. And while I lay there, in the ice and snow, with my dead companions around me, this man must have packed up our Yeti specimens and left for civilization. He sent no word, mustered no rescue party, made no attempt to help us.
“For years, I have searched for this Mr. ABC. I wanted my specimens, and perhaps to have a word with the man on… other matters. Finally, I found him. I saw a picture of this Sir Adam in a London paper, and I knew him at once. I came down here and sought an interview. He put me off. I was persistent. Finally, we did speak. I imagine that it was indeed our conversation that the priest here—” he gestured at the Vicar “—overheard. I do not shout, for I cannot. My injuries, you know. I have not the lungs for shouting, now. But I think that if I could have shouted—yes, I would have been noisy indeed, that day.”
“He denied everything, of course. Said he was not Mr. ABC, when I knew for certain that he was. Said he hadn’t my specimens, but left me quite sure he had. Said he’d never seen me before, though he certainly seemed to recognize my face. He lied so poorly that I believe he wanted me to know he was lying. Wanted me to feel powerless. Wished me to realize that there was nothing I could do about it.” Yuri shrugged. “And there was not. I realized that, as soon as I saw that the man had no shame. I could not bring legal proofs to my aid, and I did not know where in the house the specimens might be. I had hoped that seeing me, after thinking me dead, would be enough. It was not. But I did not kill him. I am a stranger here. Where would I get the poison? How would I know where to put it? I was no intimate friend, to know where the man kept his whiskey.” He gestured, as if dismissing the subject.
“And now we might as well hear from the vedma.” Yuri pointed at Zoe. “She is so silent, so remote. As if she is not here, but in conversation with spirits. Perhaps it is so. When I was young, I believed in nothing, but I have travelled much and seen more. And I know she visits the dying orchard. I have seen her, drifting along near sunset, up to the place where she has no business to be. I did not say anything before, for it seemed no concern of mine. But now—this last mystery must please be cleared away.”
All eyes turned to look at Zoe.