Hello, and welcome to my 2022 A to Z Challenge! For a detailed explanation of my theme this year, see my theme reveal. But basically, I am exploring classic mystery novel murder motives, by making up a victim (Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck) and then coming up with 26 characters who wanted to kill him. It is part genre exploration and part world-building exercise.
Today’s character is Bruce. Or is he? Read on to find out!
Bruce Galsworthy is Sir Adam’s secretary. He is also a man with a secret. In fact, he isn’t Bruce Galsworthy at all. His real name is Anthony Camber. He was in a foxhole with the real Bruce Galsworthy when they came under heavy shelling. Bruce died, and Anthony Camber lost a leg. Just before he passed out from the pain, Anthony managed to crawl over to Bruce and take his identity disc and papers, and to transfer his own disc and papers to Bruce’s corpse. Because Anthony knew that Bruce was alone in the world, and would be easy to replace. And Anthony was, at that time, very eager to start again.
For years, Bruce has prospered. Nothing has ever made him think his position at all tenuous. He has never run into a single old familiar face except in his nightmares. No-one has ever even suggested that he might not really be Bruce Galsworthy.
And then, one day, quite casually, Sir Adam called him “Anthony.”
Bruce was so shocked to hear his old name that he didn’t even try to bluff it out. He sank down onto a chair and said nothing for several moments, while the darkness flowed and receded around him. When he came to, Sir Adam was standing there, staring down at him with a peculiar expression, a smile that wasn’t a smile, and a stiff brandy ready in his hand.
Ever since that day, Sir Adam has taken to asking Bruce to do things for him, “though I know it isn’t part of your regular duties, Anth—ah, forgive me, Bruce.” Many of the things Sir Adam asks him to do in this way are degrading and shameful things—carrying messages, for example, to certain married ladies of the neighborhood who ought to know better, but don’t. If asked in the normal way, without that name between them, Bruce would have refused. And probably resigned. But now he just does what is asked of him, sullenly but swiftly.
Because, if Anthony Camber ever bobs up out of the mists, there is a murder charge waiting for him.
Bruce has wished Sir Adam dead for years now. The question is, did he want Sir Adam dead badly enough to kill him?
And that’s it for Bruce! If he is the murderer, he is motivated by fear and a desire for safety. And a character who is being blackmailed is quite a common murder suspect in books.
I notice that, with this entry, I have committed to a post-WWI setting.
Would Bruce make a satisfying murderer in a book, or is he better as a red herring? And, if Bruce turned out to be the second victim in a mystery novel, how would that change the story? Would he make a good second victim?