CASE OF THE TRAGEDIES IN THE GREEK ROOM
When did Moris Klaw first appear in London? It is a question which I am asked sometimes and to which I reply: To the best of my knowledge, shortly before the commencement of the strange happenings at the Menzies Museum.
What I know of him I have gathered from various sources; and in these papers, which represent an attempt to justify the methods of one frequently accused of being an insane theorist, I propose to recount all the facts which have come to my knowledge. In some few of the cases I was personally though slightly concerned; but regard me merely as the historian and on no account as the principal or even minor character in the story. My friendship with Martin Coram led, then, to my first meeting with Moris Klaw—a meeting which resulted in my becoming his biographer, inadequate though my information unfortunately remains.
It was some three months after the appointment of Coram to the curatorship of the Menzies Museum that the first of a series of singular occurrences took place there.
This occurrence befell one night in August, and the matter was brought to my ears by Coram himself on the following morning. I had, in fact, just taken my seat at the breakfast table, when he walked in unexpectedly and sank into an armchair. His dark, cleanshaven face looked more gaunt than usual and I saw, as he lighted the cigarette which I proffered, that his hand shook nervously.
“There’s trouble at the Museum!” he said abruptly. “I want you to run around.”
I looked at him for a moment without replying, and, knowing the responsibility of his position, feared that he referred to a theft from the collection.
“Something gone?” I asked.
“No; worse!” was his reply.
“What do you mean, Coram?”
He threw the cigarette, unsmoked, into the hearth. “You know Conway?” he said; “Conway, the night attendant. Well—he’s dead!”
I stood up from the table, my breakfast forgotten, and stared incredulously. “Do you mean that he died in the night?” I inquired.
“Yes. Done for, poor devil!”
“Without a doubt, Searles! He’s had his neck broken!”
I waited for no further explanations, but, hastily dressing, accompanied Coram to the Museum. It consists, I should mention, of four long, rectangular rooms, the windows of two overlooking South Grafton Square, those of the third giving upon the court that leads to the curator’s private entrance, and the fourth adjoining an enclosed garden attached to the building. This fourth room is on the ground floor and is entered through the hall from the Square, the other three, containing the principal and more valuable exhibits, are upon the first floor and are reached by a flight of stairs from the hall. The remainder of the building is occupied by an office and the curator’s private apartments, and is completely shut off from that portion open to the public, the only communicating door—an iron one—being kept locked.
The room described in the catalogue as the “Greek Room” proved to be the scene of the tragedy. This room is one of the two overlooking the Square and contains some of the finest items of the collection. The Museum is not open to the public until ten o’clock, and I found, upon arriving there, that the only occupants of the Greek Room were the commissionaire on duty, two constables, a plain-clothes officer and an inspector—that is, if I except the body of poor Conway.
He had not been touched, but lay as he was found by Beale, the commissionaire who took charge of the upper rooms during the day, and, indeed, it was patent that he was beyond medical aid. In fact, the position of his body was so extraordinary as almost to defy description.
There are three windows in the Greek Room, with wall-cases between, and, in the gap corresponding to the east window and just by the door opening into the next room, is a chair for the attendant. Conway lay downward on the polished floor with his limbs partly under this chair and his clenched fists thrust straight out before him. His head, turned partially to one side, was doubled underneath his breast in a most dreadful manner, indisputably pointing to a broken neck, and his commissionaire’s cap lay some distance away, under a table supporting a heavy case of vases.
So much was revealed at a glance, and I immediately turned blankly to Coram.
“What do you make of it?” he said.
I shook my head in silence. I could scarce grasp the reality of the thing; indeed, I was still staring at the huddled figure when the doctor arrived. At his request we laid the dead man flat upon the floor, to facilitate an examination, and we then saw that he was greatly cut and bruised about the head and face, and that his features were distorted in a most extraordinary manner, almost as though he had been suffocated.Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw