Emily, Age 15, Spanish Fort, AL

A Prequel to "The Absence of Mr. Glass" by G.K. Chesterton

“Well done, Dr. Hood. You’ve solved yet another case!”

Carriage wheels rattled far down the streets, leaving two men standing in solitude on the front porch of a large building. The gentlemen could hear the servants listlessly sweeping and cleaning within. The lights had been extinguished on the outside of the Lord Mayor’s Banquet Hall, disguising the signs of previous festivity. The sky waited anxiously for the dawn, its heavy blue haze calling for the light of the coming day. Dr. Orion Hood, an experienced detective, could hardly see the sheriff congenially sticking out his hand, so silhouetted was he against the deep blue.

“All in a day’s work, I suppose,” Dr. Hood responded with an air of practiced condescension as he returned the gentleman’s handshake. The detective took pride in the fact that he had successfully solved three cases in the past month, as an artist takes pride in his finished masterpiece. He would never boast of his accomplishments, as he much preferred to display a cool look of indifference to his numerous praises.

“Yes, all in a day’s work. A full day’s work,” the sheriff yawned and continued, “It’s a pleasure as always to have your ready assistance. Good-night, Orion.” The sheriff rode off at a slow pace, the gravel crunching under the horse’s hooves almost like snow. Eager to get some sleep, Dr. Orion left quickly after the sheriff’s departure. He never dreamed that, turning his back on the Banquet Hall, he turned his back the last detective case he would witness in over a decade.

For the first year or so, Orion wondered why the sheriff never returned, lumbering up to his doorstep with news of a crime. Questions clouded the detective’s active brain: Wasn’t my advice good enough? Hadn’t I solved the case successfully? Is it possible that my skills have met its match with anyone else in the country? As he idled around his home all day, his mind searched for an answer. Dr. Hood could never truly focus his attention on one subject; he was always half listening for the long-expected knock on his door. It never came.

During these first painful months, the doctor would recite the conditions of the last case over and over in his mind. The repetition of this scene made the details so vivid it almost seemed as if it had not been so long ago. It temporarily stopped the questions as he relived some of his greatest moments. Soon, he forgot about the dilemma. Dr. Hood seemed to have forgotten that his assistance was unwanted.

“Inevitably, they’ll come back pleading for my assistance. Meanwhile, I will improve my own methods of reasoning and understanding,” Dr. Hood resolved. And so, every day, he would dress just as fine as if he were going out for a case. In the mornings, he would study in his library until the late afternoon, stopping only for his midday meal. Lectures, modern theories, classic books, and poetry each had their designated spot on his shelves. He worked through and studied each category until he had even the minute details memorized.

By the evenings, Dr. Hood had set all the used books, pencils, and papers precisely in their places, ready for the next full day of work. If, by any strange events, the contents were relocated, the master of the library would know immediately. His entire library, from the top shelves to the bottom, was so organized; his visitors often wondered if he ever moved his books at all.

Finally, the day came when he had reread all of his books, studied all of the best authors, and learned the most recent theories and processes of criminology. It was midmorning when he set all of his supplies back on the shelves for the last time. Grabbing a pen from his desk drawer, he wrote the date neatly on the cover of his finished research paper, “September 19, 1865.” His eyes stopped on the year penned on the top of the page.

“Eighteen sixty-five” he muttered under his breath. He had written dates several times every day throughout his studies, but it had never occurred to him how many years had passed. Slightly flustered, Orion stood up and walked swiftly to his files. Thumbing through the accounts of his solved cases, he finally found the paper titled, “Poisoning at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet Hall: 1851”. Dr. Hood’s brows furrowed as he sat down in his chair. Eyes fixed steadily on the date in front of him; he leaned forward, as if listening intently for something. The doctor could hear silence alone in his prim library—too quiet and for too long.

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