By the time I arrived at Ipswich police station a little under half an hour later, word had already reached my accompanying officers that no body had been found in Shotley Gate, and no mysterious masked man apprehended. For the police, the act of taking my statement became an exercise in logical reasoning. They first put it to me that perhaps I had imagined the entire episode, even going so far as to politely ask if I might have a history of mental illness or instability. I naturally remained adamant regarding the facts of my story, and with a professional background which commanded some respect, this line of questioning slowly gave way to an acceptance of my claims, but a refusal to concur with my interpretation.
The officers presented a case with which it was difficult to argue. They proposed that the brick building was being used as a shelter by a homeless man, who had himself broken the lock on the door, and at the time of my arrival was lying asleep on the floor within. Alcohol, the police contended, had impaired my judgement to such an extent that I had confused this man with Vic, an individual I was forced to admit I had encountered only once, in dim light, for a brief period of time. Similarly, a combination of alcohol and perhaps drugs in the sleeping man's bloodstream had slowed his heart rate and lowered his body temperature such that when subjected to the briefest of examinations by an individual who himself was both under the influence of alcohol and in an agitated state, a simple misdiagnosis had occurred. The man may have been verging on the unconscious, but he was undoubtedly alive. Minutes later, as I ran from the scene, he had awoken and staggered away unaided.
As a version of events it was plausible and, had I been no more than a dispassionate observer, entirely convincing. Yet I knew it not to be true. Yes, I had a small amount of alcohol in my bloodstream, yes, I had only a moment to examine the body, and yes, under the extreme circumstances in which I found myself, it had been difficult to remain calm and to think clearly. But I had not taken leave of my senses, and neither was I in some kind of drunken stupor. I am also an experienced journalist, and as such, not inclined to leap to conclusions or judgements without sure foundation. The fact remains, as I have stated here previously, that the body I encountered that night was Vic's, and that he was dead.
Crucially however, I could offer no alternative explanation for the disappearance of Vic's body. The unfortunate truth is that much as I wished to be able to back up my claims with convincing hypotheses, I could not explain how Marlin had apparently been able to return to the scene and dispose of the evidence so completely and so swiftly, and such an impotence undermined my case irrevocably.
I showed the police the note which Marlin had left on my car that evening. It achieved little. They felt that I had been the victim of a practical joke, carried out by an individual who knew the purpose for which the brick building was currently being used, and sought to exploit it by means of a cruel prank.
Nevertheless I went to great lengths to state every detail of the events that had occurred, not just that night, but over the previous two months. I felt it important to leave an official record of my story, much as I have subsequently felt compelled to create such a record here on this website. Whilst the facts will always be open to interpretation and doubt, I remain secure in my own beliefs, and thus feel this case to be worthy of documentation.
The following day I returned to Shotley Gate via taxi to collect my car. The biggest single regret of the previous twenty-four hours had been my failure to photograph Vic's body, and whilst there was nothing I could do to remedy this situation, for the sake of completeness, and perhaps prompted by a lame desire for some form of hollow self-consolation, I chose to return to Marsh Lane and photograph the scene in daylight. The door of the brick building had by now been fitted with a new padlock (see Photo K), denying me access to the scene within. The window to the side, however, remained broken (see Photo L). In addition I photographed the rear of the building (Photo M).
Returning home I continued in my attempts to make some sense of the previous night's events. It was on this day, Saturday, 18th October 2003, that I began to make the notes which would later form the basis for this website. It was also on this day that I would make the chilling discovery which would change my life still further.
Reading back through the six letters I had received from Marlin, I was struck by an apparently innocuous detail of the first note: Marlin's spelling of the word 'millennium'. It was spelt correctly. Nothing suspicious in that per se of course, yet Marlin had committed other, seemingly more basic, spelling errors in the same note. That he had succeeded in spelling correctly such a commonly misspelt word, only to fall victim to far simpler mistakes, struck me as odd.
This first note contained four errors: 'forteen', 'caried', 'prise' and 'frend'. The fourth note also featured mistakes, yet of equal significance was Marlin's ability to spell 'friend', a word he had conspicuously failed to get right just weeks earlier. Note Four contained two spelling errors: 'color' and 'congegation'. In addition there was the incorrect description of Sherlock Holmes' address as '2B Baker Street'.
I had previously put the misspelling of 'color' down to an Americanisation, and 'congegation' to a simple oversight, yet as I studied the first and fourth notes in tandem, a clear pattern emerged. The first error in both notes consisted of a missing 'u' ('forteen' and 'color'), the second of a missing 'r' ('caried' and 'congegation'). It had to be deliberate.
I turned my attention to Note One. The third mistake was the use of an 's' in place of a 'z', the fourth a missing 'i'. At first I suspected that Marlin may be spelling a word, yet the letters 'urzi' appeared meaningless. Note Four similarly gave me the letters 'ur', followed on this occasion by the missing figures '2' and '1' from the phrase '2B Baker Street'. At this point the clear, and perhaps all too obvious, realisation struck me. The first note was not spelling 'urzi' but 'U R ZI'. The fourth note stated the message clearer still:
U R 21. "You are twenty-one".
I had been Peter Marlin's intended final victim all along.
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