Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Sherlock Holmes Story

After reading all of Conan Doyle's collected Sherlock Holmes stories I wrote one of my own for my high school's newspaper back in the day. Some years later I uploaded it to a fan-fiction site and now I publish it here to celebrate the blog's first anniversary. I should give it a revision, but couldn't resist posting it now. Enjoy.

WHILE GLANCING over some of my notes that contain many of the cases of my friend, Sherlock Holmes, I came upon one that distinguished itself for its brevity and unexpected turn of events. It was one morning in the spring of the year 1890, when I entered our lodgings of Baker Street and coaxed my friend  to take a walk with me down to Hyde Park. For three straight weeks he had not had a single case which was worth to mention and the scantiness of clients compelled him to accept my invitation.
When we returned from our stroll Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, informed Holmes that he had had a visitor that waited for him about an hour or so and had just left.
  “Tut, tut, my dear fellow,” said he, when we got to our sitting room “I feared as much. This is not the first time that your excursions make us miss a potential client. But--halloa! What do we have here?”

He had picked from the floor what appeared to be a plain gold ring.
   “From where could this have fallen?” he said in a tone that hinted interest. “It is certainly not yours nor mine. So then it must be from our unknown visitor. What do you make of it Watson?”
He tossed it to me. Upon closer examination I saw that  it was a golden ring no doubt, but it was not as plain as I had first thought. It had a discoloured cavity on top of it; around this depression were the faded letters N, B,U, the initials PR, and  the year 1859. It seemed to me that it had been incredibly damaged.
   “I am sorry Holmes,” I said as I returned the ring to him, “I can only gather that our visitor appears to be a man,  for it is not a woman’s ring, that he seldom takes his ring off and that he does a considerable amount of manual work for the item is in a pitiable state. I believe that other than that, you won’t find anything else.”
   “Splendid, Watson! You have been practicing, eh? I consider myself lucky to have someone as you near. But surely  the ring has not told us all it’s secrets yet. Let us see what else can we obtain from it.”
With this he studied it for some minutes while he lit his long cherry-wood pipe. Not being content, he drew his powerful convex lens and observed it more attentively still. When he finished he leaned back  with an air of satisfaction, then he addressed me:
  “I am sorry to tell you that you didn’t draw enough inferences from all the data available and the ones you gave me are fallacious.”
   “How come?” I asked gloomily.
  “Well, not quite, for our visitor was a man, I have to give you credit for that. Your other two deductions, although incorrect, guided me to find something worthwhile.”
    “What did you find then?”
        “I found that our man is a Londoner. His family probably had tough financial problems during his youth, but notwithstanding this impediment they managed to get him to a  somewhat respectable college. After he finished his studies, his academical title provided him some prosperity, but was later forced to seek money somewhere else. This unhappy situation persisted until recent times; now he has a fair employment. Finally, he has around  55 years of age, suffers arthritis and most likely hates the ring.”
I rose annoyed from my chair.
   “Holmes! You are certainly bluffing this time. You can not persuade me to believe that you obtained all that information from such trifling object.”
   “Pray sit down Watson and calm yourself” he said with a laugh. “You know  I specialize myself in trifling objects, as you call them. Do you not see how I drew up my conclusions?”
   “I must confess that I can not follow you.”
   “You know my methods Watson, you should try to apply them more carefully. Now regarding the ring, I got most of my deductions from the curious engravings. The first thing I did, was to ascertain what kind of ring we had in our hands. What first got my attention was the date. The only rings that have dates are graduation rings and in less degree, sports, so I decided myself for the former. But what university had given this award? The three letters told me, and further backed up my hypothesis; they could only stand for North Brixton University (London), a college that, although not inferior, lacks prestige, but it is moderately inexpensive. The other pair of letters are surely the student’s initials. After finishing with the etchings my attention then wandered to the depression. It probably housed some kind of stone that decorated the ring. It had been removed willingly for no other reason than to sell it, the chipped sides tell me so. Why would somebody want to take away the stone and mar the artifact? Only one in great need of funds would do that. But it certainly took some time for our man to resolve to deface it, because the colouring of the depression is only a shade lighter that the outside. From this, I deduced that he used it for sometime, before adversity came. Returning to the date I concluded that our man would have around five and fifty years of age if he received it in 1859.  Anything that I left out?”
   “Yes, how do you know he suffers arthritis and that he hates it?”
     “Ah, yes, that was quite simple too. If you had observed, you would have noticed that is as worn in the inside as in the outside. That tells us that he takes it out of his finger quite often and only a man suffering arthritis would not bear to wear it all day. Such a hurtful item would be obviously repulsive to him. Furthermore, see how he has deliberately thrashed it: that is why he left lying on our floor.”
        “How come he did not left it on the street or somewhere else?” I objected.
       “The hour he was alone waiting for us probably gave him ample time to reflect on his current position in life (which should be favorable, if he dares to part from the item) and decided that it was now useless to him, and just left it here.”
        “Great, Holmes! You have really taken me aback this time.”
        “I have told you before that it is difficult for a man to have any object in daily use without the impress of his individuality upon it in such a way that a trained observer might read it. But, do I hear footsteps at our stairs? Come Watson, sit beside me, I think our visitor has returned. Come in! Come in!”
With this a man of short stature in a black tweed suit, with a hat as gray as his head and a walking stick a bit too big for him, came in. “Mr. Sherlock Holmes?” he asked.
  “It is me,” my friend answered “take a seat please. What brings you here? Probably not your ring.” He finished testily as he showed it to him.
He gave us an offended look, obviously not pleased to see the artifact again. But his irritation immediately vanished when he remembered his private concern. “Please mister take that out of my sight. Thank you. Well, mister, my name is Paul Richards, and I have been sent to ask you for your help in a delicate matter.”
   “By who, if may I ask” I intervened.
   “Well, I have been sent by Lady Beatrice Hillsborough, the daughter of Sir Rodger Hillsborough.”
     “Sir Hillsborough, the famous biologist?” asked Holmes, “I’ve met him once or twice. I have heard he has retired. What is the lady’s issue?”
     “‘A most terrible one’ she told me. But let me first present you the facts. I have been  their  butler for six months now and I have gained their confidence in this brief period of time. Just a year ago, Lady Beatrice met Sir Arthur Nephews, the son of the late Sir Albert Nephews. They fell in love and despite of Sir Rodger’s dislike towards Sir Arthur, they settled their marriage for next June. But since a month ago something has changed in Sir Arthur’s attitude. His once pleasant character has turned unbearable towards almost everybody. Now he refuses to go out of his dwelling save to pay weekly visits to Lady Beatrice, and when he does he goes armed. Lady Beatrice has tried to find what is wrong with him but he refuses to tell even her.”
   “Now, I suppose she wants me to investigate the matter?” asked Holmes, showing his aversion for such cases.
         “Well, mister, yes, if you would kindly assist us.”
After a brief moment of indecision he accepted. “Okay, Watson and I will be honoured to aid Lady Beatrice and perhaps I can have a word or two with Sir Rodger about the new variety of Triachonea flowers.”
At that moment, our door flung open and before us stood the robust figure of Inspector Samuelson of Scotland Yard. He was in a state of supreme agitation. Behind him was a black-moustached constable that apparently was not needed anywhere else, and was sent to accompany the inspector.
      “Mr. Holmes,” said Samuelson, “we need your help! Sir Arthur Nephews of Kingston has just been poisoned!”

Samuelson had brought a hansom with him and in five minutes we were on our way to Kingston. According to the inspector, the tragedy had occurred just half an hour ago, when the baronet was having lunch at Lady Beatrice’s residence. This was corroborated by Richards. When we finally got there, we found that our old friend, Inspector Lestrade, had already taken possession of the house.
   “Well, I have done my duty bringing you here;” Samuelson said, “responsibility calls me somewhere else. I’ll leave you here to make your inquiries as you wish.”
He left us. Immediately Holmes settled himself to work looking for traces around the house. When he finished, his expression clearly told me that he had not found any.
   “How can someone find something in this weather?” was his excuse, “Well, it does not  matter. Come let us see what we can find in Sir Rodger’s abode.”
When we entered we heard the voice of a young woman: “Oh, Mr. Holmes, I am so glad you have come!” As we turned towards her, we found ourselves in front of a great beauty: it was Lady Beatrice. After she gave Holmes a warm hug (which he was compelled to accept, much to his dislike), I noticed  that she had been crying, but she did not seem sad at all.
   “Mr. Holmes,” she said in great emotion, “my fiancĂ© barely survived. For a few moments we feared the worst, but fortunately Dr. Unstead, our household’s medical attendant, who was having lunch with us, was able to attend him without delay.
     “But,” she began sobbing, “I fear for my poor Arthur, I regret I have not called you in before. Can it be really true that someone has a murderous intent on him? Please help us!”
  “Do not worry madam, Dr. Watson, here present, and I will do everything  within our reach  to clear the things up. By the way, I perceive that you play the piano.”
   This took her by surprise. “Well I do play the piano, although not much, but how could you--”
   “It is my business to know things, madam. Long and slender fingers, could only belong to  typists or pianists. I decided myself for the latter.”
She gave us genuine smile and she returned from were she came. Holmes told me later that he had made the observation to calm her.
We proceeded to the dining room were the incident had occurred. It was decorated entirely in green and in the center was a large mahogany dining table. Apparently, in the confusion no one had cared to remove the dishes from it. There we were greeted by Lestrade; we had not seen him since Sir Henry Baskerville’s problem last autumn.
   “Mr. Holmes,” said the ferretlike inspector, “I think we will not need your help this time after all. I have already secured the culprit.”
         “Oh you have?” Holmes said skeptically.
       “It is not hard to find the malefactor for every crime, when a trained inspector like me is in charge.”
  “Well, whom have you incriminated this time Lestrade?”
      “It was the cook.” he said  with an air of triumph “The inquiries I made pointed at him in every aspect. As I see it, he was the only human being who had contact with the food and he could not deny it. What’s more, I found out that he had a grudge with the baronet.”
  “What kind of grudge?”
  “Well, you have to know that the baronet is a queer fellow. Several times he had complained about the food being prepared here and from time to time he has brought his own food and drink. This attitude annoyed the cook and once or twice they discussed the problem rather hotly.”
   “And then, I suppose the cook decided to kill Sir Arthur.”
        “Exactly.” remarked Lestrade.
        “Did Sir Arthur brought his food today?”
        “No, this gave the cook his opportunity”
        “And where is the baronet now?”
        “He was taken back to his home by his own doctor. It is just a half a mile away from here.”
        “Well, thank you, Lestrade for this instructive conversation, but please restrain yourself until tomorrow before taking any legal action. Come Watson let us return to Baker Street. I do not believe there is more to learn here.”

On our way back Holmes remained silent, meditating the problem in his head. When we got to the 221B, I risked a question.
   “Holmes, you do not really agree with Lestrade’s explanation, do you?”
   “Of course not.” he replied, “Lestrade will not be able to support his position in front of a jury. With a few simple questions a clever attorney could break his ridiculous hypothesis into pieces. For example, supposing the cook did it, how did he managed to poison only Sir Arthur? He could not guess which plate would be served to him and he could not dream on poisoning all the household. No, my dear Watson, this was done by someone else. Look what I found at the dinning hall.” From his pocket he drew a small capsule “The poison was contained in this. I picked it up while good Lestrade was telling us his adventures. Scotland Yarders are so blind in this situations, that they let pass a conclusive piece of evidence without giving it a second thought. There are still some traces of the toxin in here and I will like to examine it more carefully, so I will be busy for the next hour.”
He went to his chemical corner and sat in the acid stained table that stood purposely there. He tested the few particles he had in every imaginable way with his microscope and chemical components. When he finished he stood up and hastily took his hat and scarf.
 “Watson, I will return in a couple of hours. Wait for me and receive any telegrams that may come.”
    “What about the case?” I inquired
        “I have already solved it. By dinner time I will ascertain who my criminal is and by breakfast time we will have him down at Scotland Yard.” 
Before I could say something, he had already closed the door behind him and was hurrying down the stairs towards the street. For the rest of the afternoon I uselessly tried to read some medical studies that I had just received, but the problem would not let me concentrate. I stood by the window turning the issue over and over again, but try as I might I could not make things clearer. Although Holmes had convinced me that it could not have been the cook, Lestrade’s hypothesis gradually became more and more feasible. As in response, a telegram sent by the inspector was brought for Holmes:

Will be there at six-thirty.

At six o’ clock Holmes returned. “Watson, we are returning to Kingston. We will surprise our man in flagrante delicto. Are you armed?”
“I have my old army revolver. But wait a moment, surely you can now tell me who is behind this plot.”
      “My dear fellow,” he replied “you are not of the patient type. No, Watson, I will not reveal this person’s name yet. I will give you a hint, how is that? Think, Watson, think! Who could have done without drawing too much light to his or her person?”
   “You do not mean Lady Beatrice--”
       “No, she is quite out of this.”
        “By Jove! I think I can already see it. Holmes we must make haste!”

We arrived at the appointed time and were greeted by Lestrade and Richards.
   “I hope this scheme of yours work, if not I will imprison that cook for the next fifteen years.” said the inspector.
   “Now, Lestrade; leave that cook for a while and concentrate on what you will be doing.” Holmes said to Lestrade. Then he asked the butler: “Richards, have my orders been carried out exactly?”
  “Yes sir, I have already contacted with the household and Sir Arthur has already been taken to the other wing of his house.”
        “Well done Richards. You can return to your duties, we will take the matter in our hands now.”
The butler nodded and walked out of sight. “Now misters,” said Holmes “would you care to take a walk with me down to Sir Arthur’s residence?”
We arrived there fifteen minutes later taking care not to be seen. Holmes had already arranged access into the house and before we knew it, we were in Sir Arthur’s chamber. Holmes instructed us to conceal ourselves and be ready. That night’s vigil was not as lengthy as I had expected. Over the years Holmes and I had been in such situation almost a dozen times. I had already grown accustomed to it, but  this time was different. Several minutes after it struck eleven, we heard something outside the window. Then it silently opened allowing entry to a dark figure. It drew nearer and nearer to the baronet’s empty bed. “What the--”.
   “Over him!” ordered Holmes.
A struggle began. For the first moments we found that our combined strength was not enough to dominate our adversary. I was holding one of his arms and suddenly realized our danger. “Watch out,” I cried “he has a syringe!” Two constables, that Lestrade had previously posted outside the door,  came in to our aid. Thanks to them, we controlled him and the syringe fell to the floor.
   “Nobody pricked?” asked Holmes full of concern, “I have reasons to believe that that solution is powerful enough to kill a small elephant. No? Well, let us take our prisoner downstairs.”
We took the man to the living room while the constables watched him closely from behind. They seated him on a chair and I gave a good look at him. I had never seen him in my life. “Who is this man?” asked Lestrade mirroring my thoughts.
   “Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Nigel Staunton alias Dr. Ian Unstead.” said Holmes, “You will find that he has an interesting story to tell, Lestrade.”
With a wide grin Lestrade went to Mr. Staunton. “You thought you could fool a man like me, eh? Prepare yourself for your declaration at Scotland Yard.”
    A smile appeared on our prisoner’s face. “I might as well give it right now. Please take pen and paper for I think it is fair to give you my reasons for trying to kill Sir Arthur, now that you have caught me. Well, as you know, my true name is Henry Staunton. I wanted to take that man because he is the responsible of my daughter’s death.
   “I have lived in India for over twenty years as a botanist. There, I met the woman who became my wife. She bore me one daughter before dying in a plague. I educated my poor daughter, Susan, as best as I could. Two years ago she told me that an Englishman, who was currently hunting tigers, had offered her marriage and she had accepted. I consented to the marriage but I never had the opportunity to meet him. Two months later, word came that he had returned to England for good, never to return.  The news broke my poor Susan’s heart, she fell sick and eventually died.
   “I vowed I would get revenge, but several impediments stayed my hand until recently. I soon found out who was that man when I arrived at London, a month ago. I sent him a letter warning him of my intentions. This was my first mistake for that putted him on guard, making it more difficult for me to get at him. I found nigh impossible to infiltrate in this house, so I tried my luck with Sir Hillsborough offering to be his physician. Sharing both of us common interests, he readily accepted and I prepared myself for the moment I could lay my hands on my victim. Twice I met him at the table and I saw he did not suspect anything. But I could not put my plan to work on those occasions because he had brought his own food. Such queerness if I may say so! However, today he accepted to try the chef’s cuisine. My heart leapt within me at the sight of my opportunity. I have fancy for Indian magic tricks so I did not found it difficult to put my poison in his drink while I saluted him. But in my excitement I made my second mistake; I took the wrong capsule which contained a far less perilous powder. I realized it when he succumbed to it’s effect but had not died. I had no remedy but to attend him. His own doctor arrived inconveniently quick and hindered me in my intentions.
   “I returned quickly to my hotel and found that I had lost the capsule I had used. With the other, I prepared another solution. I had to do it today while he was bedridden or else I would lose my opportunity. So I waited till evening. I sneaked in and… you know the rest. How did you get me, I can not imagine.”
We all turned to Holmes. “Yes Holmes, how did you do it?” asked Lestrade.
   “It was quite simple.” clarified Holmes, “We already knew that Richards was not the responsible. The clue that posted me in the correct line of inquiry was the absence of tracks around Sir Rodger’s house. No one had sneaked in or out; far from that, our man went through the main gate. This left any strangers out of the matter. While speaking with Lady Beatrice and with you I carefully observed the hall and the dinning room and found the capsule that Mr. Staunton had dropped. This was enough for me. When I tested it, I found out that it was not a common poison; in fact it was quite rare. I took my results to a public library and discovered that the poison came from an uncommon plant that can only be found in certain parts of Asia. This eliminated the cook and the housemaids. With all his influences Sir Rodger could not have obtained it, so that left him out too. Lady Beatrice evidently loves Sir Arthur and thus she had no reason to kill him.
   “The only one that was left was this mysterious Dr. Unstead. I promptly went to the files and discovered that no such doctor existed. I wired Sir Rodger asking him for Unstead’s address and then went to Staunton’s hotel. By that moment, I had already made up my mind regarding his move for this evening. The hotel manager told me Mr. Staunton’s true name, with my case complete I wired Lestrade and here we are.
“A good collection of deductions.” I congratulated. 
“Thank you Watson, but for today we had had enough adventures. Come, let us inform Lady Beatrice the result of our investigation and then return to Baker Street for I want to treat you with some violin playing.”

So that's that. I believe it stretches credibility on some points but I hope you liked it. Thanks.


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