The Adventure of the Silver Chalice
It was late August, the London air was thick and stifling, indeed, the sunlight barely glimmering through the fog-draped streets.
I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes in our old lodgings that morning after my rounds. Little had changed in my absence; the telegrams and letters of clients scattered among various research documents and notes. His violin lay haphazardly on my chair, as though he had thrown it there in exasperation, a more than likely scenario.
The man himself paced back and forth on the rug, staring at the telegram clutched in his right hand without really seeing it. I waited, knowing not to interrupt him. Finally he set it down and turned his keen gaze upon me.
"Well, Watson, I believe Mr. Thomas can wait a bit longer." I started, for I had not realized he was aware of my presence. I closed the door and greeted him warmly.
"My dear Holmes!" I cried, for it had been some years since I had last seen him, though I always kept an eye on the papers for any sign of him.
He allowed himself a small smile as he removed his violin from the chair I had so often occupied and motioned for me to sit. He remained standing, however, gazing through the window to the smog-filled streets below.
"It has been entirely too long, Watson, since anything of great interest has happened here. The villains of London have become as dull as this blasted fog." he muttered, almost to himself. "But there have been stirrings of late. A theft, a murder, tracks and trails covered expertly. There is a master at work in the London underworld once more." He sank into his own chair absentmindedly. It was then that I noticed his pale, drawn face and the weariness in his demeanor. It seemed that he was once again exhausting himself. One of his palms had been wrapped in a rather crude bandage. A thousand reprimands sprang to my mind. Long experience had taught me that this was futile. Instead, I motioned to his injury.
"Keeping busy, I see." He looked at the bandage briefly, uninterested.
"I'm afraid it's a rather long tale. I won't trouble you with it. Suffice it to say that I had an encounter with a rather. . . disagreeable fellow."
Never one to sit still unless he was in deep thought, Holmes rose and began to pace again. I was reminded of earlier days when he had caught a scent and was eager to follow it through.
"Well, Holmes, are you terribly involved in a case, or would you be so kind as to call upon Mary and myself this evening?" I knew it was a stretch, for my companion was not terribly social and rarely made calls not pertaining to a case. But he seemed to be in a relatively good mood, for he agreed, if somewhat reluctantly.
"I wonder if I could trouble you to assist me in a matter of some importance." he added.
"Anything, Holmes. You need only ask."
"I thought I knew my Watson." he said, rummaging in a drawer. He thrust a cloth-covered object into my hands and fixed me with his penetrating gaze. "Keep it hidden, keep it safe. It cannot stay with me any longer." I took it and lifted a corner of the fabric, revealing a gleam of silver. I looked at him sharply.
"Where did you get this?" I demanded. It was a small chalice, elaborately decorated and obviously very valuable.
But my friend was silent, staring out the window once more. At length, he spoke.
"I acquired it from one of the more unpleasant groups of ruffians that roam the streets. Proof enough that they are not acting alone, but with the aid of a rather prosperous benefactor at their head. One whom I am sure does not wish to be revealed and will do whatever he must to regain it. And now, I think you must leave, Watson. With any luck at all, they shan't recognize you. Put it in your bag, man, and go! I shall call at seven."
With that, I was hurriedly shown out and left standing bewildered on the step, with a rather sudden awareness of the danger I had undoubtedly placed myself in.
It was exactly seven o'clock when I heard Holmes' step on the path. I smiled inwardly as Mary let him in. I was pleased he had remembered, I had known him to be rather forgetful of ordinary things.
He gave a pleasant greeting to Mary in his usual gentlemanly fashion before he entered the room. He tossed me a copy of the evening post and watched me intently as I read it.
NOTHING STOLEN IN BREAK-IN
The rooms of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were violently ransacked this evening between the hours of 5 and 6 o’clock. Fortunately, Holmes himself was out, thus avoiding a run-in with the culprit. After a thorough search of his home, it was determined that nothing was taken by the would-be thief...
"You see Watson, they have made their move. I knew they would attempt to recover the chalice eventually. I could not hide it myself, for I was followed nearly every time I left the rooms." I stared at him in complete and utter shock.
As I tried to get words out, he smiled and turned to the bookshelf, casually running his fingers over the bindings.
"The sooner I can get it to Lestrade, the better. And as for their little spies. I managed to lose them over in the east end of town."
"Holmes, are you mad!?! How could you come here knowing you were being followed? Mary and I have--" Holmes raised a hand. Out of habit, I fell silent.
"All right, Watson, all right. I'll go. And I shall bring Lestrade around tomorrow to fetch the trinket. Shall we say--four o' clock?"
I shook my head. "Mary and I are going out tomorrow. Expect our return at seven?" I offered. Holmes paused, then nodded.
"Seven." he agreed, then added; "I hope we shall be able to have a longer conversation at some point, doctor. It was good to hear your voice again." With that, he left. I was angry for some time afterward, but I soon calmed and began to feel decidedly guilty for the way I had snapped at him. I resolved to apologize tomorrow at seven.
* * * *
We had met a few friends and attended an opera that evening, unusually clear by London standards, when I remembered Holmes. Mary and I politely excused ourselves and took a hansom home.
Upon stopping in front of our home, I was astonished to hear a whistle blown rather sharply as four figures dashed away. A fifth followed, limping. As we watched, another lean form flung himself at the fifth and brought him to the ground,
I stepped out of the hansom, searching my pocket for a revolver that wasn't there. Somewhat foolishly, I continued to advance, my walking stick held high.
"It's all right, old fellow. I believe he's unconscious." the familiar, if strained voice cut through the night. "And Lestrade is late, as per usual."
"Holmes!” I cried, rushing forward. He disentangled himself from the other man and stood shakily.
"Your maid blew the whistle just as I was arriving, otherwise I never would've caught this one. They seem to have had an argument."
By this time, a cab had pulled up, and out stepped Lestrade and a few of his officers. He brought a lantern over and surveyed Holmes' man.
"A knife wound to the leg slowed him up, it seems." he muttered. Holmes scowled through the blood running down his face.
"And yet we might have had all of them if you had been a little more punctual, Lestrade."
"My God, man!" the inspector cried, shining the light on the deep gash above my friend's eye. He didn't flinch. I felt sick at the sight of him wounded, I had come to think of him as invincible.
"He was lucky enough to have a knife on him when I reached him. I am sure it is the one that caused his own wound as well as the man inside." He impatiently wiped blood out of his eyes. Mary started for the house at a run at his words.
"Mary..." I called, hoping to bring her back, but unwilling to leave the other men. Holmes shot a glance at her and in an unexpected burst of speed, was suddenly in front of her, barring her way.
"No! I wouldn't, ma'am. Watson! Come take her away, do not let her inside." I obeyed, and convinced her to go with a constable to her parents' house.
When I returned, my companion's gray eyes were closed as he leaned on the door frame, but they snapped open, startlingly clear, as I approached.
"There is a man with his throat cut lying in your sitting room, Watson. I did not think that--" His knees buckled and I only just managed to catch him. He struggled to regain his feet, leaning his small weight against me.
Finally he stood, and once I was sure he would remain so, I searched my pockets for my handkerchief. I pulled it out and tried to press it to his wound. He took it from my hand and did so himself.
"Holmes--" I began sternly.
"Never mind, Watson, I'm all right. But I expect you'll want to remove that unfortunate fellow from your home. I myself have a rather interesting lead to follow."
A sudden realization struck me. "You were followed! That's how they knew I was here!" I accused, but Holmes was shaking his head.
"I'm afraid they knew you the moment you left Baker Street. I saw a man start after you then, but I was able to...divert his attention."
"Holmes, the chalice!" I cried, horrified. They could not have taken it with so little time, I reasoned. Still, I pushed past Holmes and into the house. At the pine bookshelf, I yanked a few volumes free. The space behind them was empty, the door of the safe was pried open. I turned to see my companion standing in the doorway. "They have it, Holmes! They've found it!" I was distressed, he had counted on me to keep it safe. He smiled.
"No, dear Watson, they found an empty safe. It was an inadequate hiding place, I must say." He crossed the room to the fireplace and nudged open the flue. The chalice dropped into the ashes, shining innocently.
Holmes picked it up and looked hard at it. I stammered, for I could not see when he'd had a chance to move it. Holmes put a hand on my shoulder, the gesture meant more to me from him than anyone.
"I really must apologize for the state of your home and for putting you and Mary in such danger. Now, I think I know a man who can help us find an owner for this chalice. If you would care to drop in tomorrow, we shall go and see him." He walked out then, leaving me no chance to refuse.
* * * * *
For some reason I could not talk myself out of going to see him that next day, and I found myself outside the door to 221B Baker Street once again.
I am sure he was aware of me the second my foot touched the step, but he did not call out his usual greeting. Instead, as I reached his door, I was met with the long, low sound of his violin.
I stopped and listened, unable to tell if he was playing a piece or one of his own compositions. Notes rose and fell over me, their deep, sad tone carried throughout the house.
I do not know how long I stood there, but when the last heartbroken note faded I heard Holmes' amused voice. "Surely you do not intend to stand out there all day, Watson?" I entered to find him sitting in his armchair with his violin on his lap. He plucked a few strings and spoke again. "I believe that is none other than Inspector Lestrade about to ring. Sit, Watson, and let us see what we can do for him."
There was a brief exchange of voices below, then Lestrade's heavy step on the stairs. He opened the door a minute later.
"Mr. Holmes? There's been a murder on the north edge of London, and I must admit the boys and I cannot make a thing of it. I wondered if you could come and have a look?"
My companion leaned forward, the familiar glint in his eyes. When he spoke, it was not to the Inspector or I.
"The man was tall, seventy-two inches. Brown hair, and a lame left leg. Henry McAdams, I expect. Shot or stabbed, Lestrade?"
We stared at him in amazement. Finally, Lestrade stammered out an answer. "Er, shot, sir, from behind. But all doors to the place were locked from the inside. We cannot fathom it."
Holmes laughed in that soundless way of his. "Well, doctor, that was the very man we were going to call upon. Someone is covering their tracks, and if I'm not mistaken, there are still a few loose ends left. Come, Watson, and let's have a look."
Lestrade led the way downstairs to a waiting cab. Holmes said nothing on the ride there, Lestrade and I spoke quietly, knowing better than to disturb him. He stared off at something neither Lestrade or I could see, his mind clearly racing.
At last the cab stopped in front of a fragile-looking building. Policemen stood at the sidewalk and edge of the door.
My companion surveyed the yard briefly before turning inside. I followed him, my eyes adjusting to the gloom. I found myself looking at rotted timbers, tumbled from the ceiling, while other bits of the floor had fallen through. The walls leaned tiredly and holes gaped in what was left of the stairs.
"This building should be destroyed!" I cried, watching my step carefully. "What in God's name was he doing here?"
"Hiding, most likely. We--" Lestrade began.
"I think it more probable that he had business here. There is a considerable amount of money in his pocket, hardly a sum one would carry while being hunted." Holmes stood from where he had been examining the dead man.
He began rapping at the walls, but apparently was disappointed, for he scowled and turned to pounding at the floor with a piece of timber he had picked up.
"The floor's solid enough, sir," the policeman standing next to me assured him, giving a little jump to prove his point. The wood collapsed under his feet, opening in a jagged gap. I was horrified to realize that I had been standing too close, and I began to fall after the unfortunate man.
A strong hand gripped my collar, pulling me back and away from the hole. Panicked, I glanced back at my rescuer. Holmes released my jacket and helped me to my feet. Below, I heard the constable groan. Holmes snorted disdainfully. "Solid, indeed. I trust you are all right, Watson?""Fine, Holmes, thank you." I spoke shakily, imagining the sharp edges of splintered boards. He clapped me on the shoulder and walked to the edge of the gap. He patted his pocket, where I knew his revolver lay, and leaped down. "Did it ever occur to you, Lestrade, that every trap has at least one escape?" His voice floated up to us. "I believe we've found our man."
When we had helped the unlucky officer into a cab, Holmes began a more extensive examination of the man below. He had turned his weapon on himself, obliterating most of his facial features. I stood some way back, unwilling to interrupt him or get in his way.
"There's really no way of identifying him now," Holmes said, straightening. "although I expect that was his intention." He turned to examine the rifle, peering at the barrel intently, then began to cast about the room. “Ha, Watson, we have them now!” he cried, triumphantly pointing to what appeared to be dust on the floor. I admit, I could not see the importance of this, but I knew better than to voice my doubts. “There is nothing else here that I wish to see. Let us go, Watson, you’ll want to be getting home.“ I glanced at my watch. It was a quarter past noon, we had been out nearly two hours.
“My word, you’re right!” I exclaimed. “Mary will be wondering where I’ve gone.” Lestrade stepped forward to stop us.
“Mr. Holmes, forgive me, but there is a good deal of dust in this decrepit structure. Surely you cannot be insinuating that this could mean anything to the case?” Holmes gave him a long-suffering look, one I knew well, and left without saying a word.
* * * *
That night I had gone to the club to relax after the day’s events with a glass of spirits. After a good three hours, I laid down my hand and excused myself from the game of cards. It was well and truly dark by this time, and there was not a cab in sight.
Whistling softly, I had begun the walk home when the first shot tore my hat from my head. Panicked, I dove to the side as another bullet crashed into the cobbles where I had been standing. I scrambled to my feet and rushed off down a side street, hearing gunfire behind me the whole way. I stumbled over the refuse that littered the street, a broken barrel bringing me to the ground.
“Watson!” I heard my name whispered, and it could only be one man. “Watson, come here!” He was wearing a threadbare jacket and a wilting cap, obviously all that remained of a previous disguise.
“Holmes, what on Earth are you doing here?” I demanded quietly. Another gunshot roared through the alley. He inclined his head slightly. “I have been following these particular criminals for the better part of an hour, in the hope that they would return to their employer. But now I see that more immediate action must be taken. Here, give me your coat.” I must have hesitated, for he snapped at me impatiently. “Quickly, man, or they’ll suspect! And for God’s sake, stay down until I come for you!” He pulled my coat on over his own, snatched my walking stick away from me, and dashed off into the open, making for the relative cover of an abandoned cab.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but caught it again as three men detached themselves from the shadow of a building. All were carrying rifles. Holmes apparently saw them as well, for he rolled clear of the cab and flew off down a side street. The men followed, shouting orders in a language I did not understand.
It felt as though I had been waiting for an eternity when I heard footsteps on the road. Warily I drew back, hoping I was out of sight.
“You may come out now, Watson. They shouldn't be bothering you again.” Holmes stepped into view around the corner. I nearly ran, so glad was I to see him. “What on Earth was that, Holmes? Why were they here?”
“They seem to be fixed on killing us both in revenge. They also set fire to my rooms on Baker Street. Of course, it was put out before any real damage could be done, but nevertheless. We shall have to be very careful, though they think you are dead.” He began to pace, his boundless energy already taking him elsewhere. “Shall I see you home, Watson?”
“I think I had better go alone, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all. But if I could trouble you to take the long way?”
“Certainly, Holmes.” I turned to leave, badly wanting my own bed and the welcome respite of sleep.
* * * *
I did not see Holmes for some weeks after that, though I knew he was not idle. I had never known him to be, not even when he would curl up in his chair for days at a time. He was always thinking.
One early September morning, I felt myself drawn to Baker Street. I called at the rooms, to find only Mrs. Hudson was there.
“He’s gone out, doctor, and I fear the worst. It’s been four days since I saw or heard from him. He took his revolver, but I’m afraid it has done him no good.”
“Don’t fret, Mrs. Hudson, I’ll find him. I’m sure he’s fine. Did he happen to say where he was going?”
“He didn’t say, sir, but he’s been down by the docks often of late. Oh, do bring him back, doctor, I can’t stand not knowing what’s become of him.”
I set out for Scotland Yard to inquire after Holmes, but they had not seen him either. Lestrade offered to send out a few of his constables to aid me.
My next stop was, predictably, the docks. As far as I could tell, he went under an alias here. However, no one I spoke to had seen Captain Basil. I was about to leave, now truly anxious for my friend, when a young boy stopped me.
“I seen ‘im, sir. ‘E were with Old Tom down by the shipyard not two days ago.”
“And where could I find Old Tom?”
“‘E’d be anywhere, sir. ‘Ave a look ‘round by the ferry station, afore noon ‘e’s often there.”
“Good lad. Here’s a bit of change, now you’d best be getting home.” He thanked me and ran off, his money clutched in his hand.
At the ferry station, I encountered Old Tom fairly quickly. He was huddled at the corner of a nearby building, smoking a crude pipe and drunkenly muttering to himself.
“Oh, the Captain!” he cried when I asked him about Holmes. “‘E was ‘ere two days off, certainly. Askin’ an awful lot of questions, if you know what I mean.” Unfortunately, I did. My companion certainly had a habit of stirring up the scum of the city.
“What did he want from you?” I was trying rather valiantly not to gag on the stench that emanated from him.
“Askin’ about Sir Radford, as it were. If ‘e’d been to the docks of late. I told ‘im that I’d seen ‘im, but I cannot seem to remember where. Captain said ‘e ‘ad business with ‘im. ‘Twas the last I saw of ‘im.” I thanked him, not caring that I had hardly understood a word. Two days ago, I was at least catching up.
But I was also at a dead end. Tom could not say where he had gone, nor why he had not returned. Further questions brought me nowhere, and I was eventually forced to turn back by the coming darkness. I reported my failure to a tearful Mrs. Hudson, then hailed a hansom and left for home.
Mary had obviously been worried, for she opened the door herself and stood on the step, staring accusingly at me. It was then that I realized that I had been out all day and had not told her where I was going. I started to explain, but Mary interrupted me.
“What has he gotten you into this time, John?”
“Nothing, Mary.” I pushed past her into the house and stood in the hall, stunned with my own next words. “Holmes has been missing for four days. Mrs. Hudson is beside herself.” Mary’s gaze softened.
“Four days? But where could he be?”
“Dead, if I gave any credit to Mrs. Hudson’s words. He never stays out more than two days, and rarely that! I picked up his trail by the docks, but he apparently vanished two days ago.”
“I don’t believe that. John, you know him better than anyone. Where would you say he is?”
I stopped to think, trying to recall everything of his past that I had witnessed. “If I have learned anything at all about Sherlock Holmes, it is that he cannot be found if he does not wish to be. I could have walked past him a hundred times today and not have known him.” I sank into a chair, suddenly tired.
“Perhaps if you were to stop at Baker Street tomorrow, you would find him there already.” Mary offered, but it was little comfort to me. I had begun to think him dead as well, and the realization terrified me.
* * * * *
I hardly slept at all that night, and the nest morning I was tired and sore. But I hoped against hope that the sunrise would see Holmes safely in his rooms.
A visit to Mrs. Hudson told me that this was not so, and I berated myself for having lost a day. On my return home, I told Mary not to expect me until I had found him, nearly determined to do so.
As I pushed through the crowds of unruly, shouting sailors and fishermen, I scanned the masses for the familiar gray eyes of my companion. I passed the ferry station and Old Tom, wrapped in his own low voice. Unsure, I paused, wondering which way to take. Deciding to stay near the river, I continued west.
For hours I inquired as discreetly as possible after my friend, to no avail. Despairing, I began to wander aimlessly through the warehouses and small alleys that ran between them. It was growing dark once more, and I had given Holmes up for dead. I turned home, trying to regain my bearings.
I had left the river behind and was gradually making my way through the dimly lit streets when the sound of gunfire in the distance alerted me.
Drawing into the shadows, I waited, listening. The shots came again, and a voice screamed an order. I knew little German, but I recognized the word ‘run’. I smiled grimly, hoping once more. Looking back, I believe it was because I could never truly think him dead, not in his own city. He knew London like no man I had ever met.
Curious, I drew my revolver and followed the sound. More shouts and an abrupt cry echoed off to my left. I hastened to reach the source, the noise was growing louder all the time.
At last I turned a corner and saw men dashing for cover, the white flashes of firing guns lit the night. I ducked behind a stack of crates and tried to see what was happening. Unable to distinguish the shadowed men from one another, I acted without thinking.
“Holmes!” I bellowed, and immediately the thuds of bullets struck my shelter. I cowered, suddenly aware of how inadequate it was. I hesitantly rose halfway to look over the edge.
“For God’s sake, Watson, keep your head down!” Snapped a voice. I was filled with happiness.
“Holmes, you’re alive!” I cried, struggling to discern him from the blackness.
“Certainly, despite the efforts of these fellows.” His reply came easily, almost unconcerned. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to see the crate he was crouched behind splinter along one edge as a bullet razed by.
He stood quickly and fired once, I heard the cry of the unfortunate man. Then Holmes flung himself down as a wave of bullets seared through the air where he had been standing.
Another shot slammed into the stone just to the left of me, I cried out in surprise and threw myself to the cobbles as well. I kept still, trying to make myself invisible.
“Watson? Watson!” I heard Holmes call, and I was about to raise my head to answer when another shot struck something dangerously close to me. I remained frozen, too aware of my vulnerable position.
I realized Holmes had fired again as I heard the scream, followed by a sharp gasp and the sound of feet approaching at a run. I was shaken roughly and I looked up, startled, into Holmes bright gray eyes.
“Where have they hit you?” he demanded.
“Holmes, I’m fine.” He grasped my shoulder and I stared in wonderment at the receding fear in his eyes.
“You are not hurt? Really, Watson, you did not answer me.” He accused. He sat back against a crate and glanced over his shoulder as I tried to reply.
I was a little ashamed. “I’m sorry, Holmes, truly.” I managed lamely.
“Never mind, my dear Watson, it’s all right. Give me a hand up, we must leave.” I did so and he pulled us into what must have once been a pub of some sort. Holmes glanced around him briefly.
“The last time I was here, the place was full to bursting, one of the loudest and most violent I have ever been to. I was caught in more than one brawl, if memory serves.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “Of course, the last time I was here, I detonated the kitchens. Ah, has it really been so long? This way, Watson.” He led the way to a rusted door that only barely creaked ajar after both Holmes and I applied our strength to it. He slipped through with ease, I could hear him rummaging as I struggled to push the door wider. Finally it gave a little more, and I was able to enter.
We were clearly in the remains of the kitchen, charred and blackened wood bared twisted metal. Shards of glass still lay scattered among broken plates and warped silverware.
I took in the destruction and gaped at Holmes. My companion shrugged and winced. “Oh, don’t look so appalled, Watson. No one was harmed save myself and the men I was chasing. That was before your time with me.”
I nodded, a little dazed. Taking careful steps, I crossed the room to see what he was studying so carefully. He turned to face me, and the light from the broken window fell on him. Blood colored the shoulder of his jacket, a deep threatening red.
“Holmes, your shoulder.” My companion frowned and shook his head.
“It’s only a scratch, Watson, and we have more important matters to attend to.” He motioned to the window, where the sound of the occasional gunshot drifted in. “They haven’t the faintest idea where we’ve gone. I hadn’t thought it was too difficult, really. They must realize they’re shooting at nothing.” He moved off and stamped determinedly on the floorA hollow thump sounded on his last attempt. His eyes shone brightly and he knelt on the floor, prying the boards loose. He lowered himself into the resulting hole.
“It is as I thought, Watson!” He called. “A collection of valuables hidden under these boards, waiting to be retrieved.” I moved to peer after him.
“And what better place than an abandoned building in a this neighborhood. It’s certainly deserted enough for them to go undisturbed.”
“Precisely, Watson! Here, help me out. I must collect something from Baker Street.”
I hauled him free with little difficulty, given his general lack of weight, remembering why I had been at the docks in the first place. “Four days, Holmes, and not a whisper of your whereabouts had come home. Mrs. Hudson was beside herself. Where the devil were you?” I demanded. He didn’t stop to look back, but continued on his way out of the ruined kitchens.
“I was unable to return. I was caught, most likely by those chaps out there, and spent a day and a half gathering information in their makeshift prison. I escaped easily enough, and assumed the persona of Captain Basil to uncover what data remained. Unfortunately, I was discovered on my way back. After that, I believe I was understandably preoccupied.”
We crept out into the street, revolvers drawn, but we met no more opposition that night. It was well past midnight when we turned on to Baker Street. 221B was mostly dark, with only a faint lamplight struggling through the windows.
Holmes strode confidently through the front door, and I nearly ran into him as he stopped abruptly in the hall. I leaned around his tall frame to see a red-eyed Mrs Hudson standing before him. She began to advance upon him with a murderous expression on her face.
Holmes shot me an unreadable look as she reached him, swatted him with no real force, then threw her arms about him. “Bless you, Mr. Holmes, I thought you’d been killed!”
“Bound to come about sooner or later.” He remarked, politely trying to disengage himself from her relieved embrace. She pulled away, holding him at arm’s length.
“And if you ever frighten me like that again, Mr. Holmes, you’ll find yourself out on your ear, mark my words!”
“Consider them marked.” Holmes replied, not unkindly. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have a murderer to apprehend.” She released him and he bounded up the stairs.
“I can’t thank you enough, doctor, for bringing him home. I can’t imagine how dull this house would be without him.”
“Nor could I, Mrs. Hudson. I should go and see to him, I found him in over his head as per usual.” She nodded knowingly and I climbed the stairs after Holmes. Mrs. Hudson had, despite herself, grown rather fond of my companion.
* * * *
The next morning when I awoke, having spent the night in my old room, I found Holmes curled in his chair, smoking his pipe and surrounded by the remains of that week’s newspapers. He had tied his usual careless strip of cloth around his shoulder, blood had begun to soak through. He had probably been up all night as well. I sighed inwardly at his reckless indifference to his health.
I removed my coat from it’s hook and opened the door, intending to go home.
“If you leave now, Watson, I am sure you will miss Lestrade’s brilliant capture of the culprit.” I started, I had not realized he was aware of me.
“You don’t mean to say that you know who it is?” I cried
“Indeed I do, Watson, and if we are to catch him, we must hurry, or it will be too late!” He sprang out of his chair and snatched up his revolver before walking briskly past me and out the door.
* * * *
Our cab pulled up beside the ferry station at fifteen minutes to noon. Holmes glanced at his pocket watch thoughtfully.
“We shall be very hard pressed to get there in time, Watson. Quickly, this way!” His thin fingers closed around my wrist and he towed me through the throngs of people. He deftly weaved between vendors and sailors alike, all smelling vaguely of fish to me. I grimaced and struggled to keep up with my companion.
Massive ships floated along the piers, men swarming about on the decks carrying out their respective tasks. I was watching them curiously when Holmes suddenly pulled me aside and pointed to a particular ship. “There, the Gloria May. She sets sail for America in less than seven minutes, with our quarry aboard! Now, if Lestrade can arrive on time for once in his career, we shall have him.”
We boarded the ship unnoticed and with little difficulty. Holmes paused at door, listening. While I heard nothing, he appeared to be satisfied, for he we moved below decks. He counted the cabin doors under his breath as we traversed down the halls, his thin face drawn in concentration. Finally he stopped and knelt outside one. “Keep watch, Watson, there’s a good chap.”
I faced the corridor obediently. At length there was a metallic thump, and as I glanced back, I saw Holmes push the door open. The sound of footsteps echoed on the stairs.
“Holmes!” I hissed warningly. He glanced up at me.
“Quick, Watson, in here! We shall take him very much by surprise.” I shut the door behind us and my friend had the presence of mind to lock it. We waited in darkness for what seemed like ages, listening to the heavy tread draw nearer. A key rattled in the lock, and the door swung inward.
To this day, I am not entirely certain what happened. The man who had entered the room gave a great cry as Holmes grabbed him. There was a brief, noisy scuffle, and suddenly it was over, Holmes sitting atop the man with his arms pinned.
“Sir John Radford, I believe.” Holmes spoke as casually as if he were in his rooms at Baker Street. The man scowled and twisted in Holmes iron grip, trying vainly to free himself.
“I’ll see you dead for this, I swear it!” Radford accused, his voice distorted by his broken, bleeding nose. Holmes had only a split lip to show for his efforts.
“I think not. I did not particularly appreciate your earlier attempts at Watson and myself, either.” Holmes coolly twisted Sir Radford’s arm, causing him to wince in pain. “I should’ve known better than to count on Lestrade to be here when I asked, Watson. Judging by the noise above deck, he’s arrived in full force.”
My companion’s statement proved to be correct, for a short while later the Inspector and four constables stumped down the stairs
“Well done, Mr. Holmes! How in God’s name did you do it?” Lestrade motioned for his men to arrest Sir Radford. Holmes stood and dusted himself off.
“Once I had the information I needed, it was relatively simple. Obviously it began with the chalice itself. Clearly it was no mere trinket, and belonged to a family of higher standing. By far, the more intriguing question was why I chanced upon it while it was in the possession of a criminal who was supposedly incarcerated three weeks ago.”
“Very clever, I’m sure.” Radford spat, and an impatient signal from Lestrade had the constables remove him from the room, presumably to a waiting cab. “Continue, Mr. Holmes.”
“As I was saying, a closer look at the chalice revealed a set of initials engraved into the base. They were certainly not pawnbrokers marks, as I have found to be the case on several occasions. Thus, I inferred that they were the initials of the silversmith, which meant that a rather large amount of money had been paid for it. A true artist always signs his work, particuarly if he was proud of it
“After the murder of Henry McAdams, I was even more assured of this fact. McAdams was, as I am sure you are aware, a silversmith himself. The banknotes in his pocket suggested to me that he had been paid to deliver a replica to divert suspicion. My theory was proved to be correct when I found the ashes of a rather expensive cigar beside the dead man. I also caught a faint smell of salt and seaweed, which, of course, led me to the docks.
“There, although I was briefly detained by Radford’s men, I picked up that same cigar ash, a far cry from something a typical dock hand could afford. That, coupled with the talk of careless guards when they believed me asleep, provided me with most of the remaining pieces. After my escape, I spotted a ship in the harbor being loaded rather quickly with valuable-looking items bearing a crest that I could not quite place at the time. Before I could get back to my rooms I was set upon, however, I was saved by a timely intervention by Watson allowed me to find the tunnels used by a number of fugitives to go about the city. After that, it was simply a matter of connecting the pieces.”
I suddenly saw the connection for myself. “Of course!” I cried. “Radford sent a man to meet with McAdams in that house. Since there wasn’t another way out, the man was forced to turn his gun on himself or be caught...” I faltered, uncertain, but Holmes was nodding encouragingly.
“Exactly, Watson. Very well done indeed. Lestrade, I think you’ll find Radford was providing finances to over half of the newer criminal activity in London and was about to flee the consequences, across the ocean to obscurity. This has not been a terribly difficult case by any means, but I do believe that it has been one of my more dangerous ones. Congratulations on another brilliant capture, Lestrade. And now, Watson, I think it is time for lunch.”
if I don’t burn it all...