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Case 39: The Adventure Of The Speckled Band (1883)

Chapter Text

[Narration by Doctor John Watson, M.D.]

Foreword: The steamship 'Arizona' mentioned in this story was one of many ships sailing the transatlantic route then, having been launched four years before this story is set. Just months into her career she had had a full-on collision with an iceberg but survived, a largely unnoticed event at the time but one which gained rather more significance when a second and much larger ocean liner was decidedly less fortunate over three decades later.

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I have said that the blue-eyed genius and I lived together in three homes during his illustrious career; Montague Street, Cramer Street and of course dear Baker Street. However our next adventure which in my original stories was set as our first in 221B was in fact solved from elsewhere. This was due to matters that at first I thought to be merely architectural but which would eventually lead to a break in our friendship that would cut me to the quick.

The initial problem came about because of the late Mr. William Harvelle whose untimely passing had brought his rifle-wielding widow and her Baker Street house into our lives. We were due to leave Cramer Street in the third week of March and there had been no problem about our taking up accommodation in 221B – except that the late Mr. Harvelle had without informing his wife arranged for a firm of local builders to renovate the very rooms that we were to take, and unfortunately the first she knew about it was when she arrived home the day before we were due and found the place in turmoil. Even more unfortunately the men had been instructed to replace the main window and had already knocked out the old one. Had I not been so gravely inconvenienced I might have felt pity for the poor workmen on the receiving end of our future landlady's ire which could rival if not exceed the wrath of God!

Obviously we could now not move in for some little time and were in sudden and urgent need of rooms. Mrs. Harvelle, bless the woman, quickly went round her contacts but the best she could find was a Mrs. York who had a single room available in Dorset Street a short walk from both Cramer Street and the surgery. After a discussion it was agreed that Holmes would go to live at his parents' house for a month (the face he pulled at that prospect was memorable!) while I lodged in Dorset Street. Mrs. York proved a wonderful landlady and I regret both that she did not possess a second room and that my memories of the place were soured by events appertaining to my time there.

Dorset Street is a road of approximately three hundred yards in length, running from Gloucester Place in the west and, coincidentally, crossing (Lower) Baker Street and various other roads before it turns sharply south by the Gardens and becomes Manchester Street. (Before the Gardens had been built the road had continued across into what is now Moxon Street, off which Cramer Street lay). My readers will of course wonder as to why I did not originally mention my time there in the ensuing story but dear Mrs. York was a shy lady who had an abject horror of publicity, and when I eventually came to publish our next case, I first travelled back there to assure her that I would not mention her house in any way. It was the least that I could do; she saved me at a time when circumstances had threatened to leave me homeless and despite the misery that did subsequently ensue I would always be grateful to her.

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Though like Holmes I had hated school for the most part I, like most people some years on, could only recall odd memories of my time there and mostly happier ones. One such was being told the tale of King Croesus of Lydia (yes, that Croesus) who, prior to taking on the much larger Persian Empire in battle, sought the advice of an oracle. He was told that 'a great empire would be defeated' and rode off in confidence only to be killed and have his country dismembered. The great empire that got itself defeated was, of course, Lydia, not Persia. I would have bitter cause to remember that tale in that year of 'Eighty-Three when my misunderstanding of an all-too-accurate prophecy led to no end of suffering.

During my enforced separation from my friend I had taken to breakfasting at the house in Dorset Street from Monday to Friday and coming to Sir Charles' house on weekends. On weekday evenings Holmes would come to my house whenever he could though not having him in my life all the time was proving surprisingly trying. Thank the Lord that it was not permanent.

“There has been another death.”

I looked down despairingly at my excuse for a breakfast, and wondered which of Holmes' brothers had upset the cooking staff this time. I would have not thought it possible to have crammed so many culinary disasters onto one plate but somehow someone had managed it. Quite what the brown-black thing looking like a shrivelled lettuce leaf gone wrong was supposed to be, I had no idea. The sole mercy was that it was seemingly immobile.

Unfortunately I could all too easily guess my friend's meaning this cold morning.

“Who this time?” I asked.

“A Mr. Heinrich Schmidt, a member of the German Embassy”, Holmes said gravely. “And as before a dead snake skin was placed on the victim's body.”

I nodded. This was the third such attack each on a German or German-born person in London. The first had been four weeks ago when a maid had been stabbed to death on a train in south London. The second had been two weeks back in which a bank clerk had been murdered in his own house. That had been a few days before our move out of Cramer Street and the ensuing confusion, so I had not paid as much attention as I might otherwise have done.

“Evenly-spaced attacks”, I observed. “The killer is trying to instil fear.”

“And succeeding”, Holmes said, waving the paper at me. “The Editorial advises all Germans who can to make shift out of the capital until he or she is caught.”

I could not but agree. Relations between London and Berlin had been tense ever since the Franco-Prussian War twelve years prior, when Europe had been shocked to see German troops marching into Paris (the German Empire had only been forcibly united some five years prior to that). Ever since then it had been an open secret that the Kaiser was aiming to detach Great Britain from its unspoken alliance with France, helped by the fact of our dear Queen's eldest daughter marrying the Kaiser's son and heir Frederick. Someone deliberately targeting German citizens in the English capital would not help matters.

“The Kaiser's son and his wife are coming to London the week after next, to visit the Queen”, Holmes said.

I wondered idly if he had been reading my mind again. I was about to ask when I realized the implications of what he was saying.

“You do not think that they would dare to attack royalty?” I asked, shocked.

“Consider the victims”, Holmes pointed out. “We had a maid, a working-class bank clerk and a middle-class diplomat. If the 'Speckled Band Killer' moves logically then their next victim in two weeks' time should be upper class.”

“But the security will be incredibly tight!” I insisted.

“As I often say, the attacker has all the advantages in this situation”, he said calmly. “They can choose the precise time and place of their strike and those defending can only hope they have covered all possible lines of attack, something doubly difficult when dealing with a monarch who insists on not being kept from her people. No, this must be solved as a matter of urgency!”

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I had had another busy Friday at the surgery and was not pleased when I was asked to take an extra patient for a pregnancy test after my leaving time. Though when she entered the room I was surprised to see that I recognized her.

“Miss Barnes?”

It was indeed Miss Pamela Barnes whose unfortunate sister and cousin had met their tragic (if deserved) ends in the Tay Bridge disaster some four years prior pursuant to the case of the Musgrave Ritual. I had read that she had married Cynric Musgrave just prior to his brother quitting his title and emigrating and had not been surprised. She smiled knowingly at me.

“It is Mrs. Cynric Musgrave now”, she corrected. “My dear husband wanted me to come for an official pregnancy test, even though....”

She looked knowingly at me.

“You already know, do you not?” I said with a sigh.

“A healthy baby boy, seven pounds and one ounce”, she smiled. “But Cynric tends to have a panic attack when I do that so I decided to make it official for the dear.”

I wondered why she had not gone to her own doctor but it was not my place to ask. Instead I gestured her over to the screen.

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Chapter Text

I handed Mrs. Musgrave her results.

“Positive”, I assured her. “Everything looks good.”

She smiled.

“Cynric and I are living in Gloucestershire now”, she said conversationally. “A small place just outside Stow-on-the-Wold. When his brother left he did not want to move all the way to Scotland, so he sold the place to a school and we have a much nicer house than that old barn. We are visiting friends in the capital.”

She stopped and looked hard at me, her hand on the door to leave.

“Hard times are coming, doctor”, she said, a note of warning in her voice. “Before this month is out you will lose one of the most precious things in your life. But remember, that which goes can also return.”

She was gone before I could reply. I stared after her in confusion.

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The next day I went to Holmes' house as usual to find his rooms there had apparently been visited by a small tornado. There were newspapers everywhere and my friend sat in the middle of them making notes.

“I am trying to deduce a pattern from the first three murders”, he said. “Unfortunately the tendency of the average London journalist to exaggerate makes it hard to sort the grains of wheat from the granaries of chaff!”

“It all seems very odd”, I said making a mental note to clean up the mess if I got the chance. “As you said, if someone wishes to harm the princess then placing it in a sequence of murders will only make those around her increase their security.”

Holmes squinted at me thoughtfully. As far too often I had the feeling I had said something important, and as far too often not the first clue as to what.

“Tell me about the victims”, I said clearing some of the mess off a chair so that I could actually sit down.

“The first was a Miss Gertrude Wells, parlourmaid to the Hope family of Clerkenwell”, he said. “Twenty-four, single and of good character, she had been with them for two years and was thought of as quiet but a good worker. She was stabbed to death in her carriage on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway near Swanley Station and a dead snake skin from the species known as the Speckled-Band Cobra had been laid across her body. No-one really benefited from her death as far as I can ascertain; she had but a few pounds saved which went to her mother. Her father came from Germany but her parents had divorced and her mother had brought her to England two years after her birth. She has remarried and is well enough off.”

“What about her employers?” I asked hopefully.

“Mr. Hope is deputy manager at a stonemason's in the Minories while Mrs. Hope stays home and cares for their three children. Bearing in mind how difficult it is to find good servants they had no apparent motive. I did inquire as to whether the girl was seeing someone but she was not.”

He flipped over a page on his notepad.

“The second victim Mr. Gordon Walker is a little more interesting”, he said. “He lived with his brother Gareth and worked as a clerk in a warehouse where he was not very well regarded by all accounts. He was shot, not stabbed, and again a snake-skin was placed on the dead body. The 'Gazette' took great pains to make sure their readers knew that there was an estrangement between the two brothers over an inheritance from an uncle in Germany which went solely to Gareth, the elder.”

“A different method of killing”, I noted.

“Shooting the maid on a suburban train would likely have drawn attention”, he said, “Especially in third-class where the dividing walls, always assuming that there are any, are paper-thin. Mr. Walker was killed at home in the afternoon and the house he and his brother shared is somewhat isolated. Mr. Gareth Walker works as a clerk for Martinson's Bank in St. Paul's; he owns the house he shared with his brother as of right. His sibling left him some family jewellery that he had inherited from their mother – apparently she had requested this - but he had made a will last year leaving the rest of his estate such as it was to a nephew, the eleven-year-old son of the brothers' sister Mrs. Bridge who lives up in Lancashire. Not more than ten pounds in total.”

He flipped over another page.

“And to the most recent victim Mr. Heinrich Schmidt”, Holmes said. “A singularly unpleasant young fellow by all accounts. Disliked by his neighbours and work colleagues alike for his generally superior attitude and had already been warned over his conduct at the Embassy, which given what diplomats can get away with most definitely says something. His landlady had also given him notice to quit for disturbing the other tenants by playing his trumpet badly all day and night.”

“One cannot murder someone for playing an instrument badly”, I muttered, glancing covertly across at the violin resting on the table. Not covertly enough judging from Holmes' narrowed eyes and indignant huff.

“He too was shot”, Holmes said looking at me with the same hurt puppy-dog eyes that I had always thought were just unfair. I sighed.

“I am sorry”, I said. “Do you seriously expect someone to attack the princess and her husband when they come?”

“I fully expect some sort of attempt to be made”, he said.

That worried me. Because Holmes was usually right about these things.

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A week passed during which Holmes made little apparent progress on the case. Work at the surgery continued to be heavy and I became used to arriving home well after my time. Until the following Friday when I managed to get out only ten minutes late and hurried home, looking forward to a long weekend in.

I was barely through the door however when Mrs. York accosted me. I groaned inwardly, the woman's one failing was the ability to talk without any apparent need to draw breath. I prepared my excuses for escape.

“I just thought that you should be forewarned, sir”, she said, lowering her voice conspiratorially. “Your good friend Mr. Holmes is waiting for you upstairs. He arrived earlier with his father and they had Words before Sir Charles left.”

I raised an eyebrow at her. Did all landladies listen at keyholes? She frowned at me.

“There was some shouting, sir, which I could hear two floors down”, she said defensively. “And Sir Charles looked quite pale when he collected his things before leaving. Your... friend feels things very deeply, sir. I just thought that you should be prepared.”

I wondered at the hesitation before the word 'friend' but decided to dismiss it. I thanked her and headed upstairs wondering if my.... friend would want to talk about his visitor.

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As a doctor it takes a lot to unnerve me. In my profession one sees all sides to the human character, good and bad. But Holmes that evening..... he scared me. I had expected all sorts of reaction to his father's visit except the one I actually got.

Nothing. He sat there for the best part of half an hour, not even taking a barley sugar. I poked the fire occasionally but did not say anything. I was waiting for him to speak.

Which he did.

“Watson”, he said, his voice almost supernaturally calm, “if I asked you to do something... irregular, would you still do it?”

Not for the last time in my life my mouth was heading out of the station before my brain was even on the station concourse.

“Of course”, I said loyally.

“Hold me.”

“Pardon?” I stared at him incredulously. He looked back at me and I realized just how miserable he really was.

“Hold me”, he said mournfully. “I'm... so cold. And so alone. Please?”

I suppose that there were all sorts of reasons why I should not have yielded to his request, but he was my friend and he was clearly in pain. I went and sat on the couch and he sidled up to me looking almost incredulous that I had said yes. Gently he sat down and eased himself until my larger figure was framing his smaller one. We were both men of above average height but as I have said before he carried himself as a smaller man so much that I naturally wrapped myself round him.

A sigh that was almost a cry of pain nearly broke me and I pulled him in closer. What one earth had happened?

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Chapter Text

I woke the following morning feeling exhausted. Holmes had stayed to share my dinner – I owed Mrs. York for providing an extra meal at such short notice – and then I had held him again until it was my bedtime. He had returned to his own house but I had not been surprised to find him waiting for me when I emerged from my room the following morning. Unusually for him he remained behind his newspaper; I sensed correctly as it turned out that whatever had made him so upset the day before was Not To Be Spoken About and I did not know whether to be sorry or glad about it.

It was Saturday which was not a day on which Mrs. York would normally have provided breakfast, but I found a note pushed under the door advising me that two meals would be available if we so required. I generously forgave our landlady her eavesdropping tendencies and we ate in silence, the tension between us palpable.

I fully expected Holmes to go out that morning if only to avoid any chance of discussion as to recent events (although he surely knew me well enough to realize that Doctor John Watson talking about Feelings was as likely as Hell freezing over!) but he did not. It turned out that he was expecting a visitor who mercifully arrived early. It was an anaemic-looking blond fellow in his early thirties, very much the sort of person (I thought) who is destined never to make much of an impression on life.

“Mr. Jacob Westbury”, Holmes explained as I sat down. “Thank you for coming, sor. You work at the same bank as the second victim's brother, Mr. Gareth Walker?”

He nodded, though I did not see the relevance. Holmes continued.

“You told me that Mr. Walker started back yesterday?” he asked quietly. The man seemed spooked by the question judging by his flinch but he answered readily enough.

“Yes, sir.”

“How did he seem to you?” Holmes asked.

Our visitor seemed puzzled by the question.

“I do not understand.....”

“Was he well?” Holmes asked. “Pale? Worried? Anything unusual?”

“Just a bit out of it, sir”, our visitor said.

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“Alexandra – Miss Barling – made everyone a coffee while he was there and he put sugar in his. I asked him when he had started taking it and he looked startled, then said it reminded him of his brother. It was all a bit... weird. He seemed not all there but I supposed it was the shock. They say it affects people in odd ways.”

“Of course”, Holmes said flatly but I could see the light in his eyes which told me that he was on to something. “Now tell me about the bonds.”

I leaped up when the man went a deathly shade of white and shuddered in his chair. I quickly poured him a brandy and held it to his lips until he had drunk some of it. Slowly his breathing stabilized and he looked at Holmes in shock.

“Who told you?” he gasped, his voice unnaturally high.

“I just knew”, Holmes said airily. “I assure you, anything that you tell us will not leave this room. Please go on.”

The man shook again.

“Last year the bank was given the opportunity to purchase an American bank and establish ourselves in the United States”, he said. “But to do so we needed to ship a large number of gold-backed bonds over there to convince the American authorities of our good faith. That is why a large part of the bank's money is currently sat in a safe in our strong-room. It is not bruted about of course but it is a workplace so... people just know.”

“Who has access to it?” Holmes asked.

“Only the branch manager Mr. Ronaldson”, Westbury said. “There are two keys on two sets but the second one is kept at our head office. I was told once that they are kept in one of those safes that can only be opened with two keys each belonging to a different person, but I do not know if that was true.”

Holmes nodded.

“Thank you, sir”, he said. “Do you happen to have Mr. Ronaldson's address?”

“I only know he lives somewhere in north Kent”, our guest said. “But Miss Barling lives over the bakery – it is called Sweet Nothings although she says that it is quite good despite that – and that is directly opposite the bank in front of Great St. Paul's. I am sure that she would know it.”

“Good. We will detain you no further and as I have promised we will say nothing of this meeting to anyone. Good day.”

My friend handed the man an envelope which I presumed contained some notes, and he departed.

“A good fellow but a trifle naïve”, Holmes observed after he had left. “If I recall the princess and her husband are due to arrive at Victoria Station early on Monday?”

“Yes”, I said.

“Then regrettably we must work on a weekend and persuade Mr. Ronaldson to open his bank today.”

I looked at him in confusion.

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Extracting Mr. Ronaldson's address from Miss Barling proved a tortuous affair but eventually even she succumbed to Holmes' charms – all right, she was simpering at him before we even sat down! - and having sent a telegram requesting Mr. Ronaldson's urgent presence we adjourned to sit outside the magnificent cathedral. After what seemed like an interminable wait a hansom drew up and a short, balding middle-aged man alighted and looked frantically around him. Holmes nudged me and we got up and crossed to meet him.

“Mr. Ronaldson?” Holmes asked.

“I presume that you must be Mr. Sherlock Holmes”, the man said clearly annoyed. “I sincerely hope that there is a good reason for you dragging me away from a most delicious luncheon?”

“If preventing the theft of those bonds that you have in your bank's vaults qualifies as a 'good reason'”, Holmes said calmly, “then yes.”

He really had to stop having that effect on people. Mr. Ronaldson swayed violently for a moment but managed to catch himself.

“If this is some sort of joke, gentlemen.....”

“I merely need you to open your bank, go to the safe and check that the bonds are still there”, Holmes said. “My friend and I will remain here if that eases your mind at all. Kindly return to us when you have done so.”

The manager stared at him for a moment but evidently decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and hurried off to the bank's huge doors.

“Have the bonds been stolen?” I asked after a while.

“I do hope not”, Holmes said. “Though I doubt that our portly friend will be able to find out for us.”

“Why? I asked.

Holmes's reply was prevented by the sound of approaching footsteps and I looked up to see the manager almost sprinting towards us. Quite impressive given his figure.

“Gentlemen, I do not understand”, he said. “I do not know how it has happened but....”

“Your keys do not fit in the vault locks”, Holmes finished for him.

The manager stared at him in horror. He really looked like he might need my professional services sooner rather than later.

“How could you know that?” he gasped. Holmes did not answer him.

“When are the bonds to be transported to America?” he asked.

“Thursday week aboard the 'Britannic', from Liverpool”, the manager said.

“Is that fact widely known?”

“Not directly”, he said, “but the staff all know they are to be sent to America some time this week so they may be able to work it out.”

Holmes pursed his lips.

“I wish you to mention on the bank floor early on Monday morning that the bonds are to leave first thing the next day”, he said. “Say that because your American friends demand it you have switched to the 'Arizona' which sails that evening from the same port. I believe that an attempt will be made to take them and I would force the hand of the thief.”

“But who is the thief?” the manager asked.

“That is difficult to explain at present”, Holmes said. “I am afraid that this ties in with the recent murder of your employee Mr. Gareth Walker's brother.”

“You cannot think that he is involved!” the manager said hotly.

“I am absolutely certain that Mr. Gareth Walker will not attempt to steal the bonds”, Holmes said silkily.

Not for the first time I had the distinct impression that there was more to my friend's words than met the eye. And one day I would be smart enough to work out what.

And one day they would land men on those two little moons they had just found around the planet Mars. Hah!

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Chapter Text

I looked out of our hansom in surprise.

“I thought that we were headed back to your parents' house”, I said.

“I decided that it would be better to call in on our friend Henriksen first”, Holmes said mysteriously. “It is usually better if these things are done through official channels.”

I had no idea what 'these things' might be but I nodded anyway. Hopefully he would explain things later.

As it turned out Henriksen was on a case at another station so Holmes left him a note and we adjourned to a restaurant for a late Sunday roast. Whatever Holmes' message was it had been an important one for a telegram from the sergeant was awaiting our return. Holmes read it and smiled.

“All is well”, he said. “Watson?”

“Yes?”

“My unlovely brother Bacchus is coming round tomorrow afternoon to discuss a somewhat delicate family matter. I do not suppose that you could possibly take a walk for an hour or so? He is due here at two-thirty.”

“Of course”, I said, a little put-out but determined not to show it. Though judging from his slightly crestfallen expression I failed in that ambition.

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I had a full day at the surgery the following Monday which was exhausting enough. At around mid-day news reached us that someone had indeed fired shots at Princess Victoria and her German husband although neither had been hurt. The incident had happened as they had been alighting from their train at Victoria Station during the start of the morning rush-hour so the assailant had been able to get away in the crowds.

I arrived back in Dorset Street at my usual hour to find Holmes waiting for me, looking worried.

“What is wrong?” I asked. He looked at me uncertainly.

“There has been a fire at Edinburgh University”, he said gravely.

My heart dropped. Sammy!

“Your brother is quite all right”, he said. “The telegram came at three and rather than disturb you at work I immediately sent back to ask for details. They came not half an hour ago. Your brother has sustained minor burns but that apart he is unharmed.”

I all but collapsed in relief. Holmes looked at his watch.

“I took the liberty of booking you on the night sleeper from King's Cross”, he said much to my surprise. “You will need to leave in about an hour if you are to make it. And I shall arrange cover for you at the surgery as well.”

“Oh”, I said. “Thank you. That is very kind.”

He smiled.

“I see shots were fired at the princess”, I said.

“Yes”, he said. “Henriksen has his man.”

“The gunman?” I asked.

“And the killer of those three other people.”

“What?” I almost shouted. Holmes gestured for me to calm down.

“I have taken the liberty of packing a bag for you and I asked Mrs. York to start a dinner for you when you came through the door, he said. “Yes, the killer is in custody.”

“Who was it?” I asked, my head spinning at all these developments.

“Mr. Gordon Walker.”

I stared at my friend in shock.

“But.... he was one of the victims!” I protested.

Holmes sat me down and handed me a whisky. I needed it.

“Mr. Gordon Walker knows of the impending arrival of the bonds at his brother's bank”, he explained. “So he hatches a cunning plan. First he kills an innocent maid who he knows is German-born. Because he knows how modern newspapers love the sensational he leaves a rare dead snake-skin on her body, one of several he stole from a museum during his last visit to Germany. He wishes to establish that this is a sequence of attacks and not to draw attention to the target crime which will be the second one. Hiding a leaf in a forest may be a cliché but it is often effective.”

“Two weeks after that he strikes again, this time much closer to home. We had been told you may recall that Gordon and Gareth Walker were brothers. It was only when I asked Henriksen that he obtained a photograph of the two for me and I realized how similar they were in appearance to each other despite being some three years apart.”

A light began to dawn.

“Mr. Gordon Walker kills his brother and again leaves a snake-skin on the body. He then switches identities with him. After the body of Mr. Gareth Walker has been laid to rest in Germany – under the name of his murderer – Mr. Gordon Walker is ready for his main aim which is the theft of the bonds he knows are in the bank's vaults. He is not immediately expected back at the bank and he will wish to minimize his time there to avoid detection. And he has time to commit the third murder which will further draw attention away from the removal of his brother.”

“Surely someone at the bank would have spotted that he did not know what he was doing?” I objected.

“Any errors would likely have been put down to shock”, Holmes said. “Remember, Mr. Westbury thought that about the mistake he made with the sugar in the coffee. That is why I wished Mr. Ronaldson to expedite the theft by stating that the bonds were to be moved sooner than expected. Suddenly our killer has only one day to strike although fortunately for him it is the day of the fourth attack which will of course be unsuccessful. Besides, he has the keys to the safe.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “How?”

“He has seen the keys so he knows what they look like, one small and one large key kept on their own chain”, Holmes said. “He had a copy made then when he went to the bank on Friday he feigned illness and asked for a glass of water. Mr. Ronaldson fetched it for him and in his absence the keys were swapped.”

“So that was why Mr. Ronaldson's keys did not fit!” I exclaimed. Holmes nodded.

“The whole scheme was devilishly cunning”, Holmes said, “as he knew full well that people would spot the series and focus on the royal visit as the target, drawing attention away from his brother's death still further. He goes early to Victoria Station; I think it most likely that he gained a position high up – the sound of gunfire would echo off that great roof making locating a shooter difficult if not impossible. It was easy to happen past the scene of the attack shortly afterwards and drop both a used cartridge case and a dead snake-skin. I am only glad that he did not seek to complete the illusion with a further dead body.”

I shuddered at that.

“He then goes to the bank where he discovers to his annoyance that the bonds are to be moved tomorrow. Still, it is not a problem. He has some little time back established a small cubbyhole for himself in a store-room, somewhere that he can stash the bonds for twenty-four hours. Henriksen confirmed this and that the room had a small slatted window opening out onto the back of the bank. He would have retrieved the bonds in the small hours of tomorrow morning once the hue and cry had died down.”

“That is brilliant!” I said. “And they have him!”

“Henriksen caught him coming out of his back-room just before closing”, Holmes said. “And he still had the platform ticket from the station this morning. He is as good as hung.”

Before I could congratulate him further there was a knock at the door and a maid entered, bearing what looked like a full English breakfast. From which someone most definitely deserved all of the bacon.

“That is just perfect!” I smiled. Sammy was going to be all right, another criminal had bitten the dust and I had the best and cleverest friend in the world.

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I received a telegram from Holmes at King's Cross to confirm that I was excused surgery work until further notice and upon my arrival in Edinburgh (my dear friend had even booked me into the Station Hotel, bless him!) there was a telegram from the hospital to say that my brother was well and stating their opening hours. Perhaps for once Mrs. Musgrave (as she was now) had been wrong and I would not now lose the most important thing in my life.

Poor King Croesus probably felt the same confidence going off into what would be his last battle. I could not yet know it but Holmes' words on our parting in London were to be my last contact with my friend for a very, very long time.

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