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Bees & Other Stories

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It wasn’t often that Holmes and I played host to someone of actress Jane Helier’s loveliness. I confess I was mesmerised as she recounted her tale in that melodious voice that has so captivated theatre-going audiences.

“Watson?”

“Yes?”

“What do you think of Miss Helier’s tale?”

“It’s very curious,” I said, ignoring the twitch of Holmes’ lips which meant he knew very well I hadn’t been listening. “Why don’t you summarise the key points, Holmes, then maybe I’ll have a better idea.”

Holmes smiled.

“There was a burglary at a bungalow owned by a wealthy man for the purposes of entertaining a certain lady. When a suspect was arrested, he offered the story that he was invited to the bungalow by Miss Helier to discuss a play he’d written. At the time of the alleged meeting, Miss Helier was rehearsing lines with her understudy, but the young man claims he was received at the bungalow by a parlourmaid and met someone calling herself Miss Helier. The young man had a drink, and the next thing he remembers he was stumbling out in the road, where the police caught up with him after a tip about the burglary. When confronted with the real Miss Helier, he denies it was her. The police found the bungalow had, indeed, been ransacked and jewelry taken. The wealthy man was not in residence, and the other occupant, the lady in question, who is in fact someone else’s wife, was called to London by a bogus telegram.”

“Someone is impersonating you, my dear,” I said.

“Another actress, perhaps,” suggested Holmes. “The theatrical world can be cut-throat, perhaps someone wants to embroil you in a scandal.”

“It is more likely that this wealthy man and his lady will be the ones to suffer once the press gets this story,” I said. “This gang of thieves must be large. The fake Jane Helier, the parlourmaid, the thieves themselves, the ones tossing the poor playwright out in the street.”

“Mister Holmes, can you throw no light on the situation?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I can see no flaws in it.”

“Oh.”
“A pound, please,” Holmes said. He held out his hand, palm up.

Miss Helier’s eyes widened. “Is that a retaining fee?”

“No, it is payment for services rendered.”

“Holmes!” I cried.

“It’s called ‘trying it on the dog,’ Watson. You know this playwright well, Miss Helier. You agreed to bring his latest plot to a real detective and see if there are any holes. There aren’t.”

“You are a clever gentleman, Mister Holmes. Leslie will be so pleased.”

Holmes saw her out.

“I warned her she would be in her understudy’s power if they tried to execute the plan. She wants to show up the lady who married her beaux and is now carrying on with another at the bungalow.”

“What?”

“She was planning the crime, Watson. I spun that yarn about a play because I didn’t want her to lose face. It is such a pretty one.”