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Friday, January 02, 2004

The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part II)

Here is part II of The Case of the Excellent Typist.

With that Mrs. Hudson escorted a rather plain looking but neatly dressed young lady of not more than 26 or 27 into the room and announced her as Miss Mary Nordstrum. She wore an expression of nervousness and one could tell she had not slept well the previous night. She stood politely but resolutely in the doorway.

"Ah, Miss Nordstrum, pray come in and seat yourself," my friend said calmly while referring to a nearby chair with a wave of his hand as he perched himself on the window sill opposite the chair. "Your note has certainly piqued our interest. Now what is it we can do for you?"

She shot a questioning glance at me which was not lost on Holmes.

"This is my friend and colleague Doctor Watson. I assure you that he is of invaluable service to me in these little matters and can be completely trusted."

"As you say then." She acquiesced. "As my note indicated this matter is both delicate and urgent. Have you seen the morning edition today Mr. Holmes?"

"So you are involved in some way with the Hixton Road case." Holmes replied with a satisfied smile. "I see then that you are employed by the bank as a typist and I may add a most excellent typist indeed."

She looked momentarily startled and my friend quickly reassured her. "Your fingernails are quite short, indicative of someone who uses their fingers often such as a typist or pianist and you have a smudge of ink on your right index finger. Surely is it not obvious that you must be an excellent typist as only typists who are very fast occasionally have to pry two or more hammers apart after they collide?"

"Everything is as you say Mr. Holmes." She agreed with a tone of awe in her voice. "You are even more impressive in person than in the accounts which I have read. I knew that if anyone could help me it would be you."

"Well then, start from the beginning and tell us all that is troubling you." Holmes threw himself in his favorite chair and closed his eyes, still puffing on his pipe as was his custom. Miss Nordstrum shot me a questioning glance and I nodded my assurance that the great detective was indeed attentive. With that she began her narrative.

"As you have said I am employed by the Bank of London, Hixton Road Branch as a typist. I work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and each day when I come in a stack of handwritten correspondence is on my desk awaiting my arrival. I type the outgoing letters and notices for all of the bank’s departments and then a postman takes them out twice each day, once at noon and again in the afternoon before closing. It is not difficult work but occasionally it becomes dreary.

"I have been employed there three months and have become close friends with a clerk who also works at the bank," She hesitated as if she was deciding whether or not to divulge any further information. "by the name of Nigel Wilson." she continued with a heavy sigh. "He and I have seen quite a lot of each other this month past and have begun to think seriously of our future.

"In any case I really do care for the man and so I can’t bear to think he may have had something to do with last nights robbery attempt." She blurted out half crying.

Holmes quickly opened his eyes and leaned forward to console the distressed lady. "There, there Miss Nordstrum you can rest assured that we will endeavor to get to the bottom of this affair, but you must compose yourself and relate the facts of your suspicion and how they relate to the events of last night."

"Very well sir," she said with a sniff as she straightened up in her chair again. "I have noticed in the past week some strange behavior from Nigel. He has seemed distant and nervous when we were alone together, as if a great weight hung on his shoulders, not at all like I had known him before. By the close of the week on our walk together Friday evening he appeared simply exhausted by whatever the matter was. When I inquired as to the trouble he refused to speak of it saying only that I needn’t worry and that all would soon be right. On the contrary, when at the bank he seemed to me to be quite himself and even more friendly and at ease than is his custom. In fact, each morning this past week when I would come in he would greet me kindly and talk with me for a few moments at my desk as I prepared for my days work. On Wednesday I even found him straightening my days correspondence for me when I arrived."

Sherlock Holmes opened his eyes again and a look of puzzlement crossed his face, "Quite remarkable indeed."

"This difference in his manner when we were alone and at the bank coupled with his indication that something was soon to happen had me quite alarmed as you can imagine." She continued. "And now that this thievery has been attempted I can’t help but have the feeling that Nigel is hiding something and that perhaps my love may somehow be entangled in it. " Her voice trailed off and her head sunk to her breast.

"And..", said Holmes in a leading tone of voice his eyes becoming wider.

"And he has mentioned to me in confidence that as a youth he was involved in some indiscretion which is not common knowledge." She quickly added, "But I know in my heart of hearts that Nigel is a reformed man and that he would never wrong anyone by his own will. You must promise that this information I have just shared will remain a confidence between us." We both nodded our agreement and she continued.

"You can understand then that if my suspicions prove to be unfounded I would certainly have regretted calling them to the attention of the police and yet I could not live with myself if I knew the man I loved had committed a crime and I had not done my duty. On the other hand if the police suspect that someone at the bank were involved, Nigel’s past may work against him unjustly. That is why I have called on your Mr. Holmes, to engage your services in the hope that you are able to arrive at the truth. Now you know all that I do about the matter." She signed with a look of helplessness as she looked from me to Holmes who stood and walked to the window, parting the curtains and studying the street below.

"Would you mind answering a few questions to clarify one or two points?" Holmes asked with his face still to the window.

"Of course not." She assented with a nod.

"Very well then, tell me, how did you come to learn of the attempt last night and put the note upon or door so late?"

"You see, I live in a flat by myself as I have no relatives living. My work at the bank supplements my small inheritance which was left me when my parents died some years ago. It is about a quarter mile from the bank on Hixton Road. I was just about to turn in last night around a half past ten when I heard the furious racing of a four wheeler on the street. When I looked out I saw two police carriages heading towards the Bank. I hurried downstairs quickly and watched while the carriages pulled up at the bank. The constables hurried inside and then came out carrying a body which they whisked away in one of the four wheelers. The excitement had me quite nervous because of Nigel’s behavior and I instantly feared that he was in danger. I determined to discover the nature of the event and so I ran for the bank where I inquired as to the situation.

"When I learned that the body was that of a constable I was only partially relieved. I then hailed a cab and drove straight to your door hoping to find your rooms still lit. When I saw that they were dark, I jotted the note and slipped it under the door so I was sure to consult you this morning."

"Of course". Holmes turned from the window and sat once again in his chair. "Tell me," he paused and took a long draw on his pipe, "this correspondence that you transcribe in your duties, do you keep the original handwritten notes?" Miss Nordstrum looked inquisitively at my friend who now had begun to puff on his pipe in earnest.

"Why, yes, I always keep the previous day’s originals in my bottom left desk drawer until I am sure that they have been mailed. Each day I put in the garbage the originals from two day’s prior."

"Well then, I think we may be in luck!" Holmes smiled and sprang from his seat. "We must go at once to the bank where I’m certain our friends from Scotland Yard are hard at work."

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