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Saturday, January 03, 2004

The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part III)

This is part III of the "The Case of the Excellent Typist"...

The three of us hailed a cab that took us on the quarter hour’s journey to Hixton Road. On the way Holmes said nothing but started vacantly out the window, a certain sign that he was applying his considerable mental powers to the problem at hand. I tried to engage our client in conversation but I’m afraid I rambled on a bit about subjects Miss Nordstrum would rather not have heard, but her politeness forbade her from saying so. When we arrived, a police carriage was present as Holmes had surmised.

"I think it would be best if you were to wait in the cab, unseen." Holmes cautioned the young lady. "We needn’t give the official force any cause for alarm or suspicion. Pray tell how are we to come by your desk?"

"It is the third desk on the back right near the wall." She answered.

We stepped out of the cab but just as Holmes was descending the step he gave a quick glance back at Miss Nordstrum. "And Mr. Wilson’s normal work area?"

"Nigel is a teller and so he works behind the counter. His duties take him all over the bank and he seldom resides for long in any one place."

With that Holmes strode quickly up to the steps of the bank where the sinewy figure of Inspector Lestrade was just beginning to descend.

"Ah, Mr. Holmes, I didn’t expect that this business would interest you. It is quite an open and shut case I’m afraid. And thanks to the quick action of officer Rose the thieves were not successful. I have no doubt we’ll not see the likes of these ruffians again."

"I am sure you are quite right as always Inspector but the account in this morning’s paper seemed to have several points of interest which I desired to see for myself. You have no objections then?" Holmes tried to disguise his condescending tone but to someone who knew him as well as I it was in vain.

"Of course not." exclaimed Lestrade with a thin lipped smile. "Because you have aided my efforts in small ways in the past I am always willing to return the favor."

"By the way, Inspector," Holmes turned as we were about to enter the door, "Have you gotten a statement from Rose as to the events of last night? I would very much like to hear them."

"Indeed I have. I spoke with him myself at the hospital this morning."

"Splendid. Tell me if you will, what caught the officer’s attention?"

Lestrade glanced down at a small notebook he held in his left hand, "Let’s see, he says he was walking his nightly beat which takes him directly in front of the bank when he saw a dim light emanating from inside the bank. He crept up to the door and was surprised to see two men, their backs to him, crouched at the safe. Apparently they were engaged in some sort of heated discussion but Rose was unable to determine the topic. He burst into the building and ordered the men to be still. Before he could finish his statement one of them whirled and fired a pistol at him, wounding him in the leg. He remembers little thereafter save the two men running from the scene. Rest assured Rose would be able to identify his attacker although he did not get a clean look at the other fellow."

"Thank you Lestrade, you have been very helpful."

My friend flung open the door and proceeded to step into the bank. The Hixton Road branch of the Bank of London was one of the smaller branches and was arranged with teller stations on the left hand side of the big room and a series of desks where clerks and other employees attended to their duties on the right. The middle of the room was open and allowed for customers to walk freely. One could imagine that the offices of bank managers were located in the corridor that opened behind the teller stations. The immense, black safe was situated squarely behind the teller counter. As it was Sunday there was no one about save two constables who were presently examining the door of the safe.

Holmes began by proceeding straight to the desk of our client and opening the drawer she had mentioned. In it was a stack of handwritten letters which Holmes snatched up and shoved in my direction.

"If you would be so good as to conceal these Watson I would be much obliged." I quickly stored them beneath my overcoat in an inside pocket as Holmes was making a bee line for the safe.

"Gentlemen," Holmes said politely as he approached the constables examining the safe. "if you would be so kind as to step away from the safe, I would like to inspect it." The two constables turned on their heels with a look of indignation. The look passed quickly, however, as they instantly recognized the famous detective. They backed away as Holmes was already down on his hands and knees examining the floor boards. He crawled on all fours back and forth in front of the safe for several minutes. The constables seemed as if they were enjoying the show, shooting amused glances to each other. Finally, Holmes rose and turned his attention to the safe itself, pulling his lens from his pocket to examine the combination lock as well as the very edge of the door. After this was concluded he uttered a short sigh and replaced his glass in his pocket.

"Has anyone touched the safe since the excitement of last night?" He inquired.

"No sir.", one of the constables reported filling his chest and standing almost at attention. "It was plain that the safe hadn’t been opened so we made sure that it wasn’t tampered with."

"Thank you gentlemen, let me apologize for the inconvenience." He turned and headed for the door as I hurried to catch up.

"Well?" I asked as we descended the stairs, once again in the chilly fall air.

"It is a bad business Watson. Dark powers are at work here. It only remains to be seen whether a man’s reputation is worth preserving." His tone was dark but here in the bright sunshine I could see a gleam of excitement in my companion’s eye as we strode for the waiting carriage.

"Now then, Miss Nordstrum," Holmes began, taking his seat and closing the carriage door. "I would very much like to speak with Mr. Nigel Wilson as soon as can be arranged. For his own safety," our young client looked startled at Holmes statement, "I suggest the meeting take place tonight." Holmes tapped the roof of the cab with his walking stick and we started down Hixton Road towards Miss Nordstrum’s flat.

"As you wish Mr. Holmes, she assented. Do you think, then, that my poor Nigel is to blame in this affair?"

"There can be little doubt that your friend is involved in the events that transpired here last night. I believe, however, that if he cooperates he will be dealt with fairly by the police if their intervention is required. That is all that I can promise. Tell him, however, that if he does not cooperate with me I shall have no choice but to enlighten the official force of all that I know. As proof of my sincerity simply utter the number ‘36’ to him and he will no doubt understand my meaning."

The young lady was quite shaken with Holmes words and said little in the short journey to her lodgings. She bade us a hasty good-bye and promised to contact us when a meeting could be arranged. On the ride back to Baker Street I inquired, "So then you have a theory as to the involvement of Nigel Wilson and the identity of the burglars?"

"A theory which fits all the data we currently possess, yes Doctor. It should not take long prove it correct."


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