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Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part IV)

Part IV of "The Case of the Excellent Typist"...

When we returned to Baker Street Holmes instantly demanded the papers I had been carrying that originated from the typist’s desk. He poured over each one in the stack, fifty-seven in all if memory serves, several times and finally had placed two aside after several hours worth of work - each time uttering a "Hah!" of delight. I had begun to be engrossed in a medical journal and an article that discussed innovative surgical techniques when he sprang from his seat and began to pace the room with the two letters in his hand.

"In these are the proof of my theory, Watson. And with these we will lay our hands on the would-be burglars and ruffians who maliciously wounded Constable Rose." With that he tossed them on my lap on his way past my sitting chair by the fireplace. I picked up the notes and read each one carefully. The first, which was presumably posted on Wednesday of the previous week, read as follows:

Mr. Charles K. Gibson
Belton Road Station
To be left until called for:

Dear Mr. Gibson,
Let us express our foremost regret to you regarding the insolvency of
Gibson's Retail House of Trade. Noting your unpaid debt makes
imperative back interest earned be repaid as scheduled:
42 pounds 16 shillings.

The second, posted on Friday, was similar and addressed to the same Mr. Gibson. The text of the correspondence, however, read thusly.

Regarding the insolvency of Gibson's Retail House of Trade: The
loans once earmarked for financing fail to suit a number of
unrestrictive and modest, yet basic projected earnings.
Loans rejected as submitted: 75 pounds and 36 pounds.

While I was still reading Holmes grabbed his coat and with a wave of his hand explained that he was going out to mail some correspondence and would return promptly. Indeed, by the time I had finished examining the notes a satisfied Holmes had returned and threw himself into the chair opposite mine.

"Well," he smiled. "Surely you can now see the matter clearly."

"I confess that I am still somewhat in the dark. It is clear to me that Nigel Wilson was obviously involved as the inside man in the attempted robbery. I do not, however, see the relevance of these letters to Mr. Gibson aside from their somewhat labored grammar. I felt as I often did, as a person who was groping about blind in the presence of someone who saw everything clearly.

"Consider", Holmes began, "the scene at the safe, the address of this Mr. Gibson, and the behavior of Mr. Wilson in the week prior to the incident and one explanation - my theory - will become obvious." He was now obviously enjoying my dullness while I was becoming increasingly irritable.

"I just don’t see how..." I began but was immediately cut off by the sound of the door of our rooms being swung open by a clean shaven, well dressed and handsome young man in his mid twenties, out of breath and who looked harried by recent events.

"Ah, Mr. Nigel Wilson I presume." My friend said calmly. "Please sit down and we will endeavor to help you." Holmes motioned to the chair by the window with a sweep of his hand.

Obviously surprised, Nigel traversed the room and did sit down. He appeared to be at his wits end.

"I have just three questions for you. First, what is the little indiscretion of your past which have not shared with Miss Nordstrum?"

Clearly exasperated Nigel sighed and began. "You must understand it was more than a decade ago and that I was a young a foolish boy at the time. I had fallen in with a crowd of ruffians and participated in the burglary of a printing shop. I was so horrified by my own actions that I severed ties with those involved and have been on the right side of the law ever since."

"Very well then, do you truly care for Miss Nordstrum?" Holmes sat expectantly.

Again our visitor looked perplexed and answered. "Yes sir I do. She means the world to me and I can’t bear to cause her anymore pain in this matter."

My friend nodded his head. "And finally, what are your plans regarding the young lady?"

"Well sir, I planned on asking her to be my wife before this whole affair happened. Since you seem to know all about it, however, I’ll spare you the explanation. But I give you my word that I was determined to go to Scotland Yard and make a clean breast of it when Mary told me you might be able to help. And then when I heard her utter the number ‘36’ I knew that all was known already." The young man sat with his head in his hands.

Sherlock Holmes sat for several minutes with his eyes closed. Finally, after what seemed like hours he rose and extended his hand to the young man.

"You can be rest assured that I’ll do my best to protect your reputation." Holmes smiled. "You must however do one additional task for me."

"Of course!" Nigel’s expression had changed from desperation to hope at Holmes’ offer.

The detective walked over to the desk, pulled out a piece of foolscap and began writing. After a few sentences he handed the note to Nigel.

"You obviously know what to do with this. We will take care of the rest. I now bid you good-bye and good luck."

"Thank you Mr. Holmes. I am truly indebted to you." He shook both our hands and left a much different figure than the one who entered a short time ago. It was as if the weight of the entire world had been lifted from him. Holmes immediately drifted off to his experiments and was not in the mood to discuss the case for the remainder of the evening and the following day. One or two times I tried to press the matter but he simply waved me off and returned to his test tubes. I examined the letters several times during the course of the next day but was unable to see what my friend had obviously seen. He only left our rooms on one occasion for a short walk, he explained, but did receive two telegrams which he read hastily and then threw into the fire.

I was beginning to fear that I would never understand the singular events of the past two days and that perhaps the case was concluded in his mind when he rushed out to breakfast on Tuesday morning shortly before 8 as I read the morning paper.

"Come Watson, illumination awaits!" He beckoned as he handed me my coat and slipped his own on. I followed him as he streaked down the stairs and out to a waiting cab. I was surprised to find Inspector Lestrade, looking a bit annoyed, already seated in the cab with a young constable in plain clothes. We were off at once down Baker Street.

"Well, good morning Inspector." I began. "I see Holmes has coaxed you to be part of this little adventure. And by the way," I turned to my friend who although facing the window, could not hide a smirk, "where are we off to in such a hurry?"

"Indeed Mr. Holmes," Lestrade’s tone was anything but cheerful. "what’s the meaning of this telegram? And why have you asked me to bring this lad absent his uniform?" Lestrade was almost shaking as he held up a telegram Holmes had obviously sent him the previous day.

Holmes now turned from the window and fixed his attention squarely on Lestrade. "Forgive my predilection for drama, Inspector, but am I correct in assuming that you would be interested in laying your hands on the men who wounded Constable Rose in that business on Hixton Road Saturday last?"

"Indeed I would Mr. Holmes!" Lestrade began rubbing his hands together in delight.

"Then you shall have your chance shortly. At least one of them will cross our path before the morning is out I assure you. Ah, our destination!" Holmes exclaimed pointing across the street to the Belton Road postal station. Our cab came to a halt almost directly across from the station.

"From this vantage point gentlemen, we will await our quarry. A member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a band of street-wise youths which I occasionally employ, has been stationed inside the office. When our man arrives our ally will follow him out the door and tip his cap. When he does I suggest you dispatch this able-bodied man in pursuit. If you have the stomach for it you may wish to follow the man and eventually he will certainly lead you to his accomplice. That I leave to your discretion." The detective finished his explanation and began to look intently in the direction of the station across the street.

We waited for some time at the station when finally a diminutive man with brown curls and a rather plain brown suit strode out of the station followed closely by a young boy who could only be described as rough looking. The youngster tipped his cap in our direction and at once the plain clothed constable and Lestrade were out of the cab and on foot in close pursuit.

"Well, Doctor the case is at an end for us. I am certain that Lestrade can handle things from here. He may be a bit dull in the areas of detection but he’s as fierce as bulldog once you point him in the right direction."

"‘Ere you are gov’ner". We were interrupted by the untidy young boy who had tipped his cap minutes before. He now stood at the window of the cab holding up a piece of paper with a smile on his freckled and dirty face. "I got it from ‘im just like you says." Holmes accepted the paper and flipped the boy a sovereign.

"Well done. You have earned your pay today." My friend smiled and the boy was off down the street disappearing into the crowd no doubt on his way to spend his reward.

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