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Authors: Jason Lethcoe

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BOOK: No Place Like Holmes
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She hesitated, as if deciding whether or not to continue. Her expression changed, and Griffin thought she looked as if she might cry.

After waiting a moment, she said in a shaky voice, “Forgive me, but this next part is a bit difficult. All day I waited for my husband's return. As the hour grew late, I began to wonder what had happened. My husband, you see, is very punctual. He lives by his pocket watch and has never been home any later than seven thirty. But last night, he didn't come home at all.”

Mrs. Dent sniffed and her eyes filled with tears. Griffin was thankful that he'd thought to place a clean handkerchief in his pocket that morning and offered it to her. The woman took it gratefully and, after giving him a watery smile, continued her story.

“I was up all night, feeling more terrified by the hour. And then, early this morning, I was surprised by the arrival of a strange visitor. He introduced himself as James Dunn, a local fisherman and member of something called the Angler's Club. He said that my husband was gone forever and that he had seen the entire thing happen. Truth be told, if the man hadn't seemed so genuinely frightened, I don't know that I could have believed what he told me.”

“Pray, tell me what happened, Mrs. Dent,” Snodgrass said, urging her along. “I'm sure I shall be able to bring the villains to justice.” He gestured around the parlor at the assortment of steam-driven gadgetry. “I am equipped with technology capable of solving even the most difficult of mysteries.”

“You don't understand, sir. According to Mr. Dunn, my husband wasn't kidnapped or murdered.” She looked imploringly at Griffin and his uncle. Then, choking back a sob, she said, “My husband was eaten by the Loch Ness monster.”


he hansom cab waited outside the Baker Street address for a long time after Griffin and his uncle had taken Mrs. Dent inside. The burly driver stroked his beard as he stared up at the illuminated window. Things weren't going according to plan.

His boss had instructed him to patrol Baker Street, and he'd been doing so for several hours before Griffin had flagged him down. He'd refused the countless offers of other passengers wanting a ride because he wasn't really a driver at all. His name was John McDuff. And he was one of the most wanted men in England.

Mr. Moriarty isn't going to like this
, he thought.

He was supposed to be watching to see if Sherlock Holmes or Rupert Snodgrass had been alerted to their robbery. Pulling off that heist, one that had involved over two tons of explosives, had been a masterful feat. It was a theft only a couple of criminal geniuses like the Moriartys could have orchestrated.

The new Moriarty had devised a crane capable of transporting the load, and then divided the explosives between hansom cabs that transported the stolen goods to a secret train station, right under the watchful eye of Scotland Yard! The plan was, in John McDuff's opinion, nothing less than inspired.

This new Moriarty is even more brilliant than his cousin, the
, McDuff thought. After all, hadn't he heard that the man possessed three degrees in engineering from Oxford and additional degrees in science from Harvard University in the States? With that kind of education, it had come as no surprise that the Professor had placed his younger cousin in charge of this caper. Everyone thought it was the best move the old man had made in years. But now, the careful plan made by the two cousins had encountered its first snag.

Everyone in the criminal underworld knew about Rupert Snodgrass and treated him like the amateur sleuth he was. There were many times that Snodgrass had been watched from the shadows as he struggled to put the clues to a mystery together. He was certainly no Sherlock Holmes, but he could still complicate things.

This boy, on the other hand, was something new. And McDuff didn't like what he'd seen so far.

He had picked up the boy hoping he would reveal something, but assumed it was a long shot since he was just a child. But he had reacted quickly to the hysterical woman and had taken charge of the situation in a very adult manner. However, what had truly alarmed him was that when he had turned around to check on the boy, he had seen Griffin pick up the tiny bits of paper on the floor of the cab and pocket them. He should have cleaned the cab more carefully after the transport to the river the night before. How could he have been so careless?

He considered not reporting what had happened, but he realized with a sinking feeling that the new Moriarty would already know. He had eyes and ears all over London.

And he wasn't the type to forgive any mistakes.


he following morning, Griffin Sharpe and Rupert Snodgrass climbed inside a carriage sent by Mrs.

Dent. It was a rainy Monday, the kind that is usually best spent warming one's toes in front of a roaring fire. But in spite of the foul weather, Griffin's spirits were not dampened. In fact, for the first time since arriving in England, he was having fun.

“I cannot understand why she insisted that you be a part of the investigation,” Griffin's uncle said grumpily as he settled himself into the seat opposite Griffin. “I find the whole idea preposterous. This is no business for a child.”

Snodgrass removed his tattered brown hat and shook it, scattering water all over the inside of the cab. Griffin noticed that the ragged bowler was stained in several places. The largest of the grease spots was from some kind of machine oil, and its mangled brim had fireplace ash and something that looked like the remains of scrambled eggs around its edge. Overall, it was the saddest excuse for a hat he'd ever seen.

“I think she trusts me,” Griffin answered, smiling.

Rupert Snodgrass scowled. “Well, I don't want you making a nuisance of yourself, understand?”

“Yes, Uncle,” Griffin said, careful to keep from looking as excited as he felt.

The fact that he was being included in the investigation made him feel like he was finally going to get a chance to put his talents to good use. And it was definitely going to be more fun than wandering around the streets of London alone each day.

After hearing her story, Griffin felt sure that whatever the fisherman had seen, it couldn't have really been the Loch Ness Monster. He'd heard about the legend of the great dinosaur-like beast while studying a book on Scottish folklore at school. God was an imaginative creator, so such a creature might exist, but he had serious doubts about it showing up in the River Thames. It just didn't make any sense. First of all, someone would have noticed such a large creature traveling all the way from Scotland. And second, why would the beast eat only one man and no one else on the banks?

Griffin let his mind work on these questions as the hansom cab jogged along Baker Street and, after a quick turn, went east down Oxford Street. Griffin carefully noted the location and name of each shop they passed, committing them to his photographic memory. Now that he was officially part of an investigation, he thought that gathering a thorough sense of his surroundings might prove valuable.

Spotting a pastry vendor, he was reminded again of how long it had been since he'd eaten. Glancing back at his uncle, he decided to hazard a request. “Uncle?”

Snodgrass winced in irritation. “Enough of this ‘Uncle' business. I would rather you refer to me as Mr. Snodgrass, if you please.”

Griffin sighed, then continued politely, “
. Snodgrass, would it be all right if we stopped to get something to eat.” He quickly added, “I have my own money and would be more than happy to pay for it.”

“That won't be necessary,” Snodgrass replied. “I had Watts go to the market this morning with some of the money your mother sent. You'll find whatever sustenance you need in there.”

Griffin's uncle nodded to a leather satchel on the seat next to him. Griffin understood this to mean that he could help himself. Oh, how his stomach rumbled! It felt like an age and a half since he'd eaten.

Unfortunately, when he unwrapped the sealed package inside his uncle's satchel, he was sorely disappointed. Instead of delicious pastries or cheese or fruit, there were a couple of dried herrings and some kind of black, lumpy sausage that looked horrible.

“Black pudding,” his uncle said. “Blood sausage. It's made from the blood of cows. You mother always loved it, so I thought you might too.”

Griffin felt his stomach lurch. How disgusting! If this were what his uncle ate, it was no wonder he was always so short-tempered. However, Griffin was so hungry he thought he may as well give the food a try. He picked up one of the small fish by its tail and tried nibbling at its undersides.

It was awful. But Griffin felt sure that as bad as it was, it had to be better than the black pudding. Somehow he just couldn't picture his mother enjoying that, no matter what his uncle said. He ate as much of the fish as he was able, trying to imagine it was something else. But even with a photographic memory, he couldn't force the image of a lovely sandwich of sliced chicken and cheese onto the greasy little fish.

Finishing his strange meal, Griffin placed what remained of the fish and the untouched black sausage back in the satchel. While he had been eating, his uncle had been reading a copy of the
London Times
. After closing the leather satchel, Griffin noticed a small article on the front page of the paper that read,


Police investigate the disappearance of imports arriving from China. The
Shanghai Scorpion
, a ship recently arrived from Hong Kong, bore several items of value for induction into the British Museum, including several ancient vases and some precious works of art given to Her Majesty from the Emperor.

Police were relieved to discover the treasures untouched, but fifteen hundred kilograms of fireworks were reported missing. The circumstances around the disappearance remain a mystery. Police suspect that the fireworks robbery was carried out by eager celebrants of an upcoming Chinese holiday.

“Uncle, I mean, Mr. Snodgrass?”

“What is it?”

“Did you happen to read the article on the front page, the one about the robbery?”

His uncle peeled down an edge of the paper and gave him a withering stare. “Of course I did. I read every section of the
,” he replied coldly.

“Don't you think that it sounds oddly suspicious?”

“Nothing outside of the ordinary, I assure you,” Snodgrass said, returning to his paper. “It is as the police said, probably a group of Chinese ruffians who are too poor to afford their own fireworks. I don't have time to meddle with such trifling affairs.”

“But it
strange,” Griffin said. “After all, the robbers stole only fireworks and left the most valuable contents untouched. If they had stolen the Emperor's treasure and sold it, they could have purchased as many fireworks as they wanted. Also, to steal over fifteen hundred kilograms of fireworks would require more than just a few people. Converting kilograms to pounds that would be . . .”

Griffin did some quick mental calculations. “Three thousand three hundred pounds. That's a lot of fireworks.”

Rupert Snodgrass lowered his paper, and Griffin felt as though his uncle were seeing him truly for the first time. He thought for a moment that maybe he would concede that Griffin had a point; he seemed to be considering something. But then his countenance changed.

“It's probably not as important as you think,” Snodgrass replied. Puffing out his chest, he said, “I have been a detective longer than you have been alive, boy. I may, out of necessity, have to bring you along on this investigation, but it does not mean that you are anything other than an observer. Please keep your opinions to yourself.”

Griffin nodded absently, but he wasn't really listening to his uncle. His quick mind was already working its way around the new mystery. He knew he should be thinking about the Loch Ness monster case, but the fireworks burglary was just too curious.

BOOK: No Place Like Holmes
13.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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