The Problem of Threadneedle Street (The Assassination of Sherlock Holmes Book 2)

BOOK: The Problem of Threadneedle Street (The Assassination of Sherlock Holmes Book 2)
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Book TWO:








Copyright © 2015 by Craig Janacek

All Rights Reserved


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Grateful acknowledgment to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

for the use of the Sherlock Holmes characters.


Books by Craig Janacek






















*Coming soon on Kindle




The more we live, more brief appear

Our life's succeeding stages;

A day to childhood seems a year,

And years like passing ages.


The gladsome current of our youth,

Ere passion yet disorders,

Steals lingering like a river smooth

Along its grassy borders.


But as the careworn cheek grows wan,

And sorrow's shafts fly thicker,

Ye stars, that measure life to man,

Why seem your courses quicker?


When joys have lost their bloom and breath,

And life itself is vapid,

Why, as we reach the Falls of Death

Feel we its tide more rapid?


It may be strange—yet who would change

Time's course to slower speeding,

When one by one our friends have gone,

And left our bosoms bleeding?


Heaven gives our years of fading strength

Indemnifying fleetness;

And those of youth, a seeming length,

Proportion'd to their sweetness.


‘The River of Life’

Thomas Campbell (1777-1844)

Literary Agent’s Foreword


As detailed in the Foreword to The Adventure of the Pharaoh’s Curse, herein we present for your enjoyment a newly discovered tale by Dr. John H. Watson, the friend and biographer of the world’s first and foremost consulting detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The manuscript was found in a much damaged condition, and in the restoration, a conscious decision was made to adopt American spellings of such words as ‘colour’ and ‘humour.’ Furthermore, for reasons known only to the author, and contrary to his more typical-style,  Dr. Watson divided into three separate narratives a unified tale of Holmes’ temporary return from the Happy Isles of retirement.

A synopsis of the first narrative: In late 1909, Sherlock Holmes has been drawn out of retirement by the pleadings of Inspector Lestrade, who is distraught that Holmes’ one-time ally, Inspector Patterson, has been cruelly murdered. With Dr. Watson at his side, Holmes journeys to the British Museum, where priceless items have been vanishing. In the Egyptian Gallery, strange things have been seen and there are whispers of a curse laid down by the mummy of a disturbed Pharaoh. The Director, the Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities, and four guards are all suspects, but one guard has vanished and another proves to be the son of an old enemy of Holmes. When Holmes’ first solution fails to solve the case, Dr. Watson helps to set him back upon the right track. Finally, Parker, the garrotter, and James Windibank, are unmasked by Holmes as the villains. But just when Watson is ready to celebrate the successful conclusion to this final case, a coded message arrives for Holmes. The mysterious Mortlock has asked them a continuation of the riddle of the Sphinx: ‘what has no legs at midnight?’ And Holmes deduces that the answer can only be: ‘a corpse.’

We now commence, reader, where Watson left off, with that eerie message threatening all that they had accomplished together over the years and perhaps even the very life of Sherlock Holmes. But fear not, friends of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for ‘beyond this place of wrath and tears… and yet the menace of the years, finds and shall find [Holmes] unafraid.’





It was with some measure of hesitation that I took up my pen in order to chronicle the incident of the Sphinx’s Riddle, for never before in the long and storied career of Mr. Sherlock Holmes had I witnessed such a mysterious conclusion to a case. At first glance, it appeared that Holmes had very neatly tied up all of the loose threads, sending both Parker and Windibank on well-deserved trips to Newgate and possibly even the gallows after that. However, the arrival of the encoded telegram, with its Sphinx-like riddle ascribed to one Mortlock, whomever he may be, suggested that we swam in far deeper waters than I had originally suspected.

I nonetheless did my best to set down the facts as I knew them at the time. Over the nearly three decades of our association, I have learned several artifices from my good friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes. One is to conceal the links between a series of deductions, so as to suddenly present the conclusion and thereby produce a startling effect. He has performed this act innumerable times for the benefit of his clients, the inspectors of Scotland Yard, and even me. However, in this particular case, I felt that some cruel trick was being played upon Holmes himself, for he had been presented with a disquieting close to an apparently simple case. Could he shake off the mental rust that must have accumulated over the last six years of his retirement and reason back from this message, and the crimes that preceded it, to the prime mover of the drama? Who was Mortlock?

It was with these thoughts turning over in my brain that I lay down for a restless sleep. When I finally awoke the following morning, I found the lanky form of Holmes pacing back and forth in the sitting room of the hotel’s suite, his chin sunk upon his breast, and his hands thrust into his trouser pockets. His aquiline face was drawn and his grey eyes shone with grim determination. I could deduce from the fact that the room was literally ankle-deep in newspapers that Holmes had experienced little repose the prior night.

“Ah, good morning, Watson,” said he, amiably. “I see that you too had a late night.”

I was heartened to see that he was in a good humor, despite the threat which loomed over us. “Let me guess, Holmes. You deduced this from the dark circles under my eyes and the hasty way by which I have shaved my cheeks.”

He laughed merrily. “You are making progress, Watson, my dear fellow, but you forgot the most important clue of all, from which the final inference could be made.”

I glanced over at the mirror hanging upon the wall. Even after all this time, I was still somewhat surprised to not find the once thin-as-a-lath fellow of nine and twenty years, but rather a stout, thick-necked, middle-sized man of fifty-seven. Only the moustache over my square jaw remained unchanged, even as it fell from the passing tides of fashion. Some things simply fit a man’s face and cannot be altered. But I could not spot Holmes’ final clue. “And what is that, Holmes?”

“I believe that I have stressed to you before, Watson, the critical importance of observing any peculiarities upon a man’s hands. In this case, your right hand has both a heightened redness upon the callus of the second finger and numerous stains of a blue iron gall ink. From this, one may safely conclude that you have been engaged upon the task of setting down the events of the last two days into one of your little sketches. Since I am well aware that once you start upon such a task, you like to see it through, it is simple enough to hypothesize that you remained up late through the night working upon it.”

“Indeed, Holmes, and I must say that I am disquieted by the message from the so-called Mortlock.”

He nodded in agreement. “As you know, Watson, when I was in active practice, it was my method to never miss any advertisements in the agony columns. They are a wealth of information and a hunting-ground for the student of the unusual. During my retirement, I have entirely given up such habits. But if I am to deduce the identity of our Mr. Mortlock, I need to revert to my previous ways. As you can see, I have therefore arranged for the local news agent to send up not only fresh editions of every paper, but as many older copies that he could get his hands upon. I have just been looking though all of them in order to master the particulars of what is transpiring in this vast city teeming with over five millions of people.”

I glanced at the jumble of newspapers on the floor, from the
to the
Morning Post
to the
Daily Chronicle
Daily Telegraph
, and many others. “Would it not be simpler to just question Parker or Windibank? If they were put up to the job by someone, surely they must know the identity of the mastermind?”

Holmes shook his head. “It is rare to find an informer, for their lifespan is short and filled with fear.”

“And did you discover anything of note in the papers?”

“Nothing conclusive. But there are some interesting items worthy of following up. Perhaps one of them will prove to be the thread that I require.”

“So you plan to remain in London for some time?”

“Indeed. I cannot conduct this inquiry from Sussex, that much is certain,” said he, chuckling. “If I may ask for your co-operation, my dear Watson, you would confer a great favor upon me by staying on as well.”

“On the contrary,” I answered, “I should wish nothing better.”

Holmes raised one of his bushy eyebrows. “We may have several hard and dangerous days’ and nights’ work in front of us. Are you certain?”

“Of course, Holmes.”

“Very good,” said he, smiling. “I have often said that there is no man who is better worth having at my side when I am in a tight place, and I think we may find ourselves betwixt the devil and the deep sea before the matter is clear. Ha! This is like the old days, then! Well, if we are to continue this, we shall need a London base. The Northumberland Hotel may be fine for a night or two, but it is hardly an adequate headquarters for conducting an investigation. And our sanctum at Baker Street is no more. It is a great pity that Mrs. Hudson has sold the flat to an insurance company and retired to Brighton.”

“Unfortunately, I sold my house on Queen Anne Street as well.”

Holmes snorted with amusement. “I think not, Watson. Even if you had not set up your shingle in Southsea, I fear that your good wife would little stand my particular habits for very long.”

“You do her a discredit, Holmes.”

“Ah, I did not mean to offend you, Watson. Of course, I do not mean to disparage your lovely wife, of whom I wholeheartedly approve. But my ways would be difficult for any woman to become accustomed. Not to mention that there may be an element of danger, to which I would fain expose her.”

“A hotel then? The Langham, for instance.”

Holmes laughed. “Your tastes have become refined over the years, Watson. When I first met you, you were bunking in some nameless hotel on the Strand. Now you wish to lay your head in a room next to royalty. Have your scribblings sold so well that you can afford such luxury?”

I blushed. “I suppose that I have become accustomed to a certain degree of comfort over the years.”

“Yes, well, a hotel poses certain other problems. You can only keep the maids out for so long.”

“Why would you bar the maids? Do you suspect that they may disrupt your unique, and shall we say, somewhat untidy, methods of organization?”

“No, I suspect them of being spies.”


“One can never be too certain, Watson. No, there are only three men that I trust implicitly in London, and two of them are standing in this room.”

“And the third?”

Holmes glanced at his pocket watch. “I think, at the present moment, we will find the answer to that question at number 22 Pall Mall, across from a certain club of little renown.”


Before we departed the hotel, I dashed off a telegram to my wife informing her that I would be detained for several more days. Having read every one of the manuscripts, published and private, describing my past adventures in the company of Sherlock Holmes, I doubted that this news would come as a great surprise to her.

We engaged a hansom to take us and our bags the short distance beyond Trafalgar Square to the address where resided none-other than Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s elder brother. As we drove, we passed my former club, the shipping office of the Adelaide-Southampton Line, and finally the headquarters of a real estate firm, to which Holmes motioned. “I may have need of you, Watson, in the next few days to investigate on your own some thread of this tangled skein. I shall hope that you will endeavor to improve upon your performance from the time when you vainly attempted to learn the identity of the occupants of Charlington Hall.”

“But Williamson was the key to the whole scheme of Jack Woodley!” I cried, with some heat. “If we had just learned that he was a defrocked priest, all would have been made plain.”

“Perhaps, Watson, perhaps,” said Holmes, reluctantly. “But here we are.”

We stopped at a fine neo-classical columned building, across from the bow-windows of the Diogenes Club. It was a strategic location, for his rooms were at the epicenter of that group of buildings from which the vast holdings of the British Empire were directed, both night and day. Mycroft’s chambers were on the first floor, and I briefly wondered if Mr. Melas still occupied the floor above. After we climbed the steps and rang the bell, the door was opened by Mycroft’s ancient butler. We were promptly shown into the library, where our host awaited us in the comfort of a large basket chair. Mycroft’s appearance had changed little in the twenty years since I had first met him. He was still that strange mixture of similarity – in his light grey eyes and sharp expression – and difference – in his massively corpulent frame – to his younger brother. Like Sherlock, he cared little for the vagaries of fashion, and wore a suit that may have dated from the early days of Victoria’s reign. This rumpled and somewhat slovenly appearance contrasted greatly with the regal austerity of his surroundings. A place more unlike 221B Baker Street could not be found. Every small object was tidily in its place. While Mycroft also possessed shelves of books, these were fine, leather-bound and gilt-edged, rather than thumbed-through and bursting with clippings. The table was free of acid stains and steaming chemical beakers, holding instead a gold snuff box, ivory pipe-rack, and crocodile-skin tobacco pouch. The walls were not besprinkled with a tangled skein of diagrams tracing some convoluted criminal endeavor, but rather a series of precisely colored maps detailing every corner of the Empire upon which the sun never sets. These were interspersed by a beautiful carved-wood and glass barometer, as well as a portrait of a man which I strongly suspected to be a Rembrandt self-portrait. There was ne’er a bullet-hole in sight.

“Ah, Sherlock,” said Mycroft, setting down a cup of tea. “I expected you a half-hour ago.”

If Holmes was surprised, he hid it well. “Your agents informed you that I was back in London?”

“Precisely. It is rather past when you normally dine. I suppose Dr. Watson overslept?”

“Precisely,” Holmes smiled.

“By the way, Doctor, it is a great pleasure to see you looking so hearty.” He glanced back at his brother. “But why are you still here, Sherlock? I read the official report on the British Museum. You should have noted the irregularity of the Sphinx a tad sooner, don’t you think, my dear boy?”

“How so?” asked Holmes with some asperity.

“By the age of the marble, Sherlock! Can you honesty tell me that a newly carved statue has the same appearance as one that has been sitting in the sands of Egypt for the last three thousand years?”

“The sculptor washed it in a solution of acid. This method produced a weathered effect.”

“Ah, that was a clever idea,” said Mycroft appreciatively. “I admit that I had not considered it. So why are you still in town, Sherlock? Do you think Lestrade incapable of tracking down the stolen items? Or has another one of your petty puzzles of the police-court arisen? I always said that you would be bored on the Downs and would be looking for some excuse to creep back to London.”

“I assure you, Mycroft, that I intend to return to my apiary as soon as this matter is settled. But there are complications.”

“Very well then, I shall ask Stanley to make up the guest rooms.”

And that is how I became temporary flat-mates with not one, but two, Holmes brothers.


Eventually our host departed for his offices on Whitehall, while Holmes busied himself writing a series of telegrams. I was sitting with my feet outstretched to the cheerful blaze of the fire in an attempt to ward off some of the cold damp of the bleak November day, when Stanley announced a pair of visitors for Sherlock. He promptly showed in the familiar face of Inspector Gregson and another man with whom I was unacquainted. Despite his advancing years, Gregson still managed to look robust, energetic, and gallant in his official uniform. The second man was nearer sixty than fifty, somewhat portly and dignified. Both his hair and beard were a snowy white, and horn-billed glasses accentuated his deep brown eyes. His dark suit was somber, but finely cut. And yet the distraught expression upon his face was that of a man who has seen his worst fears come to pass.

“Ah, Gregson,” drawled Holmes, “I am back in London for but a few days, and already the lonely inspectors of Scotland Yard come a calling. Have the criminal classes really been so enlivened in my absence?”

BOOK: The Problem of Threadneedle Street (The Assassination of Sherlock Holmes Book 2)
8.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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