Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Sherlock Holmes Short Story: The Silent Killer

by Corin Nelson-Smith

Looking at my past notes, I realise now that only one of Sherlock's cases has completely confused and almost, almost foiled him.

Sherlock was angry; there had been nothing in the papers and no letters had been written to him about any kind of a crime, anywhere. He kept insisting that Moriarty was plotting a particularly significant scheme, whilst worrying that it might be beyond his means to discover its nature. It seemed as if Sherlock had almost stopped believing himself, on account of the complete lack of activity for the best part of a year.

The day broke bright and clear on the 13th day of June, 1894.  I flung open the door to the drawing room, wherein Sherlock had spent the previous four days, refusing food, the only fluid entering his body being his beloved seven percent solution.  I tore back the curtains, allowing the piercing strength of the morning sunlight to flood the room.  Sherlock winced and barked at me to close the curtains again, but undeterred, I opened the window to let in a little fresh air. 

As I peered down into the bustle of Baker Street, I noticed a carriage draw up, and a grave-looking police officer emerged, and approached the door.  A few moments later, Mrs Hudson, our housekeeper, announced police constable Thacker, and rubbing his eyes, attempting to manufacture some enthusiasm, Sherlock asked the same to show the visitor in.

The portly figure of a policeman momentarily filled the door frame before shuffling in and accepting the invitation of a seat.
"What do you want?", said Holmes, irascibly, who had little time and plenty of contempt for the London police force.
"Well, sir", began Thacker, "it’s Mr Butler, sir.  Mr Jeremy Butler - I believe you worked with him recently?"
"Go on..", said Sherlock, scarcely disguising his boredom.
"Well - he's dead."
The slightest indication of interest flashed across Holmes' face.  Thacker continued:
"In most mysterious circumstances.  Dropped dead, for no apparent reason.  In the middle of Hampstead Heath.  No weapon, no apparent illness, no suspects."
"People do die.  What makes it suspicious?  A heart attack can come suddenly, and without warning."
"Well, sir, the doctor has made a preliminary investigation, but can find no signs.  We thought you should take a look."

                                                ***

Hampstead Heath was buzzing with activity on a fine, fresh early summer's day.  Lestrade was in discussion with the aforementioned doctor when Holmes and I arrived.  With characteristic arrogance, and a spring in his step that had been missing this last few months, Sherlock approached Lestrade, and demanded: "Where's this body then?"
"Ah Holmes - the man is Jeremy Butler - dropped dead in the middle of the heath, with no obvious injuries or illnesses, no weapons or anything that he could have killed himself with, near or on him, and, actually, against all my will, we were hoping you could help us with this case?"

Holmes reiterated:  “Let me see the body."

"As I said, Holmes, there were no..."
Holmes insisted:  “As I said, Lestrade, let me see the body!"

 Sherlock spent almost 4 hours inspecting the late Jeremy Butler, and was very scathing towards Inspector Lestrade when he returned with the results from his thorough and systematic search. 

"Are you an utter moron Lestrade? There was a trace of dart frog poison in the bloodstream, and a tiny black dot on his neck where poison dart has obviously been shot at him!” 
“Well errr.. we thought that was a mole,” admitted the Inspector, looking sheepish. 
"Rubbish", said Sherlock, "However, in a crowded space, how did the killer go unnoticed, and gain access to his neck, which is most people’s head height?"

                                               ***

A day later, another murder was made, in the same context:  crowded, in Hampstead heath, dropped dead immediately, had a black mark on his neck, had a relation to Sherlock, this time, his banker.
"This is most mysterious Watson, I think. This is a three pipe problem... so if you would excuse me for a while, I must think."


                                                ***

"You have done very well with my gliding machine Chai Wang, I congratulate you!" said James Moriarty. "Thank you Mr Moriarty, he is thoroughly confused. Who should I target next?".  "Well ... Sherlock is bound to be on Hampstead heath waiting for you to strike again, so go for someone close by, that will confuse him entirely, and then when the setting is right, go for his closest friend Dr Watson, because that will shake him up emotionally and then... he will never be able to stop me again!"
James Moriarty had an undeniably sinister tone in his voice.  "Very well sir." said Chai Wang.


                                                ***

"Well, my dear Watson." said Sherlock sadly, my long smoke has drawn me no closer to uncovering this mystery, but I say we go to Hampstead Heath and wait for the villain to make his next move..."

While Sherlock and I were looking around the large expanse of green,  we were starting to think that it was nothing as complicated as a  chain of murders, perhaps only a disease that two people had  coincidentally died of. We were surprised when a man walking up to  us, with a quizical look on his face, made a gagging sound and  promptly died at our feet. I sprang into action, my doctor mindset  kicking in, but the man was completely and utterly dead. Sherlock  remained calm, however took a sample of his blood, checked the  victim’s neck and found the same mark. He then looked queasy and gazed  up at the sky, taking in deep breaths, then looking into the distance  at a slowly moving, silent aircraft flying away.


"Where on earth did that come from?" I asked, "I'm sure that that never went over us, we were watching the whole time!" 
"Yes Watson, most mysterious and how is it flying without an engine, I cannot hear any noise at all!" Well, let’s go now and give the body to Lestrade and his bunch of imbeciles to look at."


                                                ***

As Sherlock and I walked home that night, we passed the aquarium and Sherlock wandered in looking concerned. We looked at the fish, below and above them, watching how they had the sea floor on their backs and the blue of the water above on their undersides that seemed to make them almost invisible. 
"I think I've got it Watson!" cried Sherlock, " But we must check tomorrow to see if I am correct in thinking that that plane or glider is painted blue on the underside to make it invisible against the sky when directly over head!"

"Oh, that is why we could only see it as it flew away, because of the angle."
"Exactly, my dear Watson."

                                                ***

It was very tense waiting for the plane to appear again the next day, and that was when Sherlock made his next discovery. It was always on a sunny day when the murders happened. 

Sherlock's hawk like eyes keenly examined the sky, and after a long, stressful wait, he noticed that a T shape seemed to be moving slowly above us. I consulted Holmes on the matter.

"You genius Sherlock! That must be how the killer is invisible! Look! There is a barrel coming out of it now!" I gibbered on excitedly, as the final mysteries pierced together.
"Watson, duck!, Sherlock shouted, The barrel is pointing at us!" 


The dart missed me by millimetres and impaled a greedy squirrel pinching nuts from Sherlock’s pocket as we were laying on the grass. 

 "I get it now!" said Sherlock with the same triumphant expression he always had when he worked something out.

"Moriarty wants to wreck me emotionally, so I will never be able to foil his plans again, so he designed a plane that is painted blue on the underside so it looks like the sky from below, and that is why he could only kill in the day , he then designs it so it will fly for a while without an engine, gliding on the air, and employ a highly accurate assassin to target the few people who I care about. And God help the assassin who failed to kill me under orders from Moriarty."

We walked back to Scotland Yard, and met a flustered Inspector Lestrade pacing around his office. "Case closed!" said Holmes smugly.

"You tell the story, Watson."

He then left Lestrade's office and returned home to Baker Street, obviously tired but proud from solving the mystery. He got out his pipe and sat down on his armchair.

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