Sherlock Holmes: The Lost Cases
 

 

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Lost Cases

By Alvin F. Rymsha

 

 

 

To my wife, Anne, to the members of the Writer’s Circle of St. Croix, and most especially to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, thank you.


Table of Contents

 

1. Memoirs of John Watson …………………………………………………….X

2. The Adventure of the Politician, etc……………….........................................X

3. The Giant Rat of Sumatra……………………………………………………X

4. The Case of the Aluminium Crutch………………………………………….X

5. The Case of Wilson, the Notorious Canary Trainer…………………………X

6. The Case of Vamberry, the Wine Merchant…………………………………X

7. The Repulsive Story of the Red Leech………………………………………X

8. The Curious Experience of the Grice Patterson Family……………………...X

9. The Case of Ricoletti of the Club Foot………………………………………X

10. The Case of the Camberwell Poinsoning……………………………………X

11. The Adventure of the Paradore Chamber……………………………………X

12. The Curious Case of the Russian Woman………………………..…………X

13. The Tarleton Murder Case…………………………………………………..X

14. The Death of Cardinal Tosca………………………………………………..X

15. The Case of the Missing British Bark, “Sophy Andersen”………………….X

16. The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship “Friesland”…..…………….X

17. The Adventure of the Gramophone Plans……………………………………X

18. The Underground Tunnel Affair……………………………………………X

19. The Adventure of the Royal Pendant………………………………………..X

20. The Tontine Murders Mystery………………………………………………X

21. The Case of the Stolen Romney………………………………………………X

22. A Personal Matter…………………………………………………………….X
 

 

The Memoirs of John Watson, M.D.

 

 

      For over a hundred years, readers have been enchanted by the adventures of that superior detective, Sherlock Holmes.  His chronicler, Dr. Watson, has done a superb job of bringing the inestimable Holmes to life and introducing a new genre of ‘Detective Story.  However, it has been a disappointment to those same readers not to be able to learn of those incidents unpublished: The case of the Politician, the Lighthouse Keeper and the Trained Cormorant, The case of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, The Case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, and others.

       It was thought for many years that they were unwritten, but a statement by Watson on his deathbed indicated that they had all been fully described, but withheld for reasons of propriety. They were stored in a separate dispatch-box in Coxs Bank in Charing Cross.  That building was demolished by a buzz-bomb in 1944 and it was long believed that all records inside had perished, but miraculously, some survived and turned up at auction just a few years ago.  Mildew and insects had wreaked havoc with the notes inside, but modern science has been able to reconstruct most.  It is my pleasure to bring them to you.

 

 

 


 

 

The Adventure of the Politician, the Lighthouse Keeper and the Trained Cormorant

 

            In my long association with my friend, Sherlock Holmes, I have had the honor of describing a number of his brilliant solutions to problems that would have stumped ordinary men.  One problem, to which I alluded in one of my prefaces can now be told.  J.W.

            It was in March of 1891 that I found myself huddled before the coal fire at 221B Baker Street while outside, the equinoctial winds delivered their wintry fury.  Holmes held a letter in his hand, turning it over and rereading it.  He handed it to me and said, “Here, Watson.  What do you make of this?”

            I studied the sheet of paper, which had been folded to fit in the envelope my friend had pinned to it.  “It appears to be on Trinity House stationery, standard commercial stuff.  The writing is crabbed but legible, and the writer begs an audience with you this morning.  I really see little else.”

            Holmes snatched the letter back.  “Did you not see the tobacco stain where the writer held the sheet?  It is a variety used by seamen, not clerks.  I am not surprised that Trinity House should employ a former sailor, but you missed the title of the correspondent: he is a director, and it is surprising that one of such high station should have such low taste.  In any case, we shall soon find out.  If I am not mistaken, that is our bell and Mrs. Hudson will bring up our guest.”

            A moment later, the door opened and Mrs. Hudson showed in our visitor.  He was bundled up against the cold and damp weather, but his face was fat and florid, beyond what the wind would have produced.  As a man of medicine, I detected the presence of excessive blood pressure.  This man will suffer apoplexy one of these days, I mused.  The network of fine capillaries about his nose hinted at the source of his condition.

            Holmes rose and motioned the man to a chair next the fire.  “I am Sherlock Holmes, and this is my friend and colleague, Dr. John Watson.  I assume I am addressing Alderman James Hook?”

            “You are, sir. I have been told that you have been able to solve certain delicate and puzzling problems for persons of high rank.  May I assure myself of your discretion in the treatment of what I may tell you?”

            Holmes waved his hand in dismissal.  “I have dealt with kings and noblemen with complete secrecy.  An alderman need have no fear on that account.  How may I help you?”

            Alderman Hook loosened his overcoat and reached into a pocket of his waistcoat.  Withdrawing a note, he held it in his hand.  “Let me tell you something of my self, first, and then you will better understand the import of this note I received.  As a young man, I had a decent, if unremarkable education, but when both my parents died, leaving me nothing but debts, I found a berth in one of Her Majesty’s revenue cutters.  I shipped before the mast, but being able to absorb some of the elements of navigation, I was soon advanced to quartermaster.  Those were exciting times, chasing smugglers and fugitives!”

            “Our cutter was stationed in East Anglia, and the many streams and shoals made ideal warrens to hide our quarry. One day, we were in pursuit of a Frenchman we had observed numerous times before, the Deux Freres.  She was handy and fast and we observed that she had only two men aboard and heading east, apparently had landed her cargo and was going home to France.  We signalled her to stop, but she ignored our flag and endeavoured to escape.  Our lieutenant ordered the gunner to fire a shot from our three-pounder across her bows, but a rogue wave intervened and the shot instead struck her amidships, felling one of her crew.  The other held up both arms in surrender and came up into the wind.  I was ordered to take one of our seamen, board the prize and bring her to King’s Lynn.”

            “Not long after, I was able to put together enough money to start a fish-mongery in King’s Lynn and over the years increased the business to where I could locate in London.  As a well-off gentleman, I was elected Alderman and not long ago, a director of Trinity House.  You are aware that Trinity House has charge of all lighthouses and navigation buoys in the realm.”

            He passed the note he held in his hand to my friend.  “Read this.  It is from a man I knew as a hand on the cutter.”

            Holmes took the note from him and read it aloud.  “My old shipmate, I have been keeper of the King’s Lynn light for these twenty years, since I lost my leg in the service, and now the lumbago bothers me something fierce. I know you have done well and can get me a pension.  I do not think your other directors would like to learn where you got the money you used to start.” It was signed ‘Billy Cobb’.

            Holmes looked up.  “There is the hint of a threat of blackmail there.  Does this Cobb fellow have some information of a dangerous nature?”

            Hook blustered, “Of course not.  What could he know after all these years?  I may have played fast and loose when I was starting in business, but that is the fishery business.  I suppose I could use my influence at Trinity House to get him his pension, and perhaps I will, but I’d like to put this matter to rest.  Will you take me on?”

            “I don’t see why not,” Holmes responded, “It happens that I am unengaged at the moment.  Watson, will you look up trains to King’s Lynn in the Bradshaw?”

            “There is one leaving from King’s Cross Station at eleven,” I answered, having referred to the book.  “Even with this weather, we can catch it handily.”

 

            “Excellent, my dear Watson.  You will excuse us, Alderman, if we are to pursue this matter, we must make haste.  Watson, will you be kind enough to pack a small valise for us as we may need to stay a day or two.  I have some wires to send.”

            He reached for the signal on the wall to call a messenger, sat down and began to write out a series of telegrams.  Alderman Hook, ignored, retrieved his hat and left.  I went into our rooms and packed two small bags.  When I returned, the messenger boy from the post office was just leaving and Holmes was dressing for the weather.  “Thank you, my friend.  I have a hansom waiting for us.  Let us be off!”

            We were able to reach the station and board in plenty of time and shortly were being drawn northeasterly to Norfolk.  Holmes settled back and spoke.

            “Is there anything about this case and our client that seems unusual to you, Watson?”

            “I can’t say that I find anything that approaches the mystery of many of your cases.  Our client seems to be an ordinary, stuffy, middle-class politician, lowly bred, but of sufficient means to reach a rather high position.”

            “Yes, so it would seem.  He still uses the cheap, rough-cut tobacco he used as a seaman, as you can see by his stained fingers.  He admits to being of plebeian birth and would have no escutcheon to blot, so why the anxiety over some old impropriety?  Did you ever know of a politician to be concerned over being accused of some minor lapse?  They seem a hardy and indestructible breed.  In any case, we will get to the bottom of it.  I have wired for accommodations at the King John Inn and requested an audience with our lighthouse keeper.  There are some other matters to be followed as well.”

            We arrived at the King’s Lynn station in the early afternoon, the end of the railway line.  The wind and freezing rain were stronger and more penetrating here, so close to the sea, but it was only a short walk to the inn. The landlord put us up in our rooms and I was glad to enjoy the sea coal fire in the common room, with a toddy for my health.  Holmes, on the other hand, disdained the comfort, and went back out into the rain on an errand of his own.

            I chatted with the landlord and several other patrons and learned that the town had received its charter from Bad King John in the 13th century, and it was nearby, at The Wash, that the King lost his treasury when the incoming tide swamped his baggage train.  He died a few days later at Lincoln of the flux, so it was said.

            King’s Lynn had been an important fishing village throughout the Middle Ages, and still did a considerable marine trade, although the harbor had silted up and the town was much farther from the sea than it had been in 1216.

            Holmes returned, two hours later, dripping and shivering, and glad to embrace the fire. “Tomorrow promises to be somewhat less violent, I have been told,” he said, “We will meet our keeper in the morning.”

            “May I ask where you went on such a poor day?” I asked.

            “Oh, I thought you knew.  This is the headquarters of the Revenue Cutter Service for East Anglia.  I asked permission to examine the log books and records for the years our Mr. Hook might have been in service.  I found he was, indeed, quartermaster aboard HMRC Intrepid, but was reprimanded and resigned the service after losing a captured vessel, and in that same incident, apparently, his crewman and the vessel’s captain were lost as well.  The records of the service are silent as to his life after that, but according to several of the older men here, he opened his fish business almost immediately afterward. He was nearly ostracized over the death of his crewman, who was never found, but prospered nevertheless.  No one could account for the money he had to open the shop, but eventually talk died out.”

            The wind howled past, and sometimes through our windows, but when I awoke in the morning, it had died and a watery sun shone through the clouds.  The inn provided a generous, if plain breakfast of kippers and eggs.  Holmes had arranged to hire a trap and having obtained directions from the landlord, set out for the lighthouse.  It was at least two miles seaward from the town, and the rutted road alongside the river Great Ouse was far from smooth, but eventually, the brick tower appeared, striped black and white with the lantern at the top.  A small dwelling was attached to the base of the light tower, and from a door in this house, a man appeared with a covered pail in his hand.  At first he did not notice us, but gimped, for he had a wooden leg, to a large barrel from which he dipped a liquid into the pail.  He looked up when we neared.  “Ah, you must be Mister Holmes.  I’ll be with you shortly when I have filled the oil reservoirs.  Come along.”

            He opened a door in the base of the tower itself and began to painfully climb the circular stair attached to the outer wall of the light.  It was obvious that beside the handicap of the peg-leg, he was suffering from the pains that old age and the dank weather inflicted.  “First thing,” he chirped, “Have to fill the oil tanks or the light won’t work tonight.  Burns a lot of oil, you know.  Then, wind the clockwork that turns it.  Not so bad now that we have the new coal oil.  When we used whale oil, it cost more and didn’t burn as bright!”

            We followed him up the stairs to the lantern at the top.  In the center of the platform rested the huge lamp.  A circle of wicks could be seen behind the lens with a chimney arrangement to increase the draft for a brighter flame.  The keeper filled a tank with the oil, then turned to a large crank wheel which he began to turn.  “Winds up the weight to turn the lamp,” he said.  “This light is a very important one, what with the shoals of The Wash just below.  She flashes twice in a minute, and can you see the red glass in the window?”  He pointed.  “If you see the light is red, you are in danger, you are.”

            I looked out the window and could see, across the mouth of the river, another lighthouse.  “Is that another of the major lights?” I asked.

            “Yes, indeedy.  These are both second-order Fresnel lights, only that has a fog-horn, so needs three keepers.  When the fog comes in, they must sound the diaphone by hand, every minute, all day and night.  It’s hard work.  I hear tell they might get a donkey-engine to help, but I won’t live to see it.”

            We followed him back down the stairway and through a door into the living room of the little house.  It was cozy, dry and warm.  Holmes addressed him.

            “I wired you that we were coming.  I did not tell you that we are here to discuss the note you sent to Alderman Hook.  Can you explain what your intentions are?”

            Cobb sat down in a rocking chair by the fire, pulled up his trouser leg and unstrapped the peg-leg.  He scratched the stump and peered at us.  “Nothing feels so good as scratching the old stump.  Lost the leg on the cutter Intrepid.  No, not in battle.  A spar fell on my leg in a storm and so crushed it they had to take it off.  Since then, I’ve swallered the anchor and here I be.  You were asking about Hook.  I knew him, ye see.  We was mates on the cutter, but he was a sharp one, he was.  Got made quartermaster ‘cause he could read the charts to handle soundings and such.  I stayed afore the mast, but my lucky day was when I didn’t get chosen to go with him on the Duke’s Freers, that Frenchie smuggler.”

            “And why is that?” asked my friend.

            “Cause I’d have died, like Jamie Winter and the Frenchman, that’s why.”

            “Accidents can happen,” Holmes shrugged.  “Look at your own condition.”

            “Aye, but I’m alive, and they’re dead, and not by accident, I think.”

            “Pray explain,” demanded Holmes.

            “Duke’s Freers was a smuggler, alright, but she was on her way home, so instead of carrying contraband, she had a chest of money aboard.  Guineas and sovereigns, a fortune in ready cash.  When Hook was found wandering on the beach, he claimed that the Frenchie tried to take back the ship and had killed Jamie, then the vessel capsized and Hook claims he barely made it to shore.  Not a penny nor a pound was ever found of the chest.”

            “I see,” Holmes pondered, “It’s not surprising.  These sands cover very quickly, and none of King John’s treasure was ever found, either.  But why are you skeptical?  What leads you to believe that Hook was involved in more than carelessness?”

            “My bird found something,” said Cobb, slyly.  “I have a tame cormorant.  You might have seen him perched on the railing of the light.  I’ve trained him like the Japanese do, to catch fish and bring them back to me.”

            I laughed.  “How in the world to you ever keep him from just eating them?”

            “Why, he has a choke collar on his neck when I send him out.  He can’t swaller them!”

            “So what is it he found?” demanded Holmes.

            “This.”

            Cobb opened the drawer in a small table and handed him a belt buckle.  Holmes took out his glass and examined it front and back.  “I see that it has two initials scratched or etched on it, ‘J.W.’”

            “Jamie Winter.  I’ve seen him wear it.  That bird will pick up anything shiny, and this bit of brass must have been polished by the sands.  I watched where the bird went, then rowed over to see what else was there.  I found a skeleton, and at first I thought that poor Jamie must have washed ashore and been buried by the sands, only to be uncovered again.  Then I saw that the hands had been lashed together, as had the feet with a chunk of iron for weight.  Someone did that to him, and I can only think that it must have been the sole survivor, Mr. Hook.  Now we know where his money came from to start his business.”

            “Has anyone else expressed his suspicions?” I asked.

            “The lieutenant was very leery.  He couldn’t prove anything, but he made Hook leave the service.  As a warrant officer, he could resign, and he did, and glad to, at that.”            We thanked the little man, despite the fact that he was blackmailing his former mate and returned to the Inn.  After paying our bill, we were able to get a train back to London in time for supper.  Mrs. Hudson found a joint that exactly fitted our needs.

            Holmes called upon Alderman Hook next day, and would only tell me that he had recommended most strongly that he accede to Cobb’s demands.  We both felt that evidence in such an old case would be insufficient to convict such a wily politician, and would be best to let old dogs lie.  In any case, the Alderman suffered the anticipated stroke a few months later and expired, but not before granting Cobb his much-earned pension.

 


 

 

           

The Giant Rat of Sumatra

 

            In all of the years that I have known Sherlock Holmes, on only one occasion did I see him express strong emotion, and that emotion was anger.

            It was early in our relationship that the East End of London was convulsed with fear of the man who called himself, “Jack the Ripper.”  Each new murder caused another frisson of terror among the classes victimized; the prostitutes of the city.  Every week, another horrible story appeared while the Metropolitan Police appeared helpless to find the perpetrator.

            It was inevitable that Holmes should be called in.  Despite the best efforts of Inspector  Lestrade and the entire force, no person could be identified as the monstrous killer.  So it was that Lestrade enlisted the help of my friend in the effort to find and dispatch the criminal.

            Holmes threw himself into the task.  I saw him go out as an old woman and return as a vagabond, then changing to a cabman or a tavern keeper.  On one occasion, he dressed in full evening attire, and with hired livery drove to the East End as if to emulate a rich toff in search of low pleasure.  I spoke to him about his progress and asked if Professor Moriarty might be responsible.

            “No,” he said, “There is no profit in murder, at least not of this kind, and with all his evil ways, Moriarty is no fool.”

            Within two weeks, his mood brightened and he confided to me that he had as good as named the murderer.  “I have only to lay his identity before the highest authorities and the reign of terror will be over.” It was on that day, however, that the blow fell which would turn him from satisfied professional to outraged victim.  A liveried messenger arrived requesting his presence at the Home Office, where his brother, Mycroft, awaited him. Holmes wondered aloud why his brother had left the precincts of the Diogenes Club, but hastened to obey the order.

            He returned several hours later in the blackest of moods.  Without a word to me, he went to his desk and took the case-book of the Ripper case and threw it into the fire.  “There, that should satisfy them.  Tell me, my dear Watson, have you ever suspected me of treason? No?  Well, that is what I have been told I would be charged with if I continued to pursue this case, or attempt to publicly identify the criminal.”

            “Good heavens, Holmes, how could you possibly be so accused?” I gasped.

            “If the criminal is of high birth, or should I say royal birth, all things are possible.  My only consolation was to be assured that the person in question would be removed to a place where he could no longer do harm.”

            I regret to report that for a full week, he sulked and complained until another case came along.  The true name of ‘Jack the Ripper’ has never surfaced, although in later years, speculation arose regarding one of the royal dukes.

            Holmes’ natural instincts eventually asserted themselves, and he shortly resumed his habit of scanning the agony columns in the papers.  “Here, Watson.  Did you see this letter to the Times?  A Mister Jonathan Wills of Camden Town writes that some agency is stealing pet cats and dogs and killing them.  He demands that the authorities step in and arrest the perpetrator.”

            “That is odd.  I recall a similar letter from the same area several days ago, while you were involved in the murder case,” I responded.  “What could be going on?”

            “I have heard that sometimes low characters take such animals to ‘blood’ their fighting dogs.  It is a heartless thing to throw a pet into the ring to be torn apart by the pit bulldogs.  Horsewhipping would be too good for them,” was his reply. At that time, Holmes was taken by another case, which I have described in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.”

            The authorities were forced to act the next week, however, when an infant was taken from its cradle and never seen alive again. Thus began the case I long withheld, as the world was not ready for it then. I was surprised when the authorities called in Sherlock Holmes, after the shabby treatment he had received.  There was some consolation in that Inspector Lestrade had also been warned under the Official Secrets Act and was equally frustrated. Lestrade was not a bad fellow, merely far below the capabilities of Sherlock Holmes.

            It was very early one morning that the Inspector puffed his way up the stairs to our flat, ignoring the cries of Mrs. Hudson who was endeavouring to announce him.  Without a knock, he burst into our room, to Holmes’ amusement.  My friend was much used to Lestrade’s bluff ways and made allowances for him.

            “Well, the fat’s in the fire now, Holmes.  Whatever it is that’s been killing in Camden Town has crossed the line.  This time it’s a woman.”

            “When was this?” demanded Holmes.

            “Last night.  I have a Police carriage.  Can you come?  I know that you like to view the scene before the evidence has been damaged.”

            “The game’s afoot, Watson.  Let us be off.  Oh yes, bring the basket of rolls on the table.  It may be a while before we can dine.” Sherlock seized a small bag, threw on his cape and cap and was out the door and down the stairs in a second. In the street, a police wagon stood waiting, two constables on the driver’s seat, the horses impatiently snorting and stamping.  We tumbled in.

 

            The driver whipped up his horses and with bell clanging, we charged down Baker Street, scattering hansoms and pedestrians alike.  The carriage careened around onto Oxford street, sparks flashing from the horses’ hooves and dashed headlong to Camden Town. In a few moments, we drew up to the entrance of a dark alley, guarded by a constable.  He saluted Lestrade as we alighted.  “Inspector Gregson’s just down the lane, sir,” he reported.

            A small group of officers surrounded a shrouded shape on the ground.  Gregson looked up and said, “Hullo, Holmes.  Glad you’re here. It’s not a pretty sight.  Doctor, even you may be put off.”  He motioned to one of the officers who drew back the tarpaulin.  I gasped.  I have seen horrible sights on the battlefield in Afghanistan: men torn apart by artillery, wrecked limbs and dismembered bodies, but this sight was the by far the worst.

            The body was apparently that of a middle-aged woman.  Her face and limbs had been terribly torn and the body nearly eviscerated..  “What kind of beast could have done this?” Lestrade growled.  “What kind, indeed,” said Holmes.  “This is not the work of a human fiend, I think.  Let me examine the surroundings, and then let us remove this poor woman to the morgue so that the police surgeon, Watson and I can examine her more closely.”

            Holmes sniffed about, literally, for his nose lifted as if to inhale some scent undetected by the rest of us, then carefully examined the dirt on the floor of the alley, the building about us and the sewers.  When he had finished, putting several bits of material into the envelopes he always carried, he signaled to have the body removed.

            In the light of the morgue examining table, the remains looked, if anything, worse than they had in the alley.  “Aha!” cried Holmes.  “Look at this!”

            On the fleshy part of the thigh, a clear outline of deep tooth marks was seen.  Holmes opened his bag and handed me a roll of sticking plaster.  “Here, Watson, please tape the wound open a bit so as to provide a conduit.”  He mixed up a solution from two bottles in his bag, producing a thin, watery liquid which he poured into the open wound.  In a few moments, the mixture had set into a rubbery solid.  Using his forceps, Holmes carefully withdrew the solid mass from the wound.  A perfect model of the dentition of the attacker appeared before us.

            “What do you doctors make of this?” he triumphantly asked.  “Hmm,” said Dr. Jones, the police surgeon.  “It is certainly not human, which we already believed.”

            “Nor is it a carnivore,” I rejoined, “which surprises me.  See, there are no prominent canines, no fangs.  Those large incisors can mean only one kind of beast...”

            “A rodent,” agreed Holmes, “and a very large one.  In fact, I have never seen anything this big in Britain, nor can I think of one so large in any other part of the world......except.  No, the coypu, or nutria is strictly a docile vegetarian except when it’s young are attacked and that is not the case here.  None of the other South American rodents are carnivorous or particularly dangerous, either.  I fear we will have to consult higher authority.”

            Homes suggested to Lestrade that the police patrol the area of the incidents with mastiffs, or other large dogs and be prepared for attack by a vicious animal.  We hailed a hansom and were driven to the British Museum, where Holmes asked to be shown to the office of Professor Carlisle. “Carlisle is the outstanding expert on exotic mammals,” my friend explained-, “perhaps he may be able to identify the assailant.”

            He was disappointed, however.  We were informed that the professor had not been in for over a week, nor had he sent any message that he was ill.  It was not unusual, we were told, for the professor to absent himself from the museum, if some item of interest engaged him.  We obtained the address of his home and were driven there.

 

            Professor Carlisle lived on a small estate, fenced, with an attached building in the rear.  We entered through the front gate and rang the bell at the door.  There was no answer, but to our surprise, the door was unlocked.  We pushed inside to find the house empty, and without sign that anyone had been there in some days.  Holmes boldly strode through the corridor to a door which opened to the addition.  A strong animal smell nearly overcame us, overlaid with an odor we knew only too well.  It was the smell of death.

            A burst of chattering caused us to look up, to where a troop of monkeys pounded on the wire of a cage.  The animals were gaunt and hungry, and the food and water dishes in the cage were empty.  Other cages were empty, or contained the dead bodies of various animals.  Several of the cages had been forcibly opened and the occupants missing. 

            “Look!” said Holmes, pointing to an outside door in the rear of the room.  “The door has been gnawed open!”  A hole, perhaps a foot and a half in diameter had been hacked or chewed through the lower panel.  As we approached the door, something more horrible greeted us.  It was the dismembered body of a human, chewed and gnawed, barely recognizable as anything human and in late stages of decomposition.  “I fear that is our missing Professor,” Holmes said.  “We had best get the police here.”  At his instruction, I returned to the street and blew the police whistle which I carried.  Within a minute, a police constable appeared on the run.  I appraised him of the situation in a few words and requested he send for Lestrade.  He ran off to a police box whilst I returned to the house.

            Holmes had been busy during my brief absence and appeared with a sheaf of notes in his hand.  “We have it!  I have found Professor Carlisle’s notes on the animal.  It is the Giant Rat of Sumatra.  According to these papers, our quarry is the size of a large dog and like his much smaller relative, the Norway rat, is omnivorous.  It will eat anything, animal, vegetable and probably mineral.  It is aggressive and in its natural habitat has only one enemy: the Sumatran tiger.  We must track it down and destroy it at once.”

            A bustle of noise in the hallway announced the arrival of the police inspector.  Holmes   filled Inspector Lestrade in on the information we had learned and led him to the sad scene in the animal house.  Lestrade sent for a zoo keeper to take charge of the animals still alive and arranged for the professor’s remains to be removed to the morgue.

            Holmes pondered for a few moments and then said, “This animal is on the loose and will most certainly kill again.  The chances of finding it with a random search are slim, particularly since it is a nocturnal beast.  We must enlist Toby.” When I looked at him in puzzlement, he explained.  “Toby is a bloodhound, the best in the county.  He will find our missing rat, wherever he may be.  Or, perhaps I should have said, ‘she’.  The rat is a female and there is worse news.”

            “What could be worse?” I asked.

            “According to Professor Carlisle’s notes, the animal is pregnant.  We do not know the gestation period, but if the animal has a litter, the entire city could be at the mercy of an army of ravening rodents!”

            A constable was sent off to collect Toby from his owner and returned in a short time with the dog in the trap.  The lugubrious expression on the face of the animal belied his intelligence and ability.  Holmes brought out a handful of litter from the rat’s cage and wrapped it in a rag.  He presented it to Toby who shied for a second and then absorbed the scent. The dog bayed and ran around the rear of the building, then broke into a run, heading toward a small brook nearby.  At the edge of the water the dog stopped, puzzled.  He raised his nose and cast about for a scent, then turned as if to say, “I can’t find it!”

            “The rat has taken to water, its natural element.  Let us go back to the scene of the killings.  It is likely the rat has holed up near its source of food.”

            Toby and the group bundled into a police van and we returned to the alley where the woman had been found.  Toby immediately picked up a scent and followed it to an abandoned building in the next street.  He paused at a cellar window and waited.  Holmes motioned to Lestrade, who had his men draw their pistols.  The London Bobbie is never armed except with a baton, but on this occasion, the danger was real.

            The party entered the building cautiously and made our way to the lowest floor.  A noise caused us all to look and there, in the light of a constable’s lantern, two eyes gleamed at us.  Two officers fired at once and the animal leaped from its nest toward its attackers, but another shot brought it down.  “Not a moment too soon,” cried Holmes.  “Look!”

            Tangled in a mess of old rags and straw were five squirming pink replicas of the giant rat.  Two gloved policemen picked up the rats and shoved them into sacks.  “The zoo will certainly wish to see these, but I certainly hope they see them as preserved specimens,” said Lestrade.  “The world is not ready for such a predator in London.”

            Back in Baker Street, Holmes lit a pipeful of shag and leaned back in his chair.  “I think it would be unwise for the public to be made aware of all the details of this incident.  They would see a giant rat in every shadow, and there have been enough hidden fears these weeks.”

            “When did you suspect the cause?” I asked.

            “I smelled the feral odor of a strange animal at the scene of the killing.  I suspected from the manner of the wounds on the poor victim that we would find a most unusual killer.  The moulage I made of the teeth marks only confirmed my opinion.  Professor Carlisle has often been careless in introducing exotic animals to this country and it is only a miracle he did not inflict a plague on us before this.  The poor fellow must been careless about the fastening on the cage of the rat and paid for that carelessness.  When the rat had fed on all the available other animals, it made its way to the outside, working its way up from stray pets to a child and finally, an adult human.”

            “This will make an interesting item, but I will respect your wishes and refrain from publishing it, at least for many years,” I promised.

 

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