Friday, December 30, 2011
While I was reading over my Christmas blog on the Sherlock Holmes story, The Blue Carbuncle, I was struck by the fact that after tracking down the jewel thief, the great detective allowed the culprit to go free. Holmes justified his actions by stating that if the man went to prison, it would make him a repeat offender, and Holmes also states that it was the season of forgiveness.
In looking over the original Sherlock Holmes adventures written by Conan Doyle, I found Holmes’ leniency with certain criminals was not exactly rare. According to Mr. Robert Keith Leavitt: “In the 60 cases in the Writings, there are 37 definite felonies where the criminal was known to Mr. Sherlock Holmes. In no less than 14 of these cases did the celebrated detective take the law into his own hands and free the guilty person.”
I decided to look up some of these cases. Besides The Blue Carbuncle, there was The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, in which Holmes and Watson investigate the brutal murder of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. Holmes naturally finds the murderer and invites him to his Baker Street rooms where the entire story is laid out. Holmes appoints himself judge and Watson the jury and when Watson declares the man is not guilty, Holmes declares, Vox populi, vox Dei, and declares the man acquitted.
In The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot Holmes and Watson encounter three strange deaths (2 men and a woman) while on a Cornish holiday. A fourth murder, similar to the first three is discovered. Holmes finds the perpetrator of the fourth murder and listens to his fantastic tale. The man explains how he had killed the man who murdered the first three, one being is true love. Again Holmes lets the man go free. He explains to Watson: "I have never loved, Watson, but if I did and the woman I loved met such an end, I might act even as our lawless lion-hunter has done."
It is a bit unsettling to think of anyone taking the law in their own hands whether it is punishing a criminal or allowing one to go free of punishment. In a free and open society we put law enforcement organizations in place to protect society. These people are trained and are appointed by the public. It is their job and responsibility to apprehend and punish lawbreakers. It is not the job of the public to make such decisions on an individual basis.
Does the public have some responsibilities toward law enforcement? Yes, we do. At least that is what I teach to my grade ten Civics classes. When we are called, it is our duty to sit on juries to meet out justice. We should always cooperate with authorities and report any wrongdoing. “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies...” Holmes tells Watson in The Blue Carbuncle. But it is our duty as good citizens to assist the authorities wherever we may and thus be a part of society. I would never advocate withholding information from the police. Here in Canada we value peace, order and good government, which are societal values (whereas life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are individual values). So we all must do our part in the protection of society for the good of society, and not for our own personal opinions or feelings.
I do not know if I could rank Sherlock Holmes as an ideal citizen.
For other stories where Holmes was privy to a criminal act, but played fast and loose with law, check out:
Charles Augustus Milverton
The Second Stain
The Bascombe Valley Mystery
The Crooked Man
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Tis the season when childhood images fill our minds and warm our hearts. For some of us we remember tobogganing down a hill among snow-frosted cedars and pine; star-filled nights whose light reflected off the snow creating the appearance of twilight; the warmth of the house afterward; mittens drying on the radiator, the smell of cooking; the Christmas tree all lit up and sparkly looking quite magical, was magical, in fact, since presents would appear under it on the morning of December 25th.
For some of us Sherlock Holmes afficionados there is no original Conan Doyle tale that captures the spirit of the Christmas Season (indeed, it is the only Holmes adventure that occurs during the Christmas season) like The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick with the ice crystals. Watson states early in the story. It is a nostalgic image that we treasure.
Watson finds Holmes studying a worn hat that had been left by Peterson, the commissionaire.
I beg that you will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson’s fire.
Though some of us, no doubt, had grown up with turkeys for Christmas, we can almost smell the goose roasting, its skin turning a glistening golden colour.
For those of us who know the Blue Carbuncle story (and know it well) Peterson finds a precious jewel in the goose and returns to show it to Holmes. The stone is nothing less than the famous Blue Carbuncle that has recently been stolen from the Countess of Morcar in London.
Holmes and Watson track down Henry Baker, the original owner of the goose (and hat). Baker tells how he bought the goose from the owner of the Alpha Inn, who bought the goose from a dealer in Covent Garden. who bought the goose from... You get the idea.
When Holmes finally captures the jewel thief and he relates how the jewel got into the goose, the detective allows the man to flee. Holmes explains:
I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to gaol now, and you make him a gaol-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of forgiveness.
Of all the images and messages we recall this Christmas, let us remember these final words of Sherlock Holmes.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
To Know Evil
The Case of the Empty Tomb
The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
I am looking forward to meeting a people and giving away stuff.
If you are in the Windsor/Detroit area at this time, please drop by and say hi.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
If you have been following my blog and reading Cold Hearted Murder, you have been reading not only a serialized Sherlock Holmes mystery, but also a Canadian mystery where a good part of the story takes place in the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush.
After I had written The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I did not think I had another Holmes story in me. There had been some nine adventures in the first book which had drained me. I do not know how Conan Doyle could have written 56 short stories and 4 novels. After moving on to another non-Holmes project I got the craving for another Sherlock story. This time I would not write short story adventures but a novel, and I would fashion it after A Study in Scarlet, the very first Holmes story.
I wanted to do a story with Holmes in his usual environs, but I still wanted a Canadian connection. Knowing a bit of Canadian history I focused on the Klondike Gold Rush, a drama unique in North American history. I had read Pierre Burton’s (my favourite Canadian historian) The Klondike years before and was amazed by the incredible stories and characters that the gold rush produced.
I thought the Klondike Gold Rush would be a great backdrop for a Holmes story. Like in A Study in Scarlet, my Holmes adventure, Cold Hearted Murder (yes, I know Cold Hearted should be hyphenated) would have the first part take place in London with Holmes and Watson investigating some gruesome murders. The second part of the story would tell the tale of what led up to the crimes.
Burton’s book had not been my first exposure to the Klondike. As a child I remember my grandfather reciting the poems of Robert Service; The Shooting of Dan McGrew, The Cremation of Sam McGgee, which led me to buy and read all of Service’s poems. His verse about the Klondike were always my favourites. In the first part of Cold Hearted Murder I decided to preface each chapter with a quote from an original Sherlock Holmes story. In the second half that takes place in the Yukon, I use a verse from Robert Service. I think my grandfather would have liked that.
One of my original characters from The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Henry Barclay of the North West Mounted Police makes an appearance in Cold Hearted Murder as well. You cannot have a good Canadian story without a Mountie. The Mounties were, of course in the Yukon during the Gold Rush to keep order, but that does not mean crime was nonexistent.
Just recently a co-worker gave me a facsimile of a document from the Yukon dated 1903. The document gives permission to a person to view the hanging of two men who killed three people while committing robbery. I decided to investigate and see how many public hangings there were in the Yukon and discovered that between 1899 and 1903 there were seven hangings in Dawson, all for the crime of murder.
This is not so hard to understand when you consider the extraordinary times of thousands of people far from home in a remote wilderness on top of the world all hoping to strike it rich.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Every year, The Word On The Street strives to turn Queen’s Park into a book and magazine lover’s paradise by showcasing Canada’s hottest new books & authors, as well as the best Canadian magazines!
Adopt an Author is a yearly fundraising campaign, hosted by The Word On The Street Canada in cooperation with The Word On The Street Toronto, that provides literary lovers with the opportunity to get more involved with the festival and to show support for both the festival and our wonderful Canadian authors.
You can adopt an author with a $100 contribution to the The Word On The Street Toronto!
With this contribution you will receive:
- The opportunity to adopt an author of your choice from a list of available authors
- A copy of the book (to be signed at the festival)
- Opportunity to meet your adopted author and have your book signed first, right after their reading
- Recognition for your contribution at the festival. Your name will be announced by the host prior to your author’s reading
- Recognition on our website
- A personalized certificate detailing your adoption
- A tax receipt for your charitable contribution
- A chance to be a part of Canada’s largest one-day festival!
You can adopt as many authors as you’d like, and each author can be adopted twice.
To find out more about the program, visit http://www.thewordonthestreet.ca/wots/toronto/adopt
Won't you adopt an author like me?
Friday, September 2, 2011
You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.
-- Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon
15. The Claim
Patrick Flynn was aware that Charles Westerbrook was not to be totally trusted, for Flynn did not totally trust anyone who shunned hard work, and his English partner spurned physical labour as though it was the plague. Flynn often wondered and marvelled that Westerbrook even reached the Klondike, and that he had come by The White Pass, tales of which were now legendary in Dawson City. But what troubled the young American the most was that sight forever burned in his mind: the image of Westerbrook pushing his female companion, Clara Stipes over the side of the boat, or at least that was the way it appeared to Flynn. Had he misinterpreted that scene, he often thought. The boat was being tossed about a good deal. Perhaps Westerbrook had been slammed into Clara by the rushing, churning water. Then again, Flynn could have sworn the man’s arm went out as if he were intentionally shoving her over the side. Or was his hand reaching out to grab her? Though he wrestled with it in his own mind, Patrick Flynn could not come to a clear interpretation. The truth be known, the American did not truly wish to know of his partner was indeed a murderer.
When faced the dilemma of finding work or starving, Flynn wasted little time. He soon found a job as a lumberjack felling trees that were shipped to mills that produce boards that went to building banks and saloons and shops in the every-growing city of Dawson. With his experience from the forests in the state of Washington, the American had little trouble finding work which was hard but honest. After several weeks he was fortunate to get a job hauling the wood, then finally working on a steamer that carried cargo and passengers up and down the Yukon River.
Now he saw little of his partner, as Flynn found himself in Dawson City only periodically. The last he had heard from Westerbrook was that he finally got work in a saloon in town. Patrick Flynn might have been happy to spend the remainder of his days in the Klondike plying ships on the Yukon River. He soon began to think of having his own ship one day and being captain. It would be a good life, and the way Dawson City was growing, the gold strike could go on for years and he would have steady work bringing newcomers to the north to take part in the spectacle. Even if more than half of them turned right around and went back home, that would help keep Flynn busy as well.
Such was not to be the fate for Patrick Flynn, for during one trip where the ship was bringing supplies to Dawson City the boiler on board exploded, and the vessel sank. Fortunately there were no hands lost, but with no insurance the cargo was mostly ruined and the ship unsalvageable. All the way back to Dawson City Flynn cursed his luck and contemplated his next move. There would be opportunities for a strong, young man of his many abilities and willingness to work hard. He was thankful, however, that Westerbrook had a job.
“What do you mean you’re out of work?” Flynn demanded of his partner when he returned to Dawson City. “The last time we spoke you said you were well set-up, with a great job and lots of money. You even told me about a girl you were seeing.”
“It would seem there has been a reversal of fortune for us both, Patrick,” Westerbrook said undaunted.
“But what shall we do now? With no money we’ll be out in the street in no time. We have to get work and fast.”
“I have been thinking of that, Paddy me boy,” Westerbrook said in the most optimistic manner. “What did we come all the way to the Klondike for, eh? To work in a saloon? To cut down trees and work on a bloody boat? No! We came to look for gold. It’s why we came. It’s why we’re still here.”
“But all the claims are staked, Charlie. They have been since we arrived.”
“So we will hook up with someone who already has a claim,” Westerbrook said.
“But I thought you didn’t like the idea of working someone else’s mine for wages, Charlie.”
“Circumstances would dictate that I revise my former position,” Westerbrook said cheekily. “What do you say, Patrick?”
It took Charles Westerbrook the rest of the day and some of the night to convince his American partner that this was their best opportunity. The smooth talking Englishman was convincing, and before long Patrick Flynn found himself enamoured with the idea of mining for gold and going back home a rich man and being able to show to everyone that he was a success. The only thing Westerbrook was unable to tell him was where they would find an established miner willing to take them on as partners.
Though Charles Westerbrook quit his job at the Golden Nugget, he remained in close contact with Suzanne Bouchard. Through information gleaned off the many miners and businessmen who frequented the saloon, Suzanne was able to find out when Injun Joe Payne would be coming into Dawson City for supplies. The old miner was known to shun the town as much as possible, so there might not be another opportunity for many months.
On the pretense of going out to scout the area for likely employment, Westerbrook led Flynn out into the countryside southwest of Dawson City. The latter thought it an exercise in futility, but the Englishman talked excessively in his usual optimistic manner.
Flynn could not understand his partner. Here they were, two out of work, desperate men, stuck in the most Godforsaken spot with autumn carrying a whisper of winter on her lips, and absolutely no prospects, and here was Westerbrook acting as if nothing was wrong and they might simply be out for an afternoon stroll.
The two men ventured out to the creeks where miners had staked their claims. Mile-wide valleys where creeks and streams flowed were anything but picturesque. One creek appeared the same dull, drab scene as the next. Hillsides of spruce, aspen and birch were practically stripped bare, as the wood was needed for fuel, shelter and most importantly sluice boxes. The creeks were dotted haphazardly with dwellings. Some miners had log cabins made from green wood with dirt-covered roofs where wild flowers grew lending a bit of colour to the scene. But these were the more elegant dwellings, as many miners lived in tents. These miners all seemed to look the same to Flynn and Westerbrook; men in tall muddy boots, dressed in heavy work-clothes dull from dirt. They had either mustaches or thick beards. Their expressions too were similar; gimlet-eyed men with a serious demeanor, whose very life force appeared to be draining from them, the same as they were extracting the riches out of the earth.
As the day progressed Patrick Flynn did notice his companion grew more anxious, as if anticipating something, and Charles’s right hand constantly seemed to find his coat pocket, or sometimes patted it reassuringly. After accomplishing practically nothing that day, aside from questioning several miners from the creeks, Westerbrook suggested they return to town and the partners soon found themselves walking down the road to Dawson City. They came to a fork in the road, and Flynn saw his partner stumble and fall to the ground.
“Are you all right there, Charlie?” the American asked.
“I seem to have twisted my ankle,” the other replied displaying some discomfort.
“Can you walk on it?”
“I do not believe so. Perhaps we best wait here a while.”
It was getting towards evening and Patrick Flynn grew more impatient as the time wore on. He suggested to the Englishman that perhaps he should walk into Dawson and come back with a horse or cart to convey Westerbrook into town, but the man would not hear of it. Charles implored Flynn to remain with him, and he was certain he would soon be well enough to walk.
It was getting dark, when from far off down the road the partners heard hostile voices. Westerbrook informed his partner that his ankle was feeling better and that they best go investigate for someone might be in need of aid.
The pair moved down the road cautiously and soon came across a scene quite rare in the Klondike. A group of three men armed with rifles were attempting to rob an old miner leading a mule loaded with supplies.
“You just stand still, old-timer!” one of the thieves growled.
“Don’t make any move to stop us and you won’t get hurt!” said another.
The miner appeared calm, standing before the bandits. Two held their weapons pointed at him, while the third endeavoured to search through the supplies that had been tied to the mule, but were now littered upon the ground.
“Did you find any gold?” one asked to the other who searched through the bundles and packages on the ground.
“Not yet, but there’s got to be gold here somewhere,” the man replied.
Patrick Flynn was by no means a coward. Indeed, he was reputed to be a brave man by many who knew him, but he was at a bit of a dilemma. Here he was, weaponless, outnumbered with a hurt partner, about to attempt to stop an old man from being robbed and maybe killed. Patrick’s mind worked fast but he could see no safe way to intervene. He was in the middle of a plan of action when all of the sudden Charles Westerbrook charged ahead calling Flynn to follow. In his hand Westerbrook waved a pistol high in the air yelling at the robbers.
“Stop thieves!” he called out. “I have a gun and I’ll use it, by God! Leave that man alone or I’ll shoot!”
Everyone including Flynn was startled at the outburst. Later Patrick would recall gunshots ringing out in the night, and the bandits fleeing down the road with his partner in hot pursuit.
“Are you all right, mister?” Flynn asked the old miner who was almost as startled as he. The man was dressed in thick gummed boots and a mackinaw coat heavily frayed at the collar and cuffs. He almost resembled a hobo, but there was a strength of character that showed in the wrinkled face, and his eyes still held a spark.
The man looked at Flynn in the waning light and nodded briefly. They both stared off down the road where a few gunshots were heard over Charles Westerbrook’s voice as he yelled at the fleeing thieves.
“The dirty blighters got away,” Charles uttered as he made his way back to the scene. “Are the two of you all right?”
Flynn stared at his partner with disbelief. When he found his voice, he said: “Charlie, that was amazing! Where did you get that gun?”
“I always carry it, didn’t you know? You never know when you might run into unsavoury characters. I hope I get a chance to run into those three again.” Flynn continued to stare at his companion, shocked at this uncharacteristic act of bravery.
“Are you certain they did not hurt you?” Westerbrook said to the miner. “I am sorry; where are my manners? My name is Charles Westerbrook and this is my partner, Patrick Flynn.”
The miner nodded while touching the wide brim of his hat. “How’d you do.”
“I am sorry,” Westerbrook said, his polite and proper manner in juxtaposition to the scene. “I am afraid we did not get your name.”
The miner studied his two rescuers a moment and said: “My name’s Payne. Joe Payne. Some call me Injun Joe.”
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Westerbrook said putting out his right hand. The miner shook it and Flynn’s in turn. “It is fortunate we happen to come along.”
“Yup,” Joe Payne replied.
“May we help you reload your supplies onto your mule?”
“Oh, but we insist,” Westerbrook began. “Those dirty blighters might come back.”
“It really is no trouble,” Pat Flynn added, and they proceeded to help the miner pack his mule.
At the insistence of the younger men they escorted the miner back to his cabin. Joe Payne was, of course grateful for their timely aid, and once they were back at his cabin he offered the two younger men a supper of beans and bacon and tea that he had just purchased in Dawson City.
“Do you get into town much Mr. Payne?” Pat Flynn asked.
The older man shook his head. “I don’t much care for towns,” he said in his own quiet way, but somehow the words carried more on them.
Though it was a simple meal, it was tasty, and the two young men were grateful.
“You know, I am hoping that those three robbers did not follow us here,” Charles Westerbrook said. “I would not feel good at leaving Mr. Payne here alone and at the mercy of those three. They appeared to be a formidable gang.”
“They weren’t too smart, those three,” Payne added.
“No?” Pat Flynn said. “And why do you say that?”
“They were looking through my things for gold. Not many miners would be carrying gold back from Dawson City. Any fool would know that miners bring their gold into town.”
“Would you care for us to stay a bit longer, Mr. Payne?” Westerbrook posed. “It would be no trouble.”
Joe Payne regarded his two guests and asked: “Just what are you two boys looking for?”
Flynn and Westerbrook exchanged curious looks.
“Maybe something to show my gratitude for helping out tonight?”
“You mean some kind of reward?” Pat Flynn said.
“No sir,” Westerbrook added. “My partner and I are not looking at compensation for any assistance we might have lent you tonight. We were glad and proud we could come to your aid. Mr. Payne, if you wish us to leave this very moment we will be on our way, grateful for the hospitality you have shown us tonight. Let us be on our way, Patrick. We have imposed upon Mr. Payne’s good graces enough. We are happy to have made your acquaintance, sir,” Westerbrook said to the miner offering his right hand. “We trust our paths may cross again. Come, Patrick, it is a long walk back to Dawson.”
Joe Payne silently escorted the two men out of the cabin. They had taken only a few steps before Pat Flynn turned and said: “Charlie’s right, Mr. Payne, when he said we don’t need any reward for what we did tonight. We did it out of Christian charity. But the truth of the matter is, we’re a little down on our luck. We’re not looking for a handout. We both need work.”
“What kind of work?”
“We would work for you, Mr. Payne,” Flynn said sincerely. “We’d be grateful if you gave us a job.”
Joe Payne looked at the American and knew instinctively he was a good worker. The broad shoulders and heavy arms bespoke a strong man given to heavy work. Payne knew something about people. He knew Flynn to be sincere and honest. Unfortunately there was something about the other man he did not like, something in the Englishman’s manner he did not trust, plus the fact the man did not look as if he were cut out for mining. He was too refined, too gentile. Still, they did come to his aid with little regard for their own safety, and he could use two young men to help out. Payne had been alone for over a year since his old partner Russian Mike was killed. Loneliness is an awful thing, even for men like Injun Joe. In an instant he made up his mind. It was one of the few times in his life he had gone against his better judgement, and a decision he would live to regret.
“All right then, boys, you got a job.”
Flynn and Westerbrook slept at the cabin that night. It was big enough and well built. In the morning they walked back to town to pack their belongings and move out to the cabin on the creek permanently. On the walk back to Dawson Pat Flynn noticed Westerbrook’s ankle did not seem to bother him at all.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Why do we love historical mysteries? What draws us to this subject? We read them for the same reason we write them; they are of interest to us, we enjoy them. For some of us, they are our passion. After all, who doesn’t love a mystery? Mysteries challenge and entertain us. We enjoy trying to solve the conundrums, and even when we cannot, we are fascinated by the solutions.
But why do historical mysteries appeal to us? Obviously we love history. We, more than some, realize we are tied to our past and wish to make that connection (whether by reading and/or writing) by learning something about our past.
Writing historical mysteries certainly presents some obstacles. We cannot simply make up history to suit the story. The history must be true. To preserve authenticity it is important to do research to get the facts correct.
Facts? Facts! We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!
Yes, we do.
F A C T is a 4-letter word that starts with F, but it is not a dirty word.
For those of us who love historical mysteries, facts do not need to be the main focus of the story, but facts create the background and (God forbid) we may actually learn something after spending hours with a book.
For some authors, preserving historic accuracy is right up there with a good story. If I am reading a historical novel (of any type) and the author has their research wrong (I mean very wrong) it would not matter to me how good the story was if the author chose to change history for the sake of the story.
I shudder to think of anyone learning their WWII history from Quentin Tarintino’s Inglorious Bastards.
I totally understand that some authors feel the need to use artistic licence to improve the story (I’ve done it myself ). I suppose it is just a matter of how much artistic licence they wish to use.
I’m not certain about other historical mystery writers, but for me the facts often help shape the story. I generally start a story knowing very little and my research is carried out as I write. Often my research helps me develop the story.
In my latest historical mystery, To Know Evil, my detective, Brother Thomas of Worms is a Benedictine monk (as are all the other characters). I knew nothing about the Benedictine order, but what I did learn help develop my characters. The time period in which the story takes place, 999 AD (something else I knew little about) also was intrinsic the story.
A good historical mystery is simply not a mystery story transplanted in another time period. good historical mystery is rooted in another time and place, and is enveloped by those parameters.
When I wrote The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I wrote a mystery for every stop Holmes and Watson made on their way across Canada. It was very common to develop my mysteries from the research of both the time and the place.
Since Holmes’ first stop in Canada was to be Halifax, I needed to research the city, having never been there personally. In my research I came across the military base, the Citadel, and I decided a murder would take place there.
I learned a lot about Canadian history when I wrote that book, and anyone who reads it could not help but learn something too. I think a good historical mystery is when the reader learns something, but does so without realizing it.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
As a reader and a writer of detective stories I have always been influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterful detective Sherlock Holmes. This influence led me to write The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2004).
In September BBC Books is reissuing A Study in Scarlet, with an introduction by Steven Moffat, co-creator of the Sherlock television show.
A Study in Scarlet was the first Sherlock Holmes story, written in 1886 by a 27 year-old Conan Doyle. The story was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887.
Though Conan Doyle would go on to write 56 short stories of Holmes, A Study in Scarlet was the first of only four full-length novels the author would write.
Though not perhaps the most popular Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet was the first and so deserves considerable consideration.
The story is divided into two parts. The first part introduce the reader to Holmes and Watson and a couple of murders. The second part tells the tale of what led to the murders.
After The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published, as a writer I felt all Holmesed-out. I had come up with ten mysteries for Holmes and Watson as they sailed to Canada and then proceeded to cross the country. I did not think I could ever come up with another Holmes adventure. I do not know how Conan Doyle had written so many.
After some time had passed I did get the itch to write another Holmes adventure, only this time I would write it a full-length novel, not unlike A Study in Scarlet. I even borrowed Conan Doyle’s introduction to the second part of his first Holmes story in which he wrote: In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert....
My Holmes story is entitled Cold Hearted Murder, and since the second part of my story takes place in the Yukon Territory I started with: In the northwest corner of the great North American Continent is a land much like the one God gave to Cain. It is a land as inhospitable as one is likely to find on this earth....
Cold Hearted Murder is being presented in installments and can be read on this blog.
Friday, July 15, 2011
12. The Sourdoughs
In the northwest corner of the great North American continent is a land much like the one God gave to Cain. It is a land as inhospitable as one is likely to find on this earth, and for many years was shunned by most human beings. It is an unforgiving land... bleak, isolated and unavailing. In the summer months veritable hordes of mosquitoes infest the bogs and swamps, while in the winter ice and snow cover the mountains and valleys, and the cold creeps in like a thing alive to prey upon the weak, and chill the bones of the warmest-blooded creature. It is a remote wilderness not fit for civilized men in their right mind, and to reach it from the outside world is not an easy task even for the toughest and resolute of men. Yet, strangely enough in the latter half of the nineteenth century men and women and even children swarmed there in droves, though many of them lived to regret it.
In this great wilderness is a mighty river, stretching some two thousand miles across the rugged landscape. It is fed by a myriad of unnamed streams and creeks. These creeks and streams feed other tributaries that proceed into the mighty river as it winds its way flowing forever westward, where it invariably empties into the Bearing Sea. The river flows– as it has always flowed– bringing the meltwaters of the mountains to the sea to fulfill its destiny, and as the river flows it carries along sand and gravel and other minerals, one heavier than the others, and deposits it in various spots along its course. This soft, yellow mineral is different from the rest and has been deemed precious by men who have sought it for thousands of years. For some men, there has always been an attraction to it. The metal possesses an alluring quality that tugs at the minds of men to the point of obsession, and some men, once afflicted with the fever it generates, are apt to spend their entire lives in pursuit of it. The good Lord must have a sense of humour indeed to have put so much of it in this awful and unforgiving land.
By 1867, the year Russia sold Alaska to the Americans, and the year of Confederation in Canada, men were already drawn to the north country prowling the rivers and creeks in search of this precious metal. For the most part these men were restless souls whose dreams were filled with memories of the strike in California of `49, the silver mines of Colorado, and the Caribou trail of `62. These men were more or less misfits of society, men who shunned cities and towns and farms, and developed their own code of ethics and conduct. They were driven men with singleness of purpose, and who desired no other life than prospecting. They lived for one thing, and in the summer of 1896 they received what they had always waited for– the cry of GOLD!!
It was a word that spread like wildfire through the hills. A gold-strike of such unheard-of quality that it conjured up fantastic dreams in some, disbelief in others. And where was this strike located? Who was it that discovered it? The strike was made in the most unlikely of places by the most unlikely of men. The gold was found on a small nondescript creek whose valley was deemed too wide by experts to contain any gold, and found by a man named George Carmack, who was not all that interested in finding gold. He and his two native companions were directed to Rabbit Creek by a seasoned prospector, Robert Henderson, who stated the area looked promising. Because of its high yield, Rabbit Creek would later be renamed Bonanza, but other strikes would later be made in the Klondike that would prove to be even larger than that one.
Along the creeks came a pair of men who could not have been much different from one another, but it was their differences that made them good partners. Russian Mike was a mountain of a man standing just over six and a half feet tall, with a dark bushy beard and a barrel chest. He was born Mikolav Riskin a descendant of an Alaskan Russian of noble ancestry who married an Indian woman. Mike had rejected his Indian heritage, and so grew up doing what other whitemen did in Alaska, and so at a young age he decided to learn all he could from other prospectors who searched for the elusive metal. Russian Mike, in his thick gum boots and frayed mackinaw, had roamed the banks of the Yukon River from St. Michael to Forty Mile and beyond, but had yet to find any gold. At the time of the gold strike on Rabbit Creek, Russian Mike was working a worthless claim near Forty Mile, a small mining town in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Hearing of the strike on Rabbit Creek, Russian Mike packed all his belongings– which amounted to a rucksack, a gold-pan, a short-stemmed shovel, and a tin of sourdough starter– and left his claim and headed for the Klondike River. On the way he crossed paths with a man named Joseph Payne, or Injun Joe, as he was known in the north.
Though he could not claim to have any native blood in his veins, Joseph Payne believed he should have been born an Indian. He could hunt, and trap anything on four legs. He was not too tall, and he dressed like any whiteman in the bush would– thick woollen pants and shirt, heavy durable boots that went half way up his calf, big brim slouch hat, and heavy coat. The only native garb he kept on his person was the small leather medicine bag that hung about his neck by a leather cord. In the small pouch he kept small mementos from meaningful times of his life. He preferred living in the bush and his origins were a mystery and the cause of much speculation around Forty Mile. His place of birth was not even known to himself. Joseph Payne’s earliest memories were of living in Western Canada where he leaned to ride a horse, hunt buffalo on the plains, and trap and trade with the natives who welcomed him into their camps and regarded him as an honest man. He was there when the red-coated North West Mounted Police arrived in the west in 1874, and he remained with them on the plains for a short time lending his services as a scout and interpreter to the natives. With the approach of civilization he ventured into the north country, past Edmonton, heading further and further into the wilderness, until he reached the Yukon Territory. There in the rugged wilds, Payne lived alongside the natives, who recognized and appreciated his abilities, and sometimes he would wander away by himself living off the earth where most men would have perished.
By chance he made the acquaintance of Russian Mike and the two became fast friends. When their paths crossed in the summer of `96 and Russian Mike proposed the two of them throw in together, and Joseph Payne immediately accepted. They were an amazing pair; the large verbose Russian and the smaller Canadian who was frugal with his words, and would not waste one when a gesture would suffice. And whereas Mike was ready with a broad smile or a hearty laugh, the Canadian was ever practical and solemn. Some say Injun Joe first learned to pan gold in the Caribou, while others say that Russian Mike taught him everything he knew about gold. It mattered little though, since most everything Joe Payne attempted he performed well with a meticulousness to detail that bespoke of pride in one’s work.
In the summer of 1896 Russian Mike was thirty-three years old, while Injun Joe was forty-nine. Despite his age Joe could outwork almost any man, even the big Russian. Payne was considered a tough old man for he looked older than he was. The lifestyle that bred incredible strength and endurance also showed in his face that was brown and leathery from constant exposure to the extreme elements. If left to his own Joe would have preferred to live off the land as he had always done, but he stayed with the large prospector because he liked the man and felt a sense of loyalty to him, and would stay with Mike until he gave Joe cause to leave.
They walked along the great river until they came to a juncture of two rivers, the Yukon River and a smaller one the local natives called Thron-diuck or Thunder River. The white men called it Klondike.
Coming to another juncture where the river met a creek, Russian Mike paused and sniffed the air. Injun Joe watched the man for some moments. Finally Russian Mike proclaimed: “This way!” They continued walking along the creek, stopping occasionally to scoop up a pan from the banks. Towards evening the Russian half-breed stooped over and panned again. Standing up he examined the yield. He turned to his new partner and said: “We will camp here.”
Their claim was on a tiny stream called Muskrat Creek, and both men were entitled to fifty feet along the banks of the stream. The partners lived in a tent set upon a height of ground by the creek hemmed in by might pine trees. It was a humble dwelling but both were simple men who needed little. They had panned the area and found it promising. For the remainder of the year the two men worked their claim.
During the long winter months the two men huddled inside the small cabin they built to replace their tent, and it was here that Russian Mike imbued Injun Joe with the code of the prospectors. Once a man struck gold, it was his duty to inform others of the strike, Mike told Joe. If a man was hungry, he was fed, if he needed lodgings he was given a place to sleep. So removed from any type of law and order the old-time miners developed their own sense of justice in the way of miner’s meetings where grievances were heard and decided upon, and judgement was dispensed swiftly and with impunity. This was the kind of justice Joseph Payne was used to and could appreciate. He felt it right that men should decide their own affairs. Though he did respect the red-coated mounted policemen, Payne did not necessarily believe they were needed here in the Yukon.
During the winter months, when the snow and ice covered everything, the two men were not deterred from working their claim. Shafts had to be dug down through the permafrost to the bedrock. This was done by burning wood on the ground to thaw it. Once it was thawed, the dirt could be scraped off and piled onto a dump, and the process was repeated. In the spring the dirt on the dump was shovelled onto a dumpbox where bars on the grizzly kept out the bigger chunks of gravel. The smaller pieces fell through to the sluice where water from the creek helped carry the dirt down the sluicebox over riffles that caught the heavier pieces of gold.
During the long winter months their lives were not idle. Whenever the beans and bacon ran out Injun Joe hunted and trapped in the woods for their food. Russian Mike could cook whatever Joe brought to the cabin and thus the men shared a well-balanced relationship. When it came to eating, Joe preferred pemmican, an ancient Indian food that was simply pounded meat mixed with bone marrow. The mixture was stored in an animal skin that could last for a year. Joe was also fond of bannock bread which he cooked on a stick over the fire. As fond as he was of bannock, Joe Payne preferred his partner’s sourdough bread.
From Alaska, Russian Mike had brought, along with some other miner essentials, a small crock container holding one of his most precious possessions, sourdough starter. It had been given to him by an old-timer who had gotten his from another miner in Alaska, which could trace back its origins to California. This fermented starter was used in the north country in place of yeast to make bread rise. Miners such as Russian Mike would carry the sourdough starter from one claim to another and these old-time prospectors came to be known as ‘Sourdoughs’. Mike was very particular about his sourdough starter. It had a special spot above the cabin’s stove, and on very cold nights Mike was known to take the sourdough crock to bed with him to keep it warm.
In the spring of 1897 the partners were working the dump, shovelling the dirt into the dumpbox and down the sluice, when they were approached by three strangers. They were an unsavoury-looking trio, and despite what Russian Mike had said about welcoming strangers, he was uneasy at their approach. With a keen insight and perception Injun Joe picked up on this immediately and kept a tight hold on the shovel he was using. The strangers tried to appear friendly enough, but their manner betrayed them. The leader, a dark-haired, dark-eyed man casually mentioned that he and his companions had staked out this claim over a year ago and it belonged to them. Russian Mike, in his brusque way, told them that there were no markers when he and Injun Joe had come here, and he had no intention of giving up or sharing this claim with the newcomers. The scene turned ugly and threats were bandied about. Injun Joe said nothing during this exchange, even when the leader of the newcomers pulled a knife threateningly. Joe picked up a stone and with a keen eye and a strong arm he threw it at the knife wielder. The stone struck the man violently in the head staggering him and causing him to drop the knife. His two companions went to his aid, while Russian Mike and Injun Joe advanced on the claim jumpers with their shovels held high. Seeing the pair was not about to back down, the trio beat a hasty retreat.
Incidents such as this, though rare in the Klondike, were indicative of the harsh land and the harsh men who were drawn there. This incident only proved to strengthen the bond between the two prospectors and each knew he could depend upon the other and could trust the other with his life. It was a hard, lonely existence, and the two had only each other, but the hard work and comradery created the type of close friendship that was very rare in the world but all too necessary in this wilderness country.
In early summer, when the ice on Muskrat Creek thawed, the two miners began to shovel the dirt from the dump that had built up over the winter. They shovelled it into the sluice box where water from the creek was diverted into it so to wash the contents down the riffles of the box. A matting was laid in the bottom of the box and periodically it would be taken out and its contents put in the gold-pan and mixed with more water. One day Injun Joe swirled the contents of his pan in a circular fashion. As dirt and gravel were carefully and slowly washed out of the pan, Payne’s eyes caught sight of a chunk of yellow rock that was too heavy to wash out. With suppressed excitement he walked over to where his partner was hunkered down by the creek with his own pan. Joe Payne squatted down next to Mike and showed him the contents of his pan.
Wordlessly the two men stood up. Carefully Russian Mike reached into Joe’s pan and gingerly removed a gold nugget about the size of the tip of a man’s finger. Mike closely examined the nugget holding it before his eyes, then bit into it. The large man turned to his partner and threw his huge arms around him. A booming laugh escaped the man’s lips as he lifted Joe Payne into the air as easily as he would a child. With Joe in his arms Russian Mike danced around as he continued to laugh heartily.
“We struck it rich, partner!” the big man chanted over and over. “What do you think of that?!”
Though the older man did not join in the laughter, he did smile to see his partner so happy.
The two panned and panned all that day but failed to find any more gold that closely resembled the nugget found previously. What they did find was gold dust and flakes that they carefully put into small sacks that they would weigh and divide up later. That night Joe asked Mike if he might have the large nugget he found so he might put in into the medicine bag he wore around his neck.
The Russian half-breed agreed, since he sincerely believed they would find much more, but he said he wished to know from Payne the significance of the bag. Injun Joe was at first reluctant to talk about it, as if not entirely certain how to explain it. Finally he said, “There have been important things that have happened in my life. Whenever that has happened there has always been something... some object that was tied to the event, and I put the object in my medicin bab. This bag contains several items from my life. Now it will also hold this piece of gold, for I believe it has some importance that I may not know at this time, but will become clear later.”
The Russian accepted this explanation, and the two men never spoke about it again.
In May of 1897 Injun Joe left Russian Mike to work and protect the claim while he went into the hills to hunt and trap for food as their provisions were getting low. He was gone for several days before he returned to the claim pulling a travois laden with fresh meat that would last them through most of the summer. As he approached the cabin something strange caught his attention and he observed the scene from behind a tree. From where he stood, he could see three men working the claim, but none of them was Russian Mike. On closer observation he recognized the same three men that they had run off some months earlier, but never was there a sign of his partner. All that day Joseph Payne stayed away from the cabin and only approached it later that night under the cover of darkness. Noiselessly he listened by the door as the three claim jumpers spoke inside. It was in this way that he learned these men had stole upon the cabin one night and seeing that Russian Mike was alone, they killed him to take over the claim. They did not seem to know whatever became of Mike’s rock wielding partner, but they were glad he was gone and assessing him to be a restless wanderer, were certain he had enough of mining and ventured back to life in the bush.
On hearing this, Joseph Payne’s blood raced and his heart hammered in his breast. He controlled the impulse to burst into the cabin and kill all three, for he knew a better way. He did not consider fetching the Mounted Policeman who was in charge of upholding law and order in the area. Payne chose to exact the punishment himself in his own way, and he would start this very evening.
He waited until one of the men left the cabin to relieve himself. The man did not venture far and as the man was occupied, Injun Joe snuck up behind him with a knife and cut his throat.
It was not long before the remaining two, concerned as to their companion’s whereabouts, stepped out of the cabin and called out to him. Payne observed them from far off. He had cached the dead body where the two men would not find it in the dark. Finally, after a while, the two gave up on their friend and decided to search for him at first daylight.
When day broke they did not have to look far, for outside the door of the cabin, hanging upside down from a tree was their dead partner, fresh blood covering his face and clothes. Grabbing their rifles they scoured the area looking for the person who had done this. Though they searched and searched no sign could be found. Out of fear the two claim jumpers did not leave their cabin for days. When they finally found the courage to do so they went armed with rifles and never went off alone.
Days passed, then a week. With no recurrence of hostilities the two men grew braver and could sometimes be found alone. One day one of the men left the other to prepare dinner in the cabin. An hour later when the other came to the cabin hungry from a hard day’s work he was horrified by what he saw. His partner had been murdered and left fixed upright on the cabin wall with a pickaxe through the chest.
Instantly the man fled the cabin in fear that the murderer might be hiding there waiting for him. The man fled into the bush and had run quite far before he stopped to realize that in his flight he had not taken a weapon nor any food to sustain him. As evening drew nigh and darkness came over all, the woods seemed to hold unseen and unknowable terrors. The man’s thoughts turned to finding one of those Canadian policeman and confessing to the murder of the Russian miner, as long as he was given protection from the mad killer who was undoubtedly pursuing him now. The man was gripped by an unshakable fear that he had never experienced in his entire life. Cold sweat broke out over his body, while his breath came in laboured gasps and his heart beat against the walls of his chest. He did not remember hearing a sound before he was hit upon the head.
When he awoke the man found himself tied hand and foot, and gagged. His clothes had been stripped off him, and he was aware of another’s presence.
Not far from him a man, stripped to the waist, and with his back to him was bending over a small fire. This man rose and turned toward the other. Injun Joe, though not Indian at all, resembled a North American native, his skin browned by the sun, his face streaked with colour derived from berries. The terrified claim jumper, who attempted to cringe back from horror, soon found himself subjected to an ordeal of torture not known to most men. With his knife Injun Joe made numerous cuts on the man’s body, and burned his extremities with a hot poker. By the time Joe killed the man, he was a quivering mass of bloody flesh. In this way Injun Joe dolled out his own brand of vengeance that sprang from the wilderness justice by which he lived.
In his own singular way Joe Payne disposed of the bodies of the claim jumpers, and left no trace that they had ever been there. Payne did report the disappearance of Russian Mike and when Inspector Charles Constantine arrived at the Muskrat Creek claim to investigate, he could find no trace of the body. There was some speculation as to what may have happened to Russian Mike. Some say Injun Joe killed his partner to get the entire claim for himself, but those who knew the relationship between the two men, and this included Inspector Constantine, understood that Joe could never hurt Mike.
Before he departed Constantine asked Joe if he had seen three miners that seemed to be missing. They were an unsavoury lot and not to be trusted, the Inspector related to Payne. Joe told the Inspector that he and Mike had run across three men in the spring, but Joe had not seen the three men since. He thanked the Inspector and said he would surely be wary if those men were to show up again.
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Friday, May 27, 2011
— The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
9. Another Strange Murder
The next morning I rose late and was discouraged to find Sherlock Holmes was still in his bed. I had retired late the evening before. Not wishing to leave Holmes alone I stayed up with him as he sat by the open window staring out into the darkness. I read by the light of the lamp until at last my eyes grew so heavy I was forced to retire to my room. I suggested to Sherlock Holmes that he too should try to get a good night’s sleep, but his response was a low groan, and I left him in the sitting room. At what hour Holmes had retired I could not say, but I was certain that it was quite late.
Not desiring to wait until my friend awoke, I rang the bell and gave an intimation that I was ready for my breakfast. It was soon brought up by our housekeeper, along with the morning paper. As I ate my ham and eggs, I glanced over the newspaper and an article on the front page immediately took my attention. The rather gruesome heading was ‘Macabre Murder At Butcher Shop.’ The story that followed filled me with a horror even more than the heading.
The second strange murder in almost as many days has occurred late last night in the most peculiar of all places, a butcher shop on Endell Street. Mr. Johann Diekle, owner and proprietor of Diekle’s Fine Meats, was shocked and amazed to discover a body in his butcher shop freezer early this morning when he opened his shop at six o’clock. Mister Diekle reported to police that all was right as it should be in his establishment when he closed his shop at nine P.M. the night before.
What makes this murder even more horrendous was the mutilated condition in which the body was found. A number of appendages had been severed from the body, including fingers and toes. A ritualistic symbol had also been cut into the victims skin.
Readers will remember the recent horrible murder discovered at a London icehouse, where a similar crime was committed.
Though Scotland Yard would not confirm it, it is the opinion of some that these are a series of murders that were committed by a dangerous satanic cult. We of London can only hope that this is the last of the tragedies and we may sleep peacefully in our beds.
Inspector Peter Huggins . . .
My reading was interrupted by knock on the door. I was surprised that there would be a caller so early in the morning. Putting down the paper I rose and walked to the door. Opening it, I was somewhat astounded to see the very man whose name I had just read, Inspector Peter Huggins. He stood in the door with a totally despondent, and abashed look upon his face. He removed his hat and spoke lowly and with great respect.
“Good morning, Doctor Watson,” he said. “Might I have a word with Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”
“Mr. Holmes is not yet risen,” I said, ushering him inside the room. “Won’t you come in and have a cup of coffee while I rouse him?”
“But will he see me?”
“I am sure he will,” I uttered lending the man whatever hope I could.
I gave the door to Holmes’s room a knock then walked in. He was still asleep, so I gave him a shake and said: “Rouse yourself, Holmes. There is someone here to see you.” Walking to the window, I raised the blind which allowed the bright morning sun to spill into the room.
With a moan and a groan Holmes rolled over and covered his head.
“Come along, Holmes, the game is afoot.”
“What is it?” he finally asked.
“Huggins is here to see you. I believe it is urgent.”
“There has been another murder.”
Holmes was up and dressed in two minutes. He entered the sitting room in his mouse-coloured dressing gown and approached Huggins and I who were drinking our coffee.
Huggins quickly rose as Holmes entered the room and stood uneasily as my friend sat in his chair while motioning the C.I.D. man to sit opposite. I stood close by, my elbow resting on the mantle, holding the morning newspaper.
“I understand there is some urgency in which you wish to see me, Inspector,” Holmes spoke.
Huggins nodded and retained a submissive manner. “Yes, Mr. Holmes. Please allow me to apologize for the unprofessional, and ungracious manner in which I treated you previously. I would not blame you one bit if you refused to talk with me.”
“Tut, tut,” said Holmes with a wave of his hand. “All that is past us now. Personally I work best if I conduct myself sine ira et studio. We will start afresh. So, off you go at scratch and tell me all about it.”
“Well, sir, as you know I believed the mendicant, Mately, had murdered Mr. Westerbrook, but you most likely know that sometime late last night there has been a similar murder.”
I reached over and handed Holmes the newspaper indicating the article of the latest tragedy. Holmes glanced over it as Huggins continued.
“Since the murder occurred with Mately in custody, it exonerates the man and I plan on releasing him today, but I wished to speak with you first before I did so.”
“You believe Mately may still be linked with Mr. Charles Westerbrook’s murder, and now may be linked with the death of the American, Patrick Flynn?” Holmes asked.
“How do you know the name of the murdered man?” Huggins asked with some urgency. “I did not release the identity to the press. How could you possibly know about Flynn and that he was an American?”
“Let us stick to one question at a time, shall we?” Holmes spoke. “You still have reservations regarding Mately.”
“Well, to be honest, Mr. Holmes, I am not totally convinced of Mately’s innocence despite this recent murder. He may have an accomplice. This latest murder may have been committed for the express purpose of trying to give Mately the impression of being guiltless.”
“No, no. That simply will not do, Inspector,” Holmes uttered. “Let me assure you, it is completely safe to release Mately. I trust you are preserving the crime scene until I view it personally.”
“Yes, Mr. Holmes. The butcher, Diekle is not happy about being kept out of his freezer, so if we might go there now?”
“Quite right, Inspector Huggins. Let us go, and view this cold killing.”
Inspector Huggins had a cab waiting and the three of us climbed inside and off we went.
Huggins fidgeted inside the cab, as if desperate to question Holmes, but seemed reluctant to do so. It had taken considerable humility from the younger man to come to Holmes and ask for help, especially after the way he had rebuffed my friend’s council. Huggins was now treading lightly, well aware that he was fortunate that Holmes was even in the cab. Finally Huggins skewed up the courage to questioned Holmes as delicately as possible.
“I would appreciate it, Mr. Holmes, if you could tell me how you knew the murder victim was Patrick Flynn? We of the C.I.D. knew his name from the papers we found on the body, but as I said, I though it best not to release his name to the press.”
Holmes repressed a grin. “It is one of my little pleasures to be able to surprise people, and I do believe I have done so.”
“Yes, sir, you have,” Huggins said.
“Doctor Watson and I spoke with Mr. Patrick Flynn just the other day.”
“How is that possible?” Huggins asked incredulously.
“I was able to track Flynn down from a description I received from the hotel clerk at the Langham.”
“Amazing,” Huggins uttered.
“Elementary,” said Holmes.
“No,” Huggins said. “I meant it was amazing I did not follow up as you did. I abhor sloppy police work, especially when it is my own.”
“Then docket the instance and learn from it,” said Holmes. “As for Flynn, he and Westerbrook were business partners in North America. He claimed to know nothing pertaining to the details of Westerbrook’s murder. I did not believe him. Like Westerbrook, I believed Flynn was not being totally forthcoming. I was not overly surprised to learn that Flynn suffered the same fate as Westerbrook.”
“Is there anything else you can tell me, Mr. Holmes, that may help in this case?” Huggins asked.
“Yes there is,” replied Holmes, “but seeing that we have reached our destination, perhaps we can discuss it at a later date.”
We exited the cab and stood in front of a respectable looking establishment. Over the door hung a large sign that read ‘Diekle’s Fine Meats’. Huggins opened the door and ushered us in. My nostrils were immediately assaulted by pungent aroma of dead animal flesh. Behind the counter stood a rather large middle-age man who was dressed in a stained white apron, and was obviously the proprietor.
The butcher regarded Huggins with disdain and spoke with a strong German accent tinged with anger.
“When do you finish with my freezer? I must go in and get my meat.”
“Soon, Mr. Diekle,” Huggins said in a placating tone. “After these gentlemen view the scene you may have your freezer back.”
We walked past by the counter and Holmes paused briefly to look down at the butcher’s feet. Huggins led us back into the large walk-in freezer where a constable stood guard, presumably to keep anyone out until we arrived. Holmes bade us stop and wait while he walked to the rear of the freezer. Even from my position I could see the body of Patrick Flynn dressed in the same suit of clothes as when he sat in our sitting room. Carefully Holmes walked to the body examining the floor which was covered in sawdust. He brought out his tape measure, and measured off several areas on the floor. He then gathered up some grey dust from the floor and placed it into a small envelope he took from his pocket. Behind some boxes Holmes found a piece of cloth. He examined it closely even to the point of smelling it, then put the cloth in his pocket. Finally, he approached the body again and leaned in close and examined the corpse intently. He looked beneath Flynn’s coat and ran his fingers over the dead man’s scalp.
After several moments Holmes called to us and said: “You may both come in now.”
Huggins and I approached the body and I was instantly reminded of the pictures of the Westerbrook murder scene. They were practically identical. The killer, or killers had cut off the exact number of toes and fingers as he had from the previous victim. There, of course, was the slit across Flynn’s eyes, and there too was the triangle cut into the man’s left cheek. Covering the entire body was a grey frost that made the already horrid scene even more frightful.
“There was no weapon found at the scene or on the victim’s person?” Holmes asked the C.I.D. man.
“No, Mr. Holmes. No weapon was found.”
“Undoubtedly you found a gold sovereign in the victim’s mouth,” Holmes said to the Inspector.
“Yes, Mr. Holmes, but as before we refrained from telling that fact to the newspapers.”
“I presume there is a bullet wound in his stomach?” I asked.
“That is my presumption, Dr. Watson. I did not wish to examine the body too closely until Mr. Holmes viewed it, but I will wager there is a bullet wound on Flynn the same as Westerbrook.”
“There are two bullet wounds on the body,” Holmes stated casually. “One in the belly, and one in the chest. You can tell from the blood stains beneath his coat.”
“What is that odour?” I said.
“Whiskey,” Holmes said simply.
I leaned in closer to the body and realized Holmes was correct. The smell of whiskey mixed with the animal flesh made a very distinct odour.
“How was entry gained?” Holmes asked Huggins.
“The rear door to the butcher shop was forced, Mr. Holmes. It opens up into an alleyway.”
“There seems little else to be seen here,” Holmes stated. “You may have the body removed now, Huggins. Let us go look at the point of entry.”
We walked to the rear of the shop and found the door which did indeed open onto an alleyway. The passage was long and wide with many doors and windows opening onto it. We allowed Sherlock Holmes to enter the alley first so he might examine it in his singular way. Even from where I stood, traces of blood could be seen upon the ground.
“Halloa!” exclaimed Holmes. “What’s this?” He bent down and picked up a small, worn leather pouch trailing two long leather strings with frayed ends. Holmes held it high for us to see, and for some unknown reason he suspended it for a long period of time and kept it exposed for the entire time we remained in the alley.
“What is it?” I asked.
Sherlock Holmes opened the pouch and poured out the strange contents into the palm of his gloved hand. Huggins and I gathered around to view such a bizarre collection as one was able to imagine, for there before us were two smooth, dark pebbles, a small feather, a dried and bleached bone belonging to a small animal, no doubt, what I took to be a canine’s tooth, and finally what appeared to be a rather large gold nugget about the size of the tip of a man’s thumb.
“I say, Holmes, what is all that?” I asked intrigued.
He did not answer, but continued to hold the contents in his outstretched hand for a few moments, then almost dramatically he replaced them one by one in the leather pouch. His behaviours were not unlike a magician’s flamboyant actions when performing a trick. We remained in the alley for a while longer as Holmes continued to probe around a bit more, all the while holding onto the leather pouch.
“It is clearly evident that entrance to the shop was through here,” Holmes began as he examined the door and latch. “The lock was manipulated probably with the aid of a knife. Flynn was carried in here by his killer.”
“How do you know that?” Huggins asked.
“Flynn’s footprints cannot be plainly found anywhere; not here nor in the freezer. There are traces that a man’s feet were partially dragged into the freezer, which leads me to suspect Flynn was partially unconscious when brought here. There were only two sets of full footprints near the body, that of the butcher, and those of the killer. The good Doctor very likely saw me pause to examine the butcher’s shoes before we entered the freezer. He has rather large feet, and it is quite easy to differentiate his large shoes from the small boots our killer wears, which also means he is not a tall man. He drags his feet in a most peculiar manner which leads me to suspect he is crippled in some way.”
“Please, Mr. Holmes, not that theory again. I cannot believe a cripple did this,” Huggins said in a way as not to offend Holmes’s deduction.
“Believe it or not, Inspector,” Holmes uttered. “I did not say the man was weak. As a matter of fact, our man is very strong, and not only in physical strength but of will. He is meticulous in his methods. Though he is strong, he was barely a match for the young and powerful Patrick Flynn who, as I stated previously wounded his assailant. Both Flynn and Westerbrook had sustained a blow to the head. A cursory examination of Flynn’s skull revealed a sizable lump. I believe the killer knocked them insensible and carried them to the locations where the bodies were found.”
“Carried them from where?” Huggins asked. “He carried them and was not seen by anyone? I find that very difficult to believe.”
“I did not wish to infer he carried his victims a great distance. The killer most likely lured them close to the locations where they were found. Westerbrook had a note delivered to him the evening he met his death. The two locations were scouted out with care. The killer carried Flynn down the alley, set the body there while he opened the door. He carried Flynn into the shop, placed him in the freezer and began his grizzly work.”
“If this man is so meticulous in his work, why the second gunshot in Flynn?” Huggins asked.
“As I stated earlier, Flynn has two gunshot wounds. The killer most likely wounded Flynn before they entered the alley. Presumably there was a confrontation elsewhere, and both men sustained wounds. I believe Flynn’s chest wound occurred before he was brought here.”
“How do you know that?” I asked Sherlock Holmes.
“The stomach wound, also found in the first victim, is as symbolic as the other wounds, hence the chest wound was not done in the freezer, but in a prior struggle between the two men.”
“Surely if the stomach wound was delivered in the freezer, the butcher would have heard the shot,” Huggins proposed.
Holmes shook his head and removed a piece of cloth from his pocket. “The gunshot to Flynn’s stomach was muffled with the aid of this rag I found in the freezer. On examining it, I both smelled and witnessed gunpowder residue and holes that the bullet made in the material. On closer examination of Flynn’s stomach wound, we will very likely find fragments of the rag around the bullet hole, but very little powder since that was absorbed by the rag.
“This was done, of course, so not to rouse the butcher who was asleep just upstairs. The killer had much work ahead of him, and he did not wish to be disturbed or interrupted. He tied and gagged his victim and proceeded to mutilate Flynn with a very sharp knife. The killer was not content to simply kill his victims but wished them to suffer in a most singular manner, and the killer wished to witness it. He smoked a pipe while he watched. I found a burnt match and pipe tobacco that I could not identify. I am, as you may be aware, well acquainted with one hundred and forty different cigarette, pipe, and cigar ash, but this one was very different. I believe the tobacco is foreign– most likely some strange Canadian blend.
“Sometime before they arrived, Flynn and his killer struggled, and I believe Flynn wounded his man, yet despite this, the killer still managed to subdue Flynn and get him here, all which leads me to conclude the man possesses not only great physical strength but also the most resolute of wills.”
“But how do you know the killer was wounded?” Huggins asked.
“I happened to observe a small trace of blood in the freezer several paces from the body where I believe the killer sat and smoked a pipe. Only after Flynn was dead did the killer leave the butcher shop the same manner he exited. He paused here for a moment, which is indicated by several drops of his own blood. It was here he dropped this.” Here Holmes held up the leather pouch again.
“But what is it?” Huggins asked.
“I am not certain,” said Holmes. “But I suspect it came loose earlier, perhaps during a struggle with Flynn, and finally dropped off the killer’s person here in the alley. Since there is nothing more to be learned here, Inspector, I would suggest you return with us to Baker Street where we can discuss this case in the comfort of our rooms.”
Huggins went to decline the offer but Holmes was persistent.
“Inspector, I believe it would be in your best interest if you come with us. There is something I have yet to tell you about this case that may assist you.”
If you have been enjoying Cold Hearted Murder
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The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted colleague Dr. John Watson as they travel across late 19th century Canada. In their epic journey they encounter incredible characters and memorable mysteries.
From the death-by-canon murder at Halifax's Citadel to the eerie case of the McCormick Fortune in Montreal to the strange case of the Overlander in Victoria, Holmes and Watson must use all their skill and abilities to solve a series of bizarre cases.
"It is the best ‘‘Holmes in Canada’’ book that I’’ve ever read, easily eclipsing Ronald C. Weyman’’s books. Well worth a look for the Sherlockian pastiche reader who enjoys stories featuring Holmes outside his ususal environs." –– Charles Prepolec The Singular Society of the Baker Street Dozen
"This new set of Holmes and Watson adventures is guaranteed to intrigue and thrill mystery lovers, Holmes fans, and Canadian history buffs alike as the reader is treated to a fascinating glimpse into the world of Victorian Canada of 1897. Gaspar captures the true essence of the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre, and adds a tantalizing insight into the relationship between the erratic Baker Street sleuth and his friend and chronicler, Dr. John H. Watson." –– Blackfriars Publications
To order an autographed copy of
The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
please send check or money order:
$20.oo (Can.) plus $3.50 S&H if ordering in Canada
$ 20.00 (US) plus $7.50 S&H if ordering in the US
9805 Holly Crescent