I was awoken by a series of gunshots. I quickly rose from my bed and searched in my dresser drawer for my service revolver while the shots continued one after another every few seconds. I loaded my revolver by the morning light that glowed through the window. The volley had ceased by the time I carefully opened the door of my bedroom with revolver in hand. There I witnessed a most astonishing scene. Holmes was not in any grave danger. Instead, he was literally dancing with excitement and singing "God save the Queen." In one hand, he wildly waved his hair-trigger in the air. In the other, he held a magnifying glass.
"Watson, my friend. Sorry to have disturbed your slumber, but I have discovered the key!" Barely able to contain himself, Holmes bounded over to the wall, where it had been newly redecorated with a patriotic VR made out of bullet-pocks. There he extracted two of the bullets from the wall and waved me over. Handing me the magnifying glass, he said "Look. Here, here, and here. See the markings and groves? These abnormalities did not exist before I shot the bullets. After the shot, all the bullets have the same abnormalities in the same relative positions!"
My heart was no longer pounding as heavily. I could only stare at my friend Holmes with disbelief. It was obvious that Holmes had, in one of his queer moods, stayed up all night contemplating his current case. He was probably sitting in his armchair when the idea came to him. Caught up in the moment, he loaded his hair-trigger with his boxer cartridges and proceeded to adorn them on the opposite wall without any consideration of others. I was not pleased with this addition to our room.
Holmes, however, was quite pleased with himself.
He continued proudly. "Don't you see? I can now prove that
the bullet came from Thornwell's gun. With this evidence, I am
certain he will finally confess to the murder." After a second
or two of silence, he suddenly wiped his self-congratulatory smile
off his face. Then he turned his head and tilted it as if he were
listening to something. Obviously concerned, he hurried to the
hallway door, opened it, and yelled down the stairs. "Everything's
fine Mrs. Hudson. Don't worry about a thing. We'll have breakfast
at the usual time."
Holmes was not the only one filled with patriotism and excitement this year. It was 1897, and London was alive with excitement. The year of the Diamond Jubilee was coming to its climax with Jubilee Day only two weeks away. The streets were being decorated with colourful banners, and crowds were pouring into London from all parts of England and the world. I myself had attended a naval and military review and a mayoral banquet. Unless required by his business, Holmes avoided these public affairs, and considered them an annoyance. Holmes would demonstrate his patriotism in other ways, as illustrated by the morning's V.R. done in bullet-pocks on our Baker Street wall, or by serving Her Majesty the Queen on cases of national concern. Only a couple of years earlier, he had declined to allow his name to go into the honours list, but instead accepted a remarkably fine emerald tie-pin from a "certain gracious lady" during a day at Windsor. Yet, the case that I will describe here most clearly demonstrates Holmes's loyalty and patriotism because he put his life in danger to directly protect the life of the Queen.
The morning turned into a beautiful day, one that reflected divine benediction upon the Queen, when the youthful figure of Inspector Stanley Hopkins entered our suite. Hopkins looked tired from an extended period of overwork, much like Holmes did earlier in the year, before Dr. Moore Agar had persuaded him to go to the Cornish peninsula to avoid an absolute break down.
"A visit from our dear friend Stanley Hopkins. It must indeed be a difficult case if one of Scotland Yard's finest and brightest cannot resolve it."
"Yes, Mr. Holmes," Hopkins inhaled a large breath, "As you know, Scotland Yard is being held accountable for the safety of the Queen and London during the Jubilee, and lately we've had every available man following up every lead that seemed to indicate a threat to the peaceful atmosphere in London. Most leads go nowhere, and many would have been ignored in normal circumstances. I've been working to all hours, and have not found anything of substance for weeks. Now, I believe I have something that all my wits say I should ignore, but all my instincts tell me otherwise. In my current state of mind, I thought I should come and consult your opinion."
"A letter, I presume."
"Yes." Hopkins withdrew a letter from an inner pocket and handed it to Holmes. Holmes took it and closely examined the envelope for almost a minute before opening it. He extracted the letter, read it, and examined the letter for over five minutes before he finally spoke.
"Here you go, Watson. You're on the edge of your seat in curiosity. See what you can make of it."
I took the letter and the envelope. It was posted
from Charing Cross only two days ago. It was addressed simply
to " Scotland Yard" in large block hand-written letters.
The envelope had been carelessly ripped open by hand. The letter
was composed on common cream-laid paper. Holding it up to the
light, I did not find any watermark. It was well worn, and had
been opened and closed numerous times, probably by Hopkins and
his colleagues. The letter was hand-written in a strange child-like
style. It read as follows.
"During her 60 year reign, the TYRANT Victoria has sought to limit the Individual by feeding the public passion for Morality. Her rigid codes of Morality prejudges right from wrong and social position from birth. The public passion of Morality serves to protect the police as an institution. Through the police, she Suppresses the laws of our own Individual nature which form the very basis of our material and intellectual being. The resulting social Enslavement of the Individual preserves the established society and enables the Exploitation of the weak by the strong. This social Injustice will be brought to the attention of the public during her Diamond Jubilee by any means necessary, as has been done in France. This time, civil unrest will lead to revolution and will not be Oppressed by the police."
This was meaningless drivel from an anarchist, not worth the time of day spent to read it, and I said so.
"Nevertheless, Watson, it is a direct threat against the life of the Queen. He refers to France, which is undoubtedly the assassination of the French President, Sadi Carnot, in Lyons in '94. He is threatening to assassinate the Queen. My instincts are with Hopkins, and this letter must be taken seriously."
Hopkins looked relieved that Holmes was showing interest in his case. "Mr. Holmes, how should I pursue this further? I have been to Charing Cross, but I have been unable to track the letter's origin any further."
Holmes sighed. "The physical evidence of the paper and envelope tells us little other than the location and the time of its posting. Its worn condition tells us of the torment it has been causing you. The paper is good quality, but of a common variety. To take this further, we must put ourselves into the mind of the writer. First, we establish the writer's state of mind. Fortunately, the letter is hand written, and this tells us much."
Holmes paused. Hopkins and I were quiet, unwilling to interrupt. But as the pause continued, I stated, "Surely the whole letter indicates an irrational and aggravated state of mind."
Holmes replied. "But it tells us much more. First, from the slant of the strokes and a smudge, the man is obviously right-handed. Although it seems rambling, the note was composed slowly and deliberately. See the small blotches of ink where he paused? I cannot be sure, but it appears to me that the letter was written with his head close to the paper. Possibly he is myopic. The handwriting traits are also abnormal. Notice the large spacing between words. Is this an indication that the individual himself does not like crowding? In almost every sentence, a word is emphasized, either by pressing harder, or by actual underlining, as in the case of the words tyrant and birth. Many of these same words are capitalized even though they are not proper nouns nor the beginning of the sentence. The capital 'I' with which he started the word 'Individual' and the j's are extremely broad. And the last letters of words are exaggerated. Based on analysis of numerous handwriting samples throughout my career, these are indications that the writer may be suspicious that people are plotting against him, and that he may be somewhat disoriented. One day I hope to write a monogram on the subject of handwriting analysis."
"Seems that he is in an irrational and aggravated state of mind to me," I mumbled.
"But he has been in this state of mind for an extended period of time. These are traits of his writing, not just an artifice of this single letter. Let us go another step and include the words in the analysis. Why is the word 'Tyrant' capitalized and underlined? Even the strongest critics of Her Majesty do not use the word 'Tyrant' to describe her. However, the Queen is a strong matriarchal figure. Perhaps the author has a strong matriarchal figure in his own life whom he regards as a tyrant. Perhaps a mother or a sister or both."
"Holmes, you're guessing!" I blurted out in jest, which I immediately regretted because my friend looked both hurt and insulted.
"You may call it guesswork, but I consider it the scientific use of imagination. I conduct this analysis by putting myself in the mind of the person in question. I try to think as he thinks. I try to determine the origins of his thinking. In this case, the mind is irrational, and we must determine the true reasons behind his motives, which he himself may not be aware of. It is only in this manner that we may determine a profile of sorts of the author of the letter and make any progress whatsoever. Hopkins, would you like me to stop here, or would you like me to continue with this so-called guesswork?"
Hopkins was obviously worried. "Please continue, Mr. Holmes. Your methods have confounded the best in the department, and yet have proven correct with uncanny accuracy. I will treat any information or leads that you provide with the utmost seriousness."
"Very well. Morality is a strong theme here. Why? Maybe the key is in the second sentence. Morality determines social position from birth, with 'birth' emphasized. Let us assume that the writer was talking about himself again."
Hopkins chipped in. "A second-born son? There are many sons of wealthy families who feel jaded by the fact that the first-born son will inherit all."
"Perhaps," Holmes said, "but I think the morality theme points elsewhere. Could the strong matriarch indicate that the father is missing? I would suggest that the man is a bastard son of the head of a wealthy family and he has not been legitimized."
He continued. "The next three statements are standard anarchist rhetoric. The author probably finds their propaganda about persecution of comfort to him. He feels society is against him, and that he will take it out against the figurehead of our society, Queen Victoria. His distorted view of the world does not let him see that the utopian teachings of anarchy are incompatible with the harsh realities of a complex society such as our own. He is now ruled by emotion, although he probably feels that he is in many ways superior to the rest of society, and he feels the end will justify the means."
"Holmes, what does he mean by this time it 'will not be oppressed by the police'?"
Hopkins had apparently already investigated this statement and replied "I believe he is referring to the riot in November 1887, the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. That year, Scotland Yard called out the Life Guards. We don't want a repeat of that this year."
"Yes," said my companion. "I believe you have the right incident. If I recall, that riot was centred around the issue of unemployment."
"Do you think that the author was involved?" asked Hopkins.
"Based on my instincts, I would say no, but I would not be surprised if he is unemployed a good percentage or even all of time. He feels his social stature is above that of a labourer, but he would be unable to find work as a clerk. His feelings of persecution would make it difficult to stay in one position for long, and he would not build up strong references for further enhancements. Perhaps his tyrannical mother has sole control of his income."
I tried to summarize. "So, we have an unemployed illegitimate son of a wealthy family, living with his mother or some other matriarch. He is near-sighted and right-handed. He is an anarchist and feels persecuted. Doesn't seem much to go on, although it is much more than when we started."
"Yet, with this knowledge, we can reassess the situation. For example, how would he attempt to assassinate the Queen?"
Hopkins interjected "By a bomb! If you were right about him being myopic, a bomb would seem likely, especially from an anarchist. Scotland Yard still has a couple of disarmed bombs in storage that were constructed by an anarchist in '92."
"Precisely. Where would he plant the bomb?"
"On the parade route."
"Yes, how do we prevent it?"
"We already have many police on patrol along the route looking for anything suspicious. We're very concerned about the Fenian threat as well, which would also be by a bomb."
"Good, but in this case we can do more. Queen Victoria is currently his target. We must change that."
"By pointing him at me instead."
"My friend Watson will arrange it with my guidance. In addition, Hopkins you must try to identify known anarchists, and if possible, bring me copies of their handwriting. He sent his letter to Scotland Yard in an obvious attempt to gain publicity. He may have also sent one to the newspapers. Watson and I will check when we go about our other task."
After Hopkins left, Holmes and I constructed an editorial
for the Times. Holmes speculated that the anarchist would be an
educated man who would read all the current newspapers to determine
how his plot was unfolding. He would definitely read any article
to do with the Jubilee. Together, we composed a very patriotic
article which featured the following paragraph:
"The security along the parade
route will be intense, and will prevent any event like the assassination
of the French President in 1894 from being repeated. One of the
staunch supporters of the Queen, Sherlock Holmes is actively involved
in the security preparations. Only last year, Holmes tracked and
arrested Huret, the Boulevard Assassin who intended to murder
the new French President in 1895. For this, he earned the Order
of the Legion of Honour. Holmes, one of the most outstanding supporters
of our social justice, is currently on the trail of another anarchist.
Other than indicating that the anarchist is the illegitimate son
of a wealthy man, Holmes would not reveal any more information
about the case, even to police."
This paragraph was carefully constructed to seem innocent to any reader, but to incense our anarchist. The threat of exposure of his illegitimacy, the possibility of his arrest, the arrest of a comrade, and the security preparations all pointed at Holmes as the safer, easier, and just as effective target. Furthermore, if the anarchist succeeded in assassinating Holmes, nothing would prevent him from also attempting to assassinate the Queen. We expected him to strike soon after publication.
We went to the Times and talked to the editor. He agreed to publish the article in the next issue. We also requested to review any threatening letters, but Scotland Yard had already collected these. We notified Hopkins by wire about the letters and then went back to Baker Street to wait. The next day, we arranged that Mrs. Hudson would visit some relatives for a week and began a constant watch of the activity on the street below. Nothing suspicious was noticed that afternoon or the following morning. We passed the time amiably, Holmes with his violin and I with my medical journals and novels. It was Holmes's turn to sit by our bay window facing Baker Street. He was smoking his fourth pipe of this sitting.
"Perhaps I misjudged him, Watson. I expected at least a telegram by now. Haloa, what's this?" A young delivery boy stopped at our entrance with a large package. Holmes and I ran down the stairs to greet him and invite him inside. Once inside, Holmes examined the box, and questioned the boy. The box had a typed label "To Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, 221B Baker Street - Private and Confidential - Delicate". Holmes considered it very likely to be the expected bomb and locked it in our now-empty safe. We then continued to question the boy. The boy was able to provide a description of the man who had given him the package at Marylebone Station with a 3 shilling tip. The man was short, stocky and in his mid-thirties. He had thinning red hair, was immaculately dressed and wore white gloves. The boy saw him go onto a train after handing him the package. There were no time-related instructions so we expected the bomb to be triggered by the package being opened. Holmes then used our new telephone to contact Hopkins. Holmes thought it likely that the bomber might try to see the outcome of his efforts, so Holmes provided Hopkins with a description.
Within a half hour, Hopkins and bomb specialists from Scotland Yard had arrived. While Hopkins and some of his men searched the area for a suspect, the specialists removed the bomb to their armoured carriage. The specialists were able to disarm the bomb, which was poorly made. As the anarchist was obviously not an experienced bomb maker, we hoped that he would not have another one ready for the Queen. After unsuccessfully searching the area, Hopkins stayed back to discuss the case with us.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, you were right on many counts. He did decide to target you instead. Also, you led me to an important clue." Hopkins reached into his inner pocket and proudly produced another letter to Holmes. "I perused previous letters to the newspapers for six straight hours last night. I was about to give up when I came across this letter dated three months ago. It is in the same peculiar handwriting, and I instantly recognized it. It is a rambling note about the benefits of anarchy, but it also mentions the 'Legitamation League.'"
"Yes, it is a small organization intent on removing
the stigma of bastardy from illegitimate children. Inspector John
Sweeny has been investigating this organization as a potential
cover for anarchists. I have notified Inspector Sweeny and he
expects to be able to identify our bomber from his list of suspected
From the physical description of the bomber, Inspector
Sweeny easily identified the bomber and immediately arranged for
his arrest. Upon arriving at the residence that the bomber shared
with his mother, he soon discovered that the bomber had committed
suicide. Inspector Sweeny was more convinced than ever that the
Legitamation League was an anarchist organization. His theory
was that the League was attempting to subvert social order by
promoting free love. Through trickery, he managed to obtain the
book "Psychology of Sex" from the founder of the League,
George Bedborough. The inspector was able to convict the founder
of distributing pornography based on the immoral content of this
evidence in 1898, thereby dissolving the League.
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