It was a quiet day at my surgery. Restless, I returned back to my lodgings at 221B Baker Street early to find that my fellow lodger, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, had a client visiting us. She was seated in the velvet-lined armchair that I tended to favour. Holmes stood between the chair and the door, apparently attempting to calm our visitor, who was crying profusely, so I did not have a clear look at her face or dress as I hung up my coat and bowler.
"Welcome back Watson, you are just in time to hear about Miss White and her missing fiancé." Holmes looked flustered. Holmes has an amazing knack of being able to put his clients at ease, but this time he was obviously unsuccessful and was looking at me for assistance.
I bowed slightly, and said "Good evening, Miss White," but both my words and actions were ignored. Miss White, covering her eyes with her well gloved hands, sobbed deeply. Holmes rolled his eyes and walked to his customary armchair on the other side of the fireplace. As he walked by me, he whispered quietly "Watson, I believe women are your department" and winked. I raised my eyebrows and silently took a seat in the remaining chair, normally reserved for visitors. I then took stock of our visitor. She was young, in her early twenties or late teens, blonde with a nice figure. Although seated, I could tell that she was tall for a woman. Her costume was white, and expensively trimmed. Her hat had a splash of colour that, although tasteful, reflected an adventurous spirit. The activity of my sitting caught her attention, and Miss White made an effort to regain her composure. As she looked up from her hands, I could see that despite the discoloration due to her crying and her obvious distress, Miss White clearly had a beautiful face and fine complexion. When she saw my sympathetic expression, she struggled admirably to find a smile.
"Miss White, may I introduce my companion Doctor Watson."
"How do you do, Doctor Watson." I nodded with an amiable smile. This conventional introduction appeared to have a calming affect on our visitor. "You must excuse me, Doctor. I assure you I am not normally like this. Most people call me strong willed, but this incident has me feeling as if the whole world has turned upside down."
She began to raise her handkerchief to her eyes, and showed signs of losing her composure again. Holmes quickly interjected. "Perhaps you can tell Doctor Watson and me how you first met Mr. Masoner."
This had the desired effect, and brought her thoughts back to happier times and away from current circumstances. "Yes," she began. "I first met Mr. Masoner by accident when I literally bumped into him in a shop on Regent Street only six weeks ago. It was clumsy of me, but he took it quite graciously. With a bright smile, he picked up my parasol and his cane that fell during the collision. He politely apologized and bowed deeply as he presented me with my parasol. I was simultaneously embarrassed, delighted, and surprised by this deed. Here was an exceedingly handsome young man, obviously well off, apologizing to me for my clumsiness. We briefly exchanged introductions, and parted ways after saying 'Perhaps we'll meet again.' For the next week, I could think of nothing else but this gentleman. Imagine my surprise, when we met again within two weeks."
"Yes, imagine that." Holmes said wryly. Our young guest did not seem to notice. She had a wide smile on her face and was full of life as she continued her story.
"It was at a ball at Holsome Hall. It was quite an event. Everybody who was anybody was there, including John. Of course, I didn't call him John at the time. He was still Mr. Masoner to me. I spotted him from the other side of the room. His eyes twinkled at me. I asked all my friends and acquaintances about him, but they could tell me nothing that I did not already know, that he was well-off and newly arrived in London. The mysterious man made his way to me. We exchanged pleasantries and he asked me to dance. He was a wonderful dancer! I know it's a cliché, but it really felt as if we floated across the floor. With such a handsome man, I was the envy of the party, but he danced with nobody but me, and I with him, much to the distress of my parents. How I enjoy dancing with a partner taller than myself, not like the ones my parents prefer. My parents want me to spend time with gentlemen of 'fine breeding', but they are all rich, snobby, bores! John is not like that at all. He has recently arrived from adventures in Africa, and he has such stories to tell. He has blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and is clean-shaven. His face and smile put all my other admirers to shame." She giggled girlishly, when she realized the manner in which she was talking to two gentlemen strangers.
"He had put a spell on me. He had swept me off my feet. Although we had barely met, we were soon engaged. My parents were outraged. They could not understand our feelings toward each other. They called him ill-bred. They were worried about a scandal, because they knew nothing about John except what I told them, and threatened to disinherit me. But their money meant nothing to John, because he already had a sufficient resources to support us."
"You said that your parents knew nothing about Mr. Masoner?" asked Holmes.
"Yes, they had tried to find out something about him that they could use to discourage me from seeing him. But they found out nothing, nothing at all. They even tried to use their ignorance of his past to warn me away, but I knew better. I knew all about his past from John's stories.
"But I fear that my parents succeeded after all. Last night, John took me to the Savoy Theatre. He was staying at the adjacent Savoy Hotel, so my chaperone, who was a friend of my father, and I met him at the theatre. Despite my chaperone, we found time to talk privately. I told him about my parents, their foolish fears, and their monetary threats. He wasn't bothered. He suggested that we end the dilemma ourselves by eloping and having a honeymoon by the seaside. He would make them realize the errors of their ways by both of us signing documents that gave each other full right to each other's money, as well as insurance."
"Insurance?" I asked. I was quite appalled by the whole proposition by her fiancé, but this suggestion seemed particularly distasteful. It was clear to me that Mr. Masoner was no gentleman, and that he was taking advantage of this innocent girl and her blind love.
Miss White talked deliberately, but with an urgency in her voice, as if she were trying to convince herself that what she was saying was true. "Yes, insurance, in case something ill happened to him and my parents had followed through on their threats."
"Were you to be insured too?" asked Holmes.
"Yes, it would only be fair." She replied.
"Thank you. Pray continue."
"There's not much more to tell. I was to give my answer to him that night when we parted after the theatre. I was to say 'Good night' if my answer was yes, and 'Goodbye' otherwise. I didn't realize how prophetic those words would be. All evening, my mind toiled over the problem. While I loved John dearly, I could not get the words and warnings from my parents out of my mind. The part about signing the documents seemed awkward to me, and unlike John. I had assured my parents that I would not do anything rash like this. My mind was so confused, I hardly even noticed what the play was."
"Macbeth is playing at the Savoy," I helped.
"As I was saying, the end of the play happened all too quickly and it was time to give my answer. I was feeling rushed, and I was confused. I could not agree with anything in my state of mind. I told him 'Goodbye, for now.' He looked surprised, and hurt. He replied curtly, 'As you wish, goodbye.' He bid my chaperone goodnight, and walked towards his hotel without looking back.
"I felt awful. I thought about the way we parted all the way home and much of the night. I didn't sleep a wink. Eventually, I made up my mind. I woke up the chambermaid around one in the morning. She is my confidant in many things. We have been together many years, and she is more loyal to me than to my parents. I asked her a favour that I knew I could never repay. I asked her to make her way secretly to the Savoy Hotel right away, and to leave a message for John. The message was 'Good night.'
"I was so excited. I waited anxiously for her return, which she did shortly before three. The next morning, when it was appropriate for us to talk in private, she told me what had transpired. She made it to the Savoy in good time. She went to the room that I told her he was staying at. She knocked quietly at his door, loud enough that John should hear, but soft enough not to wake the neighbours. After several minutes, she gave up and slipped the note under the door.
"Later that morning, I made some excuses to meet some friends to do some shopping. I convinced my friends to accompany me to the Savoy so that they could meet John. I asked the concierge to see if John was in his room, and if he would be able to meet me and my friends in the lobby.
"Ten minutes later, the concierge returned in a rapid walk with a determined look on his face and he went directly to the front desk. Afterwards, he came to me. He said 'I'm sorry, Mr. Masoner did not stay here last night. It appears that he has left the hotel.' 'That's not possible, I saw him return here after the theatre.' I exclaimed. He explained, 'I'm sorry, it appears to be true. His room was soon to be cleaned when I arrived. When I knocked at the door, he did not answer, so I had the maid open his door. His bed was not slept in, his clothes were gone, and payment for the room was sitting on the desk.' 'Was there an envelop under his door?' I asked. 'Yes,' he replied.
"That is all I know of his disappearance. My parents are happy that he is gone, and don't care to find him. Myself, I am worried sick and didn't know where to turn. My parents had talked about hiring you to find out John's past, but I have come to see if you can find his present location."
I could not hold back any longer. "I find the whole situation abominable. My dear, you are young and perhaps one day you will realize that your parents were right. Holmes, can you imagine a gentleman eloping to a honeymoon by the seaside? Have you ever heard of such a thing?"
Holmes looked thoughtful and did not answer. He stood
up and went to the side-table and selected a pipe from his rack,
and then went to the Persian slipper near the fireplace that held
his shag tobacco. As he stuffed his pipe, he said. "Watson,
I believe you have once again proven to be of valuable assistance.
Yes, Miss White, I believe I can satisfy both your parents' and
your own requests in regard to Mr. Masoner. You must leave me
alone for an hour or so for me to gather my thoughts. Perhaps
Doctor Watson can accompany you for some late tea."
I took Miss White to late tea, but she soon tired of the advice I provided. She became quiet and withdrawn. The pitiful expression on her pretty face softened my position, and I tried to cheer her up. "Don't worry," I said, "I know Holmes, and he wouldn't say what he did if he was not confident that he would resolve your problem."
"You think so?" she asked hopefully.
"I'm sure of it."
About an hour and a half had passed since our departure, and we returned to a shocking scene. If a hurricane had passed through our sitting room, it would hardly look any worse. Papers were thrown everywhere. Holmes accumulates agony columns of all the London journals. Months worth of papers had been neatly stacked by Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, in an effort to maintain some degree of order.
No stack was left standing unscathed.
Holmes sat on the couch holding some clippings from his journals in his left hand and his pipe in his right. He was staring into space, as if unaware of our presence. I have known him to stay this way for hours at a time when a problem had a hold of him, but in this case he began to show signs of life after only a few moments. Bluish-gray smoke escaped from his lips as he exhaled and began to slowly speak. "I fear that it is time for me to organize my yearbooks, and to cross-index my book of references. It would have made tonight's search much easier. The problem itself was a simple one, not even requiring a full pipe."
I chuckled. "You should also fear Mrs. Hudson the next time she comes into the room. You may have put your life in jeopardy -"
Holmes cut me off. "She'll soon forgive me when she finds out that this search may prevent putting someone else's life in grave danger."
"What do you mean? Is John in danger?" Miss White shrieked.
"No," Holmes said, "but you were. And someone else will soon be in danger if we don't stop him. Watson, please read these articles to Miss White. It was your statement that helped me make the connection."
There were two articles. One was dated seven months ago, the other was over a year and a half old. The first was a short obituary:
Mrs. Abigail Amerson, age 22, drowned when she fell off the west pier in Brighton. With her heavy attire and the rough seas, her newlywed husband, James, was unable to save her. Mrs. Amerson is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Johnston.
The next article, entitled "Tragedy by the Sea" was only a bit longer:
A terrible tragedy happened in Scarborough last week. Mr. and Mrs. J. Ramones decided to spend their honeymoon enjoying the health effects of the sea. Despite not knowing how to swim, Mrs. Ramones insisted that her husband go with her into the ocean. Although never more than waist deep, Mrs. Ramones fell off balance and a strong tide carried her further out to sea. Her husband, not a strong swimmer himself, was unable to save her. The police briefly detained Mr. Ramones for questioning, but soon released him.
Miss White looked confused, and shook her head. "Surely, you're not trying to imply that this is my John?"
"Holmes, there is a parallel between these two unfortunate deaths, but Mr. Masoner had only suggested a honeymoon by the sea. There the similarities end." I added.
"Don't tell me that you don't see it!"
"I don't understand."
Miss White was simultaneously distraught and angry. "Neither do I, Mr. Holmes. I don't think there is anything to understand. You think you can scare me with false tales of my fiancé's past. You are crueler and more unfeeling than my parents. Maybe you think you are helping me by making me feel better off, but you are not. You can only help me by finding out where he is!" Miss White turned away from us, and began to leave.
"But I do know where he is, and under what name he is traveling." Holmes calmly replied.
Miss White stopped, and looked questioningly at Holmes.
"Please be seated Miss White. What I have to tell you will be difficult for you to understand, but I believe you will soon find out that what I am saying is the truth.
"Your affianced is the one who is cruel and unfeeling. He preys on young, innocent girls like yourself. He uses his good looks and natural charms to lure you into his trap. He turns you against your own parents to further increase your dependency on him. I believe your parents saved your life. Their threats to investigate his past and cut you off financially forced him to play his hand too soon. That evening when you said goodbye, he could tell that your parents had installed some doubt in your mind and that his talons were not dug deep enough to carry away this prey. It was essential for him to strike swiftly, and when the moment of opportunity was gone, he decided to move on. He went directly back to his room and quickly gathered his belongings and changed into more casual attire. He left while the lobby was still crowded with guests returning from the theatres. This way, the doorman would not notice his departure. If he left later, when the doors were shut, the doorman would be sure to remember. He was gone well before your maidservant delivered your note. He needed to go far away from your parents' influence, so he took the Scotsman Express to Edinburgh, which leaves around midnight and is the only long-distance train at that time. When he arrives, he'll no longer be Mr. John Masoner, but instead he'll be James Roseman."
"That's preposterous, Holmes, you can't possibly know that." I stated.
"True, but I think that he'll save Monares for when he leaves for the continent, and Ransome is a bit too sinister for a man in his line of work. His first name could be John, but I suspect he'll alternate between John and James. The names are similar enough that one could easily adapt to answering to either."
"Amerson, Ramones, Masoner, Monares, Ransome, and Roseman. I finally see why you're so sure."
Miss White was confused. "Well I don't, and I don't believe a word of it."
I implored, "Don't you see? All the names are anagrams. The letters in the names are all the same as well as the circumstances of honeymoons by the sea."
My compassion seemed to make a crack in her resolve. Doubt was again added to her list of emotions, and she was overwhelmed. She looked faint, so I promptly helped her to our couch and poured her a glass of water. Holmes pulled up a chair in front of her and spoke softly.
"I will send a note to the police at both Brighton
and Scarborough to confirm that the physical descriptions match
those of Mr. Masoner, plus or minus sideburns and whiskers, and
also determine how much insurance or inheritance were involved
in the previous cases. I'll also send a note to Scotland Yard
and the police in Edinburgh. He is unlikely to have run out of
money yet, so I suspect he'll be staying at a top establishment.
We must find him before he finds his next victim."
All Holmes's theories proved correct. Mr. Amerson,
as his real name turned out to be, confessed to the murder of
his second wife and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
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