As the Chief Inspector headed toward the bedroom door, Conan Doyle called after him, "Before you leave, Lestrade, I have been meaning to ask you about the state of this room?"
"State of the room?" asked Lestrade, sounding as puzzled as I felt. "But apart from the broken window glass in the corner, the room is in perfect order."
"Exactly. I was wondering what state the room was in before you had it tidied up?"
"Tidied up? But we haven't touched the room...Apart from searching through it, of course."
Conan Doyle considered this information for a moment, then said, "Then there were no signs of any struggle between the dead man and his assailant?"
"No none," conceded Lestrade, "still that's only to be expected, considering the great size of Ian Douglas, due to his illness. He probably couldn't have moved fast enough to fend off his broth...his assailant." With that Lestrade turned again to leave then stopped and said, "No, hold on, there was one thing. His left fist was partially clenched, as though to hit out at someone."
"Partially clenched," repeated Conan Doyle, nodding to Lestrade to indicate that he could leave to fetch the maid.
"So you think that the maid murdered him?" I asked, after the Chief Inspector had departed.
"I will reserve my suspicions until after we have spoken to her," said Conan Doyle, "however, no, Bridget did not murder Ian Douglas."
"But you know who did?"
"I believe so."
"Well, I can only repeat that I am completely in the dark."
* * *
A few minutes later, Lestrade returned to the bedroom, along with the maid. Bridget looked decided nervous, glancing from the Chief Inspector to Conan Doyle, and I couldn't help wondering whether Lestrade had taken the opportunity to interrogate her in private, before fetching Bridget to us.
"Now Bridget, there is no need to be nervous," assured Conan Doyle. "I just want to ask you a few questions."
"Yes, Mr Holmes." (Conan Doyle had given Bridget that name, in case Margaret Douglas were at the house when we were shown in.)
"I believe that you were the one that found the body of Mr Douglas?"
"That's right, Mr Holmes. It was my custom to bring Mr Douglas his breakfast in bed." Conan Doyle and I exchanged a glance, both wondering what else she brought him in bed. "Particularly since his illness had taken a hold of him, making it difficult for him to move about much...."
'Which confirms what Lestrade suggested about why he had been unable to defend himself!' I thought.
"This morning, however, I was unable to rouse Mr Douglas, after knocking repeatedly upon the door. So I used my spare key -- I have a spare key for all of the rooms, so that I can do dusting and the such like at any time -- and entered the room, and found Mr Douglas dead on the floor beside his bed."
"So what did you do then?"
"I hurried downstairs to telephone for the police."
"Still carrying the breakfast tray?"
"Pardon, Mr Holmes?"
"Chief Inspector Lestrade has stated that the bedroom has not been tidied since the body was found," explained Conan Doyle. "So, since there are no signs of a spilt breakfast upon the floor, I assume that you must have carried the breakfast tray downstairs with you, when you went to telephone for the police?"
Bridget considered for a moment, then said, "Why yes, yes I did, Mr Holmes."
Conan Doyle pondered for a few moments, scratching his bushy, grey moustache with one finger, then said, "You say that you ran downstairs to telephone for the police?"
"Yes that is right."
"Yet there is a telephone right there," he said, pointing toward the dressing table.
"I...I thought it best not to touch anything in the room until the police arrived."
"In case you destroyed any evidence?"
"Why yes, Mr Holmes."
"That was very level-headed of you, Bridget. Most women would have been too hysterical to think so clearly, after finding their employer dead on his bedroom floor."
Bridget considered this for a moment, clearly uncertain whether to take it as a compliment or a question. Finally she said, "Why thank you, Mr Holmes."
Conan Doyle walked across to the dressing table, picked up the revolver and said, "This is the murder weapon, Bridget?"
"Yes, Mr Holmes."
"Which you have identified as belonging to Andrew Douglas."
"Why yes, Mr Holmes."
"How can you be so certain that it is his property?"
"Because I saw Mr Andrew show the gun to his brother when he first purchased it."
"How long ago was that?"
She had to consider for a few moments, before saying, "About two years ago."
"And yet you were able to positively identify it after all of that time?"
"I have a good memory for things like that."
"Things like what?" asked Conan Doyle. "Things like guns?"
"No, no, Mr Holmes, that is not what I meant at all," insisted Bridget, clearly becoming flustered by this line of questioning. "Besides, you can see Mr Andrew's initials, A.D., in the handle of the gun. That was one of the things that Mr Andrew pointed out when he showed the gun to his brother."
Conan Doyle looked at the wooden handle of the gun, nodded, then said, "Why did Andrew Douglas show the gun to his brother in the first place? As a threat?"
Bridget considered the question carefully for almost a minute, before saying, "Why no, it just sort of came up in their conversation. They were talking about the spiralling crime rate, and how it was almost too dangerous to go out in the streets nowadays, even by daylight, and Mr Andrew mentioned that he had bought a gun for security and Mr Ian asked to see it."
"Then they were on friendly enough terms two years ago?"
Bridged considered again, before saying, "Well, they were never on much more than speaking terms at best during the fifteen years that I was employed by Mr Ian. However, it is only over the last six or eight months that they became openly hostile toward each other."
Conan Doyle placed the revolver onto the dressing table, picked up the white glove and asked, "What do you make of this?"
"It is one of Mr Ian's gloves."
"Do you know what became of its partner?"
"Why no, Mr Holmes."
"Yet it is a nearly new glove. Surely its partner could not have been lost already?"
"I don't really know, Mr Holmes."
"Yet it is your responsibility to take care of Ian Douglas's clothing, surely?"
"Why yes, Mr Holmes."
Conan Doyle stood staring toward Bridget for a moment, while she returned his gaze. Finally, flustered, she was forced to look away.
Conan Doyle returned the white glove to the dressing table, then walked across to the broken window, motioning for Bridget and Lestrade to follow him.
Stooping near the broken glass, Conan Doyle asked, "What do you make of this, Bridget?"
Seemingly surprised at the question, she said, "Why, broken window glass."
"Made by the killer climbing in through the window to kill Ian Douglas?"
"Why yes, Mr Holmes."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I only assumed...."
"Why I...Isn't that what the police believe?"
"Not at all. We have established that the window was broken from the inside, after Ian Douglas was already dead!" explained Lestrade. "The police aren't so easily fooled, you know."
"Then how did the killer enter the room?" asked Bridget.
"The same way that we did," answered Conan Doyle, "through the doorway."
"Through the doorway? Then how did he get into the house?"
"A good question," said Lestrade, obviously deciding that as the official police presence he should take a hand in the interrogations. "Perhaps you'd like to answer it?"
"Me? Why I...I don't know."
"A likely story!" insisted Lestrade.
"Indeed, Chief Inspector, if Miss Bridget was already asleep, which is highly likely since the murder was committed around midnight," said Conan Doyle, taking Lestrade and I both by surprise. "And if she was able to sleep through the noise of a gunshot, it seems most unlikely that the mere sound of footsteps would have awakened her."
Bridget looked toward Conan Doyle with gratitude in her large, doe-like eyes, and quickly said, "Yes, yes Mr Holmes, I am a very sound sleeper."
"A very sound sleeper!" said Lestrade contemptuously.
"Yes Commissioner," said Bridget.
'Commissioner!' I thought. 'Lestrade's been promoted!'
Turning back to face Conan Doyle, Bridge asked, "Will that be all, Mr Holmes?"
Sounding distracted, the great author said, "Yes, for now." Then, as Bridget fled toward the door to the corridor seeming a little too eager to leave the room, in my estimate Conan Doyle called after her, "Oh yes, there was one last thing."
"What was that, Mr Holmes?" asked Bridget, stopping in the doorway.
"Can you think of any reason why Andrew Douglas would have wanted to kill his brother, Ian?"
"Well, they hadn't been exactly civil toward each other for the last six or eight months...."
"Still, lots of people aren't civil toward each other, without going around killing each other."
Bridget thought deeply for a moment, her brow wrinkling in concentration, before saying, "Well, no, there wasn't anything in particular...Except that I did overhear them quarrelling about a month ago."
"Quarrelling, eh?" asked Lestrade.
"Would you have happened to overhear what they were quarrelling about, by any chance?" asked Conan Doyle.
"Why no, Mr Holmes. I am not in the habit of listening in on other people's conversations."
"That will be all then," said Conan Doyle and Bridget turned to leave the room.
"Oh, there was just one last thing," said Conan Doyle.
"Yes, Mr Holmes?"
"Was Ian Douglas left-handed?"
Looking almost as perplexed as I felt, by the question, Bridget replied, "Why yes, Mr Holmes."
"Left-handed?" asked Lestrade, as Bridget finally departed.
"What in the world ever made you ask a thing like that, Mr Conan Doyle?"
"Deduction? Well, I have to admit that I am completely baffled by your line of enquiry, Mr Conan Doyle."
"Elementary, Lestrade, elementary. I am merely trying to fit together all of the pieces of the puzzle."
"Pieces of the puzzle? I go by facts, Mr Conan Doyle, clues, not by puzzles."
"All facts are pieces of the puzzle, Lestrade; the puzzle of who killed Ian Douglas. I believe that I know the answer to that question, and it most certainly was not Andrew Douglas."
"Then who was it?" demanded Lestrade.
"All in good time," said Conan Doyle, making Lestrade sigh in frustration. "Before I can tell you who the killer was, with absolute confidence, I will need to have another word with the dead man's widow, Margaret Douglas."
'Margaret Douglas!' I thought. 'Surely Sir Arthur doesn't think that she had anything to do with the death of Ian Douglas?'
"Oh all right," said Lestrade. "Why not?"
The Chief Inspector walked across to the telephone upon the dressing table, telephoned the front desk at Scotland Yard, and gave instructions for Margaret Douglas to be located and brought to the Douglas house posthaste.
"We're in luck," said Lestrade, hanging up the telephone receiver, "it seems that Margaret Douglas is still in visiting her brother-in-law in gaol, so they won't have to waste time tracking her down."
Although the new day had officially dawned some hours ago, the sun just now began to break through the dense, black rain clouds for the first time, giving the illusion of a late dawn. I hoped that this would be an auspicious omen: if the dismal old day had been to herald the death of the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, hopefully the sunny new day would herald the coming release of Andrew Douglas from police custody.
* * *
While we awaited the arrival of Margaret Douglas, we sipped tea -- brought to us by Bridget who departed as quickly as possible after serving us. And Lestrade did his best to bluff Conan Doyle into giving us the name of Ian Douglas's killer, until finally the great author walked out of the bedroom, seemingly just to avoid the Chief Inspector's questioning.
After twenty minutes or so, the beautiful redhead was shown into the bedroom by a young policewoman, who hurriedly departed again, after receiving a curt nod from Lestrade.
"Chief Inspector," said Margaret Douglas, "I hope you have a good reason for summoning me here like this?"
"Well, er, you see miss, I didn't," stammered Lestrade, "it was Mr Con...."
"I summoned you here," explained Conan Doyle, striding into the bedroom behind Margaret Douglas.
"Oh Mr Holmes," said Margaret, turning at the sound of the great author's voice, "are you any nearer to clearing Andrew of this beastly charge?"
"Nearer," I said, "he claims to have solved the murder."
"Solved it? Then you can clear Andrew's name, Mr Holmes?"
"I believe so, but there are still a few loose ends which I need your help with."
"Anything, Mr Holmes, if it will help you to clear Andrew."
Conan Doyle walked through the bedroom to reach the dressing table upon the other side of the bed. Picking up the murder weapon he said, "This is Andrew's handgun?"
Margaret walked across and examined the revolver for a moment, then said, "Yes, you can see where he has carven his initials on the handle."
"Was it Andrew's custom to always carry the gun about with him?" asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
"Yes, whenever he went outside."
"When was the last time that you can recall seeing the gun?"
"About a month ago."
"Then Andrew noticed the loss of the gun soon after that?"
"Yes, after visiting Ian."
"Did Andrew report the loss of the gun to the police at the time?"
"Yes, Mr Holmes, but not until after he had searched the house from top to bottom to make completely certain that he had not merely mislaid it."
Conan Doyle turned to face Lestrade and asked, "Is that true?"
"Well, yes," conceded Lestrade, "but if he was already planning to murder his brother at the time, it would have been common sense for him to report the gun stolen...To cover himself."
"But Andrew is innocent!" insisted Margaret, her green eyes moistening with the hint of tears.
"Well, of course, we'd all like to believe that, Mrs Douglas," said Lestrade, "but I'm afraid that the evidence is stacked pretty heavily against your brother-in-law."
"Nonsense, Lestrade," said Conan Doyle. "There is no evidence against Andrew Douglas. In fact, quite to the contrary."
Lestrade stared in amazement toward Conan Doyle, and scratched his head in bewilderment for a moment, before saying, "I wish you wouldn't keep saying that, unless you intend proving it!"
Conan Doyle looked from Margaret Douglas to me, then to the Chief Inspector, before saying, "Very well then, Lestrade. If you will be good enough to call back the maid, Bridget, I think that it is time for me to lay my cards upon the table."
"Bridget? What has she...?" began Lestrade, then thinking better of it, he turned and hurried out of the bedroom.
* * *
A couple of minutes later Lestrade returned, leading Bridget by one arm. The young maid looked highly disturbed; her eyes darted from Conan Doyle to Margaret Douglas, to Lestrade, then back to Conan Doyle, as she was led across to the dressing table where Conan Doyle, Margaret Douglas and I all stood.
"Well," said Lestrade, "it looks as though we are all here now, so perhaps you would be so kind as to enlighten us now, Mr Conan Doyle."
"Conan Doyle?" asked Bridget.
"But I thought that you were Sherlock Holmes!" insisted Margaret Douglas. She fixed her green eyes upon Conan Doyle, obviously wondering whether she had been the brunt of some kind of very cruel joke.
"Yes, I am sorry for that," apologised the great author. "Mr Holmes is an associate of mine. Unfortunately he was indisposed when you called this morning, so, since you seemed more confident taking me for Mr Holmes, I saw no reason to disillusion you."
"Well, if we have got that straightened out now," I said, "how about telling us who done it? We're all ears, you know?"
"Not quite yet, Dr Carringbush," said Conan Doyle. "You will have to be patient for a few more minutes; there is still one important person missing."
"What?" demanded Lestrade, scratching his head in puzzlement for a few seconds, before suddenly looking inspiration-struck. "You don't mean that Ian Douglas isn't really dead? Like in The Case of the Five Orange Pips which I solved!"
"You solved?" demanded Conan Doyle.
"Er, well, with a little help from Mr Holmes, of course."
Conan Doyle smiled ruefully, then said, "No, no, Ian Douglas is quite dead, have no fear about that."
"Then who...?" demanded Lestrade.
Before Conan Doyle could answer, however, there was a faint rapping at the front door of the house, followed by a murmur of voices, then the sound of footsteps upon the stairs.
A few moments later, Andrew Douglas walked in through the doorway.
While the rest of us stood open-mouthed, Margaret and Andrew Douglas ran toward each other to kiss and hug in the middle of the room, obviously no longer concerned what anyone thought about their conduct.
After a few moments of stunned silence, Lestrade recovered his voice to ask, "Hey, how did he get here?"
"I sent for him," explained Conan Doyle.
"You sent for him?" asked the Chief Inspector, scratching his head in puzzlement. "But I'm in charge of this case! He's my prisoner!"
"I'm sorry, Lestrade, but I took the liberty of going over your head."
"Over my head?" asked Lestrade. Clearly deciding that he would never get a straight answer from the great author, the Chief Inspector turned toward Andrew Douglas to ask, "Now how in the world did you ever get passed the police downstairs?"
"I showed them this," explained Andrew Douglas, taking a small sheet of note paper from his shirt pocket.
Lestrade brusquely snatched the sheet of paper out of Andrew's hand and read it through to himself, before saying aloud, "Signed Mycroft Holmes!" Turning to face Conan Doyle, he added, "Blimey, you really did go over my head!"
Clearly amused by Lestrade's bewilderment, Conan Doyle said, "Well, if we are all ready now, perhaps I can explain to you exactly how Ian Douglas met his demise."
"Yes, how did he die?" asked Lestrade. "If he wasn't murdered by his brother, Andrew, then who did murder Ian Douglas?"
"No one," replied Conan Doyle.
"What?" asked Margaret and Andrew Douglas as one, breaking their hug for a moment to stare toward the great author.
Bridget paled noticeably, while I stared open-mouthed and Lestrade said, "If this is one of your little games...."
"It's no game, Lestrade. No one murdered Ian Douglas," said Conan Doyle. "Unless you consider suicide to be a form of self-murder."
"Suicide?" asked Lestrade, clearly as bewildered as I was. "But why would he have committed suicide!"
"To get revenge upon his wife and brother, for their love affair," explained Conan Doyle.
"Love affair?" said Lestrade. "You mean Andrew and Margaret...? Well, this throws a whole new light on the case...But wait a minute..." He paused for a moment to consider what he had just learnt, then said exactly what I was thinking, "I can understand a man being enraged at his wife and brother for having an affair, but still, killing yourself hardly seems like a very efficient way to get revenge!"
"It could be, Chief Inspector, if you were already dying of elephantiasis, and if you could arrange it to look like murder, and to look as though you wife's lover is the obvious suspect."
"Sort of like killing two birds with one stone?" I asked.
"Exactly, old fellow," agreed Conan Doyle.
Lestrade, still clearly perplexed, scratched his forehead ruminatively for a moment, then said, "But wait on, how did Ian Douglas get hold of the gun?"
"That's right," agreed Andrew, "I was within sight of Ian the entire time that I was here, that time when I called upon him. There was no way that Ian could have taken the revolver from me."
Conan Doyle turned to face Bridget and said, "No, but you could have, couldn't you, Bridget?"
"Me?" asked Bridget, at a squeak.
"That's right. You had every opportunity to take the gun from Andrew's coat, when you were hanging it up, or at any time while he was in talking to his brother."
"But why should I want to take the stupid gun?"
"Yes, what did she have to gain by taking it?" asked Lestrade.
"Two things, Chief Inspector, helping her lover achieve revenge upon the two people who he hated the most in the world, and helping him out of his misery."
"Well, that's all very well, but..." said Lestrade, before it dawned upon him. "Her lover? You mean to say that Bridget here and her employer were at it too?"
"That's right, Lestrade," agreed Conan Doyle, going on to relate to the Chief Inspector everything that we had been told by the private investigator, Wentworth.
"Blimey," said Lestrade. "Well, if this fellow Wentworth were in Andrew Douglas's house from 10:00 a.m. last night till early this morning, then I suppose that he is a perfect witness to the fact that Andrew Douglas never left his bed long enough to have killed his brother."
"Yes," agreed Conan Doyle, "a somewhat reluctant witness, if called upon, I should imagine, but a perfect witness nonetheless."
"He's a liar!" shrieked Bridget, trying to sound confident, although she had a look of fear in her eyes. "That man Wentworth is a liar and a sneak! I told Ian not to trust him...."
"Ian?" asked Conan Doyle, making Bridget blush.
"Mr Ian, I meant," she hastened to explain.
"Can he prove it in court?" asked Lestrade. "I mean about Bridget and Ian Douglas being lovers."
"Oh yes, Chief Inspector, he has several tape recordings that he made of Bridget and Ian together."
"Tape recordings?" asked Bridget.
Conan Doyle explained the process to her and her eyes widened, as she began to realise the full implications.
"So what if we were lovers?" demanded Bridget. "That doesn't prove that I helped Ian to kill himself!"
"No it doesn't," pointed out Chief inspector Lestrade.
"No, however, it does give her a reason to help him," said Conan Doyle. "It also explains how Ian Douglas could have obtained his brother's revolver."
"That's a very fine theory," said Bridget with a sneer in her voice, "but where is your proof?"
"She's right, there's no good saying she isn't," said Lestrade. "It's all right to theorise about how he may have done it, but that won't stand up in court. We still need to have some real proof that Ian Douglas killed himself."
"And so we do," insisted Conan Doyle. "The gun, clean of prints, the right-hand glove, and the broken window glass," pointing back toward the glass on the carpet, "broken from the inside in such a manner to make it look, at first glance, as though the killer had gain access to the bedroom through the window."
"But how do they prove that he killed himself?" I asked.
"They don't! He's only bluffing!" insisted Bridget.
"No I'm not," said Conan Doyle. "These are proofs all right. To begin with, Ian Douglas wore a white glove, so that there would be no finger prints left on the gun, when he shot himself."
"But that's a right-hand glove!" pointed out Bridget.
"And Ian was left handed," reminded Margaret, drawing a smirk from the maid.
"Yes," agreed Conan Doyle, "this is the partner of the glove that he wore when he shot himself. He wore the left-hand glove to protect against leaving prints on the gun, then after he was dead, Bridget carefully removed the gun from his hand -- presumably wearing gloves herself -- removed the left-hand glove and destroyed it, or threw it away. But what she forgot to do was to destroy its partner."
"The right-hand glove," I said, drawing a nod of approval from the great author.
"But if he had a gun in his hand when he died, his fist...." said Lestrade, stopping as inspiration struck him.
"His fist would have been clenched from holding the gun," Conan Doyle finished the sentence. "As indeed it was, Lestrade. As you yourself said, 'As though to hit out at someone.' In reality it was from gripping the gun when he died. Bridget was able to straighten his hand out enough to remove the gun and the glove, but she could not completely unclench it."
Lestrade pondered this for a few moments, then said, "Yes, yes I suppose that that would explain it."
"But what about the broken window glass?" asked Margaret Douglas. "What was the point behind that?"
"To make the police suspect Andrew," explained Conan Doyle. "Ian and Bridget took it for granted that we would see through the ruse. It was intended that we should, so that when we did we would naturally suspect Andrew, who could have been admitted to the house by Ian Douglas, or could even have had his own set of keys to the house. And in whose best interest it would have been to make it appear as though the killer had gained entrance to the house through the bedroom window."
"Ah!" said Lestrade. "Now I understand." Turning to face Bridget, he demanded, "Well, young lady, what have you got to say for yourself?"
For a moment it looked as though the maid were going to make a run for it, instead she put her hands up to her eyes and began sobbing.
After a few seconds, she looked up from her hands to say, "Yes, yes all right it's true, that's exactly how we did it."
Beaming with pleasure, Lestrade took hold of Bridget by one arm and said, "All right, my girl, you can come along with me! This will really be another feather in my cap, when the boys down at the Yard hear how I solved this one."
"You solved it?" I asked.
"Er, well, with a little help from Mr Conan Doyle," conceded Lestrade as he dragged the sobbing maid out into the corridor.
"What will they do to her?" asked Margaret Douglas.
"Well, unless Andrew decides to press charges against her, she will probably get away with a suspended sentence," said Conan Doyle.
"No, I have no wish to hurt her," said Andrew. "In a way what she did was no worse than what Maggie and I have done: fallen in love. Ian have tried to frame me out of hatred, but Bridget did it from love of him."
At this Andrew and Margaret began to kiss and hug again.
"Come along, old fellow," said Conan Doyle, "I think that it is time that we were leaving."
After a quick glance at my fob watch, I said, "Why my goodness me, yes, it is nearly eight a.m., and I have to be at my clinic by nine."
"But you must allow me to pay you for your services, Mr Holmes, I mean Mr Conan Doyle," said Margaret.
"Conan Doyle?" asked Andrew.
"No need," assured Conan Doyle, "although you might make good to Mr Wentworth, since I have promised to see that he is paid in full."
"Of course, Mr Conan Doyle," agreed Margaret.
"And if I could have permission to write this little episode up as fiction, using false names, of course?"
"Granted Mr Conan Doyle," said Margaret. Then, turning back to Andrew she began to explain to her lover about Conan Doyle not really being Sherlock Holes.
As we made our departure, the great author said to me, "If my good friend Dr Watson were to write this story up, I think the good doctor would call it, The Adventure of the Right-Hand Glove."
© Copyright 2011
Philip Roberts, Melbourne, Australia