Sherlock Holmes and the Case of "The Missing Limp"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
There has been a murder at a library and a man with an on-and-off limp. Can Holmes and Watson solve the mystery before another murder is commited?

Submitted: October 23, 2011

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Submitted: October 23, 2011

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Wherever Sherlock Holmes went, there was always an air of certainty in his stride, as if he knew his surroundings like the back of his hand, even if he was headed straight into the unknown, and his eyes were always skittering around, his gaze landing on an object for a split-second before moving again. He was never tired, nor bored or even scared and always well groomed. He could pick up on the slightest details from a small twitch in a man’s face right down to a fingerprint in the dust. You would rarely catch him without his Deer Stalker hat perched upon his head and a well filled Meerschaum pipe between his lips. He spoke in a clear-cut voice which inspired trust and confidence, unless of course you had gotten on the wrong side of him. And then there was Doctor Watson.

Doctor John Watson was, if you like, Holmes’ trusted accomplice – his sidekick – and was almost always by his side, except of course during sleep and other private matters. He had a wise and kindly face, like that of an owl’s, with a medium-sized but always well groomed moustache bristling on his top lip. He was the one person Sherlock Holmes could always confide in and trust. Watson had seen service as an army surgeon in the Anglo-Afghan war of 1878 – 1880 and always carried around with him his service issue Beaumont-Adams revolver, and didn’t truly feel dressed without this weapon upon his person. Watson was not as able to spot the tiny details as was Holmes, but sometimes a job would appear which required two highly intellectual minds to crack and he was always the first person Holmes would turn to for a second opinion or a fresh view on the situation.

At this particular moment in time, both were seated in Holmes’ chaotic study, carefully observing the person sitting opposite them. The said person was a tall, handsome man of about 35 years old with short, dark brown hair. He had walked into the room with the support of a very distinctive silver topped walking stick and had sat down slowly; perhaps he had been in an accident thought Watson. As he sat down his walking stick, which he had leaned against the chair, fell onto the floor with an unusually loud thud. Watson went to retrieve it for him but the man angrily brushed Watson’s hand aside, flashing him a fierce look and picked up the stick himself.

The man introduced himself; his name was George Harvold and was, as he had told Holmes, one of three children, two sons and a daughter, of the famously wealthy Elizabeth Harvold, whose family had made their fortune in cotton manufacturing. Mrs Havold had unfortunately died a few days previously, and this was the reason George had sought Holmes’ help. He wanted to know who had murdered her.

"It just happened so suddenly," George paused and glanced up, "I know she was getting old and it wouldn’t have been so bad if she died naturally in her sleep, but no, some cursed, villainous dastardly..," his voice had risen in volume to quite a significant level and Holmes had to raise a hand to stop him from yelling, "I do apologise, it’s just, how could someone bring themselves to murder a sweet, helpless, elderly woman like my mother?"

Holmes had taken out a small, worn down pencil and a notepad and had begun scribbling down thoughts and notes every now and then as the man spoke.

"Tell me, Mister Harvold, what are the names of your siblings and where were they on the night of your mother’s unfortunate death?" Holmes said without looking up from his notepad.

"My sister is called Julie and my brother is, " he paused for a moment, "Allcott, however I cannot tell you their whereabouts for I do not know myself, although I can tell you that I was alone at the house and my mother was at the South Kensington Library, with no-one else around."

"Did your mother leave a will, by any chance?" muttered Holmes.

"Yes, my siblings and I each stand to inherit one third of her entire estate, and I must confess it helps – I don’t mean to sound disrespectful – to ease the pain somewhat."

Holmes just nodded slowly whilst he stared intently at the man, beside him Watson was looking absently out of the window.

"You have been married, am I correct?" The question caught George off-guard and for a moment didn’t speak.

"Um… Yes, how did you know?"

"There is a distinctive pale mark around the second finger of your left hand where a ring used to be worn, and had been for a while, so when your marriage ended and you took the wedding ring off, it left behind a small, barely visible, tell-tale mark. So, what happened to your wife?"

"My wife was also murdered by person or persons unknown not too long ago and I’d rather not talk about it."

The three men continued to talk about various matters relating to George’s family and other less important things. After a while Holmes stood up, suddenly and decisively, both men looked at him, somewhat startled.

"Right, I have all the details I need for the moment. Now, let’s go for a trip to South Kensington and take a look around the library in which your mother was murdered, it should take just under an hour in a Hansom cab from Baker Street, follow me gentlemen." He gestured towards the door as Mister Harvold stood up, before turning around and walking swiftly out of the door. Holmes stopped for a moment and tapped on Watson’s shoulder, who was about to leave the room. Lowering his voice he said "It seems our Mister Harvold has forgotten about his leg injury, as he walked out without any sign of a limp." Holmes raised his eyebrows at Watson before turning on his heels and walking purposefully out of the room.

The library was the size of a mansion and it loomed above Holmes, Watson and George as they stood at its steps, like small mice confronting a lion. It had large wooden doors which were quite stiff to open, and once inside the full size of the library hit them. It was as if it were bigger on the inside than on the out. There were rows and rows of massive shelves left right and centre, each filled with many different types of books.

George had begun limping again, although it was obvious to Holmes that he was faking it. Watson walked faster than the other two, as if he was in a hurry, and went over to a bookshelf and began looking at the front and back of some books, as if they held untold secrets. As Holmes walked he was constantly looking around him, but at first he didn’t see anything striking.

"When your mother’s body was found, were there any visible marks on it?" Holmes asked. George turned to face Holmes and stopped walking, before he replied.

"Just signs of a small but very severe blow to the top of the head, strong enough to have killed her outright." Holmes nodded and continued to look around. He looked up and immediately noticed something peculiar.

"Hmm… This ceiling is awfully low down for such a large building, and I was almost certain from the size of the windows outside that the library hall was somewhat higher than it now appears." Holmes sped up his pace and began to stalk furiously around the labyrinth of shelves, going in and out and around corners, the other two men trailing along in his wake, struggling to keep up. Then, in a secluded part of the library Holmes saw what he was looking for. "Aha! As I suspected!" he said with a sly smile. Directly in front of Holmes, lying against a wall was a tall ladder, which lead right to the top of the ceiling. Holmes grabbed it and shook it to check if it was secure, and sure enough it was. "Right, I’m going to investigate, you two stay down here to keep watch."

George interrupted. "I think it would be best if I came with you Mr Holmes, I have quite a keen eye for spotting things, and after all it was my mother who was murdered, so I want nothing kept from me."

"Very well, Mister Harvold, just be careful" Holmes said, as he had begun climbing. "Watson you wait down here and hold the ladder."

Holmes clambered up to the top of the ladder with the agility of a monkey and looked up, examining the ceiling, he pushed against one of the tiles and it lifted. Just as he had suspected, the real ceiling was much higher up, this was a false ceiling. Pushing the loose tile to one side he climbed up into the void, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness. With the exception of the tile he had removed, the floor of the space above the ceiling seemed quite solid. He placed a foot onto the boards gently and they made a creaking sound, like the opening of a door. The space would have been almost pitch black, except for one small shaft of light shining up from below, further into the huge void there was a hole in the floor. Holmes walked over to it, bent down and looked through the hole. He was able to see right down to the floor of the library, and on the floor was a small piece of paper with an ‘x’ drawn on it. Holmes took out a small pebble from his pocket and dropped it through the hole, it landed exactly on the piece of paper.

"I think I know what’s– "

"Stop right there, Holmes." Holmes froze and turned around very slowly. George had a pistol pointed directly at him.

"It was you." Holmes said with a darkly accusing tone. "You dropped something onto your own mothers head to claim her money, something like your unusually heavy walking stick!"

"Hoorah, the great Sherlock Holmes figured it out, but I can’t have you getting me arrested, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to kill you." George pulled back the hammer of his pistol and aimed down the sight, directly between Holmes eyes.

BANG!

"Yarrrrrgh!" George yelled as he collapsed to the ground holding his leg, where blood was gushing out and pooling around him. Standing behind the injured man stood Watson, holding his smoking pistol.

"Rule one, " Watson said, "Whenever Holmes tells me to stay somewhere, he’s alerting me that there’s danger afoot."

"Well done Watson you saved me yet again!"

"All in a day’s work, my dear fellow." Watson beamed. "Now, let’s get this crook where he belongs, behind bars."

Back at Holmes’ study, enjoying the delights of one of Mrs Hudson’s famous cream teas, the two detectives were once again sitting talking, only this time it was amongst themselves.

"It always amazes me how you figure out these things Holmes my dear fellow." Said Watson. "So, tell me, how did you work it out?"

"Well, my suspicions were first aroused when our Mister Harvold told us that he had a brother and a sister, however, I have heard of the Harvold family before and I was sure that he was an only child. I believe he just said he had siblings to widen the range of suspects and put us off the scent Watson. He then went on to say that there was no-one else around in the library when his mother was murdered, but how would he know that unless he was actually there too? The next unusual thing I noticed was that his wife had been murdered, and I’m sure that he stood to inherit a large sum of money on her death; it seemed to me that there was a pattern emerging. When Mr Havold told me that Elizabeth Harvold had died from a blow to the head, the most obvious assumption would be that she had been hit with a book, it being in a library, which is just what he wanted us to believe, but when I looked up and saw the false ceiling I knew the real reason."

"The final thing which convinced me that he committed the crime was that the small hole in the false ceiling was just big enough to fit a walking stick through, the very same walking stick George Harvold used to drop on his mother’s head. If you cast your mind back Watson you may recall the heavy thud his stick made when it fell to the floor in my study, and the way he reacted when you went to pick it up. I think if you examine the stick closely you will find it has been hollowed out and filled with lead to create a perfect murder weapon. He had to fake using it though because witnesses would have seen him going into the library with the walking stick and a limp so he could not suddenly be seen without it any more when he came to see me, although if you were observing carefully, he did forget about his limp for a short while in my study."

"An excellent piece of deduction my dear chap!" Watson exclaimed, "There’s just one thing I don’t understand; George Harvold told us that he was at his house on the night of the murder."

Holmes gave short, quick laugh. "Hah! He was simply lying my over-trusting old friend; did you expect a murderer to be completely honest with us? Your one failing, my dear Watson, is that you always tend see the best in people, whereas I’m afraid I am the complete opposite."

"Oh of course, silly me, but still, it simply astounds me how you manage to solve all these mysteries without breaking a sweat."

"Elementary, my dear Watson." Holmes said with a smile, "Elementary".


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