I was horrified by my first glimpse
of Holmes that evening. Slumped in his chair by the fire, he was examining
the twin needles of a curiously shaped hypodermic syringe with feverish
intensity. I associated that vile instrument with the singular weakness
of his nature, and I feared the worst when I saw the hungry look in
his deep-set eyes. He laughed at my expression of dismay, and laid it
upon the table with an enigmatic smile.
"You have a case, Holmes?" I remarked hesitantly.
"Your powers of deduction are exceeded only by your capacity for
stating the obvious, my dear Hobbit."
"Might I share it?"
"There is some deep intrigue at work which I fear has resulted
in the death of one man, and will lead to the death of another, if we
do not unmask the perpetrator."
"Whatever led you to that conclusion?"
Holmes tossed a crumpled note across to me and turned once more to his
examination of the syringe. I looked with amazement at the absurd drawing
before me. It was a florid sketch depicting a white tree flanked by
a pile of golden coins on one side, and an eight-pointed star on the
other. A crude sketch of a hanged man had been superimposed on the tree,
and beneath it, a shaky hand had drawn what appeared to be a grinning
pixie looking on approvingly.
"Why Holmes, this is just a silly child's doodle!"
"Oh, really? That's your considered opinion is it?"
"What else could it be?"
"That is the question Mr Borrowmore is most anxious to have answered.
This little conundrum came by first-class-crow this morning and he was
to follow by donkey-trap. There's the door-bell, Bingo, I should not
be at all surprised if this were not the gentleman himself."
A heavy step was heard approaching, and an instant later Mrs Bunny ushered
in a tall, muscular gentleman whose proud lip and hard eyes told of
a life lived in the corridors of power. His trembling hands and unshaven
face suggested that he was also addicted to that solitary and debilitating
vice which every schoolboy knows is a sure and certain passport to blindness:
in short, here was a Banker down on his luck.
"For heaven's sake don't abandon my case, Mr Holmes," he
began haltingly. "If they come to arrest me before I have told
you my story I am doomed, doomed I say!"
"Arrest you, Sir!" I interjected. "Whatever for?"
For I recognised the man immediately as 'Bad' Bob Borrowmore, the wealthy
financier who had lately arrived in the Shire to expand his family's
business interests, and was said to have a claim to the ancient throne
"Dear me, Bingo," said Holmes. "Have you been so wrapped
up, or should I say, 'tied up', in your private recreations with young
Ms Beaverburrow that you have failed to read the papers this week?"
"Well, I, er-"
"Allow me to enlighten you. On Tuesday the 'The Bywater Bugle'
led with 'Mysterious Death of Park Ranger.'
This was followed rather more sensationally by the "Somath Sport"
headline 'Royal Sex Orgy ends in Tragedy',
and amplified by the Shire Recorder's report this morning. Here, read
Holmes tossed the paper across to me, and I read as follows:
'TRAGIC DEATH IN BYWATER!'
'On Monday morning the semi-naked body of Harry Gaunt, the popular
Night Club Owner and Park Ranger, known to his intimates as 'Trotter',
was found dead in his flat in King's Norbury. Harry Gaunt was last seen
in the company of the Lady Arwen and her friends at 'Stingo's' - a popular
Bywater drinking establishment. According to eyewitnesses the party
later went on to the 'Blue Tit', a private club in Hobbiton owned by
Mr Gaunt. There the Lady Arwen was subjected to the unwelcome attentions
of Mr Bob Borrowmore, the wealthy Rondorian Banker. An altercation ensued
during which heated words were exchanged and Borrowmore was alleged
to have said that he would kill 'that scheming trickster'. Lady Arwen,
the daughter of the Duke of Riverdale and heiress to the estate of Loriel,
was engaged to be married to Harry Gaunt next month and is said to be
'heartbroken' at the shocking death of her fiancee. Gaunt's body was
found by his manservant, Gimlet, in what the Sherrifs describe as the
most bizarre circumstances.
When discovered, his arms and legs were securely tied
to the bed, and a common drinking-horn of the type found in any Shire
Inn covered his manhood. A gag had been pushed into his mouth, and vials
of the drug 'Miruvor' - known to be used in Elvish sex-magic - were
found in the room. It is thought that a small, flowering shrub, which
had been inserted into his bottom, may have contributed to his death.
Several persons are assisting the Sherrifs with their enquiries into
this dreadful tragedy, and Inspector Plodder, the officer in charge
of the investigation, is expected to make an arrest shortly.'
"Well, Bingo?" asked Holmes, "What do you make of that?"
"It appears to be a clear case of rivals for the affections of
the Lady Arwen falling out, but I fail to see what this has got to do
with the note you showed me."
"The note, my furry-footed halfwit, fell out of Harry Gaunt's pocket
when he and Mr Borrowmore argued on Sunday night. Borrowmore picked
it up with the intention of returning it, but sent it to me when it
became clear that the indefatigable Plodder had him marked as the prime
"Why didn't you give it to Plodder?" I asked Borrowmore.
"Are you mad? That man wants to arrest me. He is convinced I murdered
Harry Gaunt. The note implicates me. The White Tree and the pile of
cash are the arms of the Royal Bank of Rondor. Mr Holmes is my only
"Oh dear, oh dear." I said "It doesn't look good when
you put it in that light, Mr Borrowmore. I have no doubt that - great
heavens what ever was that!?"
It was the clang of the doorbell, followed instantly by the bustling
form of our old friend Inspector Plodder of New Sherrif's Yard. Over
his sloping shoulder I caught a glimpse of a tall, dark-haired lady
and the woolly heads of two uniformed Sherrifs.
"Mr Bob Dennis Thor Borrowmore IV?" enquired Plodder in a
Our unfortunate client rose with a ghastly face.
"I arrest you for the wilful murder of Harry Gaunt."
Borrowmore turned to Holmes with a gesture of despair and sank back
into his chair with a stifled groan.
"One moment, Inspector", said Holmes. "Half an hour more
or less can make no difference to you, and the gentleman was just about
to give us his own account of this very tragic affair, which might aid
us in clearing it up."
"I think you'll find that it has been cleared up",
said Plodder, irritably. "And, if I may say so, without
your assistance, Mr Holmes!"
"None the less, with your permission, I should be much interested
to hear Mr Borrowmore's account."
"Very well, Mr Holmes, it is difficult for me to refuse you anything.
All the same I insist that he is manacled, and that you hear what the
Lady Arwen has to say first. It is chiefly the important fresh evidence
she has brought to my attention, that has allowed us to definitely establish
Mr Borrowmore's guilt in the matter."
"Then let her explain it!" ejaculated Holmes, sharply.
The Inspector signaled to two Sherrifs who quickly secured the unfortunate
Banker's hands behind his back.
A tall and queenly now woman swept into the room with a proud step,
and took the seat opposite Holmes which he indicated to her with a languid
flourish of his hand. Her dark, clear-cut face was turned towards him:
a face of ethereal beauty, marred only by a pair of ridiculously long
and pointy ears. She fluttered her lashes, and regarded him with a frank
intensity any normal man would have found intimidating. But Holmes was
no ordinary man and returned her gaze with equal force.
"I am delighted to observe that this business has taken so little
toll on your composure, my Lady," he remarked casually.
A disdainful smile gathered at the corners of her exquisite mouth, and
she shifted her legs to reveal a tantalising glimpse of her lithe and
shapely thighs. A frisson of excitement shot through that part of my
anatomy that had lately been been the object of a certain amount of
attention by Belinda Beaverburrow, and I shuddered involuntarily.
The Inspector coughed self-consciously.
The Lady Arwen showed a little more leg.
I felt myself growing uncomfortably hot.
"I hope," she said in a soft and languorous drawl, "that you will not
deny the truth when it is presented to you?"
"Madam," answered Holmes, in his soothing voice. "On
that there can be no disagreement."
She flicked back a strand of hair with a coquettish gesture and leaned
back in her chair. "Then I shall tell you exactly what happened
that night, Mr Holmes", she began. "And prove how Bob murdered
"—You lying baggage!" shouted Borrowmore.
"Now then, Mr Borrowmore," said Inspector Plodder. "If
you will not keep silent I will have the Sherrifs remove you."
"May I continue, Mr Holmes?"
"Pray do so."
"When Harry and I got to the 'Blue Tit' that evening, Borrowmore
was already there with his cronies. They were all very drunk and began
singing rude songs about Harry. Then Bob came over and started trying
to kiss me. Well, of course, you can imagine how Harry reacted to that.
After all, we were engaged to be married, and very much in love."
Here she paused, trembled, and buried her face in her arms. As she did
so, her dress fell from her left shoulder and exposed the perfection
of her firm, milk-white bosom.
Holmes uttered an exclamation.
"You are injured, madam! Hullo! What's this?" Two small punctures
were clearly visible upon her left forearm.
"It is nothing," she said, hastily re-arranging her dress.
"It has no connection with this horrid business."
"I will be the judge of that!" retorted Holmes, fixing her
with his penetrating gaze. "Bingo—the syringe, if you please
and be quick about it!"
I hastened to comply and thrust the infernal object into his impatient
"Do you recognise this?"
The colour drained from the Lady Arwen's face.
"No—I, I've never seen it before."
"Do not trifle with me!" said Holmes severely.
"I tell you it means nothing to me."
"Would it not be better to be frank, Madam?"
For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. Then some
new thought drew her sensitive mouth into a twisted smile in which rage
and fear were mixed with a fiendish malignity.
Holmes leaped from his chair and seizing her wrist in his powerful grip,
pulled the dress from her shoulder to expose the marks I had seen earlier.
"Then how do you explain these?"
The punctures exactly matched the twin needles of the syringe he held
within a hairsbreadth of her breast.