“Found a screw-driver and some screws on the wash-hand stand. Seems to have smoked heavily during the night, too. Here are four cigar-ends that I picked out of the fireplace.”
“Hum!” said Holmes, “have you got his cigar-holder?”
“No, I have seen none.”
“His cigar-case, then?”
“Yes, it was in his coat-pocket.”
Holmes opened it and smelled the single cigar which it contained.
“Oh, this is a Havana, and these others are cigars of the peculiar sort which are imported by the Dutch from their East Indian colonies. They are usually wrapped in straw, you know, and are thinner for their length than any other brand.” He picked up the four ends and examined them with his pocket-lens.
“Two of these have been smoked from a holder and two without,” said he. “Two have been cut by a not very sharp knife, and two have had the ends bitten off by a set of excellent teeth. This is no suicide, Mr. Lanner. It is a very deeply planned and cold-blooded murder.”
“Impossible!” cried the inspector.
“Why should anyone murder a man in so clumsy a fashion as by hanging him?”
“That is what we have to find out.”
“How could they get in?”
“Through the front door.”
“It was barred in the morning.”
“Then it was barred after them.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw their traces. Excuse me a moment, and I may be able to give you some further information about it.”
He went over to the door, and turning the lock he examined it in his methodical way. Then he took out the key, which was on the inside. and inspected that also. The bed, the carpet, the chairs, the mantelpiece, the dead body, and the rope were each in turn examined, until at last he professed himself satisfied, and with my aid and that of the inspector cut down the wretched object and laid it reverently under a sheet.
“How about this rope?” he asked.
“It is cut off this,” said Dr. Trevelyan, drawing a large coil from under the bed. “He was morbidly nervous of fire, and always kept this beside him, so that he might escape by the window in case the stairs were burning.”
“That must have saved them trouble,” said Holmes thoughtfully. “Yes, the actual facts are very plain, and I shall be surprised if by the afternoon I cannot give you the reasons for them as well. I will take this photograph of Blessington, which I see upon the mantelpiece, as it may help me in my inquiries.”
“But you have told us nothing!” cried the doctor.
“Oh, there can be no doubt as to the sequence of events,” said Holmes. “There were three of them in it: the young man, the old man, and a third, to whose identity I have no clue. The first two, I need hardly remark, are the same who masqueraded as the Russian count and his son, so we can give a very full description of them. They were admitted by a confederate inside the house. If I might offer you a word of advice. Inspector, it would be to arrest the page. who, as I understand, has only recently come into your service, Doctor.”
“The young imp cannot be found,” said Dr. Trevelyan; “the maid and the cook have just been searching for him.”
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
“He has played a not unimportant part in this drama,” said he. “The three men having ascended the stairs, which they did on tiptoe, the elder man first, the younger man second, and the unknown man in the rear –”
“My dear Holmes!” I ejaculated.
“Oh, there could be no question as to the superimposing of the footmarks. I had the advantage of learning which was which last night. They ascended, then, to Mr. Blessington’s room, the door of which they found to be locked. With the help of a wire, however, they forced round the key. Even without the lens you will perceive, by the scratches on this ward, where the pressure was applied.
“On entering the room their first proceeding must have been to gag Mr. Blessington. He may have been asleep, or he may have been so paralyzed with terror as to have been unable to cry out. These walls are thick, and it is conceivable that his shriek, if he had time to utter one, was unheard.
“Having secured him, it is evident to me that a consultation of some sort was held. Probably it was something in the nature of a judicial proceeding. It must have lasted for some time, for it was then that these cigars were smoked. The older man sat in that wicker chair; it was he who used the cigar-holder. The younger man sat over yonder; he knocked his ash off against the chest of drawers. The third follow paced up and down. Blessington, I think, sat upright in the bed, but of that I cannot be absolutely certain.
“Well, it ended by their taking Blessington and hanging him. The matter was so prearranged that it is my belief that they brought with them some sort of block or pulley which might serve as a gallows. That screw-driver and those screws were, as I conceive, for fixing it up. Seeing the hook, however, they naturally saved themselves the trouble. Having finished their work they made off, and the door was barred behind them by their confederate.”
We had all listened with the deepest interest to this sketch of the night’s doings, which Holmes had deduced from signs so subtle and minute that, even when he had pointed them out to us, we could scarcely follow him in his reasonings. The inspector hurried away on the instant to make inquiries about the page. while Holmes and I returned to Baker Street for breakfast.
“I’ll be back by three,” said he when we had finished our meal. “Both the inspector and the doctor will meet me here at that hour, and I hope by that time to have cleared up any little obscurity which the case may still present.”
Our visitors arrived at the appointed time, but it was a quarter to four before my friend put in an appearance. From his expression as he entered, however, I could see that all had gone well with him.
“Any news, Inspector?”
“We have got the boy, sir.”
“Excellent, and I have got the men.”
“You have got them!” we cried, all three.
“Well, at least I have got their identity. This so-called Blessington is, as I expected, well known at headquarters, and so are his assailants. Their names are Biddle, Hayward, and Moffat.”
“The Worthingdon bank gang,” cried the inspector.
“Precisely,” said Holmes.
“Then Blessington must have been Sutton.”
“Exactly,” said Holmes.
“Why, that makes it as clear as crystal,” said the inspector.
But Trevelyan and I looked at each other in bewilderment.
“You must surely remember the great Worthingdon bank business,” said Holmes. “Five men were in it — these four and a fifth called Cartwright. Tobin, the caretaker, was murdered, and the thieves got away with seven thousand pounds. This was in 1875. They were all five arrested, but the evidence against them was by no means conclusive. This Blessington or Sutton, who was the worst of the gang, turned informer. On his evidence Cartwright was hanged and the other three got fifteen years apiece. When they got out the other day, which was some years before their full term, they set themselves, as you perceive, to hunt down the traitor and to avenge the death of their comrade upon him. Twice they tried to get at him and failed; a third time you see, it came off. Is there anything further which I can explain, Dr. Trevelyan?”
“I think you have made it all remarkably clear,” said the doctor. “No doubt the day on which he was so perturbed was the day when he had seen of their release in the newspapers.”
“Quite so. His talk about a burglary was the merest blind.”
“But why could he not tell you this?”
“Well, my dear sir, knowing the vindictive character of his old associates, he was trying to hide his own identity from everybody as long as he could. His secret was a shameful one and he could not bring himself to divulge it. However, wretch as he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and I have no doubt, Inspector, that you will see that, though that shield may fail to guard, the sword of justice is still there to avenge.”
Such were the singular circumstances in connection with the Resident Patient and the Brook Street Doctor. From that night nothing has been seen of the three murderers by the police, and it is surmised at Scotland Yard that they were among the passengers of the ill-fated steamer Norah Creina, which was lost some years ago with all hands upon the Portuguese coast, some leagues to the north of Oporto. The proceedings against the page broke down for want of evidence, and the Brook Street Mystery, as it was called, has never until now been fully dealt with in any public print.