Basil of Baker Street & Case of the Emerald Ring: Part 1
As told by David Q. Dawson, M. D.
When I think back on the summer of 1897, the first and I think most important event that comes to my mind is the remarkable Flaversham case, as it came to be called. It is most memorable not only because it concluded with the destruction of Professor Ratigan and his criminal regime; but also because it was the highlight of the career of my friend and colleague, the great mouse detective, Basil of Baker Street.
However, that was not the only memorable event of that year. In fact, only about a week after the conclusion of the Flaversham case, I once again found myself thrown in the midst of yet another mystery; an affair so tangled that I still marvel at how easily Basil managed to unravel it.
On June 21, soon after the Flavershams had gone and just as I was about to leave, there was a soft knock upon the front door. When I opened it, I was startled to find a lovely young lady. She was very pretty with light brown fur and the clearest, bluest eyes I've ever seen. She wore an olive green coat over her dress with pink lace at her neck. A yellow flower was stuck in her matching hat, completing her polished look.
"I-Is this the home of the famous Basil of Baker Street?" she asked nervously.
"Indeed it is, Miss," I replied with a tip of my hat. As I looked more closely, I noticed that she was close to tears. "You look as if you're in some trouble."
"Oh, I am!" the poor girl sobbed, wiping tears from her eyes. "I am."
"Then you've come to precisely the right place," I assured her.
Basil suddenly appeared by my side and gestured grandly. "Ah! Allow me to introduce my trusted associate, Dr. Dawson. With whom I do all my cases," he added. He looked at me expectantly. "Isn't that right, doctor?"
"Wha…what?" I asked confused. Moments before the lady arrived, I had been gathering my things to leave. Basil had appeared a bit disappointed that I was leaving so soon, but I had only been in London for a short time, and had yet to find a permanent residence. I was surprised at his suggestion to stay. He later explained that he was behind in his payments to his landlady, Mrs. Judson; which isn't surprising, because he rarely takes any payment from his clients, unless they insist. And since I was in need of a place to stay, it was convenient for the both of us. Of course, I knew I would have to talk with Mrs. Judson about it later, but I heartily agreed to become his colleague. "Why, yes," I answered, shaking Basil's hand. "Yes, by all means."
Then the detective cleared his throat and turned to our visitor. Putting a hand to his chin, he began to assess his client. "As you can see, Dawson," he began, "this young lady has just arrived from the Hampstead District and is troubled about the mysterious disappearance of an emerald ring missing from the third finger of her right hand." He seemed to take no notice of the astonishment written on the lady's face as well as on my own. "Now, tell me your story, and pray, be precise. The slightest detail can be the most important."
"A-All right," she said, still looking surprised at Basil's deduction. "My name is Abigail Lockhart…but Mr. Basil, how do you know that I'm from Hampstead, and that I'm here about my ring? I don't see how you could possibly know all that about me, especially since we've never met."
Basil smiled as he waved our guest to a chair. "Well, Miss Lockhart, I noticed that the perfume you're wearing is a particular lilac scent, and is most popular in the stores at Hampstead. I know because it is my sister's favorite scent, and I've traveled to Hampstead on more than one occasion and bought it for her as a gift. As to the ring, the lighter skin around the third finger of your right hand suggests that you wear a ring of which you are very fond, since you wear it constantly. Am I correct so far?"
"Y-Yes, you are," she replied incredibly.
"But, how could you possibly know it's an emerald if you've never seen it?" I asked, just as puzzled as she about his inferences. I had already witnessed his remarkable powers of deduction; when we first met, he was able to tell, by observing a single stitch on my coat sleeve, that I was a military surgeon who had just arrived in London after lengthy service in Afghanistan. But it was still hard to believe that he was able to tell all that about a complete stranger just at a glance.
"Why, it's simplicity itself, my dear Dawson," he replied. "I recalled reading an advertisement in the agony column of today's newspaper, placed by someone named A. L. of Hampstead, offering a reward for any information regarding the disappearance of an emerald ring. So I deduced that you must be the young lady in search of her missing emerald."
The lady laughed. "Of course; I'd forgotten about the ad. It seems so simple once you explain it. But it's still remarkable."
Basil smiled. Although he was obviously flattered, he didn't boast. "It was elementary, Miss Lockhart."
"Oh, you can call me Abby. Everyone else does."
"All right. Now, let us hear your story, Miss Abby. I ask once again, please be sure not to leave out any details, no matter how trifling they may appear."
"Well, I suppose I'll begin by telling you a little about myself. I live with the Fletcher family. Mr. Fletcher was my father's business partner as well as a close family friend, and when my parents died in a fire a few years ago, he took me in. Mrs. Fletcher is in poor health, so I help her take care of the house and act as a governess for the children, but they are really like family to me.
"Now, I'm usually the last one in the house to go to bed, so I always check the windows and doors to make sure they're locked. As I did so last night, I saw the maid talking with someone in the garden. Hannah is just a young girl, a few years younger than I am, and I knew that she had a lover, named John Benet, whom she meets sometimes by the garden gate. I called her into the house and chided her for being out so late. Then I sent her on to bed, and after checking the rest of the locks, retired myself. I'm sure you can guess the rest. I took the ring off and put it in a small black box on my dresser right before I got in the bed. Usually I put it back on as soon as I get up in the morning. But now the box and the ring are both gone."
As our visitor finished, I looked over at Basil. He had been silent throughout Miss Abby's narrative, but I noticed that as he listened, he grew more excited at the prospect of a new case. The keen look in his eyes betrayed that he was elated at the chance to once again stimulate his mind with a challenge. He leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees, fingers steepled together.
"Your story is most engaging. This thief must have a cool head about him, or her, especially since there was a high risk of waking you."
"Yes. I'm not a heavy sleeper, but I never heard a thing. Thank goodness it was only a thief…he could have done whatever he wanted to me, and I would never have known it…and the children were just down the hall…" Unable to continue, the poor girl broke down and began to cry.
Basil fidgeted in his chair and stared at the floor. He looked very uncomfortable and seemed to be at a loss for words. He clearly had no experience with this sort of thing, so I took it upon myself to console the lady. "There, there now," I said, patting her hand gently. "It's all right. I know this must be a dreadful experience for you, but everything will be fine, you'll see." As she dried her eyes, Basil cast a grateful look in my direction. It made me glad to know that I had been of some assistance.
When Miss Abby was calmed, Basil cleared his throat and continued his questioning. "Ahem… yes, um…h-have you notified the authorities?"
"Yes," Miss Abby replied, dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief. "Mr. Fletcher informed Scotland Yard very soon after I discovered the ring was gone. The inspector was examining the house before I left. He seems to think that I've just misplaced it, but I'm not satisfied with that answer."
"Neither am I," Basil replied. "You seem quite certain that you put it in the box last night as you normally do. If the ring was the only thing missing, then perhaps it would be more likely that it was simply misplaced. The fact that the box is also gone suggests that it was stolen. Now, I understand the ring itself is of considerable value?"
"Yes. The emerald is set between two small diamonds, and the band is made of gold. I'm not certain as to its exact worth, but I know that it's the most valuable thing in the house."
"Nothing else was missing? Other jewelry or china, perhaps?"
"Hmm. Then the thief must have known exactly what he was after. Who else knows of the ring's worth?"
"Well, besides Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, I suppose the only other one is Roger Garrett. He's a…a friend of mine."
It was obvious by the way Miss Abby blushed that it was true, but I glared at Basil for asking such a personal question. However, she took no offense at his inquiry. "Yes, he is. I invited him over for a visit with the family yesterday. We had a nice dinner, and he gets along so well with everyone in the house. He and I took a stroll in the garden afterwards. He stayed for a little while longer, and it was already dark when he left."
"Did he ask about the ring?"
"Well, he has asked before, and I've told him how it belonged to my mother, and how father had given it to her as an anniversary gift. He had their initials engraved inside the band, along with the date of their anniversary." Fresh tears appeared in her eyes at the memory of her deceased parents, but she blinked them back, and continued with a smile. "During dinner, Roger stated that it would look lovely with a matching necklace or earrings, and since my birthday is coming up, I assumed he asked because he was thinking about getting one of those for me as a gift." Suddenly she grew alarmed. "Oh, but Mr. Basil, surely you don't believe Roger could be the thief?"
Basil shrugged. "I'm keeping an open mind. To me, everyone is a potential suspect. But, I don't have enough data yet to make an accusation. Were any servants in the room during this discussion about the ring at dinner?"
"No," she answered with a shake to her head. She hesitated for a moment, but then added, "But, I suppose someone could have been listening at the door."
"Ah, you mean the maid. You believe that she could have been listening, and once she learned of its value, she told her lover when they met out in the garden, and they conspired to steal it."
Miss Abby appeared a little startled that Basil seemed to know what she had been thinking, but she continued. "Yes. That's the only solution I've come up with. Of course, she denies that she or Mr. Benet had anything to do with it."
"What do you know of this John Benet?"
"Not much, I'm afraid. I believe he is an apprentice to a smith, but I'm not entirely sure. I've spoken with him once or twice. He seems decent enough, though, and at first, I had no problem with their friendship. But now I wonder if I didn't make a grave mistake by allowing Hannah to see him. And to make matters worse, he has disappeared, which makes the two of them seem more suspicious. The police interrogated Hannah thoroughly, but they didn't take her into custody for lack of proof. That's why I've come to you. I've heard how you are able to solve a case when the police can make nothing of it." She sighed heavily. "I just don't know what else to do. If it had been any other piece of jewelry, it wouldn't matter as much. But it's the only thing I have to remember my parents by. I would give anything to have it back. But I realize you must be very busy, Mr. Basil, especially since your recent success and the defeat of Professor Ratigan, so I understand if you're not able to take my case."
"I'm never too busy to help someone in distress. Your case has several features of interest, and I would be happy to provide my services to you. Now, I believe the best course of action is for us to accompany you back to Hampstead. That is, if it's all right with you, Miss Abby?"
"Of course! That is exactly what I hoped you would do. After seeing your powers of deduction, I'm sure you'll find some sort of clue at the scene."
"If Grayson and his lackeys haven't torn the place up yet," he muttered under his breath. "We'll be with you shortly."
I had met Scotland Yard's chief inspector only briefly at the ceremony when we were honored by the queen for defeating Ratigan and saving the kingdom, but he had left a considerable impression on me. He was an average sized mouse, with dark brown fur and sharp brown eyes, but his demeanor was quite intimidating. He has a successful career as an officer, and his quick wit and ferocious tenacity has helped him quickly rise through the ranks of the Yard. He is also quite stubborn; once he makes up his mind about a case, even if he is wrong, he will not easily change his mind…..and woe to the unfortunate mouse who gets in his way. Many a hardened criminal has withered under Grayson's severe gaze during one of his intense interrogations. Basil had helped Grayson in the past, but there was a sort of rivalry between the two detectives. Grayson often thought my friend's methods eccentric, and they butted heads on more than one occasion, but he appreciated the help that Basil had been to the Yard.
"Oh, by the way, do you happen to have a revolver?" Basil added.
"I have one, but it's in my room at the hotel."
"No problem. You can just take mine. It's in the drawer of that side table there."
"Is it really necessary?" I asked skeptically.
"I hope not," he replied, "but 'luck favors the prepared' as the saying goes."
Of course, the thought of having to use such a weapon worried me, though I have plenty of experience in the use of firearms from my military campaign in Afghanistan; but it did concern me that we may face a most dangerous villain, especially since it had been only a few days since Basil had battled with the Napoleon of Crime atop of Big Ben. I was astonished at how quickly he seemed to heal, although at times, he appeared to have little strength and often seemed exhausted. I knew the dangers that came with his line of work, but I didn't want him to overdo it and hurt himself even more.
Ratigan's claws had left deep gashes on his body, especially on his back, and most had required stitches. He had let me tend to him the first couple of days, but after that, he wouldn't let me near him, always insisting that he was fine. But even though he did his best to hide it, I could tell from my medical experience that he was still in pain. He had been bedridden for several days, so he was ready to get up and out of the house. Not wanting to offend him, I broached the topic as carefully as I could.
"How are you feeling?" I asked gently.
He looked at me strangely as he took his Inverness coat from the suit of armor he used as a coat rack. "Perfect," he replied. "Never been better-" at that moment, he gasped suddenly and a pained expression crossed his face, and he grasped his right arm. I became concerned and went towards him, but he smiled weakly and held up his hand. "Don't worry, old chap. I'm fine."
I knew he hated having to rely upon others for help, and I understood that he was anxious to get back to his work; but I also knew the extent of the wounds Ratigan inflicted on him. I still went to him, and, despite his protests, helped get his injured arm into the coat sleeve. "Are you certain you're up to taking a case so soon?" I asked as I handed him his deerstalker cap. "You are still recovering, after all."
He snatched the hat out of my hand and placed it on his head. "Dawson, if I stay in this house any longer, I will most definitely go insane," he fumed. "I've been idle for far too long. My brain is racking itself to pieces. I need problems; I need work. And the sooner, the better!" On that note, he hurried out the door before I could object. I rolled my eyes and followed him, knowing further protest would be useless.