Read The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: 25 Modern Tales by Masters Online

Authors: Michael Kurland,Mike Resnick

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The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: 25 Modern Tales by Masters

BOOK: The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: 25 Modern Tales by Masters
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The Sherlock Holmes Megapack

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COPYRIGHT INFO

The Sherlock Holmes Megapack
is copyright © 2014 by Wildside Press LLC.

* * * *

“The Elusive Emeralds,” by Carla Coupe originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#4. Copyright © 2010 by Wildside Press LLC. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Adventure of the Second Round,” by Mark Wardecker, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#5. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Wardecker.

“The Adventure of the Midnight Séance,” by Michael Mallory is copyright © 2013 by Michael Mallory. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Case of the Tarleton Murders,” by Jack Grochot, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#10. Copyright © 2013 by Jack Grochot. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Tattooed Arm,” by Marc Bilgrey, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#5. Copyright © 2011 by Marc Bilgrey.

“The Incident of the Impecunious Chevalier,” by Richard A. Lupoff, originally appeared in
My Sherlock Holmes: Untold Stories of the Great Detective
. Copyright © 2004 by Richard A. Lupoff. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Sherlock Holmes—Stymied!” by Gary Lovisi. Copyright © 2010 by Gary Lovisi. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Years Ago and in a Different Place,” by Michael Kurland, originally appeared in
My Sherlock Holmes: Untold Stories of the Great Detective
. Copyright © 2004 by Michael Kurland. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“A Study in Evil,” by Gary Lovisi, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#2. Copyright © 2009 by Wildside Press LLC. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Adventure of the Amateur Mendicant Society,” by John Gregory Betancourt, originally appeared in
The Resurrected Holmes
. Copyright 1997 by John Gregory Betancourt. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Case of Vamberry the Wine Merchant,” by Jack Grochot, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#9. Copyright ©2013 by Jack Grochot. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“A House Gone Mad,” by Bruce I. Kilstein, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#5. Copyright © 2011 by Bruce I. Kilstein. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Adventure of the Haunted Bagpipes,” by Carla Coupe, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#5. Copyright © 2011 by Carla Coupe. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Dr Watson’s Fairy Tale” is copyright © 2013 by Thos. Kent Miller. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Dead House,” by Bruce Kilstein, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#7. Copyright © 2011 by Bruce I. Kilstein. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Adventure of the Voorish Sign,” by Richard A. Lupoff, originally appeared in
The Universal Holmes
. Copyright © 2010 by Richard A. Lupoff. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Be Good or Begone,” by Stan Trybulski, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
#5. Copyright © 2011 by Stan Trybulski. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Cutting for Sign,” by Linda Robertson, is copyright © 2013 by Linda Robertson. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Curious Case of the Peacock Street Peculiars,” by Michael Mallory, originally appeared on amazon.com as an Amazon Short. Copyright © 2013 by Michael Mallory. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Second Fiddle,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes in Orbit
. Copyright © 1995 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“You See But You Do Not Observe,” by Robert J. Sawyer, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes in Orbit
. Copyright © 1995 by Robert J. Sawyer. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Case of the Netherland-Sumatra Company,” by Jack Grochot is original to this ebook. Copyright © 2013 by Jack Grochot.

“The Adventure of the Pearly Gates,” by Mike Resnick, originally appeared in
Sherlock Holmes in Orbit
. Copyright © 1995 by Mike Resnick. Reprinted by permission of the author.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE ELUSIVE EMERALDS, by Carla Coupe

Although these events occurred many years ago, I shall never forget the circumstances. For once, I played a rather dashing role, as the small gold locket on my watch chain constantly reminds me.

Our adventure began on a cold winter morning. A thick fog had rolled between the houses, and the windows opposite formed dark, shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow murk.

Inside, our gas lamps glowed bright and banished the gloom. As we breakfasted, Holmes quickly sorted through the usual pile of correspondence. After opening and reading several letters, he examined a small parcel that had arrived in the morning’s post.

“Where is that from?” I asked.

“From Liverpool.” A reminiscent smile touched his lips.

I repressed a shiver. My friend’s heroic efforts to clear the reputation of a young Naval officer remained fresh in my mind, and I could not share Holmes’s smile yet. Perhaps one day, after certain related events had faded from the public’s memory, I would be permitted to tell that singular tale which had so nearly resulted in tragedy.

When opened, the parcel yielded a small jade dragon, exquisitely carved in the Oriental style. It was a lovely piece of work, a fitting token acknowledging the dangers Holmes had encountered and overcome.

After setting the dragon in pride of place upon the mantelpiece, Holmes buried himself in the most recent issue of the
Times
.

For the next hour or two, we sat on either side of the cheery fire, and only the rustle of the newspaper, the soft hiss of burning coal, and an occasional comment interrupted the quiet of our chambers. Shortly before eleven, Holmes rose and crossed to the window.

“Ah. Set aside your paper, Watson. I believe our caller has arrived.”

“Are we expecting a visitor?” I placed the newspaper on an untidy pile and joined him at the window. In the street below, a brougham with a pair of matched greys waited at the kerb.

“This morning I received a note from Lord Maurice Denbeigh stating that he would call upon us at eleven. Would you look him up in Debretts?”

“Denbeigh?” I paused on my way to the bookshelf, then returned to the window. “I am familiar with the name. He’s the second son of the Duke of Penfield. His Grace died five or six years ago, I believe, and Denbeigh’s elder brother succeeded to the title.”

“You are acquainted with the family?” Holmes glanced at me inquiringly.

“I met his mother, now the Dowager Duchess, at the Smythe-Parkinsons’ a number of years ago. Fascinating woman.”

I smiled, recalling that carefree time. Although the Smythe-Parkinsons were remote relatives, they had welcomed my visit.

A knock interrupted my reminiscences. At Holmes’s nod, I hurried across the room and opened the door. Mrs Hudson entered, followed by a middle-aged man with fair hair and a colourless complexion.

“Lord Maurice Denbeigh,” she said.

“Thank you, Mrs Hudson.” I held the door for her as she left.

“How do you do,” said Holmes. “I am Sherlock Holmes, and this is my associate, Doctor John Watson.”

I bowed.

“Mr Holmes,” Denbeigh burst out. “You must help me!”

Holmes gestured him to a chair. “I shall do my best. How can I assist you?”

He collapsed onto the chair like a man at the end of his strength. Holmes and I resumed our seats. Denbeigh buried his face in his hands for a moment, then raised his head and inhaled loudly.

“This is very difficult for me to speak of, gentlemen. It has to do with my mother, the Dowager Duchess of Penfield.”

“I see.” With a glance at me, Holmes crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair. “Pray continue.”

“To put the problem in a nutshell, my brother, the present duke, is with his regiment in India. During his absence, all the responsibilities of the family have fallen upon my unhappy shoulders. For a year now, I’ve been driven nearly insane by my nephew, Hilary, Viscount Sheppington. The boy is eighteen, and his escapades have caused me many a sleepless night. But now comes the crowning blow: My mother, my own mother, has turned thief.”

“Her Grace a thief?” I could not conceal my outrage. “Oh come, sir, you must be mistaken!”

He stiffened. “Would I make such a shocking statement, Doctor, unless I was certain? I repeat, she is a thief, and a disgrace to our family.”

Holmes raised an eyebrow. “I take it that monetary considerations are not involved?”

With a hollow laugh, Denbeigh sprang from his chair and paced the room.

“My mother has no concerns in that area, gentlemen.” He paused before the fire, his head bowed. “Unlike others of us,” he murmured.

“Then I can only assume that Her Grace is the victim of that unfortunate affliction known as kleptomania.”

“Kleptomania?” I darted a glance at Holmes. “But the description of that illness has only recently been published. I take it you have been reading my French medical journals.”

Holmes nodded once, his attention still upon Denbeigh.

“She
is
a kleptomaniac, Mr Holmes.” He sighed, and despite his coat’s fine tailoring, his shoulders bowed. “I spoke with several eminent nerve specialists, and they confirmed the shocking diagnosis. Not only are there the difficulties with shopkeepers to contend with; how can I explain to friends of the family when Mother decides to pocket some valuable memento whilst paying calls?”

“A vexing problem, indeed,” replied Holmes.

“And though it is petty thefts today, how can I be certain she won’t lapse into more serious criminality? Mr Holmes, you must help me find some way out of this intolerable situation. For the family’s sake, I am willing to pay—”

A loud series of knocks came from the front of the house. Denbeigh started nervously and glanced about.

The rich, husky voice of a woman rose above Mrs Hudson’s gentle murmurs.

“Mother!” cried Denbeigh.

At the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, we rose and faced the door.

After a single knock, it opened, revealing Mrs Hudson again. She only had time to say, “Her Grace, the Dowager Duchess of Penfield,” before the lady swept past her into our chambers.

Beneath an elegant feathered hat, her chestnut hair was now streaked with silver, yet she looked every inch the magnificent woman I remembered. She dismissed Mrs Hudson, then glanced from me to Holmes.

“Which of you gentlemen is Mr Sherlock Holmes?”

Holmes stepped forward. “I am.”

She held out her hand, and he took it, bowing low.

Straightening, Holmes released her hand. “And this is my friend and colleague, Doctor John Watson. I believe you have met before.”

“Oh?” She fixed me with sparkling, dark eyes. “Where was that, Doctor?”

“Several years ago, at the Smythe-Parkinsons’.”

“Charming people,” she said with a small smile and a gracious nod. “They always host the most amusing parties.”

“Yes, indeed, Your Grace.” I was a trifle disappointed that she did not appear to remember me, but why should a duchess remember a simple military doctor?

“Maurice,” she said, transferring her gaze to her son. He flinched, and she let out a little sigh. “I thought I had made my wishes clear.”

His waxen cheeks took on a rosy tinge, and he shifted in place as if he were a schoolboy.

“You had, Mother. However, I thought—”

“I’m certain you did.” She walked to the door and opened it. “We shall discuss this further in private, Maurice. You may kiss me before you go.”

She tilted her head, presenting her cheek. Denbeigh glanced at Holmes, who bowed.

“Your Lordship.”

“Goodbye, Mr Holmes. Doctor.”

Denbeigh crossed to the duchess, obediently kissed her cheek, and left. I closed the door behind him and turned, my attention captured by Her Grace’s elegant form.

“Gentlemen, I fear my son has placed me in an invidious position.” She crossed to the fireplace and examined the assortment of items displayed on the mantelpiece. When her gaze lit upon the tobacco-filled slipper, she smiled.

“How so?” Holmes enquired, standing beside the settee.

“He has been spreading dreadful rumours about me.” She moved around the room, casting a cool glance over the well-worn furnishings. At least Mrs Hudson had tidied yesterday, although Her Grace didn’t appear distressed by our usual clutter. I was grateful that Holmes had not conducted any chemical experiments recently, for they often filled the room with smoke and an appalling stench: an altogether unsuitable atmosphere in which to receive a dowager duchess.

Holmes’s intelligent gaze followed her perambulations.

“What sort of rumours?” he asked.

Her Grace turned to Holmes with a frown.

“Pray, do not play coy with me, Mr Holmes. Maurice believes I am suffering from some sort of nervous disorder and is, I am certain, preparing to have me declared incompetent.” She raised a gloved hand to her bosom.

“Gracious me,” I said, appalled. I hurried over to her. “What a shocking—”

“Thank you, Doctor, but I do not require sympathy.” She lifted her chin and gazed solemnly at Holmes.

“These are indeed serious charges,” said Holmes.

“They are.” She hesitated for a moment, indecision briefly written upon her face. Then she stepped to my side and rested her hand on my arm. Her fingers trembled.

“As much as I find discussing my personal circumstances distasteful, it appears to be necessary,” she said, her voice low. “Gentlemen, I control my personal fortune outright. My son’s expenses have far exceeded his income, and although I have settled some of his debts, he continues to ask for more money.” She glanced from me to Holmes. “You understand the advantages to him were my finances to be under his control.”

Holmes nodded.

“Yes, of course,” I replied, and ventured to rest my hand upon hers for a moment.

“Thank you.” She smiled and gave my arm a gentle squeeze. “Anything you can do to dispel the rumours would be a great service to me. Otherwise, we shall speak no more of this matter.” She swept to the door.

“I will see you out,” I said, hurrying to open it.

She paused in the entrance hall, drawing on her gloves, and gazed at me for a moment.

“The Smythe-Parkinsons, you say?”

I smoothed my rumpled jacket. “Yes, Your Grace. At a fancy-dress ball.”

“Ah, that explains my lapse of memory,” she replied with a nod. “After all, is not concealment the very point of fancy dress?”

“Of course.” Although it was clear she still did not remember me, at least she was gracious enough to provide an excuse.

I helped her to her carriage, then returned to our chambers.

“What a superb woman.” I closed the door behind me and took my seat.

Holmes chuckled and walked to the fireplace, his pipe in hand. “Yes, quite remarkable, isn’t she?”

“Luckily we weren’t taken in by Denbeigh’s story.”

After leaning to light a twist of paper in the fireplace, Holmes straightened, lit his pipe, and waited until it was drawing properly before replying.

“You recall that jade dragon I received in this morning’s post?”

“Yes, you put it on the mantelpiece.” I looked up and gasped. “Good Lord, it has vanished!”

“Precisely.” Holmes’s voice was filled with satisfaction. “Either Her Grace is so brilliant a kleptomaniac that she has achieved an unnoticed theft at 221B Baker Street or her son wishes us to think so.”

“Well, of all the amazing nerve!”

“Watson, we have met a worthy antagonist.” Holmes suddenly emptied his pipe into the fire and strode to the door. “Come along, old chap. Don your hat and coat. I think we will take the liberty of providing the duchess with an unobtrusive escort.”

* * * *

The street lamps glowed warmly as I limped after Holmes into Carrington’s, the silversmiths on Regent Street.

“Holmes, this is the twelfth shop we’ve visited,” I whispered. “My feet are tired, my leg aches. We’ve been following the duchess all afternoon.”

“I was eager to observe Her Grace amongst temptation.” Holmes hovered by a display case.

“Temptation?” I grumbled. “As far as I can see, she hasn’t been tempted to do anything except purchase a variety of items in far too many shops.”

“Well, I must admit that I have not observed any untoward behaviour thus far,” Holmes replied.

Across the shop, the duchess studied a display of small silver goods laid out upon the counter. The manager, a tall, lugubrious Scot with an unfortunate squint, hovered over her like a stork over a new-born chick as she examined piece after piece.

The door bell rang, and a fashionably dressed young man with curling, chestnut hair stepped inside the shop.

“Hullo, Grandmama!” he called, waving his stick. “Saw the carriage outside and thought you might be here.”

Her Grace turned and regarded the young man with a fond smile.

“Ah, Hilary. I wondered when you would find me.” Turning to face us, she continued. “Mr Holmes, Doctor. Do stop trying to disappear into the woodwork and come meet my grandson.”

Holmes and I exchanged a glance. Warmth spread across my cheeks, but Holmes appeared amused.

Introductions were quickly made. Her Grace returned to her examination of silver toothpick holders and other small trinkets, while the viscount eyed the items on the counter and criticised each one. He then stepped to my side and nudged me with an elbow.

“Keeping an eye on Grandmama, eh? Capital idea. My uncle informed me that he intended to consult you regarding her condition,” he whispered. “Can’t be too careful when she’s out and about.”

“I beg your pardon,” I replied, drawing away. What effrontery!

“Not at all.” He winked, returning to Her Grace when she called to him.

The duchess completed her purchase. A smile touched her lips as she turned to Holmes.

“I am returning home now, Mr Holmes. You are released from duty.”

Holmes barked a laugh and then bowed.

“Your Grace is too kind.”

She then gestured to me. “Doctor, accompany me to my carriage, if you please.”

I was delighted to offer this small service and gave her my arm. We were followed by a shop assistant carrying her parcel.

BOOK: The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: 25 Modern Tales by Masters
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