A New Partner and the Case of the Missing Doctor
Andrew sat in the chair, his whiskey having been finished at the end of his story in one single motion. When he responded, Holmes was already on the move and readying himself for the case.
“Me? You want me to come with you?”
“Yes. You see, I am currently without a chronicler to accompany me on this outing, and I have found it often of use, or perhaps of luck if you believe in such a thing, to have such a person along for a case. And perhaps having you along, someone associated with the missing person, will uncover a useful clue as to anything amiss along the way.”
“That sounds like a lot of work, and I have my own life, and a job to do.”
“A job of writing? Please. That I have not seen your name among the papers or among those that consider themselves well-read, is not a lacking effort of my own. I dare say that you have more than enough time on your hands to accompany me. Besides, the smell of whiskey on you was overly apparent when you came in. Did you not notice that of all the bottles I had on my dresser that I only offered the Whiskey? I can say with certainty that you spend far more time at the bottle than at the pen.”
“I’m a multi-tasker. And one assists heavily upon the other.”
“A misguided view, nonetheless one that you hold character to and therefore should not be refuted. Come though, you could use this to excite your writing perhaps. Regardless, you are coming. I won’t have it any other way.”
Reluctantly, with a list of excuses still upon his tongue, Andrew threw his hands in the air and silently agreed to follow the detective for the time being. “Where to first then, detective?”
“To the home of your mother. I’d have words with her, and perhaps look over the proposed spot of his disappearance, though two weeks and the Yard would likely have destroyed any possible evidence. So if you would be so good as to call a handsome, I will be ready momentarily.” Holmes said as he stepped out of view into his back room.
“Fine. I’ll be outside.” Andrew said making his way over toward the dresser with the alcohol.
“Leave the whiskey.” Came the voice of Holmes. “I’ll have you sobered as can be for the remainder of this case.”
Reluctantly, again, Andrew made his way quickly from the flat down the stairs and was hailing a cab before he knew what he was doing. The cab came from down the street having only been waiting a short time since its last patron. The horse languidly made its way to the side of the street Andrew was on, and by the time it was before him, Holmes had exited to the street looking far less ill than he had mere moments ago and wearing fresh clothing and a long coat.
“Come then, Andrew, direct the man and we’ll be away.”
Andrew gave the driver the address, and they were soon off. Holmes appeared excited in the cab, keenly looking over his new associate.
“What?” Andrew asked annoyed.
“I am simply smelling the whiskey, fresh, pungent. You took another drink despite me telling you not to.”
“You gave me a drink, that’s all that you’re smelling.”
“I think not. I watched as you took the shot, no part of it leaving your mouth, yet now you have a small spot on your collar, fresh. Tell me, how did you take another drink without my notice? I was listening and did not hear you do so.”
“You have your talents and I have mine.” Andrew responded somewhat impressing himself.
“Indeed.” Holmes smiled casually.
The ride was not far, though it did come to thenoonhour when they arrived. Holmes asked that the cab stop two houses down from the home of Thomas Prenger, which seemed to confuse Andrew somewhat.
“Why stop here, the house is still down a ways?” Andrew asked.
“Precisely. I’ll not further tamper the evidence, if indeed there is any to tamper with still. Come, we will walk the rest of the way.” Holmes said as he stepped from the cab and addressed the driver to turn around completely from here and head the other direction.
The two walked towards the house, Holmes walking slowly and looking from the street to the sidewalk. As they came to the front of the house Holmes leaned down to the street with his glass in hand, and then to the walkway itself.
“Has this smudge always been here, to your knowledge?”
“It’s a smudge. How would I know?”
Holmes took a finger and ran it over the smudge then touched it to his tongue.
“The most distant taste of rubber is apparent, and a leather shine I think, this was put here within the last couple of weeks. It’s too sparse to be more recent than that. Did your father frequent black leather shoes?”
“They were black, I think.”
“Really, Andrew. A writer that does not regard the details, who ever heard of such a thing? Well, I have seen all that can be seen here, and I assure you that it’s far more than Lestrade has seen. Can we see your mother now?”
“The rubber could have been from anyone. And what else have you seen?”
“Indeed, the scuff could have come from any person that passed this spot. But, I will see your father’s clothing and no doubt deduce that this particular scuff is his own. That paired with the cab wheel indention in the mud next to the curb as well as a horse’s print facing the opposite direction it should indicating a person had boarded a handsome in this very spot and headed south.”
“What?” Andrew asked unconvinced.
“See here,” Holmes pointed to where the curb met street. “See how it has shifted the dirt to the curb. That is an obvious sign of a person boarding a handsome here, and that it has pushed as far as two full inches, it would be likely to assume that a person was forced inward. We are lucky that it has not rained these two weeks, or this clue may not have been evident still. As far as the horse, as you see up here, about two wide steps away from the wheel, the faintest corner of the shoe of the horse. Nothing descriptive , but nonetheless facing South, so I can see that this is not the common practice of the professional driver. ”
“My father could have taken a cab at any time.”
“By your own story, your father would walk to his office, it was only a short ways away. He would walk back as well, I think it safe to say. The tavern you speak of, it is only a short distance as well, I think it logical to assume that he would walk there as well. Am I correct?”
“You are, but perhaps he took it somewhere else? A concert maybe?”
“You know the man far better than I of course. Is he much for attending concerts?”
“Then let’s stick with fact instead of presumption for now, should we? Also, it did rain that Tuesday before your father’s disappearance, so these marks would be from after that. Now, to your mother I think, I have questions.”
The two made their way to the door where Andrew simply walked in and Sherlock followed gazing around at the grass and pathways as he went. Andrew came to the door, pulled a key from the pocket of his coat, opened the door, then walked inside with Sherlock close behind.
The home was nice, comfortable. Darkened wood lined the floor as well as the railing along the stairs and bracings of the ceiling. White covered the ceiling and walls, though much of the walls had been adorned with trinkets and antiques from times and experiences likely not just of the inhabitants of the house currently. Holmes remarked on nothing, but simply looked into each room, emptied, still, and quiet. When Andrew called to his mother, it was nearly a long silent minute before she answered a very tired and lost “Yes?”
“It’s me, Andrew. I’ve brought a detective to try and find Dad, he wants to talk to you, can I bring him up?”
After another long pause she again answered despondently “Alright.”
Holmes and Andrew made their way upstairs and into the first of three bedrooms on the left, a fair sized room with a bed that looked as if it had not been slept in having not even a wrinkle in it of having been sat on recently. An armoire stood on the wall to their left as they entered, a closet on the wall past the bed, and to their right a door to the rest room. A lamp was lit in the room, but it was still very dark. In front of the bed in a thin rocking chair sat a petite woman, barely moving save for breath and a casual rock in the chair, her eyes fixed on the wall where hung a painting of dandelions.
“Hello, mom. Any news from the police?”
“There has never been news.”
“Well, I have brought someone here to help. The Detective Sherlock Holmes. Have you heard of him?”
“Of course.” She said uninterested.
“Not to worry Andrew, if you don’t mind I would just like to ask the questions I have and then we can leave her be. I’ll not waste on idle talk.”
“Fine, go ahead.”
“Mrs Prenger, I am as your son has stated, Sherlock Holmes. I will try and be as brief as possible. Now, as your son has described, two weeks ago, on a Thursday, your husband left from this home as he normally would to walk his way to his office. He did not arrive that day or any day since. You did not fully become aware of his absence until that Friday when your son’s telegram arrived informing you that your husband had not met with his typical appointment at the tavern that evening. Is this all correct?”
“Then might I ask: was it typical of him to stay out on Thursdays?”
“No, it was not.”
“Then why would you not already be alarmed when the next morning came and he was not present?”
“I simply did not linger on any possibilities. He was absent, yes. But his Thursday is one full of hearty spirits and accompaniment by those which I have little respect for despite their professions. The thought that he could have simply had a longer night than usual was not so foreign an idea.”
“Your husband, has he any enemies that you would know of?”
“As I told the police, all patients eventually become an enemy of their physician, Mr Holmes.”
“And you heard nothing of note after your husband walked out the door that Thursday?”
“Nothing to recall. There is always the sound of carriages and horse and such at that hour. I heard nothing out of character.”
“Nor would you, I’m sure. Lastly, can I bother you to direct me to your husband’s clothes, where he keeps his things?”
“In the armoire, behind me. Though I can’t imagine what you might find in there.”
“Perhaps nothing, though I am of a thought to check nonetheless.”
Holmes got to his feet, moved past Andrew and pulled open the doors to the armoire. He shuffled through the suits, and found an empty hanger toward the end.
“He has a suit for each day I take it?”
“Yes.” She replied.
“And his shoes, they are a fine shine, leather bound, I see a spot in the midst of the black that is missing, so I take it that he was indeed wearing black shoes that morning. And that morning, do you recall what it was that he was wearing?”
“Not particularly, something of beige I believe.”
“No waist coat then, perhaps?”
“I do not recall, I’m sorry.”
“I see a fewNorfolkhere. Was he typical to outdoor fare? Hunting perhaps?”
“Not often, no. There was a time, but that was some many years ago.”
“Your husband was quite meticulous about order was he not? I see that everything is organized here. Suits for work,Norfolktweed far to the right, perhaps cricket? Yes, I think so, the elbows are flexing just so. And it seems that his coats too are in order of length, and I would think that perhaps he has a coat of near ankle length, am I correct?”
“I have seen it before, yes.”
“And tell me, what was the weather on that Thursday?”
She paused for a moment. “I, honestly I cannot recall. Was it sunny? Perhaps foggy? I simply don’t know Mr Holmes?”
“Ah, and sadly I was indisposed that day as well two weeks ago. I have no knowledge of the weather that morning. But, as I have already commented to your son, it has not rained in two weeks, and I think it safe to say that it was of moderate temperament outside even in the morning for the fog often stagnates the air, and the weather today is quite fair indeed. Well, I believe that I have seen all that needs to be seen here.”
“So, what are you thinking, Holmes?” Andrew asked.
“Deduction is not a guessing game. I would have to see into this a little more before I would venture a happening of events, but I think it safe to say that as it happens, your father, Andrew, and your Husband, Mrs Prenger, knew that he would not be coming home that evening.”
At this the eyes that had lingered on the painting turned to look at the tall man, a slight smirk of enjoyment upon his face.
“How do you get about figuring on that, Holmes?” Andrew asked.
“Fairly simple. The coat of course, a near full body coat on a day that did not necessitate one implied that he was either expecting rain later, or that he knew he would perhaps be in need of it wherever he was off to. He owns a top hat, but I see that it’s still here, though it appears that a bowler is missing. He has a full set of suits for days of the week each accompanied by a matching waistcoat. I found there to be one less waistcoat and trousers where I believe Thursday would fall in the order, as I mentioned him to be most meticulous about order. The shoes as well are in order, a black pair missing, and them all being of a most distinct leather and of course polish that I caught the hint of on the street earlier.”
“Well, I guess that’s possible but I think there are any number of possibilities that wouldn’t just get my mother’s hopes up.”
“Not so many as to fit what facts we’ve already collected. And wearing a bowler to the office, a man such as him, no, I think not. HisNorfolkare far more suited to the bowler, its simple aesthetics.”
“Mr Holmes?” came the voice of a woman suddenly welled up with emotion. “You would not tease at a woman’s loss, would you? I could not bare more than I have already on this matter.”
“I have only told you what I have deduced thus far, and am afraid I can promise nothing on the state of the man himself. Though with time, I will know more, of which your son will gladly keep you informed I’m sure.” Holmes gestured as he looked to Andrew. “I thank you for your time though, Mrs Prenger. We will be off.”
“Thank you Mr Holmes!” she said as she dabbed at tears in her eyes.
“Actually, there is one last thing I might ask.” Holmes said just before passing out the doorway. “That painting, I take it was not your choice of print?”
“No, it was Thomas’, he said that it reminded him of home.”
“Indeed. I thank you again. Come, Andrew, the day is already getting away from us!” Holmes expounded as he took lengthy strides from the hallway and down the stairs.
Andrew gave a quick hug to his mother before fumbling out the door and down the stairs where he found Holmes already outside past the gate and heading down the side walk. He shut the door, and locked it with his key before shuffling as quickly as he could after Sherlock Holmes who seemed to have quite a spring in his step.
“Where to next, Holmes?” Andrew asked out of breath as he caught up to the other’s wide steps.
“To the post I believe. I take it you have at least a contact or two from your father’s office? I’ll have you send letter to your father’s receptionist, we’ll be needing to see his office I think.”
“I’ll think that won’t be until tomorrow before I receive a response though, so what next?”
“To the tavern then, Jackson and Daniels, I know of it. Not in the best area, but not far either.”
“Excellent, I could go for a drink about now.” Andrew responded with relief.
“Oh, but of course I’ll have you remember that for now, we are on a case dear boy. You are to remain sober for its remaining entirety. Come now, while we are still young!”
The spring that had suddenly found itself in Andrew’s step just as quickly disappeared as Holmes continued to walk farther ahead.