London was renowned for its fog, but it should've been known for its rain. The rain was positively miserable, beating down upon the streets with no obvious remorse. It was a dreary atmosphere to return to, having just come from the Continent after several months in France. "Oh, blimey! This rain is such a nuisance," I exclaimed. I ducked into an alley and opened my umbrella, being careful not to drop the amulet I had retrieved from the street several minutes ago. As I did so, I became aware of a soft cry, wafting toward me from the far side of the alley. "Is anyone there?"
No one answered me, but I walked over nevertheless. If I have one weakness, it would be my bullheadedness, for sure. Well, I had almost reached the source of the sound when I realized it was a small child, huddled in a corner. "Hello there," I said. "What's wrong?"
The child, a little girl, didn't answer me at first. "I must see Mr. Blaylock Mook, the famous detective! I've had something of great value stolen," she said.
Blaylock was an old acquaintance of mine; in fact we were tenants of the same quarters on Baker Street. I had actually been on my way back home when I encountered the girl, anyway. While I couldn't fathom what sort of mystery a little girl might have for the great Blaylock Mook to solve, I resolved myself to take her to him. I then voiced these thoughts to her.
"Oh, thank you so much, sir," she said. "My name is Elizabeth D'Abo."
Well, if there were to be introductions... "And mine is Dr. Walter Whitman. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss D'Abo. If you'd take my hand, I'll escort you to see Mr. Mook!"
She did as I asked, and I waited for a cab to come by. Within several minutes, I could see a horse and carriage through the moisture, and I whistled for it. After we had piled ourselves in and given directions, we were on our way.
The old landlady was positively delighted to see me again, and she graciously accompanied the child and I into the old flat, number 221B. "Mr. Mook," she began.
"Two visitors, I suppose," called a figure with his back to us, hunched over a lab table in the distance. "Well, come in, Dr. Whitman! You also, little girl."
I rushed up to greet my old friend, but he cautioned me off with a finger. "Just a moment, Doctor," he said, queerly. "I'm performing an experiment with quite important implications, and I can't allow the rain to disturb the results."
"By Jove," I declared, "How on earth did you know it was raining?"
He continued mixing and mashing substances in a small bowl, without looking up. "Simple deduction, dear Whitman. I could hear the patter of water dripping from your coats after you hung them up. I could hear your coughing and wheezing as soon as you stepped in, and since I know you to be a man of good health, it proved to me the environment outside. Also, there was the matter of the thunder, which was quite loud, I must say."
As usual, I was amazed by his genius. "And how did you I know it was I calling on you, or that I was accosted by a young lady?"
Mook rose to his full height and squinted his eyes. "Time has surely worn on you, old boy! Has everything you ever observed alongside me gone for naught?" He shook his head and resumed his work, carefully.
I took a seat and offered some tea to Elizabeth. She sat watching Blaylock at work, in awe. "Mr. Blaylock," she said. "I have desperate need for your assistance."
He twisted a knob and let a drop of some chemical substance fall upon the mush he had prepared in the bowl. He focused his complete attention on the material, as it changed from crimson to obsidian. "Blast!" he exclaimed. Finally, he removed himself from behind the table and came to meet us. "What can I do for you?" he asked.
"I lost a pendant of great value. I think it may have been stolen."
Blaylock took a seat himself and whipped out a pipe. "My dear girl," he said, lighting up, "You must provide more details than that scant lot!"
"Well," she said, "It was a heart-shaped pendant that hung on a gold chain, which I have here. It's worth more money than I've ever had, and it was a gift from my parents, God bless them. I think one of the children at the Home for Orphaned Girls may have lifted it."
Blaylock received the chain, as the girl offered it to him, and he turned it over, inspecting it. Stretching it to it's limit and holding it to the lamp, he observed every nick, every scratch, every feature it bore. "Diabolical," he breathed. "I believe we are looking for a short, dark-haired girl with oily fingers, but not possessing long fingernails. She has a bad habit of stuttering, and she's probably around nine years old. This, I fear, is the work of a fiendishly clever mind. The amulet was lost in the night, was it not?"
"Yes," replied Elizabeth in surprise.
"Why, Blaylock, how on earth did you deduce that?" I exclaimed.
"Simple reasoning, Doctor. Let's leave the explanation for later, shall we? Time is of the essence, and we must get to the Home before valuable clues are lost. Make haste, Doctor! Elizabeth, you must stay here and wait for us to return. I don't expect this will take us longer than an hour."
With that, Blaylock grabbed his trench coat and his hat. "It's no longer raining, Whitman, but it will resume at half-past, so bring along all your gear."
I shook my head as we headed out the door, astounded once more by Blaylock's intuitive ability.
Mook sent for a cab, which came by immediately and took us to the dilapidated Home for Orphaned Girls. "How will we know where her room is?" I asked Mook, as we arrived.
Mook adjusted his cap and took in all the particulars of the building, slowly, before replying. "Her necklace, Whitman! My cursory examination not only provided a somewhat incomplete description of our suspect, but also the location of young Miss D'Abo's room."
That made perfect sense. The dim street lamps were scarcely burning, providing little light to aid Mook's examination. I remained behind, allowing my friend to go about his business, as he bent to the ground and sniffed the lawn, undoubtedly in search of clues.
"I must say, they should cage their dogs," he muttered. Presently, he rose up, apparently satisfied with his investigation, and climbed the stairs briskly. "Come, Whitman, let's greet the little beasts inside."
I followed right along, glancing back at the lawn.
We found ourselves in a cramped lobby, with children of all sizes running here and themre; amid all the confusion, there was what seemed to be a clerk of some sort. "Excuse me," Mook said to the lady, "I am Mr. Blaylock Mook, and this is my assistant, Dr. Walter Whitman. We are on a case involving a certain Elizabeth D'Abo, and would like permission to browse her room."
The lady shifted her attention from the children to my partner, and in the most nasal voice I believe I have ever heard, said, "The children don't have sep'rate rooms, gov. There are wards that hold about thirty girls each, if thot's what you're looking for."
Blaylock nodded his thanks and went further inside. "Look here, Doctor," he whispered. "The ward we are seeking is upstairs along the wall facing the street. I am quite sure I observed one of its windows when we arrived in the cab. Follow me."
Up more stairs we went, an awful creaking accompanying us. We went down a short corridor and Mook turned left through a wide door, so I followed suit. Not a soul was seen by us in the entire ward, though it was obviously inhabited. I could tell this by the mussed-up beds lining each side of the ward. They were more cots than anything, with only a single bedsheet upon each.
Blaylock, in his usual manner, walked slowly and deliberately down the space between the rows of cots. Occasionally, he would stop, bend down, and peer beneath one of the metal frames, then abruptly rise again and resume his pace. Finally he came to rest before one particular cot that wasn't turned down. "This," he said, standing in the pale window light, "is what we are in search of."
"Ah," I replied.
He carefully brushed his fingers over the pillow, ever so lightly, lest he disturb some unseen fragment of evidence. "Yes....mm-hm...of course..." he mumbled, as he continued his examination along the sheets, on the floor beside the cot, and upon the window sill nearby. "Most certainly this is where she slept, Whitman." He then produced what appeared to be an ebony hair. "This is most crucial evidence. It was left here by none other than our thief. Tell me, Whitman, what do you know of our thief based on what you can see here?"
I must confess I was caught quite off my guard by his inquiry. I looked around the settings once more, and found it did not help. I had been with Blaylock so long, surely, one would expect I would have picked up some of his flair for observation. "I can't notice anything out of the ordinary," I said.
"Yes," Blaylock said, "So I see. Well, first we observe that the thief took special care to wipe the floor, leaving no dust, no trace of her. The window sill is thoroughly clean; once again, preventing us from discovering any clue as to the size or shape of her feet, or the type of shoe she wore. As I said before, completely devious. If I didn't know better, I'd say we were dealing with a professional. However, my better instincts have won out in this matter, for look here: there are fingerprints, smudged mind you, along the edge of the window frame, probably put there on the outside of the window. When we were outside, I observed a series of indentations in the ground, part of the rather poor landscaping. It is my belief that the thief used these indentations to mask the placement of a ladder, for reaching Miss D'Abo's window."
"Quite clever, indeed," I said.
"Undoubtedly. Let us go now and speak to that clerk once more. I believe we may be able to find our thief and recover the pendant."
We made our way downstairs, through the mess of children, back to the oak desk in front. Mook explained his desire to the clerk, and she, in turn, left the room to fulfill his request.
"I have asked her to bring out a certain Mary Arthan. She is the thief." he explained.
I knew better than to ask how Mook had discovered who the thief was. He was omniscient, after all, and I respected that.
After waiting several moments, the clerk returned with a young, dark-haired girl in tow. The girl was not a fair sight at all; she needed a bath at the least. Mook wasted no time, and pointed his finger toward the girl. "You!" he exclaimed. "Please return the pendant to me, and you will not be punished."
The girl turned her head and looked at the clerk. "Wa-What pendant?" she asked.
"Don't play these games," Blaylock warned. "I have tracked you down, using my wonderful powers of deduction and brilliant intellect. You are short, you have dark hair, and, let me see here...yes! oily fingers, but trim fingernails. Your stuttering has already manifest itself, and you are, of course, nine years old; all as I deduced earlier." He stepped back in triumph.
"But s-sir, I have done na-nothing wrong!" she said, tears streaming down her face.
I couldn't bear to watch this spectacle anymore. "Perhaps, my friend, we should return to the flat and see how Elizabeth is doing. We did promise to return within the hour."
Mook grunted and growled, certain he had found who he was looking for, but with some prodding, he relented. "Very well," he said, "We will leave. But," he added, "I will be back." And with that, we hastily retreated and made our way home.
I watched the hansom retreat from Baker Street as Mook moped while opening the door. "We had her within our grasp, Whitman," he exclaimed. "Not even Professor Nefariarity or Colonel Morose could elude my grasp as she did. She used her youth as a cloak, and she was successful!"
We entered the sitting room, and I was drawn to the fireplace and its radiated warmth; an added benefit was the escape it offered from Mook's self-disparagement. As I seated myself, I heard a soft yawn, and looked up to see Elizabeth D'Abo coming from the guest bed room. "Did you find it?" she asked with youthful eagerness, having awaken from a nap.
"I'm I afraid we haven't," I replied. "But don't you worry. Mr. Blaylock Mook will retrieve it for you if it takes him to the ends of the earth!"
Mook himself seemed oblivious to our conversation, even our presence. His eyes were cloudy, introverted, as they often were when he was thinking intensely. Further to my amazement, he grasped his violin and began to play it, an action he took only during his deepest of thought. I continued to talk with Elizabeth beside the blaze, when Mook began to pace.
"Doctor, come here. I need an exercise to divert my attention from this case."
I excused myself from Elizabeth's company and stood next to Mook.
"I'm going to observe you and see if I can determine what you were doing while you've been away from Baker Street," he said. I knew better than to interrupt the great Blaylock Mook when he began one of these frenzies, so I just went along with it. "You have been to France, and stayed in a rather dilapidated hotel for a fortnight. It was rather warm there, and, aha, you even saw the Eiffel Tower. You must have been attending some sort of l`ecture on medicine, and you were required to receive an inoculation."
"Good heavens, Mook," in interjected. "It's all true! You are simply too much!"
Mook shook his head. "We seem to go through this almost every case, Whitman. I am simply drawing conclusions from my observations. Halloa! What's this?" he said, reaching into my front vest pocket. His hand withdrew a golden amulet, and Elizabeth shrieked in recognition.
"Oh, you've found it, you've found it!"
Mook glanced at me rather queerly and handed the pendant to our charge. "What were you doing with it, Whitman?" he asked.
I was as surprised as anyone else. "Why, I picked it up in the street as I was coming here earlier!" I explained.
"Exactly as I suspected from the start," he said. "All's well that ends well."
And I had to agree with him. He was, after all, the greatest mind of our time.
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