The Three Garridebs
“This one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927). Holmes receives a letter from a Nathan Garrideb of 136 Little Ryder Street, asking for help in a most peculiar quest. He is looking for another man with his unusual surname, for it will mean a $5 million inheritance for him. He has been approached by another man, John Garrideb of Kansas, who says that he needs to find others with the same last name.
The Three Garridebs
The case of the three Garridebs began late in June 1902, soon after the end of the South African War. Sherlock Holmes had just spent several days in bed, as was his habit from time to time, but that morning he came out of his bedroom with a pile of handwritten papers in his hand and a look of amusement in his grey eyes.
‘My dear Watson, here is a chance for you to make some money,’ he said. ‘Have you ever heard the name Garrideb?’
I admitted that I had not.
‘Well, if you can find a man called Garrideb, both you and he will be rich.’
‘How can that be so?’ I asked.
‘Ah, that’s a long story – rather an amusing one, too. Quite unusual, in fact. A man is coming to see me about it in a few minutes, so I won’t begin the story until he arrives. But Garrideb is the name we want.’
The telephone book was on the table beside me, and I turned over the pages in rather a hopeless hunt for a Garrideb. But to my surprise there was this strange name in its correct place.
‘Here you are, Holmes! Here it is!’
Holmes took the book from my hand.
‘ “Garrideb, N.,” he read, “‘136 Little Ryder Street.” I am sorry to disappoint you, Watson, but this Garrideb is the person who is employing me. That is the address on his letter. We want another Garrideb to match him.’
Just then our housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, came in and handed me a card.
‘Why, here is another!’ I cried.‘The first name is different.This is John Garrideb, a lawyer from Kansas in America.’
Holmes smiled as he looked at the card. ‘I am afraid you must make one more effort,Watson,’ he said.‘I already know about this gentleman, though I certainly did not expect to see him here this morning. But he will be able to tell US a good deal that I want to know.’
A moment later he was in the room. Mr John Garrideb was a short, powerful man with a round fresh face. It was easy to believe that he was an American businessman or lawyer. He looked rather childlike, and had a broad, fixed smile on his face. But his eyes were surprising. I have rarely seen a pair of human eyes which were brighter, quicker or sharper. His speech was American, but not very noticeably so.
‘Mr Holmes?’ he asked, looking at each of US in turn. ‘Ah, yes! The photographs of you in the newspapers are not unlike you, sir, if I may say so. I believe you have had a letter from another Garrideb – Mr Nathan Garrideb – haven’t you?’
‘Please sit down,’ said Sherlock Holmes. ‘I think we have a good deal to discuss.’ He picked up the pile of papers.‘You are, of course, the Mr John Garrideb who is mentioned in these legal documents. But surely you have been in England for some tune?’
‘Why do you say that, Mr Holmes?’ A sudden look of suspicion appeared in the man’s eyes.
‘Because all your clothes are English.’
Mr Garrideb laughed uncomfortably. ‘I’ve read of your clever tricks as a detective, Mr Holmes, but I never thought I would be the subject of them myself. How do you know my clothes are English?’
‘By the shoulders of your coat, the toes of your shoes – how could anyone doubt it?’
‘Well, well, I had no idea that I looked so much like an Englishman. But I came to England on business some time ago, and so – as you say – nearly all my clothes were bought in London. But I suppose your time is valuable, and I am not here to talk about fashions! Please let US now discuss those papers which you have in your hand.’
It was clear that in some way Holmes had annoyed our visitor, who now had a much less friendly expression on his round childlike face.
‘Have patience, Mr Garrideb!’ said my friend gently. ‘Dr Watson could tell you that these little tricks of mine are sometimes very useful in the end, in solving mysteries. But why hasn’t Mr Nathan Garrideb come with you?’
‘Why did he bring you into the affair at all?’ asked our visitor, with sudden anger. ‘What have you to do with it? Here was a bit of professional business between two gentlemen — and now one of them is employing a private detective! I saw him this morning, and he told me of the stupid thing he had done – and that’s why I’m here. But I do feel annoyed about it!’
‘Nobody suspects you of anything, Mr Garrideb. Mr Nathan Garrideb is only anxious to achieve something which, I believe, is equally important to both of you. He knew that I had means of
getting information, and therefore it was natural that he should come to me.’
The anger gradually disappeared from our visitor’s face.
‘Well, I’m beginning to understand now,’ he said. ‘When I went to see him this morning and he told me he had written to a private detective, I just asked for your address and came along immediately. I don’t want the police mixed up in a private matter. But if you are happy just to help US find the man, there can be no harm in that.’
‘Well, that is exactly what I am going to do,’ said Holmes. ‘And now, sir, as you are here, you had better give US a clear account of the whole affair. My friend here, Dr Watson, knows nothing of the details.’
Mr Garrideb looked at me in a way that was not particularly friendly.
‘Need he know?’ he asked.
‘We usually work together,’ said Holmes.
‘Well, there’s no reason why it should be kept secret. I’ll tell you the main facts, then. If you came from Kansas I would not need to explain to you who Alexander Hamilton Garrideb was.
‘He made his money by buying and selling houses and land, and afterwards he made a second fortune in the Chicago wheat market. Then he spent the money in buying more land, along the Arkansas River, west of Fort Dodge — and in the end he owned a piece of land as big as Kent or Sussex here in England. It’s sheep-farming land, and forest and mining land, and land for growing crops on — in fact it’s more or less every sort of land that brings dollars to the man that owns it.
‘He had no relatives – or, if he had, I never heard of any. But he took a kind of pride in his unusual name. That was what brought us together. I was a lawyer at Topeka, and one day I had a visit from the old man, who was very excited about meeting another man with his own name. And he was determined to find out if there were any more Garridebs in the world. “Find me another!” he said. I told him I was a busy man and could not spend my life wandering round the world in search of
Garridebs. “But that is exactly what you are going to do if everything goes according to my plan,” he replied. I thought he was joking, but I soon discovered that he was extremely serious.
‘He died less than a year later, and after his death a will was found. It was the strangest will that had ever been seen in the State of Kansas. His property was divided into three parts, and I was to have one on condition that I found two Garridebs who would share the rest. Each of the three shares is worth five million dollars, but until I have found two other Garridebs none of the money is to be paid out.
‘It was such an opportunity for me that I simply left my practice as a lawyer and set out to look for Garridebs.There is not a single one in the United States. I searched the whole country very thoroughly, sir, but discovered no Garridebs at all. Then I tried England, where I found the name of Mr Nathan Garrideb in the London telephone book. I went to see the gentleman two days ago and explained the whole matter to him. But, Eke myself, he is alone in the world, with some female relatives, but no men. According to the old man’s will, the three Garridebs must all be adult men. So you see we still need one more man, and if you can help us to find him we will be very ready to pay your charges.’
‘Well,Watson,’ said Holmes, with a smile. ‘I said this was rather an amusing case-, didn’t I? Mr
Garrideb, I think the first thing you should do is to put a small advertisement in the newspapers.’
‘I have done that already, Mr Holmes. There were no replies.’
‘Oh, how disappointing! Well, it is certainly a very interesting little problem. I may look into it for you if I have time. It is interesting, Mr Garrideb, that you should come from Topeka. I had a friend there who used to write to me – he is dead now – old Dr Lysander Starr, who was a member of the town council in 1890.’
‘Good old Dr Starr!’ said our visitor. ‘His name is still honoured. Well, Mr Holmes, I suppose the only thing we can do is to report to you and let you know how we progress. You will probably hear from US within a day or two.’ Then the American left.
Holmes had lit his pipe, and he sat for some time with a strange smile on his face.
‘Well, what do you think about all that?’ I asked at last.
‘I am wondering, Watson – just wondering!’
Holmes took his pipe from his lips.
‘I was wondering, Watson, what this man could possibly hope to achieve by telling US such a large number of lies. I nearly asked him what his real purpose was — there are times when a sudden, sharp attack is the best way of dealing with such a person – but I decided that it would be better to let him think he had tricked us. Here is a man with an English coat and English trousers, both showing signs of having been worn for at least a year: but according to his pile of papers, and according also to his own account, he is an American from Kansas who has only recently arrived in London. There have been no advertisements about Garridebs.You know that I miss nothing of that sort. The small advertisements have often been useful to me in my cases, and I could not possibly have failed to notice one Eke that. I never knew a Dr Lysander Starr of Topeka. Almost everything our visitor said was a he. I think he really is an American, but he has been in London for years, and his voice has gradually become less and less American. What is his aim, then? What is the purpose of this strange search for Garridebs? The problem is worth our attention. Clearly this man is a criminal, but he is a strange and imaginative one. We must now find out if our other
Garrideb is a liar too. Just ring him up, Watson, please.’
I did so, and heard a weak voice, rather like that of a goat, at the other end of the line.
‘Yes, yes, I am Mr Nathan Garrideb. Is Mr Holmes there? I should very much Eke to have a word with Mr Holmes.’
My friend took the telephone from me and I heard his half of the conversation that followed.
‘Yes, he has been here. I believe you don’t know him… How long?… Only two days!… Yes, yes, of course, to receive five million dollars would be very nice. Will you be at home this evening? I suppose Mr John Garrideb will not be there?… Very good, we will come then. I would rather see you in his absence … Dr Watson will come with me… Yes, in your letter you mentioned you did not go out often… Well, we shaft be with you at about six o’clock. You need not mention it to the American lawyer… Very good. Goodbye!’
On that lovely spring evening, even Little Ryder Street, off the Edgware Road (in the rather dull area near Tyburn, where men and women were once cruelly hanged in public), looked golden and beautiful in the setting sun.The particular house to which we were directed was a large, oldfashioned eighteenth-century brick building. On the ground floor there were two tall, wide windows: these belonged to the very large living room of the person we had come to see, who had only the ground floor of the house. As we went up to the door Holmes pointed to the name GARRIDEB on a small plate.
‘That name plate has been there for years, Watson,’ he remarked. ‘Its surface is quite worn, and it has lost its original colour. So at least Garrideb is his real name!’
The house had a common hall and staircase, and there were a number of names painted in the hall. Some of these names were those of offices; others were those of private persons. No families lived in the house; the people who did Eve there were unmarried gentlemen of independent habits. Mr Nathan Garrideb opened the door for US himself, explaining that the housekeeper left at four o’clock. He was a very tall, thin man with a bent back. He seemed to be about sixty years old. He had no hair on his head, and the skin of his face looked dull and dead. It was easy to see that he never took any exercise. He wore large round glasses and had a small beard: but though he looked rather strange, he seemed pleasant.
The room was as strange as Mr Nathan Garrideb himself. It looked like a kind of shop. It was both broad and deep and there were cupboards and glass cases everywhere, crowded with old bones and pieces of stone. On either side of the door there stood a case of flying insects, pinned onto cards. All kinds of things were scattered on a large table in the centre of the room. Among them I noticed several powerful magnifying glasses. As I looked round, I was surprised at the number of different subjects Mr Garrideb was interested in. Here was a case of ancient coins. There was a collection of tools from the Stone Age. On a shelf behind the table I saw a row of model heads of monkeys or ancient men, with names such as ‘Neanderthal’,‘Heidelberg’ and ‘Cromagnon’ written on cards below them. As he stood in front of US now, he held a piece of soft leather in his right hand with which he was polishing a coin.
‘From Syracuse. And of the best period,’ he explained, holding it up. ‘The quality became much worse later. In my opinion there are no finer coins than these Syracusan ones, though some people prefer those from Alexandria. You will find a chair there, Mr Holmes. One moment, please: I will just put those bones somewhere else. And you, sir – ah, yes, Dr Watson – would you mind putting that Japanese flowerpot out of your way? You see round me all the little interests of my life. My doctor is always telling me I ought to take more exercise, but why should I go out? There are so many things to keep me here! Just to make a proper list of all the things in one of these cupboards would take at least three months.’ Holmes looked round him with interest.
‘But do you never go out?’ he asked.
‘Hardly ever. Now and then I take a carriage and go and buy some new things for my collection, but I very rarely leave this room for any other reason. I am not very strong, and my scientific studies keep me very busy. But you can imagine, Mr Holmes, what a shock – what a pleasant shock – it was for me when I heard of this piece of good luck. Only one more Garrideb is needed to make the affair complete, and surely we can find one. I had a brother, but he is dead, and women relatives do not count. But there must be other Garridebs in the world. I had heard that you handled strange cases, and that was why I wrote to you. Of course, this American gentleman is quite right, and I should have taken his advice first. But I acted with the best intentions.’
‘I think you acted very wisely,’ said Holmes. ‘But are you really anxious to become the owner of a large piece of land along the Arkansas River in America?’
‘Certainly not, sir. Nothing could make me leave my collection. But this gentleman, Mr John Garrideb, has promised to buy my share of the property from me as soon as we have become the owners of the Garrideb land. Five million dollars was the amount of money he mentioned. There are several unusual things on the market at the present moment which I need for my collection, but which I cannot buy because I lack a few hundred pounds. Just think what I could do with five million dollars! I already have the beginnings of a great national collection!’
The eyes behind his glasses were shining. It was very clear that Mr Nathan Garrideb was ready to take any amount of trouble to find the third Garrideb.
‘I just called to meet you, Mr Garrideb,’ said Holmes, ‘and there is no reason why I should interrupt your studies for more than a few minutes. I Eke to be in personal touch with those I work for. There are very few questions I need to ask you. I have your letter, with its very clear account, in my pocket, and I heard more of the matter when the American gentleman called. I believe that until this week you had no idea of his existence?’
‘That is so. He called last Tuesday.’
‘Did he tell you of his visit to me today?’
‘Yes, he came straight here after seeing you. He had been very angry before that.’
‘Why should he be angry?’
‘He seemed to think that my employing a detective was an insult to him as a man of honour. But he was quite cheerful again when he returned.’
‘Did he suggest any course of action?’
‘No, sir, he did not.’
‘Has he received, or asked for, any money from you?’
‘No, sir, never!’
‘And you can see no possible purpose he may have?’
‘No, none, Mr Holmes; except what he has told me – to find a third Garrideb.’
‘Did you tell him of our appointment this evening?’
‘Yes, sir, I did.’
Holmes sat in silence for a few moments. I could see that the affair was still a mystery to him.
‘Have you any very valuable things in your collection?’
‘No, sir. I am not a rich man. It is a good collection, but not a very valuable one.’
‘You have no fear of thieves?’
‘None at all.’
‘How long have you lived in these rooms?’
‘For nearly five years.’
Holmes’s questions were interrupted by a loud knocking at the door. As soon as it was opened, the American lawyer burst excitedly into the room.
‘Here you are!’ he cried, waving a newspaper high in the air. ‘Mr Nathan Garrideb, you are a rich man, sir! Our business is happily finished and all is well. As for you, Mr Holmes, we can only say we are sorry to have put you to all this trouble for nothing.’
He handed the newspaper to the old man, who stood reading an advertisement which the American had marked. Holmes and I leaned forward and read it over his shoulder. This was it:
MAKER OF FARM MACHINERY
Steam and hand plows, farmers’ carts and all other appliances
Grosvenor Buildings, Aston, Birmingham
Excellent!’ cried our excited host. ‘So now we have found our third man.’
‘I had begun making inquiries in Birmingham,’ said the American, ‘and I have just been sent this advertisement from a local paper. We must hurry and get in touch with this Mr Howard Garrideb. I have already written to him to say that you will see him in his office tomorrow afternoon at four o’clock.’
‘You want me to see him?’ said Mr Nathan Garrideb, as if this suggestion were a great shock to him.
‘Well, what’s your opinion, Mr Holmes?’ asked Mr John Garrideb. ‘Don’t you think it would be better for him to go? Here am I, a wandering American with a strange story. Why should Mr Howard Garrideb believe what I tell him? But you, Mr Garrideb, are an Englishman with an honourable position in the world, and he will certainly take what you say seriously. I would go to Birmingham with you if you wished, but I have a very busy day tomorrow – and I could easily come and join you there later if you needed me.’
‘Why, I have not made such a journey for years!’ said Mr Nathan Garrideb.
‘It is the easiest little journey in the world, Mr Garrideb. I have already found out the time of your train. You leave at twelve o’clock and should be in Birmingham soon after two. Then you can come back home in the evening. You only have to see this man, explain the matter, and get a signed statement of his existence. Good heavens!’ he added a little angrily. ‘Considering that I’ve come all the way from America, it’s surely a very small thing to ask you to do – to travel a hundred miles in order to find the last of the three Garridebs!’
‘Mr John Garrideb is quite right,’ said Holmes. ‘I think what he says is very true.’
Mr Nathan Garrideb’s back seemed to become more bent than ever as he said sadly: ‘Well, I will go if I must. It is certainly hard for me to refuse you anything, Mr Garrideb, considering the hope that you have brought into my life.’
‘Then that is agreed,’ said Holmes, ‘and no doubt you will let me have a report as soon as you can.’
‘I’ll arrange that,’ said the American. ‘Well,’ he added, looking at his watch, ‘I must go now. I’ll call here tomorrow,’ he said to Mr Nathan Garrideb, ‘and see you off at the station. Are you coming my way, Mr Holmes? No? Well, then, goodbye! We may have good news for you tomorrow night.’
I noticed that my friend seemed happier when the American left the room. The thoughtful look had disappeared from his face.
‘I wish I could examine your collection, Mr Garrideb,’ he said. ‘In my profession all sorts of strange bits of knowledge can be useful and this room of yours is full of information.’
Mr Garrideb seemed to shine with pleasure and his eyes were bright behind his big glasses.
‘I had always heard, sir, that you were a very intelligent man,’ he said. ‘I could show you everything now, if you have the time.’
‘Unfortunately,’ Holmes answered, ‘I have not. But your collections are all so well arranged that they hardly need your personal explanation. If I called here tomorrow, I suppose you would not object to my looking round in your absence?’
‘Of course not! You would be very welcome. My rooms will, of course, be shut up, but Mrs
Saunders is always in the house until four o’clock and would let you in with her key.’
‘Well, it so happens that I am free tomorrow afternoon. If you would kindly explain to Mrs Saunders that I will be here, I would be very grateful. – Oh, Mr Garrideb, what is the name of the company through which you rented these rooms?’ Garrideb was surprised at this sudden question.
‘Holloway and Steele, in the Edgware Road. Why do you ask?’
‘Because I am interested in the history of houses, Mr Garrideb,’ Holmes replied, laughing. ‘I was wondering if this one was built in the days of Queen Anne, or of King George the Fừst.’
‘Oh, King George, without any doubt.’
‘Really? I should have thought it was built a little earlier. But I can easily find out for certain. Well, goodbye, Mr Garrideb. I wish you success in your journey to Birmingham!’
We saw the property company’s offices as we walked along the Edgware Road, but they were closed for the day, so we made our way back to Baker Street. It was not until after dinner that Holmes mentioned the Garrideb affair again.
‘Our little problem is nearly solved,’ he said.‘No doubt you too have worked it out in your own mind.’
‘I don’t understand it at all, Holmes,’ I replied.
‘Everything will be clear tomorrow. Did you notice anything strange about that advertisement?’
‘I saw that the word “plough” was wrongly spelt.’
‘Oh, you did notice that, did you? Well done, Watson: you improve all the time. Yes, “plow” is bad English but good American.The printer had copied the advertisement exactly as he received it. It was in fact an American advertisement, but we were expected to believe that it was put in by an Englishman. How do you explain that?’
I can only suppose that this American lawyer put the advertisement in himself. But I have no idea what his aim in doing so can have been.’
‘Well, there are three possible explanations. One thing is very clear: he wanted good old Mr Nathan
Garrideb to go off to Birmingham. Of course I could have told the old man that his journey was useless. But I decided it would be better to let him go, and allow the affair to develop according to the intentions of the Kansas lawyer. Tomorrow, Watson — tomorrow will be a day of action!’
Holmes was up and out early the next morning. When he returned at lunchtime I noticed he had a very serious expression on his face.
‘This is a more dangerous affair than I had expected, Watson,’ he said. ‘I have to warn you, though I know that the danger will only be an additional attraction to you! I think I know my Watson by now. But there is danger, and you should realize this.’
‘Well, this will not be the first danger that we have shared, Holmes. And I hope it will not be the last! What is the particular danger this time?’
‘I have found out who Mr John Garrideb, the Kansas lawyer, really is. He is the murderer, “Killer” Evans – an evil and terrible man.’
‘I am afraid I have never heard of him.’
‘Ah, it is not part of your profession to keep these details of the history of crime in your memory! I have been down to see our friend Lestrade at Scotland Yard. The London police may lack imagination, but they are remarkably thorough, and I had an idea that I might get on the track of our American friend “Mr John Garrideb” by looking through their records. I soon found a photograph of his round, smiling face. The names under it were James Winter, Morecroft, and Killer Evans.’ Holmes pulled out an envelope from his pocket.‘I noted down a few of the other points about him. He is forty-four years old. He was born in Chicago. He is known to have shot three men in the United States, but he got out of prison by means of political influence. He came to London in 1893. In January 1895 he shot a man in a quarrel over a card game in a nightclub in the Waterloo Road. The man died, but he was shown to have started the quarrel. The dead man was Rodger Prescott, who was famous as a forger in Chicago. Killer Evans was sent to prison, but came out last year. Since then the police have been watching his movements, but he seems to have been leading an honest life. He is a very dangerous man, usually carries a gun, and is not afraid to fire it. That is our man, Watson!’
‘But what is his aim in this Garrideb affair?’ I asked.
‘Well, that is becoming clearer. I have been to the property office. Mr Nathan Garrideb, as he told US, has been at Little Ryder Street for five years. The rooms were empty for a year before he moved in. Before that, they were let to a mysterious gentleman called Waldron, who was well remembered at the office. He suddenly disappeared and nothing more was heard of him. He was a tall, very dark man with a beard. Now, Prescott, the man whom Killer Evans shot, was, according to our friends at Scotland Yard, also a tall, dark man with a beard. My guess is that Prescott, the American criminal, used to five in Little Ryder Street, in the room where old Mr Garrideb keeps his collection. So at last we have a connection, you see.’
‘And where is the next clue?’
‘Well, we must go now and look for that.’
He took a gun from the drawer and handed it to me.
‘I have my own gun with me,’ he said. ‘If Killer Evans begins shooting we must be prepared. I’ll give you an hour for your afternoon sleep, Watson, and then I think it will be time for our Little Ryder Street adventure.’
It was just four o’clock when we reached Mr Nathan Garrideb’s strange home. Mrs Saunders was about to leave, but she let us in. The door shut with a spring lock and Holmes promised to make sure that everything was safe before we left. Soon afterwards the front door of the house closed and we saw Mrs Saunders pass the windows. We were now alone in the lower part of the house. Holmes made a rapid examination of the rooms.There was one cupboard in a dark corner which stood out a little from the wall. It was behind this that we hid, while Holmes spoke to me in a whisper.
‘Evans wanted to get the old gentleman out of his room — that is very clear; but as the collector never went out, Evans’s problem was not an easy one to solve. It seems that all his Res about the Garrideb will and the Garrideb land had no other purpose than to get Mr Nathan Garrideb away from the house for one day One has to admit, Watson, that Evans’s lies did have a certain cleverness about them – though the old collector’s unusual name gave him an opportunity which he could hardly have expected.’
‘But what can the man possibly want here?’ I asked.
‘Well, that is what we are here to find out. I don’t think it has anything whatever to do with our client. It is something connected with the man that Evans killed – a man who may have been involved with him in criminal activities of some kind. There is some guilty secret in this room, I think. At first I thought Mr Nathan Garrideb might have something in his collection that was more valuable than he realized — something worth the attention of a big criminal. But when I discovered that the evil Rodger Prescott used to five here, I realized that there must be some quite different explanation. Well, Watson, the only thing we can do now is to have patience and wait and watch.’
We did not have to wait long. A few moments later we heard the front door of the house open and shut. Then there was the sound of a key in the lock, and the American was in the room. He closed the door quietly behind him, gave a quick look round the room to check that he was alone, threw off his. coat, and walked up to the table in the centre of the room with the firm step of a man who knows exactly what he has to do and how to do it. He pushed the table to one side and pulled up the floor covering on which it stood. Then he rolled it completely back, took a tool from his inside pocket, and knelt down to work on the floor. A moment later we heard the sound of sliding boards, and a square hole appeared in the floor. Evans struck a match, lit a lamp, and disappeared down the hole.
This was clearly our opportunity. Holmes touched my wrist as a signal, and together we moved quietly across the room towards the hole. But in spite of our efforts to make no noise, Evans must have heard a slight sound as we passed over the old floorboards, since his head suddenly came up out of the open space and he looked anxiously round the room. When he saw us a look of anger, disappointment and hatred appeared on his face. This gradually changed to a broad smile as he realized that two guns were aimed at his head.
‘Well, well!’ he said coldly as he climbed up out of the hole. ‘You have been too clever for me, Mr Holmes. I suppose you realized from the first that I was telling lies. Well, sir, you have beaten me and ..’
In a sudden movement he pulled out a gun from an inside pocket and fired two shots. I felt a sudden hot tearing pain, as if a red-hot iron had been pressed against the top of my leg. There was a crash as Holmes’s gun came down on Evans’s head. I saw the man lying on the floor with blood running down his face, while Holmes searched him for other weapons. Then my friend’s arms were round me and he was leading me to a chair.
‘You’re not hurt, Watson? Oh, please say that you’re not hurt!’
I did not mind the wound – I would not have minded many wounds — because if I had not been hit I should never have known the loyalty and love that Holmes felt for me, feelings which he almost always hid beneath his unemotional expression and manner. For a moment I saw tears in those clear, hard eyes of his; and the firm lips were shaking. I suddenly realized that Holmes had a great heart as well as a great mind. That moment of realization was my reward for years of service.
‘It’s nothing, Holmes. It’s just a small wound.’
He had made a long tear in my trousers with his pocket knife.
‘You are right!’ he cried. ‘The skin is hardly broken.’ He turned to our prisoner and gave him a cold, hard look.‘It is a lucky thing for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. Now, sir, what have you got to say?’
He had nothing to say. He only lay there and looked at US with a child’s anger. I leaned on Holmes’s arm, and together we looked down into the small room at the bottom of the hole in the floor. It was still fit by the lamp which Evans had taken down with him. We saw a lot of old machinery, great rolls of paper, a quantity of bottles, and – tidily arranged on a small table – a number of neat little piles.
‘A printing press — for printing forged notes,’ said Holmes.
‘Yes, sir,’ said our prisoner, struggling to his feet and then sinking into a chair. ‘Prescott was the greatest forger there has ever been in London. That’s his machine, and those piles on the table are 2,000 of his bank notes. Each of them is worth a hundred pounds and is good enough to pass for real money. Help yourselves, gentlemen, and let me go. Let’s make a deal!’ Holmes laughed.
‘We don’t do things Eke that in this country, Mr Evans. You shot this man Prescott, didn’t you?’
‘Yes, sir, and I was sent to prison for five years for doing it, though it was he who pulled out his gun first. Five years in prison – when I ought to have been given a reward by the King! There isn’t a man living who could see the difference between a Prescott note and a Bank of England one, and if I hadn’t killed him he would have filled London with them. I was the only man in the world who knew where he made them. Can you blame me for wanting to get to the place? And when I found the old bone collector with the unusual name sitting right on top of it, of course I had to do what I could to get rid of him. Perhaps it would have been wiser simply to shoot him. It would have been very easy to do that, but I have a soft heart and can’t begin shooting unless the other man has a gun too. But, Mr Holmes, what have I done wrong? I haven’t used that machinery down there. I haven’t hurt old Mr Garrideb. What crime are you charging me with?’
‘Only attempted murder, I think,’ said Holmes. ‘But that isn’t our job. It will be a matter for Scotland Yard. Just ring them up, Watson, would you, please? The call won’t be completely unexpected.’
So those were the facts about Killer Evans and his invention of the three Garridebs. We heard later that our poor old friend Mr Nathan Garrideb never got over the disappointment of not receiving any of the Garrideb money. He lost his mind and was taken away to a special hospital in Brixton.
It was a happy day at Scotland Yard when the Prescott machinery was discovered; they knew that it existed, but after Prescott’s death they had never been able to find out where it was. Many high officials at the Yard could now sleep more peacefully at night, and felt so grateful to Evans for leading them to Prescott’s press that they would gladly have given him the reward of which he had spoken. But the judge took a less favourable view of the case, and Killer Evans was sent back to the prison which he had so recently left.