Authors: Edward D. Hoch
The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch
WAS INTRODUCED TO
the novels of Ellery Queen at age nine, and it was only a year later, as I lay sick in bed with chicken pox, that my grandfather presented me with that massive volume,
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
. I read every story and novel over the next several days, and became a fan for life.
Starting in the late 1980s, a number of original anthologies began to appear, recounting new adventures of the famed sleuth. Some of these dealt with cases mentioned but not recorded by Dr. Watson. Others were open to just about anything the authors could imagine. I was honored to be chosen by several editors to contribute to their volumes. Now I find myself the author of a dozen stories which Gary Lovisi has asked me to collect here. I hope you find as much enjoyment in reading them as I had in writing them.
My special thanks to the editors who first published these stories: Fred Dannay, Marvin Kaye, Marty Greenberg, Mike Ashley, Otto Penzler, Andrew Gulli, George Vanderburgh and Janet Hutchings—a distinguished list indeed.
Edward D. Hoch
Rochester, New York
September 9, 2007
HE PROFESSOR GLANCED UP
from the desk where a new treatise on the binomial theorem lay open before him. His ears had detected a noise upon the landing—not loud, but enough to sharpen his senses. When it was repeated, he rose from the chair and walked across the room to the bolted door.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“Dwiggins, Professor! Open the door!”
The bolt was pulled back and the professor turned up the gas-flame a bit higher. “You arrived sooner than I had expected. Did all go well?”
Dwiggins was a slender man with black bushy hair and side-whiskers. His special value was his innate ability to assume the guise of a bumbling tradesman. The professor had known and used him many times in the past, always with success.
“It was perfect, Professor,” reported Dwiggins. “I arranged a meeting with Archibald Andrews and told him of my needs. He agreed quite readily when I revealed the sum of money I was willing to pay.”
“Capital, Dwiggins!” The professor drew a small note-book from his pocket and made a check mark. Then, with the tip of the pencil running down a list of names, he said, “We will have a final meeting to-morrow evening. Make certain everyone is in attendance.”
“Right you are, Professor!”
When he was alone once more, the tall pale man hurried to the window and watched the progress of Dwiggins along the opposite curb. His deeply-sunken eyes scanned the alleyways, searching for a police-agent who might be following the bushy-haired man, but he saw no one. Thus far, nothing had happened to endanger his master plan.
The flickering gas-flames cast an uncertain glow over the five men who gathered in the professor’s quarters the following evening. They were a mixed lot, drawn from various walks of life, but each had been chosen carefully for his special skills and accomplishments. Seated next to Dwiggins was Coxe, the notorious bank robber, and by his side was Quinn, an expert with a knife who proudly boasted of having been a police suspect in their search for Jack the Ripper only two years earlier. Moran, the former army colonel, was present too, along with Jenkins, a street ruffian especially adept in the handling of horses.
“Now, now,” said the professor, peering and blinking at the men before him. “We must get to the business at hand.”
“Will it be to-morrow?” asked Coxe.
The professor nodded. “To-morrow, the twenty-third of January, the City and Suburban Bank will make its regular Friday morning delivery of money to its branches. A two-horse van will enter the alleyway off Farringdon Street shortly after nine o’clock to-morrow morning, and proceed to the rear entrance of the bank. The flat of one Archibald Andrews overlooks this alley, and our Mr. Dwiggins has been most successful in luring said Andrews away from his flat for the entire morning. Tell us how it was accomplished, Dwiggins.”
The bushy-haired man was quick to oblige. “I approached Andrews yesterday afternoon. Knowing him to be temporarily unemployed, I presented myself as a spice merchant with expectations of setting up a small shop on Oxford Street. I offered to pay him ten pounds if he would spend Friday morning visiting a list of shops and noting the prices charged for a variety of spices. He is to begin at Covent Garden Market promptly at eight, which should keep him far enough from his rooms in Farringdon Street.”
“Tut, tut!” said the professor, shaking his head sadly. “I fear that Archibald Andrews will learn more about the price of spices than he really needs to know. Coxe, you should have no trouble with the door to his lodgings. You and Quinn will enter the rooms at precisely half-past eight, and station yourselves at the windows overlooking the alley. When the two-horse van arrives for the money, you will open the windows and prepare to jump. As I explained earlier, there is no manner in which the robbery can be executed while the money is being loaded. The armed guards will be on alert for trouble. And once it leaves the alley to move through the crowded London streets it will once again be safe from our hands. The one weak link in the chain occurs at the precise instant the van is locked and starts out of the alley. The armed guards will have entered a carriage to travel ahead of the van, and the van itself will be traveling so slowly that you two can easily drop onto it from Mr. Andrew’s second-storey windows.”
“Excuse me, Professor,” said Coxe. “I understand all that, but what will the two guards in the carriage do when they realise we have intercepted the van?”
The professor merely smiled, blinking his puckered eyes. “Everything is attended to. Jenkins here will be near at hand, in the guise of a hansom driver. At the proper moment his horse will appear to go out of control, and will carry the hansom cab between the guards’ carriage and the van. Quinn will kill the driver of the van, and you will turn it in the opposite direction on Farringdon Street, away from the carriage. If the guards are able to get clear of the hansom and pursue you, Moran will be waiting with his air-gun.”
“Where will you be?” asked Quinn.
“Dwiggins and I will be waiting close by. Once you are on your way, we will follow.” He turned and took a cut-glass decanter from the sideboard. “Now, gentlemen, I suggest a bit of wine to toast the success of our endeavour on the morrow.”
When Archibald Andrews left the doorway of his lodgings just before eight o’clock the following morning, Dwiggins and the professor were watching from across the street. It was a raw, blustery January morning, and the professor had turned up the collar of his greatcoat against the sharpness of the wind.
“Running like clockwork,” Dwiggins commented as he watched Andrews go off down the street.
“Good, good!” The professor slipped a watch from his inner pocket and snapped open the lid. “Coxe and Quinn should be starting out now.”
They waited, watching the movement of shop-girls and clerks along the busy street. Then, at halfpast the hour, the professor saw his two confederates enter the street door to Archibald Andrews’s lodgings. Dwiggins returned from his rounds to report. “Coxe and Quinn are in the flat, Professor. I saw them by the windows.”
“He has just arrived and stationed himself across the street from the alley. The air-gun is hidden in his walking-stick.”
“His hansom is parked near-by.”
The professor nodded. All was well.
At six minutes after nine o’clock, the two-horse van appeared and turned into the alley. A carriage drew up behind it and discharged two uniformed guards. The professor’s face was oscillating slowly from side to side, in a curiously reptilian fashion, as he watched.
They waited while the minutes ticked by and the professor’s sharp eyes scanned the passers-by for any sign of trouble. There seemed nothing unusual until—
“What is it, Professor?”
“That man hurrying through the crowd across the street—is it Archibald Andrews, returning so soon to his lodgings?”
“Bloody right it is!”
“Come on, we must stop him.”
They crossed the street quickly, and Dwiggins called out, “Here now! I hired you to do a job for me!”
Archibald Andrews stopped in his tracks, looking from one to the other. “I—I—”
“Speak up, man!” urged Dwiggins. “This is my partner in the spice shop. Do you have the prices for us?”
“No, sir,” muttered Andrews. “That is, you see, it seemed like a great deal of money for you to pay. I mentioned it to a friend of mine last evening—a physician who rooms with a consulting detective of sorts. He suggested something odd might be afoot.”
“Quickly,” snarled the professor. “If he comes here—”
But already there was movement in the alley. The guards’ carriage had moved away, and the two-horse van was starting out with its precious cargo. As the professor watched, he saw Coxe and Quinn throw back the shutters and drop through the windows onto the roof of the van.
In the same instant there came the sound of police whistles, and suddenly the van seemed alive with uniformed bobbies. Coxe and Quinn were seized by a dozen strong arms.
“Quickly!” the professor told Dwiggins. “We must make our escape!”
“What about the others?”
But it was too late for them. Jenkins, abandoning the hansom for flight on foot, was in the clasp of a tall, sharp-featured man whose long white fingers seemed to clutch like steel.
“It is too late for them,” the professor decided. “We can only hope that Moran was able to make good his escape.”
“How did the police discover our plans so quickly?”
“That man is a devil!—that tall one who had Jenkins in his grip! As soon as he discovered that Andrews’s lodgings overlooked the alley by the bank, he must have known we were luring the man away for a number of hours while we used his flat to reach the money-van.”
“All that because I offered Andrews ten pounds?” Dwiggins followed the professor down a side street, away from the bustle of the crowds. “Who is this man that outwitted us?”
“His name is Sherlock Holmes,” answered Professor Moriarty. “He is the most dangerous man in London.”