A Study in Treason: New Excerpt
A Study in Treason by Leonard Goldberg is the second book in the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mystery series, where a seemingly impossible mystery tests the keen mind and forensic skills of Joanna Blalock, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and the heir to his unique talent for deduction.
The following case has not previously been disclosed to the public due to the sensitive information on foreign affairs. All those involved were previously bound by the Official Secrets Act. With the passage of time and the onset of the Great War, these impediments have been removed and the story can now be safely told.
When an executed original of a secret treaty between England and France, known as the French Treaty, is stolen from the country estate of Lord Halifax, Scotland Yard asks Joanna, Dr. John Watson, Jr., and Dr. John Watson, Sr. to use their detective skills to participate in the hunt for the missing treaty. As the government becomes more restless to find the missing document and traditional investigative means fail to turn up the culprit, Joanna is forced to devise a clever plan to trap the thief and recover the missing treaty.
Late spring, 1914
There was joy in our rooms at 221b Baker Street that frosty London morning, but it was to be short-lived and soon replaced by a most somber mood. My father, John Watson, M.D., the close friend and longtime associate of the now dead Sherlock Holmes, was gradually recovering from a stroke he had suffered months earlier, but he continued to have weakness in his right leg, which caused him to limp noticeably on exertion. Of greater importance, those closest to him could tell that his mind, although still quite adequate, had not yet returned to its former self. It was in this regard that an eminent neurologist at St. Bartholomew’s suggested we use repeated brain stimulation to enhance my father’s mental acuity. Dear Joanna pursued this goal with zeal and spent hours on end reading and discussing old Sherlock Holmes cases with my father. The two never seemed to tire of these exchanges, with my father adding anecdotes never before revealed to the public. But the most enjoyable cerebral exercise for them was standing at the window overlooking Baker Street and studying the individuals passing by below.
“I say, Watson,” Joanna said, and directed his attention across the busy street. “What do you make of the fellow hurrying to the bus stop?”
“He is scurrying for a bus,” my father remarked. “Which indicates he is a man of modest means.”
“The cut of his clothes would tell us that as well,” Joanna observed. “Did you notice the wrapped gift he is carrying?”
“How do you know it is a gift?”
“Because it has a ribbon tied in a bow around it.”
“And nicely done so,” my father said. “I would think it is for his wife.”
“Then you would think wrong,” Joanna rebuked mildly. “For the man is a widower, as evidenced by the black band on his hat.”
My father groaned to himself. “I too saw the band, but failed to connect it to the gift.”
“The finer connections will come, Watson,” Joanna said. “You must be patient, for the process cannot be hurried.”
My father’s attention was suddenly drawn to another individual below. “Oh, my goodness! I now see an absolutely crazed man coming our way.”
My curiosity got the better of me and I rushed to the window to gaze out over my father’s shoulder. Running down the sidewalk, which was still covered with yesterday’s freak snowstorm, was a short, portly man, hatless against the cold, who was wildly turning his head from side to side, while at the same time slapping at his legs and chest with both hands. He kept his balding head down to such an extent that those walking toward him had to quickly move aside in order to avoid a collision.
“He is obviously very disturbed,” I commented.
“A sad exhibition of a madman,” my father agreed.
“Should we notify the police?” I asked.
Joanna shook her head. “There is no need, for he is neither disturbed nor mad.”
“But his actions say otherwise,” my father argued.
“Look carefully once more,” Joanna recommended. “Observe the repeated motions of his head and hands. They will explain everything.”
I, along with my father, studied the man as he drew closer to our window. Neither of us saw anything other than an obviously distraught, middle-aged man who appeared to be making uncontrollable motions with his hands. He paused briefly to raise his arms and then dig his fingers deeply into his waistcoat.
“Obviously it is small and quite precious,” Joanna commented.
“What?” I asked.
“The object he is searching for,” Joanna replied.
My father glanced at Joanna oddly. “Is that based solely on the poor man reaching into the pockets of his waistcoat?”
“It is based on everything he has shown us thus far,” Joanna told him. “He is a man desperately searching for something he recently lost.”
“Pray tell how you reached these conclusions,” my father requested.
“By connecting all of his motions, for they have a common denominator,” Joanna explained. “He is running because of the urgency of the matter, and the fact that he is hatless, despite the cold, tells us he has just discovered the loss and dashed out frantically to search for it. He keeps his head down and moving from side to side in hopes of spotting the lost item in the snow. And finally, he is not slapping at his thighs and waist uncontrollably, but rather patting at the pockets of his pants and waistcoat to determine if the item slipped off and is still in his possession.”
“But what is this object?” I asked.
“A small, precious item that will fit easily in the pocket of his waistcoat,” Joanna answered.
“A timepiece!” my father exclaimed. “It not only would have fit in his waistcoat, but could have unintentionally found its way into his pants pocket. Also notice that as he takes his hand away, there is a gold chain dangling from the waistcoat and that it has nothing attached to its end. I dare say a gold timepiece was in all likelihood once clasped onto it.”
“Nicely done, Watson,” Joanna said, with a genuine smile. “I must declare that you are coming along wonderfully well.”
“That is because I have a most excellent guide,” my father praised. “And she reminds me in every way that she is truly the daughter of Sherlock Holmes.”
“Do you really believe I could match him?”
My father hesitated a moment before answering, “I would pay a handsome price to view the contest.”
Gazing at the two before me, I could not help but remember how my life had changed since I first met Joanna only months ago. At the time I was, and continue to be, assistant professor of pathology at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital where I spent long hours, but always managed to look after my father who was still residing at 221b Baker Street and was unfortunately in declining health. Despite his retirement and the fact that his close colleague Sherlock Holmes was long dead, people still sought his advice on criminal matters, which he dealt with in a most gentle and adroit manner. It was in my presence that the highly placed Harrelston family begged my father to investigate the apparent suicide of their son. Although hesitant to do so at first, he leaped at the chance when informed that the man’s fall to his death was witnessed by Joanna Blalock and her young son, Johnnie, who is currently attending a distinguished boarding school in the Midlands. As was known only to my father, Joanna was the product of a one-time assignation between Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, the only woman ever to outwit him. Joanna was given up for adoption at birth, after her natural mother’s death, and raised as Joanna Middleton, the adopted daughter of a childless physician and his wife. But Joanna obviously inherited her biological father’s and mother’s brilliance. She read voraciously on a wide variety of subjects and became a highly skilled nurse, one of the few professions that allowed her to use her finely turned brain. Her medical training led her to become an amateur forensic detective. In her early twenties, her name became Joanna Blalock when she married Dr. John Blalock, a respected surgeon from an aristocratic family. But John died in a cholera epidemic and Joanna was left to raise her son alone, albeit in a world of wealth and privilege.
During our investigation of the Charles Harrelston death, Joanna joined our team and demonstrated her remarkable deductive skills to us and to Scotland Yard. It was she who discovered that the young man’s death was premeditated murder and not suicide. Indeed it was she who set the ingenious trap that caught the killer. Thus, as I was to later write, Sherlock Holmes was after all still with us.
In the bright morning sunlight I found myself staring at the loveliness of Joanna and was once again reminded of her unique attributes and from whence they came. While her incredible deductive mind was no doubt that of Sherlock Holmes, her most attractive face, with its soft, patrician features and flawless skin, belonged to the stunning opera star Irene Adler. Either of her biological parents could have been responsible for Joanna’s inquisitive, deep brown eyes and tall, trim figure. She was in fact an ideal mixture of genes that only God himself could have put together.
“Where are your thoughts, John?” Joanna asked, interrupting my reverie.
“I was thinking how fortunate I was to marry you,” I replied.
“You caught me at a weak moment,” Joanna jested.
The three of us chuckled heartily at my wife’s quick and endearing wit that made her all the more lovable.
Just then the hatless man, who appeared to have given up hope, spotted a police constable and rushed over to him. The man spoke in an animated fashion and seemed to be pleading in earnest. The constable nodded and reached in his coat pocket for a rather large, gold timepiece, which he gave to the man. We watched the hatless man jump with joy, then shake the constable’s hand over and over before dancing away.
“A timepiece it was,” I remarked. “From its glitter and size, I would guess it came from a bygone era.”
“Most likely an heirloom, which would make it impossible to replace and thus even more precious,” Joanna added.
The constable was about to continue on his rounds, but he abruptly stopped as an official government car pulled up to the curb outside 221b Baker Street. He quickly cleared the sidewalk of passing pedestrians, then stood at attention for the occupant of the Wolseley limousine.
The formally dressed driver hurried around to open the rear door, and out stepped a highly decorated senior naval officer in full regalia. The constable tipped and lifted his hat in respect.
“Espionage,” my father whispered.
“Based on what?” Joanna asked at once.
“My past experience with Sir Harold Whitlock, who happens to be First Sea Lord of His Majesty’s navy,” my father remarked. “Holmes and I were involved with Sir Harold many years ago when he was director of naval intelligence. The matter was so delicate that I can only say it centered upon a spy at the very highest level of government.”
“Was he uncovered?” I asked.
“And hanged.” My father ran a quick hand across his silver-gray hair and smoothed out the tattered maroon smoking jacket he was wearing. “Do I look presentable?”
“Almost,” Joanna said, and moved in to center my father’s tie, which had gone astray. “But your smoking jacket leaves much to be desired. You really should replace it before it becomes nothing more than threads.”
“Then I shall happily wear my threads,” my father said, with a twinkle in his eyes.
I remained silent, for I knew full well that my father would continue to cling to the very old smoking jacket until the day he died, because it was the last vestige of his happier, exciting days with Sherlock Holmes. He sometimes spoke of Holmes as if the famous detective would suddenly reappear as he did after his deadly struggle with Professor Moriarity at the Reichenbach Falls.
Hearing the approaching footsteps on the stairs, Joanna said quickly, “If Sir Harold wishes John and me to leave, we shall take a long stroll to give you complete privacy.”
“Perhaps the case is not of such great gravity,” I suggested.
“I can assume it is,” Joanna said with certainty. “Here we have the First Sea Lord, the highest-ranking naval officer in all of Britain, arriving on our doorstep unannounced in the early morning, with no aide or attaché at his side. He is without papers or briefcase and walks at a hurried pace. Thus, we can safely say this man carries a secret of immense importance with him.”
“Then it must be espionage,” I concluded.
The footsteps stopped, followed by a gentle rap on the door.
“We shall know shortly,” Joanna said.
Miss Hudson, our landlady, showed the visitor in, then backed away, obviously awed by the admiral’s presence. He waited for the door to close before speaking.
“I hope I am not intruding, Dr. Watson,” Sir Harold said.
“Not at all, sir,” my father greeted. “It is always a pleasure to see you. Allow me to introduce my son and his wife.”
Sir Harold nodded to our names, then came back to my father. “I must ask to speak with you alone.”
“Espionage again?” my father asked.
“I am afraid this is a state matter that requires absolute secrecy and cannot be spoken of in the presence of others,” the First Sea Lord admonished. “There can be no exceptions, even for those we consider to be most trustworthy.”
“I take it you wish me to become involved,” my father said.
“I do indeed.”
“Then you must include my son and his wife, for they are invaluable associates on whom I greatly depend.”
Sir Harold hesitated before saying, “I am aware of your recent illness, but was told you had made a nearly complete recovery.”
“And so I have,” my father responded. “But that does not lessen the value of Joanna and John.”
Pondering his dilemma, the First Sea Lord glanced back and forth between my wife and me, as if he were trying to assess our qualifications. Seconds ticked by in silence.
Joanna stepped forward and interceded. “Sir Harold, you are wasting time that I believe you have precious little of.”
“I beg your pardon, madam,” said he, taken aback by Joanna’s outspokenness.
“Please forgive my abruptness,” Joanna went on. “But it is obvious that you bring with you a most urgent matter and wish either advice or help. You will receive neither unless you include the three of us.”
Sir Harold gave Joanna a long, studied look. “I take it you are the long-lost daughter of Sherlock Holmes, whom Inspector Lestrade spoke of so highly.”
“He said you could solve anything.”
“He said too much.”
“According to Lestrade, you have a knack for seeing clues others don’t.”
“I see what everyone else sees,” Joanna explained. “But I think what no one else has thought.”
“And what happens when there are no clues left behind?”
“There is no such crime,” Joanna said. “Every criminal act leaves a trail that awaits a discerning eye.”
Sir Harold hesitated once more. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man, with a square jaw and a steely gaze. His expression showed no indication of worry, but there were dark circles of sleeplessness under his eyes. In an authoritative tone he said, “You will all have to sign the Official Secrets Act.”
“Agreed,” Joanna said. “Let us sit by the fire and hear every detail of your story.”
As we took our chairs, I stoked the smoldering logs to life while my father filled his favorite cherrywood pipe with tobacco. Sir Harold and Joanna kept their gazes fixed on one another, each taking the other’s measure.
“Everything revolves around a highly secret document that has gone missing,” Sir Harold began. “Should it fall into the wrong hands, the consequences would truly be disastrous. It is possible that the disaster has already occurred, but we pray this is not the case. The document was last seen three days ago at the country estate of the Duke of Winchester where it was to be copied. Let me assure you that every precaution was taken to—”
“The document,” Joanna interrupted. “We must know its contents.”
“I cannot share that information with you,” Sir Harold said firmly. “It is known to only those at the uppermost level of government and must remain so.”
“Even though we signed the Official Secrets Act?”
“You are placing a blindfold on us, yet you expect us to see.”
“I have no other choice.”
“Nor do we,” Joanna said, rising to her feet. “I know you must have other pressing matters to attend to, as do we, so I wish you good day and every success in locating the missing document.”
“If you had an inkling of the document’s importance,” Sir Harold stressed, “you would not—”
Joanna waved away the First Sea Lord’s urging. “You are asking us to locate a berry in the forest, yet you refuse to describe the berry.”
“It is more like a needle in a haystack,” Sir Harold said frankly.
“Which is even worse,” Joanna said. “Since the event occurred at a country estate, I would think the local police were called in and, with their lack of success, you were forced to summon Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard to join the investigation. In that I suspect neither were given the details of the document, they no doubt floundered about and have muddied the waters even further. I daresay that with each passing moment the chances of recovering the document grow dimmer and dimmer.”
“You seem to imply that being aware of the document’s contents will be of paramount importance in locating it,” Sir Harold said. “I do not see how, and need to be convinced before I disclose its nature.”
“It is a straightforward matter of deduction,” Joanna informed him. “This was a crime of purpose, which always leaves behind a trail one can follow. In this particular instance, the document’s contents will tell us who benefits the most by stealing it.”
“I did not say it was stolen.”
“Was it misplaced, then?”
“No. That possibility has been excluded.”
“Could it have been intentionally destroyed?”
“Or found its way to some hidden place, such as beneath a rug or behind a desk drawer?”
“All searched, top to bottom, along with every other square inch of the library.”
“Which leaves us with the singular explanation that it was stolen,” Joanna concluded. “Moreover, the theft had to have been committed by someone who was aware of the document’s contents and value. We too must have this information, for without it there is no hope of discovering the thief and retrieving the document.”
Sir Harold exhaled resignedly and slowly nodded. “I see your point.”
“Excellent,” Joanna said. “And rest assured not a word spoken here will leave this room.”
“Let me again emphasize how sensitive this document is,” said he, fixing his eyes on the blazing logs before him. “The winds of war are now blowing across Europe. Each side is arming itself in preparation for the terrible event, which appears to be inevitable. It is Germany and its desire to dominate the continent that has precipitated matters. At this very moment, Kaiser Wilhelm is building up a mighty military power, especially his navy, to pursue his goal of dominance. In an effort to thwart the kaiser’s desires, Britain has entered into an alliance with France called the French Treaty.”
“That is not surprising,” my father said. “We have the same enemy, and certainly Germany would expect this.”
“But what the kaiser does not expect is the plan we have to thwart him,” Sir Harold continued on. “It might even prevent war and, if it does not, it will surely prepare us for the event. As I mentioned earlier, Germany is currently building up a powerful navy, so that it will have complete control of the Baltic Sea, which of course is all too close to Britain. As an integral part of the French Treaty, we will deploy several squadrons of His Majesty’s fleet to the Orkney Islands off the northern tip of Scotland, where they will act as a counterbalance to Germany’s primacy in the Baltic. Such a move would not only bottleneck the German fleet coming out of the Baltic, it could also hinder Germany’s major ports from importing critically needed raw materials for its war efforts. Needless to say, this maritime strategy would be a major deterrent to the kaiser’s grandiose idea of conquest.”
“I take it that our fleet has not yet made its move,” Joanna said.
“We are in the early phases, and the plan cannot be implemented further until new naval installations are established in Scotland,” the First Sea Lord told her. “With these developments in mind, I am certain you can see how vital it is that Germany not learn of these ongoing plans.”
“Indeed,” my father said. “With our fleet sitting at the doorstep to the Baltic, Germany might have second thoughts about starting a war.”
“That would be our hope,” Sir Harold agreed. “But should war break out, our fleet will be more than prepared to confront the kaiser’s navy.
“Now allow me to tell you how the document went missing,” he continued. “After all was settled and agreed upon, our foreign minister, the Duke of Winchester, drew up a final draft of the treaty, of which multiple copies were to be made prior to signing. The task of producing the copies was left to the Duke’s son, a highly placed undersecretary at the ministry. All this was to occur in absolute secrecy at the Halifax country estate in Hampshire. I myself, along with several members of naval intelligence, put in place all the security measures to be taken while the document was being copied.”
“Were the naval intelligence officers aware of the contents of the document?” Joanna asked.
“They were not, nor were the security guards, one of whom was stationed outside the door to the library where the copies were produced, while others patrolled the outer perimeter of the grand house. They were in place around the clock. In any event, everything was going smoothly until mid-afternoon on the second day, when the undersecretary left the library to visit the lavatory. No one else was in the library at the time and the door was securely shut when the undersecretary departed. He returned five minutes or so later and discovered that the document was missing. A most careful search was undertaken at once and when the document could not be found, the police and eventually Scotland Yard were called in.”
“Were there any other entrances to the library?” Joanna asked.
“None,” Sir Harold replied. “And all the windows had remained shut and locked, and could only be unlocked from the inside.”
“How many others were allowed to enter the library?” Joanna queried.
“Only three and always under the careful eye of the undersecretary and the security guard.”
“Did the security guard ever enter the library?”
“Never. And the key to the door was held by the undersecretary. As I just stated, only three other individuals were permitted entrance. In addition to the undersecretary, there was his wife, the Duke of Winchester, and a trusted butler who has been in the family’s service for over forty years. All visits were brief, lasting only minutes, and no one was allowed to carry any papers or books out of the library.”
“Three unlikely suspects,” my father commented.
“Please keep in mind, Watson, that unlikeliness does not equate with innocence,” Joanna said, then arose from her chair and went over to a small desk where she plucked a Turkish cigarette from its colorful box and, striking a match, lighted it.
Inhaling deeply, she began pacing the floor and left a trail of pale smoke behind her. Like her father, Sherlock Holmes, Joanna smoked heavily when involved in a difficult, problematic case, and could easily consume a pack of cigarettes a day until the solution came to her. My father suggested that the nicotine surge might stimulate the creative center of her brain, and I concurred with this since she rarely smoked when not occupied by a puzzling case.
Joanna paced for another minute, lost in her thoughts, then turned abruptly to Sir Harold. “On which floor of the grand house is the library located?”
“It is on the second floor, some thirty feet above the ground.”
“Which excludes the windows as a point of entrance,” Joanna said.
“That was clear from the onset since the windows were locked from the inside and had remained so.”
Joanna gave the First Sea Lord a knowing smile. “Anything that can be locked can be unlocked by a clever enough thief. Nevertheless, it is most unlikely that the thief entered through the window because to do so would have required a rope or ladder. Such an adventure would have surely been noticed by your security men guarding the perimeter of the grand house.”
“How then did he enter?”
“That is the key to your puzzle,” Joanna responded. “For if we know the how, it may well point to the who, which will tell us the why.”
Sir Harold’s face brightened for the first time. “So you have confidence you can help us avert this disaster?”
“I make no promises,” Joanna said. “We shall investigate and gather the clues and see where they lead us.”
Sir Harold sighed to himself, with disappointment clearly on his face. “I was hoping for more, but of course will welcome any assistance you might give us. When will you depart?”
“On the train to Hampshire that leaves early tomorrow morning.”
“Let us pray for the best,” Sir Harold said, and rose from his seat. “Please keep me informed of any developments.”
We watched the First Sea Lord walk gravely from the room. He was the picture of a man carrying the heaviest of burdens.
Once the door closed, Joanna turned quickly to my father. “Do you feel up to joining us on this venture?”
“I believe the country air would be quite invigorating,” my father said eagerly.
“It will be more than invigorating, Watson, in that it will present an excellent opportunity to advance your physical therapy.”
“Are you proposing we go beyond our daily strolls, which I must admit tire me a bit?”
“Precisely so, for it is now time to progress to a higher level in your recovery, which should improve both your strength and endurance.”
“You sound as though you have worked with stroke victims in the past.”
“Indeed I did while a nurse at St. Bart’s,” Joanna informed him. “Do you recall Reginald Alexander, the chief executive at the hospital, who suffered a cerebral embolus some years back?”
My father hesitated briefly before nodding. “He was badly paralyzed on one side I was told.”
“But now he is walking because of an intensive physical program devised by a brilliant specialist at St. Bart’s.”
“Did you participate in his recovery?” my father asked, now keenly interested.
“I did so on a daily basis. The poor man came to the surgery ward because of a bedsore he developed while lying immobile for prolonged periods of time. Once the sore was cleaned out, we began him on a muscle-strengthening program while he recuperated. Slowly his muscles responded and, although he limped noticeably, he could walk. It was as if his brain was retraining itself. As his strength increased, so did his endurance and eventually he strolled about with only the slightest of limps.”
I asked, “Do you recall every step used in the strengthening program?”
“I do,” Joanna assured. “But to be certain, I consulted with the St. Bart’s specialist and he told me I was spot on.”
I turned to my father with an encouraging word. “Let us hope there are better days ahead.”
“Let us hope I am not too old to learn such retraining,” my father said. “I am afraid my brain may be quite set in its ways.”
“We shall see, my dear Watson, we shall see,” Joanna said with a smile that rapidly faded from her face. “Now tell me, do you have your service revolver at the ready?”
“I most certainly do,” my father replied, and went to his room, only to return with his Webley Revolver No. 2 in hand. “Do you expect violence, Joanna?”
“I expect war,” she said, and left it at that.
Copyright © 2018 Leonard Goldberg.