Featured Excerpt: The Blue Diamond by Leonard Goldberg

The fate of the allied forces lies in the hands of Joanna and the Watsons in The Blue Diamond the next Daughter of Sherlock Holmes mystery from USA Today bestselling author Leonard Goldberg. Start reading an excerpt!

Chapter One

The Penthouse Robberies

It was customary for my dear wife, Joanna, to situate herself at the window of our parlor at 221b Baker Street and observe the ongoings down below. On more than a few occasions the view of an individual approaching our doorstep heralded the arrival of a most intriguing case which defied resolution. But on this dreary November morning in the year 1917, it was I, John Watson, Jr., M.D., who was stationed at the window, for Joanna was entirely preoccupied with a large blackboard that stood in the center of our parlor. Upon it were listed the features of sensational robberies which had occurred at two of London’s finest hotels, the Fairmont and the St. Regis. Both were known to be frequented by famous, distinguished guests, who expected and received the very best service in every regard, and even the slightest blemish or misstep was quickly corrected and erased from the public’s eye. Thus when these exceptional robberies took place within a ten-day period and were reported in depth by all the newspapers, the hoteliers were mortified and implored Scotland Yard to bring about a rapid resolution. Unfortunately, none were forthcoming, and the hoteliers turned their hopes to the daughter of Sherlock Holmes.

“Data! I require data!” Joanna cried out impatiently. “I cannot make bricks without clay.”

My father looked up from the Daily Telegraph and smiled gently. “That was a favorite quote of your father’s, particularly when he was confronted with a most difficult case.”

“There is a singular hidden thread here which continues to escape my eye,” she continued on, before banging a stick of white chalk against the blackboard. “It will be the common denominator that ties all these features together.”

My gaze turned to the blackboard upon which Joanna had listed the characteristics of the robberies that occurred at the elegant hotels.

THE FAIRMONT THE ST. REGIS

Location West London West London

Suite position Penthouse (5th floor) Penthouse (5th floor) 

Weather (night) Fog-shrouded Fog-shrouded

Item(s) stolen Ming dynasty vase Bearer bonds

Ransom note None None

“But why no ransom notes?” asked I.

“Because the stolen items can be disposed of at their true market value,” Joanna replied. “Bearer bonds are issued by a business such as a corporation or by a government, and are unregistered. The person who holds them owns them, and there is no way to trace or track the buyer or seller. And the Ming dynasty vase in all likelihood has a predetermined buyer, which accounts for the fact it has not shown up on London’s black market.”

“So the items by themselves represent dead ends, do they not?” My wife shook her head. “I suspect they represent a key to the puzzle, but it is the lock which remains a mystery.”

My attention returned to the street below as an official limousine stopped in front of our doorstep. The driver, holding up an umbrella against the rain, hurried to the rear compartment and opened the door for the two occupants whom I instantly recognized. “I believe we are about to be presented with yet another difficult puzzle,” said I, tapping on the window.

Joanna and my father strode over quickly to watch Inspector Lestrade and Sir Charles Bradberry, the commissioner of Scotland Yard, alight from the limousine. Passersby stopped and stared unabashedly at the two notables, as they were no doubt able to identify them from their frequent photographs in London’s newspapers. A patrolling constable appeared and motioned for the onlookers to move on, but they only took a step back, for they knew both the men and the famed address they were about to enter.

Joanna looked to her father-in-law and asked, “Watson, in all your years with Sherlock Holmes, were the two of you ever visited by an inspector and commissioner together?”

“Never,” my father replied. “On occasion, Lestrade would call on us unannounced, but never accompanied by the commissioner.”

“Which indicates we are about to be presented with a case of great importance,” she stated the obvious before adding an additional clue. “You will note they carry no files or folders, which tells us the crime was recently committed, certainly within the past twelve hours, for no mention was made of it in the morning newspapers.”

“I wonder if it is yet another incidence of espionage, which brings with it the direst of consequences,” my father pondered.

The same thought crossed my mind, for the Great War on the Continent raged on, with terrible and mounting casualties on both sides. More than a few German agents had been apprehended in London itself, all trying to steal valuable information which could turn the tide of the conflict. Only months earlier we had foiled a plot to kidnap England’s foremost cryptographer and transport him to Germany. “God help us if there is another high-ranking traitor involved, for the effect on the country’s morale would be devastating.”

“That is possible, but unlikely,” Joanna argued mildly. “Were that the case, we would not be visited by Scotland Yard, but rather summoned to Whitehall under a cloak of secrecy.”

She moved over to the large blackboard and pushed it to the side of our parlor near the workbench, upon which rested an opened monograph on Ming dynasty vases. Joanna had hoped it might shine some light on the robbery we were currently investigating, but thus far it had proved useless. Next to it was a copy of the New York Times, which detailed the bearer bonds which had been stolen from the suite of the famous American industrialist Robert Boone Hall. That, too, proved to be of little help.

There was a gentle rap on the door and our landlady, Miss Hudson, showed the two visitors in, then, with a half curtsy, backed out and quietly closed the door behind her. The detectives entered with a firm, hurried step, pausing only briefly by our two-log fire to warm their hands. Both men were tall and middle-aged, but there the similarities ended. Lestrade, the son of the inspector who worked with Sherlock Holmes, was slender of frame and had a pleasant face except for his eyes, which seemed fixed in a permanent squint. Other than a fringe of hair above his ears, he was completely bald, and kept his head covered with a worn brown derby. By contrast, Sir Charles Bradberry was well built and broad shouldered, with neatly trimmed hair and a thick mustache. His expression was stern and determined, his eyes cold and gray with no hint of emotion. Unlike his predecessor, he was widely respected by his officers and the public as well, for he was a strict disciplinarian who would not abide any wrongdoings at Scotland Yard, and those found guilty were either discharged or summarily punished.

Skipping the usual amenities, the commissioner studied the blackboard for a moment before saying, “I am afraid the penthouse robber has struck again, but now he has added assault to his criminal activities.”

“Who was the victim?” Joanna asked at once.

“An innocent doorman at the Windsor Hotel who we believe may have witnessed the thief in action.”

Joanna gave the commissioner a long, curious look. “The doorman, you say?”

“The doorman,” the commissioner repeated. “Who now lies in a coma at St. Bartholomew’s.”

My wife hurried over to the Persian slipper that held her Turkish cigarettes and plucked one from its packet. She carefully lighted it and began to pace the floor, head down, a stream of pale smoke trailing her. Her lips moved, but made no sound. It appeared that either the occupation or condition of the victim was of particular note. I could not decipher why that was so, for it was entirely possible that an alert doorman had seen some mischief and attempted to intervene.

Joanna stopped in front of the blackboard and studied it at length, drawing one puff after another on her cigarette before adding the word assault at the end of the list. Only then did she discard her cigarette into the fire and bring her attention to the commissioner. “Sir Charles, please be good enough to review the characteristics of the initial two robberies which I have enumerated and tell me if they fit with the theft at the Windsor.”

In a deep voice he compared the features which occurred at the Fairmont and the St. Regis with those at the Windsor. “All transpired at the West End of London, in the penthouse of each hotel, and on fog-shrouded nights.”

Joanna rapidly reached for the chalk and circled the term Fog-shrouded. “Last night the fog was quite thick, was it not?”

The commissioner nodded. “It was a pea-souper, with a yellowish tinge caused by the accumulation of sulfur gases.”

“Then pray tell, Sir Charles, how does a doorman stationed at the front entrance of the hotel view a robbery taking place five stories up?”

“Perhaps the doorman was alert to an individual exiting the hotel who was out of place and obviously not a guest,” he replied without hesitation. “Say the thief was from the working class and carrying a satchel of tools rather than a suitcase. The doorman confronts him, a struggle ensues, and the poor man is struck by a metal object which causes a skull fracture so severe that the doctors at St. Bartholomew’s hold little hope for his survival.”

“Was the weapon found?”

“It was seen but not recovered,” Sir Charles answered. “Allow me to explain. We believe the attack took place at approximately two AM, for that was the time the injured doorman was discovered by a taxi driver drawing up to the hotel entrance to discharge late-arriving guests. The driver attempted to give assistance and that is when he noticed a metal object near the victim’s head. He assumed it was the weapon, but it resided in a small pool of blood.”

“Was he able to describe the metal object?”

“He said it was slender and about so big.” The commissioner extended his thumb and index finger as far apart as possible. “This would make the weapon five inches in length, but the driver had no idea as to its width. He did remark that it did resemble a railroad spike. In any event, the entrance soon became crowded with members of the hotel staff, a doctor who happened to be a guest, and several ambulance personnel. When Scotland Yard arrived, the area in front of the entrance was being cleaned and the blood washed away. Despite a diligent search by the inspector and his men, no weapon could be found.”

Joanna turned to Lestrade. “Were the nearby sewers and garbage bins inspected?”

“Within a two-block radius,” he replied. “In addition, the hotel staff and ambulance personnel who attended the doorman were questioned, and none recalled seeing the metal weapon.”

Joanna returned to her Persian slipper and came back with another lighted Turkish cigarette. Again she began pacing, now speaking unintelligibly to herself. The telephone on her writing desk rang loudly. My wife hurried over to it and picked up the receiver, only to immediately place it back in its cradle, thus interrupting the call so that it would not break her concentration. She started pacing once more, speaking as she strode. “The weapon is most important. You must make every effort to find it, even if you must double your search area.”

“We shall do so and bring in additional men as well.”

Sir Charles asked, “Why is the weapon so important at this juncture?”

“You show me the weapon, I’ll show you the man,” Joanna replied. “It will also allow us to clearly state that the metal object caused the skull fracture.”

“All evidence indicates it did,” Sir Charles insisted, and gestured to Lestrade. “The inspector spoke with the surgeon at St. Bartholomew’s and can give you their accurate description of the head wound and the type of weapon which would bring about such an injury.”

Lestrade opened his notebook and wetted a finger as he went through its pages. “The fracture was high up on the skull, above and behind the eye socket, and appeared to be quite even, like one made with a small hatchet. The blow was forceful enough to cause fragments of bone to be embedded in the brain itself.”

“Did the surgeon specifically state that the wound was high up on the skull?” Joanna asked.

“Indeed he did, madam,” the inspector assured, again referring to his notes. “It was located well above the eye and near the hairline.”

The expression on my wife’s face indicated that something was amiss with the inspector’s account of the wound.

Lestrade noted the change in her appearance and quickly added, “The surgeon was quite convinced that the injury was the result of a blow from the weapon described by the taxi driver.”

My father inquired, “May we know the name of the attending surgeon?”

Lestrade flipped more pages in his notepad before replying, “Sir Thomas Hutson.”

“A distinguished physician who is known for his expertise on head injuries,” my father noted.

“Who has actually written a thesis on the subject which is considered the gold standard by many,” I recalled.

Joanna nodded at the surgeon’s qualifications, then summarized the case presented to us. “So we have yet another robbery at a fine hotel, which on this occasion involves a bloody assault. Are these not the salient features?”

“Correct,” Sir Charles responded.

“There must be more to it to merit an urgent visit by both the commissioner and an inspector from Scotland Yard.”

“There is, madam, for the personage robbed was the Governor-General of South Africa and the item stolen was the famed blue diamond.”

Our collective jaws must have dropped at the mention of one of the world’s most precious gems, which had been described in numerous newspapers and magazines throughout England. Even photographs of it had been shown, but none could truly reveal its lustrous blue color that made it so unique. The blue diamond was amongst the rarest of diamonds, and those deemed flawless were beyond price. Such was the stone discovered at De Beers Consolidated Mines some five months earlier. It weighed 2,828 metric carats, which made it the second-largest diamond every found, and only a bit smaller than the celebrated Cullinan Diamond that had a weight of 3,106 metric carats. But it was its blue color, produced by trace amounts of boron that contaminated its crystalline lattice, which dazzled the eyes of every viewer. The gem was so large and unique that once it was cut and polished its value was estimated to exceed a million pounds.

Joanna broke the silence by returning to the blackboard and listing the blue diamond in the item(s) stolen category, along with its estimated worth. She underlined its value and gave the item another long stare before turning to the commissioner. “I assume security was extraordinary.”

“It was beyond extraordinary,” he replied, then flipped the blackboard over to its blank side and drew a simple diagram with labels.“The entire fifth floor, which I have outlined, was occupied by the Governor-General and his entourage. The floor had eight suites, four a side, a single lift, and only one door out that leads to the emergency stairs. There were ten security agents who were rotated on a frequent basis, with five being on station at any given time. One was positioned outside the Governor-General’s suite, marked by the arrow, a second by the lift, a third at the window at the far end of the corridor, and two by the door to the emergency stairs—one in the corridor and another in the staircase itself. No hotel personnel were allowed on the floor after six in the evening, and those permitted prior to that time were carefully scrutinized and searched. As to the Governor-General’s suite, there is a single door in, with no possible entrance from the adjoining suites, as well as a set of windows overlooking Fairmont. These windows are kept latched and are checked periodically, particularly at bedtime, to ensure they remain so. For all intents it is a locked room, with no possible way for a thief to enter.”

“Well, obviously one did,” Joanna remarked, and studied the diagram on the blackboard at length. “Were the floors examined for trapdoors?”

“Carefully, with none being found. In addition, I should mention the floors are heavily carpeted and showed no interruptions or defects. The bathrooms were completely tiled, without breaks or fractures which would allow for a trapdoor.”

“And the ceiling?”

“Beautifully engraved, with crown molding, and totally intact. We also went to the roof and found nothing remarkable, then inspected the narrow space above the ceiling and discovered only dust and spider webs. So again, as with the robberies at the Fairmont and the St. Regis, our thief miraculously appears and disappears, carrying off items of immense value.”

“It seems odd that such a precious gem was kept in a hotel suite, even with extreme security in place,” Joanna wondered aloud. “I would think that a bank vault would have been more in order.”

“But not under the current circumstances,” the commissioner explained. “The Governor-General arrived only yesterday for a meeting of the Imperial War Conference, which brings together King George with the leaders of the various colonies, such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. These meetings are of particular importance, for they deal with the vital contributions of the colonies to His Majesty’s war effort, which includes troops, weapons, supplies, and vital raw materials. The conference will take place this weekend, but the Governor-General was granted an audience with the King this morning, at which time the blue diamond was to be presented to His Royal Highness as a symbolic gesture of the resolve and never-ending alliance of the colonies to the Crown. With this schedule in mind, a somewhat brief stay at the Windsor under heavy security was deemed appropriate.”

“I can thus assume that the presence of the blue diamond in London and its purported use as a gift was known at the higher levels of government,” said Joanna.

“And by the various newspapers to whom the information was given, but with the caveat that it not be disclosed until after the presentation was made. It was believed that public knowledge of the gift would be a clear demonstration of the closeness of those involved in the war effort, as well as being a morale booster at a time when one was much needed.”

“So it would appear the information was known by many.”

“I am afraid so.”

“And the information no doubt reached the ears of our most accomplished hotel thief.”

“That, too, appears to be the case.”

“I take it the penthouse at the Windsor remains tightly sealed off.”

“Until further notice.”

“And that the Governor-General and his entourage have vacated.”

“With such an obvious breach in security, they had no choice but to do so immediately. And of course the audience before the King has been postponed.” Sir Charles sighed resignedly to himself. “And at this point it seems we have so little to go on yet again.”

“So it would appear.”

“I know it is premature, but do you have any helpful suggestions?”

“Only that I be allowed to inspect the penthouse before it is scrubbed clean.”

“Lestrade will see to it.”

“And I would like to interview the taxi driver who discovered the victim and the Scotland Yard detectives who were first on the scene.”

“Lestrade will see to that as well,” the commissioner said, and turned for the door. “Please inform us of any noteworthy findings.”

Joanna waited until the pair had departed, then gleefully rubbed her hands together. “Now there is a rather tangled piece of work, is it not?”

“But yet again with virtually no clues,” I remarked. “Or data as you call them.”

“Oh, dear John, it is one of your few flaws that you tend to look for answers rather than asking the important questions.”

“Which are?”

Joanna held up three fingers. “First, why would an accomplished thief, who can magically enter and exit a heavily guarded suite, decide to leave via the front entrance at two in the morning when he is certain to be noticed by the hotel staff? Surely, he would know that a reservation clerk, porter, front doorman, and perhaps even the night manager would be present in the main lobby at that time.” She paused before smiling at our silence. “Good, for it appears you have no reasonable answer, which raises the distinct possibility that the thief did not exit via the front entrance.”

“Then how did he leave?” asked my father.

“That remains a mystery.”

“Perhaps he departed via a side or rear door,” I suggested.

“If that were the case, he would not have encountered or fought with the front doorman,” Joanna rebutted.

My father slowly packed the bowl of his cherrywood pipe with Arcadia Mixture as he gave the matter further thought. “It may be that the thief exited by a side door which he closed noisily and that prompted the doorman to investigate.”

“And the thief just happened to be carrying around an object that resembled a railroad spike?” Joanna challenged. “Which is the second question which cries out to be answered.”

“Then let us assume that it is some form of weapon which he kept hidden in the event of need,” my father proposed.

“Assuming that assumption is correct, how could a spikelike weapon inflict such a terrible wound behind the eye socket near the hairline?” Joanna asked, and turned to me. “John, please hold an imaginary weapon tightly in your hand and attempt to bring about a wound to my skull in that particular area.”

I attempted to maneuver and discovered it was virtually impossible to inflict such a powerful blow to the area between the frontal and temporal bones of the skull. “It cannot be done in a face-to-face fight.”

“Precisely.”

“Your point being?”

“We have a thief exiting where he should not have, carrying a peculiar weapon which is most unlikely, and inflicting a wound with it that is impossible to execute. All of which brings into question the commissioner’s contention that the thief departed via the front entrance where he encountered a suspicious doorman that resulted in a brawl during which time the thief used an odd weapon to deliver a grievous head wound in a location that we now know the weapon could not have possibly reached with force.”

“So pray tell, what exactly did transpire outside the entrance to the Windsor at that early-morning hour?”

“That is what has to be determined,” said Joanna, walking to our bedroom. “And now I shall change into attire more appropriate for catching a most clever thief.”

Copyright © 2022 by Leonard Goldberg. All rights reserved.

Read a Q&A with Leonard Goldberg on The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series


About The Blue Diamond by Leonard Goldberg:

During a critical stage in World War One, the Governor-General of South Africa journeys to London for a meeting of The Imperial War Conference. Days prior to the conference, the Governor-General is scheduled to have an audience at Buckingham Palace at which time a most precious blue diamond will be presented to King Edward as a symbolic gesture of the colonies’ resolute and never-ending allegiance to England.

The flawless blue diamond, with its magnificent luster, weighs nearly 3000 carats which renders it one of the world’s largest and most valuable gems. On the Governor-General’s arrival, he is ensconced at the fashionable Windsor Hotel under the tightest security, with his entire entourage and formidable security team occupying the entire penthouse floor. All entrances and exits are locked down and closely guarded, and no one is allowed entrance after 6 PM.

Despite the extreme precautions, the famous diamond is stolen from the Governor-General’s suite in the middle of the night, with no clues left behind. With Scotland Yard baffled, Joanna and the Watsons are called in to investigate the theft and it becomes clear that the crime is not simply the work of a master thief, but one that could greatly aid the Germans and turn the tide of war in their favor. Time is of the essence and the blue diamond must be recovered before it begins its travels which could cause irreparable damage to the allied war plans.

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