The Case of the Missing Star

Chapter One

While Dr Watson was always interested in chronicling my life, he wrote oddly little about his own. Even his marriage, and his later bereavement, were mentioned only in passing. He hasn’t yet written anything about his son Jim.

He also never mentions this private journal, because he never knew about it. I will leave it to him in my will. That way, once I no longer have any need of a good reputation, he will be able to complete his account of Sherlock Holmes’s cases.

Jim Watson was always slightly frightened of me as a baby, but I was far more frightened of him. The smallest interaction would lead to ten minutes of crying, with both parents trying to calm him down. Eventually it changed. Jim began as a baby but then ate, and slept, and grew, and eventually he became interesting. Some of the time, at least.

One day, when he hadn’t been a baby for some considerable time, he asked, “Can I see one of your cases, while Dad’s away?”

“There’s nothing worth seeing,” I told him. “Mrs Blackwell’s husband isn’t missing, he’s just cheating.”

“How do you know?” Jim seemed to be looking forward to hearing about some feat of deduction, but I’m too tired for that, these days.

“You met her,” I said. “You’d cheat if you had to spend every day with her.”

In fact my brain was in a treacly fug, and there was a white powder that would help with that, in a little box in a desk drawer. I opened the drawer, found the box and held it up. “Want some?”

“Dad would kill me.”

“Your dad would kill me, too.” I opened the box but the powder had all gone. My first instinct was to blame Jim, or Mrs Hudson, but Mrs Hudson? Cocaine? Really? I had to admit that only one nose was involved, even though it was a lot of powder and I didn’t remember using it.

“You need an arch enemy,” said Jim. “I was going to be an insulting detective, but now I think I’m going to be a master criminal.”

Consulting detective,” I corrected him, and Jim laughed. When he’d been much younger, he’d got the word wrong, but now he knew exactly what he was saying.

After a moment, Jim looked sad. “Of course, Dad still wants me to be a doctor.”

“You’ll make more money doing that,” I told him.

“I’ll make even more money as a master criminal.” He winked. “I’m going out.”

I believe the idea of leaving Jim at Baker Street was that he would be safe, and wouldn’t go out, but I always found that difficult to prevent. I once suggested tying Jim up, but this wasn’t the right answer. I was supposed to look like an authority figure, apparently, but that didn’t make sense. Jim knew very well who I was, and it would be illogical for him to obey me just because I had changed my manner.

“Ask Arbuthnot for a refill,” I called after him, holding up the box.

“Arbuthnot won’t be there, it’s evening,” called Jim from the stairs.

He was probably right. John says the brain fugs come from the powder, but in fact the powder helps. I do hope I’m not going to be having this tiresome conversation again. At least this evening he is attending to the Duke of Norfolk. Army medic to attending the Duke of Norfolk, it’s okay for some.

Chapter Two

After a couple of baths and a quick sleep I felt much more alert, which was fortunate because Inspector Lestrade arrived as I was having breakfast, opening the post, and reading a couple of telegrams. I have to be careful because not everyone at Scotland Yard supports my unofficial involvement. Whispers about cocaine could see me frozen out, however much it helps my concentration and deductive powers.

“Inspector,” I said, rather uncomfortably. I don’t like using people’s names or titles in case I get them wrong. Usually Watson is here and he goes through social routines with any visitors.

“Won’t you have a seat,” said Mrs Hudson, looking into the room from behind him.

“Dr Watson isn’t here?” asked the inspector.

I explained that he was attending the Duke of Norfolk, and the inspector looked suddenly attentive. “The Duke was burgled last night.”

“Burgled?” A burglary at the Duke’s was much more interesting than Mrs Blackwell’s husband.

“The Victoria Star was the only thing stolen,” said Lestrade, sitting down. “Well, and the tiara it’s part of, but the ruby was most of the value.”

“Begin at the beginning, please, Inspector.”

“The Victoria Star is a twenty-six carat ruby from Burma…”

“The beginning of the burglary.”

“The Duke and Duchess had gone to bed. Just before three AM, the Duchess was woken by a noise. The Duke armed himself with a pistol and set out to investigate. Coming to his wife’s dressing room, he saw a figure, silhouetted against the window. He entered and challenged the man…”

“And it turned out to be the butler,” I said, smirking inwardly while outwardly maintaining the proprieties.

“How did you know it was the butler?” demanded Lestrade.

“An elementary deduction,” I said. “If it were the thief, you would not need to come here, and at Norfolk House the butler’s room is almost behind the master bedrooms, on the other side of the servants’ corridor.”

Lestrade nodded wisely. Of course I might have deduced that it was the butler from the mud on the side of Lestrade’s shoe, or the scuff on his jacket. Whatever I’d picked, Lestrade would have nodded wisely, but the problem with detective work is that it’s never this certain. The butler’s room really is opposite the master bedrooms, but perhaps he’s a heavy sleeper. Perhaps one of the other servants had gone to get a glass of water. Perhaps it was the Duke’s son sleepwalking, who knows.

It’s always fun when you can cut through all those random possibilities, and tell people something they know to be true. It’s like being a conjurer.

“Anyway,” continued Lestrade, “they checked the Duchess’s jewellery, and the only thing missing was the Victoria Star and the tiara.”

There were footsteps on the stairs, and then the door opened. In came Dr Watson followed by Mrs Hudson, who looked deeply impressed. “His, um,” she said.

“Grace,” said Watson.

“His Grace the Duke of Norfolk.” Second time lucky. And here he is: Duke, burglary victim, not to mention Dr Watson’s lucrative and hypochondriac patient.

“Inspector Lestrade.” The inspector quickly stood up and held out his hand.

“You were highly recommended by the Commissioner,” said the Duke. “I hope he was right.”

“I will do my very best,” said Lestrade awkwardly. He knew the Duke could make life very difficult for him, if this went wrong.

“I trust you all know about the crime that was committed at my residence,” said the Duke. He pulled out a pocket watch. “I cannot stay, I have to be in Parliament. Mr Holmes, if you recover the Victoria Star, you may send your fee note to my butler.”

Pompous ass, I thought to myself. If anyone deserved to lose his property, it was him. “Your Grace, I perceive that your watch is an object of great sentimental value. Originally owned by your grandfather, but it came to you directly, bypassing your father.”

Watson looked astonished, as usual. “How did you know that?”

“Have you been investigating my affairs?” demanded the Duke.

Lestrade sat quietly, no doubt enjoying the spectacle, but not wanting to be noticed.

“Your clothes and shoes are all of the latest fashions,” I told the Duke, “but your watch is a style that was current many years ago. Why does a man wear something that is out of style? Poverty, but you are not poor. A reluctance to spend time, but you have spent time on the rest of your attire. So it must be sentiment.”

“Oh, that’s all rather commonplace,” said Watson. He is right, but he didn’t say it until everything had been explained to him.

“Quite so,” said the Duke, putting his watch away and walking into the trap. “But how did you know about it bypassing my father?”

“It was in all the society papers that your father was a gambler, and his parents set up trusts to keep property out of his reach.”

“Mr Holmes, how dare you!” The Duke wasn’t in such a rush to get to Parliament now.

“I am merely stating facts,” I told him. “You asked how I knew that your grandfather had left the watch to you, and so I explained.”

“Your Grace, Mr Holmes is sometimes rather direct.” Lestrade was trying to calm things down. “If you want to recover the Victoria Star, though…”

“Yes, well, I have heard of Holmes’s reputation…”

“Tell me what happened last night,” I said quickly.

The Duke explained that he had been at home all evening, before “retiring” to bed and then being woken after his wife heard a “noise”. All very interesting, not for the information, but for the new questions. Why was the Duke lying about his evening?

“And then I found Blackwell, standing over the empty drawer, acting the innocent. Naturally the police were summoned, and a search was made of his room, but there was no sign of the Victoria Star. All we found was a handkerchief, in the drawer, with J.M. embroidered in the corner.”

“Professor James Moriarty,” I said.

“How did you know?” asked Watson.

“I’m sure you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the underworld,” said the Duke, “but guessing won’t do us any good.”

It was a shame to disappoint everyone, but it wasn’t a feat of deduction. I got out the telegram that had arrived that morning. “This could only be a Moriarty product.”


“Well that sounds easy,” said the Duke. “I will have a word with the manager myself. Find out who draws the money out, grab them and the jewel.”

“Why can’t we just arrest Professor Moriarty?” asked Watson.

“He resigned his professorship over a scandal, but it was nothing illegal. After that he needed a new way of earning a living, and there are rumours about that, but we can’t arrest him for rumours.”

“I’m going to speak to the bank manager,” declared the Duke, who seemed to have forgotten about his hurry. “Lestrade, will you find officers to watch for someone withdrawing the money?”

“Of course, Your Grace.” Lestrade got to his feet, obviously taken with the Duke’s plan.

“I have to warn against it,” I said. “Moriarty will expect this to be tried, and he will have a plan.”

“Nonsense!” said the Duke. “He’ll just count on giving our men the slip, and we just have to be smarter.”

“You could lose five hundred guineas, as well as your tiara.” I knew his plan wasn’t going to work. Anyone who had any idea of strategy would think ahead and realise how obvious watching the bank really was. Nevertheless, I was soon alone with Dr Watson.

“He’s going to lose his money, isn’t he?” Even Watson could see what was going to happen.

“Let’s go to Norfolk House,” I said. “That’s the key and we have to find the Star before the Duke hands his money to Moriarty.”

Chapter Three

Norfolk House was the Duke and Duchess’s London residence. Built in a large plot on the Regent’s Park side of Park Crescent, it was famous for its modernity. It had water and gas connections, an electricity connection that was so unreliable as to be not much more than a novelty, and a direct private connection to Joseph Bazalgette’s new sewer system.

It took a while to get in. Now they had been burgled, they were very suspicious of burglars. Eventually the Duchess recognised me from a picture in the newspaper, and in we went.

“Where do you want to start?” she asked. She didn’t seem as self-important as the Duke, and I wondered who really ran things. The Duke had confidence but little common sense, a dangerous combination.

“Take us to the room where the tiara was stored.” We should look for traces of Moriarty, I thought, but we should also try making the “noises” the Duke had told us about. The Duchess had very good hearing if she’d heard a drawer being opened while she was asleep several rooms away.

When we got there, I had a good look at the drawer. It hadn’t been forced, which might have made more noise. There was no sign of a broken window or forced entry into the room, which might be the same. But people all over the house had heard nonsense “noises”. Very interesting.

“I don’t know how they can have got in,” said the Duchess. “There are always three men on guard in the garden and at the front.”

“It’s all very interesting, isn’t it?” This investigation was as much fun as white powder, and I felt on top of the world. The Duchess didn’t look convinced, and Watson mumbled a social nicety to stop her getting upset.

“Watson, go into the dressing room and open and shut that drawer.”

I stood in the bedroom with the Duchess, and a maid who seemed to be acting as a kind of chaperone. As if I would waste my time seducing the Duchess when there is a case to investigate!

After a while, Watson reappeared, and I pointed out that we hadn’t heard anything.

“But I didn’t hear anything,” she said. “It was my husband.”

I allowed myself a small smile. “Of course it was.”

I asked about Blackwell, the butler. He’d heard a nonsense noise as well, so I was anxious to speak to him.

“Shouldn’t we be looking for clues in the dressing room?” asked Watson.

Actually, no we shouldn’t. Finding out about these noises was much more likely to take things in the direction we wanted them to go. I thought the burglars would have been very careful. Jim Moriarty was very clever. He wrote a famous paper about the binomial theorem, and I thought he would bring the same methodical approach to burglaries.

I stood in the butler’s room while Watson opened and shut the drawer. “I can’t hear anything now,” said Blackwell. “He must’ve made a bigger noise.”

“There wasn’t a bigger noise,” I said. “Nothing was broken or forced, and apart from that, a burglar would keep quiet.”

“I don’t know what it sounded like,” said Blackwell. “I was half-asleep at the time. But there was a noise, it woke me up.”

“We know you didn’t take the tiara or the Star,” I told him. “But you were on the move in the house last night, and while you were doing that, you found the dressing room open and the drawer empty.”

I saw Blackwell hesitate. “You have to believe me…” he started. Actually I did believe him. I already knew about his nocturnal movements from his wife, who had asked me to investigate.

“I’m sure Mr Holmes will be discreet,” said Watson.

Of course I will be discreet. I’m not that kind of private detective, so I will just tell his wife I’m too busy to take the case. If she hasn’t made the obvious inference already, she’s unlikely to do so in the future.

Chapter Four

Often I forget to eat breakfast, even if Mrs Hudson leaves something. The following day, though, I was eating a fried mushroom when the Duke and Lestrade burst in.

“My five hundred guineas have gone!” shouted the Duke. “I had a telegram from Lestrade saying sorry. Sorry!”

I took a sip of coffee and cut off a piece of bacon. I took my time, dipping it in egg yolk, before replying. “That was always a risk.”

“The London and Country Bank was fake,” said Lestrade.

“I talked to the manager myself and he seemed a reliable chap,” said the Duke.

Lestrade picked up the story. “We watched the bank yesterday and no one came to collect the money before closing time. This morning the bank didn’t open at all.”

I nodded. “And there was no bank, not really.”

“There is nothing there at all, just a few tables and a counter made out of bits of wood,” said Lestrade. “The manager must have taken the guineas when he closed up the bank, and there are no other customers.”

I took another piece of bacon. “This makes it all the more urgent that we find the thief.”

“Exactly so,” said the Duke. “Will you be carrying on your investigation at Norfolk House?”

“In a while,” I said. “I have some enquiries to make here first.”

I could see the Duke’s face turning red as his temper started to build, but it was actually true. He huffed and muttered for a while, but eventually he and Lestrade left.

I had to meet up with Watson. Jim Watson, that is, not John. He had asked to see one of my cases, and so he would. We met in a coffee shop next to Regent’s Park, a few minutes walk from Baker Street.

“How did it go yesterday?” I asked him.

“No one suspected anything,” he said. He was excited by the chase, the same as I was. Neither of us wanted white powder now. “The Duke drove the manager nuts, explaining his plan over and over again as though he was stupid.”

I had to laugh. “But the manager was in on it all the time.”

“Yes, and then Lestrade had officers watching the bank, but nobody thought about the bank being in on the scam.”

“Now we need to go and see some fences,” I said. “Ask if any of them have seen the Victoria Star.”

We finished our coffees and I hailed a cab; a cheap, discreet one. We first travelled east, and located an address in a street off Aldgate. It crowded close to neighbouring houses, but unlike them, it hadn’t been split into tenements. Someone lived there who was prosperous but didn’t want to move out of the East End. I knocked on the door, with Jim hanging back behind me.

The door was opened, cautiously, by the type of man who is often described as weaselly. He didn’t, of course, look anything like a weasel. “Mr Holmes. What do you want?”

“Can we come in?” I asked. “We’re looking for the Victoria Star, and we’ll be discreet about your other things if you help us.”

“I heard about that,” said the man. “Rich toff lost a jewel worth half of London.”

“Who did you hear about it from?” I asked, walking in before he could shut the door. Jim came in behind me, like his father had done so often.

“Then he hires a toff’s detective to try and find it.”

“Who did you hear about it from, Colin?” I waited and he didn’t answer. “I can get Inspector Lestrade to come and search this place if you like.”

“Can’t remember,” he muttered. “Someone in the Three Horseshoes.”

“Haven’t got it here have you?” I walked around him, giving Jim a chance to get past without being seen, so he could poke around.

Colin’s eyes got wider. “You know me, Mr Holmes! Watches, handkerchiefs… I couldn’t buy something like that, wouldn’t have the money to put down.”

Once I’d given Jim enough time, I brought the conversation to a close, and we left. Once we were back in the cab, Jim grinned and showed me his empty bag. I smiled back. Colin’s house was always full of junk, providing ample space for Jim to hide anything he wanted to hide.

We visited a few other known fences, but we didn’t find the Star at any of them.

Chapter Five

The cabbie’s last job was taking us back to Norfolk House, and there I paid him off. This time we got into the house without arousing suspicion, and we went back to the Duchess’s dressing room. There we found Lestrade with a couple of constables, making a crude and unsystematic search. It made me cringe to watch them, trampling around, opening and shutting drawers. They’re almost certain to have destroyed any clue on the floor. A very determined clue in another place might just survive.

“Ah, Holmes,” said Lestrade. Tramp, trample, scuff, he came across the crime scene in his big boots to greet me. “Hope you can do something with this case, I’m in a hole to be frank with you.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” I said. “The Duke insisted on paying that money.”

“Doesn’t mean I won’t get the blame, does it?” Lestrade actually looked more downcast than I’d expected. I suppose he probably has a family somewhere, who depend on his detective money.

“I’m sure we’ll find the Star for you, sir.” Jim was playing at being the respectful apprentice.

“You’re trampling all over the evidence.” I wasn’t. “Get those men out of there!”

Lestrade was only too happy to do my bidding. He looked defeated, but I felt there was good news on the horizon. I began by examining the furniture and the J.M. handkerchief with a magnifying glass. I worked in silence. I never give a commentary on my investigations because then it becomes awkward if I don’t immediately find anything. On that occasion I was very grateful, because there was little to see. The drawer had been unlocked and the thief had simply opened it and removed the contents.

Behind me, the officers maintained an attitude of hushed admiration. What it is to have a reputation!

“It has to be someone inside the house,” said Lestrade. “With all those people on guard…”

“Quiet!” I said dramatically, and Lestrade was intimidated into silence. I turned my attention to the floor. To my surprise, I noticed that a clue had survived Lestrade’s assault. There was a dirty footprint on the carpet, and the policemen had all carefully cleaned their boots before walking into this aristocratic home.

I bent close to the footprint and sniffed. As I suspected, it wasn’t mud. Normally for tracking scents I need the services of Toby the bloodhound, but this one was a bit more pungent. I left the room on my hands and knees, searching for the next footprint. I followed the trail down the corridor, with the policemen muttering to themselves. Reputation only goes so far.

Eventually I got to a downstairs window, which was not latched, and a scratch showed that the latch had been lifted from the outside. Now I’d really found something I still resisted the temptation to tell anyone. If I did that it would give the game away next time I didn’t find something.

Outside the window, there was a footprint in a flower bed. A short way away, there was a metal cover, and bright scratches showed that it had been moved with tools.

“Lestrade, this is how they got in,” I said.

Jim stood quietly and shyly, not asking stupid questions like his father would have done. Meanwhile, the policemen lifted the cover, revealing metal steps down.

“What is this?” asked Lestrade.

“The house is very modern, it even has its own sewerage connection,” I said. “The burglars got in along the sewer pipe.”

There was no option but to start climbing down, unpleasant as it was. Nobody seemed in a hurry to follow me, least of all Jim, who had been down Bazalgette’s sewers before.

Eventually I popped up again, and showed them a scrap of fabric. “This was caught on one of the handholds,” I said. “I must examine it and find the Duke.”

“What do you think it is?” asked Jim, who looked genuinely curious, much more like his father now.

“The burglar must’ve snagged his clothes,” I said. “I’ve examined and catalogued two hundred different types of cloth, so I will be able to work out where it comes from.”

“Will you make sure the Duke doesn’t complain about me?” asked Lestrade, a bit plaintively.

“I don’t think the Duke will want to talk very much about this case,” I said.

Chapter Six

The Duke called for his carriage, and together with Jim, we headed for the East End. We now looked much more conspicuous than we had earlier, in our cheap cab, but that no longer made any difference.

“Lestrade would have searched this fence’s house, if you’d asked him,” said the Duke. “Why do we have to do it?”

“I asked your wife about this noise that awakened her,” I said. Start gently, I thought to myself.

The Duke just shrugged. “And?”

“And she said she didn’t hear anything. It was you.”

Now he was looking a bit more attentive. “Perhaps I didn’t remember. I’d only just woken up. I took my pistol…”

“Nobody could hear a drawer open in that room,” I told him firmly. “How could you? It was several doors down the corridor.”

The Duke was still denying everything, but he was sitting up straighter. He was concentrating, and you don’t have to concentrate if you’re telling the plain truth, do you? “Perhaps he forced something. He woke up Blackwell too.”

“These nonsense noises didn’t wake anyone up,” I said. “Blackwell was awake because he was meeting his mistress, and so were you.”

“How dare you!” The Duke was about to stand up, but realised he would bang his head on the carriage roof, so he sat down again.

“Blackwell has told me everything,” I said, keeping it quiet and matter-of-fact. “We may be able to get the tiara and the Star back, but we have to be discreet. That’s why I didn’t involve Lestrade.”

“Well, discretion…” The Duke puffed himself up, as though he were about to start making a speech in the House of Lords. “Someone in my position, don’t want to be connected with the police… Newspapers…”

Blah blah blah, I thought to myself. Why shouldn’t he involve the police if he was burgled? Still, it didn’t matter if he admitted it or not, as long as he accepted that we needed to be careful. It was no good trying to prosecute the fence or the burglar, and have a lot of sordid details come out about the Duke’s household.

“We are very discreet,” said Jim. He wasn’t the humble apprentice now. “There will be no rumours, as long as you get Lestrade taken off the case without harming his career.”

We had arrived, and I knocked on Colin’s door again. He opened the door a crack. “Mr Holmes, what do you want now?”

I quickly got my boot in the doorway. “This is the Duke of Norfolk, and he wants his tiara back.”

“I told you, I wouldn’t handle that, Mr Holmes.”

I showed him the scrap of fabric. “This matches your jacket,” I told him. “You’re not just selling it, you stole it.” Again I walked past him, so Jim could go and search.

“Well, where did it come from?” Colin held out bits of his jacket, showing that there were no scraps torn off. I made a show of examining it, to waste a bit of time. It was in good condition, as befits a successful fence.

“Is this the tiara?” asked Jim, reappearing with the elaborate headpiece. He hadn’t been searching for very long, but then, why would he? He’d left the tiara on our last visit and would remember where it was.

“The Victoria Star!” gasped the Duke.

Chapter Seven

The Duke was powerful enough to ensure that people were discreet, on the whole, but there was just one other person we had to see. We met him in the coffee shop near Regent’s Park.

“Professor Moriarty,” I said quietly, so no one overheard. Jim grinned next to me.

“Not any more,” he said, also keeping his voice low. “I have a new name which has no scandals attached.”

“What work are you doing now?” asked Jim.

“Mathematics, of course. Mr Babbage invented a fascinating mathematical machine, that…”

After a little while, Jim interrupted him. “So as I said, I would like to buy the Moriarty name for a hundred guineas.”

“Well I don’t need it, and I do need a hundred guineas. If I’m finally to construct Mr Babbage’s machine…”

So there we are. I will try to discourage Watson Senior from writing an account of this adventure because, of course, it would have to be untruthful. It would have to be untruthful because of the promise we gave the Duke, but also he couldn’t really say that his son split four hundred guineas with Sherlock Holmes. It couldn’t say that his son was a fake bank teller, and it couldn’t name the fake bank manager, who was easy to find given my criminal connections. It couldn’t admit that the whole case started because of Mrs Blackwell’s husband having an affair, and gossip about the Duke that I heard at the same time.

Most of all, it couldn’t say that Sherlock Holmes gets bored when there isn’t enough crime, and creates his own.

I put my two hundred guineas in a drawer at 221B Baker Street. I spent the top one refilling my little box with white powder, but didn’t sniff for some time, and as a result the other guineas got forgotten.