The Adventure of the Jeweled Falcon
The corpse lay on its back in the dark of the alley off of Wardour Street. It was just after dusk and a brisk April breeze cut through my coat, chilling my bones as I busily searched through the contents of an open briefcase that lay on the pavement near the dead man. The victim had been a tall, thin man in life, impeccably dressed and groomed. His long face betrayed the first signs of middle age around the mouth and forehead. His head was bald except for a wide shock of neatly trimmed brown hair that extended from the ears and around the back of his head. His arms and legs were splayed out, palms up, hands open, as if he’d been caught utterly by surprise by his attacker. A black bowler cap sat by his left foot, the top of which had been punched in.
A handful of constables guarded the two ends of the alley as Holmes, down on one knee, leaned over the corpse, his long slender fingers flitting through pockets, feeling along wrinkled folds of clothing, searching for any clue that would help solve the mystery of the murdered man’s death. Detective Inspector Lestrade stood beside Holmes, holding a brightly lit lamp over the corpse but remained respectfully quiet as Holmes did his work.
“This man has been murdered twice,” Holmes stated.
“Murdered twice?” Lestrade repeated in disbelief. “How can that be?”
“Look for yourself, Detective Inspector,” Holmes offered. “Shot once in the belly with a small caliber weapon and then strangled so violently with a wire garrote that his head is nearly decapitated.”
Lestrade stretched his own neck out, took in the bloody scene, then pulled himself back. “Seems like overkill to me. Why would a man shoot and then strangle his victim?” he asked.
“Because a man didn’t do this, Detective Inspector,” Holmes replied. “Two men did, working in concert with each other to make sure the job was done correctly.”
Lestrade scratched his chin. “Hmmm. A powerful man who’d made powerful enemies, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Holmes?”
“Perhaps, Lestrade,” Holmes said. “We won’t know for sure until Watson finishes going through the man’s belongings.”
“Yes,” I said, picking up Holmes’ subtle urging in his voice for me to hurry with my search. “It seems that this man’s attackers were looking for something particular...they’ve left quite a mess all over the alley.”
Discovering nothing of value during my inspection of the man’s briefcase, I expanded my search to the papers that were scattered all around the alley, some were invoices and receipts for items such as snow globes, children’s dolls and gold tie clips, nothing of such worth to incite murder. Others were business contracts written in French. The man was a salesman of some kind.
Apparently impatient with the pace of my thorough inspection concerning everything I discovered, Holmes aptly joined me in raking over the alley. It wasn’t long before he found something.
In a depression under a brick at the bottom of a wall on the east side of the alley, Holmes pulled out what looked like a leather billfold. It had obviously been thrown away and lost during the attack. Holmes held it up to Lestrade’s lamp and opened it. “Excellent,” he said victoriously. “No money but I’ve found a business license. Our victim’s name is Montague Caprice and he’s a pawn shop owner in Paris, a place called Bonne Affaires – Good Bargains. Here’s his return ticket to France, aboard the British steamer Reliant. Caprice was supposed to be aboard at half past six.” Holmes checked his pocket watch. “The ship has long since sailed.”
“He must have had business to tend to here in London, but ended up murdered before he could get back to his ship,” Lestrade mused aloud.
Precisely, Detective Inspector,” Holmes agreed. “But that leaves two questions; was Mr. Caprice buying or selling and what exactly was he buying or selling?”
“Something worth his life, unfortunately,” Lestrade said.
“And if it’s worth one life, that means it’s worth a hundred lives,” Holmes said worriedly. “We must find the object and those who stole it before more murders are committed.”