It was in the spring of 2--- that, a few years after taking my own rooms off of Sloane Square, I rejoined Holmes at our old Baker Street address. Although my medical practice was flourishing, when it came time to roll my mortgage I found that my banker was unwilling to extend terms that I deemed acceptable. While I sold my rooms with heavy heart, I was also excited to renew my acquaintance with Holmes and share in his peculiar adventures.
Holmes' Baker Street rooms were a hive of activity upon my arrival. The apartment was filled with all manner of rough-looking fellows, which I naturally attributed to another of my friend's ingenious schemes to catch the London criminal unawares.
"Watson! You've arrived! Capital!" he exclaimed as I stepped through the doorway. He took my elbow, led me out of the way of the milling ruffians, and dropped his voice. "What do you think of my little project?"
"It's marvellous, I'm sure, Holmes, but I've no idea what it could be. Has Moriarty returned? Is this some gambit to infiltrate his gangs?"
Holmes laughed merrily, with a twinkle in his eye. "As observant as ever, Watson! It's good to know, my friend, that in an ever-changing world, I can always count on you...." My face reddened, flushed with pleasure. A compliment from Mr. Sherlock Holmes was a rare treat indeed. "...to fail to observe even the most obvious of facts."
My faced reddened further.
"Tell me Watson, these fellows. What are they drinking?"
"It looks like tea, Holmes."
"And how are they dressed?"
"Poorly, Holmes. I've never seen such an unkempt band of ruffians in my life."
"And do they look industrious to you?"
"Far from it Holmes! They look as if the lot of them has never done a full day's work in their lives."
"And yet you think this band of layabouts is employed by Professor James Moriarty, the most ruthless member of that predatory species known as criminalis Londinium? Is Moriarty's gang not known for its speed and efficiency? Moriarty would be a rare genius indeed to turn this mob into a well-oiled criminal enterprise!
"No Watson, I'm afraid that the answer is somewhat less attuned to my professional interests. That plumber that we rang in 19-- finally returnd my call last month, looking for work. So I'm finally getting the kitchen redone, just in time for your arrival back in Baker Street!"
"Splendid, Holmes!" Furnished with the answer, I could see that Holmes was right. A group of ruffians swilling tea and milling about, chatting, inside a domestic living space. What could they be but kitchen men?
Later that afternoon, after the kitchen men had departed to drink more tea at some other premises, I sat in the drawing room with Holmes as he regaled me with stories about his recent adventures. In the midst of recounting his involvement in the curious case of the fund manager's side pocket, we heard the muffled thud of footfalls on the stair outside, followed by a ringing of the bell.
"Splendid, Watson! Here's a chance for you to become re-acquainted with my methods, for unless I miss my guess we have a pair of clients about to offer us a case!"
Sure enough, Mrs. Hudson soon ushered in a rather odd-looking pair. One had a shock of white hair and what appeared to be tyre marks over his eyes, while his companion, a heavyset, jowly fellow, stared blankly at my friend with a vacant expression on his face.
Holmes rubbed his hands together and smiled. "Gentlemen! Welcome! What can I do for a pair of Scotsmen on a lovely spring evening in London?
The white-haired man gaped at Holmes. "Och aye, Mr. Holmes! How did ye ken we wair Scottish?"
"Tis a mere trifle, my dear sir! I can see from your wristwatch and manicured hands that you are a man of wealth and stature, unaccustomed to hard graft and manual labour. And yet your shoes are scuffed and worn, and your shirt collar frayed. Who else but a thrifty Scotsman would refuse to replace worn clothing, though he has ample funds to do so? Moreover, your colleague's signet ring is adorned with the cross of St. Andrew. I daresay even Watson here could identify a Scotsman by such a ring."
"Aye, when ye poot it like that, I kin see I've naught to be impressed aboot. 'Twas obvious!"
"Indeed," said Holmes icily. "Now how can I be of assistance?"
"My name is Mister Darling, and my colleague here is Mister Broon." The jowly man smiled grotesquely. "We have a wee problem that we hope you can solve for us. Mister Broon and I have been entrusted with the well-being of a great nation, to protect her wealth and safeguard her citizens.
"But the other week, something dreadful happened. Mister Broon and I were watching a film at our colleague Jacqui's third hoose when we got an anonymous phoon call. Some wretch has absconded with 175 billion poonds, and we cannae find it anywhere! Please, Mr. Holmes, we are begging you: find the money for us!"
"Hmmmm....." said Holmes after lighting his pipe and taking a thoughtful puff. "When was the last time you gentlemen actually saw this money?"
"Well," said Mr. Brown, smiling grotesquely, "we had it for a decade of careful economic stewardship. Our government successfully eliminated the boom/bust rollercoaster of the previous regime, and all was good. The last time I can really remember seeing the money was in September 2007. Since then it's all been a bit hazy, but I am sure I saw some Americans taking it recently. Yes, this is all the Americans' fault, and it has nothing to do with our government or our economic leadership."
"Och aye, it's the Yanks' fault!" chimed in Mr. Darling.
"Who were these Americans that took your money?" asked Holmes with a raised eyebrow.
"I dinna get a good look," said Mr. Darling, "but I'm sure it was their fault."
"Hmm," said Holmes, taking another puff on his pipe. "These are deep waters...very deep waters. I will take your case..."
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Holmes!" said Mr. Broon, smiling grotesquely.
"....but I cannot promise you anything than that I will do my best to locate the missing funds."
Mr. Broon's smile vanished but swifltly reappeared after what appeared to be an elbow in the ribs from Mr. Darling.
"That's wonderful, Mr. Holmes. Mr. Broon and I cannae thank you enough for taking our case. "
"Now, now, there's no need to thank me until we see what I come up with. Good evening gentlemen. I will be sure to wire you as soon as my enquiries bear fruit."
Smiling grotesquesly, Messrs. Broon and Darling rose, shook my friend's hand, and exited through the door.
As the sound of their footsteps receded, Holmes sat back and laughed. "Well, Watson? What do you make of our new case?"
"It seems serious, very serious indeed, Holmes! Who do you think these American thieves could be? The Black Hand? Maddoff, the swindler?"
"Now Watson, you know I never attempt to reach a conclusion without the benefit of facts, and right now the only fact that we possess is the identity of the oddest pair of clients that I have ever seen. I shall begin my line of enquiry tomorrow, and we shall see what we can land."
Will Holmes find the missing money?
Who is the mysterious thief?
What will Broon and Darling do if Holmes is unsuccessful?
Find out soon in Part Two.
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