The Five Orange Pips (Final chapter)

‘How did you work it out Holmes?’ I asked.

‘I’ll explain my dear Watson,’ he said. `I have spent the whole day over at Lloyds – the registers of old papers and files. I followed the sailing history of every ship that sailed into Pondicherry in January and February in 1883. In total, 36 ships reported there during those months. Of those ships, one, the “Lone Star”, instantly caught my attention. It is the name given to one of the states in America.’

`Texas, I think,’ I said.

`I was not sure, but I knew the ship must have American origins.’

`What then?’ I asked.

`I searched the Dundee records. When I found that the “Lone Star” was there in January `83, my suspicion became a certainty. I then asked for a list of ships now presently docked at London.’

`And?’

‘And the “Lone Star” arrived here last week. I went to the Albert docks and found that the ship had sailed on the morning tide. She is homebound for Savannah. I called Gravesend and found that she had sailed past a while ago and the wind was easterly. I have no doubt that she will be past The Isle Of Wight by now.’

`What will you do?’

`Oh I have my hand upon him! I know that he was not on the ship last night. The stevedore that loaded his cargo told me so. By the time his boat reaches Savannah the mail boat will have carried this letter. That and my call to the Savannah police telling them that this man is badly wanted over here on the charge of murder!’

But there is a twist of fate in all of this. The murderer of John Openshaw was never to receive the letter with the five orange pips sent by the cunning and resolute Sherlock Holmes. Very long and very severe were the winds and storms that year. We waited a long time for news from the “Lone Star” but none ever reached us. At last we heard that – somewhere far out in the Atlantic sea – a shattered stern post was found floating on top of a wave. The letters “L.S” was carved into the wood and that is all we will ever know of the fate of the “Lone Star”.

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