Had great fun writing this. Enjoyed doing the research and learning how to spell our main
Had great fun writing this. Enjoyed doing the research and learning how to spell our main
‘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 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”.
`That hurt my pride,’ said Holmes. `It is now a personal matter with me. John Openshaw came to me for help, and I sent him away… to his death.’ Holmes got up quickly from his chair and paced around the room angrily. The cheeks on his face were red and he opened and closed his long, thin hands nervously.
`They are cunning devils,’ he said at last. `How could they have killed him at the pier? The Embankment is not the direct railway line to the station and the bridge would be too crowded for them. Someone would have seen something. Well, Watson, we shall see who will win in the end. I am going out now!’
`To the police?’ I asked.
`No, I shall be my own police,’ he said and I wondered what he meant.
I was busy all day with professional work and it was late before I returned to Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes had not come back yet. It was nearly ten o’clock before he entered. He looked pale and tired. He walked up to the table and took a large piece of bread. He ate this quickly.
`You are hungry,’ I said.
`Starving,’ he replied. `I forgot to eat. I have had nothing since breakfast.’
`Not a bite.’
`And how did you get on?’
`You have an idea, a clue?’
`I have them in my hand,’ said Holmes. `It won’t be long before young Openshaw is avenged! Why Watson, let us put their own devil’s trademark on them.’
`What do you mean?’ I asked.
Holmes took an orange from the cupboard, tore it into pieces and squeezed the pips onto the table. From these he picked up five and put them in an envelope. On the envelope he wrote, “S.H. for J.O.” Then he addressed the envelope to “Captain James Calhoun, Barque Lone Star, Savannah, Georgia.“
“This will await him when he reaches port,’ Holmes chuckled.
`Who is this Captain Calhoun?’ I asked.
`The leader of the gang! I’ll have others but he first!’
In the morning, the weather was nice. The sun was shining and I saw Holmes at the breakfast table when I came down the stairs.
`I am sorry I did not wait for you,’ said Holmes. `But I have a very busy day. I want to start early on young Openshaw’s case. `
`What will you do first?’ I asked.
`I’m not sure. I may have to go to Horsham later.’
`You are not going there first?’
`No. I shall start in the City. Ring the bell and the maid will bring you coffee.’
I rang and waited for the maid. I lifted the unopened newspaper and started to read it. I saw something that made my heart stop. `Holmes!’ I cried. `You are too late.’
`Oh,’ Holmes said, putting down his cup. `I feared this. How was it done?’ He said this calmly, but his face told a different story.
The headline in the newspaper was: “Tragedy near Waterloo Bridge”. I read aloud the story below it.
‘Between the times of nine and ten last night, Police Constable Cook was on duty near Waterloo bridge. PC Cook heard a cry for help and then a splash in the water. It was very dark and stormy. Even with the help of some people it was impossible to start a rescue. The alarm was raised and with the help of the Water Police the body was recovered. An envelope was found in the young man’s pocket. It had a name on it – John Openshaw, from Horsham. It is believed he was hurrying to catch the last train from Waterloo station. It was a dark night, and, because he was hurrying, he walked over the edge of the pier and fell into the water. There was no sign of violence. It appears to have been an unfortunate accident…’
We sat in silence for some time. Holmes was upset. The most upset I have ever seen.
‘The Klu Klux Klan,’ said Holmes, `is a secret society. It was started by some ex-Confederate soldiers in the Southern States of America just after the Civil War there. Many joined it from the states of Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolina’s, Georgia, and Florida. It was used to frighten and terrorise people. People were often murdered or made to leave the country in fear. The man who was threatened would be sent a warning. An oak leaf in some parts of the country, melon seeds in others, or…’ Holmes paused for a second, ‘orange pips!’
‘And if someone stood against them and did not run?’ I asked.
`If they did not leave the country, they were murdered.’ Holmes said gravely. `For years, the Klu Klux Klan grew in numbers. But in 1869, it suddenly collapsed.’ Holmes sat back in his chair.
`So you can see,’ said Holmes, dropping his voice to a quieter tone, `that the sudden breaking up of the Klan happened at the same time as the disappearance of Openshaw from America with their papers. And I believe that these papers had names written on them. Names of men who were involved with the K.K.K! And these men do not want their names to be known.’
`And the paper that we saw…’ I did not finish my sentence.
`Is a record of people who were chased from the country or dealt with in a deadly manner. But there is nothing more we can do tonight…’ Holmes said and reached down and picked up his violin at the side of his chair. ‘So for half an hour, let us not think about the terrible weather or the terrible behaviour of our fellow men.’
‘We already have a strong clue,’ said Holmes. `I think that the writer was on board a ship.’ Holmes held up a finger in the air. `Now think about this. Seven weeks after the letter from Pondicherry arrived, his uncle was killed. After the letter from Dundee, it was only three or four days and then his father was killed. What does that tell you?’
‘A greater distance to travel,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ said Holmes. ‘I think the seven weeks after the letter arrived tells us this: the men sent the letter by mail boat but followed in a sailing ship, which is slower. From Dundee, a shorter time was taken. Now this letter has been sent from London, which means there is no time. The men always strike after the time it takes to travel each distance.’
`Goodness me, what does it mean? This relentless pursuit of this family?’ I asked.
`The papers that Openshaw has are of great importance to the person or persons on the sailing ship. I think there are two or more persons involved. One man could not have carried out two murders and fooled everyone. There must be determined men involved. And I think the initials K.K.K are no longer the initials of a man, but of a society.’
`But what society?’ I asked.
`Have you ever heard of the Ku Klux Klan?’ Holmes asked me.
`Indeed, I have not,’ I replied.
‘I shall call you in a day or two,’ said Openshaw, `with news of the brass box and papers. I shall do exactly as you told me.’ John Openshaw shook hands with Holmes and myself and then left. Outside, the wind still screamed and the rain still struck against the window. This strange, wild story seemed to have come to us in the storm, blown in like leaves in the wind.
Sherlock Holmes sat in silence for a long time and stared into the red glow of the fire. Then he sat back in his chair, lit his pipe, and blew smoke rings into the air.
`I think, Watson,’ he said after a while, `this is a strange case indeed; possibly the strangest we have ever heard. This John Openshaw is walking in great danger.’
`Who is this K.K.K and why do they go after this unhappy family?’
Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes, placed his elbows on the arms of the chair, and put his fingertips together. `We need to gather all our resources. Kindly give me the letter `K` of the American Encyclopaedia from the shelf behind you. Thank you. Now let us think of the situation and what we can deduce from it. First, we can assume that Colonel Openshaw had a very strong reason for leaving America. Men do not just leave a warm climate like Florida for a lonely life in an English town. His desire to be alone suggests that he was in fear of someone or something and it was this that made him leave America. What was he scared of? We can only deduce that by thinking about the letters that were sent. Do you remember the postmarks?’
`The first was from Pondicherry, the second from Dundee, and the third from London,’ I said.
`From East London,’ said Holmes. `What do you think about that?’
`They are all seaports,’ I said. ‘Perhaps the writer was on a ship!’
`Excellent,’ said Holmes. `We already have a strong clue!’
Holmes moved the lamp and we both looked at the sheet of paper. It was torn from a book. The date on it was March 1869. Beneath the date, were these words…
‘4th Hudson came.’
‘7th Set pips on McAuley, Paramore and John Swain of St Augustine.’
‘9th McAuley cleared.’
‘10th John Swain cleared.’
‘2th visited Paramore. All well.’
`Thank you,’ said Holmes folding up the paper and giving it back to Openshaw. `And now you must not waste any more time. You must go home instantly and act.’
`What shall I do?’ John Openshaw asked.
`There is one thing to do,’ said Holmes. `You must put this piece of paper in the brass box you told us about. You must also put in a note. It must say that all the other papers were burned by your uncle and this is all that is left. When you have done this you must put the box on the sundial. Do you understand?’
`I understand,’ replied Openshaw.
`Do not think of revenge or anything like it. We must stay within the law of the land. We can make plans. But! First we must remove the danger that you are in. Then we can clear up the mystery and punish the guilty.’
`I thank you,’ said Openshaw. He got up and put on his coat. `You have given me new hope. I shall do as you say.’
`Do not waste time,’ warned Holmes. `And, above all, take care of yourself. Without a doubt, you are in real danger. How do you get back?’
`By train from Waterloo.’
`It is not yet nine and it will be crowded. You will be safe, ` said Holmes.
`I have a weapon.’
`Good,’ Holmes told him. `Tomorrow I will start on your case.’
`I will see you in Horsham?’ Openshaw asked.
`No,’ replied Holmes. ‘Your secret lies in London. It is here that I shall look for it.’
‘This is the envelope,’ said John Openshaw. `The postmark is east London. The same words – K.K.K. – are in the letter. The letter tells me to put the papers on the sundial.’
`What have you done?’ Holmes asked.
`Nothing,’ answered Openshaw.
`To tell the truth,’ said Openshaw, resting his white face in his thin hands, `I have felt helpless. I have felt like a rabbit when the snake is coming towards it. I can see evil, but I can do nothing about it.’
`Tut! Tut!’ cried Sherlock Holmes. `You must act or you are lost. Nothing but energy can save you. This is no time for despair.’
`I have seen the police.’
`But they listen to my story with a smile. The inspector thinks that the letters are a joke, and that the deaths of my relations were just accidents.’
Sherlock Holmes shook his fists in the air. `Idiots! Fools!’ he cried.
`They have, however, given me a policeman for my protection.’
`I see. Did he come with you tonight?’
`No. His orders were to stay in my house.’
Again Holmes got angry. `Why did you not come to me at once?’ he cried.
`I did not know. I only spoke to Prendergast today about my troubles, and he told me I was to come to you.’
`It is two days since you received that letter. We should have acted before this. Is there anything else that you can tell us?’
`There is one thing,’ said John Openshaw. He put his hand into his pocket and took out a crumpled piece of blue paper. `I can remember this one thing. On the day my uncle burned the papers… I found this one lying on the floor. I think that it is one of the papers that he dropped and did not notice. I think it is from his private diary. The writing is definitely my uncle’s.’
‘It’s a joke,’ said my father. ‘I will have nothing to do with it.’
‘We should call the police,’ I said.
‘And be laughed at? No, I will do nothing,’ my father said.
‘I did not argue with him because he was a very stubborn man at times. But I went about with a very heavy heart after that.’ John Openshaw stopped talking and warmed his hands at the fire. Then he continued.
‘On the third day after the letter arrived, my father went to visit an old friend of his. A man called Major Freebody. I was glad that he went. To me, he seemed further from danger when he wasn’t at home. But I was wrong. On the second day that he was away, I got a telegram from the major. It told me to come at once. My father had fallen into a chalk pit. There are lots of them in that area. He was lying unconscious with a fractured skull. I hurried to him, but I was too late. My father died without ever regaining consciousness. I was told that he was coming home from Fareham just after dark. Because he didn’t know the countryside, he fell into the pit. There was no fence to stop him or warn him. It looked like an accident, and I could find nothing to suggest murder: no signs of violence, no robbery, no footmarks, and no stranger in the area. But I was not happy. I was sure something bad had happened to him. But I could not prove it.’
‘So this is how I came to inherit the estate. Why did I not give it away? Because I believed that it was bad and I would pass this bad thing on to another person. So I kept it. ‘
‘My dad died in January 1885. That was two years and eight months ago. I have lived happily at Horsham since then. I thought that this curse had ended. And then yesterday morning this came…’
John Openshaw stopped talking and took out a letter from his pocket. From the letter he shook out five little orange pips.
John Openshaw continued with his story.
‘After my father took ownership of the house at Horsham, he and I searched its attic carefully. There, we found the brass box. There was nothing inside. But on the inside of the lid, there were three letters: ‘K.K.K.’. Beneath the letters, there were some words. They said: `Letters, receipts, memoranda and register’. This was – we guessed – a description of the things that my uncle took out of the box and destroyed. There was nothing else in the attic – apart from a few papers about my uncle’s life in America. He was a good soldier….’
John Openshaw paused; then continued.
`It was the beginning of 1884 when my father came to live at Horsham. Everything went well – until the January of ’85. On January 4th – just after the New Year – my father gave a cry of surprise. We were at the kitchen table eating breakfast. I looked at my father. He had a newly-opened letter in one hand. In his other hand, there were five orange pips. My father always scoffed at my story about my uncle. But now he looked scared.
`What does this mean?’ he asked.
My heart turned cold. `It’s K.K.K.,’ I replied.
He looked inside the envelope `So it is,’ he cried. `Here are the same letters! But there is also a message. What does it say?’
I took the envelope and read the message: `Put the papers on the sundial.’
`What papers? What sundial?’ my father asked.
`The sundial in the garden – there is no other,’ I answered. `And the papers are those that my uncle destroyed.’
`Never!’ said my father, angrily. `We are civilised people here! This is nonsense! Where does this letter come from?’
I looked at the postmark. `Dundee,’ I said. ‘It’s from Dundee.’
‘Mr Fordham took the paper away with him. My father was now the heir to my uncle’s estate. But everything about it left me with a feeling of dread. As the weeks passed, this feeling began to leave me. Nothing happened in our lives, but I saw a change in my uncle. He drank more and hid away from most people. He spent most of his time in his room with the door locked. Sometimes he ran out of his room and into the garden, carrying a gun in his hand. “I am afraid of no man,” he shouted, “I will not stay in my room! I am not scared to leave!” Then, after he did this, he returned to his room and locked the door. In those days I saw terror in his eyes.’
‘I do not want to take up any more of your time Mr Holmes,’ said John Openshaw, `so I will tell you what happened to my uncle.’ He paused and started his story again.
‘One night, my uncle left his room and never came back. We went to look for him and found him at the bottom of the garden. He was lying face down in a dirty pool of green water. There was no sign of a fight or any violence, and the water was only two feet deep. The police said it was suicide. But I knew my uncle and knew that wasn’t true. No one listened. My father inherited my uncle’s estate and got a sum of money – £14000, which lay in my uncle’s name in the bank.
`Just a moment,’ Holmes said. `This is a very unusual story. Tell me again the date that your uncle got the letter and the date of his death.’
‘The letter came on March 10th, 1883, `said John Openshaw, `and my uncle died seven weeks later, on the night of May 2nd.’
`Thank you,’ said Holmes. `Now please continue.’
Walter and Scott wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. Their adaptation of The Five Orange Pips will continue in early January.
One day – it was in March 1883 – a letter with a foreign stamp arrived for my uncle, the colonel. It was not common for my uncle to get letters. He paid his bills and did not have any friends. He picked the letter up. `From India!’ he said. `A Pondicherry postmark. What is this about, I wonder?’ He opened it quickly. Out of the letter, fell five little orange pips. I began to laugh, but I stopped when I saw the look on his face. His face was as white as a ghost. `K.K.K!’ he cried, `I have been found out.’
`What is it uncle? ` I cried.
‘Death,’ he said and got up from the table and went to his room. I picked up the letter and looked at it. The three letters – K.K.K – were written in red ink on the paper. There was nothing else but the five orange pips. I left the breakfast table and went up stairs. I met my uncle on the way down; he was holding a rusty metal key and a small brass box.
`I will fight back,’ he said, grimly. `Tell Mary I want a fire in my room today. Then get a lawyer.’
I did as I was told. The lawyer arrived, and I set up the room. The fire was burning brightly and in the middle of it were lots of ashes. The brass box sat open beside the fire. I saw that it had the three letters –`K` – printed on its lid. The same three letters were on my uncle’s letter.
`I want you, John,’ said my uncle to me, `to witness my will. I leave my estate, everything, to my brother, your father. Eventually, it will all be yours. If you can enjoy it, that’s good. If you cannot, then take my advice and give it to your worse enemy. I am sorry to do this, but I must. Just sign your name where the lawyer, Mr Fordham, shows you.’
I signed the paper.
`To tell my story,’ said John Openshaw, `I must start at the beginning…
My grandfather had two sons – my uncle Elias and my father, Joseph. My father had a small business in Coventry. He invented a tyre that didn’t puncture. It was very successful. Eventually, he sold the business and retired.
When he was a young man, my uncle Elias went to Florida and bought a plantation. He did very well. Then war broke out between the North and the South. He fought for Jackson’s army and later for Hood. He became a colonel. When General Lee stopped fighting, my uncle went back to his plantation and worked there for another three or four years. He grew rich. Around 1867 or 1868, he came back to Europe and bought a small piece of land in Sussex, near Horsham. He was a single man, fierce and quick-tempered. But he mostly kept himself to himself. I don’t think he ever visited Horsham. He had a garden with two or three fields around his house. Sometimes, he stayed in his room, smoked heavily, and refused see anyone. Even his own brother.
But he liked me. When he first met me, I was twelve years old. This was in 1878. When I stayed at his house, we played backgammon and chess. He was very kind to me. He gave me the keys to his house, and I was allowed to go anywhere. But there was one room that I wasn’t allowed to go into. No one was. It was always locked. One day, I looked through the keyhole, but I couldn’t see much. Just some old trunks and suitcases…’
John Openshaw stopped talking and looked into the fire.
‘Come in,’ said Holmes.
A man entered. He was young and well-dressed. But his raincoat was wet, and the umbrella in his hand dripped water. He looked nervous: his face was pale and his eyes were heavy and tired.
`I am very sorry,’ the man said. `I hope I am not troubling you tonight. I am afraid I have brought some of the storm with me into your warm home.’
`Give me your coat and umbrella,’ said Holmes, standing. `I will hang them up on this hook; they will dry quickly. You have come from the South West, I see.’
`Yes, from Horsham. But how did you know?’
`There is clay and chalk on your shoes. It is quite distinctive,’ said Holmes.
`I have come for advice,’ said the man.
`I can give that easily,’ said Holmes.
`And your help.’
`That is not so easy.’
`I have heard about you, Mr Holmes. I heard from Major Prendergast. He told me that you helped him in the Tankerville Club scandal.’
`I remember him,’ said Holmes. `He was wrongly accused of cheating at cards.’
`He said that you can solve anything.’
`He said too much.’
`He also said that you are never beaten.’
`Not quite true. Three men and one woman have beaten me. But generally, I am quite successful.’
`Then you might be successful with me.’
`Sit down,’ Holmes told the man, `and give me some details about your case.’
The man sat. `This is such a strange and mysterious case, and it happened to my own family.’
Holmes pulled his chair closer towards the fire and sat too. `Please start your story from the beginning. After you finish, I will ask questions about the most important details.’
The young man stretched his wet feet towards the hot fire. Then he began his story. ‘My name,’ he said, `is John Openshaw… ‘
When I look at my notes about Sherlock Holmes and his cases between the years 1882 and 1890, I can see that there are many strange stories indeed. Which stories to tell and which not? It is difficult to decide. Some have been in the newspapers, but some have not. Some have puzzled Sherlock Holmes and are too long to tell. And some were never solved! All of this leads me to this particular story. It was never solved, but it so surprising that I must tell it anyway…
The story begins in September, 1887. That day, the wind screamed and the rain beat against the windows. That night, the wind grew stronger. Sometimes it sounded like a wild animal in a cage, and sometimes it cried down the chimney like a sobbing child. As usual, Sherlock Holmes was in his chair beside the fire. He was reading, and I was sitting across from him, reading too. My wife was visiting her mother. Once again, I was back at my old place, that famous house on Baker Street.
‘Was that the bell?’ I asked, looking up. ‘Who would come on such a night? A friend of yours, perhaps?’
‘Except you,’ replied Holmes, ‘I have no friends. And I do not encourage visitors.’
‘A client then?’
‘If so, it must be a serious case,’ said Holmes. ‘Why else come here on a dismal night like tonight? But I think it might be a visitor for our landlady,’ said Holmes, and he began reading again.
But Holmes was wrong. Soon, we heard footsteps. They came up the stairs. Then there was a chap at our living room door.
Starting next week, we will serialise A Sherlock Holmes adventured called The Five Orange Pips. It will be for intermediate students. Happy reading!
Today is a long walk, the longest of the trip. The distance from Drumnadrochit to Inverness is 29km. After a lovely breakfast with excellent coffee, we say goodbye to the owners of Kilmore farmhouse, Colin and Frances, and start walking. We are lucky again: the weather is sunny, but not too warm.Soon, we are on the hills. The highest point of the walk is 380m high. It’s not much, but there are lovely views everywhere.
After about 15km, we see signs for a café. We follow them and they lead to a campsite. The campsite offers tea and food. We rest for a while and watch a large, black pig wander freely.
After our rest, we continue walking. Again, we pass so many fallen trees.
Soon, we see Inverness in the distance.
We walk towards the town and enter the grounds of an old hospital. After that, we cross the River Ness on a beautiful suspension bridge.
Then we see Inverness castle, and we are happy.
We have walked the Great Glen Way.
When Nunez thought of the blind world in the valley below, he knew that it was not his world. He thought about turning around, about looking down at it one last time. But he didn’t. He kept his eyes on the snow and ice and kept climbing.
He thought of home and the world beyond the mountains. His world. He thought of all the towns and villages with their houses and busy streets. He thought of the countryside with its rivers that ran all the way to the sea. The sea – its endless waves, its sandy islands. And ships! Ships out at sea on journeys around the greater world.
Nunez looked up. He saw a route up the mountains and followed it. As he continued to climb, he thought of Medina sarote. She was beautiful, but with every step, she was growing further and further away…
When sunset came, he was high above the valley. His clothes were torn and his body was covered with blood. All around him, mountain peaks rose into the vast and darkening sky. It was a truly beautiful evening. He lay on the bare earth with the smile on his face. ‘I have escaped from the Country of the Blind, the place where I wanted to be king,’ he said to himself.
When the cold night came, Nunez slept peacefully; a content man under the stars.
Adapted by eflshorts.com