Sherlock Holmes – The Empty House
It was in the spring of the year 1894 when everyone in London talked about the strange murder of Ronald Adair. I was interested in the case too although Sherlock Holmes was dead and I could not enjoy his perfect thinking. So I will try to give you all the details as well as I can and as I knew them at that time.
The Lord Ronald Adair was the second son of the Earl of Maynooth who was at that time the governor of one of the Australian colonies. Ronald’s mother had returned from Australia and her son Ronald and her daughter Hilda came back with her and they lived at 427 Park Lane. Ronald had no enemies and his habits were quiet and usual. But he was killed in a really strange and unexpected way between 10 and 11:20 at night on March 30th 1894.
Ronald liked playing cards – he played all the time, but never for so much money that it would hurt him. He was a member of three card clubs. On the day of his death he played several games in one of the clubs. He played the whole afternoon and then after dinner too. He lost about five pounds but it was nothing for him. In fact, it came out that together with colonel Moran they won Ł420 about two weeks before that.
On that evening he came back from the club at exactly 10 o’clock. His mother and sister were together and they were talking. The servant heard him come in and go up into his room. No sound was heard from the room until 11:20, when his mother and his sister went there. They went to his room because they wanted to say good night, but when they tried to enter Ronald’s room they found out that the door was locked from the inside, and no one answered their knocking. They called for help and the door was opened. When they came into the room they found the young man was lying on the table. His head was destroyed by a bullet but there was no gun in the room. On the table there were two banknotes and Ł17 in silver and gold. The money was arranged in little columns. There were some numbers with the names of some friends from the club on a piece of paper.
No one could understand why the young man locked the door from the inside. There was the possibility that the murder had done this and then escaped by the window. But the window was at least 6 metres above the ground and under the window there was a bed of flowers. And the flowers and the ground under the window didn’t show any sign of being stepped upon and there were no marks anywhere close to it as well. So how did Ronald die? If someone climbed to the window and then shot him, there would be some tracks. And what is more, Park Lane is a really busy street and no one heard a shot.
I thought about these facts the whole day. Then I went for a walk and I came to Park Lane. There was a group of people near the house number 427 and all of them were looking at the window. I was disgusted and I wanted to leave but when I turned I bumped into an old man who was standing behind me. I knocked down several of the books he was carrying, which made him very angry. I helped him pick up the books but the man was still angry with me and when he had all his books in his hands again he turned and went away without saying thank you.
My visit of Park Lane didn’t help to clear the mystery. So, I went back to my flat in Kensington. I was at home only for five minutes when the servant came and said that there was a person who wanted to see me. I was quite surprised when I saw the old man who I had bumped into.
“You look surprised to see me, sir,” he said in a strange voice.
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, sir, I came to apologise for my bad behaviour in the street. I’m really glad that you helped me pick up the books.”
“It was nothing, please do not mention it,” I said. “May I ask you how you knew who I was?”
“Well, sir, I live near here. I have my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street. If you are interested in books I can offer you some. If you buy about five books they will perfectly fill in that place in the second shelf. It looks so messy, doesn’t it?”
I turned my head and looked at the shelf behind me. When I turned back, Sherlock Holmes was standing in front of me. He was smiling.
I stood up. And then I don’t remember anything. I probably fainted for the first time in my life. The next thing that I remember was that Holmes was bending over my chair giving me some whiskey.
“My dear Watson, he said, “I am sorry. I had no idea it would be such a shock for you.”
I caught this arm.
“Holmes!” I cried. “Is it really you? Are you really alive? How did you manage to get out of that awful abyss?”
“Wait a moment,” he said. “Are you sure that you are fit enough to discuss it? I can see that my dramatic appearance gave you a serious shock. ”
“I’m all right, but Holmes, how come that you are alive?” I asked. “My dear friend, I am so happy to see you. But now please tell me how did you manage to get alive out of that terrible place.”
He sat opposite to me and lit a cigarette and started talking.
“I would like to explain everything to you, Watson, but I cannot now. I need your help because a long and dangerous night is in front of us. So it will be better if I gave you the explanation of the whole story later.”
“I will do anything for you. But I would like to hear your explanation right now.”
“So, will you come with me tonight?”
“Of course I will.”
“Well let’s talk about what happened. First, let me tell you that I never fell into the abyss”
“No, Watson. The short note which I wrote to you was absolutely real. I really believed that it was my end. When I saw professor Moriarty standing on the narrow way which led to safety it was clear to me that he wanted to kill me. I spoke to him and he allowed me to write the short note which you received later. I left it in my cigarette box and went along the way. Moriarty was close behind me. When I reached the end of the way he didn’t take out any gun but he attacked me and caught me in his long arms. He wanted to push me down into the abyss. But as you know I have some knowledge of judo which was really useful this time. I got out of his arms and then pushed him. He screamed and then he lost his balance and fell. He fell for a long time. Then he struck a rock and fell into the water.”
“But the tracks!” I cried. “I saw with my own eyes that two tracks went down the way but none of them returned.”
“It happened in this way. At the moment when Professor Moriarty died I realised that I was really lucky. I knew that Moriarty was not the only man who wanted to kill me. There were at least three other men who wanted to destroy me. All of them were really dangerous and I realised that if they believed that I was dead they would leave me alone and then I would have the chance to destroy them. And when they die then I could tell everyone that I was alive.
So I stood and looked at the rock wall behind me. In your story about me and professor Moriarty you wrote that the wall was smooth. But that wasn’t true. There were a few small steps and a few places where you could rest. The wall was very high and no normal man would climb up there. And that was exactly why I decided to do it. It was really difficult. More than once the grass came out in my hand and my foot slipped. But after some time I reached the place where I could have a rest. I laid down and I could see you well below me as you investigated what happened and how I died.
When you believed that I was dead, you went back to the hotel and I was left alone. I thought that it was the end of my adventures but then something unexpected happened. A huge rock came down from above and it fell only a few centimetres from me. First I thought it was an accident but when I looked up I saw a man’s head. And a few seconds later another big stone came down and it missed my head by a few centimetres. At that moment I realised that Moriarty wasn’t alone. His friend watched us when the professor attacked me. And from the distance he could see that Moriarty died and I managed to escape. That was why he went to the top of the cliff and tried to hit me with a stone.
I didn’t take long to think about it, Watson. I saw that terrible face look over the cliff again and I knew that another stone was coming. I started to climb down. The climb down was much more difficult than getting up. But I had no time to think of the danger, because another stone was falling at me. In the half of the cliff I slipped but fortunately I landed on the way. I started running and that night I went about 10 miles. And a week later I was in Italy and no one knew anything.”
“Only one person knew where I was and that was my brother Mycroft. I am sorry Watson, but it was important that everyone thought that I was dead. And I am sure that you wouldn’t have written so well about my death if you knew that it hadn’t happened. But I had to tell my brother, because I needed money to travel.”
I listened to the incredible story.
“But now there is some work for us to do. If we finish it successfully, the world will be better and you will be able to tell everyone that I am alive.”
I asked him to tell me more but he only smiled and didn’t say anything.
One hour later we were both sitting in a carriage. I had my revolver in my pocket and I felt the excitement of adventure. It was the same like in the past.
First I thought that we were going to Baker Street, but Holmes stopped the carriage at the corner of Cavendish Square. We got off and Sherlock looked carefully around. We went through many narrow streets and Sherlock was really concerned that no one followed us. Finally we came into a small road lined with old, ugly houses which led us to Machester Street and then to Blandofrd Street. Here we turned quickly right, went through a deserted yard and then Sherlock unlocked a back door of a house. We went in and Sherlock locked the door again.
The place was really dark but it was clear that the house was empty. Sherlock took my hand and led me upstairs. We came into a large, square empty room. The corners of the room were completely black but there was a little light in the centre of the room. The light came from the street. Holmes put his hand on my shoulder and his lips to my ear.
“Do you know where we are?” he asked me.
I looked out of the window. “It must be Baker Street,” I answered.
“Exactly. We are in Camden House which stands exactly opposite to my old flat.”
“But why are we here?”
“Because we can see my flat from here clearly. Dear Watson, can you move a little nearer to the window, but make sure no one can see you from the outside. Then have a look at our old rooms and tell me what you see.”
I moved forward and looked across the street and I nearly shouted out. The blind was down and a strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of the man who was sitting in the room was very clear. I recognised it immediately. It was Sherlock Holmes! But it was not possible, because Sherlock was here with me. I quickly turned and touched him. Holmes was laughing quietly.
“Well?” he said.
“Oh dear, it is fantastic.”
“It really looks like me, doesn’t it?” he asked.
“I would swear that it was you, if I didn’t know that it is not possible.”
“It is a small model of me. It was made in Grenoble by Oscar Meunier. I only arranged the lightning.”
“Because, my dear Watson, I would like some people to believe that it was me there in the room, while I was somewhere else completely.”
“So you think the rooms are watched.”
“I KNOW it.”
“By the people, dear Watson, who would love to kill me, professor Moriarty’s friends. Only they know that I am not dead. They knew that one day I would come back to my flat and this morning they saw me arrive.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because I recognised one of their men when I looked out of the window.”
My friend’s actions started to make sense to me. From this dark and empty house he could watch the people who were watching him. And the shadow in the window was just a bait which should attract them. We stood there in the darkness and watched people passing . Holmes was quiet and he didn’t move. But I knew that he was concentrated. He watched the people in the street and from time to time he moved or tapped with his fingers on the wall. At last as midnight came and the street was less busy something happened.
“Look Sherlock,” I cried. “The shadow has moved.”
“Of course it has moved,” he said. “We are against some of the most clever men in Europe. We have been in this room for two hours and during that time my servant, Mrs Hudson, has made some changes in that figure eight time. She changes its position every 15 minutes. She does it from the front, and that is why you will never see her shadow. Ah!” Sherlock became really excited now. I could see nothing new in the street, but Sherlock Holmes behaved as if he knew better. He pulled me into the darkest corner and put his hand on my lips.
And suddenly I could hear it too. There was a low sound which did not come from Baker Street. It came from the house in which we were hiding. A few seconds later I could hear steps which were coming to us. The steps were meant to be silent but they were very loud in this empty house. We moved deeper into the corner and I put my hand on my revolver. In the darkness of the door I could see a darker outline of a man. He stood for a few second and then he came slowly into the room. He was only a meter from us and I was getting ready for a fight, but he didn’t see us. He moved on. He was an elderly man with a big grey moustache. He was extremely excited. He was carrying something that looked like a stick and when he put it on the floor we could hear a metallic sound.
Suddenly I realised that it was a gun but it had a strange shape. The man put the gun on the window frame and aimed. It was clear that he was aiming at the shadow in the window of Sherlock’s flat. Then there was a strange whiz and we could hear the sound of broken glass. At that moment Sherlock jumped at the man. The man fell on his face but in the next second he was on his feet again and he caught Sherlock’s throat with his hands. I struck the man on the head with my revolver and the man fell down again. Then Sherlock made a sharp noise on his whistle and two policemen in uniform came into the room.
“Is that you Lestrade?” asked Holmes.
“Yes, I took the job myself. It’s good to see you back in London, sir.”
“I think so. Three unsolved murders in one year, I think that you really need my help,” Sherlock laughed.
We all stood up and Lestrade produced two candles. At last I was able to have a look at our prisoner.
He had a quite nice and intelligent face. When he was younger he could choose between good and evil but unfortunately he chose the latter and his blue eyes were really cruel. He looked with them at Sherlock and we could see that he both hated and admired the man. “You devil. You clever, clever devil.”
“Oh, colonel!” said Sherlock. “Nice to meet you again. We haven’t seen each other for such a long time. I believe we saw each other the last time when you were trying to hit and kill me with the stones.”
“You are a devil. Clever devil,” was all that the man was able to say.
“I haven’t introduced you yet,” said Holmes. “Gentlemen, this is Colonel Moran. In the past he served in the army and he is the best shooter our army has ever had.”
The man said nothing but he was really angry and now he looked like a tiger.
“I am really surprised that such a simple trick has fooled you colonel.”
Colonel Moran jumped and wanted to attack Holmes again, but the policemen pulled him back.
“But I have to admit that you had one small surprise for me, “ said Holmes. “ I didn’t expect you to use this empty house. I thought that you would shoot form the street where the police were waiting for you. But otherwise everything went as I expected.”
“I don’t know why I should listen to this man,” colonel said to Lestrade. “If I am in the hands of the police I would like the things to be done in the legal way.”
“Yes, that is reasonable,” said Lestrade. “Do you have anything else that you would like to tell us, Holmes?”
Holmes picked up the gun from the floor and examined it carefully.
“It is an interesting and special gun,” he said. “As it is an air-gun, it doesn’t make any noise and it is very powerful. I know that it was made by a blind German mechanic and that it was bought by professor Moriarty. I have known that it exists for years, but I have never had the opportunity to see it. Lestrade, you should examine the gun and the bullets carefully.”
“You can be sure that I will look after that,” said Lestrade and all the men started to move towards the door. “Is there anything else, you would like to tell me?”
“Only one thing. What are you going to charge the man with?”
“Of course the attempted murder of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
“Well, Lestrade, then let me congratulate you, because your got him,” Sherlock said and I could hear irony in his voice.
“Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?”
“The man that the whole police have been looking for – Colonel Moran, who shot lord Ronald Adair. I believe that it is a much better charge. Watson, will you come with me to my flat now? I will show you a thing or two.”
When we came to the flat I could see that nothing has changed here.
“Good evening Mrs. Hudson. Are you all right?” Sherlock asked his servant.
“Yes, I did everything as you told me. I went to the model on my knees.”
“Great. You did it very well. Did you see where the bullet went?”
“Yes, sir. I am afraid it destroyed your beautiful model, because it passed through the head and flattened itself on the wall. I picked it up from the floor. Here it is.”
“Thank you Mrs. Hudson.” Sherlock held it to me. “See, a soft revolver bullet. No one would expect such a bullet to be fired from an air-gun. Let’s sit down now Watson. There are several more points I would like to discuss with you.”
I sat down and Holmes looked at the model.
“Great shot. The bullet went through the head and the brain. Colonel Moran is still one of the best. Have you ever heard his name?”
“No, I have not,” I answered.
“Could you just give me my book of biographies from the shelf?” Sherlock asked me.
He went through the pages lazily and then he stopped and handed the book over to me and I read:
Moran, Sebastian, Colonel. Born in London 1840. Educated in Eton and Oxford. Served in Jowaki Campaign, Afghan War, Charasiab, Sherpur and Cabul.
“This is unbelievable. He was a great soldier.”
“It is true,” Holmes answered. “He was really a great soldier. But then at one point colonel Moran began to go wrong. He had to leave India. He left the army and came back to London. Here professor Moriarty found him. Moriarty gave him a lot of money and used him for killing one or two very important people. Do you remember the death of Mrs. Stewart in 1887? No? Well, I am sure Moran was the one who did it, but nothing could be proved. Even when the police caught the Moriarty’s gang, they could not find anything against Colonel Moran and they had to let him go.
I am sure that it was him who threw the stones at me when I killed Moriarty. And since that day he was like a big shadow hanging over me. I knew that he had the air-gun and that he was an excellent shooter and I was afraid that one day he will shoot me. And I couldn’t do anything. If I went to the police they would laugh at me and they would do nothing. So I hoped that colonel Moran would make a mistake.
And then I read about the death of lord Ronald Adair in the newspaper. My chance had come. I was quite sure that Moran had done it. They played cards together and then Moran followed Ronald home and shot him through the open window.
So I came back to London as quickly as I could. I was seen by colonel’s people and I knew that colonel Moran will try to kill me as soon as possible and that he will do it with the same gun with which he killed Ronald Adair. That was why I prepared the great target in my flat and informed the police that they might be needed tonight. But when I chose my point of observation I never dreamed that he would choose the same point for his attack. Now, dear Watson, is there anything more you would like me to explain?”
“Yes,” I said. “I still do not know why Colonel Moran killed lord Ronald Adair.”
“I think it is not difficult to find out why. As you know Colonel Moran and Ronald Adair together won a lot of money. I am sure that Moran cheated and I think that on the day of the murder Adair discovered that Moran was cheating. I believe that Adair talked to Moran privately and told him to stop playing cards in the club. I think that he didn’t want to start a scandal as colonel Moran used to be a soldier and much older than him. But this would not do for Moran as the money from cards was his only income. And that was why he murdered lord Ronald Adair. At the time of murder, I think, Adair was counting how much money he should return to the people from the club. He didn’t want to profit from his partner’s cheating. He locked the door because he didn’t want to be surprised by his mother or sister and the numbers and names were the sums he wanted to give back to the people. Do you agree with me?”
“I believe that you are right.”
“We will see during the trial.”
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You can find more Sherlock Holmes stories at my blog.
Sherlock Holmes – Identity (pre-intermediate level)
Sherlock Holmes – Silver Blaze (pre-intermediate level)
Sherlock Holmes – Love Thy Neighbour (comic film)