Sherlock’s Solution to April’s Mystery
Thank you for helping us solve April’s Sherlockian mystery. Competition is already heating up for our next Detective of the Month. If you want to be considered, send us a letter or message with your theory on how to solve the case before the final letter goes out. The detective with the most clever or eloquent solution will win the award.
If you’d like to know how Holmes solved April’s mystery, a letter from Dr. Watson is presented below.
All the best,
The Dear Holmes Team
Mr. Bartholomew Humphrey
16 Jefferson Street
Plano, Texas, United States
28 March, 1890
Dear Mr. Humphrey,
Mr. Holmes thanks you for this distraction and so do I. It always worries me when my friend has too little to occupy his mind. I apologize that we were unable to take you up on your kind offer of a visit to the state of Texas, however, as you may know, Mr. Holmes works on most of his cases without ever leaving Baker Street. For every chase across the moors, there are a dozen letters like yours. Firstly, be assured that your sister is safe. Her gambit was successful; having made herself penniless she was of no further interest to her husband. One of Mr. Holmes' American acquaintances was able to bend a few ears at Pinkerton's. Their man in Baton Rouge made short work of turning over the local employment agencies to find her. A woman of refined manners yet no recommendations stood out among the crowd, particularly with what the Louisianans took to be a noticeable accent. It seems she is apprenticing in the bookkeeper trade at the firm Wadley and Sons and you may correspond with her there under her maiden name. It is my understanding that she has no intention of returning to Plano, whether or not the warrant for her arrest is lifted, which I imagine it will be when the authorities discover the whole of the case.
As for Gregory Hill, born Timothy Connor, it is now clear that he exchanged the clocks, dismantling your cherished heirloom under the misguided impression that the clock itself contained tangible treasure that he could steal away from under your nose. He had learned as much from his father, Benjamin Stalworth. When demolishing the clock proved fruitless he began combing your father's effects for clues, when he unknowingly held the map already. It seems this Third Peak everyone was searching for was not an ancient treasure but a modern one. By perusing the library of the Peruvian consulate, Mr. Holmes has discovered an abandoned railway line once known colloquially as the Third Peak. It was meant to be an express freight line that cut through the unoccupied jungle valley, but it seems the endeavour was too expensive to complete. The route was as unassailable as Peru's famous mountains, a metaphorical third peak. At the time the war ended, the track was newly laid and perfectly serviceable save for the fact that it abruptly terminated dozens of miles from any kind of civilization. You may be familiar with the fabled treasure trains of your Confederate States? The men who fought in your Mexican war certainly were. Acting on information that Mr. Holmes provided, the Peruvian authorities found the remains of an American armored train car at the terminus of the Third Peak line. The telegram from the Ejercito del Peru that informed us of all this was quickly followed by a summons to attend to an elderly petitioner. The man was bedridden, but I had never seen a more opulent chamber in which to convalesce. The Sholto brothers come to mind as the only comparison, but rather than Oriental exotica the man was surrounded by war memorabilia from your own country. He put on a flawless performance of what I understand to be Southern charm, but underneath it was a cold menace. He wanted to know exactly what our business in Peru was, who our client was, what we had discovered and so forth. Mr. Holmes disclosed nothing of course, and in return the old man spat curses at us, barking orders that we should mind our own damned business. It was equal parts pathetic and humorous, through Mr. Holmes and I maintained our respective composures until we had left. We returned to find our rooms in Baker Street turned upside down. Had Mrs. Hudson not been away on holiday, had she come to any harm, I shan't have restrained myself from throttling the loathsome old man with his own velvet sheets. As it was Mr. Holmes simply observed that a few hours cleaning was a small price to pay to see one of the much ballyhooed Conquistador clocks in person, for one had stood sentry in the Texan's entryway. Truly, it is a beautiful clock. Nonetheless, a man who can intercept government cables from his sickbed will soon discover Gregory Hill, and the faithless husband will likely get more than he reckons upon. Mr. Holmes has asked the Peruvian authorities to warn the man should he ever set foot in that country. If he is smart, he will disappear under another name like his wife.
That, of course, brings us to his father, Mr. Stalworth, who knew that the map to the Third Peak was not hidden within the clock, but rather upon the clock itself. That is to say, a subtle impression was left in the wood of the rear panel with a solution of ammonium chloride. The imprint is invisible until exposed to heat. Even a candle flame will do. The process would have been familiar to men working intelligence operations in the field, and his request for a candle suggests as much. Once the image was revealed, Mr. Stalworth likely traced it in order to have a portable map. I hope he finds an agreeable retirement in Peru, for he won't find much else.
The impostor, as you so charmingly dubbed the Conquistador clock, remains unfound but that is a temporary state of affairs. The last two sets of stamped initials that you observed inside indicate ownership by an estate agency in Atlanta, and then by the Aesop Rental Agency itself. Every Conquistador that comes to market will be searched for those brands. Auction houses do not appreciate antique thieves any more than cattlemen appreciate rustlers. When found, it will of course be returned to its rightful owners at the rental agency. Mr. Holmes also urges you to reconsider repairing your own clock. It was a masterful piece of art and engineering before, and now it has another remarkable tale to tell.
My friend takes the major North American papers as well as our native rags and we were most gratified to see that the villainous Dennis Poole will be spending the rest of his days behind bars. The story found its way from Plano to the pages of The New York Times. Mr. Holmes was able to secure a copy of the police report and found a receipt from the second hand store in Shreveport, Louisiana. It seems that he and Gregory were is league to a greater extent than your sister likely realized. Mr. Poole's house was likely the site of your clock's dismantlement.
Finally, both Mr. Holmes and I would like to send our regards to Miss Chere Marquez, a most remarkable woman indeed. We know a man at Pinkerton's, and they are always looking for a sharp woman to serve as an agent. Please let her know that Mr. Holmes will provide his highest recommendation should she choose to pursue that vocation. As for you, dear Mr. Humphrey, I hope the safety of your sister and this new knowledge of your father, who indeed was a kind of Alan Quartermain, is some compensation for your loss and trouble. Mr. Holmes has remitted his fees, instead taking pleasure in the unfolding of this very unusual case.