A Mysterious Visitor
After we left the house, we went to the nearest telegraph office, where Holmes sent a long telegram to America. We then went to talk to the policeman who found the body. On the way, I asked Holmes how he was so sure of the details of the murderer.
‘Well,’ he replied, ‘I know he and the victim came in a cab, because there were two marks from the wheels. Gregson said that nobody else arrived in a cab in the morning, so it must have been the murderer. He must have gone there during the night.’
‘How do you know he was tall?’ I asked.
‘From the distance between the footprints in the mud outside and in the dust inside the room. Anything else?’
‘The fingernails and the cigar?’ I asked.
‘The writing on the wall was done in blood with a man’s finger. With the magnifying glass, I saw that the wall was scratched, meaning that he had a long fingernail. Do you remember the grey dust I put in the envelope?’
I nodded. ‘The ash from a cigar. That all makes sense,’ I admitted, ‘but I still feel confused. How did one man make the other take the poison? Where did the blood come from? What was the reason for the murder? Why was the woman’s ring there? And why did the second man write the German word RACHE before leaving?’
Holmes smiled approvingly. ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘There are still many things about this which remain a mystery. The word RACHE, however, was simply a trick to confuse the police. It’ll make them think that Socialism and secret societies are involved. But now I’ve told you all I know for certain.’
We arrived at the policeman’s house. We went in and he told us his story.
‘… After I’d discovered the body, I went outside and signaled for help. Three more policeman arrived at the scene-‘
‘Was the street empty then?’ interrupted Sherlock Holmes.
‘Well, there was a very drunk man outside when I came out, singing and falling over. I had to help him stand up. He couldn’t speak.’
‘What did he look like?’ asked Holmes.
‘He was tall, with a red face-‘
‘That’ll do!’ said Holmes. ‘What happened to this man?’
‘There was enough to do without looking after him!’ said the policeman. ‘I think he went home.’
‘You fool! That drunk man holds the clue to this mystery; he’s the man we’re looking for!’ cried Holmes.
We left the policeman. ‘But why did the murderer come back to the house?’ I asked.
‘For the ring; he came back for the ring! And that’s how we can catch him,’ said Holmes.
Holmes put a notice in every newspaper, saying that a gold wedding ring had been found in Brixton Road. He put my name and our address and invited people to call between eight and nine that evening to claim it.
‘But I don’t have a ring!’ I said.
‘This one will do,’ he said, giving me a plain gold ring. ‘The murderer doesn’t want to lose it. He didn’t know it was lost until after the murder and that’s why he went back to the house last night. He pretended to be drunk when he found the police were already there. But he’ll think that maybe he lost the ring in the road. He’ll see our advertisement and will come to claim his ring.’
That evening, we waited for the murderer to arrive. There was a knock at the door. We heard a voice.
‘Does Doctor Watson live here?’
‘Come in,’ I said.
To our surprise, a very old woman came slowly into the room. Sherlock Holmes looked disappointed.
‘The ring belongs to my daughter Sally,’ she said. ‘She lost it last night and-‘
‘Is this her ring?’ I asked.
‘Oh, thank goodness! Sally will be so pleased.’
Holmes asked for her name and address and I gave her the ring. The old woman put it in her pocket and walked slowly down the stairs. As soon as she was gone, Sherlock Holmes put on his coat. ‘I’ll follow her,’ he said. ‘She must be helping the murderer, she’ll lead me to him. Wait for me.’
He was away for a long time, but I did not feel at all sleepy so I did as he asked. It was midnight when he returned and told me what happened.
After the old woman left, she took a cab, asking to go to the address she gave to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes jumped onto the back of the cab where no one could see him. The cab reached the address and Holmes jumped off and watched. The driver opened the cab door but no one got out. His passenger had disappeared.
‘But how did an old woman jump out of a moving cab?’ I asked in surprise.
‘That wasn’t an old woman! It was a young man dressed up as an old woman. We were stupid not to see it. Doctor Watson, you look tired. Go to bed.’ After such a long day, I did as he told me.