All three of us were very surprised by this news. Gregson jumped out of his chair, spilling his drink. ‘Stangerson too,’ Holmes said quietly. ‘This story’s becoming more and more complicated. Gregson’s told us what he thinks. Can you tell us what you’ve seen and done, Lestrade?’ he asked.
Lestrade sat down.
‘Before, I thought that Stangerson was involved in the death of Drebber,’ he said, ‘but now he’s dead too I know he wasn’t responsible. But that was my theory, so I tried to find him.’
Lestrade told us that he had gone to many hotels near Euston station and asked if a Mr Stangerson was there. When Lestrade asked at the Halliday Hotel, they said yes, a Mr Stangerson was there and that he was expecting another gentleman to join him. They thought Lestrade was this gentleman, and sent him up to Stangerson’s room.
‘When I got to the door, I saw something which made me feel sick,’ said Lestrade. ‘A small, red stream of blood was coming from under the door. It had run across the corridor and collected on the other side. I opened the door, and there by the window was the body of a man.’
The man was Joseph Stangerson. He had died from a deep knife injury in his side. The strangest thing of all was that, again, above the murdered man, was written the word RACHE, in letters of blood. We were all silent.
Lestrade continued with his story.
‘The murderer was seen by a young boy passing the hotel. He saw a ladder against one of the windows of the hotel, and when he looked back he saw a man coming down it. The man was tall, with a red face, and wore a long brown coat.’
‘Did you find any clues in the room?’ asked Holmes.
‘There was a telegram in the dead man’s pocket. It was from Cleveland, sent about a month ago, and it said «J. H. is in Europe.»‘
‘There was a book, his pipe, a glass of water and by the window was a small box containing two pills,’ replied Lestrade.
Sherlock Holmes jumped up from his chair in delight.
‘The last link!’ he cried. ‘I now understand all the main facts of this case and I’ll prove it to you. Do you have the two pills?’
‘Here they are,’ said Lestrade, giving Holmes a small white box.
‘Doctor Watson,’ said Holmes, ‘can you get the poor dog from downstairs? It’s been ill for so long. Only yesterday the landlady asked you to end its pain.’
I went downstairs and carried the dog up in my arms. It was very old and was breathing with great difficulty. Sherlock Holmes cut one of the pills in half and gave one half to the dog. Nothing happened.
‘I don’t understand how this is connected with the murder of Mr Stangerson,’ said Lestrade as we sat there watching.
Holmes looked at his watch.
‘This is impossible!’ he cried. ‘The pills which I thought were used on Drebber are found after the death of Stangerson, but they aren’t poisonous. What can this mean? Surely I can’t be wrong… Ah, I have it, I have it!’
He rushed to the box, cut the other pill in half and again gave half to the dog. Only seconds after it had eaten the pill, the dog was dead.
‘I should have known,’ said Holmes. ‘One of the pills was deadly poison and the other was entirely harmless. Sometimes, gentlemen, it’s a mistake to confuse strangeness with mystery. The strange details of this case have really made it easier to solve, not more difficult.’
Mr Gregson was tired of listening to Sherlock Holmes.
‘Look, Mr Holmes, we know you are a very clever man and you have your own way of working. I’ve told you what I thought of the case, but it seems I was wrong. Arthur Charpentier isn’t the murderer. Lestrade went after his man, Stangerson, and he was wrong too. You say you know this and you know that, and you seem to know more than we do. Tell me now, what do you know about this case? Can you name the man who did it?’
Lestrade nodded in agreement.
‘I think Gregson is right, sir. We’ve both tried and we’ve both failed. Tell us what you know,’ he said.
‘If we wait any longer to arrest the murderer, he may kill somebody else,’ I added. We waited as Holmes walked up and down, lost in thought.
‘There’ll be no more murders,’ he said finally. ‘I do know the name of the murderer, but that isn’t the same as knowing how to catch him. But I expect this to happen very soon; I’ve made my own arrangements.’ Just then there was a knock at the door, and young Wiggins ran into the room.
‘Please, sir,’ he said, ‘I have the cab downstairs.’
‘Good boy,’ said Holmes. He took a pair of handcuffs from a drawer. ‘Ask the cabdriver to come up and help me, Wiggins.’
I was surprised to hear this. I did not know that Sherlock Holmes was planning to go on a journey. Holmes pulled out a suitcase and bent over it as the cabdriver stepped into the room. ‘Just help me with this a moment, driver,’ he said.
The cabdriver walked forward and put his hands down to help. At that moment Sherlock Holmes put the handcuffs on his hands and jumped to his feet.
‘Gentlemen,’ he cried, ‘this is Mr Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson.’
Everything seemed to stand still for a second: the cabdriver looked in surprise at the handcuffs. Then with an angry cry, he threw himself at the window. The glass smashed, but before he could escape, Gregson, Lestrade and Holmes grabbed him. He was pulled back into the room where a terrible fight began. He was so strong all four of us had difficulty holding him. At last, he realised he was trapped and stopped fighting. We tied up his feet and stood back, exhausted.
‘We have his cab outside. We can use it to take him to Scotland Yard,’ said Holmes. ‘And now I’ll be happy to explain everything.’