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The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes

The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes

Larry Millett
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes
    Book Description:

    Chasing a kidnapper from London to New York to Chicago, Holmes and Watson race to keep up. Every move Holmes makes is expected; every trap proves elusive. Only with the assistance of his American cohort, the saloonkeeper Shadwell Rafferty, can Holmes hope to settle the score once and for all—or be framed for the crime himself.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8028-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Prologue: “You Do Know Who I Am, Don’t You?”
    (pp. 1-8)

    Well past midnight, in fog so thick that it seemed to have swallowed up all of Manhattan, Sherlock Holmes stood beneath the portico of St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway, waiting for a ghost from his past. Holmes, of course, put no more credence in otherworldly specters than he did in fairies or leprechauns, and the elusive figure he hoped to capture was, he knew, as dangerously made of flesh and blood as anyone could be. Yet there had been times over the past fortnight when his adversary had indeed appeared to possess almost superhuman powers.¹

    Time and again, Holmes had...

  2. Book One: England

    • Chapter One “The Message Is Quite Clear”
      (pp. 11-22)

      The beginning of what I do not hesitate to call the most challenging case ever to present itself to Sherlock Holmes may be dated to the afternoon of July 3, 1900, when a most curious letter arrived at our flat on Baker Street. We had spent the morning uneventfully — a not uncommon occurrence, or so it seemed, since the conclusion of the affair of the Napoleons in early June. Despite the drought of new cases, Holmes was in a surprisingly agreeable mood, for he had been hard at work on his latest monograph. It was devoted to a namesake, Henry...

    • Chapter Two “Money Won’t Do You No Good”
      (pp. 23-28)

      Inside what she had come to think of as her wooden prison—the curious enclosed wagon that had been used to abduct her from the road outside Ridling Thorpe Manor — Elsie Cubitt was feeling more foolish than frightened. She realized in painful hindsight how incredibly gullible she had been in her dealings with Mme. DuBois. The woman, Elsie saw clearly now, was a fraud through and through and had undoubtedly been part of the conspiracy to kidnap her. But she had played on Elsie’s biggest fear — the possibility that Abe Slaney might still be alive and want vengeance — and Elsie...

    • Chapter Three “We Are in the Hands of a Magician”
      (pp. 29-42)

      The next day was to prove as anxious and trying as any I had experienced in a long while. As one troubling revelation followed another, Holmes became convinced that we had stumbled upon a “vast conspiracy” in the matter of Elsie Cubitt’s disappearance. Indeed, not since the day of the Hinckley fire had I seen him so agitated in mind and spirit, although in this instance it was one person’s fate, as opposed to thousands, which was the cause of all his anxiousness. Fearing Mrs. Cubitt would come to great harm if not found quickly, Holmes at one point even...

    • Chapter Four “Where Are You Taking Me?”
      (pp. 43-45)

      The Fourth of July was a great celebration of independence in Elsie Cubitt’s homeland, but she knew no freedom in England. Instead, she spent the morning tied up in the wagon, her guard as sullen as ever. He amused himself by openly leering at her, and she was certain that he must have been under strict orders not to touch “the goods,” or else he would already have tried to have his way with her.

      The guard, however, was to prove the least of her troubles, for sometime after noon, the wagon finally came to a stop. Elsie had no...

    • Chapter Five “Do You Dream About Her?”
      (pp. 46-53)

      The next day, a cool and dreary Thursday with a sharp wind blowing in from the east, was one which seemed only to add to the fantastic aura surrounding Elsie Cubitt’s disappearance. It also became more apparent than ever how deeply Holmes cared about Mrs. Cubitt, for he displayed furious energy in the search for her. The only other time I had observed such passion in Holmes was during his long and rather mysterious entanglement with Irene Adler, which demonstrated that despite his supreme rationalism, not even he was impervious to the unpredictable effects a woman can have upon a...

    • Chapter Six “I Fear Great Trouble Is Coming Your Way”
      (pp. 54-59)

      That night at Baker Street, as Watson faithfully attended to his journal, Sherlock Holmes once again found sleep impossible, his mind a racing locomotive stoked on the infinite fuel of ideas. As he pondered Elsie Cubitt’s abduction, and the curious array of clues that had led him inexorably to London, he found his thoughts wandering back to a time long ago, in the green English countryside where he had been raised.

      He recalled how, as a child, his parents would always celebrate his birthday by devising a special treasure hunt for his amusement. His mother, with a bit of help...

    • Chapter Seven “Now We Must Do a Bit of Heavy Lifting”
      (pp. 60-70)

      The telephone call from Inspector Martin on Friday morning was but the beginning of a series of events so startling that even Holmes was hard-pressed to keep up with them. These developments brought home to us in the starkest manner imaginable that we were confronting villainy at once brilliant and remorseless. Indeed, I had the sense that we had been plunged headlong into an abyss and must now find our way through a dark and uncharted realm of criminal manipulation.

      The letter read to Holmes over the telephone was but one example of how our world had been made as...

    • Chapter Eight “We Will Be Home in Chicago Before Long”
      (pp. 71-74)

      Sherlock Holmes knew that going to America was a tremendous gamble, but as he stood late that night on the deck of theOceaniaand gazed up at a pale crescent moon coursing through banks of clouds above the Irish Sea, he was confident he had made the right decision. Indeed, it was possible Elsie Cubitt could even be hidden away somewhere in the cabins below him, drugged and kept under lock and key by her abductors.

      Yet Holmes thought this unlikely, and he thought it even less likely that she would board theCampaniawhen it sailed in the...

  3. Book Two: New York

    • Chapter Nine “I Told Them to Go to Hell”
      (pp. 77-87)

      As we approached New York after a smooth crossing aboard theOceania,I was in a state of some apprehension. I feared that upon arrival we might be taken from the ship like common criminals on orders from Scotland Yard. Holmes himself accounted this “a distinct possibility” given the bizarre events in Liverpool and the open animosity of Chief Deputy Inspector Butler. As we strolled late at night on the deck, watching a long knife of moonlight part the waters of the North Atlantic, Holmes talked at some length about the events which had caused us to leave so suddenly...

    • Chapter Ten “Who Are You?”
      (pp. 88-90)

      As the ambulance jarred and swayed along the rough, crowded streets of Lower Manhattan, Elsie Cubitt once again began to experience the strange sensation that had haunted her for days. It was a feeling that she had been pulled out of the familiar matrix of time and space and sent hurtling through gauzy layers of twilight into some vague, faraway corner of the cosmos. Worse, her own body seemed to have been left behind, and she was conscious at times of watching it with complete disinterest, as though it could no longer be of any possible consequence to her.


    • Chapter Eleven “What Cheek!”
      (pp. 91-99)

      We reached the Astor House around noon after another harrowing cab ride. The hotel was surrounded by dizzying new office towers, which rose like monstrous stalks along Broadway and nearby streets. Even the steeple of old St. Paul’s Chapel, across from the hotel, was easily eclipsed by these gigantic temples of commerce, which condemned the surrounding streets to a gloomy state of perpetual shadow.

      The Astor House turned out to be a modest establishment of only five stories and no great architectural distinction. After paying our cabman, we went inside at once and sought information at the front desk. Holmes...

    • Chapter Twelve “Everything Is in Order”
      (pp. 100-104)

      It was nearly midnight by the time Sherlock Holmes lay down in his spacious room at the Hotel Albert, but he had no intention of sleeping, despite the weariness lodged in every one of his angular bones. He was used to driving his body beyond normal human limits — this was both a gift and a curse — and with so many thoughts to occupy his mind sleep seemed out of the question. No, it would be a night of “wrestling,” as he liked to call it, the mental tug of war by which he was able, more often than not, to...

    • Chapter Thirteen “Elsie Cubitt Shall Be Free at Last”
      (pp. 105-116)

      Saturday began with unaccustomed leisure, for by late morning Holmes had yet to bestir himself from his room. As noon approached, I began to fear he had fallen into one of those deep torpors which occasionally afflict him. This was not the case, however, for when I went to his room, I found him fully alert. He informed me that as there was “nowhere to go and nothing to do which might prove immediately useful” he had been engaged all morning in “a detective’s foremost obligation, which is to think whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

      Holmes also had some surprising...

    • Chapter Fourteen “We Shall Have Him Too”
      (pp. 117-119)

      The basement where Elsie Cubitt lay — in an old house in Brooklyn — was dark, damp and cool, and she found it strangely pleasant to be out of the light and in a quiet place. Although she remained heavily sedated, she was coming to realize that the drugs, which at first had left her either unconscious or in a stuporous daze, had begun to lose some of their potency as her body adjusted to them.

      Even so, she was far from fully alert and she still felt like a stranger in her own body. Her skin itched, her eyes did not...

    • Chapter Fifteen “Where Is Holmes?”
      (pp. 120-130)

      It was quarter to ten when I prepared to leave the Hotel Albert for the short ride — a mere three blocks — to Union Square. Inspector Hargreave had by then stopped at the hotel to deliver the ransom money, after which he and Holmes thoroughly apprised me of their plan and my duties as part of it. Among many other things, my instructions included specific steps I was to take if confronted by the kidnappers and asked to turn over the ten thousand dollars, which I carried in my medical bag. Although Holmes readily admitted that he could not anticipate every...

    • Chapter Sixteen “Love Is a Strange Thing”
      (pp. 131-134)

      At the Astor House hotel, in a luxurious old suite where — she had been informed by the desk clerk — “kings and queens once stayed,” Mme.

      Simone DuBois stood at a large window and gazed down at the Chapel of St. Paul across the street. It was eleven o’clock at night, and miles away on the other end of Manhattan, Dr. John Watson was just entering Grant’s Tomb in hopes of securing Elsie Cubitt’s freedom. He was in the wrong place, however, as Mme. DuBois knew only too well.

      She had checked into the Astor House only an hour earlier, after...

    • Chapter Seventeen “It Was a Tiger”
      (pp. 135-141)

      My ride on Ninth Avenue was all uphill, and the elevated line overhead seemed to bear down on me more oppressively with each passing block as its height above the street diminished. The avenue here was only lightly traveled — no doubt because the elevated tracks made it such an unpleasant thoroughfare — but despite the hill I was able to reach 104th Street in less than ten minutes. After spotting an illuminated sign for the station, which was difficult to see in the fog, I left my bicycle in the street and, bag in hand, climbed up two long flights of...

    • Chapter Eighteen “I Hope You Are Safe”
      (pp. 142-145)

      Fifty feet above Watson, in a room adjoining Mme. DuBois’s suite, John Coffin prepared for what promised to be a most enjoyable night of hunting. With his fair, almost boyish features, Coffin might easily have passed for a schoolteacher or perhaps an energetic young minister, but his real line of work had nothing to do with education or God. Coffin’s profession was murder for hire, and he was very good at it. He also excelled at intimidation, kneecapping, the administration of savage beatings and all the other dark arts required of a well-rounded Chicago enforcer.

      On this night, however, shooting...

    • Chapter Nineteen “I Will Be Fine, My Dear Watson”
      (pp. 146-148)

      As I stepped up into the portico of St. Paul’s, expecting at any instant to confront the kidnappers, I was immediately accosted from behind by someone who had materialized out of the fog with Indianlike stealth. A bony hand was cupped over my mouth while another grabbed my right arm. Then, as I was pushed back toward the front of the chapel, I heard whispered words which sent my heart soaring. It was Holmes!

      “Ah, Watson, you have made it,” he whispered. “You do not know how pleased I am to see you.”

      “My God, Holmes, but you gave me...

    • Chapter Twenty “Shoot the Bastards If You Can”
      (pp. 149-151)

      John Coffin left his room at the Astor House just after midnight, carrying his disassembled rifle in what looked like a violin case. He went to the back stairs and walked up to the attic, where many of the hotel’s maids and bellboys lived in cramped rooms under the eaves. After making sure no one had seen him, Coffin jimmied open a heavy wooden door that gave access to a narrow flight of steps ascending to the roof.

      Once outside, Coffin stopped a moment to get his bearings. He had gone up to the roof several days earlier to identify...

    • Chapter Twenty-one “Let the World Know What I Have Done”
      (pp. 152-159)

      At the sound of Holmes’s police whistle, I started to sprint toward the portico. I had gone only a few feet when a loud report rang out and I heard a hiss just behind my head, followed by the unmistakable thwack of a bullet slamming into the side wall of the chapel. Fearing that a second bullet might come my way at any moment, I ducked behind the nearest large tombstone. Then, from somewhere well above me, I heard the crackle of pistol fire — perhaps half-a-dozen shots in all — echoing through the darkness. I looked across Vesey Street and saw...

    • Chapter Twenty-two “I Like Those Odds”
      (pp. 160-166)

      Elsie Cubitt had always known that her kidnapper, if he had the chance, would in the end take her to Chicago. She held the image in her mind of the great city by the lake, its rude towers and roaring els, its majesty and filth, its impossible gathering of nations, its stockyards and abattoirs where the work of destroying living things had been brought to industrialized perfection. City of hope and death — that was Chicago — and as her train rolled out of the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Jersey City, she found herself wandering through the haunted realms of her own...

  4. Book Three: The Pennsylvania Limited

    • Chapter Twenty-three “They Will Not Escape New York”
      (pp. 169-172)

      I spent Monday morning in a state of nervous expectation, pacing back and forth, smoking cigars, and hoping with each step that I would hear some word of Holmes. But as the clock ticked past noon, silence prevailed. It was as if Holmes had literally tumbled off the face of the planet and into the trackless ether of space. I now found myself eager to do something — anything! — to find him, even though there was not a scintilla of evidence which might explain his seemingly miraculous disappearance. Compounding my restlessness was the fact that I was marooned at Miss Parry’s...

    • Chapter Twenty-four “He’ll Be All Mine”
      (pp. 173-182)

      At nine o’clock on the morning of Monday, July 16, as Dr. Watson paced the floor at Miss Parry’s house in Brooklyn, the luxurious passenger train known as thePensylvania Limitedeased out of the huge Exchange Street station in Jersey City and headed west for its twentyfour-hour journey to Chicago. The train’s “consist,” as railroad men called it, usually included a baggage car, a combined buffet-smoking car, a dining car, four sleeping cars and an observation-lounge car. On this run, however, theLimited,powered by one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s new Atlantictype locomotives, had an addition in the form...

    • Chapter Twenty-five “Do You Remember Alfred Beach?”
      (pp. 183-189)

      Inspector William Hargreave, his eyes bloodshot and dejection marking his face like a scar, finally arrived at my “safe house,” as he called it, late in the afternoon. We took chairs in the front parlor by a large oriel window offering splendid views of Manhattan, after which Hargreave poured out his story of “the big trouble,” as he called it.

      “Well, Dr. Watson, we are in for it now, and I must warn you that I can’t protect you much longer from what is happening here.”

      “You have seen the newspapers then,” I said, showing him my copy of the...

    • Chapter Twenty-six “Your Presence Is Requested”
      (pp. 190-193)

      “Having a nice sleep, are you, Elsie?” asked the man portraying Sherlock Holmes.

      Elsie Cubitt struggled to look up but could offer only a low groan in response. This pleased the fake Holmes — whose real name, she had come to learn, was Charlie — and he bent over and fluffed up her pillows.

      “Well,” he continued, “enjoy yourself while you can. You’ll regret waking up soon enough.” He straightened up, looked at her one last time and stepped out of their compartment to have a smoke.

      Once he was gone, Elsie managed to open her eyes and take in her surroundings....

    • Chapter Twenty-seven “I Think I Know What We’ve Found”
      (pp. 194-204)

      It was just after ten o’clock on Monday night when Hargreave and I set out on our mission to the Manhattan underworld. Hargreave had insisted that we wait until after dark to minimize our chances of being followed, and the wait had been excruciating, given my eagerness to solve the mystery of Holmes’s disappearance. Just before we left, Detective Bissen had gone out ahead of us to observe the area around Miss Parry’s house on Joralemon Street. Once he had given us the all clear, we felt confident that we would not be followed.¹

      Both Hargreave and I — again with...

    • Chapter Twenty-eight “He Won’t Be Trying Anything”
      (pp. 205-213)

      A mile or so after pulling out of Altoona, thePennsylvania Limited,bolstered by a second engine, took a sharp turn to the northwest and began climbing toward one of the most celebrated stretches of railway in America — Horseshoe Curve. Built in the early 1850s by Irish laborers equipped with little more than hand tools and black powder, the curve was one of the nation’s first great feats of mountain railroading, and a brilliant piece of engineering. The curve, by which trains climbed along one side of a narrow valley and then doubled back over a fill to continue up...

    • Chapter Twenty-nine “You Are British to the Core”
      (pp. 214-217)

      After leaving St. Paul’s, I walked quickly away, as Hargreave had instructed me to do, until I found a public telephone at a raucous tavern in the Bowery. There, I placed a call to Detective Michael Bissen. It was obvious when he answered that I had gotten him out of bed, but he made no protest. After I had explained my circumstances, Bissen — who seemed to be not in the least surprised by anything I had told him — provided directions to his apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.¹

      It was approaching midnight by the time I reached his apartment,...

    • Chapter Thirty “Something Like That”
      (pp. 218-222)

      Mme. Simone DuBois’s pendulous form disguised an inner armature of iron, as she was to demonstrate only minutes after Holmes’s daring escape. When all the excitement broke out, she had been in the dining car, enjoying supper with the four unsuspecting young women being taken to Chicago. The women then went on to the lounge, and Mme. DuBois was alone when she arrived back at the private car only to encounter the chaotic aftermath of Holmes’s seemingly impossible escape. As she stepped through the vestibule door, Mme. DuBois saw Charlie and Belgian Jack at the far end of the car,...

  5. Book Four: Chicago

    • Chapter Thirty-one “Big Wheels Continue to Turn”
      (pp. 225-235)

      At quarter past nine on Wednesday morning I arrived in Chicago in the midst of a roaring thunderstorm, which reflected my troubled state of mind. The long train journey had given me ample time to think. Although I remained hopeful that I would find Holmes and Elsie Cubitt, I knew that great difficulties lay before me. The sheer immensity of Chicago made it, like London or New York, a city where any search would be challenging, especially to an outsider such as myself. Moreover, I still possessed no incontrovertible evidence that Holmes was in Chicago, since the match box found...

    • Chapter Thirty-two “How Nice of You to Join Us”
      (pp. 236-248)

      It sounds like you had quite a time of it,” said Mary Mortimer as she offered a cup of tea to Mme. Simone DuBois.

      “That would be an understatement, I think,” replied Mme. DuBois, who had arrived in Chicago only a few hours earlier after her harrowing trip from New York.

      The women were in Mrs. Mortimer’s apartment, sitting in the big parlor that offered a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. It was early in the evening of Tuesday, July 17, and Mme. DuBois had already provided a full account of the trip, including her decision to leave thePennsylvania...

    • Chapter Thirty-three “It Was Strictly a Delivery Job”
      (pp. 249-255)

      Before we left my room at the Sherman House, Rafferry placed a call to Joseph Pyle in St. Paul. Unfortunately, the editor could not be reached at either his apartment or office, leaving us no choice but to try him later in hopes he could bring the might of James J. Hill to bear upon our situation.

      It was just before six o’clock by the time we walked out onto Randolph Street, which was aglow in the early evening sunlight streaming in from the vast prairies to the west. The great stone pile of Chicago City Hall, its closely paired...

    • Chapter Thirty-four “Perhaps I Am Being Too Hard on You”
      (pp. 256-262)

      When Elsie Cubitt and Bathhouse John Coughlin reached the bottom of Hibernia Hall’s back stairs, she ordered him to stop. “Let’s just see if your friends have decided to follow us,” she said.

      They had, and as the door at the top of the steps swung open, Elsie Cubitt pressed her pistol into one of the folds of skin at the back of Coughlin’s neck and said, “If I were, you Bathhouse, I would tell them to leave at once.”

      “Now, don’t do anything foolish, Elsie,” Coughlin said. “I’ll take care of the problem.” He shouted out, “Don’t come this...

    • Chapter Thirty-five “Trouble Is, We’re Not the Indians”
      (pp. 263-274)

      Rafferty, Thomas and I returned to the Sherman House at half past seven — our shadows not far behind, according to Rafferty — and went up to my room. We smoked and talked, reviewing once again the extraordinary series of events which had brought us to America’s great inland city in search of Sherlock Holmes and Elsie Cubitt. Then, as darkness began to nestle into the windy canyons of the Loop, we made final preparations for our visit to the Levee.

      We would start at the Sons of Hibernia Hall, where we believed the coffin used to transport Elsie Cubitt — or perhaps...

    • Chapter Thirty-six “My God, I Don't Believe It”
      (pp. 275-278)

      Governor John Tanner of Illinois wasn’t used to being scolded, but then again, he had never been exposed before to James J. Hill in high dudgeon. The governor, a stout Republican who had been elected in a landslide following what to his mind was the disastrous tenure of the Democrat John Altgeld, had just arrived at his home in Springfield late Wednesday afternoon when the telephone rang. Tanner had been intrigued to hear that the caller was Hill, whose farflung railroad empire included hundreds of miles of track in Illinois.¹

      But it quickly became apparent when Tanner picked up the...

    • Chapter Thirty-seven “For God’s Sake, Do Not Shoot”
      (pp. 279-282)

      I shall never forget the look on Elsie Cubitt’s face — a mixture of surprise, delight and relief — as she came up from the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, as though returning from a long tour of the underworld. Her garb, which consisted of little more than a huge man’s coat that came down to her knees, and the deep weariness evident in her normally sparkling eyes, left little doubt she had been through a terrible ordeal, as did the revolver in her hand. Yet her own circumstances seemed not to concern her, for we had hardly embraced before...

    • Chapter Thirty-eight “We All Must Leave at Once”
      (pp. 283-288)

      From the daintily curtained window in her penthouse suite atop the Everleigh Club, Mary Mortimer looked down upon the chaos that had erupted on Dearborn Street and wondered whether it was time for her to leave. She had come so close to triumphing once and for all over Sherlock Holmes that she did not want to abandon her grand plan quite yet. Even so, she realized that events were careening out of control and that the likelihood of finally gaining the vengeance she craved was growing more remote by the minute.

      Her plan, she thought, had been perfect in every...

    • Chapter Thirty-nine “This Is a Thing I Must Do Myself”
      (pp. 289-295)

      When Sherlock Holmes announced his plan to set the Sons of Hibernia Hall afire, I put the obvious question to him: “How shall we escape without being seen by the mob outside?”

      “I am counting on smoke and confusion to be our confederates,” said Holmes. “There is also the elemental fact that heat rises.”

      “Ah, I see what you’re gettin’ at,” said Rafferty. “When the fire goes up, we go down.”

      “Precisely. I noticed several cellar windows which should be large enough for us to escape through. The fire will rise if we set it on the ground floor and...

    • Chapter Forty “There Will Be No Court”
      (pp. 296-303)

      The run-down establishment known as Murran’s Livery was about two miles south of the Loop, on Clark Street, and lay all but marooned amid a wide swath of railroad tracks belonging to no fewer than nine different lines. The tracks, which seemed to swoop and curl in all directions like great steel chains binding the flat Chicago earth, were busy around the clock, for the railroads stopped for neither time nor darkness. A steady stream of freights, their locomotives throbbing in the heavy summer air, rumbled past the old livery stable, and now and then a fast passenger train — one...

  6. Epilogue: “I Do”
    (pp. 304-312)

    In the days and weeks following the death of Mary Robinson, as Holmes preferred to call her, many details of her vast scheme emerged, especially after Elsie Cubitt told her story to the press. While recovering in Chicago — where Holmes, Rafferty and I stayed for several days with her — Mrs. Cubitt gave to theTribuneand several other dailies a vivid account of her two-week-long nightmare. The tale made headlines in Chicago, New York, London and even in Rafferty’s hometown of St. Paul.

    All of us — including, I was pleased to note, Inspector Hargreave and Detective Bissen — were hailed as...