Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The Case of 90 Degrees – Part I
It was an overcast October afternoon in 1892 and we were having tea at 221-B Baker Street. I was attempting to interest Mr. Sherlock Holmes in the latest newspaper reports about the investigation of the alleged US axe-murderess Lizzie Borden. But Mr. Holmes was not interested since he would have to be at the scene to actually solve the case.
The knock on the door broke our conversation. When I answered it, before me stood an academic looking gentleman from Berlin no less.
The young man wore a drooped mustache, a rumpled suit and inquisitive eyes that even his thick glasses could not hide.
After I led him to the study, he began, “Thank you for seeing me in Dr. Watson, and meeting with me Mr. Holmes. My name is Emanuel Lasker. I have spent two years in England studying mathematics and philosophy. I also play chess.”
Holmes shot me an inquiring glance and I nodded that I had heard of him. He was an up and coming player who had beaten some of England’s best.
“The reason I am here is I fear I may have come into trouble with the police,” the German said. “Your reputation Mr. Holmes for helping the innocent and for remarkable powers of observation and detective guess work is known even by me.”
“You may have come to the right place for justice,” Holmes quickly replied, “but I never guess. I simply deduce matters of observations, such as….that you sir are absent minded, an excellent pistol shot and hate shaving.”
Lasker just smiled keenly aware that he could not deny any of that, and said, “My problem concerns one of my heroes, your poet Alfred Tennyson. I have long been thinking of composing a play, something along the lines of Tennyson’s ‘Becket’ or ‘Queen Mary’, and I wanted to discuss chess scenes in those remarkable dramas with him. And since I knew Tennyson to be a former president of the British Chess association, I arranged thru a mutual friend to meet with him today at his club, the Athenaeum.
When I arrived at the appointed hour I found the police surrounding the building and questioning everyone in sight. I heard my own name mentioned, suspected the worst and left immediately. I feared something criminal had happened, and as a foreigner, suspicion might fall on me. And so I am here.”
Holmes considered the German’s face for several seconds before speaking. “Your fears may be unjustified. But just to be on the safe side, Dr. Watson and I will make an inquiry.”
With that the German bowed out of the room and Holmes and I headed for Waterloo Place.
Part II later