Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Case of 90 Degrees – Part II

We soon arrived at Waterloo Place and managed to get past the police lines and into the leading literary club of the English-speaking world.

Upstairs we found detectives huddled in a large oak paneled room. Inside were placed two chairs on opposite sides of a green-baize table. The center of the table was empty but on one side was a brandy snifter and several onyx chessmen.

On the other side lay white chessmen, a half-filled ash tray, an over-turned snifter – and the very tall body of the poet laureate of England, Alfred Lord Tennyson. His gray bearded head was slumped over the table’s edge.

Holmes was already examining the deceased’s lips when in the background we heard the familiar voice of Inspector Lestrade.

“Have you determined the source of the atropine?” Holmes asked without introduction. Holmes expertise in symptoms of various fatal poisons was unfailingly accurate.

“Uh, no, Holmes,” Lestrade replied. “In fact, we have not yet determined the death was poison. The man was 83, after all. Nevertheless, we haven’t found anything remotely toxic in the snifters.”

“I assume,” Holmes followed quickly, “that you have removed the chessboard that must have lain between Lord Tennyson and his apparent murderer. Has anything else been disturbed?”

Lestrade, wearing the look of someone whose patience has been tested for the hundredth time, paused before replying. “Only the chessmen that were on the board and some note paper with reference to something or someone named Oenone.”

“A someone?” Holmes interjected. “That someone was the wife Paris left ….for Helen of Troy.”

Lestrade glared and continued, “If it means anything to you, I’ve written down the position of the chess pieces. Oh, and according to his appointment book, his final visitors were a Prof. Algernon Roquer of Magdalene College, a German named Lasker, and,” he added lowering his voice, “Lord Randolph Churchill.”

I admit I appeared startled by the name of Lord Randolph, for many years now the great hope of the Conservative Party. Holmes recovered for me, took the slip of paper with the chess position and in a few minutes we were headed home.

Part III later

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