Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Case of 90 Degrees – Part VI - Conclusion

Greeting us at the door with a surprised look was Prof. Roquer; a balding man in his late 50’s clad in a smoking jacket and slippers.

“What brings you to Cambridge?” he asked after introductions.

“We have come to make the acquaintance of the preeminent expert on the writings of Lord Alfred Tennyson,” Holmes said. “Someone who well knows the value of his every work: you Professor.”

“I know the value of many things,” Roquer said clearing his throat. “Including fine tobacco. Please, each of you be my guest,” he said as he proffered his humidor.

Holmes caught Lasker by the arm as the German reached for a cigar. “That Herr Lasker is what I believe you would call a fingerfehler, and a fatal one at that.”

“What do you mean?” asked Roquer with his eyes agape.

“It means this case began to be solved when Inspector Lastrade told me nothing had been removed from Tennyson’s club room except some papers. But something else should have been there; the cigar Tennyson was smoking at the time of his death. It was taken away for one reason only – because it was the murder weapon. A cigar laced with atropine.”

Roquer stammered, “But the police already have the murderer, thanks to some chess puzzle.”

“No, they have the right position, but the wrong board. The pieces were on the board as the Inspector initially told us, but the board had been turned 90 degrees by no doubt some non-chess playing policeman. Herr Lasker can show you on his pocket set.

“In this position the pawn cannot promote. But there is one legal way of mating in one move from here. White castles.”

“Or,” offered Lasker, “as the French would say it….....roquer.”

I must say I blinked at this and didn’t even see the professor’s right hand pull the derringer from his desk drawer. Nor did I catch more than a glimpse of Lasker’s own right hand and the flash of the shot from his pistol. The German hit Roquer in the arm, instantly disarming and capturing our murderer.

“I’m afraid, Watson,” Holmes was saying several days later at Baker Street, “this is one adventure you must not write about until all of us are in our graves. The police have suppressed all the information. Also, I received word that Inspector Lestrade has emptied Roquer’s safe and found all of Tennyson’s missing papers. The Death of Oenone will now be printed posthumously.”

“A great loss,” I said. “But his memory will live on.

You know Holmes, I am sure that a century from now people will remember Tennyson. They may even still be talking about you then. Who knows, they may even remember the names of Emanuel Lasker and Winston Churchill.”

Holmes paused, and then said, “I wonder, my dear Watson. I wonder.”

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