"Yes, that's my handwriting," Paul stated succinctly. He scrutinized the sheet of paper bearing an incomplete, hand-written lyric to Mother Nature's Son and frowned. "But this is a very early version of the song. I changed most of these lines by the time I recorded the demo at George's house, and some of the chords as well. I hardly even remember writing this second verse."
He handed the paper back to Police Detective Charles Kerr.
"So this is a very rough first draft, you think?" speculated the detective.
"That's my best guess," Paul replied. He cast a quick glance at his attorney, Spencer Blackett, then started tapping a syncopated rhythm with his fingertips against the wooden armrest of his chair.
Paul's lawyer cleared his throat. "We appreciate your showing us this, Detective Kerr. It certainly seems to match the other papers that have appeared so mysteriously on the auction market."
"The General Manager of Sotheby's will no doubt be glad to know that this document is authentic," the detective replied. "Though the question of ownership remains unsettled. You don't have any idea where this paper might have come from, Sir Paul? Do you keep all of your original manuscripts under lock and key?"
Paul laughed. "I don't know if I'd call all my first drafts 'manuscripts.' As often as not, when I'm writing a new tune, I'll just jot down notes on the first piece of paper at hand. I've written lyrics on sheets of hotel stationary, torn envelopes, grocery lists, even on the back of my children's homework assignments. I can't keep track of every page I've ever scribbled a fragment of a song on."
"The three other pages that have shown up at Sotheby's contained fragments of songs written by your former bandmates John Lennon and George Harrison," Detective Kerr pointed out. "One of my associates informed me that those pages contained lyrics to tunes which appeared on your band's record entitled, The White Album."
"Oh, your associate told you that, did he?" Paul replied, smirking.
Detective Kerr dropped his gaze. "You've got me there, Sir Paul. I'll admit, I'm not the biggest Beatles fan on the Force. I'm more of a classical music lover. I do, of course, like your songs. But I think my lieutenant assigned me to this case precisely because of my penchant for Paganini. He knew I wouldn't become flabbergasted in your presence, as I fear some of my colleagues might."
Spencer Blackett rolled his eyes. "I suppose we should be grateful for that. Though honestly, I should think every member of Scotland Yard would have the presence of mind to speak to my client without hyperventilating."
Paul punched his lawyer's shoulder playfully and laughed. "Don't worry, Spence. I'm used to people acting giddy around me. I have been in the public eye for a few years now."
"Right," agreed the detective. He handed Paul the page that had accompanied the lyric sheet and asked him to examine it carefully.
Paul read the handwritten note, raised his eyebrows in a curious expression, then shrugged and handed the paper to his attorney. "This means nothing to me."
Spencer read the note aloud. " 'Please accept this lyric sheet as a gift in appreciation of your good work, and sell it at auction to raise money for your cause'," he recited. "And then there's a curious mark."
"Yes," the detective agreed. He took the paper back and focused his gaze on the bottom of the page. "It's the Sansrkit numeral 'four'. Pronounced 'char'."
A wisp of a smile crossed Paul's face. "I remember that word! Ek, do, teen, char, panch. That's one to five in Hindi."
Spencer smiled as his client. "When did you learn to speak Hindi?"
"Oh, I didn't," Paul demurred. "I just picked up a bit of the language when I was in Rishikesh, all those years ago. There was this bird at the ashram who taught us to say a few words. She painted henna tattoos on the ladies as well. I think she worked in the kitchen, but I can't be sure. It was…Shite! Was it fifty years ago already now? Where has the time gone?" A wistful expression washed over his face.
Spencer cleared his throat once more, calling Paul out of his reverie. "Were the other pages that turned up at Sotheby's accompanied by similar notes, Detective Kerr?"
"Yes," he replied. "Though each was signed with a different number."
"Ek, do, teen, char, panch?" Paul repeated.
"Indeed," the policeman agreed.
"Hhmm, curious," Spencer mumbled.
A loud rap at the door interrupted their discussion. A constable popped his head into the room. He spied Paul, smiled in spite of himself, then immediately looked back at the detective. "Sorry to bother you, sir, but two gentlemen just popped into the station and insisted upon seeing you. They claim to be carrying a fifth sheet of Beatles lyrics from this same mysterious source. Thought they'd bring it round for you to examine while you had your, em, expert witness here to inspect it."
"Really?" the detective replied, his voice tinged with exasperation. "This couldn't wait?"
"I looked at the paper myself, sir, and it seems to be a match," the constable replied. "And the gents, well, I think, once you see them, sir, you'll agree that they aren't the usual celebrity stalkers."
Paul laughed. "Do me a favor and open the door," he half-sang, half-spoke.
"I'd hate to impose upon Sir Paul's generosity," Detective Kerr protested.
"I'm curious to see this new piece of evidence," Spencer interjected.
"Open the door and let 'em ih-ih-ih-innn," Paul sang, stretching out his last note until his voice faltered.
The constable ushered two strangely dressed men into the small office, then closed the door behind them. One man was wearing a pair of bell-bottomed jeans, a loose-fitting, embroidered tunic, and a long chain of daisies around his neck. The other sported a raw silk Nehru jacket with matching trousers, and carried a large unstamped envelope in his hands. Both men stood awkwardly in front of the doorframe, staring agape at the silver-haired singer sitting in front of the detective's desk.
Paul stood up to greet them. "I recognize you," he said with a wide smile, grasping the hand of the man in the embroidered tunic. "You're Wimbledon Tennismatch."
Benedict Cumberbatch blushed, but shook Paul's hand enthusiastically nevertheless. "Um, er, yes, good one, Sir Paul. I get that a lot."
"And you're Mr. Law," Paul said, offering his hand to the second guest and breaking into song once more. "Hey Jud-ee—jud-ee-jud-ee-jud-ee jud-ee!"
Jude Law slipped the envelope into his left hand and shook Paul's hand with his right. "Yeah, I get that joke a lot too," he replied. He held onto Paul's hand for a second too long, then awkwardly released it, mumbling, "Sorry, so sorry. I…um…well…"
Detective Kerr coughed sharply to call the meeting to order. "Might I ask what brings you two gentlemen here, uninvited?"
"And might I ask why you're dressed like a pair of extras from Julie Taymor's Across the Universe?" Paul added.
"Oh…um…" Benedict stammered.
Jude puffed out his chest and stood up as tall and straight as he could. "We're filming a new Richard Curtis movie, and we ran here right from the set. Didn't have time to change out of our costumes."
"Richard Curtis. He who wrote the script for Yesterday, didn't he?" Spencer replied.
"Yes," Benedict agreed, his voice coming out in a nervous squeak. He closed his eyes, shook out his hands in a theatrical gesture, and released a long, cleansing breath. Then he reopened his eyes and started speaking in a calmer voice. "The Curtis movie we're presently filming is more like Love Actually. It's an ensemble piece with a large, international cast, set in Swinging London. I play a hippie, as you can probably guess, and Jude plays my flatmate."
Detective Kerr crossed his arms in front of his chest and glowered impatiently at the actors.
"Right," Jude huffed. "So, anyway. Ben and I read about the rash of mysterious Beatles lyric sheets that have been popping up at auction lately. We're fans, you see, so we took a keen interest in the story."
"And then we found this," Benedict said. He grabbed the envelope out of Jude's hands and offered it to Paul. He hesitated briefly, then offered it the police detective. Then he hesitated again and offered it back to Paul.
Jude grabbed the envelope away from Benedict, threw him an exasperated look, and cleared his throat. "We found this in the hairdressing room on our set. It seemed to fit the pattern." He handed the envelope to the detective, smiling smugly. Then he stepped backwards and hit his head against the door with a loud thump.
Detective Kerr eyed him warily, then started examining the address on the envelope. "This was meant to be sent to the London office of UNICEF. But you two saw fit to deliver it by hand to Scotland Yard?"
"Well, yes," Jude answered. "Because we thought it might have been stolen, like the other lyric sheets, from Sir Paul there, and, well…"
"And one of the security guards on the lot told us a photographer who'd been pestering us just ran from our set to Scotland Yard because Sir Paul was spotted entering the building through a back entrance," Benedict added, his face flush with excitement. "So when we found this envelope, the two of us thought, well, you know, why not try to help solve the case? The game's afoot and all that."
"As I stated earlier, we are fans, you know," Jude added, clasping his hands behind his back and rocking back and forth on his heels.
Detective Kerr nodded at them dismissively and slipped two sheets of paper out of the envelope. He examined them briefly, then handed them to Paul and Spencer Blackett.
"This note is identical to the one you just showed us," Spencer said. "Same wording. 'Please accept this lyric sheet,' et cetera, et cetera…"
Paul glanced over his shoulder. "Though the number at the bottom of the page is different. I believe that's the Sanskrit symbol for panch, the numeral five."
"And the page in your hands, Sir Paul?" Detective Kerr asked.
"An early draft of my song Junk," Paul replied. He looked up at the detective and grinned. "Which did not appear on my band's record entitled, The White Album, I might add. I released it on my first solo album, entitled, cleverly enough, McCartney." He handed the sheet to his attorney and winked at Detective Kerr. "Just thought I'd mention that last bit, before your associate had to point it out to you."
"Right," the detective muttered. "Well, these papers do seem to fit the pattern of the other…"
Another rap on the door interrupted him. The same constable poked his head inside the room. "Excuse me again, sirs, but there are three very angry lasses standing with me just now who are quite insistent upon speaking with Messers Law and Cumberbatch. Perhaps those two gents might be willing to step outside for just a moment…"
The door flung open before he could finish his sentence. Two colorfully costumed young women forced themselves into the room, pushing Jude Law into a filing cabinet. A third woman, grey-haired, brown-skinned and dressed in a pale pastel smock, followed on their heels.
The constable shrugged and shut the door behind the three women.
"So sorry," the older woman whispered as she lifted her shoe off Benedict's foot. "I didn't mean to step on you."
Spencer scooted his chair away from the desk to make room for new guests. Paul eyed the younger women's dresses and smiled. "I recognize you birds too. You're Katie Holmes and Emma Watson. And it looks as if you're wearing frocks by Mary Quant and Ossie Clark." He stood up and extended his hand in greeting.
"If only," replied Katie. She smoothed out her dress then clasped Paul's hand. "These are knock-offs, made just for the film. The originals would be far too delicate to wear."
"And perhaps too expensive as well," Paul replied. "Back in the day, we tried to commission Ossie to design a few frocks for the Apple Boutique, but we couldn't afford his services."
Emma shook his hand as well, then pointed to the open envelope sitting on the detective's desk. "We'd like that back, please. These two pillocks stole it from Savitri Bahtia, our hairdresser."
"Did not!" Benedict protested. "We found it lying on the floor by her handbag!"
"And we snuck a peek at the contents when she left the room to use the ladies'," Jude confessed. "Then we realized it was a new clue in this case of the missing Beatles lyric sheets."
"You're both incorrigible!" Emma scolded them. "Just because you play famous detectives on your shows, that doesn't give you the right to steal other people's belongings, claiming they're clues!"
"Actually, my client never reported that any of these lyric sheets was missing," Spencer interjected. "And neither have the estates of John Lennon or George Harrison."
"That's because these papers didn't belong to John, Paul or George," Katie countered. She took the two sheets of paper the attorney was holding, slipped them back in the envelope on the desk, and handed the package to Savitri. "They belong to her."
"Now wait a minute, young lady," Spencer began.
"No, hear her out," Emma said, cutting him off. "It's a fascinating story."
Savitri hugged the envelope to her chest and sighed. She looked down at the floor in embarrassment. "I didn't think it would come to this," she whispered. "I was just trying to help some charities."
Katie rubbed Savitri's shoulder gently. "Don't be nervous, Savi. You're not in trouble. Just tell these three men and…" She flicked her eyes at Benedict and Jude, "…these two idiots the story that you told Emma and me."
Savitri looked up, met eyes with Paul and smiled shyly. "Actually, it would probably help if I showed you where I got these papers from." She slipped a large bag off her left shoulder, rested it on the detective's desk, and pulled out a thick notebook.
"This was given to me by one of my clients, many, many years ago," Savitri began. "Her name was Mrs. Bassanini, though I imagine you knew her by a different name."
She locked eyes with Paul. He shook his head in bewilderment.
"Bassanini was her second husband's name," Savitri explained. "Her first husband's name was Lennon."
Paul nodded. "Ah, I see."
"She used to come to a salon in Kenwood where I worked," Savitri continued. "I was just a shampoo girl when she first stopped by, but after a while, I started coloring her hair. And we got to talking. You know how it is." She turned towards Emma and Katie. "Women tell things to their hairdressers that they might not even share with their best friends."
She looked back at Paul. "Well, anyway, the two of us had a lot of long talks while I did her hair. About her first divorce. About her second marriage. And finally, well, about her second divorce too. Sometimes I'd paint henna on her hands, just for fun. She said it reminded her of happier days. Then when she and Mr. Bassanini parted ways, she moved back to Northern Wales, where she grew up. But before she left, she gave me this."
She rested the book on Detective Kerr's desk and opened it to a page near the front. "This was a sketchbook she kept when she traveled to India with her first husband John. He used to borrow it from her when they first arrived in Rishikesh and doodle inside, or write bits of poetry. I think he must have passed it around to you, Sir Paul, and to your friend George Harrison as well, because there are fragments of some of your songs in here too. But mostly it's Mrs. Bassanini's book."
Savitri leaned forward and flipped through the pages quickly, revealing a wealth of sketches in the back of the book. "She told me her husband started sleeping in a different bedroom after they'd been at the ashram a short while. He told her at the time that he wanted a solitary place to meditate with no distractions, but she later discovered he was exchanging telegrams with that Japanese artist he ended up marrying, and wanted his privacy. But anyway, he stopped borrowing her book after that, and she filled it up with her own illustrations. Some of them are quite beautiful."
"Might I?" Paul asked, reaching for the book.
Paul picked up the sketchbook and started paging through it. "Oh, would you look at that!" He stopped at an illustration of himself sitting under a tree, petting a small black dog. "This is Toby! A little mongrel that used to hang out by the ashram's kitchen. John and I used to let him into the dining areas sometimes and feed him scraps. Drove the Maharishi batty!"
He turned a few more pages and stopped at a drawing of John playing guitar. "This is just exquisite. I'd forgotten what a talented artist Cyn was."
"I believe she met her first husband when they were both students in Art School," Savitri replied.
"Right," Paul agreed. "But John was never very serious about his studies. His heart was always in his music." He flipped through a few more sketches, admiring illustrations of himself, his former girlfriend Jane, John, George, and George's wife Pattie. Then he stopped at a sketch of a clean-cut young man with a loopy grin. "Oh, hell, this is Rick…bullocks, what was his last name? Rick Something-or-other. John based his song "Bungalow Bill" on him. He showed up at the ashram one day to visit his mother, who was studying meditation alongside us, and they got to talking about the time they went tiger hunting."
Spencer rested his hand beside the page. "This sketchbook is a slice of history. I imagine it would fetch quite a pretty penny at auction."
"That's what Mrs. Bassanini intended for me to do with it, I think," Savitri said. She took the book away from Paul and opened it to the inside back cover, where Cynthia had inscribed a note:
With thanks for all the times you've listened to me complain. You were always such a great help. If ever you need a little help yourself, please feel free to sell this old sketchbook of mine. Someone might be interested in my drawings of my ex.
Savitri gave Paul, his attorney and the detective a few moments to read the inscription, then opened the book back to one of the pages near the front, covered in scribbled lyrics and chord notations.
"I never wanted to sell this book," Savitri insisted. "It was a gift, so that just didn't seem right. And it reminded me of Mrs. Bassanini too. She was such a lovely lady."
Paul nodded. "Yes, that she was."
"I stored the book in a box for many years, hardly looking at it," Savitri continued. "But then I read about Mrs. B's death a few years back in the newspaper, so I pulled it out again. I re-read her note and thought about what she had said. I didn't particularly need any money. I've done alright for myself. And I didn't want to part with her drawings either, because they reminded me of her. But then I looked over the pages in the front of the book, with the lyrics her ex-husband had written, and that you and your friend Mr. Harrison had written as well, and I figured, well, maybe I could sell those to raise some money for charity. I didn't know how to go about it, though. So I just cut out a few pages, one by one, and sent them anonymously to some charities that I thought Mrs. Bassanini would approve of. Oxfam and Cancer Research UK and UNICEF. Groups like that. I thought it might do some good. I didn't think they would cause such a commotion."
"Each of those lyric sheets by themselves would be a pearl of great value to any collector of Beatles memorabilia," Spencer noted dryly. "But the book in its entirety, why, that would be worth a fortune!"
"But I don't want to sell the entire book," Savitri reminded him. She picked it up and placed it back in her bag.
Paul chuckled. "Then you shouldn't. It belongs to you."
"But the pages that you and the other Beatles wrote on," Benedict interjected. "Surely those don't those belong to…"
"They belong to Savitri Bahtia as well," Paul insisted. "The three of us were just scribbling our first drafts of songs in a book John had pinched from his wife. Later on, as we polished off the tunes, we re-wrote the lyrics and chords in notebooks of our own. But this book belonged to Cyn, and she gave it to her hairdresser. So now it's hers to do with as she pleases."
Savitri nodded at Paul and smiled.
"If you'd like, I could autograph your lyric sheets for Mother Nature's Son and Junk," Paul offered. "Might help those pages raise a little more cash at auction."
"That would be very kind of you," Savitri replied.
"Spence, why don't you ring up the blokes at Sotheby's and let them know these pages are authentic and good-to-go?" Paul winked at Savitri. "Don't worry, love. He'll take care of the paperwork for you. It's what I pay him to do."
"So that's it then?" Jude Law interrupted. "The case is closed?"
"Thanks to the ministrations of Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, I'd say, yes, it is," Detective Kerr agreed. He stood up from his desk and opened up a large drawer of his filing cabinet, knocking Jude Law's leg once more. "Oops, sorry," he added in an unapologetic voice. He pulled out a violin case and rested it on top of his desk.
"I always like to celebrate the closing of a case with a little music," he announced. He pulled a violin and bow out of the case and offered them to Paul. "Do you play, Sir Paul?"
Paul shook his head. "Sadly, no, not the violin. Though I'm pretty handy with quite a few other instruments."
The detective nodded and turned towards the actors. "And you, Sherlock?"
Benedict Cumberbatch smiled in embarrassment. "Well, I learned to play for my role, of course, and my teacher told me I showed some real promise. Though I only know the pieces I learned for the show."
Detective Kerr nodded, lifted the instrument to his shoulder and positioned his fingers on the neck. "Then I'll play, if you don't mind." He positioned his bow over the strings and started playing the melody to The Long and Winding Road.
Paul leaned back in his chair and smiled appreciatively. When the detective finished playing the song, everyone in the room broke into a round of applause.
Detective Kerr bowed slightly, then returned his instrument and bow to their case.
"I thought you said you only liked classical music," Paul said as he stood up from his chair.
"Well, some songs have a way of working themselves into the collective consciousness," the detective replied. "It is a rather nice melody."
"I'm chuffed," Paul replied. "Never much cared for the violins Phil Spector added to our recording of that tune, but your solo? Now that did me proud."
Inspired by "The Sign of the Four" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)