Author's note: These stories, written by me, were published in The Magic Door, a publication by The Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection of the Toronto Reference Library. I like them so much that I want to share them with you. By the way, (struting her generous Mae West stuff) come up and see us sometime.
(All right! So I am built more like Marie Dressler! A woman can imagine she's sexy, can't she?)
The stout gentleman half rose from his chair and gave a bob of greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from his small, fat-encircled eyes. – "The Red-Headed League"
"Good day to you, ma'am."
"Good day, sir," I replied, when I recovered my aplomb. The Room's not open until two. If you want to read that now, I'll bring it downstairs to the Baldwin Room."
He waved a podgy hand. "I've no trouble here. It's quiet – like a regular gentleman's study." He nodded and wriggled his bottom into a more comfortable position.
"But we're not open to the public," I repeated.
He glared at me, frowning. "But you're here."
"And I'm here to read." He stabbed his forefinger at the page he was reading and puffed out his chest. "I'm Jabez Wilson, the hero of this story "The Red-Headed League"."
I raised an eyebrow. "I thought Sherlock Holmes was the hero."
Wilson's cheeks flamed as red as his hair. "He'd have had no case to solve, if I hadn't brought it to him. I sought out why the Red-Headed League went bust, didn't I? And when I couldn't find out, I went to the one who could, didn't I?
"'Not over bright pawnbroker' my eye!" he huffed. "I got Holmes involved, didn't I? And I got that clever Spaulding for half-wages, didn't I? So he turned out a wrong'un. Least I had him for a month. And I made near thirty pound from that League vacancy, didn't I?"
I tried to mollify him. "I see your point. The bank would've been robbed of the French gold if you hadn't made Holmes investigate the League."
"Exactly so." Wilson nodded emphatically. "No one at the Bank would've known till the Monday. And I got a good education copying out that Encyclopaedia Britannica." He wagged his finger at me. "You're never too old to educate yourself, my girl. And libraries are worth every penny to a poor man, to get what he needs into his noggin."
I took a seat opposite. "Did you continue to copy the Encyclopaedia after the case ended?"
"I kept on reading it. Mr. Holmes got the police to give me the set Duncan Ross left behind. The Ninth edition, it was. You've a set in your Main Reference Stacks. I got as far as 'M' before the Tenth came out. Got as far as 'K' in it. Started on the next, and then the next, and so on."
Wilson eyed our computer. "I was at "C" before they put it there. He flexed his fingers, wincing. "I can't tap keys too well with my arthritis. Besides, I prefer pen and paper."
He scanned the room with loving eyes. "Doubt there's much money in your lot, but I see many good companions for a long night. The "Hound" - of course you would have that. There's "Pole Star", and there's Prof. Challenger, and even old Gerard. There's "Boer War". Many a hot day I've propped open the shop door with that one. God bless Doctor Doyle!"
"You don't mind being known as a character in a story?"
"Better his than another's," Wilson said with pride. "Besides, I'm the hero. I'm remembered. Who remembers this one?" He flipped through the Strand and held it under my nose. "Or this one? A hundred years gone, yet you knew of me. And they'll know of me a hundred years from now. They'll still talk about how I saved the French gold from being stolen."
"How Sherlock Holmes -- ."
"It was my doing! I prevented it." Wilson preened. "When the movie's made, I want Sean Connery to play me. Saw him in 'The Great Train Robbery.' He could be my twin brother."
"He's older now – and bald."
"No older than I am." Wilson looked around cautiously, leaned over and cupped his hand to my ear. "And there are such things as wigs."