SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE NIGHT OF THE LITTLE WIZARD
ACT ONE: THE ARRIVAL
February 8, 1885
A thick winter fog covered the English landscape. Professor James Moriarty threw the windows of his classroom open. "Isn't the winter air wonderful, Moran?"
Sebastian Moran pulled his jacket closer around his already shivering shoulders. "Bloody marvelous."
The Professor frowned at his employee's unenthusiastic nature. "England's winter air is invigorating. It is full of life-giving moisture."
He shook his head; but before he could chastise his favorite assassin again, the door opened to reveal Moriarty's scout.
Mrs. Anderson was a plump woman of about forty. She waddled across the floor, puffing like a miniature steam engine as she went. "This just came for you, Professor," she handed Moriarty an elegantly addressed envelope.
"By special messenger I assume," he slid his long fingers underneath the seal. "What can you tell me about the man who delivered it?"
"Well, he was really a nicely turned out young man, dressed well, there was one thing," she extended her hand, palm upwards.
"Moran, would you…"
Moran cursed under his breath and dug through his pockets. He shoved five shillings into Mrs. Anderson's waiting hand.
"Why, bless you, sir," she winked broadly at Moran. "Now, the funny thing about this messenger was his height, sir. He was at least seven feet tall!"
"Seven feet tall," exclaimed Moran. "Blimey, must be hell trying buy a—"
Moriarty silenced Moran with a wave of his hand. "Thank you, Mrs. Anderson. You may go."
She curtsied and exited without a word. Mrs. Anderson could tell that Moriarty was excited by the mere sight of the envelope. When Moriarty got excited was excited, it never boded well for England. And Mrs. Anderson wanted nothing to do with anything that would endanger her beloved country.
"Moran," the Professor drawled, still gazing at the letter. "Have you ever heard of a man called Miguelito Loveless?
"Sounds Spanish, who is he?"
"According to his letter, he's an American doctor and philosopher. He says here that he'll be in London some time on the eleventh and wants to meet."
"Are you going to?"
Professor Moriarty turned to Moran and smiled. It was a cold flash of white amidst his red beard. "He ends the letter by saying that he has a plan for ruling the world that he wants to discuss. Why wouldn't I go?"
February 11, 1885
"Right on time, Professor," Dr. Miguelito Loveless snapped his watch closed and replaced it in his breast pocket. "I admire punctuality in a man."
"As do I, Doctor. This is my associate, Colonel Sebastian Moran."
"Ah, yes. Shakiri Moran. One of the best big game hunters anywhere. Delighted, sir."
The little doctor snapped his fingers, seemingly from nowhere a man appeared. "This is my assistant, Voltaire."
Voltaire towered over the table, smiling at Moran's expression of surprise. "Pleased to meet you," he rumbled, sitting in a chair next to the Doctor.
"And this… lovely creature," Loveless gestured at the woman sitting next to him, "is my very dear friend, Antoinette."
"Charmed," Antoinette purred.
"Now! The introductions are done. Let's get down to business. You see, Professor, I don't want to rule the world," he gave a small shrug. "I simply want a small, quiet corner of it all to myself. Say, California. But you, sir, want to rule the world. And I believe that one day you will. But not without my help."
There was a brief pause when a waitress appeared with a tray of drinks.
"Not now," Loveless growled. "Can't you see we're busy, you silly girl?"
The waitress recoiled from the table and made a hasty exit.
"Where were we… Ah, yes. Ruling the world," he giggled. "A rather tempting prospect, don't you agree, Professor?"
"Very tempting," Professor Moriarty stroked his beard. "You clearly have a plan."
"Mmm, yes, yes. But," he paused for a moment, index finger raised. "There is a tiny, little problem. Just as Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson occasionally foil your plans, I have two… men who occasionally foil mine. Before I give you my plans for ruling the world, you must," the little doctor chuckled, "remove them for me."
"That's all very well and good, Doc, but how do we know that your plans are any good," Moran immediately regretted speaking.
Loveless brought his fist down on the table, causing half the restaurant to look in their direction. "Because my plans are always 'good', they're more than good. They're excellent. But I don't expect a boorish lout like you to be able to appreciate such finesse as is required to execute them. Just ask the good professor, he understands my plans."
Moriarty stirred from his silence. "I'm sorry, Dr. Loveless, but I, too, need proof before I make a decision."
Dr. Loveless frowned. "Very well, in exactly two minutes you will begin to hear the sound of alarm bells. The fire brigade will be rushing past this very restaurant to a house fire near the home of your adversaries. A house fire that Mr. Holmes will find very suspicious. But there's more," he giggled. "So, so much more! The following investigation carried out by bumbling officers of Scotland Yard will find that this fire burned so hot that it turned the sand surrounding the building into glass. Then, when they don't find anything, they will file their reports and leave the case unsolved. The circumstances surrounding this fire will lure my adversaries across the Atlantic and right to your doorstep, Professor. And when they get here," Loveless giggled again. "They will die, as all your enemies are wont to."
Just as the Professor opened his mouth to reply, there was a deafening clatter of hooves in the street outside. The sound of hoof beats was followed by the clanging of bells from at least two different directions.
Moriarty snapped his fingers. A small boy appeared at his shoulder. "Find out what's happening."
"You don't trust me, Professor?"
"Quite the opposite, Dr. Loveless. I fully believe that you can do what you say. However," Moriarty let the word hang in the air for a moment, "I have been approached before by men just as… reputable as you with plans just as convincing. Every single one of them let me down. I shall need more than a simple house fire to convince me of your skills."
"I anticipated as much," Dr. Loveless turned in his seat. "What do you see when you look around you, Professor? Colonel Moran?"
Moran glanced around. "A load of ponces having their lunch."
"Quite correct, Colonel. But I see things rather differently. I see a restaurant full of cattle being led to the slaughter."
Loveless started to elaborate when there was a wild cry from the opposite end of the restaurant. A stout man was screaming and clutching at his head. Meanwhile a woman, presumable the man's wife, was desperately trying to rip her dress off. Before the patrons had a chance to react, there was a scream from the other end of the restaurant. A well-dressed young man was doing his best to strangle a woman who appeared to be his mother. "Why don't you die, you horrid cow?" the man shouted.
Costumers and wait staff alike were all soon clamoring for blood.
Dr. Loveless took a quiet sip of his tea. "Close the curtains, Voltaire. I find the noise disagreeable." He continued to sip his tea serenely until the sounds of violence ceased. "Open them again."
The curtain swished softly as Voltaire pulled it back.
Moran swallowed. The carnage that was revealed rivaled any and all battlefields he had seen while in the army. Men and women were slumped over each other, their faces contorted into unnatural expressions. Blood had pooled in several places on the floorboards and expensive rugs.
The silence was broken by a small gasp from Moriarty's messenger boy. Despite the gruesome scene, he faithfully made his way to the Professor's side.
"What happened outside, boy?"
"It were jus' as the Doc said: one of the 'ouses on Baker Street's jus' gone up in flames! I saw it. Right wonnerful fire at that, guv."
Moriarty produced a shilling from his pocket. "You may go."
"Well, Professor," Dr. Loveless grinned. "Do you believe me now?"
"You mean you're responsible for this," Moran scoffed. "No man alive could do something like this!"
"Considering I've been dead several times, I don't think that's a problem," Loveless' smile widened. "But your opinion is—if you'll forgive me saying so, Colonel—completely worthless. I am, however, eager to hear your employer's thoughts on the subject."
"I believe," the Professor looked around at the dead, "that you are one of few men worthy of my time. You spoke of my removing some of your enemies. Who are they?"
"This is simply delightful news! I've been waiting years for this, Professor. Years! Now, the men that I need removed (as you so eloquently put it) are Mr. James West, Esq. and Mr. Artemus Gordon."
Denver Railway Station
February 25, 1885
"Artie, you've got to stop pacing. I'm getting dizzy!"
"Huh," Artemus Gordon looked up from the well trodden carpet. "Oh, sorry, Jim. There's a lot on my mind."
"I should say so; you're getting married in less than a month. I'd be worried if you didn't have anything on your mind."
"We've just been engaged for so long! First she said no, then she said wait, she wanted to have an acting career. Then my career got in the way…" he trailed off mid-sentence and sighed. "I don't know, maybe I'm not ready."
"It's been almost a decade, Artie," Jim smiled. "If nothing else, you owe that girl a wedding."
"But what if it's not the wedding she wants," Artie slumped onto the settee. "What if it doesn't last? Ten years is a long time to wait for maybe three months of unhappy marriage and a nasty divorce."
James West joined his friend on the settee. "That won't happen."
"How do you know?"
"Because she loves you. Have you seen the way she looks at you? Even after all this time there's nothing but love in those eyes!"
"You're in particularly eloquent form today," Artie raised an eyebrow.
"Well I have to be. I'm speaking at your wedding."
Their laughter was interrupted by a knock on the door. A messenger poked his head in. "Is there a Mr. Artemus Gordon here?"
The messenger took a step inside the parlor car. "I have a letter that needs to be signed for."
Artie obliged and, after tipping the messenger, showed him the door.
"Who's it from?"
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes of London, England."
"Do we know Mr. Sherlock Holmes of London, England?"
"Yes," his smile faded as he scanned the letter. "Jim, I think you better hear this:
'Dear Mr. Gordon,
I hope this letter finds you in good health. I have heard of your impending marriage and congratulate you. But matrimonial congratulations are not the purpose of this letter. Earlier today there were two, shall we say, unusual occurrences in London that I think will be of interest to you. The first was a fire in Baker Street, not three houses down from my current residence. The fire completely consumed the house without touching the two houses on either side and burned with such an intense heat that sand surrounding the house was turned into glass. Soon after the fire occurred, Scotland Yard discovered an entire restaurant of people dead. It appeared as if they had torn each other to pieces.
The reason that I am writing to you about these instances that have occurred almost a half world away is a conversation that we had six years ago when we first met. You'll remember my telling you that I suspected there was a single driving force beneath all crime in England. I clearly remember you saying that you had a similar suspicion about crime in America. You even put a name to this source of evil: Dr. Miguelito Loveless. You then gave me examples of his cunning and evil mind—much to the chagrin of your lovely fiancée, if I remember correctly. You told me he invented a green powder that burned with intense heat and a drug which caused violent hallucinations.
In short, I believe Dr. Loveless to be in London now. I also believe him to be working with the head criminal in England whose name I will not soil this letter with.
I'm sure you can guess what I am suggesting by sending this letter and I hope to see you in person soon.
There was a deep silence in the parlor car. It was broken after a few moments by a distinctly weary female voice.
"I suppose this means that we have to postpone our wedding."
Jim and Artie turned to see Lily standing in the door, wedding invitations in hand. "There's always something, isn't there," her lips trembled. "Always something getting in the way. First it's this case or that case and now…" tears ran down her face. "It's that horrible little man." She threw the invitations into the air.
Jim, in an attempt to break the second silence, picked up the envelope. "Look, there's another note:
'Artemus, there has been an unforeseen turn of events. I originally deduced that Loveless intended to stay in England and to lure you to the continent. I was in my deduction. He is taking two of the foremost criminals in England today and bringing them to America. This is a completely unforeseen turn of events. Even as I am writing this, my housekeeper is packing my bags. By the time you get this letter I should be in America at the very least if not in your direct vicinity.
As if on cue, someone standing directly behind Lily cleared their throat. Lily turned slightly and stepped aside to reveal a strong young man with a moustache.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for," he glanced at a scrap of paper in his hands. "Messrs. West and Gordon. I was told by the station master that this was their train."
"I'm Mr. West and that is Mr. Gordon," Jim made his way over to the door and shook the visitor's hand. "Are you Mr. Holmes?"
"No," the man smiled. "I'm Dr. Watson, Mr. Holmes' friend. He sent me ahead while he picks up a few things in town," he glanced from Lilly to Artie and back again. "I'm sorry, have I come at a bad time?"
"No, no," Jim assured him. "You and I can speak while Mr. Gordon and Miss Fortune retire to, uh, sort out their differences." He smiled at Artie; gesturing subtly the he should take Lilly outside and do just that.
Dr. Watson entered the parlor car, dragging several bags of varying sizes behind him. "This is a very smart car," he commented, glancing after Artie and Lily. "I understand it was originally owned by the government and given to you and Mr. Gordon as a gift for services rendered."
"Yes, yes it was. President Grant gave it to us on the occasion of his retirement. A farewell gift. Of course we still use it for government purposes and in three weeks time, God willing, Mr. Gordon and Miss Fortune will take it on their honeymoon."
Dr. Watson set his bags down and sat next to Jim on the settee. "Ah, yes, Holmes told me that Mr. Gordon was to be married. I hope to have occasion to congratulate him," Watson looked toward the door of the parlor car. "Although I seem to have come in in the middle of an argument."
"That was nothing. Just a short bout of temper on the lady's part. But don't let that give you the wrong impression of Lilly," he amended hastily. "She's really a wonderful woman."
There was a stiff rap on the door.
"That will be Holmes," Watson rose from his seat and opened the door.
It was not, after all, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It was a harassed-looking messenger boy laden with enough packages to rival a lady's trip to the hat shop.
"Mr. Holmes sends his apologies, Sirs, he was detained in town and cannot come until well after nine tonight. He wishes Dr. Watson," the boy's eyes darted from Watson to Jim and back, "to unpack his things that he's already sent and leave the rest." Immediately upon saying this, the messenger boy rapidly set the boxes inside the door and ran off.
"He was certainly in a hurry," Watson commented. He lifted the top box off of the pile. "What has Holmes got in these things? It weighs as much as an elephant!"
Jim hastened to help his guest. "The last time I lifted boxes this heavy was when Artie's new chemistry set came," he and Watson exchanged a look. "Mr. Holmes did know that we have a fully outfitted laboratory, right?"
"I'm not sure," Watson shook one of the boxes lightly. It tinkled as if it were full of glass. "But it sounds as if he's had one shipped to you."
The United States Mint
February 25, 1885
The old man drew his broom across the floorboards with the same care is if he were painting a masterpiece with it. He glanced at the hustle and bustle around him with a studied disinterest. There were secretaries clacking away at their typewriters; messenger boys flying from desk to desk with important memos; clerks with ink-stained fingers arguing about the proper way to mix ink.
However, on this particular day, there was something off about the rhythms of the office. Mr. Sherlock Holmes' musically tuned ears swept the room for the source of the discord while he swept the floor for dust. Until finally, they found it. The cause of the interruption in office rhythms was one particular secretary.
Blond, green eyes, an unusual combination, has possibly dyed her hair recently. Yes! The roots are just beginning to show a darker color. Clothes and shoes, too expensive for a secretary. Fingers straying from the home row when they should not. The cause of the discord…
Holmes' thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of the floor supervisor. "Ladies and gentlemen," he announced. "I have here, in my hands, a memo from the very highest level. Mr. Carrados himself sent it. You would do well to listen!
'To Whom it May Concern,
On the third of March, 1885, we will be entertaining one of the foremost minds in mathematics: Professor James Moriarty will be joining our staff temporarily to ensure that the money, which has been going missing of late, is only an error in figures. That, in fact, we have not lost any money at all. He will be with us for three weeks and in that time I expect each and every one of you to be cordial and respectful toward him. Any employee found to be rude will be DISMISSED AT ONCE.'
"SO," the manager boomed. "You will be kind, considerate, and respectful to the professor while he is here. We're the most efficient floor in the whole Mint, remember that! I don't want to lose that recognition because one of you dunderheaded louts—excusing the ladies—made a mistake! Is that clear?"
The whole floor answered with a resounding "yes sir".
"You," the manager pointed at Holmes. "I told you to sweep the hallways almost an hour ago! Get to it!"
Mr. Sherlock Holmes needed no provocation. Mere seconds later he had discarded his disguise and was heading toward the train yard and, he presumed, a hot cup of tea.
Excerpt from the journal of Dr. J. H. Watson, M.D.
Dated February 26, 1885
We arrived in Denver yesterday. After three straight days on a train it was a blessing to be on firm ground again. Upon arriving, much to my displeasure, we found that the two Secret Service agents we were to meet lived on, of all things, a train! Fortunately, The Wanderer—as it is called—is not a typical train. It is outfitted with all manner of luxuries—plush furniture, an ornamental parlor car, etc. etc. It is quite safe to say that this train will be far more comfortable than the one we arrived in.
As soon as we arrived in the station, Holmes was off. He left all of the luggage with me and instructions to find the agents' train. The stationmaster informed me of its location and I found it with some little difficulty. But when I finally found this "Wanderer" I was greeted with what seemed to be a small domestic spat between Mr. Gordon and his intended: Miss Lilly Fortune.
Mr. James West assisted me in securing Holmes' and my luggage while Mr. Gordon sorted out his domestic problems. This took some time and I took the opportunity to get to know Mr. West. He is about my own age and we have much in common. We were both in the army—he in the cavalry and I in the infantry. We have both seen active duty, that is to say, we both have battle experience. About mid-way through our conversation, a messenger boy arrived with several packages for Holmes. Mr. West and I suspected that it was laboratory equipment.
We continued to converse until Mr. Gordon reappeared, having apparently sorted out his quarrel with Miss Fortune. Mr. Gordon inexplicably reminds me of Holmes. They do not look very alike: Mr. Gordon is of a dark complexion and Holmes is as pale as a ghost at times. He is also of a heavier stature than Holmes. But there is something about the eyes, dark in colour as they are, that gives the same impression of intelligence as Holmes' do.
I was even more struck by this similarity when Holmes arrived at around nine. They stood next to each other and I was convinced that, despite their obvious differences, they were brothers or at least cousins. (When I asked Holmes about it later he laughed and said that all actors were related in some way or another and that was probably it.)
After the introductions all around, Holmes finally explained his purpose.
"Moriarty has left England to consult with the Denver Mint on certain problems they have been having of late concerning the loss of money. There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Loveless is responsible for this loss of money. It cleverly gives both you and the Professor reasons to be in Denver at the same time. Beyond the basest ideas, I cannot see what their plan may be yet. But I have faith that Dr. Loveless—whom Mr. Gordon has said is fond of, what is the phrase, 'showboating'—will reveal some or all of his plans to us in the near future."
"Does he have anyone in the office?" Mr. West inquired.
"Yes, there is a woman with bleached-blonde hair and green eyes disguised as a secretary on the third floor. There may be others, but, as of yet, I have not discovered their identities."
"Do we know how the money is being stolen," I asked.
"If we knew that, Watson, we would not be meeting here but at the nearest police station to question the culprit!"
Mr. Gordon made a kinder reply to my question. "Not exactly, Doctor, but we do know when it's being stolen: somewhere between when it's last counted before being sent to the bank and when it arrives. There are no unusual occurrences during the transfer and guards watch the money the entire time it's in the armored wagon. We know the when and the why, we just can't figure out the how!"
"In addition to that," Mr. West put in, "we know that at least on of the people that Dr. Loveless has one the inside is of a fairly high rank. Someone with the authority to hire well-known English mathematicians and, shall we say, import them to Denver. Mr. Holmes," he addressed my friend, "did you find out who sent for the Professor?"
"No, but there was a memo from someone called Mr. Carrados telling the staff to be kind to him—or else!"
"Carrados," Mr. Gordon chewed his thumb thoughtfully. "That's Spanish, isn't it?"
"I believe it is," I replied. "Does that have some significance?"
"It just might, Doctor. Dr. Loveless' grandmother was a Mexican aristocrat. She owned a good portion of California and the good Doctor has tried to take that portion back many times over the years. Now, from what I've been able to discover she was married to a Spanish don—"
"Artie, is there a point to all this?"
Mr. Gordon shot Mr. West a look that was not unakin to the looks I was wont to give Holmes. "There's always a point. And the point of this happens to be that Dr. Loveless' grandfather was none other than Don Carrados, officer of the Spanish army and gentleman. Although I sincerely doubt the last statement, he was thrown out of the army for insubordination and fled Spain for the new world."
"It's certainly a coincidence that we would do well to keep in mind," I commented.
"There are no such things as coincidences, Watson," Holmes frowned. "Hasn't our time together taught you anything?"
I frowned. Holmes was normally rather biting when I got things, well, wrong. But he was being particularly unpleasant about my intellectual faux pas this evening.
Mr. Gordon voiced my thoughts in the form of: "What's gotten into you tonight, Sherlock?"
"I'm sorry," Holmes said (I, for one, was shocked. Holmes never apologized for his biting comments!) "The journey to Denver was long and tiring. I fear the result is a strain upon my nerves. Excuse me; I believe I'll go to bed."
Holmes exited via the door at the end of the car.
Mr. Gordon and Mr. West exchanged looks.
"He had that look that you always do right before you sneak off to do something stupid on your own," Mr. Gordon smiled at Mr. West.
"Where do you think he's headed?" asked Mr. West.
"There's no doubt: he's gone back to the mint."
"Aren't we going to follow him?" I stood, ready to get my revolver and leave the car at a moment's notice.
"If he wanted us to come he would've asked. Dr. Watson, I learned long ago that you can't force your help on someone. Sherlock will figure out that Denver is quite a bit different than London soon enough and then, just maybe, he'll accept some help. But until then, who'd like a late supper?"
END ACT ONE