Chapter 1: Prologue
Thomas James Sullivan was not the type of person usually found as a guest in proper English homes. Working for the estate? Certainly. But not a guest. For starters he was Irish, though he hid the lilting accent well. His hair and eyes were dark, his clothes were acceptable though his plain yellow waistcoat and rumpled, brown suit coat weren't of the latest fashionable cut. He was a young man, barely thirty, but thanks to a generous benefactor he had his own small photography business that gained him access to the world of the well-heeled and well-to-do.
He stared at the house on the slight hill as he lifted down his camera and equipment from the cab. There was certainly money in this job he realised as he looked over the well-manicured grounds and house. The house itself was three stories high and sprawled along the top of the low hill. Sullivan counted the windows in the second floor and decided there were at least six guest bedrooms in the side of the house facing the drive, the servants quarters were marked by the tiny windows under the eaves.
The cab man impatiently waited as he removed the last of the baggage, Sullivan paid him and the man drove off, the clop-clop of the horse rather loud now he was on the outskirts of London. He picked up his travel case and the camera case in one hand, the tripod and the bag with his case of photographic plates and other equipment in the other and started up the long, sweeping gravel drive.
He glanced around the grounds as his feet crunched along the drive and whistled softly to himself. The lawns were clipped short and were already a lush green, the flower beds had been worked, he could smell the faint odor of manure, and a few hearty plants pushed through the loamy dirt. As the drive curved, Sullivan caught a glimpse of the back of the property and the twinkle of sunlight as it played off the river at the bottom of the hill.
The river was why he was invited to the fashionable manor belonging to Mr and Mrs August Ellis. Emily Ellis had died in that river the summer before, but Mrs Hazel Ellis was sure her daughter's spirit still remained in the house. She had hired Thomas to take Emily's spirit picture and prove once and for all to her husband she was not crazy.
He climbed the three steps up to the main entrance and pulled the bell-rope beside the door. He heard the chimes echo faintly through the house and composed his face into a proper sense of decorum as the heavy door was pulled open by an older man in a formal coat.
"Mr Sullivan for Mrs Ellis," Sullivan announced himself to the doorman and waited with a polite smile on his face.
The man at the door looked Sullivan up and down, glanced at the bags and tripod in his hands and nodded. He opened the door wide enough for Sullivan to enter and asked, "Do you require assistance, sir? Mrs Ellis is waiting for you in the library."
Sullivan couldn't help himself as he stared around the wide entry hall. The floor was tiled in marble and the tables flanking the door were also marble with ornate crystal vases holding cut flowers. Several paintings lined the walls leading away from the door and he recognised a few of the famous artists represented in the collection.
Thomas looked back as the door closed behind him and remembered he'd been asked a question. "Umm, no I think I've got it, thanks."
The older man merely nodded and led the way down the hall. Sullivan peered through doorways as he passed and saw an ornate sitting room off to his left with comfortable chairs, lace-covered tables with smaller vases of flowers or small knick-knacks, a fireplace opposite the door, and a piano. The walls were papered in a subtle paisley, and more paintings hung on the walls. A single wide window lit the room with a view of the front of the house and the gravel drive.
The room on the right a little further down the hall was a study paneled in dark wood with a huge carved desk along the back wall flanked by two floor to ceiling windows that looked out on the back lawns and the river below. A large painting of a beautiful woman hung on one wall over the fireplace. Bookcases lined the wall to the left of the door.
He entered the library and tried to keep the sense of naked greed from showing in his eyes. The room was paneled with the same dark wood as the study he'd passed, but somehow managed to still appear light and airy. Two walls were lined with more bookcases and another fireplace; the shelves lined with leather-bound books of all sizes. A case to the right of the door held several smaller books open so as to admire the ornate calligraphy. Two leather chairs sat opposite each other to the left of the door with a heavy wooden table between them holding a lamp.
Windows lined the wall opposite the door and looked out on the river, the gently rolling hill with a copse of trees just starting to bud, and a painted gazebo behind the house. A man and a woman sat in the two chairs in front of the windows, a china tea service dominated the table between them.
"Mr Sullivan, ma'am," the doorman announced.
"Thank you, William," the woman said as she and her companion stood.
Thomas carefully set down the camera and other equipment near the leather chairs and stepped forward.
The woman before him was tall, nearly the same height as her companion, her dress emphasizing her stature. The dress itself was the height of current taste made of a dark material without being completely black. The collar and sleeves were finished with fine lace. The only ornament she wore was a large broach with a silhouette of a child worked into it clasped at her throat. Her dark hair was pulled away from her face in a loose bun and she held a lace kerchief in one hand.
The gentleman beside her was tall and dignified, his green waistcoat finely embroidered and the cut of the grey suit coat and trousers spoke of expensive tailoring. His hair was dark brown with a touch of grey at his temples. He smiled politely at Sullivan as Mrs Ellis stepped forward. Thomas thought he looked vaguely familiar.
"Mr Sullivan, I'm so glad you could come," Mrs Ellis said as she stopped in front of him. "I was told you were the best man for this job and I hope you will be able to help me."
"I will do whatever I can, ma'am," Thomas replied and glanced at the man beside her again.
Mrs Ellis turned to her companion and held out her hand beckoning to the man standing near the table. "This is a dear friend of the family. Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle, Mr Thomas Sullivan." She turned to Doyle. "He is going to help me prove to August Emily is still here," she said to the doctor in a whisper as she brushed her fingers lightly over the broach.
"Really?" Doyle asked his eyes curious as he shook Sullivan's hand and glanced at the equipment piled near the leather chair.
"Spirit photography, Doctor Doyle," Sullivan explained and nodded at the camera case. "My photographic plates are specially treated in order to capture images of the dead."
"He will photograph my dear Em, and August will have to believe me," Mrs Ellis added. "There will be no way he could sell this house once he knows his daughter is still here with us."
"Well, Mr Sullivan, I hope to see the results of your work. I've recently become rather interested in such things; the idea of photographing spirits sounds intriguing," Doyle said with a smile.
Thomas smiled thinly. "It's not a guarantee, Doctor Doyle, spirits can sometimes be rather shy. But I have high hopes I'll find something of interest while I'm here."
Thomas James Sullivan looked at the abandoned house with smug self-satisfaction. It soothed his ego to know the Ellis family fortunes sank along with his own prospects after what had happened a year and a half ago. Even in the dim twilight, he noted the vacant holes where the windowpanes were broken and appreciated the sight of the ivy growing wild up one side of the house. The grounds were no longer immaculately trimmed, the flower beds were full of weeds. He didn't have any use for the manor or Mrs Hazel Ellis now, he just hoped the gazebo behind the house was still standing.
His steps crunched loudly up the drive and he quickly stepped over to the long grass as the drive curved around to the house. He jogged around to the back of the house and let out a sigh of relief when he saw the gazebo still stood near the bare and skeletal trees in the gloom. The gazebo, like the rest of the property showed signs of abandonment, chipped paint did little to hide the decayed and brittle wood as he carefully stepped into the little structure.
He reached up into the eaves near the back and pulled out a small wooden box roughly eight inches by four and stained a mellow brown. Since it was protected from the weather, the box was in better shape and still tightly sealed. Sullivan popped the lock with ease and pulled out the cloth-covered contents as he tossed the box aside. He felt the knobby contents through the cloth and smiled, finally his luck with this job was changing.
"I'll be having that now, mate," a harsh voice said from behind him.
Sullivan jerked around in surprise. "How did you find me here?" he asked. A tall, burly, red-haired man with a crooked nose and a bowler hat too small for his head stood at the front of the gazebo.
"You weren't that hard to follow, Tommy-boy," the man said with a negligent shrug. "Now why don't you just hand over that there packet." The man took a step into the gazebo and Sullivan heard the wood creak loudly in protest.
Sullivan scoffed and backed up a step. His back hit the railing of the gazebo and he felt the wood break away. "I've waited more than a year for this, Red. I earned it sitting in that stinking jail while you all were still on the outside."
Red shook his head and stepped forward enough for the dim light to bounce off the metal barrel of the gun in his hand. "Earned, Tommy-boy? You've had six months to come back with the goods once you got out. Jackie's done waiting and wants what you owes him."
Sullivan dropped the small pouch in his coat pocket and lunged to one side just as the gun fired. The bullet missed him by inches as it plowed into the solid frame of the gazebo where his head had been a moment before. He was up in an instant with a chunk of the broken railing in his hands. He swung the wood trying to hit Red's gun hand, instead the wood connected with Red's ribs.
Red let out an "umph" of pain as he doubled over, his left hand grabbed at the injured bones as the gun clattered across the gazebo.
"You'll pay for that," Red growled and lunged forward. He tackled Sullivan to the floor of the gazebo, the wood protesting loudly as they rolled back and forth. Red reached for the gun lying nearby, but instead of firing it, he slammed the gun against Thomas' head and got to his feet.
Thomas' vision blurred and blood ran down the side of his face, but he knew he had to move if he wanted to stay alive. He rolled away from where he thought Red was and his hand landed on the length of wood from the railing.
Sullivan staggered to his feet, grimaced in pain as he swung his wooden club again. He missed the other man but his momentum sent him off balance and he fell. He managed to get to his knees before Red took advantage of his mistake and fired the gun again. The bullet caught Sullivan low in the chest and he dropped to the floor of the gazebo as his legs refused to support him any longer.
He knew he was about to die. He couldn't even move his arm enough to stop Red as the other man rifled through his pockets and found the cloth pouch. He faded out when he felt Red grab his feet as the other man pulled him out of the gazebo and across the grassy hill down to the river.
He may have had a vague impression of a black ribbon of water before Red tossed him down the last few feet of the hill and into the cold river.
Chapter 2: Act 1
Arthur Conan Doyle stood outside the Brompton Sanatorium, the cab that delivered him far down the paved drive near the gate and main road. His topcoat flapped in the late morning breeze, but he ignored the slight chill and stared up at the window of the room belonging to his wife. Every time he came to visit her, he had to steel himself to go inside; this time however was different. Doctor Hermann Biggs, reputed to be the best respiratory specialist in the world, would either tell him his beloved Touie would be saved, or crush his last hope with the news he could do nothing for her.
He rubbed a hand along his jaw and paced a few steps away from the door to the hospital. Harry had offered to come along when he'd heard about the meeting scheduled for that morning but Doyle had declined the offer. He needed to hear the news alone. He needed to deal with whichever emotional impact he received before accepting either the congratulations or condolences of his friend.
He glanced down the drive, the cab was now long gone. He looked back up at the window. Touie was waiting for him. Finally, he took a deep breath, climbed the two steps to the main door, and entered. The meeting was in Doctor Perlow's office and Doyle walked down the sadly familiar hallway to the offices at the other end. A nurse sitting at the desk in the anteroom looked up as he entered; she smiled and nodded to him as she stood and led the way to Perlow's office.
She knocked once, opened the door and said, "Doctor Doyle is here."
"Arthur, we've been waiting for you," Perlow said as Doyle entered the office behind the nurse. Perlow stood from his plain desk and shook Doyle's hand. "I assume you already know Doctor Hermann Biggs."
Doyle turned to the man now standing beside one of the two visitor chairs in front of the desk. A man of average height and thinning blond hair held out his hand. "I'm glad to meet you in person at last, Doctor Doyle," Biggs said with a polite smile.
"Likewise," Doyle replied as he sat in the other chair and tried to hide his nervousness as he perched his hat on his knee.
Doctor Perlow glanced from one of his guests to the other before sitting down as well. "I'm sorry. You hadn't met before?" Perlow asked in confusion.
Doyle smiled and shook his head. "We've exchanged letters and telegrams."
"Then how … I thought Doctor Biggs agreed to look at Mrs Doyle's case because you had discussed it with him when you were in America a few months ago."
"Humph," Biggs muttered in the chair next to Arthur.
"It's a long story, Doctor Perlow. A friend acted as an intermediary."
"Yes, is your friend joining us?" Biggs asked and glanced at the door.
Doyle shook his head and made a mental note to ask Houdini exactly what had happened when he'd met Doctor Biggs in New York. "Umm, no," he answered with a fleeting smile.
Biggs shifted in his chair for a moment then said, "In that case, I think we should get started." He reached forward and tapped the file on Perlow's desk. "I've done an extensive review of the case and I examined the patient before you arrived," he said as he glanced over at Doyle.
Arthur bristled slightly at the impersonal term 'patient' and the fact Biggs had seen Touie without him present, but let it go as Biggs continued.
"The case is rather more advanced than most of my usual patients, with some interesting anomalies. The coma, for example, was unexpected given several other factors in her case."
Doyle glanced at Perlow and back at Biggs. This was it. He pushed himself into the back of his chair and clenched his hands against his legs.
"However, I do believe my treatment will still be effective and I've offered to start the series of injections this afternoon."
Arthur sat and stared at Biggs. Perlow was saying something but he couldn't make out the words. Sounds were muffled, he couldn't feel anything; no emotions, not even his fingers digging into his palms. His mind was completely focused on Biggs' statement. He thought it would work. He thought he could cure her. He shook himself out of his daze and found Doctor Perlow standing in front of him.
"Arthur! Are you all right?" Perlow asked and handed Doyle a glass of water.
He took the glass mechanically but didn't drink. Instead he turned to Doctor Biggs standing near the door. "It will work? You can cure her?"
"I do believe so, yes. May I start the treatment?"
Doyle set the glass aside and stood. "Yes, yes of course. Doctor Perlow, do you agree?"
"I can have her room set up and a nurse to assist any time you're ready." Perlow replied.
"I will need a few hours to mix the correct serum," Biggs replied. "If you would direct me to your laboratory, I will get started."
Doyle couldn't stop the huge smile on his face as he followed the doctors out of the office.
Harry tucked in his shirt tail as he walked across the sitting room and answered the discreet knock at the door. He opened the door for the hotel porter carrying a breakfast tray and waited while the man set out the assorted dishes on the table near the fireplace, placed the newspaper in the rack, tipped his hat to Harry, and departed.
He grabbed a piece of toast and munched on it as he poured out coffee and lifted the cover over the plate; one of the many reasons he'd decided to stay at the Metropole, the room service was excellent. He read the paper as he ate, most of the London news washing over him as mere headlines. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was finally signed screamed from the front page and several columns were spent detailing the terms of the treaty as well as the potential repercussions. Turning the page, there was a picture of The Glenbervie, a beached ship that had hit the rocks near Cornwall. The most interesting thing about the ship was its cargo of rum, brandy, and pianos of all things.
Harry turned pages and skimmed more news stories as his breakfast slowly disappeared. He was about to stop reading when a tiny story buried on one of the back pages caught his eye. He read the blurb quickly, gulped the last of his coffee then went to his bedroom for his blue suit coat, he didn't bother with a collar or tie, and left.
He entered Scotland Yard but was disappointed not to find Adelaide at her desk. He wandered around the station and eventually found her half-way down a hallway talking to a bobby.
"We need to talk," he said in a low growl as he stopped beside her and waited while she dismissed the patrol officer and turned.
"Harry, what's wrong?"
"Have you seen the newspaper yet today?"
"I have. There didn't seem to be anything you'd be interested in, however." She started back for her desk.
Harry followed her and had his copy of the newspaper opened to the small story when they got back to her corner of the station.
"What do you know about this?" he asked and pointed to the story.
Adelaide gave him a quizzical look but took the newspaper and quickly read the few lines of the story.
The body of a gunshot victim was pulled from the river behind an estate on the edge of London yesterday morning. The house, a former residence of August Ellis, son of mining tycoon Henry Ellis, has been empty for several years, the perfect dumping ground for the London criminal. The body was later identified as Thomas Sullivan, based on papers found in the jacket of the deceased. The local police have no suspects in the case.
"It's unfortunately not that unusual. Why are you so interested?" she asked as she handed back the paper.
Harry took off his top coat and draped it over the chair in front of Adelaide's desk, then paced from the desk to the window and back again. "Thomas Sullivan, you were always up to something," he muttered. "Too bad Doyle isn't here, I'd love to say I told you so."
Adelaide crossed her arms and stood in Harry's path. "How do you know this Thomas Sullivan?" she asked him again.
"He's, well, he was, a flim-flam artist, among other things. I met him about two years ago." Harry stopped and looked off into space. "Huh, that was actually the first time I met Doyle, too. Sullivan was out at this house," Harry pointed to the newspaper article. "Trying to convince the grieving parents he could photograph their dead daughter's ghost."
"He could photograph ghosts?" Adelaide asked skeptically as she took back the paper and read the account again.
"Of course not. But he'd told any number of people he could and made a fair chunk of money doing it, too." Harry stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets and started pacing again. "Why go back?" he muttered to himself. "Why that house?" He faced Adelaide. "Is there anything about this case that isn't in that article?"
"Probably. I'd need to talk to Chief Merring. He has the preliminary reports from the investigation by the local station."
Harry spun around and headed for Merring's office. "Come on."
"Harry! Harry, wait!" Adelaide said as she caught up. "I can't just go barging into Chief Inspector Merring's office and demand case files!"
"Of course you can't," Harry said outside Merring's office. "But I can." He grinned at her, pushed the door open, and strolled into the office like he owned it.
"Oh, god. What do you want now," Merring growled as Harry sat in the chair in front of the desk. "Constable Stratton, what is going on?"
Adelaide closed the door and stood behind Houdini's chair. "I'm sorry, sir. Mr Hou -"
"Don't take it out on her, Chief Inspector," Harry interrupted. "This was all my idea. I just want to know what you have on the Thomas Sullivan case."
"Why? What do you care about that case? There's nothing supernatural about it, he was shot in the chest, with a real gun and a real bullet." Merring started reading a file on his desk, an obvious dismissal.
"I think there's more to this case than just a simple murder," Harry said and leant forward in his chair. "Sullivan had tried to scam the owner of that same house two years ago. It's more than a bit strange he would go back there so soon after getting out of jail. He was there for something and I want to know what."
"How did you know he was in jail?" Merring demanded looking up from the file. "That wasn't part of the newspaper report."
"I know it because I helped put him there. He was arrested outside that very same house and charged with fraud."
Merring rubbed a hand over his face then turned to Adelaide still standing near the door. "Constable Stratton, do you have anything to add?" he asked in a resigned tone.
Adelaide glanced at Houdini then said, "Mr. Houdini has raised several points that would seem to warrant further consideration, sir. I believe we should look into the case. There may be more going on than we first thought."
Merring glared first at Harry then Adelaide. "You believe? Since when do you get to decide what you do or don't investigate?" Merring suddenly stopped and glanced around the room again. "Where is the third member of this ridiculous group, anyway?"
"Doctor Doyle -" Adelaide started to say.
"Doyle will be along," Harry interrupted. "He's finishing up something this morning."
Merring shuffled through the files on his desk and opened one. "The local station has already been out to the Ellis property. They didn't find much other than the body, it had rained hard overnight." Merring closed the file and laid a possessive hand over it. After a few moments he continued, "You have the rest of the day to find something and convince me this is worth the time and resources," he told Adelaide. "Even if one of those resources is him." Merring frowned and pointed across the desk at Houdini.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Adelaide said as she opened the door.
Harry stood up with a slight grin and took the file Merring held out for them. He started to say something, changed his mind, and followed Adelaide out of the office.
He flipped through the contents once they were back at Adelaide's desk. "There isn't very much in here," he said and handed her the file.
She flipped through the few pages as well and shut the folder. " And we only have a few hours to prove something more than just random violence. We should go back out to the house where the body was found. Maybe the local police investigation missed something. And where is Doctor Doyle?"
Harry pulled on his top coat. "He's busy," he said and headed for the door. "Doctor Biggs is here," he added in a lower voice as he and Adelaide left the station. "They are meeting today to discuss Touie's case."
"So Doctor Biggs is sure he can help Mrs Doyle?"
"I haven't heard one way or the other. I hope so." Harry led Adelaide down to the subway platform.
The subway didn't go all the way out to the area of town with the Ellis estate and Harry and Adelaide took a cab the last few miles. Harry paid the driver and stood at the end of the weed-strewn gravel driveway with Adelaide. "Wow. Not how I remembered this place," he said as he glanced around.
Adelaide followed as he started up the driveway. "So are you planning to tell me about this previous case?"
Harry grinned and turned to face her. "It wasn't really a case so much as -"
"You were just pushing in like you did when we first met."
Harry laughed. "Something like that."
Harry checked the address on the scrap of paper in his hand and glanced up at the small sign marking the out-of-the-way shop as the photography studio of Thomas Sullivan. He sighed and opened the door, setting off the bell over the frame, entered the small photography studio, and looked around. The room he was in was small, just enough room for a visitor chair and a small table. The walls were decorated with photographs presumably taken by this Thomas Sullivan. There was another closed door in the far wall.
Sullivan had been recommended by Dundas Slater, the owner of the Alhambra Theater, for the publicity photos needed to advertise his new show, but Harry wasn't convinced photography was the way to go. He liked the posters and artwork drawn for his other shows, they were bright, colorful, and eye-catching. The theater wanted to look more modern, however, so here he was, standing in a studio waiting to meet a photographer.
He glanced around the small waiting room impatiently tapping his fingers against his legs as he looked at the photos hanging on one wall. He pulled out his watch, glanced at the time and was ready to leave when he heard footsteps behind the interior door. He looked up as the door opened and a young man with dark hair and a slightly rumpled suit coat strode forward with his hand outstretched.
"You must be Mr Houdini," the man said as he shook Harry's hand. "I'm Thomas Sullivan. Mr Slater told me to expect you." He released Harry's hand and nodded at the open door behind him. "Sorry it took me so long to get up here, I was in the developing room, that can't be rushed you know. You want publicity photos, right?" Sullivan was polite but Harry had the feeling he was distracted.
"You seem to have some rather well-to-do clients," Harry said and nodded to the formal photos along the wall. "Seems odd you'd want to do publicity work as well."
Sullivan shrugged and led the way back through the small door. The space behind the door was much larger and divided into several areas: a backdrop in front of a few pieces of furniture with a light stand took up one corner. Another held a small desk and a couple of cheap wooden chairs. The back of the room was walled off and even with the door closed, Harry could smell the chemicals Sullivan presumably used to coat his plates and develop his photographs.
"I'm just getting started, really," Sullivan said as he led the way to the desk. "So I'll take whatever commissions come along. Those people are friends of friends, for example. I've also tried doing some landscapes and still lifes, but portraits seem to sell the best."
Sullivan sat behind the desk and offered Harry the visitor's chair. Harry started to sit, when another set of photos, mounted on the wall behind Sullivan, caught his eye.
"That's different," he said nonchalantly as pointed out the photos and wandered around the desk to look closer at the pictures. His eyes went flat and he clenched his hands in his trouser pockets as he looked at the image of a woman sitting in a high-backed wooden chair while an ethereal silhouette hovered behind her head. Other pictures showed similar images of people seemingly surrounded by wispy, half-formed shapes.
Sullivan was oblivious to Harry's anger and said, "Yes, I've found a unique way to treat photographic plates to capture images of the deceased. I've found several clients interested in the idea."
"I'll just bet you have," Harry muttered under his breath and looked at Sullivan standing behind him. As he walked back around the desk, he glanced down and memorized the notes written on the desk pad for the next day: ellis estate s plates chk peter
"So when do you want to take these publicity pictures, Mr Houdini? I'm booked for the next few days, but I could meet you the end of next week at the theater. Get some shots of you in action so to speak." Sullivan smiled ingratiatingly.
"Next week would be fine," Harry replied, his tone polite but flat. "I'll let Mr Slater know."
Harry looked back at the spirit photos once more as Sullivan led the way back to the front of the studio. The publicity photos could wait he decided, he'd much rather find out what Sullivan planned to do at the Ellis Estate.
"But all of your posters are still drawings," Adelaide pointed out. "I've never seen any publicity photographs around the theater."
Harry smiled and walked down the hill toward the stream. "Nope. Never got around to having those photographs made I guess." He bent down near the edge of the stream and examined the muddy, criss-crossed footmarks across the ground.
"Houdini, look at this," Adelaide called out behind him.
Harry climbed back up the hill and found Adelaide standing near a broken down gazebo holding a small wooden box.
"This hasn't been out here very long," she said as she handed him the box. "The wood isn't warped or damaged."
Harry turned the box over, then popped open the lid. "There was something in this," he said and showed Adelaide the small piece of cloth caught in one of the corners of the box.
"So this was what? A robbery? Out here?"Adelaide glanced around as if looking for thieves hiding in the trees.
Harry handed back the box and looked around. "No signs of digging," he said and stepped into the gazebo. The wood creaked under his weight and he froze for a second to make sure the floor held. Once he was sure the floor was stable he took a few more steps and looked around. "Here." He picked at one of the wooden supports with his fingers and pulled out a bullet. "What do you want to bet that will match whatever was pulled out of Sullivan's body?"
Adelaide grimaced and took the bullet from him. "How did the local constable miss this?"
"Simple, they were only looking around the water. They probably thought there was no reason to look up here for anything. The house is obviously abandoned, it rained pretty hard overnight so the blood was washed away. They just thought the body was either dumped in the river or Sullivan was shot near the river because no one would notice."
"Instead Mr Sullivan was shot up here, in the gazebo. Why?"
"Let me see that box again." Harry took the box and stood on tiptoe as he pushed the box into the eaves near the bullet-riddled support and stood back. "That's what I thought."
"The perfect hiding spot, no one would ever see it up there," Adelaide agreed. "But what was in the box and why hide it out here?"
Harry pulled the box back down and handed it to her. "Any recent reports of burglaries in the area?"
"I don't know, I'd have to check the local reports," she answered. "Maybe Sullivan turned criminal after his release from prison."
"He was already a criminal, that's why he was in jail," Harry pointed out as he stepped out of the gazebo.
"You know what I mean," she said with a frown.
Harry smiled and walked back toward the front of the house. "If that's the case, the good news is we'll only have to look at the last six months or so of his life."
Doyle sat beside the bed and held Touie's hand.
"You understand this treatment is a series of injections three times a day over several days," Doctor Biggs explained as he put away several instruments. "I don't expect to see any change in her condition immediately."
Doyle nodded and smiled down at his wife. "Things went well, though?"
Biggs made a few notes in the file he held then nodded. "I believe so. She hasn't shown any adverse reactions to the drugs. She isn't any worse."
There was a knock at the door and a nurse walked in. "Doctor Doyle, there is a man here to see you. He says it's important."
Arthur nodded and the nurse left. He kissed Touie's forehead and whispered, "I'll be right back."
He walked down the hall to the small landing overlooking the atrium and saw Houdini waiting for him. He smiled as Harry looked eagerly in his direction and felt a surge of gratitude as Houdini's face lit up. "He can cure her?" he asked as Doyle stopped beside him.
Arthur nodded and smiled wider. "I don't know how I will ever be able to thank you for this, Harry. Doctor Biggs feels confident the treatments will work."
"Yes!" Harry exclaimed and shook Doyle's hand. "I told you American doctors were the best around."
"Yes, you did." Doyle watched as Harry paced back and forth not bothering to hide the triumphant smile on his face.
"When does he think she'll be awake?" Houdini asked as he turned around.
"Not today, maybe in the next day or so."
Harry nodded absently and continued to pace around the small landing.
"Is there something going on? Do we have a case?" Doyle asked.
Harry stopped pacing and crossed his arms over his chest. "No. Well, yes. Sort of. But don't worry about it. Addy and I will figure it out."
Doyle felt the familiar tingle of excitement that came with an investigation. "What sort of case?"
"You have bigger things to worry -"
"Houdini," Doyle said drawing out the other man's name, his voice taking on the same tone as when he knew Kingsley was trying to talk around him.
"Fine," Harry replied and dropped his arms to his sides. "Thomas Sullivan. You remember him?"
Doyle pursed his lips in thought. "He's a spirit photographer."
Harry shook his head. "No, he's a con artist. And now he's also dead."
"He was shot." Harry paused. "And dumped in the river behind the Ellis house."
"August Ellis' house? Where we met for the first time."
Harry smiled. "The very one. The place looks abandoned now though."
Doyle nodded and glanced back at the room at the end of the hall. "Yes," he said distractedly. "They left soon after … "
Harry must have noticed Doyle's mood as he took a step back toward the stairs. "Look, I didn't mean to bring any of this up. I just wanted to check how you were doing."
"I can stop by the station later," Doyle offered.
Harry was half-way down the stairs; he shook his head as he turned back. "Like I said, Addy and I will figure it out. You need to be here."
Doyle leant on the railing overlooking the atrium and smiled down at Houdini. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Harry replied with a wave. "Remember, I get to meet your wife when she's awake."
Adelaide sat at her desk sorting the reports from the Sullivan investigation and wondered where Houdini was. It never ceased to amaze her how Harry could disappear any time paperwork was the order of the day. She set aside another file as a shadow fell over her desk.
"Where have you been?" she asked as Harry took off his suit coat, pulled a chair around and sat opposite her.
Harry plucked at the files and replied, "I went out to the sanatorium to check on Doyle."
Adelaide waited and when it was obvious Houdini wasn't going to say anything else, she sat back in her chair and said an exasperated, "And?"
Harry looked up at her with a twinkle in his eye. "And they've already started the treatments." He grinned as Adelaide covered her mouth for a moment then she smiled back at him.
"That's excellent news! I'm so happy for him, for all of them."
"Yeah. Which means we're pretty much on our own this time."
"Well I've already made some progress," she said and sorted through the various pieces of paper. "I sent Hopkins back out to the Ellis house, he found a gun in the river about a quarter of a mile away from where the body was discovered. The caliber matches the bullet we found in the gazebo and the one the coroner pulled out of Thomas Sullivan's body, so it's probably our murder weapon."
"I don't suppose we'd be lucky enough that the gun is rare and easy to trace."
Adelaide shook her head. "No such luck. It's a Webley service revolver; anyone who's served in South Africa has one."
"So a dead end, then." Harry sighed and Adelaide made a face at his pun.
"Probably, but at least we don't need to waste more resources looking for it. It was damaged, though; the grip was badly cracked, that could be why the killer got rid of it. Hopkins thinks anyone who tried to fire it with the grip in that condition would have cuts on his hands from the rough edges."
She picked out another report. "I also have information on Mr Sullivan's next-of-kin. He has a sister, Anne, who lives near Billingsgate market. We should go and talk to her I think. Ask what she knows about her brother."
"Lead on, Constable." Harry grabbed his suit coat from the chair and his top coat from the peg on the wall and followed Adelaide out of the station.
Anne Howe, nee Sullivan, lived in a slightly run-down row of houses a few miles from the famous fish market. She was a small woman, only coming up to Harry's chin, with dark brown hair braided into a knot at the back of her head. A little boy of about four clung to her skirts as she answered Adelaide's knock.
"Yes?" she asked warily as her eyes darted from Adelaide to Harry standing behind the constable. "What do you want?"
Adelaide heard a faint Irish accent as Anne Sullivan spoke.
"My name is Constable Adelaide Stratton, this is my associate, Harry Houdini. Are you Anne Sullivan?"
"Anne Howe," she corrected. "You must be here about Thomas," she stated and ducked her head.
"Yes, Mrs Howe, we are. May we come in? We need to speak to you."
Anne looked Adelaide up and down once more, glanced out at the street, and nodded. She opened the door wider and picked up the little boy as she led the way into her home.
She walked into a small, neat sitting room and put the boy on the floor near a stack of blocks. She waved Adelaide and Harry toward the sofa and sat in the chair beside it. "What's Thomas done now? I don't have any money for bail if that's why he sent you here."
"No, Mrs Howe." Adelaide looked surprised, glanced at Houdini, and took a deep breath; she hadn't been expecting to make a death notification. "I'm sorry to inform you, but we found Thomas' body early yesterday morning."
Anne was silent for a moment then said, "I guess I should've expected something like this." She looked away from Houdini and Adelaide and stared out the window.
"Oh? Why is that?" Harry asked after a few moments.
Mrs Howe sniffed once and turned to Harry. "Because he was always involved with one scheme or another. You know he was in prison I suppose?"
Adelaide only nodded, she didn't elaborate that Houdini actually helped put her brother in jail.
Anne sighed and wiped her eyes. "Tommy wasn't a bad man, he just never found his road I suppose. He took shortcuts and it got him in trouble more than once, even when we were kids. I thought things were getting better when Mister Jonathan got him set up as a photographer. Tommy seemed to be good at it." Anne looked back at Adelaide and Harry. "Then he got arrested again and sent to jail for eighteen months. I was angry with him. Mister Jonathan had worked so hard to get him a good job, and he wasted it." Anne sniffed.
"Who's Mister Jonathan?" Harry asked.
"He was a businessman who used to live near Tommy. He said Tommy reminded him of himself: young, Irish, looking for someone to have a little faith and take a chance on him. Tommy did odd jobs for Mister Jonathan and after a year or so, he got Tommy set up with the studio and camera equipment." She ducked her head again and sighed.
"Well, after everything was said and done, I got a knock on my door. Just like you today. There were men standing there with boxes all over the stoop. They said it was the evidence from Tommy's court case and all of his possessions. Since Tommy was in jail, they left it all with me."
"Do you know where your brother's been living for the past six months?" Harry asked.
Mrs Howe looked back out the window. "I'm not sure, I haven't seen him since he was sent away. My husband never really liked Tommy, he didn't want him around Stephen." She nodded at the little boy playing with the blocks. "He sent a letter when he got out." She stood from her chair and walked out of the room. She came back a few minutes later and handed Adelaide an envelope. "He only ever sent the one. I don't know if that will help you at all."
Adelaide glanced at the envelope and noted the postmark was from Wapping and an address on Prusom Street. "Thank you Mrs Howe. When we find out anything we will let you know." She put the envelope in her pocket. "I'm very sorry for your loss."
Mrs Howe nodded but Adelaide could tell she didn't believe the police would find much.
"She took the news better than most," Adelaide said as they headed back up the street.
"I suspect she's been expecting that sort of news for some time," Harry replied. "Where to next, Constable?" he asked as they walked back up the street for to the subway station.
"We have an address for Sullivan." Adelaide said and showed him the envelope. "I'd guess it's a rooming house based on the location. There may be something there."
Harry glanced up at the late afternoon sun peeking through the grey clouds. "Here's hoping we find something. Merring's time limit is almost up."
Sullivan's rooming house was in shadow when Adelaide and Harry found it, but the dimness did little to hide the dingy brick that made up the walls of the building. Sullivan's room was on the third floor and Harry made quick work of the lock. He opened the door and whistled as he stepped forward enough for Adelaide to enter behind him.
"Not the best housekeeper, I guess," Harry said as he closed the door and put away his lockpick.
Adelaide wandered around the small room. An unmade bed occupied one wall, a chest of drawers and a table stood next to the door. A worn cloth chair next to another table with an oil lamp was the extent of the furniture. A wooden rail under a shelf along the wall at the foot of the bed held a few clothes.
"Someone else has been here already," she said as she looked at papers scattered around the table near the lamp and the floor.
"Looking for what I wonder," Harry said as he opened drawers in the chest. "There's nothing here."
"Maybe they were looking for the wooden box we found out at the gazebo?" Adelaide pondered and picked her way across the room to the bed.
Harry shrugged. "Maybe." He opened the last drawer and pulled out a stack of photographs. "These are all from the Ellis house," Harry said as he quickly flipped through a few of the pictures. He handed the images to Adelaide and closed the drawer.
She took the photos and glanced through them. Each picture was four inches by six inches and several were of a woman wearing a dark dress with her hair loosely gathered in a bun. Others were just of variously furnished rooms. She smiled as she pulled out one of the pictures. "Look familiar?" she asked Harry as she handed him a photo of himself and Doyle standing on the steps in front of the Ellis house. Neither of them were smiling.
"Why would he keep something like that?" Harry asked.
"Why did you let him take it?" Adelaide countered with a grin.
"It wasn't my idea. Mrs Ellis insisted." Harry looked at the photo again with a puzzled frown.
"How did he have this?" Harry asked more to himself.
"You said he took the picture."
"He did. But how is it here? Mrs Howe said everything he owned was boxed up and sent to her after he was sent to jail. So how are these pictures in this rooming house?"
"She lied to us. Her brother was at her house recently." Adelaide took back the picture of Harry and Doyle, picked up the other photos and put them all in her pocket.
"If he went back for the pictures, I wonder what else might be in those boxes," Harry said and held the door for Adelaide.
"We need to talk to Chief Merring. Thomas Sullivan was out at the Ellis house for a reason and that reason may have gotten him killed." She smiled over at Harry. "I think we can prove to Chief Merring this case is worth the time and resources after all."
They left the rooming house just as the sun set to the west.
Chapter 3: Act 2
"Stratton!" Merring yelled from his office doorway as Adelaide jotted a few notes and added them to the file she planned to present to Chief Merring. "My office."
"Do you think we have enough to convince him?" Harry whispered as they crossed the room.
"I hope so. There is definitely something more to this case than a simple murder," Adelaide said at the door to the chief's office.
Harry stood behind one of the visitor chairs in front of the desk while Adelaide stood near the door. Once Merring waved her toward a chair she handed him her file, sat next to Harry, and waited. Merring flipped through the report until Sergeant Gudgett also joined them and sat in a chair off to the side behind Merring's desk near the wall.
"Well?" Merring asked and looked up from the file.
"There is certainly more to this case than we first thought, sir," Adelaide said in confident tone of voice. "We've discovered several new pieces of evidence and we have a few other leads to follow as well."
Merring listened as Adelaide detailed their day and concluded with their discovery of the photographs in Sullivan's room.
"Sergeant Gudgett? Any thoughts?" Merring asked.
Gudgett stared at Adelaide for a moment longer then spoke, "Their investigation did lead to finding the probable murder weapon. There could be something in the photographs."
"Glad you approve," Harry said sarcastically. Adelaide glared at him and he subsided.
"We do have a few leads we can look into, sir," Adelaide reiterated. "The sister is hiding something. Even if she doesn't know anything specific, there may be something in the boxes sent to her after Sullivan's trial. We can also check on burglaries in the area around the crime scene and find out if anyone has reported anything stolen in the last few days. Whatever was in the little box out at the Ellis house, it was small, maybe jewelry or money."
Merring sighed and glanced through the file again. "Fine," he said grudgingly a few moments later. "I'll request the burglary reports from the local station and have them sent here. I'll also let them know we're taking over the case."
"We'll need a warrant to search the boxes in Anne Howe's house," Adelaide added.
"I can arrange that," Gudgett offered.
Adelaide and Harry stood to leave as Merring turned to another file on his desk.
"I think Merring's starting to warm up to me," Harry said as they walked back to Adelaide's desk.
Adelaide shook her head. "Somehow I doubt it," she said with a smile. "If he had a halfway decent case, I don't think he'd hesitate to toss you in the nearest cell and throw away the key."
"'Eh, it wouldn't matter, I could walk out of any jail cell whenever I wanted."
Adelaide added the photographs from Sullivan's rooming house to the other evidence on the work table near her desk.
"So what do you want to do while we wait for the warrant?" Harry asked as he sorted through the pictures and pulled out the one of himself and Doyle.
"We won't have the warrant until tomorrow," Adelaide said as she sat at her desk.
"In that case, I have a few things to do at the theater. I'll see you tomorrow." Harry dropped the picture back on the table and left the station with a wave back to her.
Doyle entered the breakfast room the next day with a smile. He finally had some good news to tell the children. He was drinking his tea when Mary and Kingsley entered the room. Vera set a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit on the table for the children and eggs and toast for Doyle.
Kingsley wasted no time starting on the oatmeal, barely giving the hot cereal time to cool slightly. Mary watched her father as she ate her fruit.
"Did you see Mother yesterday," Mary asked into the silence of the room.
Arthur swallowed tea and replied, "I did and I have some good news." He smiled at Mary then Kingsley. "Doctor Biggs thinks he can help your mother. Hopefully she will be able to come home soon."
Mary's smile was enough to light up a room. She looked over at her brother then back at Doyle. "She's going to get better?" she asked hesitantly.
"Can we see her?" Kingsley asked eagerly at the same time.
"Not yet," Arthur answered. "The medicine needs time to work. Doctor Biggs says it may be a few days yet before your mother is awake."
"But she will be able to come home?" Mary asked hopefully.
"I certainly hope so," Doyle replied. "We'll have to wait and see how the treatments go."
"I'll show her my stories," Kingsley announced as he swallowed oatmeal.
"I'm sure she will love every one of them," Doyle assured the boy. "Now, however, you need to finish your breakfast and get ready for school."
"Are you going back to the hospital?" Mary asked as she stood from the table.
"I am. If anything happens today I will send word to Vera so you know," Doyle promised.
Doyle sat at Touie's side as Doctor Biggs started the next round of injections. This was the fourth round with another planned for later in the afternoon and Doyle couldn't help the expectant anticipation he felt each time Biggs left the room. He just knew this would be the one that turned the corner and Touie would open her eyes, smile at him, and tell him he still needed a haircut.
As Doctor Biggs finished with the last injection, he made a few notes in the file and Doyle waited. As the morning progressed, Doyle found himself pacing the room near the stained glass window. Doctor Perlow came in to check his patient and Doyle watched the exam.
"It's hard to be sure, this early, but I think her lungs are sounding a little better," Perlow told Doyle after a few minutes. "Doctor Biggs tells me he is also happy with the treatments so far. You need to be patient, give the medicine time to work."
Doyle laughed softly. "Patient," he muttered to himself. "I told the children a few hours ago this could take days, but I just want to see her open her eyes, talk to me again," he finished in a whisper.
"I know this is difficult," Perlow said as he stood next to Doyle. "But I do believe the treatments are working. You should get away from here for awhile. You're doing her no good making yourself ill."
"I don't want to leave her." Doyle glanced back at the bed.
"There's nothing for you to do right now," Perlow said and gently steered Arthur toward the door. "Once Mrs Doyle is awake, she's going to need all of your attention and support. Go home, Arthur. I'll let you know the moment something changes."
Arthur stopped long enough to kiss his wife and whisper in her ear that he would be back later, then left the sanatorium.
Doyle found himself back at the townhouse and in his study. Vera had been surprised to see him, but said nothing. He sorted through the accumulated mail, read through the notes HG Smith had sent on the Baskerville story and sat down to write. He had reached the first big denouement of the story, Holmes revealing himself to Watson on the moor, and Doyle wanted to get the rest of the story finished and sent off to The Strand. He stared at the typewriter for a few minutes but his mind was elsewhere.
He was thinking of Hazel Ellis, her desperate wish to see her daughter again in a spirit photograph, and a young American who was determined to prove Thomas Sullivan was a fraud.
Doyle wandered into the sitting room and found Sullivan setting up his camera near the piano.
"Mr Sullivan, I would love to understand how your process works," Doyle said to the other man after watching the photographer for a few minutes. "You can really photograph spirits?"
Sullivan turned away from the camera and looked at Doyle. "Absolutely, sir. I have a few examples with me if you'd care to look at them." He reached into one of his bags and pulled out a few photos. "This one," he explained as he handed over the image, "Is of a woman and her deceased husband. He died in South Africa, but she was convinced her husband was watching over her and … well … you can see for yourself."
Doyle took the small picture from him and saw a woman standing in what looked to be her sitting room. Seated in the chair beside her was the ghostly image of a man.
The doorbell chimed through the house and Doyle heard William walk past the sitting room to answer it.
"Here's one of a man whose sister died in a house fire." Sullivan handed him another photo. "Things started happening in his house, objects moving around you know, and he called me. I took a series of photographs and we found her."
Doyle looked at the picture and saw a man sitting in a dining room with a filmy shape swirling around his head.
"Simply amazing," Doyle said and handed the pictures back. "How are you able to capture the images?"
Sullivan stepped back with a knowing smile. "Well, now, that's me secret. I was coating a new set of plates when I got the mix wrong. The next time I was out taking pictures, these other images started showing up, too."
"And when did you realize they were spirits?"
"When he realized he could dupe desperate people out of lots of money," a new voice said from the doorway of the sitting room.
Doyle spun around to find a young man with dark curly hair wearing a blue suit coat over a gold waistcoat smiling behind him.
"And you would be?" Doyle asked as he looked the young man up and down with a frown.
"I'm sorry, sir," William said, "He was just leaving."
"I would be Harry Houdini," Harry said and stepped into the room just as William tried to reach for his arm. "I know you from your press photos, Mr Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer. I'm surprised you of all people believe this stuff."
"Mr Houdini! What are you doing here?" Sullivan asked in surprise before Doyle could reply.
"Funny you should ask, Sullivan, since you're the reason I came out here."
"You know this man?" Doyle asked Thomas.
"I'm supposed to be taking some publicity pictures -"
"Somehow I don't think that will be happening," Harry said as he walked over to the piano. "I saw the so-called spirit photos on the wall behind your desk, remember? What is it this time, some poor widow? Or have you moved on to orphans?"
"That will be enough of that," Doyle said and stepped in front of Houdini and glared down at the slightly smaller man.
Houdini wasn't intimidated and shot back, "Come on, this is a con. There's no such thing as spirit photography, it's just camera tricks."
"What is the meaning of this?" Hazel Ellis asked angrily as she walked into the room. She stormed up to Harry and said, "You, sir, come into my house uninvited and start harassing my guests. I should have William send for the police. It's fortunate for you my husband is currently up north for business. Explain yourself, young man."
Doyle had to grudgingly admit Houdini had some character. He didn't wilt under Mrs Ellis' glare, nor did he backpedal from his point. He met her head on and said, "I apologize for just barging in. But this man is a fraud and I can prove it." Harry pointed to the camera. "He's not doing anything new with this camera. It's the same old circus tricks just dressed up with new effects. Whatever he's told you is a lie."
"How would you know about this?" Doyle asked.
"Because I've seen his kind before."
"My kind? What's that supposed to mean?" Sullivan asked his face flushing red as he clenched one of his hands into a fist.
"You know exactly what I mean," Harry growled and turned to Mrs Ellis. "How much money have you paid him?" he asked in a more conciliatory voice.
"That is a rather impertinent question." Mrs Ellis said and crossed her arms over her chest.
"I'm an impertinent kind of guy," Harry explained. "He can't do what he claims," Harry continued calmly. "I'm only trying to help. I'm sorry for whoever you lost, but he can't bring them back."
Doyle smiled at the memory. "Not the most auspicious beginning for a friendship," he muttered to himself. He glanced at the clock on the mantle and realized it was early afternoon. He couldn't concentrate on Holmes and Watson at the moment and decided to see if Adelaide was at the station. Maybe he could help with the case and take his mind off Touie for a few hours.
Adelaide was waiting when Harry arrived late the next morning. "We have the warrant to look at those boxes," Adelaide told him as he came over to her desk.
"That was fast," Harry said as he waited for Adelaide to put on her police jacket.
"I got here early and made sure Sergeant Gudgett didn't forget," Adelaide said as she led the way back outside and down the street to the subway.
"What about the burglary reports? Anything useful in those?"
Adelaide shook her head as the subway rumbled across London. "Nothing so far. I'm still waiting for a few dates, but it doesn't look like anyone has reported anything small enough to fit in that wooden box as stolen in the last month or more."
"I don't get it," Harry mused. "What was Sullivan after out there?"
"Maybe we'll find out from Mrs Howe," Adelaide said as the train slowed to a stop and they walked back up the stairs into the watery January daylight.
Mrs Howe answered her door at Adelaide's knock. "Oh you're back," Mrs Howe said in a low voice. "Have you found out anything?"
"Yes, Mrs Howe, we have," Adelaide said in an official tone. "Unfortunately, we've learned that you lied to us. We know Thomas was here."
Anne shook her head even as she opened the door wide enough for Adelaide and Harry to enter. "No, he hasn't been here. I told you, my husband doesn't want him around Stephen."
Harry put his hands on his hips and said, "We found photographs in his room that say otherwise. When was he here?"
Anne stepped away from Harry and picked up her son. "No, no I swear, he's never been here," she answered in a slightly frightened voice.
Adelaide looked at Anne for several seconds and put up her hand when Harry started to say something else. "How do you explain the photographs from the Ellis house that we found in his room?"
"I don't know." Anne stopped as her mouth made a small O and she stared out the window.
"What?" Adelaide asked.
Mrs Howe sat on the sofa and clutched the toddler tight against her chest. "Two weeks ago, maybe three, right before Christmas I think. I came home from the market and found the front door ajar. I didn't think anything of at the time. I was near run off my feet trying to get food together to take to church. I just thought I'd forgot to close it proper."
"Mrs Howe, this could be important," Adelaide said with a glance at Harry. "Where are those boxes that belonged to your brother?"
"I suppose they're still in the attic. Couldn't find anyone to take the camera or anything else from his studio."
"We need to see what's in them" Adelaide said and showed the other woman the search warrant.
Mrs Howe shrugged. "It's all been packed away for two years. Why would it matter now?"
"It's possible something from Mr Sullivan's case two years ago is what got him killed. He was released six months ago correct?"
"Yes around then. The boxes are through here, you'll have to find them." Mrs Howe stood up and led the way to the back of the house and up the stairs. The small door for the attic creaked as she pushed it open and Adelaide could smell the stale air and dust.
"Thank you, Mrs Howe. We'll be as quick as we can."
"I need to feed Stephen," Mrs Howe said and started back down the stairs. "When can I bury Thomas?" she asked, stopping halfway down the stairs.
Harry moved around Adelaide and into the attic while she answered, "We need to finish our investigation. Hopefully within a few days."
Mrs Howe continued back down the stairs and Adelaide turned to see Harry picking through the assorted boxes by the dim light of the small window.
"Here, this looks like it could be one of Sullivan's boxes." Harry tugged a large crate closer to the window and pulled it open. Inside was a camera, tripod and several dusty plates. "There's some files in this one," Harry said as he opened another box and handed Adelaide several file folders.
"These look like client records," Adelaide said as she opened a few of the files. "There's names, dates, what looks like payment sheets. I don't see a file for anyone named Ellis." She glanced up as Harry found another stack of papers.
"Looks like someone just dumped Sullivan's desk into a box. Here's a whole stack of random notes and messages." Harry paused and read through the cryptic notes. "This is the one that mentions the Ellis house." Harry held up a square of paper. "I wonder who Peter is. Sullivan was going to check something with him around the same time he went out to see Mrs Ellis."
Adelaide looked at the note in Harry's hand. "That's not a person," she announced and sat back on her heels with a smile.
"No. Peter is a cant word for 'safe' in certain circles." The penny dropped for her the same time as Harry. No recent thefts in the neighborhood, the box hidden on the grounds of the Ellis house …
"He was a thief!" they both said at the same time.
"We need to take these back to the station and go through them," Adelaide added as she gathered up the files and handed them back to Harry.
"He used his photography business to case houses," Harry mumbled and put the notes and files back in the box, then picked up the box. "He stole something from the Ellis' and hid it out in the gazebo."
Adelaide stood up and brushed off her skirt. "But he was sent to jail and whatever he stole just sat out there until he could go back and get it. But someone else was waiting for him and killed him for whatever it was he stole two years ago."
Adelaide held the attic door open for Harry. "Now we just have to figure out what he took," Harry said as he lugged the box out of the attic.
"And who wanted it badly enough to shoot him to get it," Adelaide finished. "I'll send someone back for the rest of the boxes and go through the police archive and see if the Ellis family ever filed any police reports for stolen property."
"Do we know where they live now? It might be faster just to ask them?" Harry pointed out as he carefully climbed back down the narrow staircase.
Mrs Howe was waiting for them in the sitting room. "Did you find anything?" she asked and glanced at Houdini as he carried his box outside.
"Possibly," Adelaide told her. "I'm sending someone to collect the rest of the boxes we found and any others that belonged to your brother."
Mrs Howe looked slightly bewildered as she escorted Adelaide out of the house. "All-All right."
"Nothing," Adelaide said and Harry glanced up from the box he was sorting. "The Ellis family never reported anything stolen two years ago, or any other time."
Harry pulled out another stack of dusty files and sneezed. "I knew I was allergic to paperwork," he groused as he added the files to the pile on one corner of the worktable. The notes on the Ellis house, the photos from Sullivans' room and the small wooden box occupied another corner. "There's still the man you sent out to the townhouse August Ellis owns. Maybe he'll find something we can use."
"Maybe," Adelaide sighed and started sorting through the file folders. "If Thomas Sullivan was using his business to case houses, there could be more potential victims here," she said and held up one of the folders.
"Great," Harry replied and made a face. "We're going to need more help if that's the case. And I'm pretty sure Chief Merring isn't going to be in a sharing mood."
"In that case, it's a good thing I decided to stop by and see how you were doing," Doyle said from behind Harry.
"Shouldn't you be with your wife," Harry admonished but smiled as Doyle stood next to his chair.
"Things are going as well as can be expected," Doyle explained and looked over the worktable.
"Are you sure you want to be here?" Harry asked quietly. "We understand …"
"No, I can use the distraction," Doyle said with a tiny smile.
"Everything's all right isn't it?" Adelaide asked and Harry could see the concern in her eyes.
"Yes everything is fine," Doyle assured them, "The treatments are going as expected. It just may take some time to see any results, or so they tell me. What do you have so far on the case?"
Harry gave Doyle a once over then said, "You won't believe what we've found out about Sullivan. He's even worse than I thought he was two years ago."
Harry proceeded to catch Doyle up on the investigation so far. "So not only was he a fraud," Harry finished, "He was also a thief." He glanced over at Adelaide. "Which kind of makes me wonder about the benevolent Mister Jonathan."
Adelaide nodded. "I was thinking the same thing."
Hopkins walked into the station and saluted Adelaide as he stopped at her desk. "Mr Ellis refused to say anything, ma'am. His man wouldn't let me in the house."
"You told him about the possibility of something stolen from his estate two years ago?" Adelaide asked.
"Yes, ma'am. He told his doorman to say it didn't matter."
"Thank you Officer Hopkins," Adelaide said and dismissed the bobby. "What now?" she asked Harry and Doyle.
"August was devastated when his wife died a year or so ago," Doyle pointed out. "Let me talk to him. Maybe I can convince him to answer our questions."
"All right," Adelaide agreed. "You and Harry do that." She looked at the stack of file folders. "I need to talk to Chief Merring about getting some help tracking down Mr Sullivan's old clients and find out if anything was stolen from them as well."
"So what's really going on with Touie," Harry asked as their cab drove them out to August Ellis' townhouse.
"I told you -"
"Yeah, things are going as expected. I know you. If that were the case, you'd be there not here."
Doyle sighed and looked out the window of the cab. "It's not anything specific, just a feeling that's all."
"A feeling of what?"
"That Doctor Biggs is less sanguine about the possibility of curing Touie than he wants to let on. He says the treatments take time to work but … Maybe I was just hoping something would be happening by now."
"It took weeks the last time," Harry said carefully.
Doyle ducked his head and glanced out the window again.
"It will work, I know it will," Harry said a few moments later.
"You can't know that," Doyle replied and Harry thought he sounded defeated.
"I don't have to know it. Biggs is the best. He'll cure her, you'll see."
They made the rest of the trip in silence. Harry paid the cab driver, got out of the cab behind Doyle, and followed the other man up to the door. Doyle knocked and the door was soon answered by a familiar face.
"William. How are you?" Doyle asked as William held the door open for them to enter. They stood in a small, neat foyer with a coat stand and hat shelf. No paintings, no flowers none of the things Harry remembered from the house outside London.
"I am very well, sir. Thank you," William said and glanced at Houdini with a frown. "I remember you, young man. Are you still causing trouble for people."
Harry grinned, but before he could say anything, Doyle spoke up, "He's reformed, William. Is Ellis in?"
"He's in the study, sir. If you will follow me?" William led them down a short hall and into a large room. The walls were papered in a striped pattern of browns and gold. A fire at one end of the room provided heat, the carved wood desk Harry remembered was opposite the fireplace with a pair of visitor chairs in front of it while another table and chair sat in front of the window. The large painting of Mrs Ellis hung on the wall behind the desk.
"Doctor Doyle and Mr Houdini, sir." William announced to the man seated behind the desk. Harry and Arthur entered the room as August Ellis stood up from the desk. Doyle moved closer to the desk while Harry wandered around the room.
August Ellis had changed since the last time Harry had seen him. He was still tall, an inch or so taller than Doyle, but the muscular physique of an athlete was missing, he seemed almost deflated and his brown hair and moustache were in need of a trim.
"I know why you're here and I've already told the police to leave me alone," Ellis said and waved William away.
"I know this is hard -" Doyle started to say.
"Do you? Has your daughter died? Your wife?" Ellis spat and glared at Arthur as he sat behind the desk.
"Hey!" Harry interjected with some heat as he stopped pacing and stood at Doyle's side.
"And you," Ellis turned on Houdini. "I remember you. Causing trouble. Upsetting my Hazel."
Harry took a step toward the desk, but Doyle stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"August, we need your help," Arthur said calmly. "There's been a murder. We think it has something to do with what happened at the house two years ago."
Ellis' sank back in his chair, all of the fight went out of him in a rush. "Please, Arthur, let the past stay in the past," he pleaded and glanced up at the painting.
Doyle sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk and waved Harry into the other. "It was a tragic accident what happened to Emily. The man Hazel brought out to the house, the one who claimed he could take spirit photographs, he was found dead in the river behind the house two days ago."
"I know that, the police were here asking questions about the last time I was there and who lived on the grounds now," Ellis said and sat up slightly.
"There's more," Doyle continued. "We think Thomas Sullivan was also a thief, he may have stolen something while he was taking pictures at the house."
"Something kept in a safe," Harry added. "And it would have been small."
Ellis shook his head. "I don't know. Hazel's jewelry was kept in the safe in the study, she never said anything about pieces missing. Of course she … passed … only a few months later. She may never have noticed."
"It's important we find out what Sullivan took when he was there," Doyle cajoled. "It could lead us to whomever killed him."
Ellis stared out the window, one finger rubbed circles on the edge of the desk. "I wouldn't know," Ellis said in a tired voice. "But I will ask Alice to look over Hazel's jewelry and I'll let you know if we find anything missing."
Doyle stood and Harry followed suit. "Thank you, Ellis," Arthur said and turned toward the door. Ellis shrugged and rang a small bell for William to escort them out of the house.
They were a block away from the townhouse looking for a cab when Harry said, "Thank you."
Doyle gave him a puzzled look and replied, "You're welcome?"
Houdini glanced back up the street and shrugged. "That could easily be me," Harry said in a quiet voice. "After … her." Harry looked up at Doyle and smiled. "If not for you and Addy."
Doyle said a silent "Ahh." and flagged down a passing cab. "You were willing to let us help you," Doyle explained once the cab was moving. "Unlike August. I tried after both Emily and Hazel died. He wouldn't let anyone help him. He buried himself in work after his daughter died. When Hazel passed, he just closed up the house and moved into town. He wouldn't accept invitations, he chose to isolate himself."
"Theo wants some of her things. Mementos," Harry mumbled a few minutes later and watched the scenery outside trundle past.
"It's natural," Doyle said in a neutral voice.
"I haven't been in her room since … Every time I think about packing away her dresses, her books, I can't do that yet."
"Then tell Theo that. I would think if anyone he would understand."
The cab rolled to a stop in front of Scotland Yard. Doyle paid the driver and stood next to Harry on the pavement.
They entered the station to find several work tables covered in paper and four bobbies and even Sergeant Gudgett pouring over the pages and making notes.
"Merring gave you some help I see," Doyle remarked as he watched the activity.
Adelaide smiled slightly. "I might have mentioned to him how we uncovered a widespread burglary ring working in the City."
"Anything so far?" Harry asked as another bobby came through the door and gave Adelaide a written report.
She nodded. "We were right. Several of Sullivan's clients have reported things missing. Small items or rarely used ones that they didn't notice were gone until we asked."
"August Ellis is going to look for anything missing as well," Doyle said. "He promised to let me know after he and his staff look over Hazel Ellis' jewelry and the like."
"Good," Adelaide said. "If it was something taken from his house that was hidden in the gazebo, that may be the easiest to trace. The murderer will want to get rid of it as soon as possible."
Doyle took a step toward the nearest table when Harry stopped him. "Go check on Touie," he whispered. "We've got this. I'll stop by the house later and let you know if we find anything new."
Doyle glanced at his watch and nodded. "The next series of injections is in an hour," he said. "Maybe she will wake up after ... "
"Go on, Doc," Harry said again. "Remember, the treatments will work."
Doyle nodded and smiled briefly before he left the station.
Several hours later Doyle sat in one of the wing chairs near the fireplace in his study, a glass of scotch at his elbow as he stared at the crackling fire. He dragged his mind back to the present when he heard a small knock on the study door and Mary entered.
"You should have been in bed hours ago," Doyle admonished as the girl stopped next to his chair.
"What did the doctors say about Mother?" Mary asked and stared at her father.
Doyle was reminded once again just how much she was like her mother as the girl met his gaze and waited for an answer. He took a sip from the glass and smiled at her.
"They say things could take time. But we knew that already, didn't we, love?"
Mary nodded and looked at the fire. "If that's the case, why are you so sad?"
"I'm not sad -" he started to deny then stopped. Mary watched him closely. "I'm not sad," he started again. "Maybe a bit impatient. I so want you and Kingsley to have your mother home again, that's all."
"Mr Houdini is worried about you, too, Father. I could tell at supper."
As promised Harry had come to the house to tell Doyle what he and Adelaide had found after an afternoon of searching files and questioning Sullivan's old clients. They had a fairly good idea of how extensive the burglary ring was, in terms of victims, but they still had little information on if Sullivan was acting alone or if he had partners. Harry suspected the Mr Jonathan Anne Howe mentioned was involved somehow, they just needed to figure out who he was and ask him point blank.
"How do you know Mr Houdini is worried about me?" Doyle asked Mary as he led her out of the study and back up the stairs to her room.
"He kept watching you all through supper and making worried faces."
"You are observant," Doyle said with a smile. "Mr Holmes would be proud of you I think."
Mary climbed into bed and said, "When Mother is better, she should meet Mr Houdini. She would like him."
"How do you know that?" Doyle asked as he adjusted the bed covers and stood near the door.
"Because he can make you laugh, Father. Just like Mother can."
"I'll consider it," Doyle said with a smile. "Go to sleep."
"Good night, Father," Mary said and closed her eyes.
Chapter 4: Act 3
Harry stood in the gazebo and watched Thomas Sullivan as he set up his camera in the library. He shoved his hands in his trousers pockets and looked away as he saw Arthur Conan Doyle walking across the grounds.
"I'm surprised you're still here, Mr Houdini," Doyle said and stopped just outside the gazebo.
Harry grinned and looked down from his slight height advantage. "I talked Mrs Ellis into letting me stay. She's a smart woman for all that she's willing to give money to a leech like Sullivan." Harry glared at the library windows again and Doyle turned to look as well.
"You can't know what he's doing is fake," Doyle gently admonished. "Photography is still a relatively new science, maybe he really has come up with a special coating that lets his camera take spirit photos."
Harry shook his head in disgust. "First of all that's not how science works. Others have to be able to duplicate your results. Secondly, how many scientists do you know that would believe in spirits anyway?" Harry stepped out of the gazebo and wandered down to the river.
"Alfred Russel Wallace," Doyle said and followed Harry.
"What?" Harry asked.
"You wanted to know a scientist that believed in the existence of the spirit world. Alfred Russel Wallace, he's a naturalist and published his ideas on natural selection the same time as Mr Darwin."
"That doesn't mean Sullivan isn't a fraud. I've seen these sorts of tricks before." Harry walked along the river bank, glancing between the water and the man keeping pace beside him.
"So you said."
"Your friend is going to get hurt, Mr Doyle. Sullivan will either conveniently not be able to take a picture of her dead loved one; or, even worse, he will fake something together and string the poor woman's grief along for as much money as he can get from her. I've seen it done before."
"Doctor, actually," Doyle corrected with a slight smile.
"What?" Harry asked with a puzzle look.
"I'm a medical doctor."
"OK, Doctor Doyle, you're friend is going to get hurt." A tree blocked Houdini's path and he turned and followed the bank back toward the house. "You said it yourself, photography is still new. That means people can be easily fooled by it. I'm sure Sullivan's photographic plates are very special, just not for the reasons you think. He could be doing anything to those plates, who would know?"
"I don't believe this is the only plane of existence," Doyle explained as they left the river and walked back to the house. "There is something else out there. Mr Sullivan has shown me other photos he's taken of spirits. They seem genuine to me."
Harry shook his head and started to argue but was stopped as they were joined by Mrs Ellis.
"Dear Arthur," Mrs Ellis greeted them near the gazebo. "Mr Sullivan wants to try taking some pictures outside tomorrow, near the river." She swallowed and looked away from the water. "But he needs to check his camera for outdoor work or some such. Can we borrow you for a moment?"
Doyle glanced at Mrs Ellis then at Sullivan setting up his camera near the front steps. "Borrow me?"
"Yes. He needs someone to be in the picture."
Harry stood back and grinned as Doyle was shepherded up the steps to stand by the front door.
"Thanks a lot, Doctor Doyle," Sullivan said to Arthur. "If you could just take off your hat, please?"
Harry crossed his arms and stood to one side watching as Doyle pulled off his hat and looked self-consciously at the camera. His humor however was short-lived.
"Hey, Mr Houdini," Sullivan called, "I can kill two birds here if you want to be in the picture, too. I can get an idea how you photograph now and we won't have to do this next week."
Harry shook his head. "I think I'll pass, Sullivan. I'm sure Mrs Ellis would much rather have a picture with just the Doc here in it."
"Doctor Doyle," Doyle growled from the steps.
"Nonsense, Mr Houdini," Mrs Ellis said and took Harry's arm. "You've invaded my house, the least you can do is make yourself useful."
Harry was positioned next to Doyle and both men stood, unsmiling, as Sullivan manipulated the glass plate into the camera.
"You'll need to remain still for several seconds," Sullivan said and clicked open the camera shutter. A few seconds later he said, "All done!" and Harry and Doyle moved off the steps.
"Twenty bucks says there's no spirit in the photo," Harry whispered to Doyle with a grin.
"Someday, Mr Houdini you will see there is more to this world than what you can touch and see."
Harry chuckled and wandered back out to the river.
Harry straddled a chair with his arms resting on the back as he held the picture of himself and Doyle standing on the Ellis front steps. He listened with half an ear to the chatter of bobbies sharing information and Adelaide directing new lines of investigation. So far they only had a series of dead ends.
"We need to know what was in that box," Adelaide said with a sigh as she sat opposite Harry.
Houdini nodded and dropped the picture. "Doyle did his best yesterday to make Ellis understand that," Harry reassured.
An officer Harry didn't know came up to Adelaide's desk and handed her a note. "My sergeant, said to tell you good hunting, ma'am," the officer said before he saluted and left.
"We may have another lead," Adelaide said and held up the piece of paper. "I think we found Mister Jonathan."
Harry glanced up.
"Jonathan Butler. He runs several businesses down near the docks. The local police have been watching him for months, but they've never been able to prove any case against him." Adelaide took her hat from a peg near her desk and expertly pinned it in place. "Let's see if we have any better luck."
Harry looked around the office they entered with interest. It was a large room with a desk in front of one wall lined with bookcases near a window that looked out at the docks. A pair of comfortable chairs grouped around a table sat near a fireplace. The walls were papered with a bold pattern of swirls and flowing shapes, the floors were polished wood. Harry thought it came off more as garish as opposed to the settled wealth he assumed it was supposed to instill.
Jonathan Butler was a large, loud, boisterous man of about fifty. His dark hair was conservatively greased and his moustache was equally well groomed. His dark blue suit spoke of money and he laughed a great deal about nothing though the humor never reached his eyes. He smiled condescendingly at Adelaide as she introduced herself and studied Harry with interest as she explained who he was and why they were there.
"Thank you for seeing us," Adelaide stated as Butler directed her to one of the comfortable chairs away from the desk. Butler himself took the other while Harry chose to stand slightly behind the constable's chair. He had the distinct feeling he was being watched and kept his hands loose at his sides ready for anything.
"Anything I can do to help the Metropolitan Police, Constable Stratton. Poor Tommy-boy." Butler shook his head.
"What can you tell us about his business, Mr Butler?" Adelaide asked as she took out a pad of paper and a pen. "We were led to understand you were instrumental is setting him up in his photography business."
"Really? Who told you that?" he asked and his eyes hardened slightly even as he tried to smile.
Adelaide glanced up. "From his sister. She was very appreciative of how you tried to help her brother."
Butler relaxed, nodded, and leant back in his chair. "Very true, very true," Butler said and laughed again. "He was a useful young man. He was eager to get ahead in this world and when he showed me some pictures he'd taken with this old battered camera he'd found, I offered to help him out."
"Why?" Harry asked and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Pardon?" Butler said and looked up at him with a frown.
"Why help this guy?" Harry clarified. "What did you get out of it."
Butler laughed. "You are a suspicious one, Mr Houdini," Butler said but Harry could tell the humor was forced. "Tommy reminded me of me when I was that age. We're both Irish which means no one will lift a finger to help you, you have to scrape and pinch your way through life. I knew that feeling well and wanted to help him. He'd been loyal to me, I could see the potential in him even if no one else would bother to look."
"So you did what exactly to help him?" Adelaide asked.
"I invested in him," Butler explained with another laugh. "I knew a man looking to rent out a small office space and put them in touch. I also bought Tommy's camera and chemicals with the understanding he would pay back the loan over time."
"So this was just a straightforward loan?" Adelaide asked.
"Well," Butler said and leant forward. "I did get access to a very good photographer for a few projects I had," he finished in a conspiratorial whisper. He pushed back into his chair and laughed again. "Come now, Constable. I'm a businessman. Tommy was a good investment, nothing more."
There was a knock at the office door and Butler commanded, "Enter."
A burly, redheaded man with a crooked nose entered the room and gave Butler a note. Butler read the note quickly, glanced at Adelaide and said, "I'll be right there to deal with it. Go."
Butler crumpled up the note as the red haired man left the room. "I'm sorry, Constable. There's a problem needing my attention at one of the warehouses. If there are no other questions …?"
"Were you aware Thomas Sullivan was stealing from his photography clients, Mr Butler?" Adelaide asked.
Butler didn't betray anything in his face, but his hand tightened slightly on the wadded note. "I'm sorry to hear that, Constable. I had no idea. Like I said before he showed a promising talent for photography and I offered to help him with that." Butler stood from his chair and waited.
Adelaide slowly put her pad and pen back in a pocket as she stood as well. "Thank you, Mr Butler for your assistance. I'll be in touch if I think of any other questions."
Adelaide led the way out of the office and Harry followed behind glancing around as he did so, the feeling of being watched still nagging at him.
"Well, there's nothing suspicious going on there," he said sarcastically as they walked back up to the main road.
"Agreed," Adelaide said. "But we have the same problem as the local station, proving it." She stopped and looked around for a cab. "We really need to know what was in that box we found."
"Hopefully, something from Mr Ellis will be waiting when we get back," Harry said and flagged down a cab.
Doyle looked out the stained glass window in Touie's room as Doctor Biggs finished the latest round of injections. He could hear the doctor scratching out notes as he sat at the desk. The woman lying in the bed was as still and unresponsive as ever and Doyle wasn't sure how much longer he could stand it.
"I have one last set of injections scheduled for this evening, Doctor Doyle," Biggs said from the desk.
Doyle walked over to the bed, sat in the chair and took his wife's hand. "Is there any change at all?" he asked in a low voice.
Biggs said nothing for a few moments, then Doyle heard the scraping of the desk chair. "Not yet," Biggs said as he came up to the end of the bed. "It may take some more time."
"Time, right," Doyle mumbled. He abruptly stood and paced back to the window. "How much more time, Doctor?" he asked his voice an angry hiss. "Is this working or am I just torturing her and me with this treatment? I expected to see some sort of improvement at least even if she wasn't completely conscious."
Biggs held up his hands palms out. "I know this is frustrating, but I told you at the start of this it would take time and your wife's case was rather unique in some ways," Biggs placated.
"Is it working?" Doyle demanded.
Biggs took a step back and dropped his hands. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "Usually there are some definite signs of improvement by the third day. This time … ."
A nurse entered the room and glanced around. Once she found Doyle she walked over to him with a note in hand. She gave him the note, nodded to Doctor Biggs, and left.
Arthur read the brief note quickly then folded it and tucked it in the pocket of his waistcoat. He needed to go, he knew that, but at the moment he just didn't care about Adelaide's case or solving a murder. He walked back to the bed and knelt beside it instead.
Biggs, he noted, took advantage of the timely interruption by the nurse and quietly left the room.
"You are my world," he whispered to Touie as he held her hand. "I'm not sure what I would do without you, you know. Who would laugh at my jokes?" He brushed a hand lightly through her hair. "Please come back to me, my love." He brushed a kiss against Touie's forehead and slowly stood.
Doctor Perlow was waiting on the landing as Doyle came out of the hospital room. "Arthur," he started to say.
"I'll be back in time for the last series of injections," Doyle said and started for the stairs.
"Arthur, wait, please," Doctor Perlow said.
Doyle ducked his head, but stopped walking.
"I want you to know I think the treatments are working," Doctor Perlow said. "Doctor Biggs isn't as familiar with Mrs Doyle's case as I am. I do see some signs of improvement. Even if she never fully wakes …"
Doyle hissed in a breath.
"I think we are doing good with this," Perlow finished. "It's just going to take -"
"Time, yes so I keep being told," Doyle said and gripped his hat a little tighter. "Thank you for telling me."
He walked out of the grounds and along the main street looking for a cab to take him to August Ellis' townhouse.
William opened the door and greeted Doyle with a note. "I've been authorized to give you this, sir," William said as he handed over the note. "Mr Ellis prefers not to be disturbed at this time, however."
Doyle read the note and looked up. "Do you know what this is about, William?"
"I do, sir."
"Is there anything else you can tell me about it?" Doyle asked as he pocketed the note.
"As I recall the pieces in question were part of a set belonging to Mrs Ellis' grandmother. The settings are of a heavy silver, sir."
"Thank you, William. Please let Ellis know I'll be in touch if we find anything."
"I'll be in touch," Doyle said forcefully.
"Very good, sir." William replied and closed the door.
The cab was still waiting at the curb and Doyle climbed back in as he gave the driver the address for Scotland Yard.
He walked into the station only to find Harry and Adelaide were out so he wandered over to the worktable and sifted through the evidence they'd discovered so far. He was surprised to find the picture of himself and Harry and sat in Houdini's abandoned chair as the memories flooded back.
Doyle sat near the window in the library and smoked his pipe as he enjoyed the view. The sunlight sparkled off the river as a pair of birds built a nest in the trees behind the gazebo. The day had passed in relative peace, in no small part as it appeared Mr Houdini had been out all day on an errand.
His attention shifted as he watched as Thomas Sullivan and Hazel Ellis walked out near the gazebo, Sullivan carried his camera gear and tripod while Mrs Ellis constantly brushed her hair out of her eyes from the light breeze. Sullivan situated Hazel with her back to the river and he took a few pictures of her in various poses. Every time Sullivan changed out a plate in the camera, Doyle could see Hazel glance furtively at the water and shudder.
"Are you sure you need to take pictures near the water, Mr Sullivan?" Hazel had asked the night before at dinner. "I can't bear to look at that river you know."
"I am sorry, Mrs Ellis," Sullivan had said even as he charmed her into doing what he wanted. "I know it's hard, but your Emily may linger there as well as in parts of the house. Spirits are tied to the place where they … passed … you know."
Doyle had heard Houdini growl low in his throat, but the younger man held his tongue and his temper as the dinner conversation shifted to other topics.
As he watched the photography session now, he couldn't help but remember Houdini's words about Hazel being hurt by the photographer. It was obvious she didn't want to even look at the river where her daughter had drowned, but Sullivan had pushed and gently prodded until Mrs Ellis gave in. They had compromised on the gazebo as Hazel had absolutely refused to go anywhere near the water's edge.
He heard the distant sound of the front door opening and a few minutes later grimaced as Houdini wandered into the library with a packet under his arm.
"Oh, you came back," Doyle said with sarcastic disappointment as the other man sat in the chair opposite and laid his packet on the table between them.
"You didn't think you could get rid of me that easily did you, Doc?" Houdini asked with a cheerful grin.
"I did have high hopes," Doyle returned as he tapped out his pipe into the crystal ash tray near his elbow. "And it's Doctor Doyle."
Houdini chuckled as he emptied the packet on the table. Doyle was shocked to see the envelope contained several dozen pictures, roughly four inches by six inches, each one of a different person with some sort of filmy figure nearby. "Where did you get these?" Doyle asked as he picked up one of the pictures.
"I went into town," Houdini explained as he looked through the images and sorted them into various piles. "These were all in a drawer in Sullivan's desk," he finished nonchalantly.
Doyle dropped the picture as if it had burned him and stood up. "You admit you broke into Mr Sullivan's place of business and stole these?" he asked angrily.
Harry glanced up at Doyle. "Yes," he replied with no sense of guilt or remorse. "Now would you like to know what I suspect he's doing? Or would you rather he goes on emotionally blackmailing your friend out there never mind the money he's stealing as a result of his con." Harry pointed out the window where Doyle could see Hazel seated in the gazebo as Sullivan set up his camera just outside the little wooden structure.
"You can prove he's not a genuine spirit photographer?" Doyle asked and hesitated a moment before he sat down again and looked at the various piles of photos.
Houdini studied his face for a moment then calmly said, "Yes, I think I can. I talked to several photographers in town and asked how you would go about adding something to a picture and how you would be able to tell if an image had been altered."
"It must be extremely difficult to do," Doyle mused as he picked up a few more of the pictures.
Harry snorted, "Actually, it's disgustingly easy."
He picked up a picture of what looked to be a street scene with a woman standing in front of a building with the ghostly shape a child seated at her feet. "This one for example," he said as he handed over the image, "You think you're seeing a woman and the ghost of her dead son. Actually, the kid was probably sitting there when the exposure started and he simply got up and left before the camera was finished with the exposure. Remember the other day? Sullivan said we couldn't move while he took that picture near the front door? This is why."
Arthur studied the picture for several moments. The image of the child did look spectral in nature to him, but he also knew Houdini could be right, the child simply wandered away. "That's one picture …"
Houdini held up another half-dozen images. "According to those photographers I spoke to, all of these are probably from someone entering or leaving the frame while the camera was open for an exposure."
Doyle glanced out the window as Mrs Ellis walked past the window; he looked back at the gazebo and saw Sullivan lingered at the back of the little structure. Doyle assumed he needed to adjust something on his camera as a few minutes later he joined Mrs Ellis in the rose garden on the far side of the house. "And these?" he asked as he turned back to Houdini and pointed to another of the piles.
Houdini sorted through the pile and picked up a photo of a couple with what appeared to be a woman floating between them. "Someone walking into a picture could be an innocent mistake. These are the obvious fakes," Harry said and Doyle was surprised to see how angry the younger man appeared to be as he picked over the images.
"These people," he said and held up the photo of the couple, "Probably lost their daughter somehow and instead of being allowed to grieve and move on, Sullivan convinced them she was still with them, hovering around them." Harry stood and started to pace.
Doyle looked at the picture. "It does appear the young woman is in the picture with her parents," he said hesitantly.
"You'd think so, wouldn't you. Except she's not." Houdini stopped at Doyle's side and poked the picture angrily. "Photographers call this a double exposure. Sullivan took a blurry picture of some random woman, used the same plate to take the picture of the parents then developed the double image in such a way the first image looks like a ghost." Houdini slapped the photograph back on the table. "That's deliberate," he growled. "Nothing more than a con." He paced away from the table. "Who knows how long those people were strung along. And when they finally realized the truth, if they realized the truth, the pain of the loss hit them all over again."
Arthur carefully put the picture back on the pile and sighed. "I can understand your anger, Mr Houdini, and if these truly are tricks of the photographer's art, then I share it. But you haven't proven that Mr Sullivan is faking the pictures he's taking here. He's been here almost a week and he hasn't shown Mrs Ellis any pictures of her daughter, even though he's made at least one trip into town to develop his images."
Houdini sat back down and leant back in his chair. He stared out the window for a moment and Doyle watched as the anger faded. "Did you know Mrs Ellis' daughter," he asked quietly and turned back to Arthur.
Arthur was surprised at the change in Houdini's mood but replied, "Yes I did. Emily was a playmate of my daughter, Mary."
"So you would recognize her if you saw a picture of her."
"I would think so, yes. Why do you ask?"
Harry hesitated then pulled a picture out of his breast pocket and tossed it on the table. "I found this in his developing room."
Doyle picked up the picture and hissed in a breath. In the picture, Mrs Ellis sat at the piano in the sitting room and what looked to be a young girl hovered next to her.
"Is that Emily Ellis, Doctor Doyle?" Harry asked, and Doyle could tell the other man was working to hold in his temper.
"It certainly looks like it could be her," Doyle answered. "The hair is close to Emily's and the face is the right shape. I couldn't say anything about the dress, but I think I remember her wearing something like it. It's truly an amazing picture." Doyle glanced at the picture with a tiny smile.
"It's a doll," Harry said flatly.
Doyle looked up with a start. "What?" He gazed at the picture again.
Houdini took a folded sheet of paper from his pocket. "It's a doll," he said again and slapped a catalog advertisement on the table. "I'm not sure if he has the actual doll somewhere and took a picture of it, or if he used the advertisement, but it's just a doll. You expect to see Emily Ellis so your mind tells you that's what's in the picture."
Arthur took the advertisement and compared the image of the doll to the picture of Mrs Ellis. He saw the resemblance immediately. "All right, you've convinced me. What do we do about it?" He set the photo and the advertisement to one side and listened as Mrs Ellis and Sullivan returned to the house.
"August is supposed to be back tonight," Doyle mused. "Mrs Ellis will be devastated."
Harry stood, gathered up the pictures, and put them back in the envelope. He put the so-called spirit photo and advertisement back in his breast pocket. "We expose him as the fraud he really is. She needs to know the truth before he hurts her any more."
"Back again?" Harry asked and Doyle looked up to find Houdini and Adelaide standing near the table. "How's Touie?"
Doyle put down the picture of himself and Harry and replied, "Doctor Perlow thinks he sees some improvement."
"That's good news," Adelaide said and squeezed Doyle's arm.
Arthur smiled at her. "Yes, it is."
"So what brings you by, Doc?" Harry asked as he glanced over at Arthur.
"I had a note from August Ellis," Doyle said and pulled the note from Ellis out of his pocket. "Ellis is sure a necklace and set of earrings is missing." He handed the note to Adelaide.
"According to this, the pieces are nearly one hundred years old," she said and read the description aloud. "A diamond necklace set with several emeralds and matching diamond earrings."
"Yes," Doyle said. "William told me the setting is heavy silver as well, so I would think any decent thief would break up the pieces, melt the settings for the silver and sell the stones off separately."
Adelaide nodded and sat at her desk. She wrote out several notes and gave them to a boy waiting nearby. "Deliver each note and leave," she told the boy. "If any of them have something to tell me, they know how to reach me." The boy nodded, took the notes and ran from the station.
"Want to share the plan with the rest of us?" Harry asked as he watched the boy dodge a couple bobbies standing outside near the station door.
"I know a few people who might be able to help us," Adelaide explained. "You remember Fip?"
Harry grinned. "You know fences, too? What would Chief Merring say if he knew?"
"Where do you think I got the idea?" she replied cheekily and turned to an officer standing at the table with a box in his arms.
"This is the last box we could find, ma'am," Hopkins said and set the small, dusty box on the table. "The lady of the house doesn't think there's anything else."
"What's this?" Doyle asked as he opened the flaps of the box and looked inside. He started pulling out dozens of pictures and Harry cleared a fresh space on the table for them.
"It looks like every picture Sullivan ever took," Adelaide said as she picked up a few of the pictures.
"I wonder if this is what he was looking for in his sister's house," Harry mused. "He took the few pictures he could find and stashed them at the rooming house. My guess is he planned to go back and look for this as well, he just never got the chance."
Adelaide shrugged and put the pictures down. "Maybe. We have no idea what he was looking for, though. There's no way to know what pictures he wanted or what he planned to do with them."
Sergeant Gudgett stepped up to the table and poked a finger into the box of photographs. "Merring wants an update," he said and turned for the Chief's office.
"So will he be happy we have a good suspect or mad once he realizes we can't prove anything?" Harry asked no one in particular in a low voice as the trio entered Merring's domain.
Adelaide entered first and stood in front of Merring's desk, Doyle and Harry stood behind her.
"Well?" Merring grunted as Doyle closed the door.
"As we suspected," Adelaide reported, "Thomas Sullivan was involved in an extensive theft ring. We have information from about twenty of his previous clients who have reported everything from jewelry, to rare books, to gold coins and cash missing. Most of the items were stored in wall safes and rarely used so the thefts went unnoticed for years."
"How can we prove it was Sullivan and not someone else if so much time has passed, then?" Merring looked from one to the next.
"It's too much of a coincidence that all of them were his clients, sir. He had to be involved. There is also the note he wrote to remind himself to check the safe in the Ellis house."
"That's not good enough, Constable," Merring growled. "There is no way that sort of evidence will stand up in court."
"How about this," Harry said and stepped closer to the desk. "He was working for Jonathan Butler."
"Butler? You know this?" Merring sat up at his desk a predatory gleam in his eye.
"He admitted setting Sullivan up as a photographer," Harry explained. "It's not that hard to assume it was in order for Sullivan to case houses."
"So they knew each other," Merring mused. "It's still circumstantial at best, Constable. You're going to have to prove Butler had possession of something stolen from one of Sullivan's clients to make it stick."
"We may have a way to do that, sir," Adelaide said with a small smile. "Mr Ellis described a necklace and earrings that belonged to his wife, that are missing. It's probable that's what was in the small box Mr Houdini and I found out at the Ellis estate a few days ago. I'm looking into it now to see if anyone has tried to sell the pieces Mr Ellis described."
"Then I suggest you get some answers quickly. The press is starting to nose around. They've had wind of something up with regards to what was supposed to be a simple murder. I want to have something ready to tell them when they start asking questions."
"Yes, sir," Adelaide replied and turned to the door.
"And Constable," Merring said from his desk.
Adelaide beamed and nodded her head. "Thank you, sir."
"That's a first," Harry commented as they left the office. "Did he just congratulate us?"
"No," Doyle replied with a smile. "He congratulated Adelaide."
"Well, we helped," Harry countered as they stopped at Adelaide's desk.
"There's not much we can really do until I hear back from my contacts," Adelaide said as she sat at her desk.
"We may as well start sorting through the photographs, then," Doyle said and reached for the box.
Harry backed away from the table. "I should probably get over to the theater," he said and took his topcoat from the hook near Adelaide's desk. "You guys got this, right?" He didn't really wait for an answer before he turned and left the station.
Doyle shook his head and turned back to the box. "How do you want to arrange these, Constable?" he asked as he pulled a stack of images from the box. Most of them were of people, some outside, but most taken in various rooms or what looked like a photography studio. There were a few street scenes and pictures of the shipping at the Wapping Dock.
"You don't have to stay, Doctor Doyle," Adelaide told him. "You should go be with your wife."
"Doctor Biggs has scheduled the last set of injections for a few hours from now. I may as well try to be useful in the meantime." Doyle took another handful of pictures from the box and started looking through them.
A few minutes later a grubby boy wove his way past bobbies and stood at Adelaide's desk. He handed her a note and waited. She glanced at the note and handed the boy a coin.
Once the boy was gone she said, "We have a lead. One of my contacts thinks he knows about the necklace and earrings."
Doyle dropped his handful of photos back in the box. "After you, Constable." Doyle picked up his hat and followed Adelaide out of the station and down to the subway.
Adelaide led the way down a narrow alley and down a set of steps to a basement office. The single window was barred and the door had an impressive amount of locks.
"Your contact takes his security seriously, I see," Doyle said as Adelaide pounded on the door.
"You have no idea. Make sure your hands are visible at all times," she advised as a narrow slot opened at roughly eye-level in the door.
"Stratton," she said and the slot slammed shut.
A few seconds later she heard the locks turning and the door opened a crack. "Who's that?" a baritone voice demanded and a finger pointed at Doyle.
"I'm -" Doyle started to say but Adelaide interrupted.
"He's no one you need to worry about, Jake," she said and glanced back up the stairs. "You said you had information for me."
"Fine," Jake said after another hesitation and opened the door wider. Adelaide walked in followed by Doyle who took his hat off and held it by the brim with both hands.
The room was a surprise given the outside of the building. It was tastefully papered and one wall was lined with book shelves. Adelaide watched as Doyle wandered over to the books and glanced at the titles. He started to reach for one of the volumes, then stopped himself and turned back to the man at desk.
Jake was as much a shock as the room. He was about thirty-five years old, clean shaven and his suit was well tailored. His black hair was neatly styled to the latest trend and Adelaide knew from experience he could walk down most of the well-to-do streets in London and never get a suspicious look.
"What can you tell me about the necklace and earrings," Adelaide asked as Jake sat behind a desk. Adelaide was sure he had some sort of weapon waiting in case he needed it.
"We can be civilized, Constable," Jake said. "Would you care for tea?" He pointed at a tea service situated on a table to his left, his other hand remained conveniently out of sight.
"I think we'll be fine, Jake," Adelaide said. "Do you have something for me or not."
"Very well," Jake said with a sigh. "Yes, I know about the necklace. A beautiful piece and a fine example of the Georgian style. The silver alone is worth a small fortune."
"So it's been melted down then?" Doyle asked with a frown.
"Probably, but I can't say for sure. The … gentleman wishing to sell it refused my offer."
"Who else would deal with a piece like that?" Adelaide asked.
"I really couldn't say, Constable Stratton. Oh any junk dealer would try, but not many could offer close to what the piece is worth and no one will give the … gentleman a price any better than mine. There's just not the demand at the moment for silver."
"So it might still be intact," Doyle said and glanced at Adelaide.
"If you are looking to purchase an item, I have several of equal quality you might be interested in," Jake offered and looked over at Doyle with mild interest.
Doyle frowned. "No, I don't think so."
"Suit yourself," Jake said and turned back to Adelaide. "Was there anything else you wanted to know, Constable?"
"What did this … gentleman wanting to sell look like, Jake?"
"Ahh now that is the question isn't it. And that answer will cost you the usual fee I think."
"This better be worth it, Jake," Adelaide said as she pulled a £10 note from her pocket.
"Satisfaction guaranteed, Constable. The man you're looking for is rather tall, with shocking red hair. He has a crooked nose and wears a ridiculous bowler hat that is at least a size too small for his head. He can usually be found near a certain area of the docks and goes by the name Red, for obvious reasons."
Adelaide handed over the money and worked to keep the elation off her face. "You've been of some help, Jake. Thank you."
"Not at all, dear Constable. I'm always willing to do my part to assist law enforcement. As long as it doesn't interfere with my other … shall we say, interests."
Adelaide rolled her eyes and waited as Jake stood from the desk and escorted them back to the door.
"You're sure I can't interest you in something?" he asked Doyle as they left.
"No, I really don't think so," he replied with a nervous smile. Jake shrugged in return and closed the door. Adelaide heard the locks click back into place.
"You must know this person he described?" Doyle asked once they were back on the street and headed for the subway.
"Yes, Harry and I saw him the other day. In Jonathan Butler's office."
"So this man works for -"
"Our main suspect, yes." Adelaide sat on one of the benches as the train started to move.
"What's to stop this Jake from telling anyone who asks about our meeting?" Doyle asked as he sat next to her.
"The £10," Adelaide answered. "Jake has played both sides for years. Everyone knows it, but he has a reputation for keeping his various interests separate. He's also completely ruthless. There have been a few stabbings over the years he was suspected of committing, but we never could prove it. Rest assured, if he'd actually bought the necklace from this Red person, he never would have told us a thing."
Chapter 5: Act 4
"So is that enough to arrest Butler?" Harry asked the next morning. "We can tie one of his people to the necklace."
"Unfortunately no," Adelaide replied. "We can arrest this Red person for possession of stolen goods, but we don't have any evidence he murdered Mr Sullivan to get the necklace and we don't have anything that ties Butler to either of the cases."
Houdini sighed and sat at the work table where the box of photographs still waited to be sorted. He pulled out a few of the photos at random and Hazel Ellis sitting in the gazebo behind her house looked back up at him.
Harry stood in the sitting room and looked at the grounds in the fading evening light as the others wandered into the room after dinner. Mr August Ellis was home from his business trip and he entered with Mrs Ellis on his arm. She sat at the piano and started to play as Doctor Doyle and Thomas Sullivan followed the couple. Doyle sat in a chair near the fireplace and picked up the newspaper from the table while Sullivan hovered against one wall and studied the artwork. Mr Ellis went to the sideboard and poured himself a finger of whiskey.
"Doctor Doyle? Mr Sullivan?" he asked and held up the crystal decanter. "Mr Houdini?"
Houdini declined but wasn't surprised to hear Sullivan accept the offer of a drink, the photographer had commented more than once he approved Mr Ellis' taste in liquor. Sullivan took the offered glass and downed the drink in one practised gulp then set the glass aside. He then wandered around the room and stopped before another one of the paintings.
Ellis sat in a comfortable chair near the piano as Mrs Ellis continued to play. Harry smiled as Ellis started to hum along and Mrs Ellis gave him playful frown before she changed to another piece and he stopped.
Harry glanced at Doctor Doyle and when the doctor looked up from the paper and nodded, Houdini moved away from the window and said, "So, Sullivan, I think it's time I made a confession."
"Oh?" Sullivan replied with a smile. "What do you need to confess to me, Mr Houdini? Are you ready to admit photography is the wave of the future and your art-house posters are a relic?" Sullivan laughed and glanced around the room to see if anyone shared his sense of humor.
Doyle got up, wandered over to the piano. Ellis gave him an odd look which Doyle ignored.
"No, I think I'll stick with my posters. What I wanted to say was I went into town today. I did some investigating." He gave Sullivan a significant look. "At you studio."
Harry noticed Sullivan's smile became a bit fixed and he dropped all pretense of nicety. "I wonder if you'd care to explain this photograph." He took the photo from his breast pocket with a flourish and held it up for the room to see.
"Oh," Mrs Ellis said with a gasp as she stopped playing and turned around. "That's … that's Em! That's my Em!" She stood and started forward, but Doyle stood in front of her and stopped her. Ellis stood as well and took his wife's arm.
"No, it's not, Mrs Ellis. It's a very clever fake made by Mr Sullivan here," Harry said and pointed at the photographer as he stood between Mrs Ellis and Sullivan.
"Away with you," Sullivan growled and flapped his hand in Harry's direction. His face flushed a bright red as he marched over to Houdini. "You can't prove any of that. I never showed Mrs Ellis any such photo. How do you know I took that picture." Sullivan stood with his hands clenched at his sides.
"I want to see that picture, Arthur," Mrs Ellis said and again tried to step away from the piano but Doyle stood firmly in her way. "I would know Emily anywhere. I'd know if this picture was false."
"Really, now, Doyle," Mr Ellis added his temper rose as Doyle refused to move. "I admit I wasn't impressed with the idea of a spirit photographer when my wife brought it up, but if he really has taken a picture -"
"He hasn't," Doyle said grimly and looked from one distraught parent to the other. "I saw the photograph this afternoon." He turned to face Harry. "I believe Mr Houdini is correct, it's a fake."
"You still haven't proven I took that picture. How do we know you didn't do something yourself just to make me look the fool?" Sullivan stood in front of Houdini and tried to use his extra few inches of height to intimidate the magician.
Harry looked up at Sullivan and he couldn't help the cocky smile that broke across his face. "I can prove it because I stole it out of your developing room this afternoon. I'll bet the plate is still there. What were you waiting for, Sullivan? Did you want Mr Ellis here too? Try to get even more money off the grief of these people?"
Sullivan lunged at Houdini and both of them crashed into a table with a crystal vase of flowers. The vase went flying into the wall where it smashed into shards, while Harry's back took the brunt of the force against the table as they both tumbled to the floor with the table underneath them.
Harry heard shouting and managed to land a couple of blows to Sullivan's ribs before Doyle was there to pull the photographer off him. He glanced up and saw August Ellis standing in front of his crying wife while Doyle held Sullivan by the arms as the other man fought the hold and tried to kick at him, Harry.
As Houdini dragged himself to his feet and rubbed surreptitiously at his now aching back, Mr Ellis left his wife and stormed over to him. "I want an explanation for this behavior, sir. You stand in my house and accuse a guest, someone invited here by my wife, of being a-a-what? A con artist?"
Harry pointed to the photo now on the floor a few feet away. "Look at the picture, Mr Ellis. I took that from Mr Sullivan's studio this afternoon."
"So you admit you're a thief," Ellis said angrily as he stooped and snatched up the photo. Ellis looked at the picture and his eyes widened slightly as he stared at it.
Harry took the advertisement with the image of the doll from his breast pocket. "No that's not your daughter," he explained before Ellis could say anything and handed over the page. "It's a faked up picture of your wife. Mr Sullivan here took a picture of either this advertisement or he might have the actual doll somewhere, the police will have to figure out which. He took a picture of the doll, then took a picture of your wife using the same photographic plate. It's called a double exposure." He tried to stand a little straighter as Ellis looked from the photograph to the advertisement and back again.
"Please, August, let me see it," Mrs Ellis begged from the chair behind her husband. "I want to see Em again."
Ellis ignored her. "William!" he yelled and clenched the picture and the advertisement tighter in his hand before he dropped them on the nearest table.
William stood in the doorway to the sitting room. "Yes, sir?"
"Find Parker and tell him to get a horse saddled and go to town. I need the police here as fast as he can get them back here."
"Yes, sir," William said and with a glance around the room he left.
"Doyle put him over there," Ellis indicated a chair in the corner of the room. "I don't want him anywhere near Hazel." He glanced at his wife now softly crying. "Go upstairs, my dear. You've had a terrible shock. I'll send Alice with something for your nerves."
Arthur pulled Sullivan over to the far corner and stood next to Sullivan after depositing the con artist in the waiting chair. Harry smiled slightly as Doyle glared down at the man. It was nice to know the doctor could change his mind given enough evidence.
Mrs Ellis gripped her husband's sleeve as he helped her to her feet. "It wasn't Emily?" she asked in a whisper. "She's really gone isn't she?" William re-entered the room as Mrs Ellis broke out in fresh sobs in her husband's arms. Ellis held her for a moment then handed her off to the butler. "Have Alice help her to bed, William. I'll be up to check on her after I've dealt with this."
"Yes, sir," William said and followed Mrs Ellis out of the room. Harry heard soft voices in the hall and saw a young woman with blond hair braided around her head under a white cap lead Mrs Ellis past the door and out of sight.
"Parker has been sent for the police, sir," William reported as he came back in the room.
"Thank you, William," Ellis said absently. "Please help keep an eye on Mr Sullivan while we wait for them to arrive."
"Why?" Doyle asked Sullivan in a hard voice once Mrs Ellis was gone. "How did you even come up with the idea?"
Harry wasn't sure Sullivan would answer, but after a few seconds, Sullivan replied, "The first time was an accident. I didn't get a plate completely washed. I did some portraits, and when I showed the woman the prints, she swore she saw her dead father in the picture with her." Sullivan shrugged. "She wanted the picture so I sold it to her."
"And you conveniently forgot to tell her the truth," Doyle said with an angry frown.
"Fair do's as far as I was concerned. She could afford it."
"You let an innocent woman believe … Houdini was right about you. You are nothing but a clever con artist." Doyle moved away from the photographer and stared out the window.
Houdini tried to pace near the door, but his back still ached from the encounter with the table. He did his best to ignore the pain as Ellis came over to him. "I still think you're trouble, Mr Houdini. You could have broached this subject in such a way as to not upset my wife."
Harry shook his head and tried not to rub at his back. "There's no good way to say something like that Mr Ellis. Sometimes the blunt truth is the best. I'll apologize to your wife if you wish, but I'm sure she hates me as much as she despises Mr Sullivan over there at the moment. No one likes to have their deepest desire proven to be false."
It was another twenty minutes before Houdini heard the crunch of wheels on the gravel drive. He looked out the window and saw an older man leading two police officers from a wagon into the house.
"Mr Ellis," one of the officers said as William led them into the sitting room. " My name is Connor. Is there a problem here?"
"Yes," Ellis said with a grunt. "I want that man arrested." He pointed to Sullivan and the other police officer walked around Ellis and stood next to Sullivan's chair.
"Yes, sir," Officer Connor said non-committally. "On what charge?"
"Fraud," Harry piped up from near the window where he stood next to Doyle. He picked up the picture and advertisement from the table and handed them to the officer. "Mr Sullivan was selling his services as a spirit photographer. As you can see, it's just an elaborate con."
The officer looked at the photo and the advertisement, then glanced from Houdini to Ellis.
Ellis pointed at Sullivan. "He tried to pawn that off as a photograph of my deceased daughter to my wife," Ellis said.
Sullivan grunted something unintelligible but was ignored.
Connor looked down at the photo again then nodded. "Bain, arrest that man," he ordered and Bain took Sullivan by the arm as he pulled a pair of handcuffs from his pocket.
"Not in the house, I beg," Ellis said. "My wife has had enough of a shock this evening without the added insult of a guest arrested in our house."
The officers exchanged a look and Bain nodded once before pulling Sullivan along out of the room. Doyle and Harry followed behind the officers and their prisoner and Harry watched with no small amount of pride as Sullivan was handcuffed and led into the waiting police wagon. Bain climbed in behind him and secured the wagon door.
Doyle and Houdini stood on the front steps as Parker turned the horses around and Connor climbed up on the box. The officer took the reins and with a smart slap of the leather, the horses started off at a trot back down the drive.
"Well, Mr Houdini," Doyle said once the wagon was out of sight. "I can't say it's entirely been a pleasure this past week. But I must admit you were right about Sullivan."
Harry grinned up at Doyle and replied, "You should come see my show some time, Doc. You'd love it."
"Ahh, no. I think I'll pass." He offered Houdini his hand. When Harry stepped forward to shake, Arthur gripped his hand. "And it's Doctor Doyle," he added with a smile.
Harry let go and watched Doyle re-enter the house. "Whatever you say … Doc." He grinned and followed the other man back inside.
Harry smiled at the memory and dropped the picture of Hazel Ellis on the nearest pile. He and Doyle crossed paths a few more times before that fateful case with Adelaide at the Magdalene laundry a year ago. A relationship that began with animosity, shifted to grudging respect before it blossomed into true friendship.
He flipped casually through a few more of the photos before he stopped to stare at the one in his hand. "Hey, Addy, do you have a magnifying glass?" he asked and tried to hide his excitement as he glanced up at her.
Adelaide gave him a puzzled look as she opened the drawer of her desk and handed over the glass.
Harry studied the picture again through the glass, then looked up with a smile. "They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I wonder how many years in prison this one is worth."
"Harry, what are you talking about?" Adelaide asked.
"We may have just made Merring's day," he explained. "Look at this." Harry handed over the picture and the glass and watched her face. The two men in the picture, Jonathan Butler and the red-haired man they saw in the office the day before, were clearly photographed by someone standing outside the office window on the dock, as neither of the men seemed to know their picture was being taken. What was more, the red-haired man was in the process of handing Butler a carved box of some sort.
Adelaide looked up from the photo, the glass still in one hand and said, "Do you know what this is?" She stood and went to the filing cabinet behind her desk. She opened one of the drawers and thumbed through several files before pulling one out and handing it to Harry. "The jewelry box in this picture belongs to the Countess Beatrice. Her prized diamond was stolen three years ago. It was never found and there were never any leads on who stole it."
Harry had no idea who the Countess Beatrice was; he skimmed through the file and read the description of the missing diamond as well as the finely carved box it was stored in. He took back the photo and looked at the box again. It was hard to tell in the image, but it looked like the ornately carved box described in the police report. Scotland Yard would finally close the case and it took a dead spirit photographer to do it.
"Constable, the press is starting to push on this case," Chief Merring said as he came up to the work table. "Tell me you have something."
Adelaide silently gave him the picture and the magnifying glass. She and Harry traded a look as Merring glared at them both for a moment then took the glass and the photograph. He examined the photo, then did a double take and looked even harder at it before he turned to them. "Where did this come from?"
"It was in that last box full of photographs brought back from Anne Howe's house," Adelaide said. "We can prove Sullivan took the picture, it was in with other photographs he took. The other man in that picture works for Butler; Harry and I both saw him in Butler's office yesterday. I also have a source who says the man in this picture tried to sell him the necklace stolen from August Ellis just a few days ago."
"Sergeant Gudgett!" Merring yelled across the room.
"Yes, sir?" Gudgett said as he appeared at the chief's elbow.
"Give Constable Stratton every assistance she needs, Sergeant. Make sure this arrest is by-the-book." He showed Gudgett the photograph. "I don't want Mr Butler slipping off on a technicality."
Gudgett glanced at the photo then over at Adelaide and Harry saw him give the constable a small nod before he said, "Every resource, yes sir."
Adelaide and Harry shared a cab out to the docks and Butler's office.
"Did Doctor Doyle say anything else when he called you this morning?" Adelaide asked after they'd been moving for several minutes.
Harry shook his head. "Only that the last treatment was last night and he wanted to be at the hospital today in case Touie woke up."
Adelaide studied Harry's face for a moment then asked, "Do you think it's going to work?"
Harry glanced over at her with a small smile. "Of course it will work," he said. "It has to," he whispered and Adelaide almost didn't hear him.
She gave him a few minutes then changed the subject. "Sergeant Gudgett wants you to wait outside when we go in to get Butler."
"What? Why?" Harry asked and frowned.
"You heard Chief Merring, everything by-the-book. We don't want anything Butler or his lawyer could use as a reason to have the case dropped."
"Fine," Harry said but Adelaide could see he wasn't happy.
They arrived at the office and Harry stood by the police wagon as Adelaide directed the half-dozen bobbies with her on where to enter the building. She gave him one last nod before she headed off to the main door.
She walked in the office and over to the woman seated at the desk just inside the door. "I'm Constable Stratton with Scotland Yard," Adelaide told the woman. "I have warrants to search the offices and warehouses, and also to arrest Jonathan Butler. Is he in his office?" She asked as she walked past the desk and headed for the closed door behind the woman.
The woman made a token effort to stop her, but one of the officers stepped forward and the woman sat back at her desk and hung her head.
Adelaide opened the door and found the red-haired man alone by one of the bookcases. "Where is Mr Butler?" she asked the man and directed one of the officers with her to take charge of him.
"You're too late, Copper," he said with a cocky grin. "Jackie did a runner as soon as he saw you out the window."
"Search the warehouses and the docks," Adelaide directed to the group of officers standing behind her. "Hopkins, you stay here with me and place this … gentleman under arrest."
Hopkins grabbed the red-haired man and expertly handcuffed his clenched hands behind his back. Adelaide glanced out the window and watched police officers fan out to search the nearest warehouse. Harry was no longer by the police wagon and she wondered where he'd got to.
"What's your name?" she asked the red-haired man as Hopkins pushed him into a chair and stood next to it.
The red-haired man sat straight in the chair and glared first at her then at Hopkins as the officer slapped the back of his head. "Constable Stratton asked you a question," Hopkins growled and slapped him again.
"Red. Call me Red," Red said with another glower.
"Red," Adelaide noted the name on her pad. "I have a witness who says you tried to sell him a necklace that was stolen two years ago from an estate outside London."
"People will say anything you pay 'em enough," Red replied and his cocky smile reappeared.
Adelaide nodded and wandered around the office. "That may be true, but I also have a photograph showing you with another stolen item, the Beatrice diamond which disappeared three years ago."
Red's smile never wavered. "You got anything on me that ain't ancient history?"
Before she could follow up on the diamond, Adelaide heard a commotion in the outer office and turned as Harry entered the office and looked around. "He got away from me," he explained and studied the office for a few moments then went over the the bookcases behind the desk.
"Who got away from you? And why aren't you waiting outside like I asked?" Adelaide hissed at him as she joined him by the bookcases.
"Butler," Harry replied. "Just as you all went in the front door, I saw him come out a little half-door in the back of the building." As he talked, Houdini ran his fingers over the various books and items on the shelves. "I chased after him, but I lost him down around the docks."
Houdini ran his fingers over a series of books and pulled one slightly. There was an audible click and the bookcase swung back from the wall to reveal a passage large enough for a man to crawl through. "I'd say this is how he got away from you, Constable. Pretty clever, really."
Adelaide bent down enough to peer into the passage, then turned back to Red. "So your boss just left you here and you're fine with that?"
Red shrugged but said nothing.
Harry continued to prowl around the rest of the bookcases and Adelaide watched as he found another hidden button and the frame around a painting of a sailing ship clicked open to reveal a small wall safe. "Butler really likes his secret buttons," he mumbled just loud enough for Adelaide to hear.
Adelaide noticed Red paled slightly when Harry found the safe.
"We'll need to call a locksmith to get that open," Adelaide remarked as she looked at the safe over Harry's shoulder. "By-the-book, remember," she reminded him as he reached for the combination lock.
Harry glanced from the safe to Red who was no longer smiling, and nodded. "Whatever you want, Constable," he said and moved away from the painting and its hidden safe.
An officer came in the office to report on the warehouse search and Adelaide sent him to report their progress to Chief Merring and find a locksmith to open the safe.
It was almost an hour before the bobby returned not only with a locksmith, but Sergeant Gudgett as well. Harry watched as the locksmith laid out his tools and Adelaide wondered what new tricks Houdini would learn as a result of this investigation.
"Well, Constable," Gudgett said and led Adelaide out of the office as the locksmith set to work. "I hope you have something good, otherwise the cost of the locksmith will be deducted from your pay."
"I don't think we'll be disappointed, Sergeant. Red," she explained and nodded at the man still seated next to Hopkins in the office, "Started acting odd as soon as Harry found the safe. There's something in there he doesn't want us to find, I'm sure of it." They re-entered the room just in time to see the locksmith give Houdini a satisfied nod and turn the handle of the safe.
"Well, well, look what we found," Harry said as he peered into the safe and lifted out a heavy silver necklace set with a center diamond and several smaller emeralds surrounding it.
Adelaide looked at the necklace. "Doyle will be happy it wasn't melted down." Harry gave her a strange look and she continued, "When we went to talk to …" she glanced at Red. "one of my sources, Doctor Doyle asked several times if the necklace was still in one piece. I think he wants to return it to Mr Ellis. Give his friend a little peace."
Harry gave her the necklace and reached back into the safe and pulled out the earrings and a thick stack of banknotes. He handed Adelaide the earrings while Gudgett took the money.
"My source will identify this as the necklace you tried to sell him," Adelaide said and turned to Red still handcuffed in the chair by the desk. "Is there anything you want to tell us?"
Red just glared up at her from his chair and refused to say anything.
"Take him back to the station, Hopkins," Adelaide ordered and Hopkins jerked Red to his feet.
As Hopkins led his prisoner out of the room, Harry called out, "Hang in a sec, Hopkins. Constable, take a look." He pointed to the palms of Red's hands.
Adelaide stopped at Harry's side and looked at Red's hands, the palm of his left hand had a jagged cut from the center of his hand almost to the edge of his palm.
"Officer Hopkins, could this injury be the result of firing a Webley revolver with a damaged grip?" Adelaide asked.
Hopkins glanced at Red's hands and nodded. "I'd say so, Constable. I saw several cut up hands in the service. Men that didn't properly take care of their weapons injured themselves almost as often as the enemy."
"I think we may have found our murderer as well," Adelaide replied as Red squirmed in Hopkins' hold on his arm. "Anything you'd like to say now, Red?"
Red lunged at Adelaide but Hopkins quickly pulled him back as Harry pushed him away. "You ain't got nuthin' on me, Copper. I ain't sayin' a word."
Hopkins pulled Red out of the office and Sergeant Gudgett followed behind them, the banknotes and the jewelry safely stowed in his top coat pocket.
Harry looked up from reorganizing his stage props when he heard a door close and looked up to see Adelaide walking down the center aisle to the stage.
"So did he finally confess?" Harry asked and put down the box he was holding.
"He didn't have to," Adelaide replied as she joined him on the stage. "There's a young constable at the station interested in the scientific possibilities of police investigation. He found a fingerprint on one of the shell casings inside the revolver Hopkins found at the Ellis house, and compared the print he found to the fingerprints of Mr Jason "Red" Flanagan. They were a match.
"Once Sergeant Gudgett pointed that out to him, Flanagan admitted Butler wanted Sullivan killed for holding out on the gang with regard to the necklace Sullivan stole from Hazel Ellis two years ago."
"Don't let Chief Merring hear how his constables are taking after Sherlock Holmes," Harry said with a grin. "Probably shouldn't tell Doyle, either. We'd never hear the end of it."
Adelaide smiled slightly but her face quickly settled back into a frown as she wandered backstage.
"For someone who just closed two big cases in one day, you don't seem very happy," Harry pointed out as he followed her backstage and offered her a chair.
"Chief Merring informed me in no uncertain terms how unhappy he was we let Butler get away," she said as she sat with her arms braced on her knees.
Harry pulled up a second chair and sat across from her. "There's no way we could have known about a secret door behind a bookcase," he said and leant back in his chair.
"No, probably not," Adelaide said with a sigh. "Merring still had to tell the press Butler escaped. Again. He really wanted to get Butler off the streets and this was the best chance we've had to do that."
"Something tells me you will get another chance. You broke up a pretty successful crime ring. Butler won't be able to stay in the shadows for long if he wants to build another one," Harry reassured.
Harry tapped at the door to the hospital room and quietly entered the dimly lit room. He glanced at the still woman in the bed for a moment before he focused on the man standing near a stained glass window.
"What are you doing here, Harry," Doyle asked in a low voice but didn't turn around.
Harry stopped a few steps away and said, "How did you know it was me?"
Doyle's head dropped down to his chest for a moment before he finally turned around. "Because everyone else who knows where I am would know to leave me alone." He turned back to the window.
Harry walked over to the desk and sat down. He took the late edition of the paper out of his pocket, put his feet up on the edge of the desk, and started to read by the dim light of the lamp in the corner of the room.
"What are you doing?" Doyle asked from the window.
Harry glanced up. "I'm reading the newspaper," he said and shook the paper slightly.
"Harry, go home."
"Can't," Harry replied and turned a page of the paper. "I have this good friend who's worried about his wife and family. Someone should stay with him. Let him know he's not alone."
Harry glanced up and noticed Doyle's shoulders were stiff as he stared out the window and ignored him.
"Don't be like Ellis," Harry murmured after a few moments of silence.
Harry knew the comment had hit its mark when Doyle ducked his head again before he walked over to the desk and sat down. Harry took a second copy of the paper from his suit coat pocket and handed it over before going back to his own.
"So you solved the case I see," Doyle commented a few minutes later and pointed to the headline on the front page.
"Yep, caught the murderer and broke up a pretty impressive burglary ring. Too bad Jonathan Butler got away, though."
"The report says Scotland Yard got a confession. How did you know who to arrest?"
Harry grinned and put down his paper. "Would you believe Sullivan actually helped us catch his killer? We found a picture in that box from his sister's house of Jonathan Butler and Jason Flanagan. Flanagan is the one who tried to pawn the necklace to Addy's connection by the way. The photo also showed Butler and Flanagan with a diamond that belonged to a countess."
"You two solved the case of the Countess Beatrice diamond, too?" Doyle said in surprise. "You have been busy."
"And we didn't have to search any of the geese in London to do it," Harry replied with a laugh. Doyle rolled his eyes and Harry was pleased to see a small smile on Arthur's face in response.
"What about Hazel Ellis' necklace and earrings?" Doyle asked.
"We found them in a safe in Butler's office. Addy says since Flanagan confessed to the murder and possession of stolen goods they won't need the necklace after the hearing in the morning. You can give them back to your friend."
Doyle nodded and glanced toward the bed.
"Any change at all?" Harry asked quietly.
Doyle shook his head. "Doctor Perlow seems to think she is breathing easier. I-I'm not as sure."
"It'll work," Harry said. "You'll see. It'll work."
"Sometimes I wish I had your confidence," Doyle replied with a fleeting smile.
Harry picked up the paper again and started to read. "Well it's a good thing I have enough for both of us."
One week later
Adelaide knocked at the door to Doctor Doyle's townhouse and smiled at Vera as the housekeeper opened the door and let her in.
"Constable Stratton, how nice to see you, again," Vera said as she took Adelaide's top coat and hung it on the rack near the door. "The Doctor is in his study," she finished and nodded down the hall.
"Any news," Adelaide asked in a whisper and Vera led the way down the hall.
"No," she replied with a sad shake to her head. "He's put on a brave face, but the children and I know there's little hope of Mrs Doyle coming home." Vera sniffed quietly before she knocked at the study door. "Constable Stratton is here, sir," she announced and Adelaide walked into the study.
Doyle glanced up from some papers on his desk as she walked over to the desk and sat in the chair in front of it. "I've missed seeing you at the station," she said with a small smile. "Chief Merring thinks you're out of his hair for good."
"I've just been … busy," he replied, absently as he glanced up at her then back at the file on his desk. "The Strand is ready to publish and I've got to get these last few chapters done."
Adelaide nodded and gave him the lie. She knew from talking to Houdini Doyle spent nearly everyday at the sanitorium. She took a small package wrapped in cotton wool from her pocket and put it on the corner of his desk. "I'm sorry it took so long, but I have Mrs Ellis' necklace and earrings." She patted the bundle on the desk. "I thought you'd want to be the one to return them to Mr Ellis."
Doyle picked up the package and nodded. "Thank you, Adelaide. I'll see August before I go out to … before I run some other errands. I can stop by the station if you'd care to come with me."
Adelaide stood from her chair. "I think he would much rather see you than the official police," she said as she walked to the door to the study and stopped. "If there is anything I can do for you -"
Doyle stood from his desk and met her at the door to the hallway. "Thank you, Adelaide. I'm fine. Really."
She frowned slightly but let the matter drop as he escorted her back to the front door.
Doyle knocked at the door to the Ellis townhouse and grabbed at his hat as a stray gust of wind blew down the street.
"Hello, William," Doyle greeted the butler as he answered the door. "I have some good news for August."
"Hello, sir," William replied and opened the door wide enough for Doyle to escape the blustery wind. "Mr Ellis is in his study," he finished as he took Doyle's top coat and hat.
"Thank you, William." Doyle walked down the short hall with its bare walls and entered the study. August Ellis was at his desk staring into the fire, a decanter of whiskey and a glass at his elbow. Arthur took the cotton wool bundle from his suit coat pocket and laid it in front of Ellis before he sat down in the chair across the desk.
"Scotland Yard asked me to return that to you, Ellis. It's one of the few items they were able to recover from the burglary ring and I'm relieved to tell you both the necklace and earrings are completely intact."
Ellis carefully unrolled the cotton and his hand shook slightly as he picked up the silver necklace, the diamond winked at him as it slowly spun back and forth on its chain. "She was always afraid to wear this, you know," August said in a low voice. "She didn't think it was quite the thing. She thought it was too heavy so she kept it locked away." He set the diamond twirling on its chain again. "She said she wanted it kept safe so she could give it to Emily when she turned sixteen." Ellis looked up at the portrait of his wife. "Now both of them are gone."
Doyle wasn't sure what to say. He lived at the edges of the grief Ellis inhabited but he didn't know what to do for the other man.
"Ellis, I am sorry, for Hazel, for what happened two years ago with Sullivan." Doyle stopped as Ellis looked over at him.
"Thank you for bringing it back. It's funny, I never even realised it was gone, but I'm glad you brought it back."
"If there's anything I can do," Doyle started to say and as Ellis shook his head. Arthur was struck by the irony of Adelaide saying the same thing to him only a few hours ago and saw his own stolid response in Ellis' head shake.
He stood and watched as Ellis spun the diamond in its chain once more. "I'll let myself out," he said softly and left the room and the house.
As he hailed a cab and gave the address for the sanitorium, he told himself he needed to talk to the constable and thank her for her friendship and support. He needed to take Harry's advice, and not be like Ellis.
Harry glanced at his watch as he left the hotel. He and Doyle had an unspoken agreement after that first night they spent reading the newspaper; he promised to give Doyle a few hours each day alone with Touie, if Doyle promised to eat dinner with Harry, either at the townhouse, the Metropole, or any restaurant Doyle wanted to name.
As he waited with the doorman for a cab to take him out to the sanatorium, he adjusted his gloves against the bitter wind and glanced up the street. He'd had a feeling for the past several days he was being watched or followed, but he never saw anyone out of the ordinary and chalked it up to worry about Doyle and Touie. Now as he looked around, he thought he saw a half-familiar face duck around the side of the hotel, but the cab arrived and he put it out of his mind.
He arrived at the hospital and made his way up to Touie's room, the nurses knew him now and several nodded and smiled as he walked up the stairs to the floor with Touie's room. He knocked softly and entered to see Doyle seated near the bed holding his wife's hand. Arthur looked up at Harry, nodded, and smiled as he, Harry, headed for the desk and his usual spot for their evening vigil.
He'd only been there for half an hour when he noticed a change in the woman in the bed. He looked up from his book and caught the surprised smile on Doyle's face as Touie took another deep breath and slowly opened her eyes.
"Arthur?" she whispered and Harry saw the tears in Doyle's eyes as he leant forward so his wife could see him.
"I'm right here," he answered, "I'll always be right here."
Touie took another, deeper, breath and slowly smiled. "Hello, my love," she whispered.
Doyle ducked his head and softly kissed his wife's fingers.
Harry quietly stood up and made his way to the door and out to the hall. He found the nearest nurse, told her what had happened and asked her to make sure Doctor Perlow and Doctor Biggs were informed. Then he left the hospital.
His first stop would be the townhouse to let Vera know Doyle had good news for the children. Then he headed to the station to tell Adelaide. He couldn't help the huge smile on his face as he left the sanitorium.
The spirit photographs described are some of the pictures taken by William Hope.
Thank you for reading episode two of my virtual season! Episode three is in the works and should be published soon. Feedback is always appreciated and helps feed the muse. Comments and/or kudos always welcome.