The Case Of The Empty Casket
The Case Of The Empty Casket7 mins 23.5K 7 mins 23.5K
Steady storm loomed across entire London, with Baker Street being no exemption. The storm seemed to blow away the criminals from the roads, for there were no crimes reported, much to the displeasure of my friend Holmes. Those were the days when I was unmarried and used to reside at 221B, Baker Street. I could still clearly recollect the details of that day, when an old acquaintance of Holmes had approached him, with a peculiar request.
Mrs. Hudson, the land lady, had brought a sealed envelope along with the early dinner. Holmes immediately tore open the envelope. After reading its contents, he said ‘It appears that, any time now, we would be hosting an old acquaintance of mine, Watson.’ As if confirming his statement, a few minutes later, Mrs. Hudson had announced the arrival of Colonel Brandon.
On the first look, one could guess that Colonel Christopher Brandon was a quiet, dignified and well-to-do person, emitting authority yet portraying humbleness. Gesturing him to occupy an empty chair, Holmes asked him, ‘You shouldn’t have ventured out in a weather like this in your condition, Colonel.’ Being a doctor and intrigued by friend’s statement, I had taken a good look at the person before us once again. The left side of his forehead was slightly swollen and covered in mild scars.
Giving a small smile, as an acknowledgement to the brilliant detective, he said, ‘I wish to speak with you in private, Mr. Holmes.’
Gesturing towards me, Holmes said ‘Dr. Watson is no threat to any confidential information that you would like to share with me, Colonel.’ Encouraging him to continue, I gave him, an assuring smile.
Sighing he began, ‘As you have already noticed, I had met with an unfortunate accident. I would have visited you awhile before, if I was not contained to my bed. I had suffered concussion and I am currently recovering from mild amnesia. From the moment that I had opened my eyes, I could not dislodge this persistent feeling that I had forgot something of vital importance. Later, when I was reading my journal to come in terms with the happenings of the past few weeks that I could not recollect, I had come across a note that I have written in it. It said, “Consult Mr. Sherlock Holmes, this is a matter of life or death.” So I had approached you as early as my health could permit me.’
‘Would you elaborate on the details of your accident?’ asked Holmes politely.
‘I had taken a fall from the terrace,’ he replied.
‘Could you remember, what were you doing on the terrace before the incident?’
‘No, Mr. Holmes. I still fail to recollect the happenings of the past few weeks. I could not help but wonder who’s live was threatened.’ Lifting his head and looking directly at Holmes, ‘I need answers, Mr. Holmes. I need to know what I was referring to, while I had written that note. I need to remember if I had indeed forgotten something of vital importance. I request you to visit my estate and see if you could notice something that would shed light upon my unknown worries. If you could help me, I promise to pay you ten times your usual charges. You know me to be a man of my word,’ he said.
‘I would like to help you, Colonel,’ said Holmes and the tensed man seemed to relax. ‘Dr. Watson and I, shall visit to your estate. Please expect us by noon, tomorrow’ said Holmes, offering his hand to the man. Shaking hands and thanking us both, he left.
‘You should rest for the day Watson, as it appears, we have a long journey ahead of us, tomorrow’ said Holmes.
We were warmly received by Colonel at the entrance of his huge mansion. Entire morning, Colonel had given us a tour of the estate. After the delightful lunch organized by Mrs. Brandon, Holmes had abandoned me. He had vanished to run a few errands and returned after the sunset. Though his body screamed exhaustion, the features of his face read, ‘Case is solved, Watson.’
Holmes said in a very tired voice, ‘I require more time, Colonel, as today’s happenings turned out to be fruitless.’ Seeing the disappointed look on our client’s face, he added smiling, ‘But I would like to have a thorough look, once again, tomorrow morning. I also request you to let us stay for the night.’ The Colonel immediately agreed and led us to the guest quarters to rest for the night.
Middle of the night, I was awakened by a shrill scream from the adjacent room. I had immediately run to the room and opened the door. A shocked Colonel was sitting on the couch holding his head between his hands, as if in severe pain. Detective Lestrade was withholding Mrs. Brandon with a pair of handcuffs. Holmes was tightly holding his bleeding hand. I immediately ran towards Holmes and worked on his wound. By the time, I had secured his hand, Detective Lestrade had left with Mrs. Brandon. Not lifting his head, Colonel Brandon had asked in a sorrow laden and trembling voice, ‘where is she, Mr. Holmes? She is dead, isn’t she?’
‘I am sorry to confirm your fears, Colonel. Yes, she was murdered. She is now resting in your brother’s casket’ replied Holmes.
‘Who?’ I asked, clueless about the sudden turn of the events.
‘My wife,’ said the Colonel, in a grave voice. ‘I have to...’ he said before walking out of the room, unable to finish the sentence.
‘But Mrs. Brandon was here, a few minutes ago. What is happening Holmes?’ I asked him.
‘She is not Mrs. Brandon. She is her twin sister and the murderer of the real Mrs. Brandon’ he said. Looking at the obvious shock on my face, he asked, 'Have you observed the walls on the corridor that led to the Colonel's bedroom, Watson?'
'The Colonel had the entire wall covered in the frames of letters that he had received from his wife' I answered.
'You are always a good observer Watson, but unfortunately not a keen one. If so, you would have noticed that most of them were love letters from Mrs. Brandon to the Colonel, before their marriage. The rest are the letters that she had written him as a gift for their anniversaries. The most peculiar thing that I had noticed was the slight difference in the handwriting in her recent letter. It was then that I suspected that the woman to whom we were introduced as Mrs. Brandon that morning, might be an imposter. This afternoon, I had wired Detective Lestrade to find out about the family details of Mrs. Brandon and my assumption turned right when he had informed me that she had a twin sister who has eloped with a foreigner awhile back. The Colonel had observed the sudden changes in his wife and he was also aware of the existence of her twin sister. He, alike me, had noticed the difference in the handwriting. His accident was indeed an attempted murder by his wife's sister, for she learned about his intent to pay a visit to a perfect detective. After escaping from her abusive husband, she had learnt that her sister had married Colonel Brandon and was living a happy life, which she had always dreamt about but failed to achieve. So she had formed a plan and requested her sister to meet alone. She had murdered her sister and assumed her place in the estate as Mrs. Brandon. She had thought that her plan was perfect enough to never rise a doubt. But Watson, it would never be enough. Secrets never stay buried for long. In this case, Colonel's love and devotion for his wife uncovered it.'
'Poor Colonel!' I said sitting on welcoming couch of our house. 'But how did you know that she was buried in the cemetery?' I asked him.
'Remember on our tour, the Colonel had mentioned that his brother had died in the war and the forces could not retrieve his body! He informed us that an empty casket was buried in his honour on his funeral. That afternoon, I had visited the cemetery and observed that the soil on the grave was recently disturbed.'
He chuckled at my awed expression and turned on his Middle Age music.