THE KIDNAPPING OF CHASEBROOK
[A Kerlock Shomes Mystery]
[Recorded by Dr. Warsaw]
London, June 30, 1943
Chief Inspector McPherson, of Scotland Yard, sat in his office on a late afternoon in June, bearing a look that would have been described by Elizabethan writers as "high dudgeon."
To everyone who had come into his presence since luncheon time he had been short, sarcastic, and decidedly caustic. The entire force in the outer office had wondered at it, and no one could account for this sudden change in his customary kindly manner.
Finally, Smithers, the Deputy Inspector, feeling that something was wrong, decided to "brace the boss" and find out what was the trouble, Accordingly, he knocked gently on the door of the private office and entered.
"Chief," said Smithers, "what's the idea? Everyone says you are in a fighting mood, but no one knows why. Has something gone wrong, or has that upstart Kerlock Shomes been knocking you again?"
"You said it, Smithers, and I'm fed up. That bozo is forever taking a crack at the finest detective force in the world, and of late his halfwit assistant has been giving us some unfavorable publicity. Just because Shomes was lucky enough to find the famous l¢ British Guiana stamp in a subway station, after it had been stolen from millionaire Greenspan, he thinks he put something over on the Yard."
"Frankly, Smithers, his arrogance has gone too far, and I shan't rest until I succeed in showing the stamp world that as a philatelic detective he is a complete flop."
"Only this noontime I met Shomes in the Strand and I told him bluntly to lay off or else. Of course, he expressed the highest regard for our organization, but suggested that of late we had been slipping. This naturally burned me up and I told him frankly to watch his step."
"I doubt if we hear anything more from the famous Kerlock for some time."
McPherson had hardly finished speaking when the private phone rang. The Chief answered it, and after a few minutes I heard him say, "Well, thanks for the tip Shomes, we'll get busy right away."
As he hung up, McPherson had a broad grin on his face, and he turned to Smithers, saying "apparently my warning of this noontime has borne fruit. Shomes reports that he has just had word that a prominent American philatelist visiting in London has been kidnapped, and that no clues have been discovered as to his whereabouts. He says his name is Chasebrook and that he has been staying at the Savoy, with a suitcase full of very rare stamps. Naturally, Shomes said, he also would try to locate the missing man, but he felt it only right to give the Yard the same opportunity."
It took only a few minutes for the two inspectors to reach the Savoy. Here, after proving their identity, they learned that the distinguished American philatelist had left the hotel carrying a heavy suitcase shortly after tea time. He had not checked out, and an inspection of the room on the seventh floor showed that, with the exception of his suitcase, the personal effects of the occupant were still there.
Inquiries of the doorman divulged that at about five o'clock two men drove up in a taxi, descended to the sidewalk, and waited till Chasebrook, carrying a suitcase, appeared. The latter, seeing that the cab was empty, entered it and was about to start when the two men waiting on the sidewalk hurried up and got in beside the other passenger. The cab drove off and that was the last seen of the "man with the suitcase."
The doorman had not noted the number of the taxi, hence it was impossible to trace where the driver took his fares. So the officials of Scotland Yard were stumped at the very outset, and it looked as if the famous guest of the Savoy had vanished into thin air.
Realizing that the kidnapping of a foreign member of the Royal Philatelic Society would cause a world sensation, the two inspectors were at a loss as to what to do. They were about to return to Headquarters when the clerk at the desk called Chief McPherson to the phone.
"Is that you, Mr. McPherson?" said the voice on the phone.
"Yes," replied the chief, "but who are you?"
"I am Chasebrook, and I understand I have been kidnapped."
"Well, haven't you?" said the chief.
"Kidnapped my eye," replied the voice. I've been spending some time with my old friend Kerlock Shomes and Dr. Warsaw, who hearing I was in town, called for me in a taxi this afternoon at my hotel. We have transacted our business, so why don't you come to Baker Street and have a spot of Scotch with us before the black-out comes on?"
McPherson, in spite of his many weaknesses, was a good sport, and he laughingly replied that he and Smithers would be right over.
As Mrs. Simpkins showed them into the upstairs living room (the house had been rebuilt since it was bombed out of existence), Shomes met his guests at the door and greeted them cordially.
"No hard feelings, McPherson," said Shomes, "especially as Dr. Warsaw and I are just as surprised as you are. This gentleman here, as we recently discovered, is not Mr. Chasebrook. As a matter of fact he is one of the cleverest crooks in all London. He has been staying at the Savoy, awaiting Chasebrook's arrival, and this afternoon attempted to get away with the American's valuable stamp collection. Warsaw and I got wind of it after I phoned you, and the taxi, in which we drove to the hotel, was a 'plant'."
"But," said McPherson, "how did you know that the impersonator of Chasebrook would pick up your taxi after you left it?"
"We didn't," said Shomes, "but we took the chance, After the crook got in, and Warsaw and I followed, I told the driver in no uncertain terms to beat it for Baker Street. I might add that a not too gentle tap on the head kept our other passenger quiet during the journey."
"Then," said the Chief, "you mean to tell me that Chasebrook is still at the Savoy?"
"I would hardly say that," replied Shomes, "since he has not been seen at his hotel since early this morning. His stamps, however, are in that suitcase over by the fireplace, and this gentleman, if we may call him that, took the liberty of removing them from Chasebrook's room while the latter was out. This theft runs into many thousands of pounds, and I am glad to give you the credit of landing the culprit. It was on my demand that he phoned you just now."
McPherson was all smiles. The past was forgiven and when the news appeared in the morning papers, Scotland Yard would be vindicated as the greatest sleuth organization in London.
He was just getting out his handcuffs when the doorbell rang. In a moment Mrs. Simpkins appeared at the entrance to the living-room, followed by a man who was the "spittin' image" of the culprit McPherson was about to arrest.
"Mr. Shomes," said Mrs. Simpkins, "this is a Mr. Chasebrook who said he had an appointment with you."
"Come right in, Chasebrook," said Shomes, "and let me introduce you to my very particular friends from Scotland Yard."
Whereupon Shomes presented him to McPherson and Smithers, and then added,"Dr. Warsaw I think you have met before. It is needless to introduce you (he winked his eye cautiously) to your twin brother who sits over there guarding your suitcase."
The officials from Scotland Yard could only gasp. What did all this mean? Incidentally, how could two people so exactly resemble each other as the two who now smiled so cordially across the room?
"McPherson," said Shomes, "I fear I owe you an apology. There are two Chasebrooks, both prominent American philatelists, and they are here in London to exhibit before the Royal Philatelic Society. Only the choicest items are ever shown before this august body. The Chasebrooks are identical twins, and when one of them left the hotel this morning little attention was paid to him."
"When twin number two left this afternoon, carrying a suitcase, and disappeared, the kidnapping idea was a natural result. Dr. Warsaw and I, however, have known for years that Chasebrook had a twin brother, so we were naturally on our guard. As fellow philatelists, they have come to call on us tonight.
"In any event the stamps are safe, no crook has developed, and the evening is young. Shall we have another drink while I limber up my new snare drum (I lost my old one in the recent bomb raid) and play you my latest rendition of Paderewski's Minuet?"
We all agreed, and sat enthralled (braced by excellent Scotch), while Kerlock performed on his famous instrument.
After they all had left, I said to Kerlock "how did you know that Chasebrook has a twin brother?"
"I didn't," he replied, "and he hasn't. That other man is a crook, pure and simple. He is an actor by profession, but has gone down in the world and is trying to eke out a living by impersonating famous men who come to London. He spotted Chasebrook, studied his face, and made up to imitate him. He succeeded so well that I could see that even Chasebrook was startled by the resemblance. Chasebrook, however, was too good a sport to give the show away, and as his stamps had been recovered, he did not wish to unmask his socalled twin. He saw my wink, and realized I wanted him to 'play up.'"
"But," I replied, "Chief Inspector McPherson seemed to be perfectly satisfied."
"Quite so," said Shomes, "but what can you expect from Scotland Yard. Ain't you never goin' to learn nothin'? Strictly speaking, I should have allowed McPherson to arrest the crook, but frankly, Warsaw, I'm sorry for him. As soon as I discovered his make-up, I realized he was the down-and-out actor, and I didn't have the heart to add further misery to his lot by seeing him get a long term in prison."
"But Shomes," I queried, "do you consider this is fair to the public, to let a dangerous crook go scot free?"
"Ordinarily, no," replied Shomes, "but I doubt if our imposter friend will err again. You will recall that, before they left, I stepped into my bedroom for a minute. There I hastily wrote a note which I slipped into the crook's hand as we said 'good bye.' In the note I warned him to go straight from now on, or I should be compelled to expose him to the Yard. I feel confident that his career of deception and thievery is over."
"Shomes," I answer, "I always knew you had a big heart, but you certainly love to put one over on the boys at Headquarters."