Tags : :
Chapter I: The Maximilian Stone
Sherry Rathbone, an 18 year-old amateur detective, was lying on the floor in the dark and gloomy basement. Her wrists were securely bound behind her back with a piece of rope and so were her feet and knees. Another rope was tied around her chest. The helpless girl was also gagged with a bandanna stuffed in her mouth and another one firmly tied around her mouth. The other bandanna served as a blindfold.
She’s been there for quite a long time, desperately struggling with her bonds and furiously moaning through her gag. This situation seemed to be hopeless but she did not give up and struggled on and on.
The door opened and she heard a familiar voice: “Sherry, Sherry! Are you here?”
Our detective responded with another unintelligible groan.
The lights went on and Lucy Baker glimpsed her best friend tied up on the floor.
“Look what do we have here? Are you into this or are you solving another crime?” giggled Lucy.
Loud moans from Sherry’s silenced mouth made her laugh even more.
“What did you say? I didn’t understand. Oh, sorry you have a gag in your mouth.” Lucy was standing there laughing and making fun of her helpless friend. Finally she decided to free her.
At first she took off the blindfold. Sherry gave her a very angry look. After she was un-gagged she said only: “I will kill you, Lucy Baker.” This was just another reason for Lucy to laugh.
“Ok, why are you tied up? What happened?” asked Lucy after she began undoing the ropes.
“Do you remember our last case?”
“Yeah! Those mysterious housebreakings.”
“Correct! Then you will also remember that our mysterious housebreaker tied us up. I was like this two times during one night and in neither of these cases was I able to free myself. That’s frustrating. So I decided to practise. Every day I ask my younger sister to tie me up and I try to escape. No success yet but I feel that it will get better soon.”
“Well, good luck then.”
Sherry sat on the floor and rolled up the sleeves of her red flannel shirt and started rubbing her sore wrists.
“I need more practice and so do you, Lucy, if you want to assist me with my cases.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I have more important things to do.”
“Like this date tonight with that Douglas guy? What’s his name? Johnny? And he’s taking you to the Partington club.”
“Yeah, exactly. How did you know all that?”
“It’s not hard to deduce. You’re wearing a short leather skirt, stockings and a white blouse. Why else would you dress like that? Certainly not for hanging around with me.”
Her friend blushed a little bit.
“You are right but how do you know with whom?
“I’ve seen him several times looking at you at school. It was only a matter of time when he asks you out.”
“Ok but what about the place?”
“The Partington club?” It’s the most expensive place in this town and he is the son of Rita Douglas, the owner of Douglas Industries, maybe the wealthiest person in the whole Bakersfield. So it is only logical that if he wants to make an impression at the first date, he will take you to the most expensive place.”
Lucy was amazed. How does she do that? She thought.
“You will never stop astonishing me, Sherry. But maybe you should go out sometimes too. It’s not normal for the girl of your age to lie in the basement bound and gagged. What about that reporter, Richie, who saved us during that stolen painting case? He invited you for a dinner, didn’t he?”
“Yeah we had a dinner once. I like him. He’s really a nice guy but I don’t have time for this romantic stuff. I need to educate myself and practise if I want to be the greatest detective since Sherlock Holmes.”
“Come on. Sherlock Holmes is only a fictional character. He never really existed.”
“Yes he did.”
“Oh my god we have been through all this thousand times. You should grow up.” What Lucy really hated about her friend was that Sherry, the most intelligent person she has ever met, wasn’t able to admit that her favorite detective Sherlock Holmes was only a character made up by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She was always saying that all of Sherlock’s stories actually happened and were recorded by Doctor Watson and Doyle was according to her only a literary agent who published them. Nobody was able to convince her that she was wrong.
“Don’t argue with me. You know that I’m right.”
Lucy gave up like every time when this kind of discussion occurred.
“OK Miss Naive, I gotta go. I don’t wanna be late. See you tomorrow.”
“Have a great time, Lucy.”
The following morning, Sherry Rathbone was sitting on her bed reading the newspaper. “The Precious Diamond stolen” said the headline on the front page of The Bakersfield Chronicle. Sherry, who was interested in every crime committed in the town, started to read the article.
“Last night, shortly before midnight, an unknown intruder broke into the mansion of Robert Deerfield, the head of the Bakersfield Museum. The burglar bound and gagged Miss Darby Deerfield, his daughter, who was the only person in the house. According to the police report, ten thousand dollars were stolen from the vault as well as all the Mrs. Deerfield’s jewelry, including the precious Maximilian Stone, the priceless diamond originally given by the last Mexican Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg to his wife Charlotte. Mr. Deerfield bought the diamond last year in the auction. Miss Deerfield was discovered tied up in her bedroom, two hours after the burglary took place, by her parents who have just returned from the party. According to her the intruder was masked and armed but she was still too shocked to tell us more details about the last night’s events. Police is now investigating the case. Mr. Deerfield promised a reward if the diamond was found.”
“That’s very interesting.” said Sherry to herself. “It’s time to see Richie.”
An hour later, Sherry found herself in the office of reporter Richie Gloucester, her friend and admirer. For the purpose of her visit she changed out of her usual outfit consisting of jeans, t-shirt and red flannel shirt into a white blouse, plaid mini-skirt and stockings and now she was sitting on his desk, giving him her best flirtatious looks and trying to persuade him to tell her more about the case.
“Get out! I’m too busy. Everything is in the paper.” Even though Richie was in love with her, today he was not in the right mood for her inquisitive questions.
“C’mon Richie, tell me more details. There must be something that wasn’t in that article.”
“There’s nothing else. Get out!”
After several more minutes of Sherry’s best smiles and the cutest looks, she was able to produce, he melted.
“OK, but under one condition.”
“I was afraid you would say that. What is it?”
“I’ve got two tickets for tonight’s movie The Mutated Gorillas from Planet 9 Strike Back. Will you come with me?”
“Well, I think I will have to sacrifice myself.” She knew that Richie was a B-movie freak but the title of this movie was too much for her. She would have rather spent two hours bound and gagged in her basement than watching this but she didn’t have any choice.
“So, there are some strange details that weren’t in that article. First the vault wasn’t opened by any force. The burglar must have known the combination.”
“Maybe he threatened Darby and she told him that.”
“Yes I thought so too but according to her father, he and his wife were the only one to know. Darby didn’t.”
“I see. And it is not logical that they would steal their own money and tie their only daughter up in her bedroom.”
“The other strange thing is that there were no signs of forced entry. Either the door wasn’t locked or she let him in deliberately.”
“That’s very remarkable. Maybe she conceals something.”
“Maybe but you did not see her. When I arrived there to interview her she was still deeply shaken. She was still crying and sobbing and repeating how frightened she was and how awful it was to be bound and gagged etc. I don’t think she has anything to do with it. By the way, do you know her?”
“Yeah I do, from the school. She is one of those stupid arrogant big-headed high society dames. Everybody who don’t have Ferrari or Porsche is not a human being according to her.”
“I see, our little princess. Ok, I guess that is all I can tell you. I pick you up at six.”
“Sure, I gotta prepare myself for the fight with the mutated gorillas from planet whatever. Anyway thank you very much and see you later.”
It was a wonderful wedding. Sherry was dressed in the white Victorian wedding gown and she was walking slowly towards the altar during the sounds of the wedding march. And there he stood in front of the altar wearing the black suit and cylinder, Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street himself, the man of her dreams, Mister Perfect. Soon her dreams will come true and she will become Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, the wife of the one whom she loved and adored most in the whole world. Everybody was there, Lucy Baker, her sister and parents and all of her friends. Doctor Watson was sitting there deeply touched by that beautiful moment, Mrs. Hudson was crying, even inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard came to see this memorable event.
“Do you take Mr. Sherlock Holmes to be your lawful wedded husband?” asked the priest. She was just about to say “Yes, I do” when the abominable mutated gorillas from planet 9 appeared and with terrible screams started to smash everything to pieces.
Sherry woke up screaming. She was covered with sweat and breathing deeply.
“It was such a lovely dream and those stupid gorillas spoiled it. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them!!!!”
Then she remembered the worst movie she has ever seen.
“Richard Gloucester, I will never go to the movies with you again. I hate you.” She screamed into the night.
It was 4 a.m. but she was afraid to fall asleep again. What if those gorillas returned?
She was just lying in her bed contemplating about the Maximilian Stone case again. After two hours she was absolutely positive that Darby Deerfield wasn’t only the helpless victim of this terrible crime and she must have known something more than she said to the police. But there was no way Sherry could have proven it.