The pause was almost palpable and I could easily imagine some of the thoughts racing through the great detective’s mind. Of course with Holmes no one could know everything that spun through that magnificent brain of his.
At last he spoke. “Watson, there are too many conflicting paths at this juncture to postulate which way to turn. I have at least five possible theories that are still viable after our current state of examinations and interviews. If you can shed some light from your medicinal province it may help me to narrow the field further.”
It was tempting because, after all, the case must come first, but I was not about to give in so easily.
“Do any of your theories allow for a drug-induced cause to his dancing?” I prompted.
He brightened, “Yes, doctor, that would fit at least two of them.”
Finally I acquiesced and announced my suspicions. “Are you familiar with Syndenham’s Chorea, more commonly known as St. Vitus Dance?”
“Indeed, Watson. However I considered it only briefly since it is primarily confined to children and adolescents.”
“Yes, Holmes, but there are other forms of Chorea that can be contracted by a man of the Earl’s age and some of them can be induced by drug use.”
“Fascinating, doctor,” he replied. “If that is indeed the cause of his behavior it could simplify things considerably.”
“Your turn, old man,” I demanded. “Tell me at least one of your theories that fits with my hypothesis.”
“Very well,” he stated flatly. “Let us talk as we walk. I wish to check around the house for signs that his Lordship did, in fact, return for his luggage.”
Holmes theory was fascinating as it took into account the possibility of drug use, a relationship of some form with the Lady Forecastle and how the divorce of the Forecastles may be related, as well as the Earl’s statement about being “undone” but Lady Beasley being safe.
“So, that is why you stated that you wished to go the Forecastle’s today as well?”
“I am certain there is a connection there, Watson. Ah ha !” he cried as he stooped to examine the ground near the rear entrance to the manor house. “See here, doctor. Several prints from horse hooves and from the type of shoe I’ll wager they belong to the famous Blackjack. Come, Watson, it’s time we sojourned on to visit the other players in this game.”
We strode off to the stable and, after confirming the shoeprint with Carter, Holmes had the groomsman ready a horse and trap for our own journey while I returned to the house, retrieved the map I had drawn and induced the cook to pack us a lunch.
It was roughly 5 miles to Warwick proper but we came to a crossroad after only about a mile at Radford Semele. Holmes pulled our steed to a stop and bounded to the ground to examine the road. The overcast and dew of the previous days still held many tracks but finally the detective found that which he sought. Clambering back aboard he pulled the horse’s reins sharply to the right and we set off northward toward Offchurch.
“Is this the way to the Forecastle’s ?” I inquired of my friend.
“Yes, and it is the way that Sir Arthur rode his stallion on that fateful night.”
Soon we found ourselves at the entrance to the grounds of Forecastle Heights. Stopping short of the gates, Holmes again left my side and examined the pathway. Upon his return I asked what he had found.
“The Earl was here, Watson. However, he has left again and seems to be headed northeast.”
Being somewhat turned around I asked, “Where would that take him, Holmes?”
“If he turns left at the Welsh Road he could make for Kenilworth Castle to see Lord Clarendon.”
“For what purpose?”
“One step at a time, my friend. First let us see what we can learn from the Forecastles.”
Arriving at the manor we pulled our trap under a covered portico. This was one of the newer buildings in the district, the Forecastles having demolished the old house, much to the chagrin of historians and archeologists. Replacing the termite-infested wood and crumbling stones was a fine three-storey red brick structure with white trim, balconies and the portico where we disembarked.
We met the butler at the door, a medium height gentleman with broad shoulders filling out his coat and a broader stomach that overflowed it, stretching the buttons of his waistcoat to the limit. He requested to know the nature of our business.
“I am Sherlock Holmes,” announced the detective, “and this is my colleague, Dr. John Watson. We wish to speak to Lord and Lady Forecastle on a private matter regarding the Earl of Beasley.”
The butler stiffened at the name of Sir Arthur and curtly replied, “That person is no longer welcome in this household. If you are friends of his I must ask you to depart.”
Holmes held up his hand, “Wait, my good man, we are neither friend nor foe to Lord Beasley. We are merely seeking his whereabouts on behalf of the Lady Beasley, and the doctor here has some medical information that may be of use to your mistress.”
The paunchy servant hesitated and then bade us wait in the foyer while he inquired of his mistress as to her availability.
“Holmes,” I elbowed my friend, “what medical information did you expect me to impart?”
“If the Earl is suffering from a drug-induced form of Chorea, m’lady may wish to know it as his friend. She may also possibly be his partner in these drug experiments.”
Before I could question as to how he came to that supposition the butler returned and had us follow him to greet Lady Forecastle in her library.
The modernization of the home did not exclude the old manor feel as we were escorted into a room that included ancient tapestries, sculptures and paintings of the Forecastle ancestry. The Lady Forecastle was seated in an overstuffed, hunter green chair near the windows that allowed sunshine to come over her shoulder should she wish to read by daylight. It was not conducive to reading her face, however, being in shadow with the afternoon light shining in our eyes.
The butler introduced us and left. We were not invited to sit down. Instead she gazed at us coolly without saying a word. She was a comely woman in her late twenties with auburn hair that fit well with her name as I recalled it being ‘Colleen”, and her aristocratic Irish background. Holmes opened the conversation.
“Thank you for seeing us, Lady Forecastle. Will his Lordship be joining us?”
She stiffened slightly and answered in her most formal tone, “Lord Forecastle is not in England at present. Whatever you have to say, I will decide what is worthy to pass along to him.”
Holmes nodded, “I’ve read of your troubles m’lady and I do not wish to exacerbate them. However it is imperative that we find Lord Beasley. His health could be at risk.”
At the mention of the missing Earl’s health her right hand went to her throat. “What is wrong with Arthur… that is, Lord Beasley’s health?”
At this question I gave a slight bow and replied, “It is unknown for certain, however I notice that your left hand is exhibiting some of the same symptoms.”
She quickly reached down and squeezed her trembling extremity. Lifting her head in defiance she answered, “My condition has nothing to do with Lord Beasley.”
“But something you share may very well be affecting him.” Answered Holmes, “I know he came here on the night he disappeared. I suspect that it was in an effort to save your honor from what your husband has falsely accused you of.”
“How could you possibly know what my husband has accused me of, or that his suspicions are completely false? None of that information was reported in the papers and I have not told a soul.” answered our host.
Holmes softened his tone and responded, “There are very few causes for divorce that a man of his Lordship’s standing could possibly hope to succeed in and retain public opinion on his side. The most obvious would be an implication of infidelity on your part. Forgive me m’lady, I do not wish to be indelicate. However I also do not believe that charge to be true. Sir Arthur and your husband have been great friends for many years and I do not believe it is in the character of the man whose rooms I’ve examined to cuckold his best friend.”
“Thank you, Mr. Holmes.” She answered, “I’ve tried explaining that to my husband but he has listened to the gossip-mongers and when he found us together when he was not expected to be home he assumed our surprise to be caused by guilt.”
“But your guilt was not the result of an illicit relationship,” declared Holmes. “You share a different type of secret with Sir Arthur.
The emotions were too much for the lady to bear any longer and she buried her face in her hands in tears.
“Yes, it’s true,” she cried. “Arthur and I share a curse.”
“An addiction?” I ventured.
“Yes, doctor,” she paused and with a lifting of her head in great resolve continued, “I see I must confess all if there is to be any hope to salvage all our lives.”