Redemption, or The Case of the Missing Doubloons

What was I thinking?
I can never pay

it all back by Monday morning.

Look at me, twitching,

rumpled shirt, red eyes,

unshaven, dry-mouthed.

 

Adelaide scans over
her normally neat

husband of five years.

“Why did you borrow

money from clients?
The Bank manager
will surely find out.”

Shoulders tensing up,

rouged cheeks turn redder

I must not crumple.

“Addy, I’m rumpled,

sick to my stomach.

You don’t know these people.

I had to settle
my gambling losses.

They said we know where you live
your daughter’s name.”

“Inéz, no? My God!”
She sits down slumping
His hands clench , unclench.

They can speak no more.

At 221B Baker Street a cab pulls up

. “Watson, you see that woman alighting from that hired hackney?

It is not love, but money, that sends her up to us.”

“Quite all right, Mrs. Hudson. The lady needs no calling card. Her resoluteness is her Open, Sesame.

***

 

Please sit down

Mrs.? “
“ Snart. Adelaide Snart.”

“ Holmes at your service. My colleague Dr. Watson, before whom

you may speak as freely as with me.
And you…”

“My husband Joseph does not know I’m here.”

He seems a nice man his eyes are piercing my secret I’m sure

“I would have sought help from the police, but…
his reputation
the Bank. The scandal.”

“Would you like some tea? It may calm your nerves.”

“I. Thank you. I must..”
“Proceed.” Holmes tilts his head sideways. Hands folded.

“Joseph has gambled often. Just small sums The Derby. Ascot. Emboldened by wins, lost at baccarat.

He borrowed money. Lost again. To pay,
he took client’s funds from the Bank. Monday 10 A. M. audit

will cost him his job. Marshalsea Prison
for debtors. Disgrace!”

Holmes abruptly announces,
“I cannot help you. A solicitor would be more useful.”

Holmes rises and gestures toward the door.

“He has disappeared.”

“You have not told me all. Whom have you seen to cover his losses? You need not deny it.
I smell his cigar. Spanish, I believe.”

“I can’t reveal him,
If Joseph would know, our marriage would end.”

Watson leans forward, reassures Mrs. Snart. “We hold this talk in strictest confidence.”

Holmes nods. Some thought in Adelaide wells up.

“My deep reluctance will be obvious
when you know I begged my former fiancé

for a loan this once. Albert Cáceres.”

Watson leans forward and interposes
“The House of Cáceres? The wine merchant?”

“Yes, but he declined! ‘Why should I now help the man who replaced me?’ was his cold reply.”

“Your husband’s legal exposure is grave.
I am not concerned about your husband’s vices, but I will help you locate him if you wish.”

I must not break down. Must be strong for two. Cry, a luxury.

“Thank you, Mr. Holmes.”

“Do not return here. Read The Times Sunday.
If I am successful, the Agony Column
will read: ” Thank you Saint Joseph for your help.” If not, ”When in need, pray to St. Joseph.”

“What more should I do?”
“Leave us the portrait pendant on your neck.

It is a good likeness of Joseph, I presume.

No fee if I do not succeed.”

Flustered, Mrs. Snart unfastens her pendant and hands it to Holmes.

She turns to leave but glances back with an unasked question.

And what if he fails?

Watson appears stunned though he knows Holmes’s tricks.

“How did you know that she wore Joseph’s picture?”

Holmes replies as he lights his pipe.
“She wanted him found. She’s very prescient.”

“Take her picture with you to Cheltenham. You will find him near the betting windows. The Grand National held today draws him for a quick redemption from his ruin.”

“And when I find him?
Bring him here at once.”

 

Watson leaves as Inspector Lestrade enters.

“Inspector LeStrade, to what do I owe
the pleasure of this Scotland Yard house call?”

“Holmes, let me be brief. Where is Mrs. Snart? I had her tailed. She has seen Cáceres,

the Crown is seeking him for illegal possession of Spanish bullion. Salvage
of a sunken ship is not permitted
within twelve miles of our coastline.
What has she told you of his whereabouts?”

“Come now, LeStrade. I pursue my leads as you do yours. Do not arrest your man until I spring my trap to catch my rat.”

I know my Joseph
likes to bet—he’ll be at the track. It’s a big race day
at Cheltenham.
I’ll leave my Inéz
with my sister, take
a tram to the track.

***

Where would Joseph be
standing for the race?
With little money,
he wouldn’t be sitting
in the grandstand
or a reserved box.
He’s not dressed for this posh racing crowd. It’s him! He’s in line to place a bet.

“Joseph, where have you been? I’ve been worried
What are you doing here?
Your ring is missing.

Have you pawned your wedding ring?

We have the money.
I sold the trousseau
saved for our Inéz.
Athousand pounds worth of laces, imported

from Paris, velvet dresses, receptions,
and for the Ascot!
Stop this madness, now!”

Oh no, it’s him. How? Who else knows he’s here? Joseph must not know.

Watson, knowing he cannot hide from her.
She stands by her man, no matter what fault he gives into.
She has recognized me.
I’ll let them be.
That can’t be Cáceres!

He’s following Snart into the men’s room.

“Nerves got the better of you, old chap?
Throwing up will clear your mind.
The horses are not for the faint of heart.
I should know.Here, take my handkerchief.
Oh. One more heave and you’ll feel better.
Your hands are trembling. When you clean up, visit me in my box.
My card. A Cáceres, wine merchant.
I’m in G-2.”

Adelaide is startled to see Dr. Watson. “Dr. Watson, why here?”

***

“Holmes sent me for Snart.”

“Now where has he gone? He had excused himself. He felt sick and weak.” ***

Joseph grabs his stub with sweaty hands.
I know Adelaide
means to save my job
but I must pay

out of my own means.
One ten-to-one bet…

“Your color is better, Mr.?”
“ Snart. Joseph Snart,”

“And what’s your poison today?” “Redemption.”

Ah, going big! But he’s not favored.” “Yes.

But my wife Adelaide must not know. No more wagering after this last big bet..”

This is going to be fun. She won’t know who took him. Revenge is best served cold.

“Say, you look in need of a drink, Seltzer?
Whiskey? I’ll get some for the two of us.
Would you mind looking after my satchel.
I’ll only be a minute. Thanks, old chap.” ***

LeStrade enters with the look of a hunter
following the fresh blood trail for the kill.
I have my own methods as I told Holmes.
Pleasure of a visit, indeed.
LeStrade always gets his man. Ah, his accomplice!
He’ll be back. He’s not leaving his bag!

“Young man, I have a warrant for your arrest.”
“On what charge? This is outrageous.”

“Money laundering and possession of the Crown’s gold.
There, take your hand off that satchel and come along quietly.
It’s as I thought boys, Spanish doubloons.”

“You are mistaken Inspector! Watching a bag is no crime!”

“You sit in the season box of Cáceres,
wanted for theft of recovered treasure.
Your hand was on the bag.
You are sitting in a restricted box. Coincidence?

Come along quietly. Cooperate
and it will go easier for you and your case before the magistrate.”

“No, this false arrest will cost you your post.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Joseph! Inspector!
I am Mrs. Snart!
You have the wrong man!”

“No, he is an accomplice of Cáceres.
Soon he’ll lead us straight to him, bullion and all!
Ah Watson, tell the meddlesome Holmes
the game is up. As we speak,
my men search the vineyard for the matching Spanish coins.”

Watson reacts to Adelaide, who hears the name Cáceres: She’s freezing up and going down like lead.
Caught her. The shock was too much.
***

In Newgate, frantic,
Joseph grasps the bars.
“You must believe me, Addy, I’m innocent.

I just met that man,
that Cáceres chap.”

“There’s something you should… Here’s Dr. Watson
whom Holmes sent to us…”

“Sherlock Holmes? How so?
I have not murdered,
conspired, blackmailed,
this is not the Case

of Something or Other.

***

“Dr. Watson… Your wife I know already. You are free. LeStrade
will speak with you directly.”

“What is happening?
See, a mistake made
in my favor. Yet…
You are not smiling.”

“Mr. Joseph Snart, a higher justice
is at work. It was not my decision.
To obtain your freedom, there is one thing conditionally, you must attend to.”

“If my husband’s free,
why the condition?
He’s been tossed around
like a cork at sea.”
 
Be calm. Walk firmly.
Is this happening?
Am I awake? Yes,
I feel the doubloons
weighing down my case. I am in my bank.

The manager stands. “Mr. Dunwiddie, good morning. I… I…

I am reporting

an irregular
use of clients’ funds
by me. On Friday,
you will have noticed
under my accounts
a negative balance
of one thousand pounds.
My own investment
in Spanish doubloons
covered our losses.
Here are two hundred doubloons.

“This is most unethical and illegal! You have traduced our fiduciary guarantees…

***

It seems you have made a profit.

Even so…
Inspector LeStrade, good day,

I am in conference with Mr. Snart.”

“He is the subject of my inquiry.
A money laundering operation
has penetrated your bank. Spanish gold.
Scotland Yard would be obliged if you would keep Mr. Snart and his dealings out of sight
for the moment. A person of interest
has approached Mr. Snart to blackmail him.
Soon he will send his agent to deposit
gold coins under the special care of Mr. Snart.
Don’t inform the Directors of this cache.”

***
“When in need, pray to St. Joseph.”
How has Holmes misled us?
And why does Joseph
not confide in me?
He returned to work
unrelieved and tense.
I’ll redeem his ring
today to cheer him up .
***
This is a three-pipe problem, Holmes muses. This Cáceres trades more than Rioja.
I needs consult my dear brother Mycroft.
His financial mind at the government
will touch the bottom of this swamp.

“Mycroft, where may we speak? Diogenes
Club bans speaking among your unsociable members.

The external Visitor’s room will have to do…

It has come to my attention, Mycroft,
that a certain Cáceres is morethan meets my eye.”

“Sherlock, the Exchequer has known about
his hoarding of Spanish doubloons.

They belong to the Crown for now. And yet…”

“ We must flush them out.”
“Exactly, Sherlock.

He must lead us to them. He must not guess anyone is onto his hoard.”

“We cannot search his whole estate, wine caves, storehouses.
He must turn them into pounds.”

“Yes, of course, a bank.”
“I have one in mind.”
 
***
At the Bank Joseph is mechanically adding and subtracting assets and debts.
It has been five days.
Perhaps he caught on.
It feels so surreal
released, at-large, bait.

“A client sir. Are you free to consult?”

“Please be seated, sir. How may I help you?

Gold…We do not trade
in precious metals.
However, we seek
to increase our gold
deposits, surety

for paper Sterling…

I understand you and your conditions.
I will be the soul
of discretion… Yes.

Mr. Dunwiddie, you may show in Inspector Lestrade.”

“And you would be… sir?”

“Mycroft Holmes. I represent the Exchequer.
We would appreciate no public show
or scandal in the Bank.
Inspector, a word please….

The Spanish Ambassador called at the Exchequer to repatriate their gold.”

“Their gold! But it’s the Crown’s!”

“That is a matter beyond our scope. Spain is retrenching in the Caribbean.
The United States is making noises about Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Spain would like its gold to support its war.

In return for the recovered treasure,
Spain offers a treaty to guard against
all incursions on Jamaica, Bahamas, and Lesser and Greater Antilles.”

“But that’s extortion!”
“No, diplomacy.”

“In short, LeStrade, you cannot post Cáceres as your prisoner. He’s to be sent back
to Spain… with the gold. As for his fate…

Please be assured of the Crown’s gratitude for your discretion in this matter.
At a suitable time, His Majesty
would like to convey His personal thanks.”
 
***

Adelaide serves Joseph tea at their home.
“And so you are here,
free and my husband.
But you are the same.”
 
“No one has told me
why charges were dropped.
Mr. Dunwiddie acted very strange and would not meet my eyes
as if he wanted
to confide in me
but struggled to keep
his thoughts to himself.

I requested time
to replenish funds impermissibly
diverted and used.
He hurriedly said
your managed
been made quite whole,
and showed me the door. “
 
***
“And so you are here with your wedding ring. You have been spared Marshalsea,

restored at the Bank,
freed of gambling debts.
But you are the same.”

“I promise, no more
wagers or races.
Yet it still rages
when I imagine
dice, wheels, cards, green velvet.”

“My dearest Joseph,
so powerful,
yet powerless to quit,
manipulated

by a force you can’t control. Give it up.
To be remain with me,
pray to St. Joseph when you are in need.”

 

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