It was ten o’clock in Baker Street. Holmes was sawing away at his violin, producing a creditable imitation of a cat fight. I saw no reason to tell him so, as I’d already mentioned it thrice that evening, to no avail whatsoever.
I was idly perusing advertisements in the Times. An astonishing number of women were offering French lessons. I’d no idea the French tongue had become so popular in England. I transferred a few addresses to my little notebook, in case I ever planned a tour of the Continent.
The sawing stopped. “Get that, will you, Watson?”
“Get what, Holmes?”
Someone knocked at the door. Holmes pointed with his bow and returned to his playing.
I put away my notebook and looked outside. No one was there. An envelope lay upon the mat. “I say, Holmes, how did you know…?”
“It’s pathetically simple, Watson. What does the note say?”
I opened it and read: QETUP ZNORK FLBBO PTUCH GUPSE XXAIY. “It says, ‘Qetup znork…’”
Holmes snatched it away. “Aha. I knew it! A complex cipher, no doubt accomplished with a Bazeries cylinder.”
“My word! With a brassiere’s cylinder? I thought they were rather more hemispherical. Aren’t they?”
“Bazeries, Watson. It’s a cryptographic device.”
“I knew that. Invented by a Frenchman named Bazery…”
“Actually, it was Thomas Jefferson. But I see the hand of Moriarty in this, and he has a head start. Come, Watson; the game is afoot!”
“The hand? A head? A foot? But aren’t you going to decode it?”
“The word is ‘decrypt,’ Watson, and I already have. Be a good chap and bring the anvil, would you?” Holmes dashed out the door.
I removed the anvil from our mantelpiece and lugged it downstairs. Holmes had already hailed a cab, and we were soon on our way.
“What did the message say, Holmes?”
“Qetup znork flubbo…”
“But what does it mean?”
“Your hour has come.” Holmes smiled bravely, showing not the least sign of alarm.
“By Jove!! That is a dire warning. Where are we going?”
“The docks, and we’re there now. Driver! Stop here. Quickly, Watson; don’t forget the anvil.”
We descended to the mist-enshrouded cobblestones. The cab clopped away into the fog, and an unearthly silence fell.
“There, Watson! At the end of the pier!”
“It…it seems to be a trunk, Holmes.”
We approached, and I put down the anvil. “Well, all right, is a trunk. Standing on end.” I tilted it. “Empty,” I added.
“Nothing to it, Holmes.”
Holmes pressed the catch and swung the trunk lid to one side.
“What do you make of it, Watson?”
“Well, someone has left an empty trunk on the pier. Black. Cheap, I’d say, not worth four shillings.”
“And large enough to hold Professor Moriarty!”
“Oh, no, Holmes. Moriarty is six feet tall. I’d have a hard time fitting in there, myself, and I’m only five foot six.”
“Nonsense, Watson, the trunk is huge.”
“No, it isn’t.” I crawled inside. “See? It’s a tight fit. Moriarty could never have hidden in here.”
“Hold this.” Holmes thrust the anvil into my lap and swung the trunk lid closed, leaving me in total darkness.
“I say! What the devil…?”
“I’m tired of your buffoonery, you obtuse oaf. You’ve criticized my violin-playing for the last time. Goodbye, Watson.”
I felt the trunk lurch, then fall. A splash, and I was bobbing in the Thames. I pulled out my little notebook and am now writing this account of my Final Adventure. Water is seeping in. I feel the trunk slowly sinking…