Holmes Mysteries

July 2020
The Problem of the Princess's Necklace
Clue #1

METROPOLITAN POLICE

Criminal Investigation Department,

New Scotland Yard,

19th day of January 1901

 

Dear Mr Holmes,

 

Please forgive me for reaching out to you while you are already away on a case. You once assisted me in the case of Edmond Wells and the rash of counterfeit first editions plaguing bookstores throughout London. I found methods, although rather unorthodox, to be highly effective. Now I must ask for your help once again.

 

If the troubling news has not already reached your ears, it has been confirmed by Royal Physicians Sir James Reid and Sir Richard Powell that our beloved Queen Victoria is gravely ill. Although we all remain optimistic that our monarch will enjoy a swift recovery, our highest government officials are currently coordinating with police departments and foreign ambassadors to prepare for a possible state funeral procession and ceremony. As an officer in London, my entire department might be needed at a moment’s notice.

 

This morning I received word of the disappearance of a diamond necklace at the Norwegian Embassy.  Arriving at the embassy, I was greeted by a domestic, Miss Elsa Dahl, a tall young woman in her late 20’s with dark hair pulled back tight and a worried look about her.  She showed me to the living room, where I met the ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Agnes Teslow.  Mrs. Teslow has an ample, full-figured frame, with shorter, dark, wavy hair, and a nose that seemed perpetually turned up, involuntarily sniffing whenever I asked a question that she deemed “sensitive.”

 

According to Mrs. Teslow, the ambassador, Erling Teslow, had been made aware of the Queen’s failing health, and instructed his household to prepare their finest formal attire and jewelry as a precaution.  Mrs. Teslow related that she enjoyed a close friendship with our own Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Duchess of Argyll, who had recently lent Mrs. Teslow one of her diamond necklaces for an evening soirée.  According to Mrs. Teslow, she went to retrieve the necklace this morning from a wall safe in her bedroom in order to return it to the Princess.  Instead, she found the jeweler’s box was empty.

 

“Nothing else inside the safe has been taken,” she said. “I have a few pairs of earrings, a gold watch, and some cash.  I checked; they’re all still there.”

 

Looking over her shoulder, Mrs. Teslow whispered to me that she suspects Miss Dahl, the maid, might possibly have taken the necklace.

 

“I admit, I have trouble remembering the safe’s combination, so I have it written down.  Occasionally, after I open the safe, I’ll put the paper down on the table. There have been several times when Miss Dahl was in the room at that same time, cleaning or straightening up.  She might have seen that paper and memorized the combination.”

 

I had Mrs. Teslow show me the wall safe next.  It was near the door to her bedroom, at eye level where anyone entering the room could see it.  Producing the paper in question, she opened the safe for me and withdrew a long, slender black box with a small drawer pull, a large “N” embossed in gold at the top, and an Old Bond Street address on the bottom.  The safe contained her earrings, watch and a small bundle of five-pound notes; the box, as she showed me, was empty.

 

Mrs. Teslow went on to say that Miss Dahl has been an exemplary member of the staff for years, and that stealing the necklace seemed out of character for her. I thanked Mrs. Teslow and then asked her if she could bring me to a private room to interview Miss Dahl.  She showed me to an empty office, finely yet sparsely decorated, and after a moment, Miss Dahl arrived.  She seemed very nervous, her eyes darting about as I questioned her.  Miss Dahl confirmed that she was in Mrs. Teslow’s room sometimes when the safe had been opened, but states that she never looked in the safe or looked at the paper with the combination.

 

“Working here in the embassy, I have to be discreet,” she said. “I have to ignore things if I want to keep my job.”

 

I thanked her for her time and went back to Mrs. Teslow, assuring her that every effort would be made to locate the missing necklace.  I let her know that I would return to the embassy tomorrow for further questions, and departed.

 

Mr. Holmes, I would not normally waste your talents on what appears to be a simple theft, but there are aspects of this case that lead me to believe that there may be more to it than that.  Why would the thief leave the cash and the other jewelry? Who committed the crime?  Did the thief, or thieves, know that this necklace belonged to Princess Louise? Miss Dahl seems to be the obvious suspect; however, she has been a loyal employee for several years and does not strike me as the kind of person who would know how to fence jewelry of such high quality.  I would greatly appreciate any assistance you might be able to provide.

 

God save the Queen.

 

Yours sincerely,

Detective Inspector James Morin

Clue #2

METROPOLITAN POLICE

Criminal Investigation Department,

New Scotland Yard,

20th day of January 1901

 

Dear Mr Holmes,

 

Thank you for your speedy reply, and your assurances of assistance.  I am hopeful that our combined efforts will bring this case to a swift conclusion.

 

No doubt you have read today’s bulletin from Reid and Powell. Their claim that the Queen has had no material exchange in her condition since their last report may be exaggerated, at best. Oxygen tanks were ordered for Her Majesty last night, in the hopes that these new medical devices may provide some comfort. May God grant Her Majesty a full restoration to good health and a long, long life.

 

I returned to the Norwegian embassy today to act on your suggestions.  I immediately sought out Mrs. Teslow and, after initial pleasantries, asked her to show me the jeweler’s box again. She produced the combination, again opened the safe, and withdrew the box.

 

“Is this the box that the necklace came in?” I asked her.

 

“Why, yes it is,” she replied.

 

“That is very strange, for the House of Garrard has been the official Crown Jewelers for more than fifty years.  Why would Princess Louise give you a necklace in another jeweler’s box?”

 

She paled at that, then spoke in a low voice: “I didn’t want anyone to know. After the dinner party last Thursday evening, I took off the necklace and dropped it by mistake.  Then I…“ she swallowed.

 

“I stepped on it. My heel snapped the clasp. I was so embarrassed,” she admitted. “I didn’t want Louise to know. I didn’t want anyone to know. Please don’t tell anyone.”

 

“I must know all the facts if I’m to help you,” I told her.  “What happened then?”

 

“One of my husband’s aides was working late and saw me as he was leaving. He said good night, but then he realized I was upset, and I explained what had happened and he said he knew of a jeweler, a discreet jeweler, who would be able to repair the clasp so that no one could tell that it had been damaged.  I visited the jewelry shop the next day--I didn’t want them to come to the embassy, as someone might see them--and the owner, Mr. Nilsson, said that had to order a spring, but that the necklace would be ready by nine o’clock Monday morning.

 

“And it was.  When I returned on Monday.  One of the clerks recognized me and asked me to wait, then disappeared through a door in the back.  Then Mr. Nilsson appeared, holding out the necklace.  It was perfectly fixed.  I tried it on and complimented Mr. Nilsson on his work. He gave me a new box for the necklace, and I left. I did save the original box for when I give the necklace back to Princess Louise--Mr. Nilsson gave it back to me when I first left the necklace with him. It’s in my bureau drawer.”

 

“And after visiting the jeweler’s you brought the necklace home?”

 

“No, I wore it while I did a little shopping in the area. Then I came home, put it in this box and put the box in the safe. I didn’t open the safe again until yesterday, when I found that the necklace had been stolen.”

 

I asked her why she went shopping once she had retrieved the necklace.  Mrs. Teslow stated that she enjoyed shopping in the Old Bond Street area, and that she simply had “nothing to wear” should she be required to attend a state funeral.

 

At that moment, Ambassador Teslow bustled into the room. He is a short man, with wiry black hair, round glasses and a very thick black moustache.  He started to speak to his wife, but stopped when I introduced myself.  Mrs. Teslow winced, then pulled her husband aside for a moment, explaining to him what had happened. Ambassador Teslow straightened up, quietly exchanged a few terse words with his wife, then approached me, hand outstretched.

 

“Detective Chief Inspector, I am Ambassador Teslow.  Thank you for coming. My wife has informed me of the Princess’s missing necklace. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know.”

 

“Is this the first instance of theft in your home?”

 

“Yes. Usually, it’s my money that goes missing when Agnes comes home from shopping.”

 

“She has expensive tastes?”

 

“I like to say, her caviar appetites will reduce us to penny ale and cold mutton.”

 

“Erling!” his wife gasped, rolling her eyes in frustration.

 

The Ambassador turned back to me with a chastised look, “I apologize, Inspector. I don’t mean to air the family laundry.”

 

“Quite alright, Ambassador. What is your opinion of your maid Miss Dahl?”

 

He gave me a quick grin at that, then said, “She’s a fine member of the household staff. Never given us any problems. I would hate to think that she’s involved in all this.”

He paused. “I would appreciate your discretion in this matter, Inspector. To have the Princess’s necklace stolen while under our care...it embarrasses the embassy.”

 

“I am not in the habit of spreading rumors, Ambassador. However, I do not work alone and must share the details of my investigation with my colleagues.”

 

Just then an aide entered with a private message for Ambassador Teslow.  The ambassador excused himself, giving me the opportunity to thank Mrs. Teslow for her time. Then the Ambassador returned, frowning.

 

“My superiors, and the Palace, have learned of the situation,” he said, then looked directly at me. “Apparently I am the last to know. Inspector, what were you saying about spreading rumors?”

 

I started to tell the Ambassador that I was not a gossip, but he cut me off, saying he was very busy and had to return to his duties.  He called over to his aide, a handsome young man, well-dressed, with a bow tie and slicked-back hair.

 

“Inspector, this is Mr. Venner, one of my associates. Mr. Venner, Detective Chief Inspector Morin.  Please answer any of the Inspector’s questions.  I am needed elsewhere.”

 

The ambassador scurried away, leaving me with a perplexed Mr. Venner and an embarrassed Mrs. Teslow, who apologized on her husband’s behalf.

 

“He really is very busy, Inspector. Is there anything else we can assist you with?”

 

I begged off, and Mr. Venner showed me to the door.

 

It appears that there is more to this case than I anticipated, Mr. Holmes. Tomorrow I plan to visit the jewelry store and speak with the proprietor. I look forward to your thoughts on this matter.

 

God save the Queen.

 

Yours sincerely,

Detective Inspector James Morin

Clue #3

METROPOLITAN POLICE

Criminal Investigation Department,

New Scotland Yard,

21st day of January 1901

 

Dear Mr Holmes,

 

Thank you again for your prompt reply.  Despite the Queen having rallied slightly during the night, I fear that our nation, and indeed, the world, is now awaiting the worst.  Can any monarch hope to follow the example of Her Majesty?  I know that these thoughts have little bearing on our case, and yet this oppressively dark atmosphere is casting a very tangible pall over our investigation.

 

Per your instructions, I have had Mrs. Teslow’s paper containing her safe’s combination tested for fingerprints.  The only prints that were identified belonged to Mrs. Teslow (who was none too pleased with having her fingers smeared with ink).  There was a second print on the bottom left corner that was too smudged to be conclusively identified as Mrs. Teslow’s or Miss Dahl’s. This does not clear Miss Dahl, as she could have memorized the combination by sight and later opened the safe in private, although again, the safe’s dial only displayed Mrs. Teslow’s fingerprints.  Personally, I do not believe that fingerprinting is a fool-proof means of identification, as this paper sample demonstrates.  My sources tell me that New Scotland Yard will have a Fingerprint Branch no later than this coming summer.  If that is the case, then perhaps the technique will have been perfected by that time.

 

I then visited Nilsson’s Jewelers, on Old Bond Street.  The shop is small, yet cheerful, with a large front window displaying jewelry of the finest quality. The merchandise within was of a similar calibre, most pieces far beyond the means of this modest police officer.  When I entered the store, I was surprised to find Mr. Venner, the aide to the Norwegian ambassador, speaking with an employee in a dialect unfamiliar to me--Norwegian, I naturally supposed at first.  Mr. Venner seemed equally surprised to see me, stammering out a greeting.  I asked him what he was doing at the jewelry store, and he said that he was looking for something to purchase for his mother’s birthday.

 

“I was thinking of a brooch, perhaps?  This gentleman was about to suggest a few items.” He nodded towards the clerk, standing behind the counter.

 

“You must be very frugal,” I said, “to be able to afford jewelry like this on an aide’s salary.”

 

Before he could answer, the clerk asked me, “Sir, is there something that I could assist you with?”

 

I introduced myself and explained that I was here on official business. The clerk snorted, “Oh, those Norwegians,” and asked me to wait a moment, scooping up some jewelry boxes from the counter as he left to find the shopkeeper.  Mr. Venner, meanwhile, had started exiting the store.

 

“My apologies, Inspector,” said Mr. Venner, “I must be getting back to the embassy. I expect I’ll see you there.”

 

“Before you go,” I said, “let me just ask a few questions.”

 

I followed him out onto the street.  “Mr. Venner, did you suggest to Mrs. Teslow that she bring the Princess’s necklace here to be repaired?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You seem very familiar with the clerk. What language was that you were speaking?”

 

Mr. Venner smiled. “Oh, I speak in Norwegian, he speaks in Swedish, and somehow we understand each other. I’ve known Leif--the clerk--a long time.  That’s why I patronize this shop.  Inspector, I do need to return to my duties now.”

 

He turned and quickly walked off in the direction of the embassy.  I re-entered the store and found a tall, muscular, well-dressed man behind the counter, with short, dark hair and a thin mustache.

 

“Good morning, sir.  I am the owner, Tage Nilsson.  How may I be of service?”

 

I introduced myself and questioned Mr. Nilsson.  He confirmed that Mrs. Teslow had come to his shop a few days ago with a broken diamond necklace, and that he had to order a new clasp for it.  He was unaware that Mrs. Teslow was the wife of the Norwegian ambassador, or that the necklace belonged to Princess Louise, having assumed it was Mrs. Teslow’s own property.

 

“She returned on Monday morning,” he continued. “I showed her how I had repaired the clasp and she tried it on.  She wore it when she left the store, I believe.”

 

“Did she pay you before she left?”

 

“Yes, she paid in full. A clasp repair is a minor cost. Actually, she wanted to purchase further items--a few rings, I believe--and asked if she could establish a line of credit with our store. I explained that she would have to fill out some paperwork first, and then return in a few days.  She seemed to take offense at that, and left.”

 

I thanked Mr. Nilsson for his time, then returned to the station to find myself summoned to the office of Chief Constable Charles.  He asked me for an update on my case, and I advised him of the situation, including your involvement.  He stressed to me the absolute necessity of bringing this investigation to a swift conclusion.

 

“If we lose the Queen (God save her Majesty), I will be forced to reassign you and half the officers here to temporary duties with crowd control, or as bodyguards to government officials.”

 

He regarded me calmly and then said, “Finish this.”

 

Mr. Holmes, I sincerely hope that you may provide further insights and help me bring this case to its resolution.

 

God save the Queen.

 

Your obedient servant,

Detective Inspector James Morin

Clue #4

METROPOLITAN POLICE

Criminal Investigation Department,

New Scotland Yard,

22nd day of January 1901

Dear Mr Holmes,

 

This morning’s bulletin from the Royal Physicians offers little hope: “The Queen this morning shows signs of diminishing strength, and Her Majesty’s condition again assumes a more serious aspect.” May God Almighty show mercy on Her Majesty, and our nation!

 

Still, I thank you for your good suggestions of last evening.  Visiting the Swedish embassy first thing this morning, I was able to confirm that, yes, Mr. Nilsson and his clerk are former Swedish citizens. This was a lead I had not considered.  Indeed, the clerk’s disparaging comment from yesterday regarding Norwegians struck me as odd—I had never really given Norway and its citizens much thought until a few days ago, and it surprised me that anyone would have formed a definite opinion, good or ill, about the national character.  Your explanation of the tensions between Norway and Sweden is a tantalizing clue.

 

Stopping by the station, I met with a pair of constables who had inspected the apartment of Miss Dahl last evening, after she had returned home from her duties.  They admitted that they found no sign of the missing necklace.  They did, however, uncover a rent notice for December marked “Past Due.” When questioned, Miss Dahl stated that due to the Christmas holiday she had spent her last two week’s pay on gifts for friends and family, but that she intended to make up her owed rent with this coming week’s wages.  A further inquiry with her landlord confirmed that Miss Dahl has been late with the rent on more than one occasion.

 

I then met with Sgt. Breese, whom I had asked to make inquiries amongst the clothing and jewelry stores in the general area of Old Bond Street.  He reported that many of the shopkeepers know Mrs. Teslow as a frequent customer.  Although reluctant to discuss the clienteles’ private business, nearly all of them stated that she has lines of credit with them. Two jewelers, the House of Pink and Chicolini’s, confided that Mrs. Teslow has occasionally pawned items of jewelry with them.

 

I returned to the Norwegian embassy for further inquiry.  Mr. Venner answered the door, dressed in an evening dress coat matched with formal striped trousers.  White gloves peered from his jacket pockets, matching a handkerchief in his breast pocket.

 

“Mr. Venner, why are you wearing an evening jacket in the morning? It doesn’t seem to match your trousers.”

 

“We’re all preparing our formal wear, in case...in case her Majesty takes a turn for the worse.  As part of the embassy staff, I have to wear an incorrect combination of formal wear, to distinguish myself from the Ambassador.”

 

I asked Mr. Venner if he could show me to the Ambassador’s office.  Along the way, I mentioned that the staff of Nilsson’s jewelry store seemed to all be from Sweden originally.

 

“Yes,” he sighed.

 

“It’s a little unusual for someone working at the Norwegian embassy to strike up a friend with...what we might call their national rivals, isn’t it?” I asked.

 

“We don’t talk about politics. Besides, Leif and I went to boarding school together,” he explained.  “In those days, I used to earn some extra money by doing magic tricks on street corners.  Leif asked me to help him impress this girl who had caught his fancy, and I taught him how to make a bouquet of flowers seem to appear out of nowhere.  I hadn’t seen Leif for years, until I moved to London and encountered him again by chance.”

 

He stopped me. ‘Inspector, I must ask you again for your discretion. A few of my overly sensitive colleagues might misread my association with Mr. Nilsson’s shop, and so I would very much like to keep this matter private.”

 

I merely nodded, and we continued to the ambassador’s office.  I entered the room as Mr. Venner left, to find the ambassador in close conversation with Miss Dahl.  He was dressed in dark formal attire, while Miss Dahl’s outfit appeared, if not new, then freshly cleaned and pressed.  His arm rested on her shoulder, but he jerked it away when he saw me.

 

“Ambassador.  Miss Dahl,” I said.

 

Miss Dahl looked from myself to the Ambassador, then back to me. Her face a mask, she quickly left the room without another word.

 

“I, ah, was assuring Miss Dahl that her position with the embassy is secure, during this...during your investigation. How is your investigation coming along?”

 

Before I could respond, Mrs. Teslow burst past me into the room.

 

“Erling!” she cried.  “Louise has shut me out!”  She caught her breath, then continued:

 

“I received a telegram from Louise—Princess Louise,” she said, glancing at me. “I’ve been wanting to tell her how sorry I am about this whole affair.  Her message was so cold.  She told me that I shouldn’t plan on attending any ceremonies of state in the...in the near future, until that necklace is found.”

 

The ambassador’s eyes grew wide. “Excuse me,” he said, darting out of the room.

 

Mrs. Teslow turned to me, her eyes red as she teared up. “Inspector, could you please call at another time?” I offered my sympathies to her and left the embassy.

 

And there you have it, Mr. Holmes. I returned to the station to review my notes and try to make sense of this case.  As I write this, rumours are circulating amongst the men that Victoria has already succumbed.  Can you please offer any suggestions?


 

God save the Queen!

 

Your obedient servant,

Detective Inspector James Morin

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SOLUTION

SHERLOCK HOLMES

CONSULTING DETECTIVE

221b Baker Street,

London,

23rd day of January 1901

 

Dear Detective Chief Inspector Morin,

 

My deepest condolences to you and all British subjects on this national day of mourning. In Reading, from which I have just returned, the air had been thick these past few days with concern over the Queen’s deteriorating condition. Today, in London I see every shop trimmed in black mourning. Black veils cover every woman’s face; every man sports a black arm band, if not full black attire.  The morning newspaper reports that dignitaries from every corner of the globe are making their way towards England to pay their respects. I do not envy you your duties for the coming week.

 

You have acted admirably under great pressure these last few days, or at least as competently as any member of the police department could under such circumstances. Allow me to ease your mental burden; your last message to me included the final clues I needed to solve this case.

 

The fact that the necklace was the only thing missing from the safe told me that this was no simple theft. Smudging aside, there were no fingerprints on the safe or combination paper besides Mrs. Teslow’s. These facts combined made your first theory, regarding Miss Dahl, unlikely. Besides, I believe that the ambassador would resolve any financial concerns of hers, were she to ask him. The fact that she is quite close with the ambassador, yet still has unpaid bills, tells me she is too proud to stoop to blackmail or petty theft.

 

Mrs. Teslow is a spendthrift who would welcome the money that the necklace would bring. But why not sell her other jewelry first? And consider, both the Princess and Mrs. Teslow have been seen wearing that necklace; if she pawned it at any of the fashionable jewelers, the truth of its ownership would quickly emerge. Above all else, Mrs. Teslow is too sensitive to scandal. She has shown only worry and shame throughout this investigation, and her friendship with Princess Louise has suffered.

 

Which brings us to Mr. Venner. He wants to keep his friendship with the jewelry store clerk Leif a secret, due to the fact that his former schoolmate is a Swede.  Sweden and Norway may have some political friction, but they are not at war, nor have they been for generations. There would seem to be something more to the fact that Mr. Venner desires to hide his relationship with the jewelry store clerk.

 

Consider this, Mrs. Teslow confided in Mr. Venner that she had damaged Princess Louise’s necklace.  She didn’t want to take it to any of the jewelers she normally frequents, as word would inevitably get back to the palace that the necklace had been damaged while in Mrs. Teslow’s care. Mr. Venner suggested she visit Mr. Nilsson’s shop in the morning, and then he likely visited the store immediately afterward, to forewarn his friends of the situation.

 

They now have a unique opportunity to turn a tidy profit, even split three ways and do some mischief to the Norwegians in the bargain.

 

Mrs. Teslow is told that a special clasp would be required for the necklace and to return on Monday. This was not done to order the clasp; any jeweler would be able to make such a simple repair while the customer waited, but to give the Swedes time to adapt one of their jewelry boxes. One of the more popular devices of the street magician is the “disappearing money box.” You put your coin in the box, close the drawer, and when you pull the drawer out again, the money seems to have vanished! In reality, the coin drops away to a false bottom. There are variations, but the results are similar.

 

So, Mr. Nilsson makes sure to give Mrs. Teslow a box for the necklace, despite the fact that she is wearing the necklace as she leaves the store. She goes home, puts the necklace in the box, and the next time she opens the box, the necklace is hidden in the false bottom. A few days later, Mr. Venner switches out the trick box with a plain empty box from Nilsson’s. Working in the embassy, Venner would have had many opportunities to spy Mrs. Teslow’s carelessly laid safe combination. I suspect this is not the first time he has accessed the safe, wearing gloves to conceal his fingerprints.

 

I believe you just missed the handoff. When you found Mr. Venner and the clerk talking at the jewelry counter, the clerk left to bring a stack of jewelry boxes to the back room--one of which contained the necklace. If you act quickly, you should still find that box in the store’s back room. One hides a leaf in a forest! The Swede’s are most likely “waiting for the heat to die down” before attempting to fence this item.

 

One last thing--I would suggest further investigation of Mr. Venner and his Swedish cohorts. Secrets may be stolen from an embassy just as easily as a necklace. Mr. Venner was in a perfect position to spy on the Norwegian ambassador. It would also explain why Mr. Venner was so eager to avoid any association with the staff of Nilsson’s.  If I may be of any further assistance to you or your department in these coming days, please do not hesitate to ask.

 

God save the King.

 

S. Holmes

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