Miss Brandon said in her note that she would call at four o'clock, and at about a quarter 'til there was a knock at the door, but it was not the young lady. Our caller was an elderly knight, Sir Ronald Ramsay, who was in charge of keeping the crown jewels safe, if one were to put his job in the simplest terms possible. He was a pleasant-looking man in his late sixties, and I supposed that in other circumstances I could have been very fond of him. As it was, he thought that I was some sort of Madame Du Barry and was barely civil to me if our paths crossed. Holmes, having no idea what to do with situations like this, ignored his behavior.
"Won't you sit down," Holmes invited him, after they had exchanged greetings.
"No thank you," Sir Ronald said. "I can only stay but a minute. I must show you this."
He handed Holmes a small envelope, which Holmes glanced at then tossed to me. I was back on the sofa with my foot elevated on the armrest.
"Written with the left hand," I observed then gave it a quick sniff. "Ugh, it smells like an opium den."
Holmes laughed. "The message is clear enough… 'The Star of Delhi will never reach the Tower,' but I doubt that you should be worried, Sir Ronald. The ruby is over 800 carats; a thief would never be able to sell it, and to cut it would be useless."
"Nonetheless, I would appreciate it if you were there when it is handed over into my care."
"I will certainly be there, though I am quite confident that the usual police guard will be sufficient."
"Thank you, Mr. Holmes."
I offered him the envelope, but he ignored my outstretched hand, returned his hat to his head, and walked out the door, nearly colliding with a large-eyed young woman with dark brown hair. He apologized and went on his way; the girl darted into the room, hastily shutting it behind her.
"You're Mr. Holmes?" She asked.
"My name is Sherlock Holmes," my friend agreed. "You must be Miss Brandon."
"Yes. Oh, I am so frightened." She withdrew an envelope from her bag. "This came for my brother two days ago. He and Mr. Hunter insist that it's just a joke, but I know that something more sinister is at work."
Holmes took the envelope, looked at its contents and raised an eyebrow. "Intriguing."
I took the paper. It was a sketch of a man with a seabird hung around his neck and the date "11 May" scrawled in the upper right corner.
"'Instead of the cross, the Albatross about my neck was hung,'" I quoted.
"What?" Holmes asked.
"It's a poem," I said. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, you wouldn't know it."
"My father received a similar paper before he was murdered," Miss Brandon said. "That was 11 May, too, ten years ago today."
"Your father was murdered?"
"He was a self-made man. Both Lloyd, my brother, and I were born in South America. When I was ten years old he was murdered. I can still it… my father lying on the pavement with his head…."
She bared her small white teeth in a pained grimace.
"Does that date hold any other association for you?" I asked.
She shook her head, and the door burst open. A very sour-looking young man with colorless hair and colorless eyes burst into the room. He ignored both Holmes and me, speaking directly to Miss Brandon, as one does a naughty child.
"It was very wrong of you to come here, Ann," he said. "You had no business taking the letter and involving amateur detectives."
"This threat is very much my business, Jerrold," she retorted. "You know what happened to Father; I don't want that to happen to Lloyd."
Jerrold's voice changed to become soothing and condescending. "It's a crank message, dearest: the work of a lunatic."
"Did her father not receive such a message before his death?" Holmes asked, eyebrows raised at the "amateur detective" remark.
"That is none of your business, Mr. Holmes. I will send you a check for your time; I'm sorry that Ann wasted your time."
"That won't be necessary. I have not yet accepted the case."
Miss Brandon shook off the intruder's hand. "If Mr. Holmes won't help me, then I'll go to Scotland Yard."
"I would hardly recommend going to them if you want the mystery solved," Holmes said, amusement creeping into his voice. "I will accept your case, Miss Brandon."
The intruder, I realized her must be the Mr. Hunter she spoke of, drew himself up to his full height, but was still about two inches shorter than Holmes. "We don't want your interfering, Mr. Holmes."
"We interfere wherever and whenever we like," I said, mildly.
"I think you'd better go, Mr. Hunter," Miss Brandon's voice went icy.
Now sounding somewhat pleading, he asked. "Don't you trust me?"
She turned her back on him, and he left the flat with about as much grace as he had entered with.
"I take it that was your family solicitor," Holmes said as the front door slammed.
"Yes, that is Mr. Jerrold Hunter."
"How long as he been with your family?"
"Always. His father was our solicitor before him, and he recently assumed the duties. Oh, Mr. Holmes today is the eleventh of May! Is my brother in danger?"
"Yes, I am afraid he is."
"Please save him! I don't know what I'd do if something were to happen to him."
"I shall do my best."
"What will you do?"
"First visit the British Museum; it might be useful to see if this bird is in fact an albatross and to read that poem about the Mariner. Sherwood, are you able to do a bit of walking?"
"Ready, willing, and able," I said. "I'm about to die from boredom."
"Follow Mr. Hunter. Can you give us the address of his office, Miss Brandon?"
"You suspect him?" There was only moderate surprise in her voice, and no real concern.
"His actions aren't of a completely innocent man," I said, getting to my feet. My ankle was still tender, but I could handle watching an office for an afternoon.
She gave the address and went on her way.
The unstated, but obvious fact was that she and the unpleasant Mr. Hunter were engaged. I noticed the ring on her finger, and that it was dirty while her necklace was clean. They'd been engaged for some time, and he was keener on it than she. I could see why. Good God, Holmes was pleasanter to me than Mr. Hunter was to Miss Brandon.
I found Hunter's office with no trouble and was just about to go up the stairs when his door opened and Professor Moriarty walked out. I darted around the corner and hid; luckily the professor was talking over to his shoulder and not in my direction.
"I'm depending on you," Moriarty said.
Hunter's voice assured him that he would not be disappointed, and the door closed. Presumably Moriarty had shut it, for a moment later he appeared at the foot of the stairs and disappeared. I heard raised voices from the upstairs again, and then a young man who looked very much like Miss Brandon kind of tiptoed down the stairs and out the door. This had to be Lloyd, and he either had a very guilty conscience or feared for his life. I started to come out of my hiding place then jumped back because now Hunter was coming down the stairs, very stealthily.
He appeared to be following Mr. Brandon, and now I had to follow him. I hoped that he wouldn't go too far; it would be difficult for me to keep up a long tail with my tender ankle. It was beginning to get dark, and the infamous London fog was rolling in. Still, it was easy for me to keep Hunter in sight.
Suddenly there was a loud strangled, masculine scream. Hunter broke into a run, and I lost him for a few minutes. Eventually I found him because of the crowd that had gathered.
"Dead, alright," someone said. "Nasty."
I looked. It was Lloyd Brandon with a series of angry red lines crisscrossing his neck and the back of his head looking like a bruised apple. A constable had Mr. Hunter, and Miss Brandon broke through the crowd.