فصل 02

مجموعه: شرلوک هولمز / کتاب: شعله نقره ای / فصل 2

فصل 02

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  • زمان مطالعه 11 دقیقه
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CHAPTER TWO

Monday night at Kind’s Pyland

Notes by Inspector Gregory, after talking to Edith Baxter; Ned Hunter, Mrs John Straker, and Mr Fitzroy Simpson.

On Monday evening Straker locked the stables at nine o’clock, the usual time. Two of the boys then walked up to the trainer’s house for their dinner, but the third boy, Ned Hunter, stayed in the stables to watch the horses. At five past nine, the Strakers’ servant, a girl called Edith Baxter, carried Ned Hunter’s dinner down to the stables. The dinner that night was a hot meat curry.

Edith was nearly at the stables when a man called out to her. He came up to her, and she saw a tall man in a grey suit and a hat, and a red and black scarf. He carried a big walking stick, and Edith felt afraid of him.

‘Where am I?’ the man asked. ‘What is this place?’ ‘This is King’s Pyland training stables,’ she said. ‘Good!’ said the man. ‘Now, a stable boy sleeps here every night - is that right? And I think you’re taking his dinner to him now.’ He took an envelope out of his pocket. ‘Please give the boy this, and you can have some money for a beautiful new dress.’

Edith did not take the envelope. She ran past the man to the stables and up to a small open window. She always put the boy’s dinner through this window, and Ned Hunter was there, ready to take it.

‘Oh Ned!’ Edith cried, but before she could say any more, the stranger came up behind her.

‘Good evening’ he said through the window to the boy. ‘I want to talk to you.’

‘Who are you? What do you want?’ Ned Hunter said.

‘I want to make you rich, boy’ the stranger said. ‘You help me, and I help you. You have two horses in for the Wessex Cup - Silver Blaze and Bayard. I hear that Bayard is the better horse, and that you stable boys are putting your bets on him to win. Am I right?’

‘I’m not saying anything’ cried Ned Hunter. ‘We don’t talk about our horses at King’s Pyland, so get out! I’m getting the dog now!’

Ned ran across the stables to get the dog, and Edith began to run back to the house. But she looked back after about thirty metres, and saw the man at the little window, with his head and one arm inside the room.

Edith ran on, and a minute later, Ned came out of the building and locked the door behind him. He ran all round the stables with the dog, but the man was gone.

Ned Hunter told the trainer and the other boys about the stranger, but no one saw him again.

The next thing happened at one o’clock in the morning when John Straker got out of bed.

‘What’s the matter?’ said his wife. ‘Where are you going?’

‘To the stables’ Straker said. ‘I can’t stop thinking about that stranger. I just want to have a look around.’

‘But it’s raining. Wait until the rain stops,’ she said.

‘No, no’ Straker said. ‘I want to go now.’

He left the house and Mrs Straker went back to sleep. At seven in the morning she woke up, but her husband was not there. She quickly got up, called the servant, Edith, and they ran down to the stables.

They found the stables unlocked. Straker was not there, and inside, on a chair, Ned Hunter slept like a dead man. Silver Blaze was gone, and his stable door was open. They called the other two boys from the room over the stables. They were good sleepers and heard nothing in the night.

Nobody could wake Ned Hunter, so the two women and the boys ran out to look for the trainer and the horse. Five hundred metres from the stables, they saw Straker’s coat on a small tree. Down the hill, just past the tree, they found the trainer. He was dead.

There was a long cut in his leg, and his head was broken in three places. In his right hand he had a small knife, with blood all over it, and in his left hand he had a red and black scarf.

Edith Baxter knew the scarf at once, and later, so did Ned Hunter.

‘It’s the stranger’s scarf,’ he told us. ‘When I went to get the dog, that stranger was still at the stable window. He put something in my meat curry, to make me sleep know he did. Edith saw him, with his arm through the window.’

Ned Hunter was right about his meat curry. There was some of his dinner left, and we found a lot of opium in it. That’s why Ned slept like a dead man. What about the horse? We found his tracks in the mud, next to Straker’s dead body. But what happened then? Someone hit Straker on the head, and killed him. Did that person take the horse away? Did the horse run away? Everybody on Dartmoor is looking for Silver Blaze, but there is no news of him.

When I began work on the case on Tuesday, we looked for the stranger. He was in Tavistock, and we found him easily. His name is Fitzroy Simpson. He lives mostly in London, and makes his money at the races, taking bets. We looked in his betting-book, and found a number of big bets - five thousand pounds - against the favourite for the Wessex Cup.

These were his answers to my questions.

‘Why did you come down to Dartmoor?’

‘I’m a betting man, Inspector. I need to know about the horses for the Wessex Cup - Silver Blaze, Bayard, and Desborough, the horse at Silas Brown’s stables. He’s the second favourite for the race, you see.’

‘Did you go to the King’s Pyland stables late on Monday evening?’

‘Yes, I did. I just wanted to ask the stable boys some questions. They know the horses better than anyone.’

‘And is this your scarf?’

‘Yes… yes, it is.’

‘And how did it get into the dead man’s hand, Mr Simpson? Can you tell us that?’

‘I don’t know, Inspector, I don’t know! I never saw the man. I lost my scarf in the dark. It wasn’t me, Inspector, it wasn’t me!’

We asked many more questions, but Fitzroy Simpson did not change his story. He was out at King’s Pyland that night, his suit was still wet from the rain, and his big walking stick could break a man’s head open. But there were no cuts on his body, so where did the blood on Straker’s knife come from?

And where is the horse?

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