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The Future DoorNO PLACE LIKE HOLMES VOLUME 2
By Jason Lethcoe
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Jason Lethcoe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE MISSING SPYGLASS
Griffin Sharpe clutched his ebony walking stick, fighting to keep his balance as the steamship rocked back and forth on the churning waves. The storm had forced most of the passengers below, but not him.
His leg was still sore from where it had been permanently injured in a battle with one of the most evil men in London. But he didn't complain about the discomfort. Instead, he gritted his teeth and leaned more heavily on his stick, forcing himself to limp along the slippery rail to the bow of the heaving ship.
Twenty life preservers, three lanterns, one shuffleboard stick ... Griffin silently counted the things he saw as he hobbled forward, a longtime habit that helped him cope with anxiety or discomfort. He fought down his feeling of seasickness and forced himself to focus on the task at hand.
Griffin Sharpe's mind was a constant fireworks display of thoughts and ideas, and there were very few people like him. His unique reasoning and deductive abilities were gifts from heaven, and Griffin intended to use them in the service of others. Right now, he was helping the captain of the ship find his favorite spyglass, which had mysteriously disappeared. The captain had always kept it in his private chambers, and earlier that afternoon, when he'd gone to retrieve it, he discovered that the small telescope had vanished.
His leg was really throbbing, and the doctor had warned him that he needed to treat it gently, but Griffin couldn't help himself. Trifling things like unpleasant weather and rollicking waves wouldn't stop him when he was feeling excited to solve a mystery.
And as the twelve-year-old detective hobbled forward, his usually sad, blue eyes were alight with excitement, for Griffin knew he was getting close to cracking the case, and nothing thrilled him more than that.
He ignored the cold spray that had thoroughly soaked through his tweed jacket and cap as he searched everything near the front of the ship. After several long minutes, he finally spotted what he was looking for. A few feet to the left of a life preserver, right at the top of the bow, was a tiny, glittering object wedged between the deck plates.
He wiped his magnifying glass on his damp shirt and bent closer so that he could see the object better.
It was a tiny brass ring.
But Griffin could tell right away that it wasn't the kind of ring that was to be worn on a finger as a piece of jewelry. He studied it closely, noticing the small threads that wound around inside the circular band and the small bit of glass in its center.
The boy knew the ring was a piece of a brass telescope, the eyepiece that was supposed to be attached to the observing end.
He wedged the small ring out of the plates with his penknife and placed it carefully in his pocket. Then he smiled and wiped the salty mist from his forehead with his sleeve.
Now that he'd found this clue, Griffin had a pretty good idea of who had taken the captain's favorite brass telescope and what had happened to it. All that was left for him to do was to gather one more piece of evidence to prove that his hunch was correct. He swayed with the rolling ship as he limped to the door that led back inside the ship's main cabin.
Tap-tap-tap went his stick as it hit the weathered planks. Griffin studied the deck in front of him as he walked. The marks he followed were a nearly invisible series of small, gray half-moons that led from the bow back to the inside of the ship.
Nobody else would have observed what the marks were, but Griffin could tell that they were made by the heel of someone's shoe, someone who had stepped briefly into a puddle of grease.
He knew it to be grease because the rain and the waves weren't washing the marks away. Instead, droplets of water gathered in each half-moon and glittered in the ship's lamplight. Oil and water didn't mix. And Griffin had his suspicions as to where this particular kind of grease had originated. Like a young bloodhound, he was following the trail back to its point of origin.
Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen ... He automatically counted the tracks as he entered the inside of the ship and followed the trail up a winding staircase. But this time, his habitual counting couldn't distract him from the pain in his leg, which had begun to burn so badly that he finally had to stop and sit on the uppermost stair.
As he massaged his calf, he glanced at the sumptuously decorated hallway in front of him. He was now on the upper deck, where the captain and the first-class passengers had their quarters.
Velvet curtains with silver tassels framed the hallway entrance, and curling filigree decorated the shiny brass portholes. Mounted on the wall opposite from where he sat was a small oil painting. It was a picture of the Westminster Clock Tower, the famous clock that many people called Big Ben.
Flashes of memory, like photographs, raced through his mind as he stared at the painting.
Two tons of stolen fireworks wrapped in unusual red paper. A gigantic submarine that looked like the Loch Ness monster. Lightning-fast railway cars of a futuristic design. The Westminster Tower, the same one as in the painting, turned into the world's largest time bomb ...
The memories from his last adventure played through his mind as if he were watching a magic lantern show.
But there was one memory that plagued him worst of all. As hard as he tried, he would never be able to forget the cruel face of Nigel Moriarty. The terrible man was cousin to the infamous Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes's archenemy, and his face constantly haunted Griffin's dreams.
Griffin could picture him even now, and just the thought of him made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. He felt his hands go clammy as he thought of Nigel's neat, curled mustache and his terrible laugh—the laugh that had filled his ears as the villain had plunged a sword into Griffin's back.
That cruel blow had happened at the precise moment when Griffin had used one of his uncle's inventions to defuse the gigantic time bomb that would have destroyed half of London.
Griffin reached over and took his ebony walking stick from where it was leaning against the banister and laid it carefully across his knees. Then, with a sick feeling in his stomach, he grasped the silver top, a knob with the engraved letters N.M. on it, and pulled outward while holding firmly to the wooden shaft.
A few inches of shiny steel slid out from inside the cane.
He stared down at the partially revealed blade. It had been this very sword, the one that was hidden inside the stick he now used as a crutch, that had nearly ended his life.
As he turned the weapon in his hand, Griffin's sad eyes were reflected in the weapon's mirror-like surface. It seemed an eternity ago since he'd boarded a similar boat and then a train that had brought him to London and had changed his life forever.
Griffin had arrived in London at the beginning of the summer to spend his vacation with his uncle, whom he had mistakenly thought was the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. But he'd soon found out that his uncle was not Holmes, but instead merely shared a hallway with him, with his uncle living at 221A Baker Street, and Holmes living at 221B.
After arriving, Griffin and his persnickety uncle had gotten off to a bad start. Rupert Snodgrass was a would-be detective who had been living so long in Sherlock Holmes's shadow that life had turned him bitter. And prior to Griffin's arrival, Snodgrass hadn't been able to secure a single case and had been nearly evicted from his apartment.
But when Griffin brought a desperate woman who claimed the Loch Ness monster had eaten her husband to his uncle for help, the boy and his uncle had formed a temporary alliance to help solve the unlikely mystery.
And to Rupert's and Griffin's surprise, they found that by working together they had proved to be a remarkable team.
Yet, although they had solved the case, it had not been without consequences. Griffin had nearly died when Nigel Moriarty had stabbed him in the back with the sword, and he'd also suffered the injury to his leg that had left him with his permanent limp.
But if there was one thing that his father had taught him, it was that there was always a silver lining. Griffin's dad was a Methodist minister, and believed that God could use even the most painful tragedies for good. The "good," as Griffin understood it, was that as a result of almost losing his nephew, Rupert Snodgrass had discovered that he actually cared for Griffin and that having family was more important than besting his rival, Sherlock Holmes. And against what had seemed impossible odds, Griffin and his uncle now shared a close friendship.
And the silver lining for Griffin Sharpe was actually having a friend in his uncle who understood and cared for him. It was something new and wonderful for the shy boy who had always been bullied.
Griffin knocked at the door marked Captain's Quarters. A few moments later he heard a low, rumbling voice call, "Enter!"
As the door of the captain's sumptuously decorated room swung open, Griffin quickly took note of the occupants gathered there. The anxious captain sat at a broad desk, his ruddy features framed by a pair of enormous sideburns.
One of his sideburns is three centimeters higher than the other, Griffin noted. He also noticed a distinct nicotine stain on the right side of the captain's lips, an indication that the captain was a frequent tobacco smoker.
Next to him stood a young boy of about ten, wearing a sailor suit and absently playing with a fountain pen. His clothes were neatly pressed, but Griffin noticed that there were three stray threads on his left sleeve, that the brim of his hat was crumpled, and that his shoes were dirty. A woman sat in a chair against the wall opposite them, shrouded in a black veil and wearing a glittering silver ring on her left hand. Griffin couldn't tell much about her and assumed that she must be a guest of the captain's.
On the other side of the room, sitting in a comfortable leather chair, was a scruffy man wearing a battered brown derby.
As Griffin scanned the room, taking in all the details, a slow smile spread across his face. He glanced over at the scruffy man, who happened to be his uncle Rupert, and gave him a quick nod.
His uncle's features relaxed for the first time since they'd embarked on the urgent journey to Boston. Griffin could tell his uncle knew that he'd solved the case.
But Griffin also knew that this was no time to celebrate. He was too worried about his parents to truly enjoy his victory. The missing telescope had been a welcome diversion from his anxiety, but it hadn't helped the boat move any faster.
And until he solved the greater mystery concerning his parents' disappearance, he would never truly be able to rest.
If you had used my latest invention, the Snodgrass Radiated Footprint Scanner, you might have had an easier time locating those tracks," Rupert Snodgrass said. He sniffed with self-importance. "However, you seem to have done it anyway, even without my help," he added.
Griffin smiled, thinking about his uncle's incredible engineering skill. Rupert tended to name each of his inventions after himself, calling it the "Snodgrass such and such." And although each of the devices was remarkable and more amazing than anything Griffin ever could have imagined, it seemed that somehow, inevitably, his uncle never got the credit or the fame he desired.
Some of Griffin's favorites were the Snodgrass Lightning Boiler (an electric teapot), the Snodgrass Haberdash Weather Repeller (a hat with a small umbrella sticking out of it), the Snodgrass Super Finder (a machine that found lost metal objects), and his most favorite invention of all, the Snodgrass Mechanized Manservant, which was an actual walking, talking, steam-driven, mechanical man named Watts!
"Now, tell me again, how exactly did you arrive at the conclusion that the captain's son had stolen his favorite spyglass?" Rupert asked.
Griffin hefted his small carpetbag as they made their way down the gangplank. The sights and sounds of Boston Harbor were all around him, and it was a relief to Griffin to finally be back home. He noticed that in one hand his uncle carried a satchel filled with some of his amazing inventions, and in the other he held Toby's leash.
Griffin glanced down at the happy, trotting hound, who seemed to be enjoying the sights and sounds of Boston Harbor as much as he was. The dog was clearly excited to be off the ship at last.
Griffin turned his attention back to his uncle's question.
"Well, it was pretty simple, actually," Griffin said. "First of all, I could tell that whoever had done it was probably someone small. The size of the greasy footprints that led from the engine room suggested that it was a child. That, and while I was in the engine room, I found something else."
Griffin indicated the pocket of his jacket with a tilt of his chin. Sticking out of it was something that looked like a black handkerchief.
He handed it to Rupert, who examined it as they followed the crowd onto the dock. The black cloth bore a rather crude representation of a skull and crossbones in its center.
"I could tell that the person who made this flag had used a particular kind of shoe polish to make it look black, the scent of which is rather distinctive," Griffin said. Rupert gave the cloth an experimental sniff and wrinkled his nose.
"So naturally it made sense that the person I was looking for was probably a child who was playing pirate and had access to various parts of the ship that others couldn't get into."
"Like the engine room," Rupert said.
"Exactly," Griffin replied. "I then traced the footprints from the engine room to the bow of the ship and found the missing eyepiece. I assumed that the boy had probably gone up there with the spyglass to pretend to look for enemy ships or a desert island."
Griffin and his uncle made their way across the dock, passing row upon row of sailing ships with tall masts. The pungent smell of brine and drying fishing nets was in the air, and because Griffin was so glad to be finally home, it almost, but not quite, smelled like perfume to him. He'd never enjoyed the smell of fish.
Seagulls squawked overhead, scanning the busy docks for any signs of unwanted food. The crowd had thinned as passengers met loved ones and dispersed to waiting carriages. As Rupert and Griffin moved toward a neat row of hansom cabs, Griffin continued with his account.
"Anyway, I assumed that while focusing the telescope, the boy had accidentally unscrewed the eyepiece and lost it when it dropped on deck. Feeling afraid that he would get in trouble with his father, he would have then hidden the telescope somewhere safe or thrown it overboard."
At his uncle's waving gesture, a black cab rolled up the cobblestone streets and stopped in front of them. As the cabbie disembarked and helped them with their luggage, Griffin continued.
"So I just followed the boy's tracks back upstairs to the captain's quarters. When the door opened, I could tell immediately from the scent, the marks of shoe polish on his hands, and the light grease on the heel of his right shoe that it was the captain's son who had taken the spyglass." Griffin shrugged and added humbly, "Not only that, but when I saw the creases in his sailor's cap, I assumed that he'd bent it into a different shape, probably to look like a pirate's hat. It really was pretty simple."
Rupert Snodgrass smirked and shook his head. It was hard to argue with his nephew's brilliance. It was also hard for him to accept the way Griffin reasoned his way through a case. His method of observation and deduction reminded him a lot of his rival, Sherlock Holmes. Even though he and Holmes had patched up their relationship, Rupert felt that he would never get over the sting of always feeling inferior to him.
Excerpted from The Future Door by Jason Lethcoe Copyright © 2011 by Jason Lethcoe. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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