Chapter 499 Gentleman Thief
“I sneaked into the bedroom later, spening some time finding relevant evidence. I’ve also heard rumors that the congressman is good at everything, except he is afraid of his wife. It’s probably why he only dared to meet his illegitimate daughter secretly.”
Holmes used a knife and fork to cut the potato and stuffed it with bacon into his mouth as he talked.
Zhang Heng could see that he was famished. He didn’t have a bite of breakfast, and during lunch, he only a few bites from the meal Mrs. Hudson prepared for him. It was most probably the remnants of the drugs, where its effects hadn’t completely worn off. To make matters worse, he had been focusing on his work all the while. It was a miracle he lasted until now. If it were not for the earlier incident, Zhang Heng would have almost forgotten about it. In addition to Holmes’s extraordinary observation and reasoning ability, he was excellent at disguising as well. It wasn’t easy to look through Sherlock Holmes, but mostly after Watson wrote an article about what he did, his popularity had begun to rise to the point he had to put on some makeup in order not to be recognized He had the uncanny ability to masquerade as some a coachman, an older man, a beggar, an officer, or even a woman… If given a chance, Zhang Heng yearned to learn a little of those makeup skills from him. With lightning speed, Holmes devoured the food before of him like a starving animal. When the food had all been gobbled up, he put the knife and fork aside and let out a contented sigh.
“Tomorrow, I have a friend coming from France. Want to come with me to meet him?” “Well, what does he do?”
“He is a detective like me. His name is François Le Villard. He is a fledgling rookie. As of now, he is not very famous. Last year, I worked a case with him in France, and he’s a fascinating young man. Although he can be careless at the time, he actually has great potential. He didn’t say anything in the telegram, but I believe he didn’t come all the way to London just for a vacation. Let’s see why he will be visiting this time.”
Sherlock Holmes and Zhang Heng arrived at the pier early the next morning, waiting amid the thick fog for the steamer Seagull to drop anchor.
“It’s interesting, isn’t it,” Holmes stated, holding up his cane. “Before Watt invented the steam engine, no one thought that ships could sail on the water without sails and oars. This magical machine did indeed change a lot of things. Now, factories to ships, or trains, are inseparable from the power of steam. Such is the charm of science. The world changes rapidly every day. Change is the only constant, and no matter what industry you’re in, if you don’t acknowledge the change, you will soon be eliminated by it. For example, alkaloidsthis highly toxic substance had only been discovered decades ago, but I have noticed its appearance at a more frequent rate in recent cases I’ve investigated. Compared to traditional methods of murder, alkaloids can’t be easily detected.”
“I can’t agree more,” Zhang Heng said. Sherlock was in the era of the information boom, where all kinds of new and fantastic crimes had been emerging in an endless stream. Both criminal investigators and the criminals themselves continuously learned and improved their craft.
Sherlock Holmes could become the best detective in Great Britain or even Europe. He had never allowed himself to be complacent, though-his research and essays played an essential role. In fact, several experimental studies that he’d conducted had yet to demonstrate its safety and morality.
A quarter of an hour later, Villard walked out of the Seagull. He had red hair and a face full of freckles. Seeing Holmes, he was like a little fan that got to meet his idol, feeling excited and slightly abashed at the same time.
“I can finally see you again, Mr. Holmes,” Villard exclaimed excitedly as he shook hands.
“I’m glad to meet you too, Villard,” replied Holmes replied, before introducing him to Zhang Heng. After shaking hands with Zhang Heng, Villard continued, “I’m here to follow someone in London this time, and I wanted to visit you while I’m here.”
“Who are you tailing?”
Sherlock Holmes wasn’t one for the niceties like the ordinary Joe. He skipped the polite words and went straight to the point.
“A thief. He has committed several crimes so far, but few know of his existence.”
“Oh, why is that?”
“Because he is different from other thieves. He doesn’t target valuable things such as jewelry, relics, or art pieces. Instead, he pays attention to the value behind the items he wants to steal,” Villard explained.
“He usually targets reputable people in society. I must say that he is rather bold because he actually went for some European royal families! Once he locks on to his target, he will start to unearth all the dark secrets behind them. It could be a shameful affair, perhaps a murder the target committed years ago… These are all things they wished dearly that they could hide away. Once he steals something that can be used as evidence, the owner will be left miserable, looking at an obscene extortion fee. The worst part is they can’t go to the authorities for help.”
“Is he a gentleman thief? Or is it more appropriate to call him a blackmailer? What did your client lose?” Holmes asked with interest.
Villard hesitated and said, “If it was someone else, I couldn’t tell you anything due to the agreement I made with my client. However, I believe in you and your friends. All of you are gentlemen of high moral character…”
“That’s enough. Just skip the praising part and talk about the key points.” Holmes waved his hand.
“My client is a Viscount. He likes Canaletto’s oil paintings very much. About nine years ago, a well-known collector’s house had been robbed, and he lost a lot of things, including a Canaletto oil painting. Two years later, someone approached my client and asked him if he wanted to buy something good. My instant client recognized that the person was holding the missing Canaletto painting. He knew that people of his stature should never get his hands on stolen goods, but he lusted so badly for the painting. So, he approached the collector and asked to buy it. However, the collector rejected his offer. Now that he has the chance to take it into his possession, he would definitely not let it go. So, he chose an indirect way to purchase the painting.
“On the surface, he refused to buy it, even asking him not to step into his mansion again. Once the left, he secretly found an unrelated person to buy the painting from him. All these years, he never took the painting out for the exhibition. He left it at his residence and indulged its marvel alone. Somehow, it was discovered by that seller later. And this is why I came to London,” Villard explained it all in one breath.
“However, it is more important for me to visit you first,” he added.