“The Valhalla Extraction”
The Complete Holmes & Watson
Copyright 2003-7 Wolf Tracer Studios, Inc.
& Animated Communications
Moriarty’s Charcoal Portrait:
Used with permission.
All rights reserved.
For Tansanta, JR, Albie, Jim, Shorty and all the guys and gals at Wolf Tracer Studios, Studio City Ca. and Debra Huff.
Insert Portrait of MORIARTY.
John H. Watson M.D.
After the publication of my fifty-six stories and four novels, the world was in turmoil and there was a lack of interest, by the general public, for tales of the great, consulting detective, my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Encouraged by his Doctor Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle I had continued to write, however.
After all of these years, my old publishers, WWW.The-Strand-Magazine.Co.Uk presents here the previously untold story of how Professor James Moriarty first took to crime and came to the notice of Mr. Holmes and me.
This is the first in a series that I’ve called the “Immortal Adventures of Holmes & Watson.” I’m sure that my friend will not take umbrage that I include myself.
He of course is ensconced at his farm in Sussex, raising bees.
Also, it is my understanding that this series is soon to be filmed, under the helm of that venerable director Mr. Colin Slater. In this endeavor I wish him the best of British luck.
I have taken the precaution of not repeating the stories that I have previously chronicled. More over, I have restricted myself to the biography of the formative years of the man that Holmes called “The Napoleon Of Modern Crime.”
My thanks go to the late Dame Jean Conan-Doyle and the artistic talents of Ms. Tan Arnold.
John H. Watson M.D.
On a misty May midnight in the year 1876 three men emerged from a fashionable address in Piccadilly with top hats on their heads, money in their pockets and burglary, on a grand scale, on their minds. At a deliberate pace the trio headed along the thoroughfare, and at the point where Piccadilly intersects with Old Bond Street, they came to a stop. Famed for its art galleries and antique shops, the street by day was choked with carriages of the wealthy, the well bred, and the culturally well informed. Now it was quite deserted.
The three men exchanged a few words at the corner of the street before one slipped into a doorway, invisible beyond the dancing gaslight shadows, while the other two turned right into Old Bond Street. They made an incongruous pair as they walked on, one was slight and dapper, some thirty five years old, with long, clipped mustaches, and dressed in the height of modern elegance, complete with pearl buttons and gold watch chain. The other, ambling a few paces behind, was a towering fellow with grizzled mutton-chop whiskers, whose frock coat barely contained a barrel chest. Had anyone been there to observe the couple, they might have assumed them to be a rich man taking the night air with his unprepossessing valet after a substantial dinner at his club.
Outside the art galley of Thomas Agnew & Sons, at number 39, Old bond Street, the two men paused, and while the aristocrat extinguished his cheroot and admired his own faint but stylish reflection in the glass, his brutish companion glanced, furtively up and down the street. Then, at a word from his master, the giant flattened himself against the wall and joined his hands in a stirrup, into which the smaller man placed a well-shod foot, for the entire world as if he were climbing on to a thoroughbred. With a grunt the big man heaved the little man up the wall and in a moment he had scrambled onto the window ledge some fifteen feet above the pavement. Balancing precariously, he whipped out a small crowbar, wrenched open the casement window, and slipped inside, as his companion vanished from sight beneath the gallery portal.
The room was unfurnished and unlit, but from the faint glow from the pavement gaslight a large painting in a gilt frame could be discerned on the opposite wall. The little man removed his hat as he drew closer. The woman in the portrait already famed throughout London, as the most exquisite beauty ever to grace a canvas gazed down with an imperious and inquisitive eye. Curls cascaded from beneath a broad-brimmed hat set a rakish angle to frame a painted glance at once beckoning and mocking, and a smile just one quiver short of a full pout.
The faint rumble of a night watchman’s snores wafted up from the room below, as the little gentleman unclipped a thick velvet rope that held the inquisitive public back from the painting during daylight hours. Extracting a sharp blade from his pocket, with infinite care he cut the portrait from its frame and laid it on the gallery floor. From his coat he took a small pot of paste, and using the tasseled end of the velvet rope, he daubed the back of the canvas to make it supple and then rolled it up with the painting facing outward to avoid cracking the surface, before slipping it inside his frock coat.
After a few seconds he had scrambled back down his monstrous assistant to the street below. A low whistle summoned the lookout from his street corner, and with a jaunty step the little dandy set off back down Piccadilly, the stolen portrait pressed to his breast and his two rascally companions trailing.
The painted lady was Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, once celebrated as the fairest and wickedest woman in Georgian England.
A few weeks earlier, the painting had been sold at auction for 10,000 guineas, at the time the highest price ever paid for a work of art, causing a sensation. Georgina of Devonshire, née Spencer, was once again the talk of London, much as her great-great-great-grandniece Diana Princess of Wales would become some 200 years later.
During Georgina’s lifetime, which ended in 1806, her admirers vied to pay tribute to “the amenity and graces of her deportment, her irresistible manners, and the seduction of her society.” Her detractors however considered her a shameless harpy, a gambler, a drunk and a threat to civilized morals that openly lived in a ménage-à-trois with her husband and his mistress. No woman of the time aroused more envy, nor provoked more gossip.
The sale of Gainsborough’s great painting to the art dealer William Agnew in 1876 had been the occasion of a fresh burst of Georgina mania. Gainsborough’s vision of enigmatic loveliness, and the extraordinary value now attached to it, became the talk of London. Victorian commentators like their eighteenth-century predecessors, heaped praise once more upon this icon of female beauty, all the while rehearsing some of the fruiter aspects of her sexual history.
When the painting was stolen, the public interest in Gainsborough’s Duchess reached fever pitch. The painting acquired huge cultural and sexual symbolism. It was praised, reproduced, and parodied time and again, the Marilyn Monroe poster of its day, while Georgina herself was again held up as the ultimate symbol of feminine coquetry.
The name of the man who kidnapped the Duchess that night, in 1876, was James Moriarty. He was known in the underworld as Professor Moriarty, mathematics graduate from the Polytechnik of Sciences, Zurich Switzerland. Also known as wealthy resident of Mayfair, sporting gentleman about town and criminal mastermind.. At the time of the theft Moriarty was at the peak of his powers, controlling a small army of lesser felons in an astonishing criminal industry. Stealing the picture was an act of larceny, but also one of hubris and romance. Georgiana and her portrait represented the pinnacle of English high society. Moriarty, by contrast, was a German born Jew raised in abject poverty in the United States of America who, through an unbroken record of crime, had assembled the trappings of English privilege and status, and every appearance of virtue. The grand duchess died seventy years before Moriarty decided to “elope” with her portrait, giving rise to a new class of Master Criminal and the entry into the public consciousness of a certain consulting detective and his venerable sidekick: