The Moriarty Note

“You’re not really a believer, are you?  Agatha stared deeply into Sherman’s eyes.

“Not really,” the little detective admitted somewhat sheepishly. “But I do enjoy our evenings together.”

“That’s the most important thing,” Luther said as he started clearing the dinner table.

“We enjoy your company, too,” added Grimelda, helping Luther with the plates. “Although it would be nice if you trusted the spirit world.”

Once a week, for the last few years, Sherman and his friends had gathered at one of their houses for an evening of food, drink and spiritualism. Luther, Agatha, and Grimelda were amateur witches who took their magic seriously. Sherman came for the companionship and fun. Tonight they were at Luther’s home, where the after-dinner entertainment was to be a séance.

One by one, the host and his guests trickled into the pantry that Luther had turned into a spirit room. Agatha was the last one in. She closed the door behind her and joined the others around the small, round table. They all clasped hands, and the others watched as Agatha went into an impressive trance. Their goal tonight was to contact Professor Moriarty, the archenemy of Sherman’s great-great-grandfather. On two previous occasions, they had tried to contact Sherlock Holmes himself and once they’d tried John Watson, the great detective’s assistant.

Agatha chanted and moaned and called on her spirit contacts for help. For long minutes, nothing happened, and then came a sharp rap, like a knock on the door. The witches grew excited and Agatha doubled her efforts to summon the arch-villain. But there was nothing more. This attempt, like their previous ones, ended in failure. The self-proclaimed witch came out of her trance and weakly asked for a glass of water. Grimelda opened the door and went out to the kitchen while the others sat quietly.

“It’s because you’re a doubter,” Grimelda said to Sherman on her return. There was a touch of blame in her voice. Agatha sipped her water, then everyone rose from the table.

Sherman was halfway through the living room when he heard a gasp. He turned around to see Luther by the pantry/spirit room. Luther had just closed the door and Sherman could see him pulling something out of the wood surface. It was a note and a knife that had held it in place. “From the spirits,” he whispered.

“That rap we heard,” said Grimelda, with growing excitement. “What does it say?” She grabbed the note and read. “Seek not to disturb my soul. I will not warn you again. Moriarty.”

“You see?” Agatha said. “This proves it. The spirits are real.”

Sherman shook his head. “The only thing it proves is that one of you is playing a joke on me.”

“No,” Grimelda insisted. “There was no note on the door when we went in.”

That was true. Sherman had opened the door himself and there hadn’t been anything stuck in it. “One of you put it there later,” Sherman said. “Let me see.”

The knife was short and sharp, probably from the kitchen. The message was written in black ink and the paper was creased as if it had been folded. A tear in the center showed where it had been held in place. The door, Sherman saw, was made of hardwood, thick and tough. The wound made by the knife was barely visible, but it was there, deeper than Sherman would have thought.

“I don’t appreciate the joke,” Sherman said, focusing on one of his friends in particular. “It’s one thing to believe in spirits. It’s another to try to trick someone into sharing your belief.”

WHO PLANTED THE NOTE AND THE KNIFE?

HOW DID SHERMAN KNOW WHICH FRIEND IT WAS?

“Why are you looking at me?” Luther asked. “I couldn’t have put the note on the door. Grimelda was the only one to leave the room. If a human did it, it was her.”

“I didn’t,” protested Grimelda. “If anyone did it, it was Agatha. She was the last to enter. She could have done it then.”

“It couldn’t have been either of you.” Sherman was emphatic. “Even if you had the time and the luck to do it without being seen, the act of stabbing the door would have made a sound. We all would have heard it.”

“We all did hear it,” Agatha said. “That sound when we were at the table. That was Moriarty’s spirit stabbing the door.”

Sherman smirked. “That was Luther, rapping the bottom of the table.”

“Wait a minute.” Agatha scratched her head. “Luther must be eliminated, too. No one could have stabbed it without making a sound. It was Moriarty.”

“It was Luther,” Sherman said. “And the reason he didn’t make a sound was he never stabbed the door. Luther was the last to leave the séance room. He took the note from one pocket, the knife from another, then pretended he was just taking them down. As for the stab mark, he had made that earlier. This is his house, remember?”

Grimelda looked at Luther, who stared back defiantly, refusing to admit anything. “I guess that’s possible,” she said. “But I still think it was the spirit of Moriarty.”