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Thu, Jan 3rd - 3:54PM

The Beginning

Dear Moriarty fans:


The is the opening of the biography "Moriarty"

www.the-strand-magazine.co.uk


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.  

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