The Case of the Tarnished Scepter

 

 

The Case of the Tarnished Scepter

 

 

Stardate 57647.36

January 16, 2380 – 5:00 PM

 

 

            Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge sat quietly in his quarters on board the Enterprise-E, reviewing his evening correspondence.  Among his messages was a request from the Captain to schedule shore leave, two invitations to Starfleet functions, even a message from his father to come home for a family get-together.  Geordi scanned through them all, but didn’t respond to any of them.  He still found it difficult to find contentment in his life, the gaping hole in his heart remained. 

            The soft hum of the doorway chime broke the silence.  He knew who it was – the visitor appeared at the same time every night, though the visits did little to ease Geordi’s pain.  If anything, they were a vivid reminder of the best friend he had lost. 

            “Come in, B-4,” Geordi answered, spinning his chair to the doorway.

            The android sauntered into the room.  Its movements were still clunky, awkward.  It wasn’t B-4’s fault that he was an exact, albeit clumsier, replica of Data – much of the android’s past remained a puzzle.  A mysterious prototype of Dr. Soong’s that had been discovered on the planet Kolarus III in pieces, B-4 had been trying for the past few months to find a place onboard the Enterprise, struggling to adapt to life amongst a crew of humans.  It was a struggle Geordi found familiar, though B-4 remained a much slower “learner” than Data, despite having all of Data’s memories downloaded into his system. 

            “What can I help you with today?”  Geordi smiled.  As hard as it was to be around the android, Geordi felt an obligation to help B-4 along, and befriend him in much the same way he did with Data, so many years ago. 

            “Commander La Forge, I understand you are familiar with the fictional character Sherlock Holmes.”  B-4 remained formal and to the point in his daily visits with Geordi – the android had not yet learned the finer points of casual, human conversation that Data had finally started to master.

            “That’s right, B-4,” Geordi replied, “Commander Data and I recreated many of Holmes’s adventures on the holodeck.  It was a…hobby of ours.” 

            “Curious,” B-4 appeared to be analyzing more internal information, “my brother appears to have read all of the original Holmes stories, and carries various images of your experiences together in the holodeck.  There are, however, several titles in his databank that do not correspond to the original works written by Dr. Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series…”

            “I can explain that,” Geordi cut him off, recognizing the android’s tendency to over explain things, “there were several ‘adventures’ that Commander Barclay and I created for the holodeck that were intended to give Commander Data…more of a challenge.” 

            “I understand,” B-4 paused.  “Commander La Forge, I would like to review these particular versions at my own leisure.  Do you have any of the original programs?”

            “I do,” Geordi turned and opened the bottom drawer of his desk.  Filed in a dual rack were backup copies of all the Holmes adventures he and Data had carried out over the years, except, for obvious reasons, the Moriarty programs.  On the left side of the rack were the original Holmes adventures that Data breezed through.  On the right were the newer adaptations, designed to force Data to conjure up his own unique solutions to mysteries outside of the Conan Doyle stories.  The collection stirred up a well of memories for Geordi, who paused to consider the files. 

            “Tell you what B-4,” Geordi flipped through the copies, “this collection means a lot to me.  I’ll give them to you one at a time, you can start with…here it is, this one.”

            The android took the program file and read the title.  “The Case of the Tarnished Scepter.”  He rose from his chair – B-4’s equivalent of excitement, Geordi supposed.  “I will access the program synopsis of this file and return it to you at 7:00 hours.”  The android turned to the doorway, paused, and added the phrase “Thank-you,” before he exited the suite, as if an internal program had reminded him to do so.

            Geordi smiled at the android’s curiosity.  He neglected to mention to B-4 that the entire collection of Holmes files were available in the holodeck for he and the android to experience firsthand, but Geordi didn’t feel ready for that just yet.  He was glad that B-4 brought up the Holmes programs, however, for they stirred up a swell of memories that he and Data shared. 

            The actual disc he had given B-4 didn’t matter much, Geordi realized, leaning back in his chair. The Case of the Tarnished Scepter was as fresh in his mind as it was during the three-day period that he and Data carried it out.             

 

***

Day 1

September 26, 1886

            Sherlock Holmes reclined in the red, padded chair next to his fireplace, staring at the stacks of paper he carefully laid out on the coffee table.  He was dressed in his regalia deerstalker cap and plaid overcoat, a tad overdressed for an evening in front of the fire, but he insisted on immersing himself in the ambience of his character.

            He set another stack of papers on the coffee table, and tipped it over to spread the loose sheets over the other stacks, creating a very messy appearance.  Just then, Dr. Watson skirted up the stairs with a warm teapot, his eyes widened at the sight of his suddenly unkempt den. 

            “Ah, yes, dear Watson,” Holmes greeted, “I see you have tea ready for our expected guest – an appropriate Victorian custom for company.   Oh, I still see my tea cup.”  He piled more papers onto his table to cover the empty cup. 

            “Computer Freeze Program.”  Watson responded, speaking to his friend as if he had gone crazy.  “Data, what on earth are you doing?” 

            Data looked up at his friend with a hint of surprise.  His Holmes accent was replaced by his normally objective voice.  “I am merely trying to mimic the living conditions experienced by Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Sherlock Holmes was notorious for being messy, often leaving numerous case files lying around his quarters, a trait that Dr. Watson found particularly annoying, given his medical background and preferences for tidiness and sanitization…”

            “Okay, okay, I get it,” Geordi La Forge interrupted his friend, rolling his eyes behind his visor, “but do you have to be so…authentic?”

            Data took a moment to assess the suggestion.  “I suppose we will be having company shortly.  It certainly isn’t Victorian etiquette to greet guests in a cluttered household.  Computer, remove paper files, and resume program.” 

            The mass of paper dissolved into thin air, leaving Holmes and Watson in their empty living room.  Their program resumed with a rap from their front door knocker. 

“Ah yes, Watson.” Data jumped back into character, “Our company has arrived.”

 

***

            “Good evening, Mr. Penniwale,” Data stood in his doorway at 221B Baker Street and greeted the burly man standing at his front step.  “What brings you here all the way from Hyde Park?”

            Penniwale looked surprised, and his rough English accent reflected as much.  “Why, Mr. Holmes, how did you know I came from Hyde Park?”

            “It’s all in the feet, Mr. Penniwale,” Data started, removing the unlit cob pipe from his mouth and using its handle as a pointer, “You see, I noticed that the toe of your shoe contains a crumbly red powder which I recognize as concrete dust laden with clay, a chemical mixture that the city used to refurbish the Park trails in the late 1860s.  But that clue was not decisive enough, as developers also purchased the same type of gravel for Hampstead Heath.  Therefore, I took liberty in noticing that your right shoelace contains a fine-”

            “Uh, Holmes,” Geordi cleared his throat, “perhaps we should see what Mr. Penniwale wants.”

            “Oh yes, indeed,” the android stammered, having recalled Geordi’s constant reminders not to overdo Holmes’ deductive explanations, “please come in, sir.  Would you like some tea?”

            “No, thank-you, Mr. Holmes.”  Penniwale entered the residence.  He was dressed in a gray suit and a black bowler that covered his thinning, red hair.  Once inside, he wanted to get right down to business.  “Oh Mr. Holmes, We require your assistance, sir.  We have a case of blackmail and death threats most foul, and only you can help us.”      

            “Blackmail and death threats!” Data mimicked his idol’s celebrated reactions, “Prey tell, Mr. Penniwale, please begin your interesting narrative.”

            “Well, Mr. Holmes,” the gentleman sighed, “as you already know I am an accountant for the Turington Estate in the West End.  My employer, the widowed Mrs. Audrey Turington, is an heir to her late husband’s fortune.  He was a land developer, you see, and a renowned royal connoisseur to boot.  He was lost at sea, the poor chap, venturing to Arabia for some prized Mesopotamian relics.  His body was never found.  His antique collection is estimated to be in the millions, but as of late, Mrs. Turington has been selling off many of her husband’s artifacts to foreign interests.  She has reaped a delicious profit from the sales, but unfortunately she has also reaped the ire of a raving lunatic – a madman who has harassed her into hoarding the fortune, claiming that her dead husband would never have allowed the collection to be dispersed so quickly.” 

            “I see,” Data inquired, “and I can only assume that the identity of this lunatic is a mystery to you, lest you require my services for some other inexplicable reason.” 

            “You are correct in your assumption, Mr. Holmes,” Penniwale paused, then his voice became gravely quiet, “but most importantly, we now have reason to believe Mrs. Turington’s life is in danger.  She has resumed selling her husband’s relics, this time on the black market, so as to not generate attention.  Much to our dismay, the perpetrator has learned of Mrs. Turington’s secret transactions, and has recommenced his threats, which have become more disturbing by the week.”

            “Curious, Mr. Penniwale,” Data replied, “can you elaborate on the nature of these threats?  Given the anonymity of the threat-maker, I can only assume they are in written form.”

            “Correct you are, Mr. Holmes,” Penniwale reached into his inside pocket and removed a folded piece of paper, “I have the most recent letter here, received just this morning, right before I contacted you.  As you can see, our concerns for the safety of Mrs. Turington are quite well founded.”

            Data opened the letter for he and Geordi to read.  It was neatly hand-written, and surprisingly formal, minus the occasional spelling and grammatical error.

          My Dearest Audrey,                  

          It brakes my heart to learn that you’d sell Mr. Ian ’s antiques to any crimnal in the underground.  Don’t you realize that when you sell his relicks you are selling his soul?  You leave me no choice but to protect that which he loved, because you clearly will not.  I will soon see you in the real underground because that is were you have forced me to send you.

            “It certainly sounds like a threat,” Geordi observed.

            “We’re treating it that way, Dr. Watson,” Penniwale nodded.  “Mrs. Turington is quite distressed over the whole affair, especially given the manner in which the letters have been presented to her.”

            “Presented?”  Geordi asked. 

            “The letters are not delivered through the mail, Dr. Watson, heavens no.” Penniwale’s voice returned to a stark whisper, “They are being left in her mansion, in her cupboards, on her dresser, even on her pillow when she sleeps.”

            “Someone close to her.”  Geordi glanced over to Data.  “Someone working inside the house.”

            “Despite my pleadings,” Penniwale rubbed his temple, “Mrs. Turington does not wish for the police to be involved.  It is only upon my fears for her safety that I have decided to solicit your services in this matter.”

            Geordi glanced at Data and saw the android’s equivalent of excitement.  The mystery portion of Reg Barclay’s newest Holmes holodeck adventure had kicked in.

            “Please Mr. Holmes, I beg of you,” Penniwale said, “can you help us?”   

            Data slapped his arm around Penniwale’s shoulders.  “My dear friend, this case sounds as intriguing as it is perplexing.  Consider yourself to be under the service of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective!” 

***

Day 2

September 27, 1886

            The next morning Holmes and Watson enjoyed a chariot ride into the West End, compliments of Mrs. Audrey Turington.

            The Turington Estate was a white, two-story, stone mansion perched atop a forested hill.  Around the mansion were tall oak trees whose foliage sheltered the masonry from the midday sun.  The chariot traveled up the cobblestone driveway to the front entrance of the mansion where Penniwale and two others stood waiting.

            “Good day Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson,” Penniwale greeted, as the chariot driver escorted them up the walkway.  Standing next to Penniwale was an elderly gentleman dressed in a fashionable gray suit, and a young fellow of Middle Eastern descent, dressed in white, grass-stained gardening overalls.

            “Allow me to introduce Wells, the head butler of the Turington household, and Raoul, our head gardener.”  Penniwale acknowledged the two men at his side, then motioned to the chariot driver, a short man with a flushed face who didn’t speak to Holmes or Watson during the entire journey to the West End.  “You’ve already met Lassiter, the Turington chauffeur – Lassiter, man!  Remove the chariot from the front walkway – you’re blocking the Post from coming in.  Quickly, chap!”       

            Penniwale’s harsh tone with the driver was instantly replaced with a friendly invite for Holmes and Watson.  “Gentlemen, come into the house, won’t you?”

            The solid oak doors of the mansion opened into an elaborate, tile-floored lobby.  Royal banners and suits of armor lined the smooth marble walls, no doubt a sampling of Mr. Turington’s taste for royal memorabilia.

            “Mrs. Turington apologizes for not being here this morn,” Wells the butler spoke in a thick English accent.  “She’s quite dismayed at having received yet another letter, right before breakfast.”

            “Blighty, if I catch whoever’s doing this to Mrs. T.,” Raoul cursed, grinding his left fist into his right hand. 

            “You’ll what?”  Penniwale chastised the young gardener, “sprinkle him with your hose?  Mind yourself, boy!”

            Penniwale turned to Data and Geordi.  “My apologies, Mr. Holmes, for the behavior of our staff.  It appears that yesterday’s letter has sent everyone in a bit of a kafuffle this morn.” 

            “No apologies necessary, sir,” Data replied.  In actual fact, he processed a great deal of information from the interactions he just witnessed.  “Indeed, it is your staff that I came here to interview.”

            “Of course.  We can arrange for these interviews in the lounge,” Penniwale motioned to the adjoining room, then signaled the butler. “Wells will arrange everything.”

            “I’ll summon the staff,” Wells nodded. 

            “No need for that yet,” Data replied. “I’d like to begin with Mr. Wells, himself.”   

            “Interview?”  Wells seemed shocked.  “Me?”

            “Indeed, I require interviews with the entire Turington staff,” Data spoke, sounding more like Data than Holmes, “from senior administration down to casual employees, preferably in that order.”     

            “Preposterous, man,” Wells’s tone was defensive, “I’ve been employed by the Turington family my entire life.  To think that I would be involved in any way-”

            “Mr. Holmes requires interviews with the entire staff.”  Penniwale spoke with an authority that clearly superseded Wells, who was at least twenty years his senior.  “Mrs. Turington is paying Mr. Holmes a handsome salary for his efforts, and she is also paying yours.  Now if you’ll kindly escort Mr. Holmes to the lounge.”

            Wells looked like he bit into a sour lemon.  “Right this way, Mr. Holmes.”   

      ***

            The remainder of the morning was spent interviewing the estate employees, one at a time, in a decorative lounge.  Data asked almost all of the questions, while Geordi jotted down responses in a notepad.  The chief engineer onboard the Enterprise-D had no problems maintaining the warp drive and all its complexities, but when it came to the Holmes case files, he found he needed to write things down to keep up with Data’s train of thought. 

            By the early afternoon, all of the interviews had been conducted.  For the most part, Data and Geordi were well received.  The most difficult interview had been with Wells – the butler proved to be quite argumentative, especially when questioned about security within the household. 

            “I’ve lived here for 35 years, Mr. Holmes,” Wells replied, “every night before retiring I patrol the hallways, and secure the home.  Lately, I’ve been patrolling on a different schedule each night, so that I might capture the culprit unawares.  I can assure you that whomever this scoundrel is, he is working under my auspices, somehow staying one step ahead of me.  But, I’ll catch him one day, and when I do, he will wish he’d never set foot on the Turington Estate!”

            “While it is unadvisable to take the law into your own hands, Mr. Wells,” Data responded, “I commend you for your loyalty to the Turington family.  However, I find it troublesome that our perpetrator is able to adjust so easily to your unpredictable security regiment.”

            “Blimey, Mr. Holmes, you’re nothing what I expected,” Wells snorted, “you talk more like a scientist than a detective.  Whoever this rotter is, he’ll run you in circles so badly your head will spin right off your shoulders.”

            “Spin off my shoulders?”  Data glanced at Geordi with a confused look on his face.   “I can assure you Mr. Wells that the maximum rotation of my neck makes it virtually impossible to -”

            “Uh, Holmes,” Geordi interrupted, “I think Mr. Wells was making an exaggeration.  Perhaps we should proceed with the next interview.”

            Wells shook his head as he exited the lounge. “You are a queer bloke, Mr. Holmes.”   

            The remainder of the interviews were more positive.  Many of the employees had no knowledge of the case details, other than the fact that Mrs. Turington was receiving death threats.  A common theme of each interview was a general dissatisfaction with Mr. Penniwale, whom all of the employees seemed to dislike. 

            “Blimey, he thinks he runs the place,” Raoul, the gardener, complained.  He was a well-built young man, with dark, shiny skin – a direct contrast to his heavily soiled, white overalls.  “Because Mr. Penniwale signs all of our paychecks, he thinks he can treat us any bloody way he wants to.  Thrift, thrift, thrift!”  Raoul mimicked the accountant’s voice.  “You’re wasting seeds, man!  You Arabians never did learn how to farm.  We would do well to kick the Ottomans out of Arabia and teach you people some efficiency!  I swear that’s the way he talks to me, Mr. Holmes, and all the time too.” 

            “Did you ever complain to Mrs. Turington about that?” Geordi asked. 

            Raoul looked sheepish.  “Blimey, we never see Mrs. Turington anymore.  Not since the letters started popping up in the house.  She stays hidden in her bedroom all the time, looking at old artifacts.  I might have mentioned it to her once, but I suspect Mr. Penniwale runs over her with an iron fist as well.”

            “Interesting,” Data noted.  Geordi watched Data process the information – the positrons within his neural net worked busily, analyzing the testimonies so far. 

            The most revealing interview was the one with Lassiter, the coach driver who brought Data and Geordi to the Estate earlier in the morning.  The man appeared quite nervous, and it was clear upon mentioning Penniwale’s name that he was petrified of the accountant. 

            “I do believe Mr. P-Penniwale is a fine employer,” Lassiter stuttered, his face shining bright red, “I like working here, and for Mrs. T.” 

            “When was the last time you drove Mrs. Turington anywhere?”  Data inquired. 

            “I took her to the bank last week.  It was a Wednesday morning.”

            “Did she have anything with her?”

            The driver pointed to a coronation crown and cloak hung on the far wall.   Affixed to the cloak was a silver-plated scepter, its sheen reduced considerably by a conspicuous streak of ingrained, green tarnish that ran along the scepter’s base.  “She had that.” 

            “The scepter.”  Data confirmed.  “It appears to be a traditional Stuart design, from the mid seventeenth century.”

            “Belonged to Charles II, it did.”  Lassiter nodded.  “Right after they restored him as King.  The story has it that his assistant dropped it in the muck, and didn’t clean it properly.  It’s been tarnished ever since.  Mrs. T tol’ me she doesn’t like looking at it, because it looks unkempt.”  Lassiter’s voice dropped to a sharp whisper.  “She brought it to get appraised, only Mr. Penniwale don’t know about it.”

            “Does she intend to sell it?”    Data inquired. 

            Lassiter continued to whisper.  “Yes – she’s about to fetch a nice loot from it, so she says.  But not at the bank, no sir.  On the underground market, to the Turkish buyers – they pay double what the retailers do, so she tells me.” 

            “Curious,” Data replied, “when does Mrs. Turington plan to make her next visit to the underground market?”

            “Tomorrow evening.”  Lassiter admitted, with a look of guilt on his face.  “She’s had me arrange her coach for her.  We’re to meet a man on the East End, in Spitafields, unaware to Mr. Penniwale.  Oh, he’d give us a yellin’ if he found out about it.  I suspect he doesn’t know half of everythin’ that she’s been sellin’ of late.”

            The driver left the room, leaving the two Starfleet Officers to ponder the actions of Mrs. Turington, and her seemingly estranged relationship with Penniwale.  At the end of the day, when the tenth, and final, interview was complete, Geordi leaned back on the couch with his hand on his head. 

            “I don’t know where to go from here.”  The engineer sighed.  “I have no idea who’s guilty.  Are we even on the right track?”

            “Pssshaw, old friend,” Data slapped his partner’s knee in pure Holmes fashion.  “Quite the contrary, this has been a most productive day.  I’ve narrowed down the case file to three suspects, all of whom have ample motive to threaten Mrs. Turington’s life.  The key now is to catch the miscreant in the act, and if my hypothesis bodes correctly, we can apprehend him as early as tomorrow night.  The game, my dear Watson, is afoot.” 

***

Day 3

 September 28, 1886

            The evening fog settled into the narrow, dirt roadway of Folgate Street in the Spitafields in East London.  The occasional carriage trotted past the front windows of The Empire Cafe & Teahouse, where Data and Geordi sat at a small, round table in the front entrance.  While Geordi turned his head at every carriage that passed them, Data sat patiently, waiting for the cafe door to open. 

            “Mr. Holmes, sir!”  The door finally opened and a boy in a plaid cap burst through the door.  He ran straight for Data.  “I spotted the Turington carriage.  It’s around the bend, sir.  They’ll be on Folgate in ’bout two minutes.”

            “Well done, Samuel,” Data gave the boy a handful of computer-generated schillings, “use that money to buy yourself some new school clothes.”

            The boy’s eyes lit up.  “Holy Crumpets, Mr. Holmes, that’s enough money to buy me a whole new school.

            “Good pay for good work,” Data winked at the boy.  “Now run along.” 

            With that, the young Baker Street Irregular charged out of the store with his money, as Data and Geordi rose from the table.  Mrs. Turington was about to arrive. 

            “Watson, you scamper over to that alley across the road,” Data instructed, removing his cap and overcoat.  Underneath his outfit was a peddler’s smock and hood, which he pulled up over his head.  “I will walk along the street and get as close to the transaction as possible, while you try to listen in on their conversation.”                   

They immediately headed outside and got into position – Data darted up the road, timing himself to walk down the street in sync with the Turington carriage, which turned onto the street exactly twenty-six seconds after young Samuel predicted.

            Data kept a few paces behind the carriage, disguised as a peddler.  Geordi remained hidden behind a gateway that led into the alleyway – the carriage stopped about ten feet down from where Geordi sat.  The engineer lost sight of Data, who slowed down once the carriage parked.

            They waited approximately six minutes when a second carriage ventured up the street from the opposite direction.  It pulled over directly in front of the Turington buggy.  His visor having tuned into the approaching cart, Geordi was able to make out a Turkish man in a black fez sitting in the cab.  Mrs. Turington, dressed in a heavy overcoat, approached the cab with Lassiter at her side.  In her right hand she held the tarnished scepter and passed it to the Turkish man through the window.  The man nodded, and flashed a devious grin underneath his bushy mustache.  He handed Mrs. Turington a billfold, which she immediately placed in her purse. 

            It was then that Geordi noticed the Turkish man’s driver, a man he recognized.  Wells had on an excessively large bowler’s cap, which sat over his ears and covered his otherwise noticeable white hair, but his face was unmistakable, even through the faint mist.  Just then, to everyone’s surprise, a masked man bolted around the carriage and yanked the scepter out of the Turkish man’s hands.  Mrs. Turington screamed as the man sprinted past her.  To the perpetrator’s surprise, he was swatted at by Wells, who used his bowler cap to slap at him, distracting him long enough for Geordi to seize the culprit’s right hand. 

            “Well, this was easy enough,” the engineer smiled.

            “Watson, watch out!”  Data replied, running towards them.     

            Before he could register his friend’s warning, the last thing Geordi saw was the scepter swinging in his direction, striking him on the forehead.                  

 

***

            “I h-honestly don’t know what happened,” Reg Barclay stammered, pacing the floor of the Enterprise-D’s sickbay.  “The safety overrides were activated.  The Holodeck safety settings were recalibrated last month.  I r-reset them myself.”

            “Commander Laforge’s injury is not serious,” Dr. Beverly Crusher answered.  Her words were directed to Barclay but her concentration was on closing the cut above Geordi’s right eye, which she was successfully doing with her autosuture.  “You’re lucky he didn’t hit you in the visor, Commander.” 

            “I didn’t expect to get hit at all,” Geordi frowned.  He was still dressed in his Dr. Watson outfit, save except his bowler cap, which apparently fell off after the suspect clobbered him over the head.  The blow was hard enough to knock him unconscious.  As to what happened next, Geordi was able to garner this information from Data, who saw him get hit from the opposite end of the street, and immediately sprinted over to the alley, catching the attention of Wells, Lassiter, and Mrs. Turington.  Data chased the perpetrator through the alley, slowing down only when the masked man tried to strike him with the scepter, which Data easily wrestled away.  Upon seeing that Geordi still lay on the ground, Data closed the program, and summoned an Enterprise medical team, who revived Geordi, then took him to Dr. Crusher for treatment.      

            “M-maybe I should take another look at the safety parameters,” Reg suggested, “The injury setting might be too high.”    

            “Perhaps the problem lie in the programming,” Data posited.  He, too, remained dressed in his regalia Sherlock Holmes outfit.  “Reg, you mentioned that you had the computer construct an original plot based on mysteries from alien cultures, in order to provide me with a challenge outside of the realm of traditional earth storylines.” 

            “Yes, that’s right, Data,” Reg snapped his fingers. 

            “What?”  Geordi turned his head, only to have his head pulled back by Crusher.  “Reg, you told me that the computer based this mystery on a serial ‘Who-done-it?’ tale.”

            “Well, it was sort of,” Reg scratched his head, “but the Earth-based storylines that the computer formulated didn’t seem to have cunning enough villains, so I had it choose a suspect profile from an alien culture.” 

            “Well, which alien culture?”  Geordi asked.

            “Let’s see, I think it was, um… oh yes, Nausicaan.”  Barclay went red, suddenly realizing the connection. 

            “Reg!”  Geordi rolled his eyes underneath his visor. 

            “Sit still, Geordi.”  Crusher snapped.

            “I believe we have found the reason for the violent tendencies of this suspect.”  Data announced.  

            “You think?”  Geordi responded sarcastically.

            Just then, the hum of the sick bay doors signaled a new entrance.  Commander Riker walked into the sickbay and immediately headed for Geordi and Data.

            “Report?”  Riker asked, though it wasn’t really a question.

            “We…uh…had some trouble with a slight…holodeck malfunction, sir.”

            Riker raised his chin suspiciously.  “Commander, I need to know why our chief engineer is sitting in sick bay with a head injury.”

            “I was struck in the head with…”  Geordi paused, not sure how this was going to sound.  “a tarnished scepter.” 

            “A tarnished scepter?”  Riker asked.       

            “If I may, sir,” Data piped in, “it appears we are still experimenting with the physical capabilities of our holodeck characters.  It brings forth a fascinating study on the nature and psychology of holographic programming-”

            “Another Sherlock Holmes case,” Riker cut the android off, then looked quizzically at Geordi.  “This is isn’t going to be another Moriarty thing, is it?”

            “No, sir,” Geordi, Data, and Barclay all responded in unison. 

            Riker smiled coyly at the three officers, then shook his head as he walked away.  “A tarnished scepter.   Captain Picard is going to love this one.”

            As the commander exited the bay, Crusher finished closing the cut, and shut off the autosuture.

            “Your head will be sore for a few hours, but you’ll be fine,” she smirked.  “Just put some ice on it and rest.  No more holodeck for today.  You boys never learn do you?” 

            As she returned to her other patients, the three officers were left staring at one another.

            “Y-you still have the Holodeck booked for another hour,” Reg whispered so the doctor wouldn’t hear.  “That is, if you’re still up to finishing the mystery, Commander.”  

            “Yes, let’s finish it.”  Geordi muttered with conviction as he rubbed his forehead.  “Data, I want you to catch this guy.” 

***

            “Mr. Holmes, please come in,” Penniwale answered the door, flustered as he greeted the two detectives.  “Ah, Dr. Watson, I’m grateful to hear that you’re all right.  That must have been a nasty lump no doubt.”

            “I’m fine,” Geordi grumbled as he and Data entered the Turington mansion.

            “My partner’s noggin may be raw, Mr. Penniwale,” Data said, “but the culprit has made a gargantuan error in delivering that blow.  I would like to conduct a general interview with the entire Turington staff, Mrs. Turington included.”

            “The entire staff?  Why, Mr. Holmes, I can do that but it will take time to round them all up – a good thirty minutes to be sure.  Perhaps while you’re waiting I could interest you and Dr. Watson with a brandy-”

            “Computer, fast forward program thirty minutes,” Geordi barked to the holodeck mainframe. 

            Data looked at Geordi quizzically, as the computer flashed images of different staff members entering the lobby and taking spots against the walls. 

            “My head is raw and sore,” Geordi eyed his counterpart, “and I’m not exactly in the mood for brandy.”

            “I’ll try to close this case for you quickly then,” Data replied, “Based on the information provided to me by Lieutenant Barclay on the suspect’s characterization profile, I have calculated that there is a 93.5% certainly that my hypothesis is correct.”

            “I’m sure it will be,” Geordi sighed, noticing that the bump on his head was beginning to swell up.  He regretted ignoring Crusher’s advice to place some ice on his wound.

            The computer stopped fast-forwarding and the program resumed.  The Turington lobby contained all ten employees, and a very irate Mrs. Turington. 

            “What is the meaning of this?”  Mrs. Turington fumed.  She was dressed in a purple nightgown, and her curly black hair appeared unkempt.  She looked as though she had just woken up.

            “As you know, Madam, we surprised the perpetrator unawares last night, foiling his ambush of your transaction,” Data announced, reaching into the inside pocket of his overcoat and pulling out the scepter.  “You’ll be relieved to note that I successfully recovered your artifact.”  

            “Yes,” Mrs. Turington answered dryly, “quite relieved.” 

            “My first question is for Mr. Wells,” Data continued, “tell me sir what you were doing driving the chariot for the buyer of Mr. Turington’s tarnished scepter.” 

            “I uncovered Mrs. Turington’s plot after quizzing Mr. Lassiter the evening before,” Wells replied, “the little rat confessed everything.  I have some connections in the chariot business, and arranged to be the driver for Mr. al-Suhrawardî for the evening.  My intent, without question, Mr. Holmes, was to ensure Mrs. Turington’s safety.”

            “Hmmmpph,” Mrs. Turington snorted.  She sauntered across the room and slapped Lassiter across the head, sending the limo driver cowering.  “That’s two people you told!  Disgrace on you, Man!”

            “I only feared for your safety, Ma’am.”  Lassiter stuttered. 

            “Now you’d better fear your livelihood.” Penniwale threatened the driver, “How dare you endanger Mrs. Turington’s life by taking her out there.”

            “That would be quite unnecessary, Mr. Penniwale,” Data announced, “as Mr. Lassiter was acting in the interests of the Turington household.  Two people in this room, however, have not been.” 

            A stunned silence blanketed the room. 

            “Well, carry on, Mr. Holmes,” Penniwale motioned to Data, “Who?”

            “Ask Mrs. Turington.”  Data replied in matter-of-fact manner.

            “What?”  Mrs. Turington looked as though she had been slapped in the face.  “What are you implying, Mr. Holmes?”

            “I am merely stating the truth, Mrs. Turington,” Data charged, “that you have been involved in the shameful sale of fake artifacts to Turkish entrepreneurs in an attempt to hoard your husband’s fortune.”

            “How dare you implicate me in such a sinful scandal.”  Mrs. Turington’s voice was sheer ice. 

            “On the contrary, this disgraceful affair has been going on long enough,” Data replied, removing a white rag from his pocket.  “Allow me to demonstrate on the very scepter I seized last night.”  He wiped the scepter’s staff, and held up the rag for everyone to see.  A grayish-green blemish covered the rag – a direct contrast to the suddenly glimmering silver scepter he held in his other hand.

            All eyes in the room fell on Mrs. Turington, whose face turned beat red. 

            “I can ensure you that a two hundred year old stain would not come off so easily,”  Data explained.  “Rather the minimum scrubbing velocity required to remove such an aged stain would be -”  He stopped himself in mid sentence, glancing at Geordi as he did so. 

            “Er, never mind that,” he continued.  “This scepter is clearly a fraud, intended to fool Mr. al-Suhrawardî in the same manner that she has been able to successfully fool the other Turkish buyers she has sold her late husband’s artifacts to.  I can only assume that Mrs. Turington’s greed and duplicity were motivated by a personal resentment harbored toward her late husband, who bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to the staff members, in order to keep the estate running.”

            “It’s true, the man left me with nothing,” Mrs. Turington burst into tears, “I had no choice but to sell off his artifacts, but Mr. Penniwale kept such a tight rein over the antiquities, that I had no choice but to have some fabricated, so I could earn a profit.”     

            “There, there, Audrey,” Penniwale consoled her, then looked at Data.   “How ever did you uncover this plot, Mr. Holmes?”

            “I did so thanks to information provided by the second criminal in this case – the architect of the death threats against Mrs. Turington.”  Data’s replied, tossing the rag directly at the suspect who, in reflex, caught the material with his left hand.  “The culprit I speak of is none other than Raoul, the left-handed gardener of the Turington estate!”

            The young Middle Eastern man sneered at the accusation, amidst a cacophony of gasps from the other employees.     

            “You sneer in a guise of arrogance, Mr. Raoul,” Data replied, pointing the scepter at him, “but I can assure you, the evidence is conclusive.  With this very scepter, I watched you swing at my colleague using your left hand, the same hand that I observed to be your lead hand when we first met.  It is also logical to deduce that a gardener, working on the tall trees directly in front of the estate windows, would have possessed the capability to uncover Mrs. Turington’s plans to sell her husband’s merchandise, and deliver the letters unbeknownst to Wells or the staff.   Moreover, it was you who had erroneously informed me of Mrs. Turington’s actions inside her bedroom – actions an ordinary gardener wouldn’t have known, unless he was spying on the lady…”

            As Data’s long-winded, over-analysis of the case facts rambled on, Geordi noticed the gardener inching closer to the den entranceway. 

            “Data, er Holmes – he’s moving!”  Geordi shouted as the suspect suddenly dashed into the next room, shoving one of the maids as he bumped past them. 

            Geordi bolted into the room after him – normally he would have assisted the young maid first, but his head was throbbing, and it helped to remember that the lady was only a hologram.

            Raoul sprinted through the den, and was about to charge into the adjoining dining room, but the entrance was blocked by a towering Wells, who had cut the young culprit off by taking a back hallway that led into the room. 

            The den quickly crowded up with the remainder of the employees. 

            “We can assume the suspect will act violently,” Data spoke in Geordi’s ear, “we are only in the fourth scene of a seven scene program.  We weren’t scheduled to apprehend the culprit until scene seven.  Given his Nausicaan-based programming, we can also expect him to resist to the death.” 

            “Well, it’s obvious we got the right man.”  Geordi sighed, understanding full well that he and Reg failed, as they always did, in creating a suitable challenge for the android.  Given his aching head, however, it was definitely for the best.  “Let’s go get him.”

            “The Turingtons were evil – both of them!”  Raoul screamed. “They did business with the Turks – the more money they gave them, the more the Ottomans used to oppress my people!”  He spun around and dove for the side window, wrestling it open.  The man moved like a cheetah. 

            With a sense of urgency, Data charged across the room and grabbed the gardener by the collar.  The man flailed wildly, clawing at Data’s face and suit.   With his positronic brain geared for combat mode, Data hurled the man across the room, slamming him against the opposite wall, much to the astonishment of the onlookers.  Raoul lay on the ground, motionless.

            “Uh, well done, Holmes,” Geordi tried to cover, sensing the shock amongst the employees. 

            “What happened?”  Penniwale trudged through the cluster of witnesses that stood at the doorway. 

            “Why, its Mr. Holmes, sir.”  Wells spoke to the accountant.  “The man’s as strong as an ox.  He plum near tossed Raoul right through the wall!”

            Mrs. Turington shuffled into the room and gasped at the site of the young gardener.  “Someone call the doctor, quickly!”   

            “And while you’re at it call Scotland Yard.”  Geordi said.

            “Mr. Holmes, I am quite astonished by your strength,” Penniwale stared at Data with apprehension. 

            “There’s more to this man than meets the eye,” Wells, too, looked dumbfounded.  “I must say, Mr. Holmes, I take back all that I said about your reputation.”

            “Er, sometimes I don’t know my own strength.”  Data seemed sheepish by the wave of comments that came his way – an android’s equivalent of embarrassment, Geordi supposed.  Data had solved the mystery early to accommodate Geordi’s headache, but had acted with too much force when apprehending the culprit.

            “Computer end program – save final solution, filename Data one,” Geordi decided to spare his friend any more awkwardness.  The Turington den and characters disappeared around them, replaced by the neutral black and yellow grid of the holodeck.

            “Congratulations, Data – you did it again,” Geordi sighed, putting his hand on his forehead.  “I’m going to get an icepack.”

 

 ***

Stardate 57647.59

January 16, 2380 – 7:00 PM

            Watching the shimmering bluish hue of the Debloi Nebula, Geordi stared at the interstellar phenomenon that angled directly in front of his window.  Despite its beauty, the engineer’s mind was elsewhere – back once again to a few months earlier, to those brief seconds when he opened the emergency forcefield, allowing Data to charge across open space from the Enterprise-E to the Reman Scimitar, to stop Shinzon from activating the Thalaron beam generator, destroying the Remans and himself in the process.

            Geordi had acted under Data’s orders, of course.  And there was no question that Data’s sacrifice saved the entire crew, and quite possibly Earth itself, from the Reman threat.  But it was so difficult not to play over that moment again and again in his head, wondering if there wasn’t another option available – one that could have preserved Data’s life, and had the same outcome for the Enterprise crew. 

            The hum of his sliding doors broke his train of regret.   There was no need to ask the computer for the time – Geordi knew it was 700 hours on the dot.

            “Come-in, B-4,” Geordi turned away from the window to greet the android.

            B-4 sauntered into the room, carrying the backup copy of the Tarnished Scepter.  He immediately handed it to Geordi.

            “Thank-you, Commander,” B-4 spoke, “I reviewed the basic program synopsis, as well as my brother’s solution file – it appears he had no trouble solving the case.”

            “He certainly didn’t,” Geordi smiled.  “Most of the “trouble” came afterward.” 

            “Afterward?”  B-4 asked.  “I do not understand.”

            “Once Commander Riker found out how Data solved the case so quickly, he began teasing Data about the “outside information” he used to solve it.”

            “Outside information?” B-4 posited, “Are you referring to the information provided by Lieutenant Barclay that Raoul Kharesh’s character file was based on the classic Nausicaan villain O’hred the Deceiver?”

            “Uh…right,” Geordi replied, amazed at the android’s growing penchant for detail.  Geordi himself didn’t even bother remembering the program specifics.  “Anyways, to make a long story short, Commander Riker accused Data of cheating.”

            “Cheating?”  B-4 appeared confused at the notion.  He was trying to process the possibilities the accusation posed.   

            Geordi smiled at the android’s reaction.  It was the exact same reaction Data himself had had when first confronted by Commander Riker with the playful accusation.  The Commander had been curious about how the “tarnished scepter” mystery turned out, and approached Geordi and Data the next day to find out if they solved the case.  

            “I do not believe my brother would have cheated willingly,” B-4 replied, indicating to Geordi that, like Data before him, B-4 would be spending some time analyzing this issue.   “From what I can deduce, he ended the mystery early in response to the complications you suffered from your injury.” 

            “That’s how good a friend he was.”  Geordi nodded.  “Data was becoming more sympathetic – that’s one of the traits of human friendship you and I had talked about.”

            “A curious accusation,” B-4 analyzed, completely ignoring Geordi’s lesson, “I would like to spend some time considering the parameters of this issue, and develop a defense of my brother’s actions.” 

            “Tell you what, B-4.” Geordi sighed, hushing the android toward the doorway.  “Spend a night thinking this issue over.  Meet me at breakfast tomorrow, and we’ll talk all about it.”

            “Perhaps I could relay my defense by subspace message to Commander Riker on board the U.S.S. Titan…”

            “No, not a good idea,” Geordi insisted, shaking his head.  “Remember – breakfast tomorrow 800 hours, okay?”  He ushered B-4 out the door, before the android could reply.

            Geordi turned back to the window and the nebula.  He had wanted to use The Case of the Tarnished Scepter to teach B-4 about the human trait of sympathy- a lesson that no doubt would have fascinated Data.  But B-4 was not Data, a fact Geordi had to constantly remind himself of.  B-4 was still very much objective, wanting to deal with the concrete facts of the universe – he was not ready to delve into, and appreciate, the human psyche.  Neither was Data in the early stages of his existence, Geordi supposed, but like Data, B-4 would learn to grow too.  Geordi would just have to remember to be patient – it was the least he could do to honor his lost friend.   

            Propping his arm against his window, Geordi watched the nebula glimmer in the starlight, smiling at the memories that engulfed him.  

 

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