The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Sherman Oliver Holmes, a mysterious crime solver and great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes. Can you solve the crime?
"I hate to bother you, Mr. Holmes."
Sherman's neighbor, Mrs. Krenshaw, led him across the street from his house to hers, a tidy Victorian gem set in the pristine white of a recent snowfall. The elderly widow was remarkably self-sufficient and walked with a strong, confident gait.
"I know I ought to go to the police," she said in a fluttering voice. "But Hank and Edgar are both such good friends. If you could find some way of getting my vase back without calling in the authorities..." She pressed her hand into his. "You're so very clever about these things."
Sherman blushed and cleared his throat. "Tell me about the vase, Mrs. Krenshaw."
She spoke eagerly. "You know that TV program, America's Treasures, the one where people bring in antiques and the experts tell where they came from and how much they're worth. Well, I had this old vase handed down to me by my mother. I took it over to the Armory yesterday, where they were filming the show. An expert appraised it at $20,000. It was all very exciting, being on TV and having such a rarity."
"And you think either Hank or Edgar broke into your house and stole it?"
"I don't know what else to think. Look."
Sherman looked. In the middle of the lawn sat a flowerpot on top of a stump. A single set of footprints crossed the snow-covered lawn to the stump then crossed away again toward the front door. Mrs. Krenshaw trampled through the snow to the stump.
"The house was unlocked when I got home from shopping a few minutes ago. I never leave it unlocked. Sure enough, the antique vase was gone. Then I saw these footprints out here. I came right over to you." She lifted the flowerpot and pointed to a key hidden beneath it. "I know it's stupid to leave a key out here like this, but everybody does it."
"Both Edgar and Hank know where you keep your spare key?"
"Yes. And they knew about the vase. I just had to tell them my wonderful news."
"I've been home all morning," Hank explained. He was a young, slight bachelor and didn't seem outraged to be considered a suspect. "I was paying bills at my desk. It's got a view of the street and I didn't notice any cars stopping or people walking by. Of course, I wasn't staring out the window every second." Sherman checked the man's shoes. They were wet from the snow, but his trouser legs appeared dry.
Edgar rang the bell a few minutes later. He seemed more annoyed by Sherman's inquiries. "I took my dog for a walk this morning. I passed by this block, but I didn't see anyone. And I certainly didn't go into Lyda's house."
Sherman left the men and joined Mrs. Krenshaw in the kitchen. "I'm not sure I can help you," he admitted. "Was the vase insured?"
She thought for a moment. "I suppose it's covered by my homeowner's policy. Does this mean you don't know who took it?"
"Oh, I know who took it. I just don't think you'll like the answer."
WHO STOLE THE VASE?
WHAT CLUE GAVE THE THIEF AWAY?
The whodunit above was provided by American mystery fiction author Hy Conrad.
In addition to his work in mystery and crime puzzles, Hy was also one of the original writers for the groundbreaking TV series Monk.