Day 231: Liberty Head Nickel

Shaverham set down his lordship’s requested Gibson with scarcely hidden disapproval.

“Shaverham, what happened to my new coins?” asked Lord Bumpersnick.

“I couldn’t say, sir. Perhaps, given their resplendent display obstructing the room, a visiter could not contain the temptation to show them around.”

“That’s complete rot, Shaverham. Send up the alarm. Call up the bobbies. Search the rooms, for heavens sake, and make it fast.” Bumpersnick took a less than genteel slurp of his Gibson. “Such a collection might be sold in a day.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“We must recover the Liberty Head Nickel, Shaverham.” He schlucked the rest of the drink down, onion and all. “It’s my Hope Diamond. My Faberge Egg. My Arkenstone!”

“We must refine your reading, sir.”

“Don’t be such a snob, Shaverham.”

“I will endeavor to improve, sir.”

“The Liberty Head Nickel is worth four times the value of all the rest of them.”

Shaverham and Butler Cranbury conducted a search of the manor with footman Cridgeford’s assistance, strenuously avoiding any offense to their guests. In the wastebasket behind footman Puffleschmidt’s bed, they found the coin holders stripped of their treasure.

“I hardly think it could be Puffleschmidt,” said Cridgeford. “The man is irreproachable.”

“I can scarcely disagree,” said Cranbury. “But the evidence is incriminating.”

Cridgeford scoffed. “Would a man with his intelligence leave such evidence, I ask you? This has every characteristic of a frame-up.”

“Right, you are,” said Shaverham. “It seems another layer to the plot must be unearthed.”

“I suppose,” said Cranbury. “But how to proceed.”

“I say.” Cridgeford picked up a few coin holders. “Look here. These casings have grease on them. Our little mastermind has left behind a clue. Who might have grease on their hands?”

Shaverham took a coin holder from the footman and sniffed it. “It smells of automobile oil.” He handed it to Cranbury, who immediately gave it back to Cridgeford and pulled out a cloth to wipe his hands.

Cridgeford dropped them back into the wastebasket. “What’s our next move then, sir?”

Shaverham hitched his mouth. “Cridgeford, remain here to safeguard this evidence while Cranbury and I search Applebaum’s room.”

“You think it’s the driver?” asked Cridgeford.

“We’ll be back forthwith.”

Shaverham unlocked the room over the garage and searched the drawers, the closet, and Applebaum’s private cases. He then lifted the mattress to find a few dozen loose coins underneath. Cranbury’s inventory revealed that all were accounted for, except the Liberty Head Nickel.

“His lordship will be crestfallen.” Shaverham collected the coins in a felt pouch and strung it to his belt.

“Not if we get to Applebaum first,” said Cranbury. “The guilty party will have it stashed, and a firm interrogation will produce it.”

“Let’s assemble all the evidence before confronting him, shall we?” said Shaverham.

“Right ho,” said Cranbury.

Shaverham grimaced at the vulgarity.

They returned to Puffleschmidt’s room.

“What’s it?” asked Cridgeford.

“We recovered a tenth of the collection’s value,” said Shaverham.

“More like a fifth,” said Cridgeford.

“Quite,” said Shaverham. “I’d say we are ready to bring the accused before his lordship. Come along, Cridgeford.”

They hiked it to the study where Lord Bumpersnick read a Philip K. Dick novel.

“Good evening, sir,” said Shaverham. “Our investigation has met with success, and the guilty is discovered.”

Cridgeford took his place next to Shaverham. “Shall I send for Applebaum, sir.”

“I hardly think that’s necessary, Cridgeford. Is the Liberty Head Nickel in your room or on your person?”

“B-beg your pardon, sir.”

“I must say, you almost had me. To frame someone of framing someone else was a splendid show of misdirection.”

“Is it true?” asked Cranbury.

Cridgeford pulled at his fingers. “How did you know, sir?”

“I didn’t say what we’d recovered,” said Shaverham. “Yet you knew enough to correct the value I gave you.”

Lord Bumpersnick set the book down and stood in front of Cridgeford. “Where’s my Arkenstone, footman?”

Shaverham wrinkled his brow. “Too much drama, sir.”

“Don’t be a snob, Shaverham.”

“Yes, sir.”

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