begins with three chapters that take place during the last events of A Study in Scarlet. The first chapter introduces the first-person narrator, a penniless, homeless, recently dismissed shop clerk named Penelope Huxleigh. As she worries over where her life is about to take her, she’s rescued from a pickpocket and befriended by Irene Adler. Penelope is simultaneously horrified and smitten by the American Irene’s lack of care for English decorum. Her own adherence to it would prevent her from continuing the relationship, but Irene isn’t the kind of person who takes “no” for an answer. Though not well-off herself (she’s an out-of-work actress), Irene demands that Penelope at least take refuge in Irene’s apartment for the night.
In Chapter 2, the ladies travel to Irene’s home in a cab driven by none other than Jefferson Hope, the tragic murderer of A Study in Scarlet. He’s committed his crimes and retrieved the wedding ring mentioned in Doyle’s story, but hasn’t yet been caught by Holmes. He’s clearly very sick and offers a soul-cleansing confessional of his misdeeds to the compassionate Irene. Then, grateful for her kind ear, he gives her the ring before riding off and resuming his literary destiny.
Chapter 3 mostly features Irene’s helping an unwilling Penelope to exact revenge on the girl who got her fired from her clerk position, revealing in the process that Irene is an accomplished pickpocket. It closes however at Irene’s apartment with the two women looking over the newspaper and reading the story of Jefferson Hope’s arrest and subsequent death. In the process, Irene begins connecting dots between the story and Hope’s account of retrieving the wedding ring at 221B Baker Street. She begins to take an interest in the mysterious Mr. Sherlock Holmes who receives less credit in the paper than she imagines he deserves.
Though these opening chapters are only meant to introduce Irene to the knowledge that Holmes exists, I can’t help but feel Nelson Douglas missed an opportunity. In A Study in Scarlet, Hope retrieves the wedding ring from Holmes and Watson through the help of a secret, disguised friend whom we never learn anything more about. How cool would it have been to learn that that friend was Irene herself? I wonder if anyone else has written a story revealing more about Hope’s enigmatic ally. I’d love to read it.