Sparrow passed the time by practising card tricks with the pack he always carried in his pocket. He was halfway through trying to produce four aces from nowhere, when the shiny black door opened again and Fredericks came out, now wearing a square bowler hat and a short coat. As he marched off down the street, Sparrow nodded to Rosie, scooped up his cards and set off after him. Rosie followed on the other side of the street.
Fredericks crossed Park Lane into Hyde Park and took one of the many footpaths towards the Serpentine, the big lake in the middle of the park. Without pausing, he strode past nursemaids with children and older people enjoying a gentle morning stroll along the bank. Unlike them, he obviously had a purpose in mind, and the two Boys found it hard to keep up without running.The manservant finally slowed down as he reached the embankment carrying the main road through the park onto a long stone bridge across the water. The footpath continued under the road, through a narrow, arched tunnel in the embankment. After looking carefully around him, Fredericks slipped into this tunnel – and out of sight.
Sparrow didn’t dare follow him into the tunnel – he would be too easily seen. Instead, he hurried up the bank, crossed the road and waited for Fredericks to come out on the other side. But to his surprise there was no sign of the tough manservant. Could it be, he wondered, that there was a secret passage down there? After a few minutes, he gave up and began to cross back over the road – only to see the man reappear, heading up the slope to the parapet of the bridge. Ducking behind a bush, Sparrow watched, intrigued, as Fredericks seemed to lean against the parapet for a moment, then turned and marched back the way he had come.
Sparrow scuttled across the road to rejoin Rosie. “What do we do now?” he asked. “Follow him, or wait till he’s out of sight, then go under the bridge to see what he was up to?”
“Let’s wait. He looks like he’s goin’ home.”
“’Spect you’re right,” Sparrow said. “Job done, eh?”
“Yeah. But we gotta try and find out what that job was. And what he was doin’ when he was up there on top. Looked like he was writing somethin’ with a piece of chalk.”
“Did it? I couldn’t see – he had his back to me. Let’s take a look.”
Waiting until they were sure Fredericks had gone, Sparrow and Rosie clambered up the bank to the roadway. Sure enough, where he had been standing, something was chalked on the flat top of the parapet. It looked like two “V”s – or perhaps a “W”.
“V V? W?”
Sparrow said, puzzled. “What’s that mean?”
“Wait a minute!” exclaimed Rosie. “Look at it the other way up.”
“The other way… Oh, my word! It ain’t a ‘W’ – it’s an ‘M’!”
“Right. ‘M’ for Moriarty!”
A D EAD -L ETTER D ROP
Sparrow and Rosie scrambled down the bank from the road and into the shadowy tunnel underneath. It was quite empty and they could see nothing that looked at all suspicious – no alcoves or gratings or doors that might have led to a secret chamber or passageway. Only plain stone walls.
“Don’t look like many people come through here,” Sparrow said, looking at the moss growing on the footpath.
“You can see where he walked,” said Rosie, pointing to where Fredericks’s feet had flattened it. The footprints showed that he couldn’t have gone far under the bridge before he had stopped and faced the wall.
“Beats me what he was up to,” said Sparrow, scratching his head.
“Yeah,” Rosie agreed. “Hold on, though. Take a dekko at this.” Crouching down to get a closer look, she pointed to a little pile of pale dust on the ground. She took a pinch of it in her fingers and showed it to Sparrow. “What d’you think that is?”
“Mortar,” he said, examining it. Then he looked at the wall above. “Hello. What we got here, then? This bit looks like it’s loose.”
The joint between two