The Red-Headed League

By Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, retold by Alex Stringer
Level: intermediate
Word count:  7618

I went to visit my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of last year. When I got to his flat, he was talking to a very fat, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair and a red face. I apologized for disturbing them and was about to leave, but Holmes pulled me into the room and closed the door behind me.

‘You’ve come at just the right time, my dear Watson’ he said sounding pleased.

‘I was afraid you were busy.’

‘I am. Very busy.’

‘Then I can wait in the next room.’
‘Not at all,’ said Holmes, and he turned to the fat man. ‘Mr. Wilson, this is Dr Watson. He’s been my partner and assistant in many of my most successful cases. I’m sure he will be a great help with your case too.’

The fat man got up half-way from his chair and nodded his head to me with a questioning glance.

‘Have a seat on the sofa, Watson,’ said Holmes. He sat down in his armchair and put his fingertips together as he always did when he was considering a new case. ‘I know, Watson, that you share my love of anything that is unusual and strange.’

‘I certainly do,’ I agreed.

‘And I’m sure you remember the other day I said that real life produces more interesting cases than our imagination.’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I didn’t agree with you.’

‘No, you didn’t. But you will soon see that I am right. Mr Wilson here has just told me one of the strangest stories that I have heard for some time. I don’t know whether it involves a crime, but it is certainly very unusual.’He turned again to the fat man. ‘Mr Wilson, would you please tell your story again so that Dr Watson can hear it, and also because I don’t want to miss any details. Usually when a client tells me a story, I quickly realize that it is like thousands of other cases. But your story is quite unique.’

The fat man seemed quite proud when he heard this. He pulled a dirty, crumpled newspaper from the inside pocket of his coat and started looking through the small ads, trying to find the item he wanted to show us.