Chapter 5: Mortifera Fraternitas
Mr. Sherlock Holmes and I found Detective Brewster pacing near the library exit. His face was a pallid color and perspiration rained down upon his unkempt brow. His face wore a look of befuddled contemplation. I recognized such a sweet innocence in the man, one wholly incompatible with his recent transition to such an unpleasant and serious line of work. When he saw my companion and me approach, a slight, languid smile grew from the corners of his mouth.
"Mssrs., what have you discovered? Is the case solved?" Cried out Detective Brewster.
"Not quite yet, my dear fellow, but a resolution is in the making." Replied Holmes.
"Where must we go next, then?"
"You sir, must hasten. You must reach the constable's office and make free Mr. Johnson-Koulianos, for it should now be obvious that he had no part in this evil business." Holmes gave his instructions, but must have sensed some apprehension in the Detective's face. In a moment of hard-boiled humanity, Holmes grabbed Mr. Brewster by the sleeve and spun him back until the two men met gazes at only a few inches remove. "Mr. Brewster, make no mistake, the dark clouds are gathering and the devils are marshaling a strength that may very well lay us low. You sir, must act the Thunderer. You are the master of the storm, the mighty champion of bloody chaos. With Watson and I your steadfast, hircine companions, you will prevail. Now steel yourself, Mr. Brewster, for this tempest will blow fiercely, but not at any length. Each of us must be prepared to strike at the enemy's very throat when the time arises. Now go sir and take comfort in the running of the course."
Detective Brewster turned away, his expression visibly buoyed by Holmes' speech.
"I fear he is not up to the task before us, Holmes."
"We will need all the friends we can muster over the coming day. The detective is not bright, nor courageous, but he is proud and the fear of humiliation to a proud man can be a powerful motivation."
"Quite right, Holmes. Here is to hoping that Mr. Brewster's vainglory is maintained"
"Now Watson, shall we proceed to Mr. Ferentz's office?"
It was late morning when we arrived at the coach's office. Holmes and I entered the chamber and found Mr. Ferentz, red-eyed and sullen, standing at his window, staring blankly into the grayness of the late winter day. His hands trembled, but his countenance was fixed. Grief hung thickly in the still air and belied the loss of a simple acquaintance or colleague. It then struck me that Ken O'Keefe meant much more to Mr. Ferentz than one might initially assume by their professional relationship and it became clear that Sherlock Holmes' knowledge of this relationship was the reason for his insistence on our visit.
"Mr. Ferentz, we are sorry to disturb you on such a lamentable day, but Watson and I continue our search and a short conversation may go far in helping us to conclude this terrible business."
Mr. Ferentz remained at the window and responded with a meekness that I had not expected from a man of such resolve. "Of course, good fellows. Please, sit. I will tell you of anything you would like to know."
Holmes stayed standing and replied. "First, let me offer my condolences on the loss of your brother this morning."
Mr. Ferentz appeared quite startled by Holmes' admission, which was likely meant to elicit such a response, and I cannot say that I was any less surprised.
"Mr. Holmes, but…but how could you have known? Only a few are privy to the true nature of my relationship with Ken."
"It is simplicity itself, good sir. Your behavior at our meeting in London first aroused my suspicion. You seemed vehement in your attempt to avoid any investigation concerning your football program, which suggested to me that there might be some information that you wished to keep secret. As a matter of routine diligence, I wired your home town in Pennsylvania for your family records and found that there was a child, not born to your mother, who resided in your home until his eighth birthday and then, subsequently disappeared."
"Ken was sent away. As a child, he was something of a dullard, spending most of his day running head long into walls or feeling a constant need to reverse his direction of purpose like a confused yard bird. My parents could not handle these difficulties and, at eight years of age, Ken was sent to an institution from which he was adopted a few years later. I always maintained fond memories of when my older brother lived at home and I swore that we would reunite some day."
"He was not born to your mother though. Did you know that?"
"No, I was not aware. There had been rumors in my family, but nothing was ever confirmed to me."
"Your father had an affair with a young Amish buttermaid. Because of his pronounced difficulties, which you have already described, the resulting child was given to your mother and father to raise."
"Mr. Holmes, I know not from what depraved humor do you presume to tell such lies about my father. I would ask you to stop before our meeting comes to blows!" Mr. Ferentz exclaimed as he rose to his feet and shook his fist at my friend.
"It is no lie, sir. My own investigation proves it out. I spoke with the woman myself and she confirmed the tryst and its eventual product."
This response seemed to slow Ferentz's rise in anger. The man returned to his seat in a confused retreat. Following only a few moments of silence, his head rose again and his watery eyes met those of my companion. "This is all so troubling. What does any of this have to do with Ken's death or the loss of our offense?"
"I do not believe Mr. O'Keefe's death was a case of mistaken identity. He was killed by someone who knew of your kinship and the grief you might experience upon learning of his death. Who knows you were brothers?"
"Aside from my family, only Norm Parker and Hayden Fry, the previous head coach at Iowa. Neither of those men would commit such a horrendous act."
"I am not indifferent to your thoughts on the matter, Mr. Ferentz, however such sentimentality will not influence my pursuit of the guilty in this case."
"I understand, Mr. Holmes."
"Now sir, let us find the quick in this matter. I believe you and your staff are in grave danger. The culprits grow bolder by the day. They will make some attempt on your life or on those of Coaches Brands and McCafferey very soon."
"What must we do?"
"Remain vigilant and wait for word from myself or Watson."
"Yes Mr. Holmes. Of course I will and thank you both for your help. This is a most trying time for myself, my family, and our university."
"It is quite alright sir. Now we must take our leave. There is much work to be done tonight."
"What are your plans Holmes?" I asked as we left Mr. Ferentz's office.
"I mean to surveil tonight and capture the villains on the morrow."
"So, you know them by name?"
"I believe so, yes. My net is closing."
"I should accompany you then?"
Holmes laughed heartily at this suggestion, which proved somewhat irksome to my present mood. "What trivial task would you leave to me then?"
"Oh Watson, to not be cross with me, I beg you. I only laughed at thinking of your utter lack of deceptive ability."
"You do not ease matters, Holmes."
"Watson, you have many brilliant qualities, but espionage is not among them. No sir, you will be much more useful as a bodyguard. Together with Mssrs. Dolphin and Podolak, you will protect Coaches Ferentz, Brands, and McCafferey. You must keep them from harm until I am able to locate our quarry and drive it to ground."
"Very well, Holmes. I will serve in whatever capacity you think best. When will you start your undercover work?"
"Very presently. I must first locate Ms. Conners. Good luck to you, sir. I should think you will see me again in ten to twelve hours. Remember Watson, be prepared for anything."