Note: This story is a work of fiction. The photos are real (from our Local History Room), and some of the names of people and places are real, but these are simply meant to anchor the story in a particular place in time.
Mrs. Edith Wilson Todd McNab lives in Saskatoon. The year is 1913. Lots of things haven’t happened yet: The first world war, the second world war, televisions, or the Internet. Saskatoon is only 31 years old. 1913 is one year after the sinking of the Titanic, and one year before the start of the Great War.
Edith is married to Mr. Archibald Peter McNab, who will be the 6th lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan (but isn’t yet). Upon returning home from Church one Sunday, Edith found that her house at 703 Melrose had been broken into! Her bedroom had been ransacked, and the diamond necklace that belonged to her grandmother (carefully transported from England many years earlier) had vanished.
You are the detective assigned to the case. Follow the clues to locate Mrs. McNab’s jewels, and bring the thief to justice.
You find no significant clues within the McNab House, but you note that a good deal of loose change has also gone missing.
Heading down Melrose, you see most families returning from church. It is unlikely that any of them will have seen anything. However, you notice one home has a quarantine notice for typhoid.
You decide to head up 11th Street to look for clues. You notice some dropped coins, still shiny in the dust of the road, and follow them until you come to the intersection of 11th and Eastlake Avenue, where the trail of coins ends.
When you approach the river, you see a rowboat has been hidden in the bushes. Crumpled up in the bottom of it is a wanted poster for one John S. Johnstone. Muddy footprints lead away from the boat, and towards the neighborhood the McNabs live in. Could this be the identity of your thief?
A young woman in the garb of a nurse opens the door. "I am sorry," she says, drying her hands on a towel, "This home is under quarantine. I cannot allow you in to speak with the owner, he is very ill."
You stand a respectful distance back on the porch. "I was just wondering if you'd seen any suspicious activity over by the McNab House this morning."
She is silent for a moment, considering. "Well, as a matter of fact, I saw a fellow leaving through the back door after the McNabs had left for work. I thought perhaps he was a guest, or someone working for them, but didn't think much of it... he headed down 11th Street towards the Collegiate."
As you approach the Westminster Presbyterian Church, you can hear shouts and laughter, and the occasional sound of a ball flying off of a bat. You round the corner and see that a game is underway, with most of the young men of the congregation either playing or watching.
You approach a group of boys watching the game and ask them if they saw anyone suspicious come by. One of the boys responds that he saw someone come in very late to the service, "all unhealthy and sweaty lookin'" and spoke to the Reverend after it was done, but he doesn't know about what.
You find more coins on the lawn out in front of the Collegiate. While you are searching, you are approached by Allan MacLachley, the caretaker at the school.
He has been doing some outdoor maintenance. He confirms that he did see a man crossing the collegiate’s lawn earlier, headed towards the Presbyterian Church in something of a hurry.
Mrs. Rice's women's Sunday School class is enjoying the sun on the lawn of the newly rebuilt Grace Methodist Church. You ask them if they have seen a distressed-looking man go by.
The oldest among them responds "Well, that John Johnstone came by to talk to our Louisa. They were old flames before he... well before that nasty business with the money, and him on the run. He was quite dirty, as though he had been digging somewhere, heaven knows why. He asked Louisa if she would join him for lunch. She went with him, though from her face I don't expect it will be a pleasant reunion. The pair of them headed off up 10th street, probably to the Empress Hotel."
Reverend Dix says that yes, someone came in late to the service: John Johnstone.
He seemed agitated and asked the Reverend to let him stay at his home for awhile, being a former member of that congregation. Knowing a bit about Johnstone’s criminal reputation, Dix declined, and John then headed down Eastlake Avenue towards the Grace Methodist Church.
You run into some children playing. They say that a man and a woman went by, who seemed to be arguing. The woman got angry and went into one of the houses. The man kept walking in the direction of the Empress Hotel.
At the Empress hotel you finally find John Johnstone eating his lunch. He seems tormented by his conversation with Louisa, who is nowhere to be seen.
When you ask him about the necklace, he insists that you have no proof. You search him, and indeed there is no sign of the necklace. When you inspect his clothes, however, you can clearly see that he is covered in white limestone dust.
You knock on the front door and it is answered by a beautiful young woman who appears to be in some distress. She identifies herself as Louisa, and confirms that her former beau John Johnstone went to the Empress for lunch.
Louisa explains that she couldn’t get a straight answer from him about his sudden coming into money, and wonders why he fled Saskatoon the month prior. He finally caved in and admitted to the embezzlement, showing her a copy of his wanted poster. He also admitted to having stolen something valuable that morning, which would pay for both of them to set up a new home in the East.
Though Louisa has long had feelings for John, she doesn’t want their future to be overshadowed by his crime. She challenged him to return the money and valuables that he stole within the next three hours, or she would never speak to him again.
A large group of volunteers combs the rough terrain by the river, following the route John Johnstone would have taken. No sign of the necklace is forthcoming, nor is there any sign of the type of dust spotted in Mr. Johnstone's clothes.
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