The Later Cases of Sherlock Holmes: The Mystifying Instance of the Absent Footwear – A Slight Return

sherlock

This early post is exactly what I anticipated the blog would become. I’m a big fan of Conan Doyle’s books and I was happy that I had got the ‘feel’ of this about right. It is one of my favourite pieces from my ‘little fiction’ strand, but according to WordPress, it is the only piece I have ever published that attracted no likes and no comments. Maybe it will do so again. Never the less, I hope it might make you smile…

Sherlock Holmes… was first published on the 6th December 2018 and is 1100 words long.

The casebook of Sherlock Holmes had become somewhat less congested as he moved into his later years, but the analytical mind of my companion never ceased to amaze me. He was capable of the most extreme leaps of logic, such as those I have recorded in my own modest records, and his perspicacity remained unrivalled. Only on his idle days was his behaviour at odds with that of his former self. He no longer smoked his beloved black shag as he was unable to break up the large blocks in which it was delivered and his violin had been permanently retired, consequent upon his tendency to poke himself in the eye with the bow. His use of drugs had become limited to those prescribed by the doctor to control the more erratic habits of his prostate. The strong lens which had found its place in so many of the cases on which I have reported, lay constantly at his side, used to scour the newsprint of the many daily newspapers he still had delivered. He was much taken with the crossword puzzle which had recently become a feature of The Times, although I noted a tendency for his answers to contain a different number of letters than that intended by the compiler. It was from such a crossword, pen in hand, tongue curled up over top lip, that his cataractous eyes rose and almost met my gaze.
‘Has Mrs Hudson spilled the tea, Watson?’
‘On the contrary,’ I assured him. ‘At least an hour has passed since she was last in the room, on the occasion that she had to mop up your broth.’
‘Then is it raining outside? The window casement has, I fear, shrunk in relation to its frame.’
‘No, it is quite sunny,’ I said. ‘And the windows are quite secure.’
‘Then the chair that I now occupy has, in the recent past, been occupied by a damp animal of some kind.’ He half-grinned in his triumphant way. I shook my head slowly: he wasn’t good with sudden movement.
‘Aah, a conundrum,’ he said. ‘We must follow my well-established practice, Watson.’
‘Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,’ I ventured.
‘Indeed,’ he said, groaning gently as he raised his wiry frame from the chair. ‘If you would be so good as to guide me to the dressing room.’
I held open the door for him and he entered, already preoccupied with the business, lately much more time consuming, of button opening.
‘I would be awfully grateful if you would try not to widdle in my brogues again,’ I said.
Upon his return, Holmes picked up the long clay pipe which he smoked in periods of deepest introspection and attempted to light the wrong end. I returned to my kipper as Holmes threw down the unlighted meerschaum. His temper had deteriorated markedly since Lestrade had confiscated his cocaine. I looked upon his face, so little changed with the passage of years. The thin, aquiline features, still pale and gaunt; the hawk-like nose embellished only with a dew-drop the size of a bulls-eye. The case of the missing slippers was troubling him. He was restless and short, a condition to which I have grown well accustomed over the years.
‘Data, Watson,’ he said at last. ‘I must have data. All is mere hypothesis until I am in possession of the full facts.’
‘But what facts do you seek, Holmes?’ I asked. He looked at me a little strangely I thought.
‘Facts?’ he said.
‘You said you needed facts.’
‘Did I?’
He took up the position that I know so well: finger tips joined, his chin resting on them, eyes hooded, almost closed. I settled down to review my newspaper whilst he cogitated. Some five minutes had elapsed before I saw his chin slump to his chest. A thin trickle of saliva swelled from his mouth. His breathing became heavier and deeper, reverberating around the room and rattling the china. This happened a lot when he fell to thought these days and I had myself descended to slumber when Holmes emerged from his reverie with a coughing fit that was testament to many youthful trips to the opium den. When the paroxysm at last subsided, I discerned that Holmes had in his eye the bright spark that I had come to recognise as a mark of his genius. ‘The slippers, Watson, are in the third drawer of my desk.’
‘But how can you possibly know that?’ I asked.
‘You know well my methods, Watson,’ he said. ‘Let us start with the hard facts. They are not on my feet. They do not fit your feet which are several sizes bigger than my own and Mrs Hudson is, as we know, averse to all types of plaid footwear. We know, also, that I was wearing them yesterday evening, but not this morning. Therefore, to find the solution to this riddle, we must look for the moment when I ceased to be wearing them.’
‘You used the drawer in your desk shortly before retiring yesterday evening?’ I offered.
‘Precisely, Watson, now, open the drawer and reveal…’
‘… A leather truss I’m afraid Holmes.’
‘Ah,’ said my esteemed friend.
We called upon Mrs Hudson, but she confirmed that she had not seen the slippers since they last resided on Holmes’ feet the previous evening. The mystery was troubling Holmes and even the giant intellect of the world’s greatest detective was unable to assemble sufficient facts from which to manufacture a solution. ‘I sense the involvement of Moriarty,’ he said at last.
‘Unlikely Holmes,’ I said, reminding him, as gently as I could, that Moriarty was currently securely confined at the Bide-a-Wee’ care home, where he shared a room with Mycroft Holmes and a selection of spongeable bedroom furniture. Holmes sighed deeply and closed his eyes. Only the nervous ripples that passed spasmodically along the lids betrayed the fact that he had not, once again, fallen to slumber. And then, with the small cry of triumph that he is known to utter when a thousand impossible threads are woven within his cavernous brain into a single cloth, Holmes snapped open his eyes, took up his strongest glass and peered down at his stockinged feet. ‘At last, Watson,’ he said. ‘There is evidence to be had here. You will notice the minute thread of burgundy weave that lies across my sock. An exact match for the weft of my slippers, I vouch.’
‘It’s a rasher of your breakfast bacon, I fear Holmes,’ said I. ‘And anyway, you have changed your stockings since yesterday, have you not?’
‘By Jove,’ he said. ‘You’ve hit the nail right on the head, old boy.’
‘I have?’
‘You have what?’
‘I’m sorry, I…’
‘Don’t worry yourself, Watson. Let us devote ourselves to the matter at hand,’ he said. ‘Now…’ he paused, deep in thought, his furrowed brow almost resting upon his pouting lip, his eyes cast down to his feet. ‘Have you seen my slippers, by the way?’ he said at last…

 

Incidentally, I have just become aware that ‘Brexit Day’ is upon us.  Should you wish to know how it all looked to me in November 2018, just look here

The Great Abstainer

sherbert fountain

I should, perhaps, begin by telling you that I have an addictive personality and, as I am fully aware of that particular personality flaw, apart from alcohol and (briefly) tobacco, I have never allowed myself to partake in any non-prescribed substance stronger than aspirin. I do not smoke cannabis because I do not smoke. It makes me cough. A drag on a Christmas cigar makes me light-headed enough these days. Despite the glamour associated with some of those who have succumbed to it, I have always viewed Heroin as a rather sordid habit, much like picking toe-nails, and so it holds no fascination for me. Intrigued as I am by LSD, I am also aware of Peter Green and I carry with me the knowledge that if I was to lose thirty years, I would have nothing left. My greatest concern in trying anything is that I will enjoy it, because I am fully aware how quickly, for me, a pleasant diversion can become a necessary staple. Ask the man that sells me my chocolate.

I keep reading about an ‘epidemic’ of cocaine use in the middle-class over 50’s, and this knowledge has thrown up a thousand questions in my mind that these articles do not themselves seem to address. I will consider some of them here – if you have the answers, please feel free to let me know.

I had to have a camera down my throat some years ago. To get down there, it first went up my nose (I have no idea why). Before spraying the anaesthetic up my proboscis the doctor asked me which side I breathed through. I had no idea. Surely both. He sighed and blocked each nostril in turn. When he blocked the left side I was fine, when he blocked the right, I turned blue. I had no idea that, given the option of using two perfectly good nostrils, my body elected to use only one at once. Even more bafflingly, the doctor told me that it occasionally changed its mind and used the other one instead. Why, he did not say – he was too busy feeding his Leica up my snout.

Anyway, my point is this: should I attempt to snort coke up the non-functional side of my nose, I would do nothing other than make one end of the rolled up twenty slightly soggy. Any light-headedness would be due to lack of oxygen. Worse, if this happened, my reflex would be to breathe through the mouth. My initial inhalation would be half a face away from the unmolested line and, thus, it would be unaffected, but my subsequent exhalation would almost certainly redistribute it over every available surface in the vicinity.

If, by some mischance, I stuffed the tubular currency up the functioning nostril and inhaled, I would sneeze – loud and snotty – probably pebble-dashing the mirror with a viscous form of cocaine that not even the hardiest of recreational users would want to touch.

Is there, I wondered, some kind of technique, other than thrusting a finger up it, for working out which half of the conk is in working order and, thereafter (post-snort), how does one stop the sinuses from responding to the biological imperative to expel unexpected items from the bagging area and into the nearest available tissue?
I am puzzled by where these mid-life ‘professionals’ meet their dealers: the golf club, the Masonic lodge, the W.I.? I’m taking it that these deals no longer go down on drizzly street corners and dingy doorways, but take place in bistro, wine bar or tasting-menu eatery. I also understand that the product itself is getting cheaper – I’m not sure why, but I’m not inclined to research too deeply in case Big Brother decrees my interest to be unhealthy and sends the boys round. Really, all I want to know is how, gram for gram, it compares for price with a Sherbet Fountain. More to the point, given the cashlessness of the economically endowed these days, how do they pay? Bank Transfer?

Thankfully, curiosity is all that troubles me these days, the age of the need to experience has happily slipped by me. The vices I have now are the vices I had thirty years ago and will be the vices with which I die, and, in the meantime, the only thing I will be shoving up my hooter will be a digit-full of Vick’s when my body decides to close down both nostrils at once…

Three quotes today, all by Robin Williams, two because they are about cocaine and one because it is just great:

“Cocaine is God’s way of telling you you are making too much money.”

“I couldn’t imagine living the way I used to live. Now people come up to me from the drug days and go, ‘Hi, remember me?’ And I’m going, ‘No, did I have sex with you? Did I take a dump in your toolbox?”

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”