Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Case of the Asymptotic Remodel

"What's an asymptomatic remodel, wot?" exclaimed Watley, looking over my shoulder as I penned the latest entry in my casebook.

"Watley, my good friend," I exclaimed, "you are most certainly a doctor. I reach this deduction, you see, based on your mis-reading of the entry in my casebook. Were you a mathematician, you would have read it properly, as 'asymptotic', referring to a mathematical formula in which a value approaches a limit over time but never reaches it, which is also, incidentally, the word that is written there. But not being a mathematician, as I have just established, you must perforce be a doctor. That is known, to logicians, as the law of the excluded middle, since at the moment I can't recall any other professions. Other than private detective, the most esteemed of all professions, which you most certainly are not, or you would have long ago deduced yourself that you are a doctor. Ah ha ha."

Perhaps I should not have chortled in so derisive a manner, but occasionally my joyful indulgence in my own deductive genius manifests as a somewhat dismissive derisiveness toward others' intellectual inferiority.

"Yes, well," replied he. "You are deucedly good at deducing that I am a doctor. Happens with great frequency. No doubt it helps that you already know that I am a doctor."

I informed Watley that, as I am unable to recall from day to day that he is a doctor, my feats of deduction are worthy of a great deal more respect, as they prove me a genius.

"Nevermind all that," he replied in his idiotically good-natured way, "but what of this asymptotic rot and all?"

"Perhaps you have noticed," I informed him, jabbing the bit of my pipe at his chest, "that there is no furniture in the room. That is why I am standing here writing in my casebook without benefit of chair or table."

"That would not explain how I could be looking over your shoulder," responded Watley, who I had once again forgotten was shorter than me. Had he grown overnight? Recalling that once all other possibilities had been eliminated, the only remaining possibility, not matter how unlikely, must be the case, I concluded that he had, in fact, grown overnight. Remarkable. I was about to remark on this, when I happened to sagely nod my head in a downward direction, and noted with astonishment that Watley was standing on a small footstool, which extended one of his many bodily dimensions by several inches, possibly too many to count.

"Hmph, yes, well, aside from the footstool." With this supplementary statement I once again took the high ground. That is to say, I kicked the footstool out from under Watley's feet. Looking now at Watley, a though occurred to me. Had Watley shrunk since this morning?

"It's those dastardly plasterers, masoners, carpenters, hodders, bricksters, and moulderers!" I sputtered. "What is preventing them from completing repairs so that we can set things aright in here? The closer they get to completion, the less they are finishing. It's a puzzle, indeed."

I took a puff of my pipe, scrawled "SOLVED" in a profoundly intellectual hand across the page, and closed the casebook with a triumphant clap. A glance at Watley established that he had, inexplicably, not changed height.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Case of the Shrinking Summer

"Watley! It's still June, is it not?" I stared dumbly at the calendar, which stubbornly read "September".

"I still have three more months until teaching duties at Investigator University begin, right?" I stared dumbly at the calendar, which stubbornly read "September".

"No harm would come from just correcting this calendar to June, I dare say, eh?" I tugged in vain at the page of the calendar, at which I stared dumbly.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Case of the Vanishing Obese People

The Empire of Nippon seems remarkably devoid of the shockingly obese. Indeed, merely stout fellows are hard to come by. Such a contrast to my own Emerald Isle, which is hardly lacking in porkers.

Where have all the overfed disappeared to? I pondered this question while pacing the streets, searching for my vanished umbrella. Suddenly I found myself facing a dead end. Looking up, I was startled to see an enormous poster:

Ah-ha! The solution to the conundrum was quite literally staring me in the face. No doubt all of the Nipponese fatties are at this very moment crowded into this haberdashery, purchasing oversized suits. That neatly explains their absence from the city streets.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Case of the Stolen Umbrella

A most harrowing incident, which because of the complexity of incidental details will have to await elucidation at a further time, required my personal presence in the Empire of Nippon. Watley declined to journey with me, explaining that he would be busy eating breakfast for the next year or so, and so I set off on my own for the remote island of Quarterborough. After a sea voyage of some length, I at last arrived, older and more brilliant by several months.

As it was the Plum Season, marked by heavy rains, the ryoukan where I was lodged most hospitably provided me with an umbrella, whose handle was marked with mysterious glyphs 職員会館.

I set out in the morning for my scheduled appointment with my client amidst a caninical-felinical downpour, grateful for the use of this Oriental parapluie. Arriving at the building where my meeting was to take place, I saw several umbrellas carefully set just inside the doorway. Inducing that the Nipponese were most attentive to maintaining a comfortable interior space, I concluded that wet umbrellas should not be carried beyond the threshold, lest they sully the interior with moisture. After some moments of deduction, followed by a lengthy period of induction, and at last postceded by a fleeting instant of reduction (for good measure), I decided to place my own umbrella beside the others. As I did so I congratulated myself on my cultural sensitivity and general sharpness of intellect.

However, when I emerged from my meeting several hours later, my umbrella was nowhere to be found. But then I asked myself: how do I know it is my umbrella that is nowhere to be found, and not some other poor fellow's umbrella that is nowhere to be found, and that this fine umbrella right here is not mine? Unable to resolve this conundrum, I concluded that I must take that umbrella, which might as well be mine for all I knew, and carry it off with me. Sadly, just as I was about to triumphantly carry out this scheme, my extraordinarily competent mind revealed a key memory, which perhaps you, dear reader, will understand better if you cast your eye back to the very near-beginning of this tale. You will, I'm sure, be shocked to be reminded that my umbrella was carefully marked with several mysterious glyphs, to wit: 職員会館. I however, knowing the great power of my own faculty of recall, was not shocked, merely disappointed, for logically I was forced to conclude that it was indeed my own umbrella that was nowhere to be found. Not wishing to run afoul of the Oriental police, I set the umbrella in my hands back down, and stepped into the heavy rain with only my deerstalker to protect me.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Case of the Rejected Patent

Watley knocked on my door bearing an intriguing letter in the morning's post.

"From America!", he exclaimed, beaming with excitement.

"Any fool could see that," I snapped. "Especially me," I added, to make it clear that the United Statesal origin of the epistle had not escaped my keen detective's eye.

I settled into my settling chair, lit a pipe, filled a bowl with filberts, and sliced open the envelope with my Official Detectivator Open Letterer. Watley eagerly though somewhat awkwardly, stood pinned in the narrow space between the shoulder of the chair and the corner of the room, peering over my shoulder. I blew forcefully to fluff open the envelope, then carefully extracted its contents. A single sheet of paper, folded in thirds.

"My dear Sleuthe," the letter opened. It continued:

Your fame has spread even to these shores. Only your intellect and insight can save me from a grave injustice!

I recently submitted the following patent request to the government of the United States of America. It was rejected! Rejected, I say!
Application for one "object-avoidance echo-location device".

Items: human (one); bat, trained (one)

Mechanism: Place bat on left (or right) shoulder of human. Instruct human to emit high-pitched squeak. Bat will then use echo-location skills to instruct human appropriately, viz. "Watch out! Go left! Left! Even farther left than I think!" (Note: if bat is on right shoulder, the last sentence should read "But not as far left as I think!".)

Note 1: Bat training protocol must include English-language speaking instruction.

Note 2: Human should keep eyes closed at all times. Else, what's the point?

Note 3: Amendment to note 1. In other countries, non-English-speaking bats may be employed.

Rejected, I say! I wish to engage your services to investigate this gross miscarriage of justice. I am prepared to provide significant monetary recompense.

"Well, Watley," I declared, "The man is clearly insane. I believe this is the first time I will reject a case. And with rent due, at that."

I paused, then added: "I call it: The Case of the Rejected Patent!"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Case of the Postal Discount

Just the other fortnight I had occasion to send an urgent document to a client sojourning in the Empire of Nippon, located far to the east. Watley informed me that, following the recent establishment of the Universal Postal Union by the Royal Prussian Minister for Posts, Heinrich von Stephan (whom Watley assured me was a most unpleasant man, a fact I had already deduced mere moments after he so informed me), Her Majesty's Royal Mail had but just inaugurated an express delivery service to the far corners of the globe.

I thereupon signed my name to the document, powdered and blotted it, folded and sealed it, and sent it round with Watley to the post, with careful instructions regarding the grades of marmalade and filberts he was to purchase at the jammers' and nutters' on his return. Watley merrily set off, shaking his head and muttering something indistinct under his breath about "a real nutter", whatever that might mean, and I thought no more about him.

Strictly speaking, that last phrase is not correct, since upon Watley's return, as he stood before me and spoke to me, I found my thoughts once more turning to him.

"A most peculiar thing, my dear fellow," he exclaimed. "I was informed by the postal clark that there are two categories of service to Nippon, dubbed 'priority' and 'economy', from the names of which I deduced that the former constituted a speedier service and the latter a less expensive one."

"I'll do the deducing around here, Watley," I interjected.

"The fellow next informed me that the 'priority' service would cost 75 quid, and the document would arrive at its imperial destination in seven months."

"75 bob!" I gasped, first at the expense, then at the realization that I'd once again forgotten if 'bob' and 'quid' referred to the same unit of currency or not. To avoid any appearance of ignorance, I coughed loudly. "--kof-- 75 bob ... bob ... bobosterous, I say!"

"Precisely what I exclaimed, Sleuthe, though with an additional 'r'. Recalling that you still hadn't received your fee for solving the Case of the Bankrupt Client, and well aware that rent is coming due, I then inquired about the 'economy' service."

"Ah yes, the economy service, quite the thing." I spoke with some relief.

"But that's just the rub, there, you see," Watley continued. "The economy service was 92 quid. And the amount of time it would take to deliver was identical: seven months."

I gasped audibly, then silently. My mind was at a loss for words.

"Not to worry, old chap. I popped into the jammers, and for only 15 quid, they agreed to deliver the document. You see, they are now making regular voyages to Nippon. There is, apparently, a thriving trade in quince and gingko."

Watley and I celebrated his stroke of genius with a handful of filberts.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Case of the Lingering Cough

Watley and I were settled comfortably in the smoking room. I in my smoking jacket reclined elegantly in my smoking chair, while Watley in his smoking jacket perched somewhat less elegantly on his smoking chair.

"I -kof- say, Sleuthe," said Watley, speaking somewhat indistinctly around the stem of his pipe, "that was quite a nasty bit of the ol' grippe there, wot?" Watley punctuated his statement with a loud hacking noise.

"Indeed, indeed," I muttered as I lit the end of my cigar with my smoking match. "Nasty -kof- fever, unpleasant -kof- muscle pains, stuffed -kof- sinuses, painful -kof- throat. Then of course there's the cough."

"Indeed -hack-, the cough. How do you feel now, -kof- Sleuthe old boy?"

"Fine, just fine, fully recovered. Except of course for this -kof-kof- cough."

"It's been weeks. Wonder why the damned thing won't go away?" Watley tapped some ash into the smoking tray, sputtering.

"No idea, Watley ol' chap. It's a -kof- mystery indeed. Cigar?"

"Don't mind if I -hack- do."

Soon enough Watley and I each had a pipe, cigar, and a few cigarettes puffing along merrily.