Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Case of the Leaky Fountain

"Watley," said I, looking up from the London Times crossword, "what's a ten-word phrase uttered by a dim-witted detective's sidekick in a noisy environment?"

"What?" shouted Watley. Although it was difficult to hear anything over the unceasing bang and clatter of those confounded new automobilators passing under the windows, I nevertheless felt an uncontrollable irritability at Watley's reply's refusal to satisfy the basic tenets of literary convention.

"Confound it, Watley!" I cried. "Ten-word phrase uttered by a dim-witted detective's sidekick in a noisy environment -- thirty-five letters, seventeenth letter is G!"

"I can't make out a single word you are saying!" shrieked Watley, over a harumphing series of percussive explosions from a passing internal combustulatory engine.

Realizing I would not be making any further progress on the crossword, I set it aside. I immediately fell into a profound slumber, from which I awoke 17 hours later feeling slightly refreshed.


Six months later, Watley and I installed a "water feature" in the left corner of the flat. Its cheerful, relentless gurgling mixed with the cheerless, unrelenting clacketing of the traffic, resulting in an unrelenting but cheer-neutral wall of noise.

"Good show, Watley," I said, beaming at the man. Enveloped by this cone of noise, I settled into my cozy chair, and began meditating on the latest case to which my prodigious efforts of detection had been directed, to wit, The Perplexing Case of the Enormous Dough-Nut. Confound the dash! The pause it engendered in my powerful brain, immediately following the word "dough", plunged me into a profound sleep, from which I awoke 35 hours later, in desperate need of a shave.

A mysterious figure was leaning over the water feature, his squat silhouette matched only by the squat shadow thrown by the squat silhouette onto the wall behind me, should I have happened to turn around. But turning around is exactly what my nemesis would expect! To confound the villain, I did not turn around.

"I say, Sleuthe", said the squat silhouette, in a devilishly impressive impersonation of Watley's voice, not to mention of Watley's squat silhouette. "Didn't the water-featurer-chap say we shouldn't need to fill the reservoir more than once every six weeks?"

He was no match for my pipe, which I wieldt like a truncheon, knocking him to the ground.


The cat and mouse game continued in this fashion for quite some time. Every twelve to nineteen hours I would awaken from a restless soporification, and viciously attack the silhouette peering over the fountain. "What have you done with Watley?" I cried, as he cringed under the blows of my pipe, firepoker, deerstalker, filbert jar, cat, muffin, shoe, scarf, Stradivarius, or other item that happened to be handy. These exertions exhausted me, requiring a brief but lengthy nap before I could turn my attention to identifying the villain and ascertaining his nefarious intentions.


"I say Sleuthe, come look at this." The voice was Watley's. But not the face. The visage that hung but inches before my eyes was that of a monstrous creature, a swollen puffy caricature of a man, mottled in blues and purples. "Well," I thought to myself, "if this is Watley then I'm not the most genius detective on the planet!" This thought comforted me as I cringed in fear and confusion. "Help me, Watley!" I cried, momentarily forgetting if this was, or was not, Watley.

"Never fear, Sleuthe", he said, his voice thick and muffled. "Between beatings, I managed to drag sixteen eighty-pound bags of flour down from my flat, and distribute contents of same around the water feature."

Reasoning that only Watley would have known about Watley's secret stash of flour, I concluded that either he or I must be Watley. I now seemed to be at an impasse, but valiantly redoubled my efforts. Reasoning that only not-Watley would be intelligent enough to reason in such a fashion as I had just done, I concluded that I was not-Watley. Momentarily confused, I then concluded that Watley was Sleuthe, before coming to the more justifiable conclusion that Watley was Watley. Good old Watley! Perhaps he had chased off that villain, saving us both from certain disaster.

But this was no time for making and testing hypotheses. Watley continued: "I decided to make and test a hypothesis. Look here! Look at the flour!"

The flour was criss-crossed, unmistakably, by the pawprints of at least a dozen raccoons. Closer to the fountain, ringing it all 'round, was a gigantic wad of dough. "Don't you see, Sleuthe?" Watley said, wheezing with excitement. "But of course, Watley," I replied haughtily. "And now I shall explain it to you, in your own words. Proceed."

"It's the raccoons! The very same feral raccoons to whom you have been unwisely feeding filberts. They've been washing those filberts in the fountain. This accounts for the pawprints in the flour. And, because of the water they have splashed about, this accounts for both the ring of dough and and the shortage of water. Don't you see, it all fits!"

"And there you have it, Watley," I concluded. "No doubt you wish you'd thought of that yourself."

Here Watley and I lifted the large circle of dough, with its prominent hole once filled by the fountain, and launched it out the window. As it happened, a large and particularly noisy vehicle, transporting an immense open vat of boiling oil, was passing by below. The ring of dough, landing in the vat, sizzled and gave off an enticing aroma. Raccoons began emerging from every nook and cranny of the flat. Noses twitching, they scampered to the windows, and leapt down to the street below, where they pursued the vehicle and its dough-ring down the street and off into the sunset, never to be seen again.