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.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Case of the Mysterious Leak

Shouldn't the rain be on the outside of the house, not the inside?

The Case of the Unauthorized Casebook (cont'd)

Here the book ended. I slowly became aware of my slovenly state. How many hours had I been absorbed in these tales of derring-do and derring-don't? The stubble on my cheeks felt several days old to the touch of my fingers. I looked down and observed a distressing mixture of drool and filbert dust caking the collar of my dressing gown. My anger at Watley for painting me the fool in these tales was compounded by my anger at Watley for not writing more, and my anger for not informing me about this sure-fire money-making venture. I hastily calculated the royalties that Watley would be earning if he sold a dozen or fewer copies of the book. Then I doubled it. Then I tripled it. Then I wondered what the word was for fourtupling. Probably not 'fourtuple'. Oh, if only Watley were here, we could share an amused laugh at his ignorance of the correct word for 'fourtuple'. After which he would tell me the correct word.

There was nothing for it but to re-read the entire book. First, however, I would quiet that annoying closet door. I strode across the room, pulled open the door, and confronted the most unexpected sight that had ever befallen my eyes. "Why, hello, Watley old chap," I said, feigning the opposite of surprise. "I was just ... erm ... looking for some jam."

After several minutes of actually looking for some jam in the closet, I untied Watley and removed the gag from his mouth.

"I knew you'd come to my rescue," cried Watley, his voice cracking with what others might have mistaken for a burning thirst but I knew to be admiration.

Some time later, after we'd both had a spot of tea and a pipe, I confronted Watley about the casebook and its wild inaccuracies. "Why," I said, nearly chuckling at the ludicrousness of it, "to read this you'd think I was the buffoon and you the idiot, rather than the other way 'round!" I paused, feeling that I might have misspoken. "That is to say, you'd think I was the idiot and you the buffoon." I'd been called 'buffoon' often enough to have induced that it must denote a man of intelligence, good breeding, and hair, and I wasn't about to let Watley forget it.

"But Sleuthe," Watley protested. "Surely I needn't tell you what really happened, as no doubt you've already deduced it."

"Certainly," I replied, "but perhaps you'd best refresh your memory." I congratulated myself on this clever strategem for finding out what really happened. That's the kind of ploy they don't teach in detecting school, or wouldn't, if such a school existed, which it might for all I knew.

"Most kind of you, Sleuthe," mumbled Watley. "As you know, I was just about to knock on your door with a jar of filberts in one hand and a crock of jam in the other, when I realized that I'd have to put at least one of them down in order to successfully accomplish the knocking. At that point I went back up to my flat and put both down on the table, then returned to your door. As I was about to knock, I realized that I'd forgotten both the filberts and the jam."

"Naturally ..." I interjected, to let Watley know that I wished to give the impression that I already knew what he was going to say.

"Precisely, precisely. Naturally, I returned to my flat to collect the items. The moment I stepped inside the door, however, a ruffian attacked me. An editor, by the looks of him. 'I know ye,' he says, 'ye're thet frien' o' th' detector, th' one what solves awl them cases,' he continues to says."

"Sounds just like an editor," I commented, praising Watley's vocalizations.

"I remained silent, fearing for your safety. Then he tied me up, stuffed a gag in my mouth, and threw me in the closet. 'Now,' he says, 'yer'll tells me ev'rythin' what this detect've 'as done, and in all the best d'tail as wel', an 'if ye doon't, thar'll be troobl'.'

"I could tell this fellow meant business. 'Now st'rt t'lk'n,' he says, 'l'st all's wh't' l'ft 'r' 'postr'ph's.'"

"Good lord, Watley," I cried, "whatever did you do?" I paused, then realized my mistake. "I mean, What ever! Did ... you do!"

"Yes, precisely," said Watley, responding to my declarative tone of voice. "I had little choice, as you know. So I recited to him the facts of your most brilliant cases. And he wrote it all down. Only..."

"Yes, Watley?"

"He changed it all 'round, you see. He said it would sell better that way."

"Confounded editor!" I ventured a hypothesis: "So you dictated it all to him while bound and gagged?" Watley nodded. I went on: "And he wrote it all down, but changed it to make me look like less of a buffoon?" Watley paused, considered, then nodded again. I continued, my mind racing ahead of my mouth, intent on the solution. "He got your handwriting accurately, but not the content. And then ... and then ...." Here I paused, trembling at the inevitable conclusion. And yet, as is well known, once all—or some of—the logically possible outcomes have been eliminated, only the logically impossible outcome is left. "And then he left, carefully leaving the casebook behind."

"You've done it again, Sleuthe."

"Indeed I have. I call it ..." I paused for dramatic effect. "The Case of the Unauthorized Casebook!"