One thing you should know about my friend Sherlock Holmes is that he is one of the least judgmental men I’ve ever known. This is especially true in terms of social mores and morals. This isn’t to say that Holmes doesn’t have a code of honor or an ethic by which he lives only that his code and ethic do not engage with what he would consider petty vices. The line between good and evil for Holmes was quite clear and perhaps that is the key distinction, for Sherlock there was only good and evil. There is no bad, there is no fair or middling, one was either good or evil. The only exception to this would be the inclusion of “irritating” which wasn’t a condition one was always in but rather drifted in and out of with Holmes. Indeed you could be evil, and therefore an adversary, yet Holmes might never find you irritating, instead he might find you refreshing and though he would never condone the conduct he applauds the mental tete-a-tete. If you become tedious however and are therefore a waste of time as well as Holmes’ copious mental faculties, he will become irritated.
I write this preamble as I recently reaped the benefit of his gracious nature and suffered his annoyance, or more accurately he suffered me. It was the 16th of July, 1888 and it began, as many things do, in a brothel. Holmes found me there on the way to a case. In his nature he asked why we were there which I took to mean, and rightfully so, why were we there instead of at the scene of the latest crime. We could have been standing in Westminster or at Buckingham Palace or wandering the moor and he would have said the same, “what are we doing here?” The truth of the matter is that, as medical doctor, I frequent several of the brothels in London both as research into venereal disease and as a charitable dispensation of medicine to these women of ill repute. Somewhat chuffed by his impatience I suggested I had been copulating. One of the women who, though hideous, still had her wits about her, rebuffed that I had been terrible at it as well. I would like to reiterate that I was at this brothel for purely scientific purposes and that I had not fornicated with her in any way. She was having a go at me and nothing more. Rest assured that had I engaged in activity of a sexual nature with this grotesque woman she would have been whistling a different tune. The humor of this moment, as well as any darker perception, were lost on Holmes however as the only judgement he had made was that we needed to be somewhere else. I agreed and we left posthaste.
I hadn’t realized how far we had to travel and I must have dozed off once or twice but in the end we found ourselves in a small burg called Skokie. To be more precise we were in a series of subterranean caverns located therein. The particular expanse we found ourselves in was also known for its preponderance of Chiroptera and even took its name from them: The Bat Cave.
Now as a doctor and someone who has seen action in Afghanistan I have seen my fair share of blood. I am not squeamish in the least nor am I afraid of any of the body’s various fluids and approach them, when necessary, with the detachment of a scientist. In this instance I have to admit the sheer amount of blood was beyond comprehension. At first I didn’t realize what I was seeing and then there it was. On the floor: blood. On the ceiling: blood. On the walls: blood. And just when I thought there couldn’t be any more: blood. Though this scene was stationary, it did feel as if the blood was stalking our movements, dripping behind our waistcoats and puddling at our feet. Yes, blood. After a time, my mind settled and other details began to reveal themselves. There was the body as expected in the middle of this great tidal pool of blood. The poor bloke had been a headmaster at a school, from what I understand he was one of principles, and for all of his work this seemed to be the thanks he received. Around the body and in no particular order there were hundreds of broken pencils, which I noted were not made of wood. I had never seen such a thing. In the middle of these writing instruments was one real pencil, a number two pencil to be exact. (Though I did not know it at the time, this was our greatest clue as it was the killer mocking Holmes himself. He had created the mechanical pencils himself as some sort of mental exercise and left the wooden pencil there as a way of calling Sherlock inferior. He was saying that Holmes was No. 2 to himself. We should have known then who the killer was and perhaps Sherlock did, but it took me some time longer to figure it out) The killer had erected a chalk board in this cave as well. This was either to denote the status of the dead man or because he thought he was the teacher and Holmes and I pupils of his terrible game. Sherlock also discovered a small swatch of fabric that he believed had come from the killer’s jacket. It was some sort of tweed with a plaid pattern on it. This I pocketed for later reference. There some other items in the cave as well but they have been shrouded by the fog of time, and the fog of that very cave and I cannot now bring them to my recollection.
With the very little we had I suggested to Holmes that we utilize one of the Baker Street Irregulars for more information. Least I thought he was a Baker Street Irregular at the beginning. As fate would have it this gentleman was little more than a common vagrant, an easily offended common vagrant. As we approached Holmes called to him and the man began to verbally spar with Holmes regarding his state of living or lack thereof. What with Holmes having a superior brain, the vagrant was quick to acquiesce. We talked a bit of this upstart village of Skokie, and I tried to profess to Sherlock my knowledge of Skokie’s flag, that of iguanas and burrowing. Holmes dismissed this distraction of a topic outright, and I cannot fault him for that. (Upon further inspection whilst taking these notes, I came to learn that the flag I was describing was actually an advertisement for the town’s iguana barbecuing restaurant. Local cuisine and not governmental flag.)
But it was here that I had the first inclination that Holmes was irritated with me. It was an easy enough thought to comprehend, as Holmes demanded I get into my cage, a phrase which we’d previously agreed to mean let him be in his questioning pursuits, to stop doggedly chiming in, and to get in an actual cage he had brought along in case of a needed time out on my end. So I sat and listened to Sherlock Holmes and his intellectual prowess, playing along with the homeless gentleman as he ripped answers from him like weeds from a garden.
I must say, I felt rather useless, and I found myself slinking slowly to the ground in my self-pity from my prior sitting position. The man we were questioning, either out of empathy or as a way to obfuscate the truth, slunk down with me. Holmes, now having a taste of the game, got down on our level as well to finish the interrogation. I have at once never felt so close and so distant from my good friend.
From this awkward position the vagrant did reveal the name of a school we should visit which was both prestigious and well off. To protect those who may currently be enrolled I will herein call this school St. Williams, after a former schoolyard pal of my own, William, who once claimed to love me more than like a brother and then he cried in my arms for several hours. We were seven and it was his last day at school. But back to the case. Having been too close to both the ground and a fellow whose cleanliness was never a question (never because it seemed he had never been clean) Holmes and I left for St. Williams.
As our carriage pulled up I noticed Holmes cock his head very slightly to one side. This is an observation that I don’t think others would have noticed in any man and one that I pride myself in. Holmes himself may not even be aware that he does it though I should doubt that. Because of this I knew he had either heard or somehow sensed something in the school. We bolted from the carriage before it had a chance to stop and were running down the hallway of this institution. We stopped at a door only brief enough for Holmes to discern the weakest part of it before kicking it in much to the surprise of the teacher and student who were learning Maths inside.
The proper student in the class, the only one in the room, appeared to be some kind of man baby, who was eager to learn his maths. He claimed to be off to have a smoke in the bathroom so that we could question his instructor, and judging from the amount of cigarette butts attached to his odd amount of facial hair, I used what I’d learned from Mr. Holmes to deduce that this man baby was very bad at smoking.
The instructor was somewhat less surprised than expected that the headmaster had been found dead. He mentioned that he had been missing and had worried that something like this may have happened. We did discover that he had a student who was very smart who was also a practical joker some years ago who may have had something to do with it as it seemed like a thing he would do.
For some reason this man, whom we entrust our youth to, couldn’t remember the pupil’s name. I could only assume that he was afraid to tells for fear of reprisal. When he did come up with a nickname, I found myself without pen and paper, much to Sherlock’s chagrin.
The teacher did mention that one of the jokes that this boy often played was to cover his seats with tacks or convince one of the other boys to do it and take the fall. Though this meant that some rather dim individuals did the work of this singular pupil it did illustrate the fact that he was highly intelligent and able to organize others.
Talk of math and maths brought the man baby back into the room, and I believed in this very moment that I could win Sherlock Holmes back over with a little detective work of my own, that of the undercover nature. With my own cunning wit, and the skillful mastery of disguise I inherited from our adventures together, I placed myself behind a small desk, declaring myself to be a recent transferring student from Africa. Suffice it to say, Holmes was unimpressed. Looking back, I think I should have disguised my voice or face, or perhaps I should have never enacted the scenario at all.
Around this point in our interview, I found my mind wandering back to Gangrangia, the quick witted prostitute who had questioned my prowess in bed. How could a person be that repugnant and that alluring? I was eventually broken from my revere and brought back to the present, by a sudden and violent slap from the instructor. I will confess that though my face was burning and my skin was screaming, I was actually thankful that the slap did not come from my very best friend, Sherlock Holmes.
It was only then that I observed the man baby student’s face as being half-destroyed, one half perfectly normal, the other riddled with welts and marks from many a punishment. It was the face that bore a thousand slaps. (Again I realize that this split face of this awkward child was a metaphor for the greater villain at hand. Two sides to a coin, two slaps on a face and all that.)
In the end, we were able to discover the nickname of one of our suspects. This being a graduated student and sometimes rube, Kimbo Jimbo, and we left St. Williams in search of this fellow.
Now to say that Skokie was beautiful would be something of a lie. Nor was it ugly in any conventional sense. Skokie was. Perhaps this was the quality that drove the once promising pupil to murder, perhaps it was something in his upbringing we may never know, perhaps it was why Sherlock Holmes was intent on getting someplace else. Regardless of the villain’s motive I was left with a feeling of regret. Not mine toward Skokie, nor mine for having visited Skokie, but rather it seemed to emanate from Skokie itself almost as if the whole village had at once aspired to be something more and at once given up on the endeavor. That it was now contended to be the half formed thing it was and may always be. This seemed odd to me as the town itself had been incorporated only a few months prior. (Also odd was that these villagers, though they had incorporated themselves under the name Niles Centre only months prior they now referred to the town as Skokie, but I digress.)
We now found ourselves standing inside an establishment whose purpose eluded me. The shingle out front read “Jiffy Lube” and I soon gathered this was a business that quickly lubricated carriage wheels and anything else that might need greased. This business seemed to me a rather revolutionary idea as the modern age continued to produce machine after machine all of which had parts needing lubrication.
The proprietor, the former school chum of our suspect, did not feel his job was as interesting as I did and was somewhat dismayed when Holmes suggested his marks in school may have been amongst the highest. It was the other boy, whom this grease covered primate couldn’t remember the name of either, who got high marks, everyone else appeared to be a minion of some kind. In fact it seemed that this mastermind’s years in school were met, not with challenges from the education itself but rather with challenges with authority and authority figures. Kimbo Jimbo offered up the name James, which then, meant nothing.
From this Jiffy Lube Holmes and I took a train, which conveniently stopped at the Jiffy Lube and had the strange moniker of “The Yellow Line.” At first I thought this was an insensitive racial slur based on the immigrants who built this transcontinental railroad, but this proved not to be the case. There was a station conveniently located inside the Jiffy Lube which took us within walking distance of a tailor Kimbo Jimbo had mentioned and that Holmes wanted to question about the tweed swatch we had found at the crime scene. I had saved the swatch of fabric on my person and did my best not to accidentally eat it, as tweed looks strikingly similar to a ham sandwich, but only to me.
On the subject of the train, I say it seemed the train was a bit of an unnecessary luxury for a village of that size as everything seemed to be within walking distance. The ride itself hardly seems worth it, the wait either as there was a train station every other street) Even though there were plenty of seats available, Sherlock Holmes chose to stand, and I, throughout most of our undertakings of the day, decided to sit.
With a name like Diamond Tailors, I imagined the proprietor had a stellar knowledge of all tailoring things, but upon our entrance I quickly learned that it was a combination shop of both diamonds and of tailoring. On a later return visit, I discovered that he was terribly affronted by the idea of making a tiny suit for a diamond ring and he chased me out of the store and told me to never come back.
Here, Holmes and I encountered the tailor in his shop as he was making alterations to some drapes. He had an air of familiarity about him but I could not place him. Holmes, either because he was growing weary of the case or because he thought it might somehow produce an actual clue (something that I at least felt we were struggling to find) tossed the fabric to the tailor and ordered him to tell us what garment it came from and who it was that had worn it. This dumbfounded the tailor and no matter how many times Holmes identified himself and told the tailor to “go,” he wasn’t much help. (It was here I noticed a quality, as I’m sure Holmes had as soon as we walked in, thus his actions, that was reminiscent of the pupil from St. Williams who had left the maths class, my suspicions would later prove correct and when, sometime later, I asked Holmes about this he told me that he knew the man was a tailor when he saw him in the classroom, as man baby had attempted to tack his broken face back together with a known tailor’s stitch.) He repeatedly indicated that he needed just a little bit more in order to remember the gentleman we were after. More, more, more, but it wasn’t forthcoming.
Suddenly and with some urgency, we traveled back to the Bat Cave to gather ourselves and were surprised to see the homeless gent was there as well. Before we could discuss much with him we were met by the maths instructor from St. Williams. (It turns out this Bat Cave was both a meeting place and dance hall for the villagers of Skokie.)
The instructor mentioned that he remember the student was arty, meaning of course that he had a predilection for the arts.
The tailor then walked in again wanting more information. The Homeless man, who may also have been the former classmate of our suspect, chimed in as well wondering if the chap had been more or less arty then himself. During this cacophony Holmes declared that he knew who it was.
Holmes began to weave a fantastical story about a special boy and an evil man named Voldemort. I wish I would have written down the story word for word that I might now regale you with it, for it was a tale that would have enchanted both children and adults alike, but before Holmes could finish a man jumped up and declared that it was he, Moriarty, who had committed the murder.
Sherlock, of course, had known this all along and having also deduced the type of man that Moriarty was and the games he liked to play was about to give credit of the murder to someone else. Holmes knew that Moriarty would never stand for another to take credit for his actions and that was the only way to get Moriarty to reveal himself. To pour salt in the wound once Moriarty had revealed himself Holmes and I celebrated by performing a complicated festivity one calls a “high 5.”
The brief distraction this merriment provided us also provided Moriarty with an escape, as before we could detain and physically restrain Moriarty he jumped on The Yellow Line and was gone though I knew we would see him again.
As my mind wandered once again to the dusty husk of a woman in the brothel I absentmindedly extended my arms to embrace my friend Sherlock Holmes at the resolution of another case.
Holmes, though comforting and now no longer irritated at me, has never been one to show affection physically, so he shoved me off, in the nicest of ways. We were both relieved, Holmes at having bested the one who had called him No. 2 and I for being in his good graces once again. Though we would never speak of it, I will always look fondly upon finding blood in a number two.
Did I write “in”? I meant “and.” I’ll just leave it like that…
Blood and the No. 2. was performed, and consequently written by: Matt Pina– Sherlock Holmes, Alex Wiseman – Dr. Watson, Matt Fox, Zach Scott and Will Meinen – Baker Street Irregulars.