As a Doctor and as someone who has been in the armed services, I know the importance of maintaining my health. It therefore should come as no surprise that on this particular occasion Sherlock found me in the gym. To the layman it may have looked like I was merely flipping cards or playing Solitaire, I know that Sherlock wasn’t fooled for a moment.
These were, in fact, weighted cards that I had specially built in order to isolate my wrists. This is because while I was in the service I was teased quite often for having slight wrists. In medical school I was told that I had the wrists of a surgeon which I only later found out wasn’t a compliment. There are some things that I do try to keep from Sherlock and I’m becoming more aware of the futility of this. At any rate I was caught, literally, red handed. I felt the need to tell him that I was sweating, as if he couldn’t tell, though I must confess the perspiration was more from the embarrassment of being discovered than the workout itself. I was embarrassed because I knew that his interest had been piqued by an article I had seen online as well. I had, in fact, left my computer on and running in hope that he would see it, what I hadn’t anticipated is that he’d find me so quickly though I should have known better. As Sherlock stood there impatiently staring at me I confessed that we should get to the scene of the crime, a Walgreen’s pharmacy counter, right away. He sarcastically responded, “Not the Walgreen’s,” but I have learned to overlook these barbs as they are less intentional insults and more a general disdain for social etiquette. After our adventure, Sherlock later told me that of late, Walgreen’s was refusing to fill his hastily scribbled prescriptions for cocaine, “for some reason.”
We arrived at this three-story Walgreen’s, made our way to the pharmacy on the top floor, and found the pharmacist still working behind the counter. Sherlock had taken in all the pertinent information as soon as we walked in but I will tell you what I saw so that you might be able to later distinguish what was important and what wasn’t.
Normally when Sherlock and I take in a crime scene, our first viewing is done in private. The area is marked off, or police have moved the witnesses outside of the relevant space, but at this particular Walgreen’s, a dastardly crime was unable to stop the regular work flow of the day. But back to the details.
Firstly the pharmacist was sitting in a baby stroller. Looking back he was also very short but I think at the time I was distracted by the pram and missed his baggy lab coat, lack of teeth and hair, and slight stature. There was a crow perched on the top of some shelves opposite the pharmacist as well. I assumed the bird had mistakenly been let in but this would prove to be inaccurate. The counter was covered with fuzz from something blue. This fuzz had adhered to the counter because it was extremely moist which I recognized was caused from thousands of tears from one or more children. (I recognized this because Sherlock often makes children cry and I have come to expect their tears.) There was a mountain of diapers as well, which had spilled over and onto the floor toward the pharmacist. (This was a much larger clue than I had realized as the trail led toward this diminutive medical professional.) The aisle we walked down to get to the back of the store had was filled with bolts of fabric and scarves and the like and it was evident that someone had meandered down the aisle grasping and rejecting every one of them. It was around this time that pharmacist hopped out of his stroller and declared that there had been a crime there the previous night. This was a strange nervous act as no declaration was necessary.
It was here that Sherlock explained that local orphanage had been shut down and the orphan master had brought all the orphans down to the Walgreen’s to construct some sort of cookie monster puppet. I presume this was because he wanted to give them the news via the puppet in order to soften the blow and deflect any anger and sadness away from himself.
While sifting through diapers dirtier than a prostitute’s mouth, I was able to unearth a screwdriver hidden from view. The pharmacist identified it as being plastic, and then, as if by divine intervention, our eyes were drawn to a display of blankets which read “BINKIES!” On all but one of the hooks in this display there hung a blue blanket: a binkie. I believe that Sherlock already knew who the culprit was at this point. I think he may have known from the moment he saw the pharmacist in a stroller but the thing you have to understand about Sherlock is he is all about the game. It was obvious to him that, though a criminal, the perpetrator wasn’t dangerous and this gave Sherlock the time to toy with his prey and really flesh out whether this was a worthy adversary or not. To that end, after a conspicuous look at the binkie display, Sherlock declared that, “someone has stolen a baby!” This made the pharmacist a little bit nervous and he quickly derided Sherlock and told him that no such thing had happened. No one had stolen a baby. I’m sure that the brief conversation that followed was intended to gauge the response of the pharmacist and see if he would reveal anything however other than the quick and through denial that a baby had been stolen, he revealed nothing else. Finally we settled on the fact that someone had stolen a Binkie. Upon reaching this conclusion the crow burst into applause. I have never seen a bird applaud before and I hope I never do again. It was a very peculiar site. The crow took flight and hovered while clapping its talons together in what sounded more like someone dropping two-penny nails onto a tile floor. The memory of it gives me goosebumps.
The pharmacist proceeded to weave a tale of the master of orphans followed by the master orphan (as there was always an alpha) had come through the store the night before. Sherlock listened calmly to all he had to say but, knowing him as I do, he wasn’t hearing any of it. He was somewhere else and though I couldn’t sneak behind him to double check it appeared to me that his gaze was affixed to the stroller the pharmacist had been standing in the whole time. When he finally finished his tale of the orphans Sherlock informed him that he had two more questions.
Please bear with me as I break here to interject some observations of my own. If you are ever in a conversation with Sherlock Holmes and he says he has two questions for you and you have perpetrated a crime at any point in your life you should politely excuse yourself and leave as there is no way to correctly answer the questions you are about to be asked. The content of the question is unimportant to Sherlock and, if anything, serves only to put the suspect at ease. One of the questions might be about the weather but from how you are when you answer, how you shift your weight, how your breathing changes, what you do with your hands or myriad other traits that are observable only to someone like Holmes guilt or innocence can be read. The pharmacist, like most others, did not know this or thought he could best Sherlock at his own game and because of this, asked to have the second question first.
Sherlock obliged the man and asked a question that was, ostensibly, an innocuous one. “Do you have American Spirits on sale?” Even I was surprised at how this pharmacist (who even once dared to call himself a doctor though I corrected him without missing a beat) stumbled his way through an answer. At first he suggested that we try the American Spirit aisle and then suggested we speak with a cashier. I was left wondering if he even knew that the requested product was a pack of cigarettes. The first question was as telling as the second though more so to Sherlock than to me. At first the pharmacist guessed that the first question was his name – another suspicious move, and then volunteered it saying it was Watson. Having never met another Watson beyond my immediate family I was both suspicious and intrigued. It soon became apparent that he thought Watson was my given name and not my surname. This however was not the question Sherlock had in mind and he asked the little alchemist if there was a place we could view the security footage from the night before. There was but instead of heading there Sherlock wanted to find his cigarettes )something that if I had not known that he was playing some kind of game at this point would have frustrated me as he has sworn to me that he has quit.)
We meandered around the store and came to what I was sure was the surveillance room as there were two individuals watching the surveillance tapes in a small room. Sherlock asked if either one was a cashier and one of them said he worked in cosmetics and the other said she ran the pharmacy. The latter caused our tiny guide to explain that she was his boss but he definitely worked in the pharmacy. After a circuitous trip around the store looking for a cashier or someone else competent enough to ring him up for some American Spirits we found one. At this point Sherlock forked over $32 for a pack of cigarettes that, without tax, would have cost $8. If nothing else this proved they were not on sale. I wish I could go back and observe the pharmacist through all of this baiting and switching, to see what Sherlock must have seen. Indeed, though I am sure he had seen enough at this point he declared that instead of viewing any footage he would rather visit the orphanage.
A brief sidebar: According to my knowledge, any worker at a Walgreen’s is completely capable of manning a cashier station and ringing someone up. A cosmetics salesman could just as easily scan items as a manager in the back; however, no employee was willing to make this small leap for Sherlock’s sake. And even though these shenanigans and outright ineptitude were able to quickly lead Sherlock through the ins and outs of the store, I believe that these people were willfully stalling Mr. Sherlock Holmes, possibly due to the earlier cocaine script he’d been tossing around, or this charade was merely to distract Sherlock from the surveillance footage he was once interested in finding. Regardless…
To my surprise Holmes had a motorcycle waiting for us outside. Though this was not our usual form of transportation I have come to trust his ability to maneuver almost any form of transportation available. In the past I have seen him man hot air balloons, operate trains, even climb on the wings of a plane and throw out the pilot, and all I ever had to do was keep up. Though I was correct in my assumption that he could control the bike expertly I was lacking somewhat in my ability to ride bitch. I complained almost the whole way, out of fear mostly, and those fears proved true as just as we were pulling into the orphanage I threw off the balance of the bike enough that we wiped out. (This may have been because I was using my feet to hang onto Sherlock, and had attached myself too little to the actual bike.) I landed mostly on my wrists, but because I had been working out those muscles so regularly, I arose unscathed. From here we entered the orphanage and I immediately wished I have been more seriously injured in when the bike toppled.
There have been studies done regarding aroma therapy. I’ve started my own study on nutmeg. Nutmeg: good smell, great on eggnog, bad on everything else. Scents bring back memories and can sooth. Sounds can too, though they say, not to the same extent. Upon entering the orphanage we were met with by a young child who claimed to be both the master orphan and the master of the orphanage and whose voice, if played in a dairy, would curdle the milk of the cows still in the udder. Though obviously a toddler at best, this child went by the name or nickname of Babyface Devon and claimed to be 14 and regardless of actual age which appears did not hold sway in that poor excuse for an orphanage. It seems that the orphanage had in fact closed but these orphans refused to leave even when the adult orphan master packed up and left. As it was there were no adults left to supervise, and she bored us by showing off a horrid crayon drawing that she declared was the local newspaper, the Orphan Daily. If this was an attempt at a Rorschach test, I would say that I saw the failure of an artist.
Babyface Devon, being the master orphan and master of orphans, had gained control of the locks on the facility. Much like the short latched gate of a child’s extendable play area, Babyface Devon knocked out the lock and pushed open the doors. She let out some kind of screeching call and other orphans appeared. These orphans told us of how they had initially broken out of the orphanage under the guidance of one conspicuously absent child. This, I imagine, had much to do with the stains of tears and Cookie Monster puppet that Sherlock Holmes described earlier; however, the orphans never mentioned this part, probably because it would have been confessing to a criminal act, and because it would be a difficult memory to return to. I too guard my memories of Cookie Monster. A cookie is a sometimes food? Bullshit, I say. C is for cookie, and that is good enough for me.
Ahem, anyway. We were almost sidetracked when Sherlock clapped for the children to listen up and they all clapped with him as if it were a game of sorts, but we eventually were able to gather some information. One of these other sorry children was called Angelica and the other claimed to be called Watson as well. (I examined his name tag more closely later and it clearly said Winston. His claims to be Watson were either because he couldn’t read, he was dim, or he was trying to manipulate us into adopting him.) From the orphanage we learned that there was a set of twins who, though no one could remember their name, liked to stand on each other’s shoulder and wear adult clothing to pass as an adult. While looking at the cubbies I saw two that were empty, one for a Phil and the other for a Lil. There was a third cubby that was empty however the nametag had been scoured off by what appeared to be a plastic screwdriver. I took note of this.
It was at this time that this dilapidated orphanage with its shoddy structure, leaky roof, and flickering lights finally gave out, blowing multiple fuses with such force that the lightbulbs above us burst and shattered. I kept my eyes firmly on Sherlock’s, watching his pupils grow wide with the sudden shift into dark, and unknown to me, he’d also formed a grand idea.
With the walls of the orphanage falling down around us, Sherlock said we should return to the scene of the crime. This was unlike him as we usually visited more, and more credible, individuals to question. Sometimes we even had time to return home and test some evidence collected along the way, but as it turned out we had collected nothing but that pack of American Spirits. Nevertheless, Sherlock had a path and it was impossible to remove him from it.
So we exited the awful and rapidly disappearing orphanage and hopped back on the motorcycle. On our way out we were told to beware of the rodents in the carpet though I hadn’t seen signs of mice I wasn’t going to argue with children. The return trip, like many, passed much more quickly than the one going and we found ourselves back at the pharmacy counter in the burgled Walgreen’s. Holmes called the pertinent parties forward and began to weave us a tale. All the while he was speaking the master orphan gnawed on a gherkin as big as his head. Winston, the orphan who called himself Watson, declared that the holes in the peg board looked like they came from the first machine gun, the one with the round cartridge. (I think he was talking about the Thomas Sub-machine gun.) Because of the many interruptions Sherlock hastily declared that the culprit must have been Alfalfa from the Little Rascals. The underage pharmacist almost danced with glee and told Sherlock that he was remarkably close to the truth.
Keep in mind that Sherlock has, since we arrived, been playing this young hoodlum like he plays his violin. This admonition was as good as an admission to Sherlock. At this point the truth was obvious to everyone but me and I was teased by the orphans, one of whom declared his love of pickles and another said his favorite movie was Something Boy and starred Chris Farley. “It’s Tommy!” I exclaimed and I hope Sherlock thought I was naming the criminal and not just the movie because right after that he too declared that it was Tommy. Tommy Pickles had been the culprit the entire time.
Hearing this the “pharmacist” jumped up and confessed. He had been Tommy Pickles the entire time.
(I should have known as I realize now that I had noticed his lack of teeth from the beginning) What I did not expect, though Holmes may have, is that the crow was also Tommy’s.
He clapped and the crow flew over and carried Tommy away. Sherlock jumped on my back and told me to follow and, having just finished working out my wrists and being a little woozy from the bike accident earlier, I thought I could fly. I have seen Peter Pan many times but to this point I had never put any credence to the thought that a human could actually fly. Tommy was attached to, what was by the looks of it, either an african or european crow, I had nothing. Yet when I jumped out the window to follow the crow, flapping my arms the whole time, Sherlock and I took flight. I never gave it a second thought we both somehow knew that my incredibly toned wrists could carry us after the child. There was a moment I thought we would actually catch him but the next thing I knew a plastic screwdriver hit me in the eye. Sherlock and I plummeted to the ground as Tommy Pickles flew away.
(I should also mention that at one point I thought Sherlock might actually strike Tommy Pickles despite the fact that Tommy was little more than a baby. I suppose this is because Holmes is a respecter of intellect more than chronological age.)
Sherlock and I found ourselves on the lawn of the Walgreen’s and were soon joined by the two orphans who had followed us. The master orphan persistently asked “Now isn’t this a family?” as he crawled toward us and I, inspired by Holmes, pushed him away repeatedly with my feet.
Though I knew he was talking about me and not the other orphan Sherlock stated that we’d take Watson first (and the other orphan appeared). He also suggested that if the orphan master was ever as helpful as Watson then he would be adopted. Misinterpreting this entirely the master orphan left declaring the he had a crime to commit. Holmes and I later bought Winston some ice cream and left him on a corner.
I must admit that though this case wasn’t our most difficult and had, in fact, been perpetrated by a baby, it is a case I will never forget. I still yearn to get my hands (and wrists) around that Dirty Pickle.
The Dirty Pickle was performed and consequently written by: Jordan Matthews – Sherlock, Matthew Tucker – Watson, Alex Wiseman, Matt Pina and Stephen Kadwell – Baker Street Irregulars.