Recently I became aware that I may be too possessive of Sherlock. I say this knowing that it is I that caused this phenomenon and if I am looking to assign blame I need look no further than the nearest looking glass. I chose to take notes of our cases together which was, at first, solely to learn what I felt at the time were teachable skills of deduction. To a degree I was correct and I have learned much from Holmes and continue to do so as I pour over my notes however those traits and skills that I must practice every day commingle inside the very being of Holmes. There is only one Sherlock Holmes and I am not him. This doesn’t sadden me, on the contrary I feel honored to count him as a friend and so as I sit to regale you, whomever you may be, with the stories of this great man it warms my heart to know that others have taken an interest in him, and yet… And yet I am protective. Holmes himself has never been one to concern himself with the opinions of others be they complimentary or detractive. It isn’t that Holmes is too egotistical or narcissistic but rather disinterested to the extreme. I, on the other hand, register every barb that was aimed at him. I feel guilt for bringing into an arena where he might be subject to such discourse. I want to rise to his defense though he need none. I have given Holmes something he never sought, some modicum of fame, and with it has come a deluge of both love and disgust. None of this matters to Holmes because, indeed, it doesn’t matter, or to say it another way; because it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter to Holmes. Perhaps my feelings come from pride more than anything else, the incorrect assumption that those who would discuss Holmes are actually discussing a creation of mine instead of the man himself. Some of these questions are too big for me to answer and outside the purview of this particular case but I will start at the beginning and you will, in due time, understand my prologue.
It was the 13th of August, 1880. This August is of note not only because of the case but also because of the weather. London has always been known for its fog, and for good reason, though this is usually most pronounced in cooler months. The summer of 1880 was an exception and this was exceptional fog. (Here I question whether the actual phenomenon could best be described with another word though I don’t know what is proper.) It was a heavy mist that hung in the air like swarm of insects. When the fog rolled in Holmes and I waited expectantly as we both new that, like a full moon, the fog would draw out strange folk from wherever they hid, much like an advertisement in a newspaper for heavily discounted meals brings the absolute worst of society out to a café. The fog conceals and when people believe they are anonymous they commit the acts they have only heretofore pondered. I believe it was the fog as well that caused me to gasp silently as I watched Holmes walk toward me in at the train station. He was surrounded by an aura of light (which I know was just fog illuminated by a gaslight but the effect was quite breathtaking) I told him he looked good and he told me the same. This collegial moment was broken by my noticing two things. One was a letter clumsily shoved under the axel of a nearby train carriage, the other were two individuals who seemed to be watching us from a distance. I thought nothing of it at the time even when one of them began to scribble in a notebook. What I would come to realize later is that these two were indeed following us and this was only the first in a series of sightings.
The letter I found was addressed to Holmes. We were correct in thinking that the fog would induce cowards to crime and this was the first. The letter read:
If ever a day you come to find, that I’m here alone with you
You’ll look in many glass cabinets and find they’re filled with milk or two.
Come here and drink of so many slurpees,
And afterward please do some burpees.
I at once had never seen something so poorly and so brazenly written. It was incredibly bizarre, and I hesitate to call it poetry. I would call it poetry if it was written by a very dumb retarded child and the mother had wished me not to hurt its feelings. I was confused as to what it could mean (especially as I had never heard of a slurpee nor a burpee). Holmes recognized the writing as an ancient dialect of some kind that he was, as he is with most things, quite fluent in. He correctly deduced that we should further investigate the corner of 7th and 11th and we left for that locale immediately. As we left I glanced toward our two shadows and saw that one of them was smiling for some reason and the other scowled and sighed as if, having been disappointed by her own birth she was now equally disappointed in everything she encountered.
I do not normally find myself near the corner of 7th and 11th. Though you can find almost anything you could want or need there the quality is somewhat questionable and you are surrounded by unsavory characters drinking strange liquids from paper sacks. A secret code exists among these folks, one Holmes had cracked years ago. Quite simple really, for if you ask them what the word is, they shall reply that it is Thunderbird. We skirted these folk easily and entered the shop at 7th and 11th wherein we found an interesting scene.
There were huge mounds of what Holmes later told me were “slurpee machines.” Whatever they had been they were now no more than piles of charred rubble. Everything was burned. Even the crisps were burnt to a crisp. As we examined them we were greeted by the shopkeeper who asked us if “ya’ll want a hotdog?” which startled us. We didn’t expect anyone to be at the crime scene let alone the shopkeeper and not as a witness but rather stocking shelves and going about business as usual. Confused by the term “hotdog” (and knowing that Holmes was allergic to canine) was asked what it was. The shopkeeper was taken aback by the suggestion that she would have roasted an animal inside her shop. (I later found out that a hotdog was a recent import from American and, in fact, contained very little of any animal) The next thing we noticed were burnt chips scattered about. These chips were unlike any I had encountered before. They were long and skinny and Holmes was disgusted. He picked one up and suggested that it appeared to be a potato. Feeling that he was giving me an opportunity to use my own skills of deduction I noticed that the potato had been cut in the fashion of the French. (And from that moment, though I told no one, I thought we were looking for a French Chef as our culprit) As if having read our minds from earlier the shopkeeper, standing in those four burnt walls, said she understood that the establishment wasn’t operational but she was still trying to make a living. Though she was in dire straights indeed here spirit had not been broken. She embodied that most British of traits and would carry on with a stiff upper lip, selling anything that hadn’t been too damaged by the fire (and it turns out most of what she sold was either extremely flammable or impervious to flame). The shopkeeper didn’t leave until we asked if she had seen anything. The muttered that she didn’t see anyone, let out a desperate little scream, and left.
It was here that Holmes made a bold observation on the nature of ghosts and although at first I assumed he was purporting the culprit of the crime to be of supernatural standing, I soon realized it to be a keen comment on the “ghosts” who were following us through our adventure, taking a select, biased set of notes. I admit to having been rightly chuffed at the idea that someone else, or even two someones were documenting the story that I would soon put to paper.
I then remarked that there were many ghosts in London, from the simple snide words I could hear whispered after my own jovial retelling of Holmes’s latest triumph over dinner, to the altogether dead ghosts, like my father, who since his death, I fear his ghost and his skeleton rotting in the ground will never forgive me. Alas, this is a story for another time.
Holmes ran his fingers along the crispy, burnt rubble and I did the same. There we found a collection of soot, and before I could put it together myself, Holmes was racing down the street to the fire station.
The Number 12 Fire Station was on the corner of 8th and 12th street and if you’d be so kind as to have a viewing of my included map, you will see that these two locations existed in a close proximity. Why then, did the corner shop at 7th and 11th continue to burn to a salty crisp if firefighters were nearby?
Just outside the Number 12 Fire Station, Holmes conjured up a wicked idea and I was eager to try it. We entered the fire station in disguise, as Mr. Holmestead and Dr. Watsonberger, with an exquisite set of false mustaches. I do believe through our entire visit, it was never once suspected that we were the famous detective and doctor duo.
A short gaze upon the inner walls of Fire Station No. 12 reminded me of the frantic labeling of my Aunt Bethilda, who would attach several notes to posts around her flat to indicate the direction and proper etiquette in use for her bathroom. I found it all utterly useless.
So too were the various signs here for a so-called Fire Tour, all promising a different price, opposite hours, and a complimentary photograph which we never received.
In our effort to remain disguised, we crept onto a scene of two fireman, one named Jerry, the other had no identification so in accordance with his facial expressions, I shall call him Grimace.
Jerry and Grimace were arguing about the practicality of a fireman’s pole, for its transportation can only be used in one direction. Jerry made his best effort to climb back up the pole when Grimace proudly exclaimed that earlier he had bought several of the aforementioned slurpees and had coated the pole to make it slippery. Jerry had a haughty laugh at Grimace’s work, for as he pointed out, that would make them sticky and not slippery. In order to avoid the inevitable list of things that are slippery versus things that are sticky, Holmes and I came forth (as Homestead and Watsonberger, you’ll recall) to embark upon the Fire Tour.
On the Fire Tour, we learned that Fire Station No 12 was built on top of a fire in order to snuff the fire out. The original was made of wood and many people died.
This lengthy process of building a structure on top of a smoldering fire sounded absolutely inept and ineffectual, and I could see how Holmes was instantly able to rule them out as suspects in these arson matters, due to sheer incompetence.
Having found no reason to proceed with regular questioning, Holmes made time for a few jests in order to entertain himself. He implied to start a fire of his own, introduced us all to the Disco Inferno dance he’d learned upon his studies in Micronesia,
nabbed small children’s toys that supposedly came free with the tour (though I am still waiting on the photograph.) Holmes spoke of his time eating ash “down the Gulf Coast” and performed the ritualistic movements of the Gulf Coast.
It was apparent that in talking of fires in the Fire Station it was frequently misheard that a fire was actually occurring. Another fireman from above zoomed down a pole to put out a nonexistent fire and unfortunately got stuck to the sticky, not slippy pole.
On our exit, it was mentioned in passing that the fireman were part of a charitable foundation, though they seemed unclear on the details. They weren’t sure what it was for. Children? Food? Nevertheless, despite their ignorance, Holmes was off to the nearest orphanage to engage in one of his beloved pastimes, taunting children.
As Holmes is both my greatest ally and friend, I know firsthand that with a brilliant mind such as his, he has little desire to field the complaints of needy and unkempt children. But if important information to a case is involved, he shall suffer through it. And make the children suffer too.
The Orphanage of Mrs. Wicklebum (Mrs. Wicklebum having passed away several years ago from a grapefruit being thrown at her face) was an impressive palace, towering over the buildings beside it with vivid, dazzling color, ostentatious trellises, and a section between the sculptured hedges that purported to be a butterfly garden, but try as I might, I could not find one butterfly.
Inside the Orphanage of Mrs. Wicklebum we stumbled upon two frail and bowlegged children covered in priming paint and sawdust. One was confined to a wheelchair, and the other better smelling one was balancing herself on the back of the young boy’s chair, her own wheelchair abandoned for the sake of a good first impression.
With Mrs. Wicklebum gone, the children were allotted the charity’s funds and were charged with building their living quarters themselves. The young smelly boy was excited to show off the new extension, saying that was up to code, and I told him it smelled like feet because it did. (I did not mention that the feet smell was an improvement at his own foul stench, though now I wish I had, for the comment I made seemed to amuse Holmes, but it was obvious that the recent tagalongs of spectral stenographers were not impress. I digress, some people can’t be pleased.)
With Holmes remarkable line of questioning, it was revealed that there was a known criminal lurking in the nights. The young orphan girl described to Holmes a man with a mask who would break into the orphanage with a sack of stolen hamburgers to hide the evidence under their pillows at night.
Holmes and I knew this fellow and his crimes as that of the Burger Ripper, a notorious and scheming villain who we have yet to apprehend, as Holmes readily dismisses the case as uninteresting. I admit I have on occasion suspected Sherlock himself of being the Burger Ripper as I have not seen both of them at the same time, except for once at a party and then one was always out of the room when the other was about. Curious…
Arson was surely not part of the Burger Ripper’s plan, he liked burgers but not charred to a crisp. When I asked Holmes if the corner shop at 7th and 11th had inventory of any burgers, he proclaimed that he had memorized the inventory sheet after a brief glance and burgers were not on their list of foodstuffs. He is truly amazing.
The orphans expressed a wish to live in a giant shoe house, which was altogether unimportant and uninteresting but it managed to get Holmes and I on the subject of feet, and Sherlock recalled that there had been a large set of footprints hidden amongst the rubble at the crime scene, that I had not seen, and that throughout our investigation he had been mentally sizing the many feet we had come across, including my own, just to be safe. How he did these measurements, I do not know, but it sparked an interest of mine to correlate shoe size with another body part for a future study. Forearms, I should think.
Having had enough interactions with orphaned children, as Holmes is frequently forced to do and vehemently loathes, we moved our sleuthing to a place where people were known to have big shoes. Before we left, we snatched an ornate credenza the orphan boy was attempting to describe as Victorian. He wasn’t the most intelligent boy (he may have been the smelliest) as it was clearly Georgian. So we took a hanging lantern and a rug, for Holmes had said they would look perfect in our office and he was correct.
Where else would large-footed men reside, I wondered, as I struggled to keep up with Holmes swift pace. Perhaps the forest was full of giants, a regular fear of mine I had obtained from bedtime stories as a child. Instead we ended up at another nightmarish place, a traveling circus.
I do not wish to recount the mysterious and strange problems I had as a youth attending the circus, you may find that information in some other correspondence of mine, or I will tell it after three pints or after a concert of demented organists, so I shall move along and tell you of this particular circus.
This circus was a rat-infested hovel, with dusty tarps affixed to rancid driftwood. Holes in the tarps were patched with scraps of rubbish by the craftier rats. The area behind the main tent failed to have any housing for performers; however, there was a series of rusting cages stacked on top of each other in shaky, tilting pyramid.
I was aware of one particular performer I suspected would be willing to talk with Sherlock and we approached him with caution. This was Bonzo the Funzo clown, and he was searching for some keys to a small contraption he called a “car.”
Holmes leapt forth, holding the keys in the air with his usual sense of smug delight. Where he had obtained them from, I do not know. Nor did I understand why Bonzo the Funzo clown then shoved the keys up into his curly wig.
Bonzo the Funzo clown allowed us to witness his one clown trick, as they were only assigned one per clown, and his appeared to be stomping rhythmically in a square on the ground and repeating his name. Having done something that would be mildly impressive for only an audience of no-legged people,
Bonzo the Funzo clown leaned in and tried to surreptitiously speak to us about going to see the lion, but Bonzo’s method of secrecy wasn’t too secret, as he was holding a finger to his nose to talk. He did not lower his voice, he might have even raised it and this act awakened the wrath of the ringleader and circus owner, one J. Reinhold of Reinhold Brothers Circuses (and Canned Meats).
Reinhold ripped the moldy cigar from his mouth and clambered down a rickety ladder to meet with us. His eyes blazed from the smoke and with anger and with a trunkful of alcoholic spirits. He sneered at the sight of Sherlock Holmes (which was made easier from the removal of our disguising moustaches after the Fire Station). It was evident to me that he held a belligerent resentment toward Holmes and I learned later that this was due to a previous case that I had not been privy to, where Sherlock Holmes exposed Reinhold Brothers Circuses (and Canned Meats) of canning people meat. A startling case for sure, but one I have no further notes on, so I shall continue with this one of arson.
Reinhold bellowed for Bonzo the Funzo Clown to return to his cage, and Bonzo quickly stomp-bounced away, repeating his name as he jumped down an imaginary flight of stairs. J. Reinhold accused Sherlock and I of stealing his clowns from his “Store” and this confusing comment led me to believe that J. Reinhold sold clowns in cages, and that is an alarming trend in business models, as I and many others I know prefer clowns cage-free.
Suddenly, Sandra the Hairdresser showed up. I used my own powers of deduction on this, as the first words she spoke were that her name was Sandra and that she was a hairdresser. Sandra’s services were required for “a red dye job and a press and curl.” J. Reinhold examined his large book of Circus Knowledge and Know-How (Now with Pictures!) and cross-referenced clown names and hair appointments. He came up with the name of Barnabus, yet another name that seemed to fill him with rage.
Barnabus was a clown deep in the Reinhold Brothers’s clutches, one known for acting up. J. Reinhold made this known to us with the ferocity with which he whipped the clown. It was a strange contraption that Barnabus was chained in, a glass chamber with a curtain that snapped away, and the oddest part about it was that even though the glass chamber was sealed, the thrusts from the whips still injured him. Perhaps it was the thought of whipping that truly hurt a gentle soul like Barnabus.
While observing this savagery, we thought it best to take our leave. J. Reinhold aimed a wary eye and subsequent bushy eyebrow Sherlock’s way and told him the neighborhood was taking a turn for the worse, and cited the recent robbery from the orphanage was an example.
We agreed profusely to distance ourselves from his scrutiny. As for the acquisition of our office furniture, I maintain that it was a solid investment.
Holmes and I disappeared into the thick, heavy fog and upon our egress, we witnessed a sweet, almost tender moment between Barnabus and J. Reinhold. Barnabus was in love with the other identical twin Reinhold brother and after some heartache he thought he could make it work with J. J. Reinhold was terribly in love with Barnabus, but he had to use the whip. Barnabus was going back to Cleveland. Although I found this tale a riveting perspective on the human experience, this story was of no interest to Holmes, he whispered to me that it was absolute drivel and derailing at that. Our additions on this adventure still lingering in the shadows concurred.
When Holmes commits himself to a case, it is a complete commitment. After combing through copious amounts of paperwork in a travel office, Sherlock discovered that the owners of the corner shop were currently on holiday in Frankfurt. I suggested that perhaps their absence was something more sinister, and even though it was a thought nowhere near that of a lead, Sherlock was willing to follow up on it.
We arrived in Frankfort and after a short conversation with a train porter, we located the 7th and 11th corner shop owners at a café, for that café it was said, had just had an advertisement in the newspaper offering heavily discounted meals. Sherlock took one look at the couple and told me it couldn’t have been them due to incorrect shoe size and that the gentleman’s moustache indicated a meek and mild-mannered personality, and the woman’s moustache revealed the same.
I was a bit bothered that our long trek to Frankfort was undone by a glance, but that is the level of skill Sherlock Holmes has, and we took a short rest from our line of inquiry when a man in a white paper hat wheeled a perplexing contraption over to us. It was a pushcart of sorts that stored food inside and could be cooked on top, and it had wheels attached. The pushcart man held a bell in his hand that was missing its clapper, so to drum up business, he would shake the soundless bell and say, “A ding-a-ling, a ding-a-ling.” I would think that he could have disposed of the bell and made the sound, or bought a new bell, but the pushcart man was content with his broken bell and silly sound.
From the pushcart man, we purchased a hamburger. The hamburger was stored within the pushcart itself in a vat of insects, but we shouldn’t worry as the insects don’t like it. Holmes expounded upon his comprehensive knowledge on insects, and he was able to determine the origin of this particular species by smell alone. In fact, he had even seen this insect coating practice on a prior trip, and the pushcart man was excited to hear the tale on where this took place. Holmes is worldly, I pressed upon the pushcart man, and though Holmes can sometimes be blunt about his superior intellect, his global travels lead him everywhere and anywhere, on this foggy day he was uninterested in revealing the specifics. I for one cannot always remember the various locales Holmes totes me to, on occasion I cannot remember where I put my socks until I see that they are on my feet. Holmes however has an encyclopedic knowledge of whens, wheres, and hows, so I can only guess that his efforts to obfuscate an exact location on this matter was a tactic in our line of questioning.
Holmes claimed to have traveled across Asia, Pacific Rim, and everywhere really. (I have researched this to be true.) When the pushcart man required Holmes to name one place he’d been, Holmes named Westersonchen, later correcting it to be Westersonchinchan as the locals call it Westersonchen and the rest of the neighboring towns call it Westersonchinchan as all the villagers have enormous chins. Holmes described the community as “a whole community” and much later I had the pleasure of stopping at Westersonchen on my travels, and I found this to be true. They held a community dance each week where the natives would partner off and knock their chins together. I tried to join in, and much to my chagrin I knocked my chin on a native and fell unconscious for three days.
As I am writing this, I recognize my memory is a bit fuzzy but I believe now after studying the character of this pushcart man in my mind’s eye, I can see that he had a large chin as well, and think that Holmes might have been researching the man’s native background or perhaps he was just having a little fun.
An orphan of German descent made a plea for a hamburger from us and the pushcart man. Having had our fill of needy orphans in the days past, a swell of impatience rose up within us and soon we were shouting at the child for living in squalor, it was too bad they were too poor for a hamburger because it was delicious. In my zealousness, I tossed a handful of change at the small boy’s face and the entire town of Frankfurt it seemed showed up in that instant to frown on my actions and shout, “Ohhhh!” at me, as if my forced charity was worse than their treatment of the underprivileged and lack of institutions for these individuals. I’m just saying, they made me feel bad when I’d rather they feel bad. And for a city with a lot of foot traffic from many a surrounding town, there should be a better standard if billions and billions are served.
It was around this point where Sherlock Holmes tired of Germany and we whisked back to London to the corner shop on 7th and 11th, as he’d studied the data in his brain long enough and was ready to unmask the criminal arsonist in this case.
Back at the corner shop, we found the wheelchair-bound orphan boy from the Orphanage of Mrs. Wicklebum finishing the restoration and renovation work on the walls and roofing. It seemed that this kind of labor intensive work was suited for them, and they had been contracted for completion at the end of the week, but I could tell they would go longer than that, for construction always went longer than expected.
The orphan boy was under the impression that we were using his furniture to solve the case, and we did not feel the need to correct him of this notion, as the less talked about our beautiful office furniture, the better.
The shopkeeper was there, and Bonzo the Funzo clown as well, and for no discernible reason the pushcart man followed us back to London. I can only imagine he thought we would buy another hamburger.
Holmes skirted around the issue of who was behind the arsonist, studying the reactions of those around him as he raised the tension with ease. Each step, each pause, the formation of half a word like “Bo-” had us all trembling. After saying the name of the perpetrator, one Ronald F. McDonald, an abhorrent and felonious clown, Sherlock Holmes pointed at the pushcart man for a false accusation to throw the scent off for the true criminal amongst us. The pushcart man shook his head and emphatically said it wasn’t him.
A brief aside: If Holmes were to point dramatically at me, and tell me of the crime I had committed, I would be startled enough to agree to it, even if I had done nothing of the sort. He’s a very convincing man. But I suppose with this pushcart man coming from Germany had less of an idea who Sherlock Holmes was and that if he accused you of something, it meant something. Sherlock must have suspected this going in and chosen him as the easiest target for misdirection.
This classic misdirection of Sherlock Holmes was enough to topple the sanity of the villain still in hiding, and Ronald F. McDonald discarded his disguise of Bonzo the Funzo clown to appear. Sherlock Holmes had known that Bonzo was a cheap mask for Ronald to hide under, as no clown could have such a dumb trick as the only thing they could do. Also, for a short while Sherlock had been in possession of Bonzo’s keys and they was a small inscription scratched off the set, and after an experiment with various chemicals, Sherlock could again read the words of “Ronald’s keys”. The papers in the travel office were drawn up by an F. McDonald, and Sherlock Holmes followed my idea to seek out the owners in order to see if this was F. McDonald’s doing alone, and it was. Therefore, Ronald F. McDonald posed as a travel agent, got the owners of this corner shop to Frankfurt, lit the building on fire, and stomped through it afterwards leaving behind large footprints and the Frenchest of fries that had fallen out of his pockets he’d been keeping close by for a snack. (I should have known from the blatant way Bonzo would stomp and bounce and insist his name was Bonzo it was a clue that could have unlocked the whole case, but I failed to pick up on it.) After his arson plot had been completed, he chose to lay low in Reinhold Brothers Circuses (and Canned Meats) but he couldn’t help himself around Sherlock Holmes.
If I am recalling this case correctly, Sherlock had no need to explain all these to the simple-minded folks surrounding us, he said it was Ronald and Bonzo revealed himself to be Ronald. However, I do my best for the reader and for my own edification to map out what I can of Sherlock’s process, as it is one like no other.
Just as Ronald F. McDonald was detailing his own motives and readying his plan for escape, the shopkeeper emboldened by the fervor of Sherlock Holmes jumped in and beat Ronald F. McDonald to a bloody pulp. The pushcart man was elated by this reaction and declared that the clown had been the clown the whole time. A truly fascinating case, although our scribbling companions may have thought otherwise as they drifted back into the fog to direct their notes onto some compendium far less inspiring than my own. I will say the next time a Big Footed Arsonist should insert himself into my narrative, I can tell him where he can insert his big feet. In prison. Big Feet, big sentence, that’s what I say. Stick them in there. Stick them in good.