There are times in my life where I have been tempted to disbelieve that which I know to be true. There are some who would say that reality is strictly experiential and that no one can truly share that with us. (in fact I once got into a discussion with a young polish fellow, Conrad I think was his name, who insisted that “it is impossible to convey the life sensation of any given epoch of ones existence, that which makes it’s truth, it’s meaning, it’s subtle and penetrating essence…we live as we dream. Alone.”) As a man of science I cannot abide those attitudes. For me truth is immutable. A thing is or it isn’t. Though I still hold this to be true my time with Holmes has proved to me that our interpretation of that truth might differ and may even distort the truth so it looks differently. It is a sticky wicket nonetheless. Holmes, on a daily basis, demonstrates the inescapability of fact. His decisions are based on observable phenomena and the fact that I interpret them differently or perhaps not at all does by no means change the truth that Sherlock then flushes out. My ignorance of a thing does not mean that thing doesn’t exist. My inability to articulate a thought doesn’t make thinking futile.
I say all this because for the longest time I believed that Holmes collected nothing, neither trinkets nor thoughts, which were not specifically significant to him. I as, in fact, thinking this very thing as I looked about our sitting room on the 27th of August 1884. What I assessed was, in my mind, little more than clutter. I began to doubt this thing that I had taken for granted about Sherlock and began to question whether or not his attachment to all the ephemera I saw around me was healthy. The clutter began to take a toll on my the more I looked at it and I wanted nothing more than to see the bits of floor and furniture which were covered by Holmes’ collection. It no longer made sense to me. It seemed an albatross. I should have known better as, on countless occasions, Holmes has proved that his mind worked on levels mine did not. Sherlock would be the first to tell you that there is no mysticism involved, that he doesn’t divine these things from thin air or tea leaves or something baser yet at times to me his deductions do seem clairvoyant in their nature. For him it is a matter of deduction alone. His axiom, that once we have “eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” is to him as easy as breathing however the rest of us, namely myself, get caught up in minutia and loose track of fact. Holmes would never admit that he foresaw the conclusion of the case we were about to embark on, nor could he, but he had seen and read enough to know two things, that these sundry items would come in handy and that I couldn’t understand. Both proved correct.
Eventually I became too irritated to hold my tongue and I began to harangue Holmes about the items that he had hoarded. He made some half hearted explanations as to what they were and I persisted in my attempts to get him to discard some of the items in the flat as they were of no value. Papers on the first combustion engine, a stuffed fox, his microscope. Before this could either reach a head or be resolved Mrs. Hudson entered. She had brought us some tea and in what I assumed was a Divine endorsement of my position she found nowhere to set it due to the clutter. Holmes removed some objects from the tea cart allowing Mrs. Hudson to deposit our small repast before leaving. Noticing there was a letter on the tea tray I took the opportunity to tell Sherlock that letters were one of the many things that, after they are read, can be placed in the rubbish bin or otherwise discarded. I was so wrapped up in my own emotions that I didn’t think to read the letter or that it might be important. Sherlock opened it using one of his eight hundred letter openers without a word and let me babble until I noticed him reading it. I joined him, my frustration ebbing for a time, and read the same words he did. The note read:
Dear Sherlock Holmes, you sexy beast,
Mysteries happen in the place where you drink.
Your hand will be warmer than you may think.
Come on out you could be the star
You don’t have to travel very far.
It wouldn’t be gloves here at this pub.
You’ll drink a beer in a koozy that has been knitted
And if you can’t figure out this location it seems you’ve been outwitted.
Come find me you’ll be smitten far
Go on to the-
Holmes has received many letters over the years. Some have been from royalty some have been from politicians and some from common folk. It was obvious to me up on reading this one that the author either had little knowledge of the English Language or, more likely, was a fan of poetry but knew nothing of metre or iambs. Though there were words therein that rhymed there was no discernible patter to where they were placed. (Having once been introduced – to a good haiku – I knew this couldn’t be that) Much effort was put into this missive and though it wasn’t skillfully written and it was covered in ink stains from unbolted ink, Holmes deduced from its composition (both linguistically and the paper which he methodically stroked with his finger while we read it) that we should proceed to the Mitten Bar.
Mrs. Hudson’s tea was left untouched, which was for the best, I’m afraid, as she is rather dreadful at the Way of Tea.
My first impression of the Mitten Bar was that for the numerous references to knitting, gloves, and other handiwork, none of it was present therein. Despite the absence of theming, the Mitten bar was a lovely if not sparsely decorated establishment with only a portrait on the wall of a road splashed in the fading light of a sunset. At first I thought the crime was the lack of seating, as only one chair was nearest the main entrance, and twas nary a bar stool in sight, however the real crime here was written on the floor in a trail of blood leading to a small knife and clumps of fur. At the end of the trail was a tiny pet’s collar with a charm on it and a stick and string toy with a poofy ball at the end of the string.
After brief conversation with the owner of the Mitten Bar, Sherlock explained the crime scene to me, as he did along many of our adventures to encourage my own understanding of the criminal mind. He noted the label on the string and stick device as being that of the Acme Corporation and the device itself as being a cat’s toy. The charm on the collar was a tag for the animal and although a name was absent from its inscription, it was in the shape of a paw print and said “kitty”. Here was the gruesome leftovers from the murder of a cat.
A streetwise patron entered the bar asking what exactly had occurred, as he wished access to a pint as soon as he could have one. We told him it was cat murder and he was on his way. I must inform you that though this man’s question was an odd one, as we don’t usually get stopped in our investigation by anyone other than Detective Lestrade, his interest was not of a suspicious nature, just a curious passerby who seemed intent on verbalizing the crime at hand, so that everyone was aware.
Sherlock wished to reenact the crime but he had no cat with which to test his theories. Of all the things Sherlock was in the process of collecting, animals was not among them. At one time he did win a goldfish by accident at a local fair by correctly guessing the number of beans in a jar without a second glance, and though it was a contest for the children, they gave the prize to Sherlock because everyone was so impressed. I had to give the fish to one of my patients, as my patience was lost on Holmes trying to teach the fish tricks, as he ignored my comments that fish could not be trained. He did however manage to hold onto the bag the fish came in.
As no cat was in the immediate vicinity, Sherlock proclaimed that I would have to play the cat in this reenactment. And so I was drafted by the incomparable Sherlock Holmes to crawl around meowing for a few unbearable minutes. He told me my posing wasn’t accurate and I told him it felt like I no longer had legs.
It was obvious to Sherlock that this cat was lured in with the toy filled with the alluring substance of catnip, and was then stabbed repeatedly with a tiny knife. Sherlock thought the smallness of the knife was peculiar along with the wound pattern. Why so many strikes? So quick and steady, yet mismanaged and ineffective until the end.
The Mitten Bar owner appeared again, woefully grief-stricken. It was his cat, and the bar had been named for this feline, as Mittens was her name and she had little white splotches on her feet. This explained the missing kitten mittens in the mitten bar.
It was around this time that I asked for the owner’s name and adding to my own embarrassment, Sherlock brazenly mocked me and told me it was Sean, that he’d said it the instant we’d entered, and that we had even been to this bar a month ago. I admit that I can be a tad forgetful, to combat this I insist on documenting as much of my life as I can without being ridiculous. For breakfast this morning I had eggs and toast. I cannot remember all the places I’ve gone and the people I’ve met, and so there are occasionally moments like this.
As Sean sobbed, I went to hug him. It wasn’t much of a comfort as my reach over the bar was limited. Sherlock pointed out the accessible entrance behind the bar and so the comfort of the hug greatly improved. The hug was short-lived as Sherlock required a visit to the Acme Corporation headquarters on the outskirts of London.
The Acme Corporation headquarters was a large building with a set of enormous chimneys that puffed billowing black plumes into the greying London skies. On the side of it, boxes stamped Acme were parading out onto a slide that deposited them in the nearest Acme stamped carriage for delivery. The drivers were also stamped Acme.
Sherlock and I approached the factory at the end of the workday, and though the boxes were slowing, the plumes dissipating, and the employees leaving, Sherlock was confident he’d find a man to talk to. Holmes was right, as he always was, and we chatted a while with Porky Peter, a creator and inventor of many Acme products. He had an unfortunate stutter.
Sherlock made a lightning fast assessment on his stuttering, defining it as stemming from trouble and stress, a past trauma.
Just then, an elaborate contraption set itself off. A bowling ball fell onto a set of scales connected to scissors that cut a string and released a box that would have captured an intruder coming through the door. As it had been some time since we had entered, we were not trapped. I told Porky Peter that had we been breaking in, we would have murdered him by now. All the contraption did was knock over a glass of water that then smashed on the ground which would have been a shame if he was planning on drinking it. This upset Porky Peter, and Sherlock used this vulnerable moment as the starting point for an inquisition into a private list of customers which had to remain private after an information leak. This list contained the most frequent purchasers of Acme products and Sherlock was able to get his hands on it. Sean was on the list, as well as the name or acronym WEC, and countless others.
Porky Peter and Sherlock Holmes discussed the beauty of the picturesque landscape painted at the Mitten Bar, that of the endless road and sunset. Sherlock described it as glorious and that the painting itself plumbed the depths of the question, “What is the meaning of life?” and answered it, “No one knows.”
This pleased Peter and he admitted to being the painter. I suspect this confession was what Holmes was hoping for. Sherlock then requested something be painted for him, and I feared the acquisition of any more clutter, so I suggested it should be a trash can so it could serve as a reminder to throw it away. Unfortunately, Holmes liked that idea.
I wondered aloud if it might be best to locate other names on the list of frequent Acme customers and it led us to some unsavory characters. The height of which were two gruff, bearded, hairy men known as the Bullies who admitted using the products for nefarious gains: pickpocketing, robbery, bullying. One of them was so impressed by the sight of Sherlock Holmes he declared him to be a super genius and picked up a cigar to smoke for a second, which he then immediately forgot about.
The other confessed to having a similar collecting problem who, like Holmes, having bought many things from Peter couldn’t stop. His collection included trash can paintings. I prodded Holmes to take the hint, but he had no interest in my intervention. Instead, he examined the rocket shoes the Bullies used for pickpocketing. These rocketing shoes, one estimated, didn’t work nine out of ten times.
Sherlock saw poetry in this pair of rocket shoes, claiming that the endless pursuit, chasing something you cannot hope to catch was a lot like his own pursuit of love. And though I could have taken this story from the heart to the heart, I simply told Sherlock to stop hoarding.
Continuing a line of questioning made the bullying bunch skittish. One left in a cloud of smoke from the rocket shoes, and due to the statistical math posed earlier, the other knew he was out of luck but tried anyway to no avail.
Sherlock snatched him up by his chest hair and demanded answers, the man spoke in riddles. “Visit the caged bird. The caged bird sings.”
Sherlock had a wealth of knowledge and ability to crack this riddle and we were off to the pet shop on Darnell Street. He picked up the rocket shoes as we left.
The Pet Shop turned out to be less of a store selling pets and more like a store run by pets (or possibly very deformed human beings). The big-headed yellow bird (or hydrocephalic jaundiced human) greeted us and a large black and white lisping feline (or discolored hypertrichosifs person, also with a lisp) dashed out to halt our efforts, claiming we were looking at his bird.
Sherlock spoke on the subject of the man-cat’s speech impediment, relating it back to a probable trauma, a critical incident when he was teased. Sherlock waxed on about the synonyms and similarities in misspeaking—such as a mondegreen.
The yellow bird heard Armando Green, as did the man-cat, and Sherlock in a huff told them Armando Green might very well be a person they know, but it wasn’t what he was talking of. Coincidentally, years later I did meet a man named Armando Green at a pub, and for the life of me other than his name I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying.
We asked if any cats were looking for birds, other than the current scenario we were witness to. The man-cat said no cats, but he did have the head of an animal with a ferocious tongue who was always after some bird. Not that talkative, but very friendly.
What the man-cat presented was the disgusting rotting head of a wide-eyed coyote and though I’d love to leave this unseemly piece of evidence here in the Pet Shop portion of the case, I am saddened to state that Sherlock nabbed it for his collection, claiming that like everything else, he needed it.
Sherlock insisted we head back to Sean’s bar, the Mitten Bar, as he wanted to expose the murderer in the very place the crime had been committed. Sean allowed us entry, and Porky Peter came to field any Acme-related questions, and of all the other people to return, that nosy patron poked his head in and asked if he could stay for a bit. We said yes, and he sat in the chair by the door. I was hoping to rest in that chair, since my cat portrayal, my back wasn’t feeling right and it would be out of alignment for the next several weeks.
Sherlock Holmes, in his usual grand way, showed us the case for what it truly was, a case of mistaken identity. The murderer was actually pursuing another fellow on the list of frequent Acme purchasers and after illegally obtaining a copy, misread the information. While was searching for this WEC, he accidentally looked at Sean’s address and waited for WEC there.
Although this outlining of the case is normally fascinating and riveting for all who listen, the nosy patron took his leave, having other places to go, but he wanted to let Sherlock know he was very smart. But back to the case.
The murderer laid his trap inside the Mitten Bar. He lured the cat in with the toy, stabbed it repeatedly with the small knife, and realized his mistake by the time he examined the cat’s collar and made his mistake.
It had to be a small knife, Sherlock said, because the murderer would have been unable to wield anything else in his mouth. Or rather, beak.
The second murder victim was the coyote, and this, Sherlock explained, was the true target and the elusive WEC- Wil. E. Coyote. The murderer killed him after years of a frustrating chase they wished would end, this murderer being none other than—
“The Roadrunner,” I said, ruining all sense of suspense. I couldn’t help it, I was excited to know the answer for once. Sherlock was a bit disappointed that I jumped in on his triumphant moment/
Then, from a distance we heard the blood-curdling call of the Roadrunner. The noise of meep meep. He burst through the Mitten Bar and threw his bird body at the sunset painting to escape, but couldn’t leave his usual way. Sherlock later told me that this was because once the force of Wil. E. Coyote was disposed of, so too was the fun and magic of escaping. Why escape when no one is chasing?
All that was left for the Roadrunner was murder, and though I feared being trapped in a bar with a deranged, quick-paced murderer, my friend Sherlock Holmes had a plan.
Out of his bag, he pulled the coyote head to lure the Roadrunner in, and placed it on top of the stuffed fox to make it look more realistic. He placed his microscope on the end of a rope attached to an Acme box, and had the cat’s toy connecting that to a bag of corn the Roadrunner would surely be interested. And to my amazement, the bag the corn was in was the same bag Sherlock had got his fish in from the fair.
Sherlock scattered his papers on the first combustion engine on the ground so we could remain unseen and still hear where the murderer was. We hid behind the bar, and from the shuffle of paper we knew that the Roadrunner was present.
I took a peek out to look for him, and I saw that he was slowly eating the corn, and as we were waiting and waiting, I grew impatient. I grabbed the rocketing shoes from Sherlock’s hold and launched them at the Roadrunner. The shoes knocked the Roadrunner off-balance and spun off into the air, but the shoes then careened into the nearest lantern, blacking out our only light source just as the Acme box fell.
After some confused groping in the dark (which I am accustomed to from time to time, but not when danger is present), I struck a match and found the Mitten Bar in shambles. No Roadrunner was visible, under the Acme box was a scared, stuttering Porky Peter. Then Sean called attention to the sunset paining. There was a speck off in the distance and Sherlock confirmed with a glance through his magnifying glass it was the Roadrunner.
Sherlock then presented his best solution to the matter. He placed his commissioned painting of a trash can over the sunset and told us that if this Roadrunner should ever escape, he’d only ever end up in the trash.
A solid end to one strange investigation I should say, and in the future I shall be glad to keep my hands off any more bloody pussies.