The Case of the Flaming Bear

I am never worried when Sherlock is late. He has proved over and over that he is reliable and if he is late it is because he has been delayed by matters more pressing. On that morning of 7 September, when I discovered that Holmes hadn’t been home the previous night I was worried. Perhaps it was the intuition I was trying so separately to hone, perhaps it was Mr. Hudson mentioning in passing the “she” was back in town. (She being Irene Adler, the only woman I know that has been able to tempt Sherlock away from his logic) If she were in town then there was a chance that Sherlock had been with her on one adventure or another. There was also the possibility that he had, after a brief encounter either as himself or disguised as another, he sulked away to an opium den for some cocaine or worse. I was much relieved when he finally entered our flat and then immediately concerned when I saw the state he was in. He tried to pass it off as a test of my abilities of deduction and said that he had almost been run over by a hansom cab but when I noticed that one of his shirt buttons was out of place he told me I had failed the test and that he had spent the night in a brothel. (Though I do not doubt the veracity of his statement I have never known him to be anything other than intellectually interested in anyone other than Miss. Adler.) I knew then that whatever had transpired between Holmes and that woman had affected Holmes’s psyche and that only time would wash it from his thoughts and cleanse his mind. It was a good thing a letter had been delivered.

I had been in receipt of the letter since the night before, as it had been delivered to me from a very large pigeon with a tiny postmaster hat strapped to him. The pigeon was quite tired after his journey and spent some length of time on my windowsill, flapping his feathery wing up to his head and sighing dramatically.

At first I resisted the urge to read the letter, but with more and more time passing, I could not pry my fingers away from this peculiar post marked for Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately my curiosity was short-lived, as I found I could not crack the mysterious code this letter was written in. Certainly not a matter for my eyes to understand, and so I had to wait.

But I had to wait no longer, as Sherlock was there and already his eyes encircled the letter, comprehending everything whereas I had nothing. The letter read:

Dear genius, the illustrious, magnificent Sherlock Holmes
A place to come to always be in shade, this place you’ll come to get this stuff made
This place is very handerfashionable, why don’t you take a look at this place in the great town of Negational
If a bowler, a top, or a baseball…

Though the letter said more, written in hasty scribbles at the bottom of the scroll, something about a potato masher, I believe, Sherlock needed to see no more—as we were off to visit the haberdashery, where this verbose criminal had done his deed.

I’d like to make a note here that I have checked every atlas and there is no town of Negational, and even if there was, it would not have been great.

As an outsider, I suspect it would have been easy to notice the crime that had taken place here. But alas, with the state that London shops was in with trendy pop-up shops with dubious concepts and contents, it was difficult to determine what fashions were a crime and what fashions should have been a crime. Regardless, the entire building was burned down and so were most of the hats. Sherlock was quick to point out arson, as I was busy trying on a hat that had been completely torched and only a brim remained.

The owner of this shop was a wispy woman, who drifted in and out of the conversation. Though she was distraught at the loss of her haberdashery, she still hocked her burnt wares with fervor. I admit to have bought three hats, as I only had to buy one and the other two were free. Of course, all three were scorched beyond belief and crumpled to ash before I was able to wear any of them.

On the floor of this haberdashery was a simple yellow raincoat. As there had been a torrential downpour the night previous, I thought nothing of this. Surely we all had raincoats that were left on near the doors of our homes or businesses. Sherlock Holmes often entered a room and discarded his overcoat on my face, which I would shrug out of onto the floor.

As Sherlock examined this raincoat, he demanded that we visit the raincoat factory, and we flew out of the absent doors of the haberdashery onto the ashy London streets. Or more accurately, I flew out the absent doors, and Sherlock lingered for a moment to hand the woman a card of his with his number written on it. (Clearly a strapping man’s stunt to win back Ms. Adler, create want where there is none.)

Maps can only take you so far in an unfamiliar city, and in a familiar city they are practically banned. Having been a resident of London for the better parts of my life, I can say that not once have I owned a directional device, but rather spent the time to learn the curves and ends of streets, just as Sherlock Holmes has, finding a shortcut in a shop or a escape route via rooftop previously unseen.

I will say however that sometimes my mind of roads and routes leads us astray. In this case, I was certain we were steps from the aforementioned raincoat factory as we walked toward a cackling man stirring a large cauldron with a skull-topped stick.

Holmes had enough of my meandering ways and asked the cackling warlock which way it was to the raincoat factory. I suspect the cackling warlock recognized us right away, and was slightly disappointed we weren’t coming to him for better advice. As he pointed us in the direction of the raincoat factory, Sherlock deposited yet another card in the man’s hand and we were on our way…

Right toward another cackling warlock and witch. I cannot recall how many cackling witches and warlocks there were, only that there were far too many and they were vague on the details on whether they could predict past or future, or even present as the raincoat factory was just out of reach.

Finally we climbed the steps of a large building covered in raincoats, and found a man detailing one of his latest works. This Rainman was a welcoming sort, offering us a tour of the factory and was ready to answer any and all questions. The Rainman explained that the witches and warlocks hanging out on the stoop help with production. He then brought us over to yet another giant cauldron so that we could compare the raincoat found at the haberdashery to a fresh, factory-made one.

Sherlock was delighted by the appearance of one more cauldron being stirred and with his curiosity piqued, he became intent on sampling the water inside. Though I pleaded with him not to slurp the rancid raincoat water, slurp he did.

I am not able to describe to you Sherlock’s next actions, other than him briefly fainting, then jumping awake to exclaim, “My God, it’s full of stars” and he ran away.

I was not able to find him for hours. When I did finally locate him, Holmes was in the middle of a forest, and he claimed to have met with a bear man and a furry. I dismissed this drug-induced dream as nonsense and we ventured on to the nearest army barracks.

Before Sherlock wandered off for a few useless hours, he had obtained a contract from the Rainman that listed their highest quality products were shipped directly to a nearby army barracks for dispersing.

As it turned out, this army barracks was not of British army origin, but a United States army recruitment center barricaded off to remain unnoticed while poaching British boys to serve on American soil. An odd and confusing place, but that is my understanding of the United States.

The U.S. Recruitment officer clacked way at a frightfully large and loud typewriter complete with an unnecessary lever. Above the typewriter was a calico cat that he occasionally fondled, and behind him was a bird that echoed the typewriter noises. Quite a menagerie of crazy.

The U.S. Recruitment officer spoke of a Private Patrick which we should seek out in all things raincoat-oriented, but the typewriter clacking was so obnoxious, the lever, the bird squawking, the officer screaming about something called “Nazis”, Sherlock yelling for someone to shut the bird up—all of it built to an incredible cacophony, and I flashed back to my days in the army. I found my pistol in my hand.

Before I made an international incident of myself, Sherlock ushered me away to the tent marked Private Patrick, where we discovered more bad news.

Private Patrick was nowhere to be found, in his tent was a hairy, big-snouted man skinning a cat to eat. His identification read Private Alf. This man offered little to us other than out of place, dated pop-culture references that surely would not stand up in the test of time, so Sherlock posited a grander scheme was in order.

The answer to all things was in his raincoat water dream, he needed to go to a place described as seedy, but fun. This was a “gay bar”.

I tended not to follow Sherlock into the deeper, darker parts of investigation and with the idea of the place being seedy, i hesitated. But as for it being gay, I enjoy gaiety as much as any other man, so I was in.

Another bird performed the music at this rousing establishment, and was quite possibly more annoying than the first bird we met. As we were chatting with a man who claimed to have information, Sherlock once again asked if the bird could be shut up, and harkening back to my earlier pistol-wielding moment, I shot it.

It was a perfect shot aimed at the bird, and it would have killed it, if only that man didn’t get in the way at the last second. The bird was so distraught, it shot itself with a tiny bird gun. Interestingly enough, this whole death business was enough to get more people talking to us. I found that even though weapons can be despised, sometimes they make a man very attractive. and after Sherlock and I talked with some very friendly gentlemen, my eye fell toward a man grumbling about honey. He was wearing a red shirt and nothing else.

I spun around in excitement, slapping Sherlock on the shoulder. This would be the perfect time for Holmes to use one of his various disguises, go undercover, and find the answers we’d been seeking.

Though I was not privy to the content of most of the hushed conversation, I was able to eavesdrop a few coded phrases, like “honey” and “kill Tigger” and “rumbly in my tumbly.”

When Sherlock got what he needed, which I believe involved a swift trip to the restroom and an exchange of one of his cards, he revealed himself with a haughty laugh and demanded that he and I go back to the witches and warlocks for he had obtained the final clue he needed to unmask the arsonist.

Sherlock circled round the witches and warlocks. One of them, he said, was not who they appeared to be. It was obvious from the loss of the raincoat that this criminal was intent on shedding the skin of his earlier self, but he would be in hiding no longer for the arsonist was none other than Mr. Paddington Bear.

A bolt of lightning struck down with dazzling blindness in the center of us all, and when light broke again, there in place of a witch was Paddington Bear.

Paddington had become enraged after years of people treating him nicely. (A problem I would not have thought existed, though it would be a problem I would like to have.) Paddington took out his newfound rage on a local haberdashery, for all the times he’d been shoved into stupid, dumb, ill-fitting hats with no regard as to what he thought about them.

I felt it necessary to draw my firearm, as I couldn’t trust someone who wasn’t interested in people being nice to him. Paddington Bear pulled out a pistol as well, aiming it at the closest warlock. (Had Paddington known anything about Sherlock, he’d be sure to aim a gun at either of us, as Sherlock had no use for the life of a warlock who was bad at giving directions, and even pointing it at me was about a fifty/fifty chance of Sherlock caring, depending on the day.)

In another strange twist of events, the warlock Paddington was holding hostage unmasked himself as well, and behind his witchy exterior was another bear—Smokey the Bear, who was there to lecture Paddington and us all on fire safety.

I find that in most standoffs with weapons, it ends with a good amount of people dead, but in this case, the standoff ended when Sherlock Holmes plucked out one of his cards with his number written on it, and he handed it to Paddington.

Because in the end, all we are ever searching for is love, and after getting involved with this case, I’ve suggested to many a struggling patient to go out and find a big gay bear to love. And love that big gay bear hard.

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