As I peruse my musings on my dear friend and companion Sherlock Holmes I have reached the conclusion that I have been remiss in describing his relaxation habits. I dare say that the common reader, if indeed any of this sees the light of day, may assume that his avocations consist of other than playing his violin, opium dens, and an occasional injection of dubious nature. I assure you this is not the case bur rather merely the context in which the cases I have thus far had cause to put to paper have resided in. I am pleased to say that the case I now recall begins in a much more medically benign manner.
Holmes is an equestrian. I trust this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It may not have been explicitly mentioned in the past it never less holds true and on this particular morning Holmes was preparing for just such an outing. He had disappeared for several hours. I was glad of this as I was engaged in cleaning out a stable which I did for fun as much as I did for the additional income it provided me. It had been a slow few months at my practice and my share of any remuneration that Holmes and I had received was a pile of neatly printed I.O.U’s from Sherlock and some empty syringes. As a lover of horses myself I considered my time in the stables to be more recreation than toil which came in handy when I was shoveling the horse shit from behind Cherry Blossom, a large animal with a ferocious appetite. I was just about to leave when the Sherlock approached.
I told him that he had been gone for several hours, not because I didn’t think he knew this but rather because I wanted to remind him I had been waiting, and he explained that he had been thinking of taking a ride into the country. – now one may think that simply doing a thing would be more expeditious than thinking about doing a thing, talking about thinking about it, then doing it but I should explain here that for people such as Sherlock, of whom i’ve only met one other, sometimes thinking of doing a thing suffices. There have been many times where I will find Sherlock lost in thought only to learn that he had been thinking about doing something, cleaning the apartments for example, and had, therefore, in his mind, done them. He appeared before me now in search of a fitting steed so that he may take his ride in reality and not just in his expansive imagination.
Almost immediately Holmes approached Cherry Blossom. In retrospect I perceive this to have been his way of telling me he know both about my employment at the stable and my fear of this beast who never ceased excreting. I warned him to stay away from Cherry Blossom’s hindquarters as I was sure if he didn’t get kicked by the finicky animal something else was bound to happen. I do not know, dear reader, if you have ever been in a situation where you knew something would happen. You’ve placed a teacup too close to the edge of your sideboard or you see the approaching hansom cab, the beautiful lady in her bright summer dress, and the collection of polluted water and your synapses somehow perfectly predict the future and a few moments later the once happy lady is saddened and moist just as you had foretold. This was one of those moments for me. It was a certainty that something was going to happen to Holmes, it was just a matter of what would happen. Then, nothing happened. It was as if the oncoming horse and wheel of the cab both hit the puddle and yet there was no splash and the woman kept apace never knowing the certain doom she had averted. Cherry Blossom had either heard my warning and chosen to embarrass me by doing nothing or Holmes was an expert with the beast and had calmed her in ways I could not. I suspect it was the latter. In confirmation of this Holmes declared that the beast had chosen him and instead of calling her Cherry Blossom as I had been doing, as indeed it was her name, Holmes said that he would call her Gabriel and in that moment was either so in tune with the animal that he learned its true name or renamed her to suit is own needs in spite of the name that had been given it before.
Holmes took the animal from the stable, gave it a good looking over and then told Gabriel he was sending it back to the stable but would return in 3 hours for his ride. (it seems he needed to think about it some more) He then slapped the beast on the rump and Cherry Blossom/Gabriel trotted off. I explained to Holmes that I considered myself something of an expert on all things equine and sometimes practiced my medical arts on them as well. He assured me that it was a noble aspiration to prepare myself to help any and all creatures though I sometimes think there may have been some underlying sarcasm in what he said. I say this both because I know my good friend and also because of what he did next. He took several long inhalations through his nose and asked if nose was equally attune to the scent he just now seemed to perceive. Not being privy to his olfactory organ I asked him what it was he smelled. “Horse Shit” was his reply. To this day I do not know if this was in reference to my practicing medic on Cherry Blossom or if it was, rather, his way of telling me he knew of my employ at the stable and was mocking me for it.
I explained to Holmes that I thought he had caught the aroma of a case, or a crime being committed. In retort he told me that crime was constant, he was sure we’d be on a case soon, but he smelled 90% horse shit. It was at this juncture that we were approached by a shabby gentlemen in overalls dirty cap who claimed to be the owner of Cherry Blossom. He wondered aloud who had “slapped his horses ass” and Holmes fessed up immediately. The owner mentioned that it had left a mark and that Holmes was the only open handed boxer he knew. This combined with the comments on how limp and underpowered my wrist were lead to believe I was again the butt of a joke but what joke that could be escapes me. The horses owner then explained to Holmes that Cherry Blossom wouldn’t be able to take him for a ride as she was tired from previous overexertion. Holmes said he had noticed the door of the horses cheeks and that he’d describe that color as rosy. I sensed he was on to something though I couldn’t say what.
As the strange overalled man left he told Holmes to tell his stable boy that his pay would be docked for letting Cherry Blossom roam free. I confessed to Holmes that I was the stable boy and being unable to cope with my pay being docked, knew that I had been fired. I have lost many a second job because Holmes felt I was too good for them. I won’t innumerate them here but Sherlock has a peculiar habit of showing up at places I am working for a little extra cash and I promptly get fired. Holmes, as he usually does, mentioned that I could continue to stay with him. He told me he wouldn’t be making my dinner which I found odd as it was something he had never done so in the past. Attempting to play his game I agreed I would make it myself but did hope that I might have something to imbibe as I ate. Holmes then suggested a litany of alcoholic beverages which was his way of reminding me that, at times, on occasion, seldom as it may be, I would, perchance, drink too much. I assured him with the naming of each new libation that it was not type of beverage I had in mind.
At this point we were interrupted, as we often are, by a bearded man with no pants. He asked if “this,” which I can only imagine referred to the area immediately outside the stable where Holmes and I now stood, was a place where he could buy something called ‘jeans’ and that he had done so before. Disappointed as I was to be so forcibly moved from discussing beverages with Holmes we nevertheless listened to the strange toad of a man. Luckily whilst cleaning out the stable I had collected several pairs of theses jeans and I asked Holmes to name them off to the gentlemen until he found what he was looking for. Holmes thought the idea was smashing and asked the frog like creature if it was a “levi” he was looking for. The creature made some guttural sounds as if he was pondering the idea. I suggested that the half man may prefer half the pair of pants Holmes had just suggested and as I did so the amphibian decided that all he knew was that he hated the roman numeral for six. At this point the bearded tadpole began to plead with Holmes and mentioned that he was naked from the waist down and in dire need of pants. This was a shock as I thought he had been wearing some kind of ugly fur slacks but as he spoke I began to make out his anatomy through his naturally matted hair. At this point I recognized the man as well. (we played bridge together but that is neither here nor there) It was, in fact, Tommy Jones and I admonished him on the spot. Sherlock then offered him some Jorts. Tommy is something of a narcissist however and proceeded to ask Sherlock what the brand name was before he would accept. Can you imagine the arrogance of a half naked man refusing to accept free slacks unless they were the correct brand? I pray you do not as the remembrance of it is unpleasant and disturbing. He refused a pair of wranglers and I suggested to Holmes that he returned to his initial offer. He twice offered the Levi’s to Tommy who refused and reiterated his aversion to the roman numeral for six and that he wouldn’t vie for those jeans. I promptly scratched out the v and the i from the Levi label and Sherlock presented the newly coined lee’s to Tommy. By presented I of course mean that the threw the jeans at Tommy and they landed on his head. Tommy, being of a dramatic nature, ran away screaming that his face had been hurt and was no longer “that color.”
At this point I began to realize that all of this may have been a game Sherlock was playing with me. He muttered under his breath a few times what sounded to me like “Lee Rosy.” I then asked if he wanted something to drink and he suggested a Rose wine just to twist the knife in my ribs once again. Unable to hide my perturbance at his needling I reminded him we had solved a case where a postman had been killed in front of a shop. I did this as a veiled threat but as I spoke Holmes eyes gleamed. He began muttering about a Rosy Tea Shop. At this point it seemed all hell broke loose. Tommy reappeared complaining that his pants didn’t fit, his specific brand of pants didn’t fit and the owner of the stable came back to tell us that someone had stolen all his horses and given them to the poor and that he would have to beat up the poor to get his horses back. All of these statements were made in a manner that one would assume they were intended to help but I cannot fathom what they were intended to help with.
Holmes now confided in me that he wanted to go to Lee Rosy Tea, which I was elated to hear but didn’t personally know where to find. At this point someone who we had, as yet, never seen approached complaining that a meal he was eating was horsemen and not pig.
Holmes stopped everything at this point and suggested that the ten percent of what he smelled that wasn’t horse shit was coming from Nottingham – specifically Lee Rosy Tea, Nottingham. You may wonder why it was that Holmes refused to say Tea Shop and instead just said Tea, This wasn’t due to any confusion on his end as some may assume but only his efficient use of language.
We noisily made our way to the Lee Rosy Tea shop in Nottingham to discover what exactly awaited us. We had to break in to the tea shop and as we entered the first thing we noticed was copious amounts of cigar ash and a cigar with lipstick on the end. There was a pair of orthopedic clogs against the wall. There were a series of trays on a table with different chemicals on the table. Holmes drew my attention to the cigar ash (of which he had a collection and was an authority) however I was bandaging a word I had received when I recklessly broke the glass in the door to the tea shop in order to gain entry and missed a bit of what he was saying. We then noticed a spike that numerable cheques impaled upon it. Holmes adroitly observed that they had been cashed. There was also a stack of manilla envelopes on a table which were definitely in existence in the year this took place. Holmes was enamored by the envelopes for a moment before he drew my attention to a stack of photographic prints of people walking and out of focus groups and nothing in particular. Nearby was a stack of newspapers from which individual letters had been removed from the newsprint. Next to an ink pot on the table there were postage stamps that were concurrent with the era.
My description of the room may seem odd to you but please bare in mind that I am merely relating to you the state of the shop as it presented itself to us. Deduction is a range mistress sometimes and where you may think to yourself that something obviously must have existed for us to have seen it I have found that with Sherlock this isn’t always the case. His mind can perceive and perhaps conjure things that couldn’t or shouldn’t be present and yet they are. The aforementioned camera for instance was one where a glass bulb of some kind would flash in much the same way flash powder would and had the words “copyright 1925” emblazoned upon it which I failed to mention above as I felt the it was obvious misdirection on the part of the criminal.
We then noticed a chalk board, or slate, though it has other names as well, and this one was most definitely not green in colour. Holmes noticed it at once and told me it was a blackboard for certain. I wondered aloud what it was that had happened and Sherlock ignominiously told me not to take him for a dutch, obviously someone had been committing black wall, er mail. Blackmail. He then told me that there were many clues in the building and he’d be surprised if I didn’t fill my notebook before our adventure was over.
Sherlock then began to tell me about blackmail and how if one becomes aware of another’s gossip and makes the other aware that you know their gossip you can then extort money from that individual in order to keep their gossip a secret. He then smelled the chamomile tea that I had in my pocket that is in no way related to the gossip he mentioned or blackmail and for which I had and continue to pay for in full.
From the tea shop we went to a dealer in exotic inks. Along the way we found a street urchin with whom Holmes wished to talk. Though I first I thought it might be a child it was in fact Dibley. Holmes told Dibley that he wished his people no harm to which Dibley took offense for some reason thinking that Holmes was suggesting that everyone who lived on the street were related. Dibley was then joined by his brother or perhaps sister who immediately began making out with Dibley. I pulled my revolver in defense and threatened to shoot one but Holmes cautioned restraint. A third related street person joined them and after some brief kisses and rat eating they told us of a recent addition to their street family of a strong women. Dibley then said he wanted to leave because someone nearby smelled like horse shit but directed us to Gorden Buzzby’s exotic inks before he left and we made our way there post haste.
Upon our arrival I thought I would have to break in once again and was surprised to find the door to the shop open and the proprietor taking inventory of his quills. I was made to stand in a corner as my wound from breaking into he previous shop had reopened and I was once again bleeding. Just then Stephen McAnus entered the shop looking for blood ink which I was happy to provide.
Holmes explained to this Buzzby that Blackmail had been committed in Nottingham at which point Buzzby began to act suspiciously and said he had to close his shop for the day. Holmes then asked Buzzby if anyone had happened to come into his shop recently that may have looked suspicious. He began to sweat and said yet – he then said they had pictures of him and the quills and he couldn’t say any more. The quills gave him ideas and he acted on them but no one could know or he’d lose his business. I began to wonder what made Buzzby’s special ink special, especially if he sold ink that contained blood. I concluded I didn’t want to know however Buzzby assured me I already knew and how much more of a crime was it for someone to use his most special ink to blackmail himself.
Buzzby explained how the culprit, whom he described as “she” would puff smoke rings from both cigar and a cigarette into his face as she discussed the blackmail with him. This seemed to push him over the edge both literally and figuratively and he claimed he no longer wished to live and stabbed himself with a quill. In an overly emotional outburst Sherlock called to Buzzby and told him he had too much to live for.
We left the ink shop and presently found ourselves in a smoke shop run by one of the most rude proprietors I have have encountered. I explained we were looking for something you could put both water and smoke in and he suggested a dog bowl. He explained that he was a tobacconist and yet wouldn’t not stop talking about his dog whom he had named leg bone. Sherlock dropped everything to pet the cur and he did so with vigor. For a moment it seemed the tobacconist wanted us to hump his dog in order to “return the favor” but was offended when we asked if that’s what he was getting on about. Thankfully the dog ran away and we could proceed with the business of the case. As Holmes began his interrogation a postman arrived with a letter and a plate of biscuits for the tobacconist. Holmes here proclaimed that the shopkeeper had a strange relationship with his orphan dog and he no longer wanted to talk about it. About then a photograph fell from the tobacconist shirt that depicted him, his dog and some cigars in a compromising position. As he wept he confessed that he was being blackmailed as well. The shopkeeper was surprised that Holmes knew this to which Holmes responded that of course he had known, he was “Sherlock Goddamn Holmes.”
Sherlock noticed that a carving of the tobacconist family tree on his wall had been half burned away. The postman then returned with a package of special brownies for Holmes and he began to pace back and forth as he doesn’t when he’s about to crack a case. The tobacconist mentioned that Holmes looked as if he was being birthed at the moment. We made our way outside where we encountered the postman once again who said he had forgotten to tell Holmes that the brownies had not been made in any store or factory and then bid him good luck. I could tell that Holmes couldn’t be bothered with such trifles as he was about to tell me who had committed this heinous crime (after previously confirming that Moriarty was out of town). Before he could give me this information however we were again interrupted by a klutz of freight operator who was dragging and ancient Egyptian sarcophagus to the museum in which, he assured us, was the preserved remains of a Pharaoh. Sherlock told me to leave the mummy alone. At this point I was agitated and asked Holmes directly who it was that could have brought us to this God forsaken town to torture us so. Who would leave lipstick on cigars and put opium in brownies for him. Sherlocks’ response was one word “Mummy” As if out of thin air she appeared and chastised Sherlock for making her blackmail a whole town just get him to stop by and say hello.
What followed was an outburst of emotion I have seen from Holmes. Even thought I had a clear shot at Holme’s mother he would not let me shoot her. Instead he move his hand imperceptibly and Cherry Blossom/Gabriel charged onto the street and trampled his mother. She lay on the cobblestone bleeding though not mortally wounded and said, “My bones are broken by my spirit is strong.” I told Holmes he would have to kill her himself but he, once again, knew better. Sherlock knew that all he really needed to do was break her spirit and she would never again pick up pen and ink and photograph to blackmail. He stepped toward her and looker her in the eye and told her – “Mother, you’re brownies … were never that good.”
That is where my notes on the case end apart from one small addendum which notes that the motive his mother had given him for committing the blackmail was to get even with Sherlock for taking his father’s side in the divorce. I protested and reminded him that his mother and father had never gotten a divorce but this did’t seem to bother Sherlock and we never spoke of it again. Though it has been some years since then I still steal away sometimes to go visit Cherry Blossom and return with bruises which I know Sherlock notices but never asked me about.