My dear friend Sherlock Holmes had the finest brain I have ever encountered. Yet it was encased in a body which shuffled about with the alarming personal habits of a seventh generation viscount whose breeding has been overmatched by his inbreeding. From the foul bathrobe he habitually wore indoors, to the cocaine solution he occasionally injected, my flat mate’s manners and appearance were entirely at odds with the sterling work he did as a consulting detective.
On the evening which we were introduced to the affair of the Bee’s Egg, Holmes had outdone his outré usual. He was endeavouring to build a house of playing cards, and was already at the fourth level. At issue: the cards were French-made novelties and were … frankly illustrated. The lean-tos and plateaus of the structure, therefore, provided views which I rarely saw even in my medical practice. It was almost a blessing that Mrs. Hudson was abed with a cold, and unlikely to duck her head in.
A great rattling of a mighty carriage and a harrumph of an unusually large team of horses made a commotion outside. A few moments later, heavy footsteps pounded up the steps to 221B. The great carriage pulled away with the crack of a whip. And there was a smart, controlled, polite rap at the door.
Holmes, just then crowning his lewd masterpiece with a pagoda—he had saved a redhead for the roof, I noticed—did not look up.
“Be so kind as to get the door Watson,” he mumbled.
Those who have read my accounts of past cases know that Holmes could guess a visitor’s origin and purpose in mere moments. Of late, I had vowed to “one-better” him.
Let us see, I thought. The carriage was a mighty one—fit for a royal. The quick jog up the front steps was anxious, but the knock was genteel—a royal family member in direst straits!
“Holmes,” I hissed. “Those cards are entirely inappropriate for the visitor we are about to have!”
Holmes smiled slightly. “I’m sure the Chief Inspector has seen worse in his time. The Scottish riff-raff he has pinched are surely no finer than the London variety. The door, please, Watson.”
With great trepidation, I opened the door, ready to grovel in abject apology before an heir to Empire—and confronted a visitor with a long, thin Scottish face and an even longer plain woolen coat.
“Chief Inspector McAdams, I believe?” said Holmes. “Come to discuss the murder of Thomas Fergus, foreman of construction at the bridge being built over the Firth of Kynoch?”
Our visitor grimaced. “I had my men under strict orders to keep this visit secret,” he said, walking through the door. “The telegraph man in Dalkeith Moor is a notorious gossip. I suppose the Provost overruled them and wired you anyway?”
He caught sight of the cards and chuckled briefly as he shrugged off his coat.
“No, Chief Inspector, your people have been loyal. You arrived in one of the new omnibuses which have started serving the rail station—whose huge team of horses my friend Dr. Watson mistook for a fancy royal carriage.”
“So, I knew you had arrived from the station,” Holmes continued. “Civilians in dire peril rap at my door as if they are trying to break it down. But whilst your quick pace up our steps betrayed great urgency, your polite knock indicated someone in control of his faculties. Policemen knock that way—when they are visiting colleagues rather than suspects, of course.
“The papers for the past two days have given much ink to the suspicious death of Thomas Fergus, foreman of the Great Kynoch Bridge project. The body was found three mornings ago on the shore at Dalkeith Moor, and one Chief Inspector McAdams has been fending off questions about when work will restart on the largest construction project in the British Isles. As I am a consulting detective who has worked with many Men of the Law, I figured, perhaps immodestly, that I would be getting a visit from you.”
McAdams laughed. “Well Mr. Holmes, when you lay out the steps like that, it does seem rather obvious.”
After Holmes assured him that all confidences could be shared in my presence, he sat with us and laid out his problem.
“The bridge across the Firth of Kynoch is the largest single expense on the Council budget,” said McAdams. “The Firth of Kynoch is—er, you know the true meaning of that good Scottish word?”
Really enjoyed the story. Good representation of A. C. Doyle's writing style.
Very entertaining - and nicely done in keeping with the Holmes and Watson way of speaking and investigating - Good job!
Enjoyed the story a lot. It kept my interest and was very entertaining.