Sherlock Holmes Is A-Mouldering In His Grave

The bees are long dead, John and Mary more recently, and his fame, such as it was, is a long-banked fire he warms himself on on short winter days. Time has stolen his height and his appetite, and most days he sits quietly by the southern window watching the sun move across the valley. He boasted once to John that he neither knew nor cared if the sun revolved around the earth or the earth around the sun, as neither case could affect the solution of a crime; now, however, he cannot watch a sunrise without thinking of it.

They must have been young, then, but it was all so long ago he cannot conceive of what youth must have been like. He remembers the anxiety and the desperation of his idle times, but not the pith of the experience—remembers it as a story to be told. How it felt to be so despairingly understimulated that he would rather throw himself from the top of the falls than not eludes him. He is as precise with dates and times and distances as ever, but without the vital interest in humanity that once drove him, those points of data are as sterile and drily pleasing as a railway schedule.

He had not expected to live so long, to so far outlast not only the dead but even himself. He does not begrudge the passing time, but he cannot bring himself to care about it, either.

The Police Are Not Workers

“Trees,” said Encyclopedia, “grow from the top up; what is carved low on a young tree will remain low on an ancient one.”

Bugs nodded to himself. Yes, he thought, that was my mistake. Ah, well, so it goes; they have circled around each other for so long, it is hard to conceive of a world where things could be different. Both the criminal and the detective produce crime, the criminal by the performance of marvelous things, and the detective by the delineation of crime. Who have I hurt by this lie? he asked himself. No one. And who has Encyclopedia hurt by revealing my lie? Also no one.

He was not bored; how could he be? Before this—in the long untime of their personal prehistory—he was merely violent, a beast in the shape of a boy, with no thought beyond the satisfaction of the desires of a moment and no craft beyond an extra six inches of height and another forty pounds of muscle. Can I have been said to exist? Can a creature that lives solely by reflex be said to live? Was I not then some biological robot, a Talos of mere flesh?

And what were you, my nemesis, my soul, without me? He conjured the kitchen table, the police chief fat and foolish asking his ten year old child for advice, the unbreakable boredom of a sane mind in a secure body, a motive will with no fears, no worries, no great work to wreak craft upon. They are complete in themselves, now, form given soul, soul given presence, and all for the soft labor of an afternoon of tree carving.

“We are our own victims,” Bugs muttered into his collar, but Encyclopedia, if he heard, gave no sign.

Rare Books, Bought and Sold

“An odd anthology.” Takes a drag on the herbal cigarette, fiddles uncomfortably with the spent match. “Publication date of 1953, but several of the stories reference events and people from much later. Not famous things, mind; not the sort of thing you’d spot unless you were actively looking for it. No overt technological anachronisms, nothing substantially paradoxical, just… background details.” Glances out the bay window overlooking the street. No sign of any disturbance; that’s good.

“Give me an example.”

“Sir.” Straightens up. “Take for example the story The Man Who Collected September 23. Information hoarding. Lots of lists, trivia, non-literary culture, ad jingles, that sort of thing. Very comfortably postmodern, easily the sort of thing you might find in a 1953 collection of literary or aspirationally literary stories.” A grey car with Montana plates turns the corner; nearly time. Leans in, starts talking slightly louder. “But the details are all wrong; ads for soaps that wouldn’t come on the market for another couple of years, unsuccessful, mostly forgotten songs that weren’t released until the 60s, hair styles and fashions that are nearly but not quite right, that sort of thing.”

“Some printer’s error?”

“No, we tested the paper, the glue, the end pages; all the usual tests. The book dates from 1953, sure enough. That’s not the only problem story, either; they’ve all got some minor impossibility or other in them. Took us forever to figure out what was going on, but—” grinds the remains of the cigarette out in the ash tray; the car slows to a stop outside the window. “—we think we’ve figured it out.”

Glass shatters.


She’s got a malamute and she solves crimes: she is the Dog Trainer Detective.

She’s sniffy about the difference between Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, but understands the confusion; she’s got long practice at explaining the differences, which are as stark as alligators and crocodiles, crows and ravens, chalk and cheese. Similar climates, different purposes.

Loyal, stolid, concerned, not necessarily clever: she’s entertained the idea of training one of her ‘mutes for a Utility Dog classification but mostly as a joke. Training for it might be fun, but actually mastering the specific skills, eh, is fairly unlikely.

One time a murderer knocked her out and tried to kill her by looping her own dog’s leash around her neck and ordering it to mush. “Mush!” Idiotic; even as she grimly unlooped the lead from her larynx she couldn’t help correcting him mentally: folks who run sled dogs yell “Pull!”

She took some pleasure in letting the dog sit on his chest when she caught up to him. The dog just lolled its tongue happily as the cops pulled up, the sweet innocent.

Then There Were Seven

They rode white-lipped and silent through the pass, hands clamped hard over the six panicked faces of the women they’d abducted. The snow this early in the season was wet and treacherous, and any sound risked an avalanche. Once through, they whooped with joy to watch the snow come crashing down behind them, sealing the way out of the valley until the spring thaw. Plenty of time to win them over; their only regret was that they hadn’t managed to grab a priest to put a gloss of Christianity on their Sabine plot.

That joy doesn’t last — the women exile them from the bunkhouse, and refuse to so much as make eye contact. Millie, Adam’s wife, is beyond disgusted; they retreat at gunpoint, still laughing. Edged laughter, but still laughter. Give them space — at the end of the day there are six of them, broad and massive as the barn they sleep in. They can afford to be patient. Adam is the only one truly outraged, and storms off in a fury to the hunting lodge way up in the hills to brood.

Benjamin is the first; face down in the snow by the sheep pen. They laugh when he doesn’t come to the barn, then get worried as the killing cold night stretches on, then spread out in a panic in the morning. His body is cold and frozen hard as the ground they pickax open for a raw wound of a grave.

Caleb is next, weeks later, tumbled among the banked snow of the fields, glued to the earth with his own frozen blood. Blood on the horns of the ox tells a story, but Caleb was careful and the ox was docile. They cannot quite bring themselves to doubt.

But then Daniel, then Ephraim, then Frank, until only Gideon is left, alone in the now-silent barn. At the top of the hill, the lights blaze bravely in the house, and the sound of laughter and singing echoes faintly through the valley. He buries himself deep in the straw and curses himself for a reader.