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.


The Client
Someone close, but not too close. Someone the Great Detective knows well — an old friend, a forgotten lover, a favorite tradesperson, a former coworker — needs help. Not an innocent; they stepped outside the bounds of society out of greed or need or love and now they’re caught with their foot in the trap. Of course he’ll take the case.

The Mystery
Violence and the threat of violence hang in the air. The Great Detective is discomfited; this hits closer to home. Heavy footfalls echo off the walls of the alleyways he turns down; a sleek black car hops the curb and brushes against the hem of his coat. His Archnemesis is playing for keeps this time; the game has grown suddenly serious. The client is killed or kidnapped or beaten into a coma; something horrific that takes them out of the story and raises the stakes.

The Solution
Too late for the client, but the Great Detective has put the pieces together, pulled back the lid on the city’s seamy underbelly, revealing an elaborate network of crime operating with the implied blessing of the police, the courts, the wealthy; so long as they limit their depredations to the poorer sort, it’s not worth interfering. The Great Detective calls in his Lestrade to bring down the crime ring.

The Escalation
The leaders of the crime ring all die in their cells. Suicide is a plague in the prisons, say the cops, and cough mockingly into their sleeves. A check arrives by mail; for services rendered says the memo.

The Resolution
The Great Detective keeps pushing; Lestrade takes a leave of absence. He holds His Archnemesis at gunpoint, I know it was you. His Archnemesis laughs; you think I could do this all on my own? Give me a name, says the Great Detective. A shot rings out; the window shatters; the smell of gas in the apartment.

When he wakes, there are flowers by his hospital bed, signed by the richest man in town. Best wishes, they say, for services rendered.

The Cook

The Great Detective sleeps on the third floor, and the Other Detective on the second, and the Cook sleeps in the basement. A quiet man, it suits him; the windows are high against the ceiling and the light is filtered through the murmur of the city streets. He goes up to the third floor every morning, carrying breakfast to the Great Detective on a tray, but he has not been to the fourth floor in years. He knows what lives up there, in careful, tidy rows, in rooms cool and moderate and torrid; there was a time he marinated in that glory, but not now. There was a time too when he burned like a bachelor’s souffle for the Great Detective, but not for years, and not now.

The Other Detective he sees most days, partners in commiseration, brother wives in a house where music seldom plays, in the kitchen or the office; not infrequently in his basement rooms that, like every other, are soundproofed and discreet. Old friends, they are casual with each other, with their names and their loves and their bodies. The cook does not cloister himself within the house — he is not eccentric in his genius — but nevertheless his mind has risen with the yeast of years to fit its shape.

He does not like crime, and will not talk about it. There is always another body, another rule broken, another flurry of activity to come, but such moments can only be measured against the quiet, unbroken, remorseless tender of his craft.

Jewel Heist

This is an image post. Inspiration for this sketch came from this image.

We are such masters of disguise, The Great Detective and His Archnemesis, that we can never be sure which is which and who is who. Sometimes we slink through opium dens, the very soul of corruption and dissolution, and sometimes we ghost our way through the salons and fêtes of the idle rich, our long-fingered hands delicate and soft.

Tonight we are hunting each other at the opera. The Great Detective is elegant in a long velvet gown, wig piled high on his head, the fabulous scarlet emerald of Agafnd flashing at his aristocratic throat. Poor Inspector Cramer, who of course has no idea who the beautiful lady is that he’s chaperoning, dances attendance, bulldog eyes locked on the many faucets of the scarlet emerald while The Great Detective flirts outrageously with him.

There’s a commotion during the intermission. The jewel of Agafnd has been stolen! The Inspector is beside himself — he never took his eyes off the rock, not for a second! The Great Detective laughs, low and thrillingly, and kisses his mortified cheek. “No one could have done more, my dear Cramer, but this was not a crime we were meant to prevent.”

And with that, The Great Detective is gone, leaving the Inspector thinking — and blushing! — furiously.