The Adventure of the Cardboard Mailer. Part I.
In choosing a few typical cases which illustrate the remarkable mental qualities of my friend Sherlock Holmes, I have tried to limit as much as possible the amount of sensationalism in my tales. For my purpose in recounting these episodes (besides the obvious pecuniary ones, of course, of course) is to show the essence of Holmes' method of deduction. For although a good bit of fisticuffs in a story my help sell a bit more copies on the newsstand, I do understand that too much of it will drive my more discerning readers away.
However, in this case, I do beg your indulgence, because it involves sensationalism of the highest kind, but because it is sometimes impossible to distill the intellectual from the sensational, I regret to have to include both here.
As always, the case started with Sherlock Holmes pacing about his Baker Street rooms in search of some puzzle to occupy his mind with. He had gone through the day's papers to search for unsolved crimes, the classified sections for oddities worthy of further study, and had seen a half-dozen callers but turned their cases away because they had been too ordinary. I was pining to escape London for the summer, and was just about to suggest a holiday at Southsea when Mrs. Hudson came to the door with another card.
Holmes, by now resigned to spend another evening without mental stimulation, stared out the window onto Baker Street even after Mrs. Hudson announced the visitor, instead waving his long hand dismissively, signifying that he would not see this latest prospective client. But then Mrs. Hudson did something most forward: she thrust the card into Holmes' gesticulating fingers!
That instant Holmes stood up, but still had not looked at the card.
"Mrs. Hudson," Holmes said, rather loudly, "this is not a person's card."
"Well," Mrs. Hudson stammered, "yes, it is, in a way -"
"Then how do you explain the glossy side? I have made an extensive study of cards, and no culture the world over, whether it be exotic Russia or the hinterlands of America, uses a glossy card.."
Finally Mrs. Hudson had had enough. "Just look at the damn card, you nincompoop!" she shouted, then turned and exited the room, slamming the door on her way out. Only then did Holmes look towards the hand that held the glossy card.
"What is this? A picture card? What the deuce is going on..."
Suddenly the door opened.
"Bro! Are you going to help me or not!"
In the doorway was the strangest-looking being I had ever seen in my life, and I had done several tours in the most godforsaken places you could ever imagine. It was a man in a strange white suit, a bizarre woolen cap, and the most odd thing of all was the rounded walking stick he was clutching.
Holmes was briefly taken aback, but then I saw his right eyebrow arch, and it was then that I knew that we were about to embark on another adventure. I got out my case-book and fountain pen.
Over the next hour both Holmes and I sat transfixed listening to this man's story. For some strange reason he kept calling Holmes a term that I quickly understood to mean "brother," but I knew for a fact that Mycroft was Holmes' only sibling.
After the lengthy but interesting harangue was over, Holmes stood up and looked at the strange walk stick the man, who called himself Swish, had been holding in his hand. Then he looked at his pants cuff, then at the odd spiked shoes he was wearing.
"So, Mr. Swish, you believe this club of yours to be faulty?"
"You got it, bro."
"And it only started to be faulty a week ago."
"Yeah, bro. That's not ancient history, bro. And it's starting to affect me in the field, bro"
He then looked closely at the wooden object. After a minute, his eyes suddenly lit up.
"Watson," he said, handing the club to me, "what does that smell like?"
I tried my best to smell something besides wood, but my olfactory senses failed me. At last I had to give up.
"If I not mistaken, Watson, this bat has been tampered with, and that pungeant smell alone answers several key questions."
Mr. Swish sat silent for once.
"Come, Watson, come Mr. Swish, we are are going to meet your co-workers. You say you work in Cleveland?"
"You bet, bro."
"I believe a train leaves in 45 minutes for the north, and if we move quickly, we'll be on it."
"Uh, bro, I hate to break this to you...."
To be continued...