There are times when I’m not quite sure what I should post here. I’m a pretty normal person, happily married, a doctor in private practice. True, I’m a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and did sustain a leg injury there, but I’ve already written about that.
However, regular readers will know that my best friend is not at all ordinary.
I’ve known Sherlock Holmes since college when we were room-mates. While I was studying medicine, Holmes could have been a case study for several papers, should I have had the need and inclination.
He is a substance abuser, with his arms showing the marks of needles employed both in the injection of cocaine and morphine. These two substances may seem contradictory, one increasing activity and the other suppressing it.
A comparison of the two agents is not unlike meeting Holmes on different days. He is a casebook manic depressive. He may spend a week at a time on the couch, leaving only for the most necessary biological functions. Seen in this state, he is the classic slacker.
I still have a large and comfortable chair that was in our common living room during our college days. One arm was quite broken down from where Holmes would hook a leg over it, as he lolled back, apparently incapable of responding to questions or carrying on a conversation. My wife tried having it reupholstered to no avail, and it has since been banished to the garage.
Met in this condition, perhaps not having showered or shaved in days, no respectable person would have thought to engage him in any occupation.
However, in reality, his services are highly sought after by the rich and powerful, and he can command the most astounding fees for a few days work.
His reputation is well-founded. He has the most incredible mind, and is a remarkable problem solver of a unique sort. It takes only the proper sort of intriguing mystery to rouse him from his stupor, and his energy is boundless until it is resolved. For a short time, his brain engaged in correlating the tiniest details with his own seemingly limitless store of trivia, he can be so active as to make a humminbird seem a sluggard in comparison.
Lest you think he is simply an intellectual, he is an amateur prize fighter, a fencer, and capable as well of incredible feats of agility. I myself have seen him scramble up the side of a building, jump from roof to roof, and conclude with a leap on to the branch of a tree in a manner that would make a vervet monkey jealous.
During these times, it seems as though he is superhuman. His clients believe he can resolve their difficulties in a nonpareil manner. They believe nothing can stump him, that he can accomplish any task, and unfortunately, they may be correct.
Why do I say unfortunately? Once the problem has been resolved and the mystery over, he returns to that listless state which I have described earlier. I sought once to dissuade him from indulging in an injection of cocaine (which he had offered to share with me), and he replied:
“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence.”*
As a medical man, I can not condone his use of chemical stimulants. I know the negative consequences that accompany the psychoactive effects Holmes’ finds some substitute for challenge. Holmes himself, who has made an impressive study of pharmacology (along with several other disciplines), certainly knows them. I have never understood why he will allow this significant impact on his perhaps unprecedented mental faculties, and yet eschews romantic involvement for fear of dulling his mind by complicating it with emotions.
It may be that the one enigma unsolved by Holmes is Holmes himself. In fairness, it is perhaps a topic to which he has never turned his full attention.
So it was that I reacted with some selfish excitement when I received a summons from my old friend to meet him at a stylish apartment in one of the better areas of the city. While I am quite satisfied with my life, Holmes brings a dash of paprika to my meat and potatoes existence of treating abdominal pain and upper respiratory infections.
When the taxi left me outside the appointed address, I saw no one on the street. I approached the doorman…this being a complex that housed a number of foreign diplomats, they had retained that charming tradition.
“Excuse me,” I ventured. “I am Doctor John Watson–”
“Doctor? Medical doctor?” the doorman rumbled.
He was an odd fellow. He seemed to have the build of a wrestler, and his face showed the results of his presumed former trade. His nose had been broken and not set properly, and one eye showed the clear evidence of some poorly-healed traumatic injury. His stance suggested a lightness of foot surprising in such a large man.
“Yes, medical doctor. I was supposed to meet a friend here–”
“A medical doctor is just what we need. Please follow me.”
With that, he swiped a card through a security device, and the door opened. While I did not want to miss the opportunity to meet with Sherlock Holmes, I felt I could not in good conscious refuse the doorman’s request. It might be that my assistance was actually needed, and I could stabilize the patient until other help arrived. My guide would undoubtedly return to his station after conducting me, and I could give him a message to let Holmes know where I was.
Following him was easy…his rollng gait made it seem as though he filled the entire hallway. I don’t believe I could have passed him had I so desired. We approached the main elevator lobby, but then turned suddenly through some double doors.
“Freight elevator,” he said. “Don’t want to disturb the tenants.”
We stepped into an elevator with steel halfway up the walls, not unlike an elevator that would be used to move a gurney to a different ward in a hospital.
“May I ask what the nature of the emergency is?”
The big fellow must not have heard me properly. He pushed a button and replied, “Seventeenth floor.”
Our conveyance seemed to jump a bit more than those to which I was accustomed, and to transit the floors more rapidly. My injury gives me a certain lack of equillibrium, and I found myself concentrating on not tumbling to the floor too much to think much more about the situation.
We lurched to a stop, and the back doors (opposite to those through which we had entered) opened. “This way.”
We passed a police officer. Not a security guard, but a member of the city force. He nodded briefly at my companion as we passed.
We paused outside Apartment 1704. The door was open and we stepped inside.
“I say,” I began, “if this is a police matter, we may not want to do anything without officers in the room. They should have already summoned medical assistance. I may not be the appropriate person for this task.”
“Oh, but you are. I shouldn’t want anyone else with me in a situation such as this.”
That seemed a most peculiar thing for someone to say whom I had just met, and not properly at that. I was about to question him further when he appeared to transform before my eyes, becoming slimmer and shorter, seemingly losing inches in both girth and height. I realized then that his size had only been an illusion, brought about by the skill of a consummate actor. It had been the theatre world’s loss that the man before me had not chosen that venerable profession.
There could be no doubt, and I shouted in my enthusiasm:
Continued in Chapter 2.
* This quotation is almost word for word from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1890 (and second) Sherlock Holmes’ novel, The Sign of the Four. While I have contemporized some elements of A Kindle Abandoned, I have not exaggerated Holmes’ drug use, and Dr. Watson was actually a veteran of the Afghan war…the second Afghan war, to be more precise. If you want to read the original Holmes stories, you can find them free, or this edition has them all with an interactive Table of Contents: Sherlock Holmes Complete Collection. If I do continue this in a second chapter, a Kindle will be involved. I hope the Holmes purists will indulge me in using some Americanisms (like refererring to an elevator instead of a lift). Feel free to let me know if you would like to read more of this. If I continue it, it won’t be right away…I do like to keep it varied. Update: I did continue this story in this post.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.