Archive for the ‘Doctor Watson's Blog’ Category

Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 4

November 14, 2009

This is a continuation of the story, Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 1. You may wish to begin there and continue through the rest of the story before reading this, the fourth and final chapter.

I was waiting in breathless anticipation for the arrival of my old friend, Sherlock Holmes.  My last patient having departed some half hour before, I had just about completed my charting for the day.

I must admit to a certain degree of distraction during the day, although nothing that would compromise my patients’ safety.  Considering that the highest risk I had seen all day was a case of  Onychomycosis (fungal toenail), the risk had been small.

My thoughts had kept returning to the events of the preceding evening.  What could it all mean?  It all seemed to tie together in some way, but what the precise solution was escaped me.

At that moment, my friend burst into the room.  All vestiges of the doorman in whose guise I had encountered him last night were gone.  He was his normal slim self, and the make-up that had given him those apparent injuries were gone, only his hawk-like features remaining.

“Ready, Watson?”

“Of course…although I am not quite sure for what.”

“For the conclusion, of course!  You have the Kindle?”

“I do.  I shut it in that drawer.  The deuced thing was simply too distracting to leave out.  Should I bring my revolver?”

“I think not.  What I have in my breast pocket should be sufficient.  Would you mind if I use your computer?  I appear to have left my cell phone in my car.”

“Certainly.”

I watched as his swift fingers sent a text message.

To: B8KRSTIR

Msg:Pkg 411 8×100 1×2

“I say, Holmes, what was that?”

“Merely the next step in the plan.  B8KRSTIR is a special address I have for Wiggins and his crew…it is short for Baker Street Irregulars.  I have asked him to get the information on a package, and in exchange I will give him eight Amazon gift certificates for $100, and one for $200.  He will distribute them as he sees fit, with the $200 going to the one who gets me the address to which the package is mailed.”

“What package?”

“Why, the Kindle, of course!  I have called TrackItBack, and arranged to have it picked up here and returned to its owner.  That was one reason I needed you on this case, Watson.  I was afraid my Baker Street residence might be watched, and Wiggins prefers to keep a low profile.  They should be picking it up at any moment.  When they do, the Irregulars will watch the truck until the driver takes the package to post it.  When they do, one of them will slip inside with the driver, observe the address given, and text that information back to me.”

“I see!  Should we alert Lestrade?”

“I think we will not need the authority’s assistance in this case.”

At that moment, the Front Desk alerted me to the arrival of the courier.  I turned over the Kindle, and we waited.  Holmes paced furiously about the office.  While it was clear to me that he had already projected an end, he was as anxious as I to see it arrive.

Fifteen minutes later, we were in a cab on the way to the address provided by Wiggins.  It seemed that Holmes had not only left his cell phone in his car, he had forgotten the car somewhere as well.  We pulled up to a security gate at an expensive mansion.  Holmes overtipped the cabbie, and we approached the closed circuit camera.

“Sherlock Holmes.  I believe I am expected.”

The gate buzzed and we stepped on to the path.

“Are you certain we should just walk up to the front door like this, Holmes?  Might that not place the young lady in additional danger?  And why did you say you were expected?”

Holmes walked briskly to the stoop.  The door was opened for us by a most surprising personage.

He was approximately six feet tall, but the alternating black and white spikes formed by his hair made him fully seven.   He lifted Holmes off the ground in a bear hug, and as I prepared to enter the fray in my friend’s defense, Holmes gestured me back.

“Watson, this gentleman is Erasto.”

“Eras…the name on the Kindle!”

“Precisely, although he may prefer that we address him as Edward J. Smith…or should we call you Captain?”

The faux-hawked Erasto set Holmes on the ground and laughed a surprisingly high-pitched laugh.  He grabbed Holmes’ shoulders as though he was a long lost brother returned from war. 

“Congratulations, darling!  Surprised?”

This last came from a striking young woman, dressed in a cashmere robe.

“And that, Watson, is the young lady about whom you have been so concerned…my client.”

I must have looked confused, as she held out her hand and smiled knowingly.

“Dr. Watson, I presume?  I knew Mr. Holmes would get here, but this is an unexpected pleasure.”

“May I say that the feeling is mutual?  Holmes, what is this all about?”

“Sit, doctor, and I’ll explain.”

We all took seats, Erasto beaming and virtually unable to stay still with excitement.  I noticed that the young lady was watching Erasto, rather than Holmes, and smiling just as broadly.

“As you can see, Watson, the lady is not in danger, nor did I ever think she was.  There were several clear indications of this.  First, she did not go to get her latte last evening, indicating that this was to be an out of the ordinary evening.”

“But I thought the abduction had prevented her?”

“Then why would she have already showered?  Remember the bare footprints?   It hardly seems likely that she would have come home, showered, and then gone back to continue her work at the Starbucks.  And abduction may not be the correct word, since she left willingly.”

“I thought you had said she was unconscious?”

“No, Watson, you said that, and I agreed that it was a reasonable hypothesis.  I said she was unresisting, and she was…because she had planned the entire affair.   The fact that she answered the door still dripping from the shower shows that she had known her visitor.”

“She couldn’t have been certain who was at the door until she got there.”

“True, but she could identify him through the Judas Hole in the door.  If it had been someone unknown to her, she simply would not have opened it.  Once she had admitted the person, she would have had ample time to call for assistance if it was required.  The scuff mark tells us that she was dressed when she was taking advantage of her unusual mode of conveyance.  It would be an odd apartment indeed if there was no phone in the bedroom.  Ergo, she knew and trusted her visitor.”

“But she was carried from the room!”

“True…I assume she had some pretty tale to tell to convince our male friend her to carry her?”

“I told him we were practicing–

“For the honeymoon, of course.  Watson, these two are getting married tomorrow.”

“Excellent!  You have even deduced the date!”  She was still watching Erasto rather than Holmes as she said this.

“Well, that is the anniversary of the date the voyage began…what better day to begin your own joint journey through life.”

“You see? He is everything I said.”  This last came from Erasto, and was directed to the young lady…who I now knew was his fiancée.

“What voyage?”

“Why, the Titanic, of course! The ship left Southampton on April 10th, 1912, bound for New York.  Captain Edward J. Smith was in charge of the ill-fated vessel.  The young woman is fascinated with the story, and has gone so far as to call her young man by the Captain’s name.”

“That explains the Celine Dion song on Erasto’s Kindle! “

“Exactly…My Heart Will Go On.  The oceanliner has been integral to this entire business.  The Steiff bear?  In 1912, those bears will were sent to England to commemorate the Titanic’s voyage.  Mourning Redemption features a woman whose parents had died on the trip.”

“So the teddy bear was…”

“An engagement gift.”

“The five Somalian shillings?”

“Erasto is from Somalia.  I assume that’s where they met.  The coins are probably symbolic of the time they have been together.”

“Five years: we met when I was on vacation with my parents in high school, and I always knew Erasto and I would one day be married.”

“Yes.  I have just recently come to this country.”

“That was apparent from the greenish stain on the Kindle cover.  It is from a substance generally called Khat, although our Somalian friend may know it as qaad or jaad.  It contains the alkaloid cathinone, a stimulant.  While illegal in Somalia for a few years, a scofflaw like our hack-installer here may know some ways to obtain it…or at least, be in the company of people who do.”

“Have you been using Khat, Edward?”

“No!  It was at my going away party.  One of the others must have spit on my case.”

“The substance is known for the peculiar green stains users leave as they expectorate.”

“Well, that seems to explain everything, Holmes.”

“Not quite.  His shoes are from a vegan and vegetarian store called Pangaea.  That was what told me of his dietary preference.   His left-handedness could be deduced from his left shoeprint being deeper than the right when he was exiting the apartment.  That indicated that he had shifted his beloved burden to his stronger side as he opened the door.”

“Oh, and you said his hair was blue!  It’s black and white!”

“It was blue yesterday, as evident from the hair I found on the sofa.  It was a good twelve inches long, and maintained its shape when bent.  This told me that a stiffening agent had been used.   Have you dyed it for the wedding?”

“Black and white seemed more formal.”

“Well, if the lady was in no danger, why did she engage your services?”

“The Captain here had given her an extravagant wedding present, and I assume she wanted to return the favor.  Unless I am very much mistaken, I am that gift.”

She laughed lightly before replying.  “You are correct, Mr. Holmes.  Edward has been a fan of yours for some time, having become aware of your abilities in that computer espionage case you had solved in South Africa.”

“The Adventure of the Reluctant Hacker!”

“Yes, he showed me that’s what you called it in your blog, Doctor.  I thought there would be no better gift I could give him than to have you solve a case, in which he had the starring role.”

“And I must say, I have had a most delightful time doing so.  One more thing: in honor of the Titanic theme, I have brought the two of you a wedding present.”

At this, Holmes reached into his breast pocket and removed the object to which he had referred earlier.  It was a small brightly colored cylinder with metal at each end, with a tiny white bow.  I couldn’t quite see what it was as he handed it over with great panache.

“Holmes, what is that?”

“What else, Watson? Lifesavers…”

This concludes Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 3

November 10, 2009

This is a continuation of the story, Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 1. You may wish to read that chapter (and Chapter 2) before beginning this one.  

“Yes, Watson, that device, while always a wellspring of information, may provide us the particular data we need to advance our investigation.”

My friend, Sherlock Holmes, was referring to a Kindle in an apartment from which his client had been recently carried.  I was anxious to begin our pursuit of the unfortunate woman and her abductor, but Holmes had rightfully cautioned me about dashing off without knowing our destination.

“Yes, I see.  It may contain something about the victim that can help us locate her.”

“That’s certainly possible, Watson, although I believe the information it reveals about its owner may be more useful.”

“You mean, you think it belongs to the man who spirited her away?”

“Clearly, it can not belong to the resident of the apartment.”

“But it seems so unlikely that he would have left it behind.”

“Perhaps, but as we can eliminate my client as the owner, the only reasonable hypothesis remaining is that it belonged to the owner of those shoeprints we discussed before.   When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.*

“Why couldn’t it belong to the girl?  This is her apartment.” 

“It is precisely because it is her apartment that we can see the Kindle can not also be hers.  Look at the end table you noted earlier.  How many remote controls do you see there?”

“One, two, three…four.”

“And how many devices in the entertainment unit capable of using a remote?”

I looked more carefully at the onyx shelving.

“Television…Tivo…DVD…it appears to be three.”

“Exactly.  And the fourth remote control?  The one that is so large and has so many buttons?”

“Presumably, that is a univeral remote.’

“Correct.  To be precise, it is a Philips TSU9400 Pronto Universal Remote Control , which retails for close to one thousand dollars.  It is certainly capable of replacing the other three remotes, although a knowledge of Javascript is useful in configuring it.  Since all four remotes are still present, and the other three show signs of recent use, we can assume that our absent friend is not a technical whiz.”

“But a Kindle doesn’t require any special ability…it is simple enough to use that even a Luddite such as I adapted to it quickly.”

“Ah, that may be so for most Kindles, but look more carefully at this one.  Who is displayed as the sleep mode picture?”

“I believe that’s Stephen King.”

“Once again, you’ve gotten it on the nose.  Stephen King is not one of the twenty-five pictures that come with the device.  Ergo, it was added, and as this is a Kindle 2, it would have required installation of what is referred to as the ‘screensaver hack’. “

“Perhaps someone else did it for her.”

“A reasonable thought.  However, that is contradicted by the recycling bin you see near the refrigerator.”

“I’m sorry, Holmes, I don’t follow.”

“Examine the bottles in the bin.  What do you notice about them?”

I looked carefully at the empty plastic bottles.  The labels had been removed, but I noticed nothing else unusual.

I addressed Holmes, certain that he had gathered something I hadn’t.  “I don’t see–“

“Well done!  Too much emphasis is placed on what we do see, when what we don’t see may be equally significant.   You will notice, doctor, that none of these bottles have their caps in place.  As you are no doubt aware, plastic bottles are typically made of Polyethylene Terephthalate, while their caps are made of Polypropylene.  The two materials have different melting points, which means that they must be processed in different batches.  If you observe the refrigerator, there is a notice from the apartment complex asking residents to separate caps from bottles.”

“Yes, I see.  That tells us that…”

“That my client is a rule-follower.  Most people would pay the notice little heed, but I believe an inventory would show that there are no bottle caps in that bin.”

“And the font hack requires breaking the rules.”

“Correct.  Doing so is against the Terms of Use Kindle owners enter into with Amazon.  One might suggest she was unaware of that, except for the name shown on the sleep mode picture.”

“Steven King?”

“Yes, Steven, not Stephen.  It is unlikely that my client would have failed to notice that mistake, given the Stephen King DVD boxed set, and several Stephen King novels in that entertainment unit.  I notice that the novels include several rare editions, including The Running Man when it was first published under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman.   It would hardly be reasonable that such a fan would not have known the author’s name was misspelled, and therefore likely to be unauthorized.  Taking into account these two facts, that my client is a rule-follower and a Stephen King fan, we must conclude that the Kindle is not hers.”

“One could hardly argue with that reasoning.”

“Since the cover is open and the screen has not yet accumulated a layer of household dust, it can not have been here and in this position for long.  While we can not completely rule out someone else having been here, it seems to needlessly complicate our variables, especially as we know that the man’s hands would have been full carrying my client from the room.  Wake it up, Watson, and we shall see what we shall see.”

“Won’t we be disturbing evidence at a crime scene?”

“Ah, but this is not a crime scene, Watson.  It will be seventy-two hours before a missing person’s report would be filed, and I should think we will resolve this affair some time before that.”

I moved the power switch to the right for the requisite second or so, and the author of Carrie dissolved from the screen.  He was replaced with a short listing of titles.  I noticed I was reviewing the list alone.  Holmes had plopped onto the sofa, and was leaning back with his hands together and his eyes closed.

“Read them to me, Watson.”

“The first title is–“

“Above the title, please.  From the very top.”

“Edward’s Kindle.  Well, at least we have a first name.”

“I think it is very likely that is not the owner’s real name.  Continue.”

“It says ‘OFF’ and shows a half-filled battery.”

I thought Holmes might respond, but he gave no indication he had heard me.  So I continued:

“Showing All 5 Items…By Title.  Five doesn’t seem like very many titles.”

“I think we will find that there are many more items in the archives.  This further confirms that the owner of the Kindle is more attuned to technology than the owner of this apartment.  Very few Kindle owners bother to move their items to the archives, resulting in many pages of books on the homescreen, despite a lack of immediate need.”

“The next one is an Audio title–“

“By Celine Dion, I presume?”

“Why, yes.”

“You may skip that one…continue.”

I continued to read the remaining titles:

“Thank you, Watson.  That makes things very clear.”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

“Two more things.  Turn the cover over.  Do you notice any stains?”

“Yes, there is a greenish discoloration where something appears to have splashed on the back.”

“As I suspected.  Now, remove the Kindle from its case.  Be careful of the hinges.  Is there anything on the back of the Kindle itself?”

“Why, there is a sticker with a phone number!  We can call and find out the owner’s name!”

“Unfortunately, no, Watson.  That is a TrackItBack   sticker, and they do not give out personal information.  Fortunately, we shan’t be needing their assistance.  I think that is sufficient for this evening.  Go home, get some rest, and give my regards to Mary.  Take the Kindle with you, and I shall meet you at your office tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 PM, when we shall conclude this business.”

“3:00…yes, my last patient is scheduled for 2:00.”

“As has always been your habit.  Oh, and give me the serial number from the back of the Kindle.”

“I’m afraid it’s a bit small for me to read.”

Producing a small plastic magnifying lens, similar to those used by some people in restaurants, Holmes glanced at the number.  I knew he would have committed it to memory instantly.

“But the girl!  Will she be safe?”

“In the infinitude of possiblities, I can not guarantee that.  However, I believe we shall find her quite whole and hale in the afternoon.”

“What of her abductor?  We know nothing of him.”

“Not very much.  We can surmise that he is a 6 foot 1 inch left-handed vegetarian with a blue ‘faux hawk’ hairstyle.  He has recently returned from the Horn of Africa, is of superior intelligence, and is a man of means.”

“Indeed!  I assume you deduced his height from his stride…but the rest–“

“I find myself sleepy, and I have been away from my post at the door too long.  I shall see you at 3:00 PM at your office tomorrow.”

With that, Holmes turned to leave, reassuming his former appearance.  In the rumbling voice of the doorman, he asked one question.

“What month is it?”

“April…April Eighth.”

“Thank you, Watson.  I trust you can find your own way out?”

“Yes, Holmes.  Tomorrow afternoon, then.”

My mind veritably raced with the events of the evening.  While I was fully confident in my friend’s assurances as to the young lady’s safety, I could not for the life of me see the trail he followed to that conclusion.  Was it the green stain?  The contents of the Kindle…and how had he known it was Celine Dion?  Perhaps there was some detail which had entirely escaped my notice. 

Tucking the Kindle under my arm, I headed for the passenger elevator.  My excitement was not to give me a good night’s sleep, but I should have a great deal to tell Mary when I got home. 

I could hardly wait until the adventure resumed!

*This quotation originally appeared in A Study in Scarlet, the first of the Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 2

November 7, 2009

This is a continuation of the story, Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 1. You may wish to read that chapter before beginning this one. Thank you to those who requested more of the tale…it gave me a good reason to return to it.

“Watson, I’m glad you could make it!  I hope that your day off has given you sufficient rest after the digeridoo music.”

The speaker was my old friend, Sherlock Holmes, although he would have been difficult for most to recognize in his current garb.  He was dressed as the doorman of the apartment complex in which I now found myself, having been led into a specific residence by him.  Despite our long acquaintance, I was unaware of his identity until a moment before, when he had revealed himself.

I nodded absently to his inquiry, until it struck me that I had said nothing to him about my recent activities.

“Why, yes, I was able to take a healthy nap, although Mary did have me running a few errands.  But however did you know?”

“It was as obvious as if you had a worn a sign, Watson.  I noticed that you had a faded, but still visible, ink stamp on the back of your right hand.  This stamp, in the shape of a kangaroo on top of a guitar speaker, marks the payment of attendance at a club.  I have compiled an extensive database of such ‘pay stamps’, and this is one used by a somewhat offbeat establishment known as ‘Let’s Hear Those Oohs and Aussies’.  The ink is purple, which is used on Tuesday nights.  As is virtually unavoidable, you got a small spot of the ink on your jacket cuff.  The brightness of the spot tells me that it has not been a week since it appeared.   Therefore, it was the most recent Tuesday, ergo last night.”

“And the digeridoo music?”

“I am well acquainted with your preference for instrumental music, having entertained you many times with my violin.   It was simply an educated guess that a place with such an emphasis on the Southern Commonwealth as a theme would choose to highlight that particular aerophone.  That, combined with my noticing earlier a Twitter tweet that the famed digeridoo player Burragubba was in town was enough to risk that conclusion.”

“I suppose with all of that information it was obvious.”

“To the well-trained analytical mind, it was a trivial effort.”

“And it was natural to assume that I would take a day off to recover.”

“That was not a mere assumption, but an undeniable conclusion.  While you have clearly made an effort to remove the kangaroo stamp, the fact that it is still apparent at all proves it.  Given your occupation as a medical man, all traces would have been removed by the repeated hand-washing endemic to your profession.  Ergo, you could not have been in your normal course of employ today.”

“I see, yes, it seems simple when you explain it that way.  I can’t tell you how good it is to see you again, Holmes!”

“And I you, Watson.  I am engaged now in an investigation, and would welcome your assistance.”

“I should be happy to help.  Does it have to do with the missing doorman?”

“There is no missing doorman, Watson.  If you were to check the employment records of the hotel, you would find that I am on the payroll here, although not under my actual name, of course.  This is my third night on duty.”

“In conjunction with a case, I assume?”

“Precisely!  It is a fascinating puzzle, although it has really just been set into motion this evening.  Five days ago, I had been approached by the resident of this very apartment.  She had been concerned by a peculiar package that had been sent to her and which she said had caused her no inconsiderable alarm.  It had arrived by UPS, and upon opening it, she discovered that it contained five Somalian shilling coins, and a black teddy bear, which I recognized as a Steiff.  This particular model was a limited run of only 600 ordered for England in 1912.  As such, it was an object of no little value. 

While you can surmise from the furnishings in this apartment that a $50,000 teddy bear was not a completely out of line gift for my client, it still seemed odd, as it was sent anonymously, and with no inscription or accompanying card.”

“You mentioned that she was concerned.”

“Yes, and that is the crux of the matter.  Although she has not chosen to reveal the genesis of her fear, she felt it advisable to engage my services.  As I was intrigued, I accepted the commission.  I obtained a position as the doorman, so that I might better observe the situation.”

“I should think a building like this would require a background check.”

“True, if I was applying directly to the management.  However, I was aware that the doorman services had been outsourced to a security company.  I challenged the owner of that company, a mixed martial artist of some renown, to a cage match.   When I lost to him, he offered me the opportunity to work off my debt, as he had an unexpected opening when one of his employees had quit without notice.  In reality, I had arranged for the employee to receive an apparently winning lottery ticket.  When he determines that it is not legitimate, he will no doubt retract his resignation.”

“I see.  You said that he beat you?”

“Actually, Watson, I said that I had lost to him, and that is a significant difference.  If I had defeated him, he would have won a bet, but seen no reason to place me here.  Putting on a good show, but eventually allowing him to secure the upper hand, it was only logical that he would want to use me to fill the vacancy.”

“Wasn’t he angry that you didn’t pay him the money?’

“I would say he was more amused.  He appreciated my nerve.  I was aware that he himself had been a former grifter, and had risen from unfortunate circumstances.  I calculated that he would see in me a kindred spirit.”

“Well done!”

“For the first two nights, I observed my client coming and going about her business, as well as all of the other people who came in and out of the building.  She was in the habit of walking to the Starbucks on the corner each evening to enjoy a latte and work on her laptop.  Tonight, she did not emerge.  Sensing that the game was afoot, I messaged you at that time to join me.   You did not disappoint me, and we now find ourselves beginning the next stage of the journey.  Look around, Watson: what can you deduce from the apartment?”

Although I knew that Holmes’ keen powers of observation had already taken in more details than I could catalogue in a week, I knew also that he found it useful for me to state my observations.  There were times as well that his focus on minutiae might make him miss something that would stand out to a more casual observer.

“I should say there is only one resident, who from what you have told me, would be your client.”

“What leads you to that conclusion?

“I see only one end table next to the sofa, and the throw pillow there seems more worn than the one at the other end.”

“That was my thought as well.  If you glance into the bathroom, which you can see through that open door, you will notice that there is only one sink.  There is also one toothbrush, laying on the vanity.  While it is possible that a second toothbrush is within the medicine cabinet, I agree with your supposition.  What else?”

“Is the apartment as you had found it?” 

“When I entered it with you, it was my first time as well.  I waited for your arrival, so that we might apply both of our intellects to this first assessment.”

“Well, the door was open.  That indicates to me that the tenant left in a hurry, or was distracted in some manner.”

“The evidence indicates more than mere distraction, Watson.  I’m sure you have noticed the foot impressions in the carpet.  In addition to yours and mine, there are three sets between the door to the sofa.  These represent a bare foot, and based on the size and the ratio of the length to width, they are those of a female approximately 5′ 8″ in height: the same as my client, and I presume they are hers.  These drips of water accompanying them indicate that she may have answered the door after a shower…you can see that the bathroom mirror still retains some of the fogging effect.

This second set is that of a man’s shoe, specifically, a Bristol Wingtip from Pangaea’s No Bull line, size 11.  The third set shows the same man’s shoe.  As you can see, though, the impression is about 75% again as deep.  This leads  to the conclusion that the man was carrying something when he exited.”

“Your client?”

“Right again!  You no doubt noticed that black square scuff mark on the doorframe as we entered, about at your eye level  While I have not taken measurements, I would wager that we will find a matching heelprint coming from the bedroom to the sofa.   There is no doubt that as he carried my client from the room, her heel marred the door in that fashion.  The fact that there are no other signs of struggle suggests that she was not resisting at the time.”

“Unconscious?”

“That is a reasonable conclusion.”

“Good heavens!   We must rescue her!”

“And I intend to go after her, my friend.  However, her best interests will not be served by rushing about blindly before we have ascertained all of the facts available to us.  Look at the table, Watson.  You have failed to mention the most important clue of all, the one that may prove the key to the entire problem.”

I glanced at the piece of furniture Holmes indicated.  There, laying face up and with its cover open, was a Kindle.

To be continued…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 1

November 3, 2009

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:

“Holmes!”

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.


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