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.’
“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.”
“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?”
“You may skip that one…continue.”
I continued to read the remaining titles:
- ILMK (I Love My Kindle)
- Mourning Redemption
- The New Oxford American Dictionary
- Welcome Erasto
- Archived Items (243)
“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?”
“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.
To be continued…in Doctor Watson’s blog: A Kindle Abandoned, Chapter 4.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.