How Watson Learned...

How Watson Learned... That Holmes Was Really A Freakin' Nutter All Along

By Paul Bundy

It was early evening on the fourth Sunday of a month, of a year in the latter part of the 19th Century deliberately left obscure in order to confuse future scholars. Suffice to say it may or may not have been Halloween, a chilly blustery wind blew playing merry hell with my kilt as I made my way leisurely through the London streets.

It was also International Mother-in-Law Day which was the real reason I was out at such an hour. Mary’s mother being a formidable woman whose company I anxiously wished to avoid. Having expressed my desire for a late-night kebab, I made my excuses and stepped out into evening air. Due to my detour I realised I had wandered too far and had reached the end of Baker Street and had mistakenly walked past 221b. Damned houses all looked the same around here. Retracing my steps, I found myself standing before my old residence. I rang the doorbell, its reverberations sounding high above my head. There was no answer. With Mrs Hudson was nowhere to be seen, I made my way up to the familiar rooms.

My first impression as I opened the door was that a fire had broken out for the room was so filled with smoke that the light of the lamp upon the table was blurred by it. As I entered however my fears were set at rest for it was the acrid fumes from one of Holmes chemical experiments which took me by the throat and set me coughing. Through the haze I had a vague vision of Holmes in his string vest and Y-fronts sat at his small table in the corner. His back was to the window, hiding his face in shadow. He was facing me directly though I was unable to see his features clearly.

‘Caught cold Watson?’ Said he.

‘No, it’s this poisonous atmosphere!’

‘I suppose it is pretty thick, now that you mention it…’

‘Thick! Its intolerable!’

‘Open the window then.’

At this I strode across the murky room, letting in some much-needed fresh air before returning to see that much of the sitting room was unchanged from my last visit save for two large vats in the corner of the room gently bubbling away.

‘You have been at your club all day I perceive.’

‘My dear Holmes!’

‘Am I right?’

‘Certainly, but how?’

He laughed, low soft chuckle.

‘The word is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance observes. Where do you think that I have been?’

I looked down upon the table was strewn many small objects wrapped in newspaper.

‘A fixture also.’

‘Indeed. I regret to confess I have consumed a bucketful of coffee, smoked an inordinate amount of Turkish tobacco and used my needle a little too freely.’ He took one of the items from upon the table and unwrapping it carefully he exposed a charred fragment of bone. Holmes examined it with interest.

‘What do you make of it, Watson?’

It was burned to a black cinder but there could be no question as to its anatomical significance.

‘It’s the upper condyle of a human femur,’ said I without hesitation. In reality I hadn’t a bloody clue but it sounded convincing.

‘Exactly!’ Holmes had become suddenly very serious. ‘These are deep waters, my friend.’

‘Is this in connection with some diabolical crime?’ I asked after a period of silence.

‘Oh yes!’ Again, Holmes just chuckled as if at his own private joke. His response almost childlike. Much as I suspected his morocco case lay on the arm of the chair close to his elbow.

‘Knowledge of anatomy, accurate but unsystematic, eh?’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Holmes declined to answer. I decided to say something to break the silence.

‘Would you object to my ringing Mrs Hudson for some tea?’ I asked. Once more, the low chuckle from my friend, his head bowed.

‘Oh, she won’t hear you….’

‘Why has she gone away?’ I inquired, puzzled at this response. Holmes shook his head.

‘Has she retired to bed?’ Again, another shake of the head. Accustomed as I was to the sulky periods of my friend, his seemingly distracted mood was beginning to annoy me.

‘Which is it today,’ I asked, ‘morphine or cocaine?’

He raised his eyes languidly from the table and its strewn contents.

‘It is cocaine,’ he said, ‘a seven-per-cent solution. Would you like to try it?’

‘Holmes! Where the devil is Mrs Hudson?’

‘My dear fellow! You see but you do not observe. She is right here… before your very eyes.’ I reached across snatching his needle and case.

‘I think you’ve had quite enough of that!’ I exclaimed.

Holmes held up the fragment of bone, light from a passing carriage flashed across his face. It was a grinning face. I began to see dimly what he was driving at. It was undoubtedly a bone from a female skeleton.

‘Good Heavens I’m calling Lestrade!’ I cried.

‘Oh, he won’t hear you either…’ My gaze shot across the siting room to the two bubbling vats. KNOWLEDGE OF CHEMISTRY PROFOUND.

‘Holmes are you out of your senses?’

‘On the contrary, my dear doctor, I am very much in my senses. Never more have I felt at the very peak of my powers. Give me problems, give me work, give me... two unsuspecting victims, a length of rope and large bottle of chloroform. I abhor the dull routine of existence.’

‘You’re a monster!’

‘No, not a monster, Watson. I’m a calculating machine. APPEARS TO KNOW EVERY DETAIL OF EVERY HORROR PERPETRATED IN THE CENTURY. And I have all the details of a thousand at my finger ends. They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.

Like all other arts, murder is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it. Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the enquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.

“What ineffable twaddle!” I cried

‘Join me, Watson. Together you and I.’

‘What on earth do you mean?’

‘When a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals. He has the nerve and he has the knowledge.’

‘I don’t understand…’

‘When you have had the power of life and death over a patient doesn’t it make you feel powerful?’

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I backed slowly towards the door, regretting the absence of my old service revolver in my pocket. Holmes had made no move to block my exit. I turned suddenly, dashing down the stairs and out into the sweet clear air of the night. Feeling as if I would never stop running until I had left that nightmare behind.