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[THE SIGN OF THE '400': Being a continuation of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes]
THE SIGN OF THE '400': Being a continuation of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, per R.K.M.
(Pseudonym for R.K. Munkittrick)
For the nonce, Holmes was slighting his cocaine and jabbing himself with morphine, his favourite seventy per cent solution, when there came a knock at the door; it was our landlady, Mrs Hudson, with a telegram. Holmes opened it.
'H'm! So what do you think of this, Watson?'
I picked it up and read it: 'COME AT ONCE. WE NEED YOU. SEVENTY-TWO CHINCHBUGGE PLACE, S.W.'
'It's from Athelney Jones.'
'Just so, said Holmes, 'call a cab.'
We soon arrived at Seventy-Two Chinchbugge Place, being the town house of the Dowager Countess of Coldslaw. It was an old-fashioned mansion, and somewhat weather-beaten. The old hat stuffed in the broken window pane in the drawing room gave the place an air of unstudied, artistic negligence, which we both remarked upon at the time.
Jones met us. He wore a troubled expression. 'Here's a pretty go, gentlemen! A forcible entrance has been made to Lady Coldslaw's boudoir, and the famous Coldslaw Diamonds have been stolen.'
Mr. Holmes drew out a pocket lens and examined the atmosphere intently. 'The whole thing wears an air of mystery,' he said, quietly.
We then entered the mansion. Lady Coldslaw was completely prostrated and could not be seen. We went to the scene of the robbery. There was no sign of anything unusual in the boudoir, except that the windows and the furniture had been smashed and enormous pictures had been removed from the walls. An attempt had been made by the thief to steal the wallpaper, also. However, he had not succeeded. It had rained the night before and some muddy footprints could clearly be seen leading up to the escritoire from which the jewels had been taken. A smell of stale cigar smoke hung over the room. Aside from these hardly noticeable details, the despoiler had left no trace of his presence.
In an instant, Sherlock Holmes was on his knees, closely examining the footprints.
'So, you can make nothing out of this, Jones?'
'No, sir,' answered the detective, 'but I hope to. There is a big reward.'
'It is all very simple, my good fellow,' said Holmes. 'The robbery was committed at three o'clock this morning by a short, stout, middle-aged and hen-pecked man with a cast in his eye. His name is Smythe, and he currently lives at 239 Toff Terrace.'
Jones fairly gasped. 'What! Smythe? Major Smythe, one of the highest thought-of and richest men in town?'
In no more than half an hour we were at Smythe's bedside. Despite his protestations, he was pinioned and driven to prison.
'For heaven's sake, Holmes,' I said later, when we returned to our rooms, 'how did you solve that tricky problem so quickly?'
'That was dead easy!' said he. 'As soon as we entered the room, I noticed a haze of cigar smoke. It was cigar smoke from a cigar that had been given to a husband by his wife. I could tell that, for I have made a detailed study of cigar smoke. Any other man but a hen-pecked man throws such cigars away. Then I could tell by the footprints that the man had had appendicitis fairly recently. Now, no one but members of the '400' have that. Who then, was hen-pecked in the '400', and had had appendicitis recently? Why, the Major, Major Smythe, of course! He's middle-aged, terribly stout, and has a cast in his left eye.'
I could not help but admire my companion's very fertile enquiring mind and expert reasoning, and I told him so. 'Well,' he said, 'it is really very simple if you know how.'
Thus ended the Coldslaw robbery, at least so far as we were concerned.
Of course Jones, as usual, got all the credit in the accounts in the newspapers. Sherlock Holmes merely laughed, and said: 'But Watson, Scotland Yard always gets the glory.'
As I perceived he was getting ready to play 'Sweet Marie' on his trusty violin, I immediately reached for the morphine myself.
'ELEMENTAL, MY DEAR WATSON'
Having followed the stories of the disputes between the wealthy Murdoch and the hot-headed print unions, Holmes suggested a solution to the problem of many bogus news stories telephoned weekly in to the Times.
A ONE PIPE PROBLEM'
Two miners forced their way into Holmes's rooms and asked him to investigate the theft of the entire haul of jewels from their mine. The chief suspect, a crooked Belgian, had a watertight alibi: he was engaged at a weekend boys-only party; attended by many leading Jews, 400 or thereabouts, witnessed and recorded. Holmes set out to prove that the man at the party was indeed essentially an android double.
'A NOSTALGIC COUNTRY OF THE MIND'
A robot replica of Moriarty was created from Peel's imagination on the Amusement Park Planet. It obtained a Starfleet 9 Computer manual, stole his phaser, and launched an intergalactic criminal empire. Spock then constructed a robotic Holmes and John Watson to track it down.
'THE ADVENTURES OF THE TWO COLLABORATORS'
Holmes deduced that the two men John Watson had seen walking along Baker Street were collaborators on an unsuccessful new comic opera. The showmen (Doyle and J M Barrie) had come to ask Holmes to find out the reason why their comic show was not enjoying any success. Holmes refused to go to see the show, a decision which ultimately led to his disappearance in a cloud of smoke.
'FROM THE DIARY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES'
Holmes's diary told of the case of the widowed Lady Dorothy's cherished stolen ring, which was recovered by Lestrade, despite Holmes's seemingly accurate deductions; of an odd incident where his deductions once went astray because his client was deliberately wearing someone else's clothes; and of Mrs. Turner's cheeky and obnoxious nephew Billy's part in the appearance of a carbuncle in her Xmas pudding.
'SHYLOCK HOMES: HIS POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS'
Homes was hired by Lucretia Borgia, Mme. Du Barry and Portia, the representatives of the Cimmerian Branch of Sorosis, to find out who had written Shakespeare's dramas. After visiting both Bacon and Shakespeare, Homes finally learned the truth with a Martini containing a powder obtained from Dr Jekyll.
'THE ADVENTURE OF THE CONK-SINGLETON PAPERS'
The exceedingly wealthy Lord Cosmo Conk-Singleton had visited Baker Street with letters between the Queen and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had seemingly been poisoned by a noxious whiskey laced with prussic acid, a Christmas present cheekily sent by the Queen. Holmes himself, who had refused to investigate, eventually revealed that one of the letters, and his shadowy client too, were fakes, and he hinted that was part of a foolish, shameful plot to steal unique jewels, the Scarborough Emeralds.
'HOLMES EX MACHINA'
John Watson was working for Vid-Tech, transforming some 400 of old 2-D movies to 3-D. Anyway, when a surviving copy of 'Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster', the only one they had, went astray, he then programmed an eerie double, a holographic Holmes to assist in finding it.
Having collected a new red silk dressing-gown, violin, cocaine, and a keen, though half-witted assistant, Hubert felt he now had enough to be an amateur detective, but a worthy one. He announced he'd find the clues, and then he'd deduce any crime. His first case began with a Japanese knife missing from the hideaway in the study, an open window, and ended with a telephone call from his wife.
'HUMPTY DUMPTY: WHY DID HE FALL? WAS HE PUSHED?'
Holmes sought discreetly to interview most, maybe 400 or over, of the fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. But why? Being keen to discover the truth about the shabby deed, he had to analyse the case and go ahead in a new hunt. Anyway, eventually jammy fingerprints led him to the killer.