Mr. Holmes And The Teddy Bear
It doesn’t matter where I live, I don’t want people to know my name. I just want people to believe in Sherlock Holmes and 221B Baker Street. I have debated with myself on several counts, trying to find a valid reason for penning this journal, but in vain. In my current state of mind, I tend to think that I am writing this journal to tell people that Sherlock Holmes isn’t just a character out of a fiction novel, but he is a symbol. A symbol that anyone can carry forward, giving the innocent hope and faith, and serving the cruel with condiments of fear and presage.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson will live on. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson will be synonymous with dedication and perseverance.
March 19, 1892
As I walked out of the post office this morning, I picked up a copy of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine and flicked it to see if the latest Sherlock Holmes was out…but it wasn’t.
Last night, I dreamt of working a case with the great Holmes, or so he made me believe. Mr. Holmes wanted me to assist, too fancy a word, “assist”, nevertheless it was just a dream. So, in my state of tranquility Mr. Holmes called on me to discuss the case of “The Missing Button”. He jumped inside my carriage and the three of us, Mr. Holmes, myself and Blaze, set off towards the Diogenes Club.
“Where is Dr. Watson, sir?” I asked, trying to hide my excitement as Blaze picked up speed against the frosty wind. I was a mere postman with the Sherlock. Pardon my grammar, but I lose my senses when it comes to Sherlock.
“Watson is on his way to Belgravia,” answered Mr. Sherlock, taking the pipe off his lips.
“With Mary Morstan, sir?” I asked, sounding naïve and impish.
“I have no time for trivial matters. We have a case on our hands and we better keep our minds fixed on it, crooked man!”
Again, pardon me for the ludicrous narration. Mr. Holmes was talking to me in a way that I would understand. Agreed that it is not in his character to do so, but I guess he makes exceptions.
“Crooked man”, he called me. I guess he gave me that name for I have a ghastly appearance. Mum said that on the day I was born, the nurse’s hands slipped while she was bathing me and so she ended up dropping me on the floor. My soft head, nose and jaws, hands and legs became disfigured. My parents’ carelessness and lack of education made my unpleasant trauma permanent. This is probably the reason why Mr. Holmes picked me in the first place. I have no friends. I’ve heard that I make people lose their appetite. I look like I’ve poured a can of worms on my face. My hair is unkempt and my teeth is a shade brighter than black. I can’t speak well, for my throat hurts. I can see well, oh yes, I can. I also have a keen sense of smell. Anyway, people hate me. I am unpleasant…unwelcoming. So you see, I have no friends.
Sherlock didn’t too. He had no friends. Well, except a few; nevertheless, he didn’t want to have them. He just stuck around with them. Them unworthy.
“I presume you are pondering over my calling you “crooked man”,” said Mr. Holmes, as we went past the Paddington Station.
“No. It isn’t all that hard to deduce. It’s because of my face.”
“Ah! You didn’t deduce anything, you merely reasoned. The reason is obvious. Now, allow me to enlighten you with a matter of singular importance. I know that you killed Milverton and I also know that you sold the silver to Relda.”
I was stumped, terrified to my very bones. Has Sherlock Holmes erred? Have I been victimized? Who is Milverton? Who is Relda?
I brought Blaze to a jeering halt and I turned back to look at Holmes.
But behind me was the same old pinkish wall and behind me was no Sherlock.
I slowly woke up, my face burning, and I looked around my cruddy room, wishing that I’d be wandering in the eccentric world of Sherlock Holmes.
In this world, which many believe to be real, I’m just another lonely man with not a friend to talk to and with no extra penny to spend. Each morning, I rummaged for a solution to make my life better, to find a reason to keep myself from running away from the valley of life and the answer had always been 221B Baker Street. No one knew Sherlock Holmes as a child or as a teenager. He was known only after he became a man. Becoming Sherlock isn’t an easy task. He wasn’t a machine that could simply compute equations; he was a man, a human being. Be it fictional, but such a happening isn’t strictly impossible.
I must go to 221B. I had the penchant of being able to meet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle one day and secure a job as his adjunct. Well, in order for that to happen, I had to get noticed and for that to happen, I had to do something phenomenal and for me to do something phenomenal, I needed to look for a window. I needed to look for an opportunity. But then, in contour of my physical and financial situation, I could never, no sir, not in this life, I couldn’t possibly do anything phenomenal. I knew I couldn’t. So I just decided to sit in front of 221B Baker Street and try to catch a glimpse of Sir Doyle. I hoped that he’d notice me someday. Maybe he would like the way I present his dialogues. Maybe he could ask me to play Sherlock in the theater…an ugly one though.
‘Ah! Excellent!’ I screamed.
‘Elementary,’ I then said and smiled with innocent joy, as I kicked the blanket off.
‘I ought to know by this time that when a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions, it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation,’ I recited and stood off my bed. I walked towards the crummy basin and gargled, twice. I didn’t brush my teeth. No, I didn’t. It wasn’t in my routine to do so. Brushing made my gums bleed and I hated that. So I simply gargled, finished my latrine routine, washed my face and stepped out of my house, which, in a way, resonated the Millbank Prison.
I took in the early morning air through my partially punctured lungs and I pulled the shabby pair of pants and faded shirt off the hanger.
It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.’ I recited, as I donned my rig. I then picked up my Holy Grail, bid adieu to my landlord, my brother-in-law, and I left. My brother-in-law and I seldom spoke. He worked for Inspector Ed Salter’s, Scotland Yard. In point of fact, he worked for the inspector’s family, driving the lads to school, taking the missus to the stores and such.
Anyway, I came in view of the radiant sun as I walked towards my Jerusalem. Oh I hated the sun! Yes, I did. I shower once a week and though I’m not aware of the exact reason, I think that the sun isn’t all that great a boon to those who despise the touch of water. I prefer the night. I prefer darkness. In dark, I see more of others and others see less of me. In dark, I can’t be judged. In dark, I’m no stranger.
I took twenty minutes to reach my destination, reciting one dialogue after another, and when I did, I saw a girl, probably ten, eleven, judging by her height and build. As I grew closer, I observed that she was holding something in her pocket, nervously, and looking side-to-side. I then happened to notice that she was wearing a good scarf, but relatively bad clothes. Actually, her dress was a tad different from mine, the holes in her skirt and shirt were stitched, but the ones in my pant and shirt weren’t.
I thence noticed the letters AH etched on her skirt, her shirt, her bag and her scarf. She had tucked her skirt in and her shoes were neatly polished, well almost. I reckoned she was wearing her “best clothes” for the occasion and so, contemplating the state of her other clothes and with that data, computing the extent of her monetary spending, I opined that her financial condition wasn’t all that stable.
She was possessive of her things, hence the initials. She was nervous and she tried to look presentable, meaning, she needed a service and she wanted it free of cost. Now, she was alone. A girl that age, coming all the way over to 221B, alone, can be a consequence of dead parents or passive lying. I preferred to go with the latter, given that her clothes were neatly hemmed. Obviously, her financial condition dictated that she couldn’t afford to pay a tailor to have her belongings hemmed and so, maybe her mother was alive, I thought…a relative probably. Anyway, by the time I reached my “spot”, I had a fairly modest picture of AH. Her shirt looked expensive, but her skirt looked just the opposite. Her shoes were good, except that the sole on the right shoe had worn out and her bag, again, looked grand. Either she was stealing or someone was giving her charity.
Well, I was still practicing the art of deduction back then and I deduced as far as I could. I was, as a matter of fact, brilliant!
‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts,’ I said, loud enough for her to hear, as I sat on the moist floor. I placed my begging plate on the floor and I looked at her once. She looked at me, with fear, and then she quickly turned back to face the door of 221B.
Penny after penny my plate amassed, and dialogue after dialogue I kept reciting. Then, about quarter of an hour hence, I turned towards the girl and asked, ‘What is your name, child?’
She didn’t answer.
I cleared my throat, raised my voice, and again said, ‘What is your name, girl?
‘Wh-who, me?’ she asked hesitantly.
‘Yes, who are you waiting for?
‘Mr-Mr. Sherlock Holmes.’
‘Mr. Sherlock Holmes! Girl! Sherlock Holmes isn’t re – ’
No. Ask her what she wants. Don’t break her heart. You can’t deny his existence. The concept of reality and illusion is a paradox in itself. Anyway, just…
‘ –reachable. He isn’t in London.’
‘Oh! Are you…okay.’
‘Am I sure? Is that what you wanted to know, girl?’
‘Grace. My name is Grace,’ said she, her fist shivering.
‘No, it isn’t.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘Elementary, my dear girl. Pray, tell me your real name.’
‘Are you asking me something or you telling me that that’s your name?’
‘Excellent! Now, tell me what your problem is.’
‘I want talk to Mr. Holmes.’
‘I’m afraid that’s not possible, my dear. Mr. Sherlock and Dr. John are out of London on a very important case.’
‘When will he be back?’
‘I don’t know, child. He doesn’t work for time. He’ll be in France as long as the case remains unsolved. A day, a week, a month, a year! I cannot say.’
‘Now, there is no need to panic, I have been asked me to look after his clients in his absence and I’ve been doing a pretty good job since the past month. Tell me what your problem is and I’ll have this sent to him at the earliest. I assure you.’
The girl slightly pulled her hand out of her pocket, but then suddenly, she ran away. I saw her cross the street and duck behind a newsstand.
‘Clever one this girl,’ I thought and smiled.
An hour later, she showed herself, or so she thought, and she walked back towards 221B. She pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and put it on my plate, saying, ‘Ask Mr. Holmes to help me.’
‘I will, my dear girl. Go back home now. Mr. Sherlock will help you.’
The girl smiled and left.
Dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have lost my teddy bear. I picked it up at the dump yard, where I work, and then I brought it home. I have engraved my initials “AH” on it, as I do on all my belongings. Once home, I kept the teddy on my mother’s bed and I went to take my bath That’s the last I saw it. Please help me find it back, Mr. Holmes. I really need it. My baby brother needs it.
‘Did you write this?’ asked I to the man at the newsstand, showing him the letter I was only recently handed over.
‘Ya, I did,’ replied he, softly. ‘Poor thing, she thinks Mr. Holmes actually lives here. A lot of people do that. Not just kids, even adults. The postman says that he get almost ten letters every month! Ha! Can you believe how stupid our people are?’
‘Ah! Mr. Gregson, Sherlock isn’t just fiction.’
‘So even you are one of those, I see.’
‘One of those, yes. Even I believe in Sherlock Holmes. Anyway, coming back to our case, did she say anything else?’
‘No. Every word she said is on that paper.’
‘Thank you, Greg. I’ll see you around.’
The girl followed me to the post office. A smart one she was. I went inside the post office, stayed there for sometime and then I exited. AH was still there. She was standing behind a light post and spying on me. A real smart girl.
But I was no less smart. I turned around and walked the other way. I took a turn at the corner, cut through the alley on my left and dashed to the adjoining street, from where I looked at her. She made sure that I was gone and then she slowly traced her way back to her house, I presumed.
I followed her stealthily, feeling more and more like the man himself. I followed her for over fifteen minutes and then, we reached her house as expected. Both of us were scant of money and so, taking a carriage or a tube wasn’t an option for either of us. Convenient!
I waited outside her house, which was structured in a manner that was more or less like my brother-in-law’s, and I stayed there till dusk. I put my plate on the ground and like always, money began dropping in it, though not as frequently, but anyway, I made a few bucks. My wait wasn’t a catastrophic waste.
At around 5:00 PM, the girl went out of the house and at almost 6:00 PM, she returned. A few minutes hence, I saw a rag picker, knocking on her door. Hunt’s mother, I presume, came out of the house and gave him four stacks of paper. I observed that she wasn’t wearing a ring and I also observed that she was frail and she looked tuckered-out. I saw her give him a few bottles of wine and a couple of empty cans, in return for a few shillings. She dumped it all on the man’s cart, collected the money and passively walked inside the house.
Probably she gave the teddy bear to him. Probably. Well, I’ll just follow him. I have nothing to lose. I’ll come back here tomorrow morning, should I find nothing with the rag picker.
I took the money off the plate and slid it in my pocket. I then picked up the plate and began tailing him.
But Mr. Holmes, no one followed me…that’s what I want you to think when I’m following you. We disconnectedly walked a few blocks down the lane and then, when we were almost a mile away from Alice’s residence, I yelled, ‘Hey you, mister. Stop.’
The rag picker did as asked, hesitantly though, and he turned around to look at me. ‘What do you want?’
‘I-I’m sorry – ’ I began, and noticed the look of disgust on his face. My face scared him. It did to a lot of people. But not to the little girl. No, she was different. ‘ – Alice’s mother sent me to ask you a favor.’
‘Yes, that’s right. Well, it appears that Mrs. Hunt handed over a teddy bear to you yesterday evening, is that right?’
Bricks without clay! Mr. Holmes always advised against this. Well, personally, I think that it is undeniably necessary and logically right to sometimes take a shot in the dark.
‘A teddy bear, you say?’
‘Yes. It had AH sewn on it. Mrs. Hunt gave it away without the true intention of doing so. It somehow got mixed in the pile of garbage. Oversight, I suppose.’
‘Well, I just saw her, she told me nothing.’
‘She didn’t know that the teddy bear was missing when you went to her house this evening. She gave you four stacks of paper, a few bottles of wine, six to be precise, and a couple of empty cans, ten to be precise, didn’t she?’
‘Her daughter, Alice, noticed that her teddy bear was missing and then she came out and yelled at her mom. Typical kids! Always yelling at their mothers for everything!’
‘Okay, so who are you?’
‘I’m the tailor’s brother.’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
He looked at me once and before he could say anything, I said, ‘I’ll pay you three pence over the selling price right away. Alice prices that teddy bear far too much. It was her father’s gift to her before he died. So, please…’
‘Three pence? All right,’ said the rag picker and took the teddy out of his gunny bag. ‘Here you go.’
I looked at the signature, AH, and then I took the money out of my pocket and handed it over to him.
I clutched the teddy bear and my Holy Grail, and reached Linda’s. I found her tailoring store, “Norwood”, near Alice’s house and I managed to reach there before night.
Right from the moment I put my hands on the teddy, I felt that it was heavier than it was supposed to be. It was…it quite didn’t feel like just cotton. I knew that there was something more to it and I didn’t want to take undue advantage of the situation. If Mrs. Linda’s answers were convincing, I’d look inside the teddy bear, else, I’d simply return it to Alice Hunt, as promised.
‘Yes?’ said she, looking aghast, just like everyone else. My appearance!
‘I’m sorry to bother you at this hour, madam. I’m here at the behest of Inspector Ed Salter from Scotland Yard. We are in the middle of an investigation and in order for us to proceed, we need to know if you could recognize this teddy bear?’
Mrs. Linda, confused, I must say, took the teddy in her hand and said, ‘Well yes, it’s Alice’s. You see, the AH. She brought it to me yesterday and asked me to sew it here,’ said she, pointing the teddy’s abdomen, ‘and she asked me to put her initials on it.’
‘So I see. Thank you for your time, Mrs. Linda. I-I’ll see you soon.’
‘Is Alice is trouble? Am I in trouble?’
‘No. Mr. Holmes intends no harm to anyone.’
‘Glad to meet you.’
I went home and I undid the thread on the teddy bear’s abdominal region. My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know. I neatly placed the thread on the table and then I slowly put my finger inside. I feel it! Is it…is it what…I thought in wonderment and dragged the hard object out.
I held the stone with my middle and the index finger and held it in front of the candle light. “It’s a bonny thing,” I said. “Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil’s pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found in the banks of the Amoy River in southern China and is remarkable in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red,” I voiced, quoting Sherlock Holmes from the Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
The more I looked at it, the more I began to question the very state of my mind. Was I still dreaming? Was I in the real world? Was I really in the possession of a Blue Carbuncle?
The next morning, on March the thirteenth, I went to my brother-in-law and asked him to have Blaze take us to Inspector Salter’s residence.
I told him I’d pay him twice the rent next month, if he’d chauffer me to the inspector’s residence and thrice, if he did so without questioning.
He obviously picked the latter and I was on my way to see the inspector, with the Blue Carbuncle and the teddy bear.
Once there, without unnecessary delay, I looked at the inspector and said, ‘I am in possession of the Blue Carbuncle. Now, before I hand it over to you, I have a few demands to make. One, you will pay my rent for one full year, two, you will place a similar stone inside this teddy bear and return it to me at the earliest and three, you will hand over the case files and investigative reports of every cold and irrelevant cases, to me. Do you have a deal, inspector?’
‘Huh? Who the hell are you? How did you come in possession of the Blue Carbuncle? The Duke, his men and the Scotland Yard have been looking for it for over a year now! How did you…’ said the inspector bemusedly, asking one question too many.
‘Pardon me, inspector. But, can you tell me how something as inordinate as the Carbuncle got lost?’
‘Well, we were told that the Duke, angered by the presence of a stray dog at his mansion, snatched it away from his son and threw it back from whence it came. The boy, enraged by this “cruel” act of his father’s, rushed to the Duke’s study, picked up the stone from the mantle and threw it out of the window. Plain. Simple.’
‘Is that why no one found anything?’
‘I have my constitutional rights.’
A few months later, I grew close to Alice, her mother and Mrs. Linda, and eventually, we all learnt that Alice, after coming in possession of the stone, was really attracted to it. She didn’t want the other children to lay their hand upon it. So, she picked up a teddy bear at the dump yard and stuffed the carbuncle in it. She didn’t steal it, no she didn’t. She merely tried to protect it. She tried to protect an asset! But this information was our little secret. I never told it to anyone. Not even to the inspector. Nor did I tell it to my brother-in-law. Confidentiality is of singular interest and I follow it fully.
‘Excellent! Now, if you would please excuse me – ’
‘Well, where is the carbuncle?’
‘Do you promise to fulfill my demands?’
‘Yes, if you are really in possession of the carbuncle.’
‘Here you go,’ I said and pulled it out of my pocket. ‘Tell him Mr. Holmes sends his regards.’
‘Mr. Holmes and his brother-in-law, Mycroft.’