• Kelsey Garber

Sherlock Holmes: The Reddening Sun 1

Throughout all my adventures with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have never hesitated to confess my immense fascination with his methods of deduction. His ability to reveal the most extraordinary conclusion from such minute detail is a singular, and rather unbelievable trait. I will always concede to his accuracy, despite the occasional cocksure manner with which he delivers his insights. I recall a remarkable case that bore such complicated, convoluted inner workings that my friend soared to new heights. Yet, this instance when he truly earned his share of pride, he chose to surrender the full scale of his victory and accepted a more humble end. To my eyes, this selfless forfeit is the most grand that I have ever seen my companion and I would be remiss if I failed to include this triumph within his biographies. My notes mark the year as 1889 and keep quite a thorough account of the day Miss Anna Mortimer arrived at our home on Baker Street, affixing Holmes to the intricate, intertwining treacheries of the reddening sun.

The morning began as every other and I had taken up my chair after breakfast and rifled through the paper. Holmes toiled over his chemistry set with the focus of a scholar but the energy of a performer. He stilled himself for several minutes and stared, wide-eyed and unmoving, at a peculiar green concoction within one of the tubes. His caseload had run dry as of late, which was evident in his frustrated and excitable behavior.

He burst into a fit of outrage and paced before our window, his mind vexed. A headline in the paper demanded my attention and I offered to my companion, “If your chemistry exploits have come to an end, perhaps you would be interested in a case.”

“Certainly, Watson. Read it out to me, if you don’t mind,” he asked, keeping his stride.

It ran:

Theft in Reading: Jones on the Case

On Monday, Mr. Herman Farley, renowned druggist of Schoonover Hall in Reading was victim to a crime that has police baffled. During the early morning hours, while the household slumbered, a lonely thief made his way in through an unlatched window and trespassed in Mr. Farley’s own bedroom without waking any residents. When morning came, Mr. Farley and his staff woke to find that his entire wardrobe had gone missing and the window remained open. A search of the premises proved that the wardrobe was nowhere to be found. As for the state of the window, Mr. Farley remarked that he opened it during the night for fresh air, as is occasionally routine for him. The wardrobe was filled with all Mr. Farley’s belongings and he will be devastated if these items are not returned. How the thief carried this cumbersome piece of furniture through a window without disturbing Mr. Farley remains a mystery to the police, but Detective Inspector Athelney Jones, one of the most prestigious inspectors in the whole of England, has taken up the case and assures Mr. Farley that all his possessions shall be returned and the culprit will answer for his crimes.

Holmes pulled up to his chair across from me and leaned back, pressing his fingers together in thought. “This certainly has many features of interest. It is a shame that the authors of this article could not burden themselves with being a little more thorough. With a few more details I could possibly solve this without ever setting foot out the door.”

“You can’t mean that, Holmes,” I said. “A thief that can lift a wardrobe through a window is too spectacular, even by your standards.”

“Exactly,” he said, “which is why I am convinced that is not what happened.”

“Then what else could it be?”

“There are too many variables unaccounted for. I would need a further examination of the facts before deciding on a conclusion.”

“You will go to Reading, then?”

“Of course.” He leapt from his seat with a new vigour about his cheeks. “I must wire Jones first to ensure he is accepting of my aid. Once he agrees, then this case will have my full attention. But, hullo! Perhaps not. If I am not mistaken, another client has arrived to pull me away from this intriguing problem.”

As my dull senses caught up to his keen ears, footfalls echoed from the stairs. Mrs. Hudson stepped inside with a card for Miss Anna Mortimer only moments before the woman herself swept into the room. She wore a fine gown of muted blue that rustled loudly with every anxious shift of her bearing, and her face possessed traces of beauty, though the business that brought her to our home drew her features into haggard disrepair. I perceived a strong, respectable woman in the way she carried herself and understood that her reason for visiting must be quite troublesome, for any trivial matter would surely be dealt with by her own hand.

“Miss Mortimer,” Holmes greeted in his usual charming fashion. “Pray, have a seat. I am glad to assist you in any way I can, though I must ask you to be prompt, for I have other business to attend to later this afternoon.”

“Of course, Mr. Holmes,” she stammered as she perched on the edge of her chair. She collected herself well, but her nerves wore away at her. “I am grateful for any time you give me.”

“This is Dr. John Watson and you may speak to him in the same manner you speak to me. He has worked with me on many cases such as yours and has become quite a master of deduction himself.”

His flattery warmed me, for I hadn’t realized he esteemed my efforts so highly.

“For instance,” Holmes proceeded, “I assume Watson has noted that you are a seamstress from Wembley, you have a child that enjoys the piano, you have recently acquired new house staff, and the last of your family has just passed, but you have come in regard to trouble with your fiancee.”

Miss Mortimer and I gazed at Holmes. She experienced astonishment while my own pride mended itself.

“I may have missed a few of those points,” I admitted.

He grinned with his clever complacency. “I am sure you will perfect it someday, Watson.”

“How could you know so much?” she asked him.

“Observe,” he said, “the clear markings on your fingers, the unmistakable signs of a person that has done much needlework. The fact that you still hold your ticket stub from the train makes your location much simpler. The timing of your appearance, since I assume you rushed straight here after departing the station, would mean your train arrived at 8:10, and only the train from the east has that arrival time. You have not come far, told by the rain that has not yet dried from your shoulders, but the fact that you required a train shows that some distance has been traveled. The location that fits both of this criteria is Wembley. You have a stern, yet gentle bearing that I only ever perceive in maternal types and I paired that with the crinkle of your dress at the height of your hip where the child tugs for your attention. Along with the scars of your seamstress endeavors, calluses from playing a piano have only just begun to form on your fingers and they seem too inconsistent for it to be a pastime of your own. The state of your health has been poor, but is now improving. You have thinned, but the color has returned to your cheeks. You were overworked, claiming much of the housework as your own while also raising your child. Since your health is in repair, some of the workload has clearly been unburdened from you, meaning a new household staff has come under your employ. The only reason that you would not take on help sooner would be financial, and going by the newness of your clothes, a sum of money has just come into your possession. The suddenness of this money could only come from inheritance, which means the last of your family must have recently passed. As for the trouble with your fiancee, you have the ring on your finger, but you have been spinning it with a certain agitation ever since you took your seat. Please do me the honor of sharing your story and I will do my best to shed some light on the matter.”

To be continued in The Reddening Sun 2...

© 2020 by Kelsey Garber

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