Monday, January 5, 2015

Teaser: "The Adventure of the Rafferty Letters"

I occasionally commit flagrant acts of writing. Here's the opening of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche I did a couple of years ago. I don't care to post the whole thing, but I'll send copies by e-mail if solicited.

The Adventure of the Rafferty Letters
"Well, Watson," asked Sherlock Holmes, "what do you deduce?"

I picked up the visiting-card from its silver tray and studied it closely, trying as always to anticipate my friend's methods.  "Very little, I'm afraid," I admitted.

It was a fine April day, the first after a dreary grey March.  Holmes and I had been for one of our extended rambles through the city.  For Holmes these seemingly aimless excursions served to sharpen and refresh his knowledge of the byways of the teeming, bustling metropolis.  Never was he happier than when he was able take a street he had never before trod, or navigate in a direct line to some distant landmark.  For my part, I was glad of the exercise.  Though my shoulder had long since healed, the Afghani bullet that I still carried in my leg had made walking a painful chore for many damp weeks.  Then, too, I never tired of listening to Holmes practicing his craft, observing and docketing the callings and characters of the folk who passed us by.  The keenness of his eye, and the breadth of his inferences, were as good as an open-air lecture.

A balmy breeze accompanied us as we ambled through Marylebone and Bloomsbury, up into Clerkenwell and down towards the City.  The first haze of green was on the trees, and even the grimy liver-coloured bricks of Britain's great industrial heart seemed fresh and new.  In consequence it was well into the late afternoon before we returned to Baker Street, to be met at the door by Mrs. Hudson.

"There's been a gentleman to see you, Mr. Holmes," she said.  "An American, he sounded like, and an impatient one at that.  I said I couldn't guess when you'd be back, and off he stumped.  But he left a card."

Now, having followed Holmes upstairs, I turned that card over in my fingers.  It was off-white and in no way remarkable.  On one side was the name "Mr. Daniel J. Rafferty," with no other information.  On the other was written, in a firm legible hand: "I will call on you at 5:30--DJR".

I shook my head.  "I can only offer the trivial suggestion," I said, "that Mr. Rafferty is an Irish-American."

"Come, Watson, I think we may do better than that."  Holmes took the card from me and subjected it to a concentrated scrutiny at a distance of a few inches, running his long thin fingers over its surface.  "It is true that a visiting-card is not the most fruitful field for our endeavours," he continued thoughtfully.  "It is designed to be anonymous, or at least to reveal only what its owner wishes.  A pair of eyeglasses, or a cigarette-case, would be infinitely richer ground.  Still, there are indications.  I should say that Mr. Rafferty is well-to-do, a heavy smoker, unsociable, left-handed, and a man of distinctly obstinate nature.  Beyond that, I fear, we must remain ignorant."



  1. The Afghani bullet. A modern Sherlock then?

  2. Nope. Watson was wounded in 1880 during the Second Afghan War.

    In A Study in Scarlet, the first Holmes tale, he says that he was wounded in the shoulder. Then, in The Sign of Four, he complains about limping due to his old war wounds. Here I've adopted the ingenious suggestion of author Cay Van Ash, who wrote a good Holmes vs. Fu Manchu pastiche: obviously, Watson was wounded twice. The first wound almost killed him, but the second troubled him more over the years.

  3. This only shows that I've not read enough Sherlock, and what I have read I didn't remember well.

    Still, you capture the style and the fun.

  4. Thank you! The "High Watsonian" voice is a very specific thing. It always surprises me when competent authors flub it.

    And please--do take the time to read or re-read the original stories.