Sherlock Holmes and the Quandry of the Quarry's Quarry!
Quandry: a difficult situation; a practical dilemma.
Quarry (1): a place, typically a large, deep pit, from which stone or other materials are or have been extracted.
Quarry (2): a thing or person that is chased or sought.
1 - A Rude Interruption
Watson burst into the drawing room, where Sherlock was puffing away on a fat one. “Holmes, there’s been a murder!"
Sherlock didn’t look up. “Mr Watson. Did it ever occur to you that maybe we have bigger things to worry about then murders?” he said, honking on the sweaty bifta.
“But Lestrade said it’s a most curious case! Apparently a man’s been found-”
“BORING. A man’s been found boring. Because all men are boring to me. And most women too. Now if you don’t mind..”
Watson threw his arms up. “Honestly, Sherlock. You can’t just sit in your flat ripping bongs all day. People think you’re the world’s greatest detective, don’t you care about your reputation at all?”
“Nope,” replied Holmes, before bursting into a coughing fit. “Aw yeah,” he said, “that’s the stuff.”
“You know, if you don’t start doing cases again, there’ll be no money coming in to fund your… habit!” Watson declared.
Holmes looked up. A thought crossed his brow. A long exhale later he began to speak.
“I suppose Lestrade wouldn’t bother bothering you to bother me unless it was a particularly bothersome bother.”
“Oh Holmes,” fawned Watson, “you do have a way with words.”
Watson fell silent.
“Very well then, let’s proceed to Scotland yard. We’ll take the motorbike you have parked outside.”
“But Holmes, how did you-”
“You’re holding motorcycle keys, Watson, and wearing a motorcycle helmet and leather motorcycle jacket. And you own the loudest motorbike in London - I heard it three miles away. An elementary deduction.”
The pair sped out of the Baker Street flat, sending Mrs Hudson spinning on the landing, as she came in to bring the pair some snacks. “Oh, those boys!” she tutted.
2 - An Unpleasant Encounter
Scotland Yard was always busy at Christmas. People fighting over presents or carving each other up over the turkey, it tended to bring out the the worst in people. Lestrade was pacing around the quad, preoccupied with his thoughts, and puffing heavily on a pipe.
“Those things will kill you, you know,” said Holmes as he approached.
“Don’t worry, it’s herbal. I’m giving up you know,” replied Lestrade, well used to Sherlock’s deductive antics.
“I mean the spores of moss growing on the underside of your left boot. Judging by their colour, I’d say - amanita phalloides - commonly known as the ‘death cap.’ Either you’ve been trekking through the wrong kind of forests, or your cobbler has it in for you,” said Holmes.
“A remarkable deduction!” remarked Watson.
“Oh come on, Mr Watson!” barked Lestrade. “How are you still impressed by Sherlock’s little parlour trick? It’s literally the only thing he can do. If all the people he met weren’t always covered in ink or paint or… fungi - he wouldn’t seem half as intelligent.”
“Someone seems ratty,” said Holmes with a smile. “Perhaps your bed keeper forgot to fold the blanket you keep at the foot of your bed, and added one - no, two - fewer spoons of chocolate to your cocoa this morning.”
“A remarkable deduction!” remarked Watson.
“See!” shouted Lestrade.
A few awkward moments passed. Sherlock went to open his mouth, but seemed to think the better of it, and shut it again. Finally, he asked: “Watson said you had some kind of case for me?”
Lestrade emptied his pipe out onto the grass. “Indeed we do Mr Holmes. I would tell you all about it, but you’re probably well aware of all the details already. In fact, you’ve no doubt solved the case over the course of this little chat.”
“Well, the facts as we know them so far are thus:” began Holmes, “there’s been a murder. The victim is a man, and the circumstances are mysterious. The case is sufficiently difficult that both you and Watson thought it worthy of my attention.”
“Top work, Mr Holmes!” piped up Watson.
“That’s not even a deduction! That’s just stuff we’ve already told him,” said Lestrade. He turned to Sherlock. “Look, you know the Augor Quarry in Surrey?”
“Yes, they’re the stone suppliers for the artisan's guild. One of the few remaining quarries in that area, actually. Was this the scene of the crime?”
“That’s right. A man was found dead in the middle of it, and there’s no witnesses. We don’t know what to do.”
“Have you considered giving him a job as a prospector?” suggested Watson.
Nobody laughed. “Watson, that’s not even a joke. If you’re going to make comments like that, please at least try to make them funny”, scolded Holmes.
“A remarkable suggestion!” replied Watson.
“But there’s a question,” continued Holmes. “Why is Scotland Yard so interested in the murder of a quarry worker? It was probably just a co-worker, or a corrupt boss or something.”
“That’s just the thing, Mr Holmes,” explained Lestrade. “He wasn’t a quarry worker. The murder victim is… the Earl of Surrey himself!”
3 - A Dusty Scene
The quarry was dusty. The whole place was covered in some kind of rocky dust. Probably from all the rock mining and cutting that went on there. It made the sky hazy and just got everywhere.
The body lay in the exact centre of the quarry. Surrounding it were a number of policemen, trying to do something with the corpse. Sherlock and gang strode up to them.
“And what’s going on here?” asked Holmes.
One of the policemen looked up and answered, “we’re trying to draw a chalk outline around the body. Standard procedure, sir. But what with all the….. Well, we’re technically standing in a chalk mine so you can imagine the difficulties.”
“And this is as far as you’ve got with the investigation?”
“Why, yes sir!” beamed the policeman.
“Lestrade your men are idiots,” said Holmes.
“I know,” replied Lestrade, and refilled his pipe.
Holmes pulled an inkwell out of his pocket and dipped the policemen’s chalk in it. Thus coloured, he was able to draw a perfect outline around the body without difficulty. “There!”
“Top show, old boy!” puffed Watson, who had so far done nothing to help. “Good thing you always carry an inkwell around with you!”
“Now,” said Holmes, “let’s take a look at this body.”
The Earl lay face down, fully clothed. His arms were stretched out and his legs were splayed. “Hmm, an allusion to Da Vinci’s vitruvian man, perhaps?” remarked Holmes.
“Or perhaps he was just making a stone angel!” said Watson, which Holmes and Lestrade agreed was a better joke than the last one, but still not very good.
In his pockets, Holmes found a diary. One entry from the day before stood out: “Dinner with the Mrs.”
“The wife?” said Lestrade, “you really think she could have had something to do with this?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t really care,” said Holmes. “But we’d better go and talk to her anyway.”
“There’s nothing else you can determine from the crime scene?”
“Well, the cause of death appears to be poisoning.”
“And how can you tell that?” asked Watson.
“Two reasons: first, the lack of any other obvious means of murder. He clearly wasn’t stabbed, or shot, or crushed by a heavy object.”
“And the second?”
“That the Earl’s wife is known to be the worst cook in the county.”
That seemed to be enough for Lestrade and Watson. Together, the three took their leave.
4 - A Frightful Encounter
The countess lived in a large manor less than a mile from the manor. “The perfect distance… for murder!” said Holmes, in a way that was meant to sound dramatic, but kind of fell flat. They passed the remainder of the walk in silence. Lestrade puffed hard on his pipe.
They found the countess in the dining room, enjoying a light afternoon tea. She greeted the party warmly, “good afternoon gentlemen, what brings you to my abode?”
Lestrade took the lead. “We’re here about your husband. When was the last time you saw him?”
“Well, that would have been last night after dinner. He said he was going out for a walk. But he didn’t come back.”
“And you didn’t think that strange?”
“No, I just assumed he was off having one of his affairs.”
The three men were surprised. Watson said what they were all thinking: “you mean, you knew he was having affairs and didn’t mind?”
“Well, what are you going to do? When you’re fancy nobility like us, having affairs is pretty much the only excitement you can have. Besides, I’m constantly having affairs myself. It’s awfully good fun. Why, my husband hasn’t ended up in any kind of trouble has he?”
“I’m afraid,” said Lestrade, “that your husband has ended up in the worst kind of trouble.”
Holmes followed this up with, “the dead kind of trouble.”
Which Watson clarified for some reason with, “he is dead, you see.”
The Countess of Surrey dropped her knife, and the scone she had been buttering. It landed cream side sound with an awful splat. “Oh my heavens!”
Holmes snapped. “Oh, come on!”
Lestrade snapped his head towards Holmes, “Holmes! The women is clearly in shock! Let her be.”
But Holmes continued, “the only thing she’s in, is a web of lies, which she has spun to snare us all. You see, she murdered the Earl!”
Watson grew excited. “Ooh, here comes the good bit!”
Lestrade didn’t understand. “Holmes, explain yourself!”
“It’s all too straightforward,” started Holmes. “The countess just claimed that she was aware of the Earl’s many affairs, and that these were the cause of his many nightly excursions. But the Earl of Surrey, as we all know, is the ugliest earl in the land. Nobody would want to have an affair with him, just look at him!”
Holmes pointed to a portrait of the Earl on a wall. He was very ugly indeed.
He continued, “the only affairs that the earl was conducting were financial affairs, for it was just last week that the papers reported him coming into a large of sum of money from the colonies. The countess therefore had much to gain from the untimely demise of her ‘beloved’ [he air-quoted this] husband.”
“Furthermore, the countess is known to be a terrible cook. A poor upbringing, or an alibi? A deliberately spread rumour to cover up a more sinister motive, perhaps? A way to brush aside any suggestion that the earl had been deliberately poisoned?”
Lestrade wasn’t convinced. “But why the quarry, Holmes? Why the quarry?”
“To throw us off the scent of course. To make it look like a dispute among the quarry workers, angry at the rich earl who lorded over them while they earned a pittance. Or it to make it look like the earl had wandered off on a midnight stroll. I don’t know. Call it a red herring.”
“Genius, Holmes!” said Watson.
“Yes, very clever indeed,” said the countess, with sarcastic applause. “But you’ll never prove any of it. It’s just your word against mi-”
“AND YOU’RE COVERED IN DUST. STONE DUST LIKE YOU GET IN A STONE QUARRY. YOU DIDN’T EVEN CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES AFTER YOU MURDERED YOUR HUSBAND."
It was true. The countess was indeed very dusty.
“I… uhhh…. Just like to dust my clothes every now and again. It’s very in right now, you know.”
But Lestrade had heard enough. He clasped the countess in irons and led her away, mouthing a silent “cheers” to Holmes as he led her away. Fully paid up, Watson and Holmes hopped on their motorbike and headed home to Baker Street.
4 - A Return Home
Watson and Holmes strode through the front door just as Mrs Hudson’s kettle was done boiling. “Perfect timing,” she chimed at them. They all settled down with a cuppa and a biscuit together.
“Well, another case chalked up eh, Holmes!” joked Watson.
“That’s your best joke yet, Watson, and it’s still terrible.” They all laughed merrily.
“To think, the countess murdering her husband like that. You really can’t trust anyone can you?” said Mrs Hudson.
“Don’t worry Mrs Hudson,” said Holmes, “she probably didn’t do it.”
Watson and Mrs Hudson were shocked. “But Holmes, you said-”
“Yeah, I know what I said. But frankly, I just wanted the money for drugs,” he said, as he packed another bowl.