Previously on Sherlock Herms – The Case of Mrs. Shallowford’s Ghost
After Sherlock Herms enjoys a play break with his sisfur-slash-assistant, Detective Dori, he falls asleep and dreams he’s at the Desert Galaxy casino, seated at a table with Loud Lady and her Not Friend, Elouise. They are joined by the notorious gangster, Sammy ‘The Squid’ Calamari, who was rumored to be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the almost famous hardboiled detective Maxwell Shallowford.
Just as Herman realizes he’s not a cat in his dream, but rather inside Max Shallowford’s body, The Squid gives him a briefcase filled with thousands of dollars. He tells Herman-slash-Max that he is to ‘plug’ another gangster by the name of Lenny the Loser.
Herman is quietly freaking in his navy pinstripe suit pants and his two tone shoes when he notices a man at the next table, glowing. Yup. Glowing like the sun is shining brightly down on top of his balding head. He tells Herman not to be afraid, and introduces himself. He’s Charles Feeble. Dori’s Charley! He also tells Herman, in order for him to understand what happened to Max Shallowford, he is experiencing a memory from the detective’s life. Herman wants to know who he is. Herman has many questions, but Charley tells him…
“That’s not important right now. When you awake, I will explain. But for now, let’s enjoy the show. Shall we?” He abruptly stood up to applaud, along with Sammy Calamari and the rest of the people at the nightclub.
“And now,” a voice said over a loud speaker, “please welcome to the Desert Galaxy… Miss Adora Purr singing her new hit song, Purrple Underpants!”
Herman swings his gaze to the bandstand where he sees his little sisfur step on stage.
What the Friskies!
And now…Part 5.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. My little sisfur was a famous singer in my dream. At my house we sing a lot. Silly made-up songs that make us laugh, but make no sense. Maybe that’s why I was dreaming about Dori singing about purrple underpants. It sounded like something our mom would sing while doing the laundry.
The Desert Galaxy nightclub surged to their feet with thunderous applause. Personally I thought the song wasn’t that great, but this was my dream and I loved my little sisfur, so maybe unconsciously I thought she deserved the standing ovation.
I glanced at Sammy ‘The Squid’ Calamari to see he had disappeared. Then I noticed Dori and her overly appreciative audience had disappeared. The only one left was the little glowing man with the squinty eyes: Charley Feeble. I really needed sunglasses. His glow was giving me a headache.
“You did great, Herman.” He pointed to the pocket watch I was holding. “Time to wake up.”
I opened my eyes to see I was back in my attic office, seventy years in the past. I was still holding the pocket watch, though it was back to not working, and my little sisfur still lay asleep with her head on my lap.
Seated across from me in the chair was Charley Feeble. He wasn’t glowing. Then it hit me. Charley Feeble was a ghost!
No wonder Dori said it wasn’t necessary to bring the CritterZone Air Naturalizer on this case. We had used it on our first case, The Case of the Dancing Ghosts to help Christina and George and the others go into the light. But Charley had hired us, and Dori knew he was a ghost. We weren’t being hired to neutralize him. That would be like suicide. Spookicide?
Charley being a ghost also explained why the attic felt like meat locker. My brofur Jack, who invented stuff, had given me a thermometer, the kind I recognized from the veterinary clinic. He said the thermometer would tell me when there were ghosts around as ghosts make the room freezing cold. He reassured me I didn’t have to stick it inside anything to make it work. I had left the thermometer in my Gen7Pets Regal stroller, now whimpering like a shivering puppy in the corner. Frankly, I could tell Charley was a ghost without checking the thermometer. I could see through him to the back of the chair.
As he smiled at me from behind his glasses, Charley’s eyes disappeared into squinty folds. “Didn’t the Desert Galaxy have a beautiful nightclub? I would have loved to enjoy an evening there while I was alive, but… I have Anthropophobia.”
I nodded like I understood, although I had no idea what he meant.
“Anthropophobia can be best defined as an extreme, pathological form of shyness and timidity,” Charley explained. “Not only the fear of people in crowded situations, but…alas for me, it led to my complete social withdrawal. To even use the telephone caused me great pain. Such a trick the Lord played by giving me the I.Q. of Einstein with the timid soul of Caspar Milquetoast. You would not expect this of a celebrated detective like Maxwell Shallowford, would you?”
I wanted to ask what he meant, since his name was Charley—not Max—but then Dori woke up and said, “A gweat pwivate detective.”
Charley smiled with delight. “You have a beautiful voice, Miss Adora Purr. You are a natural entertainer.”
She beamed happily. “Thank you. Thank you vewy much.” She scampered over to jump into Charley’s lap. She landed directly on the chair, then yelped because his lap was icy cold. She quickly returned to huddle against my warmer floof.
“I’m terribly sorry,” Charley said to her. “If it’s any consolation, I would have enjoyed snuggling with you. I miss snuggling with kitties.” Sadness flickered across his face. “I had always assumed death would bring me relief, but alas I’ve found no such respite from my earthly phobias. Plus I’m now denied such small joys as feeling the warmth of a cat’s fur against my cheek.”
“Why don’t you go into the light?” I asked him. “We can help you, if you want.” I now said to Dori, “We shouldn’t have left the CritterZone behind.”
Charley grinned. “Thank you. I will take you up on that offer. But first, I must pass on my knowledge of private investigation. Otherwise my purpose in life will have been unfulfilled. I would like to teach you and Dori what I know about the business. I can also teach you what you need to know regarding paranormal investigating.”
Dori clapped her paws. “We gonna be famous like Maxwell Shallowford!”
A shadow crossed Charley’s face. “My darling Dori… To quote the American poet, Emily Dickenson:
Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a Guest, but not
The second time is set,
Whose crumbs the crows inspect,
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the farmer’s corn
Men eat of it and die.
Dori and I stared at him, uncomprehending. Cats not only don’t do math…
They don’t do poetry.
“To put it in simpler terms,” Charley then said, “Fame makes a man take things over, Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow.”
“David Bowie!” I triumphantly meowed the singer’s name. But then I was back to feeling confoozed. I didn’t like how Dori seemed to have the CliffsNotes on what Charley was talking about, while I felt like I had walked in right in the middle of the movie.
“I don’t think you can teach me to be a private detective, Charley. I guess I need stuff spelled out for me. I don’t understand what you’re talking about. You said, ‘You would not expect this of a celebrated detective like Maxwell Shallowford. But you’re Charley Feeble. Right?”
“I’m also Maxwell Shallowford. The man the public knew as Maxwell Shallowford was an actor from Ecum Secum, Nova Scotia by the name of Reginald Godfrey.”
I glanced at Dori, perched on the edge of the couch, looking like she knew the story by heart. Right then I felt inferior. Maybe I wasn’t made of the right stuff to be a hardboiled detective. Maybe I should tell my mom that I couldn’t help her author mysteries because I was pretty much clueless.
“Herman.” Charley drew my attention by leaning forward. “I was born with a high intelligence and a flair for solving mysteries. I knew my life’s calling was to help people solve their problems, but my severe shyness hampered me. Therefore I invented Maxwell Shallowford, thinking I could hide behind a false persona. I based him on a combination of the detectives I admired whilst growing up. Detectives like C. Auguste Dupin, Bulldog Drummon, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. Alas, I discovered my phobia too severe. I could only solve cases without actually meeting my clients in person. Everything I did was through correspondence and the telephone.”
He gestured to the 1940s black Bakelite on my huge desk that has lots of nooks and crannies. It came with my office. Actually, it came with the house. It’s too big to get through the door without chopping to pieces. Mom told me our home has been built around an older house that refused to be torn down.
“I even went so far as to pretend, when someone called, that I, Charles Feeble, was Detective Shallowford’s assistant. No one ever spoke directly to Shallowford. For a time I did fairly well. I was able to afford this house.”
“This was your house?” I asked. “But I thought… Why is Loud Lady living here?”
“I’m getting to that, Herman. The end of my charade began when I— Nay, Maxwell Shallowford was hired by a wealthy family to find their missing daughter. I should have turned the case down, but I had read about it in the newspapers and knew the family was very afraid she had met with an untimely death. Hearing the fear in the father’s voice over the telephone had me agreeing to take the case before I fully comprehended that I could no longer hide behind my false façade. That’s when I hired an out of work actor from a faraway small town: Reginald Godfrey.
“Godfrey was a handsome man. I could see him fooling people into believing him to be the kind of debonair detective they expected of Maxwell Shallowford. I made the mistake of permitting Reginald to move into my home. Looking back I should have set up a second residence, but I was delirious with the notion I could have my cake and eat it too.”
“Speaking of cake… May we take a wefweshment bweak?” Dori pulled out a bag of Smittens.
She shared them with me, which I appreciated because I was feeling starvy. She also offered some to Charley, but he said he felt full.
“I fear I may be boring your reader audience with my lengthy explanation,” Charley said to me. “Perhaps I should fast forward through the use of imagery. He flicked his hand and produced the following images:
Charley now told me, “I called you, Sherlock Herms, to retrieve the missing jewelry so Vivian will stop screaming. She still frightens me even though I’m dead. However, I now realize that if I can get her to step outside of my house, I may have a way to prevent her from re-entering. Herman. I need you to help me get rid of Vivian Shallowford.”
Tune in next Friday for …
To read Part 1, click here.
Whew! Another chapter under my belt. Thanks so much for stopping by to share my adventure. I’m sincerely appreciative of you spending your time with me and my lil sisfur, Dori. So what do you think about what Charley is telling me? I feel sorry for him, being all smart n stuff, but so shy he can’t even talk on the telephone without pretending he’s some guy he made up.
Charley wants me to help him get rid of Vivian – aka Loud Lady. I can’t blame him for admitting she scares him, even though he’s a ghost. She scares me too! I wonder what he’s got in mind on how to get her out of the house.
Thanks again for stopping by to see me. If you have a comment, please leave it below. Love you and have a wonderpurr weekend!