I don’t recall how I ended up in front of the fireplace warming my whiskers. There’s a good chance that after I heard the dog’s shocking news—I fainted. I know. Not very Master Detective behavior. But ex-cuuuuuse me! I’d just learned my hero had been murdered.
“You’ve done more than just missed Sherlock Holmes,” the dog had told me. “Sherlock Holmes is dead. Doyle killed him!”
The dog introduced himself as Fergus. Or maybe Farkus. Or … Fairrr-gus. He had a thick accent that was hard for my Ameowican ears to understand. Plus, I was in shock.
Sherlock Holmes was dead! As tears burned my eyes, I turned my back on the dog. I didn’t want him to see me sob my little heart out.
What would Watson do when he heard this tragic news? Would he track down the scoundrel Doyle to seek revenge? Would he give up detecting, go back to doctoring? Or… would he be in the market for a new Master Detective partner… like me?
I felt the dog’s paw on my back, petting me softly. “Yur takin’ the news a bit hard, laddie.”
“I c-can’t believe he’s… gone!” I wiped my eyes with my floofy tail, resisting the urge to blow my nose cuz… gross. “How did it happen? During his last case?”
The dog shocked me by laughing. “Well, it would be his last case since he died, wouldn’t it?”
I felt a growl curl around my vocal cords. How could he be so blasé about Holmes’ death? Oh wait. That’s right. He lived with the murderer, Doyle. “Tell me, how did it happen?” I didn’t really want to hear the grisly details, but maybe there was a lesson in his death that I was meant to learn. Like… avoid men named Doyle.Would Watson be in the market for a new Master Detective partner…like me? Click To Tweet
Right then a stately grandfather clock chimed three. “I will tell you over tea. Would you care to freshen up first?”
While Fergus/Farkus/Fairrr-gus trotted off to fetch tea, I licked my paw to wash my whiskers and behind my ears. I purrsonally would have liked him to offer lunch, as I was hungry, but I was a guest in the murder’s home, so I would drink the damn tea while I heard the details of my heroes final hour.
“Tea is ready!” I heard the dog bark from down the hall. I left the warmth of the hearth to follow my nose toward the back of the house. Not only did I smell dog, but also aromas that made my tummy happy. Tea included noms!
I entered a bright, cheery room with windows overlooking the rear garden. There a middle-aged woman with gray hair and a white apron over her gray dress was arranging plates on top of a pristine white tablecloth. Fergus/Farkus/Fairrr-gus was already seated. As I took my place opposite him, Mrs. Gray poured tea into a fancy china cup.
“Shall I serve you, sir?” she asked.
Surprised that she was addressing me, I nodded, then watched as she placed tiny crustless, triangle-cut sammiches on my plate that matched the tea cup. I recognized one as egg, one as tuna, and another as cucumber. There were also scones with clotted cream. I thoroughly enjoyed nomming the egg and tuna sammiches, and licking up the clotted cream. I left the cucumbers for the dog to eat.
When I’d eaten my full, I asked Fergus, “How did it happen? What case was he working on?”
“The Final Problem,” the dog told me. “Holmes fell to his death while fighting his archenemy, Professor Moriarty. He went over the Reichenbach Falls.”
“I don’t understand. You said Doyle killed him.”
“Well, in spite of everyone’s entreaties that Sherlock Holmes brought enjoyment to millions of readers, Doyle believed the stories were hackwork, and that he was capable of writing more serious works. He’s been plotting to get rid of Holmes for a long time. It was during a trip to Switzerland that Doyle found the spot where Holmes would come to his end. Thus, in The Final Problem, published this past December, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty plunged to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls. I assure you there was no one more surprised than Doyle when twenty thousand readers cancelled their subscriptions to The Strand Magazine. The public is furious that Holmes is dead. But Doyle is happy to be freed from his medical career and from a fictional character that oppressed him and overshadowed what he considered his finer works. He just sailed for New York a week ago with his brother Innes to give talks in more than thirty cities.”
I stared so hard at the dog, I could see the pores in his black nose. “I must have hit my head when I fainted. I-I don’t understand what you’re saying. What is The Strand Magazine? What subscriptions? What hackwork? What fictional character?” My head was spinning so fast, I felt like Linda Blair in the Exorcist… without the pea soup barf.
“I understand,” the dog said after a moment. He licked a spot of cream from his whiskers. “I hate to destroy your illusions, lad, but Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character written by my master, Arthur Conan Doyle.”
In that instant…with those words…my reality crashed down around me. I knew about fictional characters. I was my writer mom’s mews. I help her write stories. Really good writers create characters that seem so real, they walk right off the page.
But… “This is impossible!” I growled. “He can’t be a fictional character. What about Dr. Watson? Does he know about this?”
The dog wolfed the cucumber sammiches, then said, “He’s a character too.”My head spun fast, like Linda Blair in the Exorcist without the pea soup barf. Click To Tweet
I put my head in my paws and sobbed. Life as I knew it was over. “I suppose you’re going to tell me Sam Spade isn’t real either.”
“I have never heard of Sam Spade,” the dog replied. “Say! Would you like to see where I inspire my master to write novels?”
I followed him to a room with a big desk. As I peered closely at Doyle’s typewriter, pens, photographs and walls lined with books, I remembered the confusion I’d gone through to find Sherlock Holmes. “I tried to find 221B Baker Street,” I told Fergus. “I found a pub and a museum with his name on the front.”
The dog cocked his head. “How can that be? 221B Baker Street is fictional. It doesn’t exist. The numbers on Baker Street only go up to 100.”
That explained why I couldn’t find 221B in my time. I had to travel back to 1894 to find out it was fictional.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” Fergus said, “but why are you wearing the silly hat? Do all cats wear deerstalker hats in America?”
“No, but I’m not an ordinary cat. I’m a hardboiled detective with grit in my blood. I wear a trench coat like Sam Spade, and a deerstalker hat like Sherlock Holmes for inspurration.”
The dog crooked his head in question. “Holmes didn’t wear a hat. At least Doyle never specifically mentioned a deerstalker hat. But you look cute in it.”
I hung my head so low, my silly hat was in danger of falling to the ground. No 221B Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character in a book killed off by a writer named Doyle. And now I learn Holmes never wore a hat. My day was going from bad to worse.
“So, what do you think of our office?” Fergus asked. He trotted over to a cushy bed in front of the fireplace. “This is where I cogitate. Where I come up with ideas for Doyle to transcribe into mysteries. He can’t write a word without me. I’m his muse!”
My ears perked up. “I’m a mews too. My author mom can’t write a story without me.”
Fergus’ long pink tongue dangled happily from the side of his mouth. “I gave him the idea for the Sherlock Holmes stories.”
“You’re really good. I had no idea Holmes was a fictional character.”
“I’m very proud of the works, even though Doyle thought the mysteries obscured what he referred to as his higher work. He told anyone who would listen that he thought his position in lit-tra-chure would be a more commanding one if it wasn’t for Sherlock Holmes. Hackwork, he called my mysteries.”
“I don’t know what hackwork means, but I think they’re wonderpurr stories.”
Fergus grinned a toothy grin. “I am so happy to meet another writer’s muse. With Doyle out of the country, I hope you will accept my invitation to stay awhile. You mentioned you are also a detective? I’d love to discuss your cases.”
I shifted my paws uneasily. I hated to admit it but… “The reason why I came looking for Sherlock Holmes is to ask him to teach me to be a Master Detective like him. I’ve had only four cases, and… Well. It’s been a hard learning curve for me.”
“Then it’s settled. You will stay and keep me company while Doyle is off on his American tour, and I will share with you my secrets for becoming a Master Detective like Sherlock Homes.”
Thanks pals for stopping by. See you next Friday.
If you like what you’re reading, here are more stories by Kimberley Koz and Herman, her mews: