Yes, finding readers is the most critical task for a writer who has just published his first eBook – so I thought I would call on the assistance of the world’s best-known detective – and give him the task of finding my missing reader – and I agree, it is one of the worst puns… So let’s see what happened as we join Dr. Watson and Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Reader.
Holmes was in exemplary form as usual. He handed me a note that he had been folding and opening out, as though deliberating on its contents. “This came in the last post,” he said. “Read it and tell me what you think.”
The note was unsigned and was obviously written in a hurry for it had splotches where the writer’s quill had splattered ink. It was brief, requesting a meeting this very evening, and for Holmes’s assistance with a pressing and important matter.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“You have the note,” returned Holmes. “What do you think?”
I examined the paper and the contents again. “The writer is of some means,” I remarked. “This is an expensive paper. And he – I daresay it was a he – was in a hurry and did not blot his writing. Also, his quill was not sharp.”
“Is that all?” queried Holmes in his inimitable manner, reaching for the note. He read it again. “The writer is not accustomed to using a quill, which is very odd. He is right-handed, for a left-handed writer would smudge his efforts even more. And the preciseness of his words indicates to me he is – no, not foreign – alien, perhaps. Some of the words – he may be American? Very peculiar.”
As he finished speaking there was a sharp pull at the bell announcing a visitor at the front door. Shortly after we heard heavy footsteps on the stairs and then an authoritative tap on the door.
“Come in,” said Holmes. I noticed he slipped a strange device behind a photograph on the mantlepiece as he spoke.
The man who entered was medium height, with the dress of a gentleman although his ensemble somehow jarred my sensibilities. His suit was well-made and his double-breasted overcoat of a fabric that I could not identify. He looked at each of us in turn, finally addressing Holmes.
“Mr Holmes? Sherlock Holmes?”
“Yes. Pray take a seat,” directed Holmes, “for I discern you have traveled far. This is my good friend Dr. Watson, who occasionally assists me with my cases. Whom have I the honor to address?”
“You may address me as J. For the moment my identity needs to be kept confidential.”
“I have come quite a distance and need to take every precaution against discovery.”
“I am aware of that,” murmured Holmes, also settling himself down in his favorite armchair. “You are not English although you speak the language clearly and precisely. Your clothes indicate some wealth although your shoes are in need of repair so perhaps you are currently somewhat – shall we say – short of funds. There is ink on your right sleeve, so you are right handed and also unaccustomed to writing with quill and ink.”
Our visitor looked at Holmes with some apparent surprise. “Very good. You surpass your reputation.”
Holmes shut his eyes for a few moments, deliberating. “Aaah. I have it. You are from a different time. Yes, that’s it.”
“You are right,” cried the stranger. “I am. But how did you know?”
“Your watch,” pointed Holmes. “It is running backwards. And it is of a type I have never seen before.”
The stranger clasped his hand over his wristwatch, belatedly hiding it from our gaze. “I did not consider that. Well yes, I am from a different – time. And I have a pressing problem.”
“I know that. You have lost something valuable.”
“Yes, I have. This is astounding.”
Holmes stood and walked across the room to the fireplace and stood, leaning against the mantlepiece. “It is a technical device?”
Holmes reached behind the photograph and brought out the device that I had seen him hide earlier. He handed it to our visitor.
“Is this the missing item?”
“Oh yes, you have found it. Thank goodness. I was totally dismayed. Yes, indeed, it is my missing reader.”