Yes, to answer the question, what person in history would you most like to meet, I would dine with Mark Twain in a New York minute, and have had many a conversation with him in my mind. But there is one other who is never far from my imagination — the Great Detective himself, Sherlock Holmes.
Yes, I know. While I am aware that he is a literary creation, it doesn’t make him less real to me. Maybe I am different — growing up, my invisible friends were, after all, Mowgli and the gang from Jungle Book (created in my imagination from the book, not the Disney cartoon). I don’t let little things, like reality, get in my way.
I read my first Sherlock Holmes mystery when I was 13 years old. Here he was, the keenest observer, the ultimate scientist, the master of critical thinking. I wanted to be with him — I wanted to BE him!
And yet, after reading all the stories, short and long, there were things I had problems reconciling him with — he was a raging misogynist, egomaniac, drug addict. Sure, he saw EVERYTHING, but he also judged and did not hold back in sharing his judgments. His friends … no, his friend — there was just Dr. Watson, and he made plenty of excuses for the great man.
Ah, but to have adventures with him, to see what he sees, to think like he does …
(Cue daydream music and squiggly lines…)
Holmes and I are riding in the back of the hansom cab. We are rushing along a nearly deserted London street circa 1890, it’s the middle of the night. The streets are lit by dim gaslights, and there is foggy drizzle outside.
Holmes told me to keep my eyes open when we get to the crime scene. “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
We arrived at a small house that stood between other identical houses, except that it has police outside and inside of it. We are quickly shown upstairs where we’re greeted by Inspector Lestrade.
“We’re baffled, Mr. Holmes. Can’t make heads or tails out of this. The door was locked, the windows barred. How did this guy shoot himself, then stab himself 17 times, then hang himself, then lay himself out on the floor? It’s like he was killed over and over again by a ghost!”
“My dear inspector, there are no ghosts, murdering ones or otherwise. When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth. Remember, as a rule, the more bizarre a thing is, the less mysterious it proves to be.
“All right, Elena. You know my methods, now use them.”
I looked around the cramped room, full of books, overstuffed furniture, and folders.
“This man was a researcher, a teacher. He was left-handed, I see chalk marks on the side of his left sleeve. He didn’t have a lot of money, the clothes and shoes he wears are old — well-taken care of, but out of date and patched many times. He used to be married, I can see the pale indentation on his left ring finger, but now, as we walked through the house, I see no evidence of a woman’s touch or presence.”
Holmes made an impatient gesture with his hand. “Yes, yes, that is evident, however, what do you think of the manner of his death?”
“He was murdered by several people. And the overkill, the manner of his death, points to something hateful — a grudge, revenge, a crime of passion.”
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”
“What other evidence is there?”
“Why don’t you ask the witness, since there was one in that closet. And she is still there!” Homes pivoted on his heels and pointed to the wall. I and the inspector looked closer and saw that there was a well-hidden door built to blend into the wall. As we all watched, it creaked open and a small girl come out, slowly.
“Ah, Mr. Holmes, for the life of me I’ll never understand how you see these things,” Inspector Lestrade shook his head. (End dream sequence.)
But I am not writing another story, and this mystery is just beginning. The game is afoot.
I am still dreaming of working with the greatest consulting detective ever — the first one at that. In reality, I would be afraid for Sherlock Holmes to notice me — he could be brutally honest in his assessment of people’s intelligence and ability, something I have no desire being on the other end of. A great deal of time, my imagination fails me in mid-adventure. I lose my nerve, I don’t see what he saw, I don’t think like he thought. He was singular, special.
I really need to train my brain– read more, think more, observe more. And maybe I should learn to play the violin.