Adventure of the Deerstalkers

 

 

Sherlock put on his hat and agreed to an outing.

 

The Adventure of the Deer Stalkers

      By Dan Lambert

 I have told many tales about how my friend, Sherlock Holmes, has solved some of England’s most vexing mysteries. I have never (until now) put my pen to the task of relating the tale of how one of Holmes’ idioms made its way into his vocabulary. I will break with that tradition today. We know Holmes’ idiom about eliminating the impossible. But here I will reveal the origin of another of my friend’s oft-repeated phrases. The phrase itself I will save for the end.

It was midmorning, in the Autumn of 1888.  Holmes had been wearing a path in the floor of our flat at 221B Baker Street. It was one of those periods of London history that Holmes deplored.  The city was devoid of criminal activity. I, too, was feeling the effects of boredom, being between marriages, and finding my medical practice to be excruciatingly slow. A story in the Times gave me a splendid idea for a diversion. The story was about a new statue being dedicated to one of England’s most beloved literary figures: Robin Hood. I had often jostled Holmes with predictions that the Crown would erect a statue in honor of him some day. Holmes’ usual response was that if such a statue were to portray him wearing that ghastly Deerstalker cap and Inverness cape, he would be the first to sneak in under cover of darkness and pull the abomination to the ground.

The idea I proposed to my friend was a mid-afternoon hunting excursion to Sherwood Forest. To my delight, Holmes agreed, and we were on a train within the hour.

Later that afternoon, we found ourselves in Sherwood Forest, the hunting grounds of that famous outlaw. Once there, I unwrapped a package containing artifacts I had purchased from a Belgian trader in Kabul: two beautiful, finely-polished shotguns.

Donning his much-maligned but necessary deerstalker and cape, Holmes loaded his shotgun, and led the way into the forest gloom.

 “Come, Watson,” he called.  Soon, we spotted a sixteen-point stag, and I promptly shot the beast through the heart.

At least, I thought I had shot the creature through the heart. In fact, I had merely dealt the stag a far from grievous blow. My marksmanship skills had apparently worsened since my army days.

     This stag, whom Holmes came to nickname “Moriarty,” eluded us for nearly an hour.  During that time, we had only Moriarty’s blood spoor to guide us, like a gory trail of bread crumbs in some variant on that German tale about the children and the witch.

     It was nearly sundown when we caught up with Moriarty.  We stopped short when we saw where the stag’s trail led us.  The spoor led directly into the entrance to the den of a cave bear!  As we approached the mouth of the cave, I imagined our hard-earned stag in the belly of a bear.  As we inched closer, our guns at the ready, I could hear the brazen glutton snoring from within the cave.

     Holmes whispered to me his intention to enter the lair.  “But Watson,” he admonished, “I want you to stay here.  If you spy me making haste from that cave, I expect you to provide covering fire.  And not to insult you, Old Boy, but please endeavor to let your aim be true this time.”

     Bracing my shotgun against a nearby oak tree, I aimed and waited.  Holmes crept into the cave, shouldering his own weapon as he went.

     After a few breathless minutes, Holmes returned from his excursion.

     It turns out that the bear had, indeed, devoured our beloved stag, although one part of Moriarty survived.  Holmes had managed to find it whilst searching the floor of the bear’s den.  The bear had spared part of Moriarty’s left foreleg: the creature’s hoof, to be precise.

     Holmes had managed to pocket this treasure and steal away with it, all the while managing not to awaken the sleeping bear.

     I learned all this immediately upon Holmes’ return to my sheltering oak.  “Holmes!” I exclaimed.  “You’re alive!”

     Putting his forefinger to his lips, Holmes admonished me to keep my voice down.  “Yes, my friend, I’m alive.  I’m afraid our game was not so lucky.”

     “Don’t keep me in suspense, Holmes,” I whispered.  “What has become of our game?”

     Holmes reached into the pocket of his coat, and, handing me the stag’s hoof, said with a grin, “Our game, my dear boy?  I hate to tell you this, Watson, but the game’s a foot!”

end

__________________________________________________________________________________________

You can groan all you want now, but flash fiction frequently ends with a pun.  And, Sherlock Holmes is a beloved target for such activity.

I’m not always going to put myself first on the menu, but I am always going to try and give you at least one story by me each day.   Let’s leave Holmes and Watson heading back to London on a train and jump to the 21st century for my cautionary tale.   What if they weren’t wiped out by a huge meteor strike, but left the planet voluntarily before the cosmic axe fell on them?

It took the aliens a long time to find the United Nations Building in New York.

 

Message to the United Nations
     by Ken St. Andre

    The aliens looked an awful lot like dinosaurs.  They had very large brains, and wore a sort of shimmery metallic sarape for clothing–at least that’s how they showed up on television.  They did the usual thing for aliens, and seized control of all television broadcasts around the planet.  Astronomers said that there were close to a million ships in earth orbit out about the distance of the moon.  One minute space was normal and empty; the next moment radar showed it full of a million huge spacecraft–give or take a few thousand–it was real hard to get an accurate count.

    The alien on television had a very short message, and it repeated constantlly.  He obviously used some kind of mechanical translator, as the sound accompanying the picture was a combination of hisses and whistles and clicks.  An inflectionless metallic voice broadcast in English alternating with Chinese.

     The message was short and a bit perplexing.  It said, “You understand the concept of property.  Good.  Prepare for a message from the owner.”

     The message filled the airwaves for nearly a month.  It saturated the broadcast spectrum, much to the dismay of people on Earth, who had to find alternate means of communication.  Then a ship came in for a landing.

     The ship was like nothing ever seen on earth before–an eight-sided truncated pyramid made of a glowing green stone with a base one mile square.  It came down, quite slowly actually in New York City not far from the United Nations building.  As it settled a kind of klaxon sounded–so loud it could deafen a person in a single blast.

     Of course, there was no room for it to land, far too many buildings in the area in which it was settling.  It hovered for over an hour above the highest skyscraper.  All attempts to communicate were ignored.  Then it began to settle again, and it crumpled the steel tower of the building like it was soggy cardboard beneath a brick.

     Anyone with half a brain had already evacuated the area.  Now the rest of the population began to stream out of the landing zone.  Panic, confusion, chaos–and of course the U.S. Army had to arrive with tanks and jets and coptors and missiles.

     And as the ship came down, slowly crushing everything beneath it, and all communications failed, the military opened up with everything it had, all to absolutely no effect.  The bullets bounced off.  The explosions blew back into open air.  The ray weapons fizzled out.  And the ship came down.

     In the middle of the barrage, a great mechanical voice boomed out.  “Stop that!”  Seeing that their weapons had no effect at all, the Army stopped shooting.  Maybe someone remembered that there were a million more ships like this one in orbit.

     The alien ship finally reached the ground, and it settled down, down, down through the earth until it reached bedrock.  And there it sat for seven days and nights.

     Finally a portal opened in the smooth skin of the ship, and a ramp extended, and out floated a small army of dinosaur-aliens, 81 of them to be exact.  They were enclosed in a light blue forcefield, and they rode on platforms of green stone, and they didn’t touch the ground.  They made their way to the entrance to the United Nations, and used some sort of tool to dematerialize an opening in the building wall large enough for their party to float through.  Ignoring all the people who tried to block or guide them, they went directly to the assembly station.

The President of the United Nations put it as gently as he could, but finally had to ask, “Why are you here?”

The alien dinosaur barked at him.  “Exactly what we wanted to ask you!  Why are you creatures here?”

“This is our home planet.  We evolved here,” said the human.

“Wrong,” snapped the dinosaur.  “We evolved here and had a high civilization on this world more than 70 million years ago.  When we developed a star drive, we set out to explore the galaxy.  Now we have returned, and find that our planet has been infested with mammals.  And you’re ruining and polluting the world!  That has to stop, and we’re here to tell you we want our planet back!”

“What? You want the planet back?”  The delegates erupted into a maelstorm of shouting and noise.

“Since you seem to be marginally intelligent, the Galactic Council ruled that we could not just come in and wipe you out like the vermin you are.  But we can evict you,” snarled the dinosaur.  “This is your formal notice.  You have one hundred years to leave the planet, and if you’re not gone by then, you will be thrown off the planet with all the force at our disposal!”

The End

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3 Comments

  1. Paul Haynie
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    “Anyone with half a brain had already evacuated the area. Now the Yew Yorkers began to leave, too.”

    G’Noll
    (It is my duty as a Chicagoan to abuse the City of New York at every opportunity.)

  2. Posted January 31, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Did anyone else laugh out loud at this? (I’m assuming, given the tone of the piece, that the absurdity was deliberate…)

    “It was midmorning, in the Autumn of 1888. Holmes had been wearing a path in the floor of our flat at 221B Baker Street. It was one of those periods of London history that Holmes deplored. The city was devoid of criminal activity.”

    Holmes DID have problems with boredom, but Autumn, 1888? The first Ripper murder took place on August 31, 1888, and the last on November 9 of that year. Holmes may have been out of the country at that time, but he certainly was NOT bored…

    G’Noll

  3. Posted February 1, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    “Prepare for message from owner”–awesome! That 100 year due date is a sort of theme for the flash fiction I’m trying to put to paper that I thought of at the train station the other day, after your day 1 offerings. Will try to submit it in a timely fashion!

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