All Things Mysterious Volume Seventy-Eight
Lieutenant Jones and the Deadly Vegetable
‘I say, old horse, can you direct me to Baker Street?’
Rarely did Lieutenant Jones have such a disconcerting episode in his vast experience in time and space shifting. Oh, the usual disorientation and queasiness were evident as usual, but the real confusion started when he found himself in the midst of a cacophony of light and sound. Horse-drawn carriages went barreling by, followed closely by a dozen or more street urchins. Lt. Jones and everyone else were ankle deep in mud and various effluvia, there were street vendors hawking everything from roasted potatoes to Dickensian matches to ribbons and pins. And the stench of horse manure was overpowering but didn’t seem to register amongst the masses. Perhaps one got used to it in time, but the Lieutenant searched the pockets of his proper Victorian suit and happily found a handkerchief which he immediately clapped over his nose and mouth. Whew!
He was thus occupied when the gentleman approached him with the question. Now how was he to know what street was where in a time and place that he’d never been? But he seemed to know, somehow, that Baker Street was to the northwest, so he directed the gentleman that way. Indeed, something told him to head that way himself and so he did.
Not following the man, exactly, but in a way practicing his trailing techniques. The gentleman was ahead of him and hurrying to a townhouse in the middle of the block. What was the number? There it was, 221B. Lt. Jones stopped in the doorway of 221A and observed. Presently three men rushed out of the adjacent door; a portly, white-mustachioed man carrying a small black bag, a tall thin man smoking a pipe, and the gentleman from earlier. The latter was being supported by the other two men, looking for all the world like he’d overindulged in drink. The Lieutenant was not convinced--the man had been perfectly vertical and quite rational when he’d spoken to him before. Something must have happened to him in the last few moments, but what? It looked like Lt. Jones would find out, for as he stood next door, the tall pipe-smoker hailed him and said, ‘I say, old bean, can you give us a hand here?’
So the Lieutenant hailed a coach and helped haul the stricken man into it; it was just large enough for the man to lie down so that the portly gent, who introduced himself as Doctor Watson, could examine him. The physician rummaged in his bag, found an instrument, and peered into the man’s mouth!
‘I say, Holmes, look at this!’
Why did all these people say ‘I say’ in preface to their remarks? How strange!
‘Good show, Watson!’
What a strange language!
As the Lieutenant peered over Watson’s shoulder, he observed particles of a strange green matter in the stricken man’s mouth.
‘Clearly he somehow ingested this leafy substance and is now scarcely conscious.’
‘Quickly, let us get to Doctor Finley’s! More speed, driver!’
And so the carriage boiled along the road and shortly came to a screaming halt in front of a fancy whitewashed building in Gerrard St. This was where a lot of professional men had offices, and momentarily the four were speaking to Dr. Finley, a man even taller and thinner than Holmes, if that were possible. But no pipe that Lt. Jones could see.
‘This man is suffering from vegetable poisoning! We don’t see that much today, for most people can’t or won’t consume greens.’
‘I shouldn’t wonder, if this is the result!’ opined Watson.
Don’t misunderstand me,’ replied his colleague. ‘A modicum of greens are essential to good health, but, as in any endeavour, too much is a bad thing!’
‘Yes, quite.’ Holmes hadn’t yet spoken much and his voice resonated through the silence of the office. He had gone through the man’s wallet, looking for identification.
Holmes and Finley exclaimed simultaneously. They looked at each other, startled, and then each politely waited for the other to speak.
‘You first, my good man.’
‘No, you first, old man, you first!’
If nothing else, they were polite. Finally Holmes broke the logjam.
‘This man is Doctor Goodbright, the noted nutritionist!’
Watson said, ‘I’ve heard of the bloke--he’s the one that advocated an all-meat diet!’
‘Right you are, Watson!’
‘And he’s dead!’ said Dr. Finley.
This shocked everyone into silence. Dead! Why, the man was alive and well not half an hour ago!
Everyone somberly pondered the intransigence of life as Doctor Finley summoned the coroner.
The next day the Lieutenant found himself at the library, trying to find out as much as possible about the deceased doctor as he could. It seemed that Goodbright had published a popular pamphlet in defence of carnivorous diets which had catapulted him into the public eye. Had it also generated enmity?
Now this was interesting! A cache of documents under the business registry revealed some salient facts. Holmes should know this! And Lt. Jones rushed out of the library back to his temporary lodgings at 221A Baker Street.
Later, Holmes, Watson, and the Lieutenant convened next door at B when the latter dropped his bombshell.
‘That is indeed most interesting, Lieutenant,’ Holmes said, stroking his chin.
‘Interesting! Pah! Interesting!’ Watson spluttered. ‘I’d call it a sight more than interesting when a man advocating an all-meat diet covertly owns no fewer than seven meat packing and processing facilities!’
‘You may be right, Watson. In any event, we must find the person or persons who poisoned the good doctor, and we can best do so by splitting up. Lieutenant, can you remain at 221A and intercept any callers here? Watson, can you go to the doctors’ union hall and find out whatever else you can on Goodbright? And just in case, you might look up Dr. Finley as well.’
‘I shall be practising my violin, I am frightfully rusty.’
Watson seemed nonplussed by this, as he must be used to the vicissitudes of the detective, but Lt. Jones wondered, what possible good could that do? On the other hand, some folks did their best thinking when engaged in another task, so perhaps Sherlock Holmes was one of those types.
Lt. Jones was keeping an eye on things at 221A when all of a sudden there was a fearsome banging on the adjacent door. He opened up to reveal a sodden young thing, no more than twenty, and no bigger than a minute. He said, ‘Come in, come in,’ and ushered her dripping wet self into the foyer of 221A.
‘What can I do for you?’
‘Oh! I must see Mr. Holmes at once!’
‘I’m afraid that is impossible at present. May I be of assistance?’
‘But I can hear someone sawing away at a fiddle next door! Is not that Mr. Holmes?’
‘Dry yourself off, lass, and tell me what the trouble is, and I shall pass it along to Mr. Holmes.’
‘All-all right.’ The young woman drew herself up to her full height, which was no more than five feet. ‘I am Filomena Finley; Dr. Finley is my father and I believe it was he that was present at Dr. Goodbright’s untimely passing.’
‘Yes, that is so. Pray, continue.’
‘There are militants who were very very angry with the doctor’s dietary notions.’
‘Why would anyone be so angry over advocacy of a meat diet?’
‘Some say animals have souls and shouldn’t be killed, some say that vegetarianism is the only healthy way to live.’
‘Angry enough to kill him?’
‘I believe so.’
‘I see. And where do you and your father fit in?’
‘He and I--’
Just then, another fearsome knocking on the door! No one just taps, or uses the knocker anymore. No, it’s always pounding with a clenched fist.
Lt. Jones opened the door to reveal a disheveled, panting Watson.
‘You must come! And bring the lady!’
‘Come where? What has happened?’
‘Doctor Finley has been murdered!’
And Filomena Finley collapsed in a dead faint.
What deviltry is this? Are doctors being targeted? Or meat-eaters? Why?
Tune in next time for more of The Mystery of the Deadly Vegetable!
While you’re waiting, why not try out some Sherlock stories? Whether the A.C. Doyle originals or one of the many excellent pastiches, enjoy your own journey to Victorian (among other times) London (among other places) and match wits with Holmes, Watson, Irene Adler, Moriarty, and even Mrs. Hudson!
If variety is your bag, try this fantastically diverse collection of some of the best of Sherlock!
Sherlock battles Jack the Ripper? Yes, please.
And, while we're on the subject:
Like the esteemed TV series? Herein are the stories that inspired the creators:
And, because there's nothing like the originals:
A two-volume paperback set, very reasonably priced, containing all 56 short stories and four novels.