Chapter 1 - A Most Unusual Discovery
During my journies I happened across the widow McClure, a sweet Irish lass, long beyond her years and now terminally ill. Suffering from demetia, each time we met it was most similar to the first, and I found myself once again amazing her with my feats of deduction.
"On Thursday nights," I said to her, "you watch 'The Price is Right,' and you always cheer for the fat ones."
She was amazed. "Mr. Holmes, how do you know such things?"
"These mental stretching-exercises are like morning calisthenics to the student of crime. I am aware, of course, that your grandchildren always visit on Thursdays, and you have said in the past that they are uncommonly fond of television."
"I said that?"
"Indeed you did, but let's return to my monologue. In my curious daily business I am required to read all the latest periodicals, in order to keep abreast of current events which may impact my work. One such magazine which I devour from cover to cover is...'The T.V. Guide.'"
"I love that book," said the esteemed widow, the rosy blush of long-lost youth returning briefly to her aged cheeks.
I made fast my explanation, before her oncoming fit should stop it in its inevitable tracks. "It was short work to decipher the guide's Thursday night schedule, from which -- bracketed by your regular mealtime of five o'clock and your bedtime at six -- I deduced you would be watching 'The Price Is Right' on your video-telegraph machine on regular Thursday evenings." I paused for effect. "Now let me tell you about the Cottingley Fairies..."
Mrs. McClure, as always, was uncommonly amazed, and she shook my hand as best her palsy would allow. Whilst in the perpendicular position that was required to grasp her hand I noticed a most intriguing object lying atop the snow.
I did nothing to betray my knowledge at the time -- wishing not to entangle the widow in the nefarious schemes of the criminal underworld -- but after seeing her off to her daily sponge bath I returned to the sidewalk. Stooping to retrieve the singular object which I had spied, I saw immediately that it was a pencil case.
Chapter 2 - A Crime of Passion
From its position I deduced that it had been carelessly dropped, and not so recently as it was finely dusted with snow. The footprints around it had been hopelessly muddled by pedestrian traffic and by Mrs. McClure's tripedal walker, obscuring any clues as to the owner of the pencil case, or -- if they were not the same -- to the individual who had dropped it.
I turned my attention to the case itself. It contained numerous geometric tools and writing utensils, most telling of which was a gum eraser which proclaimed that somebody with the initials "P.M." had once loved somebody else "4ever," but the initials of the paramour had been cruelly defaced by what I soon determined to be a young girl's fingernail.
This discovery shone new light on the development. At first glance I had assume the pencil case to have been accidentally dropped, but the obscure gum eraser with its gouged-out initials suggested a more sinister motive: an affair of the heart, a lover spurned.
"This puts me in mind of a similar case which you may remember," I said to the stuffed and mounted figure of Dr. Watson which I carry for such purposes. "The unrequited love which John Hinkley, Jr. felt for Jodie Foster, which inspired him to steal her pencil case one night out of sheer pique, only to lose it on the day that he attempted to take the life of Ronald Reagan in a most inelegant way. I fear that the unknown figure involved in this case is similar to that of the case long past; merciless, passionate, and far beyond the bounds of common rationality. Mark my words, Watson...here we face the most vicious criminal we have ever known."
Watson, choosing not to interrupt my investigation at such a crucial stage, maintained his silence and leaned increasingly a-tilt in the growing wind.
Further analysis of the pencil case presented more evidence of the seriousness of the crime, not least in the form of a passionate scribbling on the inner lid: "Jessica you are a jalous bitch :)" I also deduced, from various obscure and sundry notes contained therein that the owner of the case was a Miss P___ M___, enrolled in form eight of M_____ Public School, located as I knew on C_____ Street.
I rushed immediately to the telegraph office but was dismayed to find it inoperative. My next step -- the telephone book -- revealed many more individuals with the surname M____ than I had anticipated. Having decided to attend to the school of M_______ in person, I briefly considered the hiring of a hansom or dogcart to fetch me there, but the hired lackeys in this town refuse to admit Dr. Watson in his current condition and the only other carriage drivers -- those singularly curious members of the Mennonite religious order -- have been reticent since the disastrous resolution of "The Case of the Poisoned Strudel."
Chapter 3 - The Visit
The following morning I hied myself to M_____ Public School with the wayward pencil case in my possession. Inspector Lestrade being long since lost in his ill-fated battle with the Fiery Moria Balrog, I brought instead a collection of Street Arabs in various disguise, these "Baker Street Irregulars" serving to lighten my spirits and affirm my superiority. Having delayed for so long any explanation of my methods or purpose, however, they soon dispersed to the nearest Tim Horton's, tongues a-poke and fingers raised.
Finally, after many minutes of solitary walking, I was on my own at the school, ready to spring the net that I had been carefully weaving since the discovery of the pencil case but a day previous.
Aware that a man in possession of cocaine should not linger at the gates of a public school, I entered the singular halls of the once-great institution. I was greeted by an uncommonly beautiful matron, so pale as to be nearly luminous in the dim fluorescent lighting, a figure at once so winsome and concupiscent that I felt Watson growing singularly stiff at my side.
I bowed respectfully under her gaze. "M'lady, I bring to you a pencil case which may or may not belong to one P____ M____, a student of your singular institution. The circumstances are unparalleled in their circumstance, but I deduce that the case was lost as she found her way home across C____ street. The soft cushion of the new-fallen snow no-doubt muffled the rattle of the falling protractors and pencils, with the result that--"
"I'll make sure she gets it," said the matron, removing the object from my hands and retreating instantly down the corridor. My interview, it would seem, was over.
Chapter 4 - The Scarlet Mormon of East Pushtan
You may wonder at the resolution of this astonishing tale, so unlike any that I or my imitators have told before. I too am uncertain as to the fate of the pencil case, and the fate of the mysterious P____ M_____, whose form and circumstance remain vague in my understanding.
Surely, if Watson were still an active and mobile young man of 35, he would have stumbled upon a postscript worthy of all that preceded, a final few chapters to explain the terrible curse of the M_____ family and their ancestry in another country, another time.
But Watson is no longer the man he was, and I confess the same regarding myself. 'Tis just me and my cat at Baker Street, waiting here, wondering what next will fall from the grasp of this world's singular criminals.