The case of the missing doughnut

Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr John Watson return to solve one of the crimes of the century.

The case of the missing doughnut.

Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr John Watson return to solve one of the crimes of the century.

There was a tentative knock at the door of 221B Baker Street.

“Let her in, Watson”


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“Good heavens, Holmes - how can you tell it's a woman?”

“There was a rustle as she ascended the stairway. Indicative, My dear Watson, of a medium-priced silk taffeta generally available in most haberdasheries.”

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“Your knowledge of women's attire never ceases to amaze me, Holmes.”

“Research, Watson. You may have noticed I walk with a slight impediment at times…

“Good grief. And I thought that was your old trouble flaring up - from the nasty injury you sustained at the Reichenbach Falls.”

“An understandable error, my dear friend. In fact it was the thin ribbon of a pair of women's directoire knickers cutting into my thigh, causing some obstruction in the circulation. Please ask her in. She will be impatient to acquire my services.”

“Of course, old friend, of course.”

Dr Watson opened the door and there, as the world's greatest detective had predicted, was a woman.

“Good morning, Madam”

“Miss”

“But you are wearing a wedding ring…”

“I choose to use my maiden name, Dr Watson. I'm sure Mr Holmes could have told you that… if he hadn't chosen this particular moment to play a scherzo on his violin. May I enter?”

“Do,” said the flustered doctor, ushering her into the room.

Reaching his crescendo, Holmes gently replaced his instrument in its case and turned to the stranger.

“You are, unless I am much mistaken, Miss Lynne Mortimer and you arrived on the express train at Liverpool Street from East Anglia, making your way here by Hansom cab. And you have something missing - I am right, am I not?”

“Of course you are - I telephoned ahead and told you that.”

“Ah yes, the telephony device. But it was a bad line and I may have misheard. Now, this strange crime - when did you first notice things were disappearing?”

“The first thing was the saucepan, five years ago. My husband and I…”

“And his name?”

“I am sorry, Mr Holmes. I cannot reveal his identity for reasons of national security.”

“I understand, dear lady. Some names cannot be bandied about in the way so often deemed fashionable by some parts of the press.”

“…We returned home from a few days break at a seaside spa to find our best saucepan was missing. The children had been alone in the house but, when we questioned them, they claimed to have no knowledge of its whereabouts.”

The great man looked pensive. “And what did you conclude from that, Miss Mortimer?”

“That they had badly burnt the baked beans and thrown the saucepan away.”

“Did you consider any other possibilities? For example - that a burglar had entered the house and made off with it?”

“In which case, Mr Holmes the burglar must have needed only a saucepan because he or she ignored the computer, the television and the silver candlesticks.”

“Ah, so we are looking for an individual with a particular shortage of kitchen utensils. Go on.”

“Then, last week, we went out to the local nursery gardens to purchase plants for a new herbaceous border and, upon our return, my husband's longed-for jam doughnut was gone and the bar of soap was missing from the bathroom.”

“Was anyone in the house when you left for the nursery?”

“Yes, my son, his girlfriend and one of their fellow actors.”

“Were they present when you returned?”

“No, they had departed for Bexhill where they were to perform a Shakespeare play.”

“Bexhill, eh? What do you make of it, Watson?”

“Not far from Eastbourne, Bexhill-on-Sea is renowned for its health giving air, Holmes.”

“I meant what do you make of the missing doughnut and soap?”

“Yes, of course. What exactly is a doughnut?

“It is…” Holmes announced grandly, “Er, tell him, Miss Mortimer.”

“It is a fried cake that emerged from north America in the 1850s, I believe.”

“Well done; quite right. Now, my theory is that the same burglar who crept into your house in 2004 returned to add to his swag. Now he has a saucepan and a bar of soap. I think we may safely deduce he ate the doughnut.”

“Er, Holmes…”

“Don't stop me while I'm on a roll, Watson.”

“But, Holmes…

“Dammit, man. Now I've completely lost my thread.” Sherlock Holmes snatched up his Stradivarius and plucked at his G string.

“I just wanted to say that the fact the young people were in the house when Miss Mortimer and her husband, the spy, left and were gone by the time the couple returned is surely of importance?

“It is. If they had not left, the burglar would not have intruded.”

“What I mean, Holmes, is, perhaps the young people ate the doughnut and took the soap.”

Miss Mortimer quickly interposed: “It is a thought that also occurred to me, Mr Holmes. The children were gone overnight and I believe the hostelries known as Travel Lodges do not provide complimentary soap or doughnuts.”

“Did you not inquire whether they had taken these items?”

“I did but…”

“Do you have any reason to think they would not be honest?”

“Well no but… well, it's only a doughnut and a bar of soap…”

“And there you have it, Miss Mortimer. Why are you wasting the time of the world's greatest detective when all you have to do is go to the grocer and spend a few pence on a new bar of soap and a doughnut for your husband.”

Dr Watson grinned broadly, revelling anew in the genius of his friend. He opened the door. “Goodbye, Miss Mortimer.”

As she reached the doorway she turned: “I suppose I must thank you for your time, Mr Holmes. Oh, and by the way have you heard of the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town?”

“No…”

“You will Mr Holmes; you will,” she said archly and swept out.”

Watson closed the door. “I don't think we'll be seeing her again, Holmes,” and the elderly doctor froze in horror as a terrible noise reverberated in the stairwell.”

“What was that ghastly sound?” asked the white-faced medic.

“That,” said Holmes gravely, “means that Miss Mortimer's train was delayed.”

“What are you saying, Holmes?”

“I am saying that the woman who lately left this room was not my expected client. It was, Watson, it was…

“Not… not…”

“Yes. We have been the victims of the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town. Summon Inspector Knacker of the Yard immediately.”

“Surely you mean Lestrade.”

“Don't kill the laugh lines, Watson.”

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