Chapter 1. A Very Strange Visitor (Now that’s rather unusual.)
It was a cold and foggy February 4, 1898, rather typical for that time of year actually, but most untypically, Sherlock Holmes was not quite his usual self that day. No, not at all. Not in the least. And I must confess that even after all of the unusual and quite incredible adventures we had shared up until the morning of that very strange visitor, I was rather beside myself as well.
Countless times I had witnessed Holmes solving a multitude of odd and unusual cases without the slightest bit of hesitation or difficulty. He had applied his uncanny senses of observation, logic and deduction to disprove vampires, phantoms, demon dogs, and more. He had written volumes of scholarly papers on the most arcane and esoteric of subjects. Yet on that particular day, there he sat in deep concentration, just staring. Now this was not at all his normal mode of deep concentration in which he sat in silence puffing away incessantly on his pipe until the room was filled with noxious fog, or playing his violin until one’s nerves cringed and one could not stand another shrieking, blood curdling note. No, this time he just sat there completely still as if in a trance and stared intently at the very strange visitor sitting in the chair across from him. Now, it is also very true that we had never before had a visitor or client quite like this, so I would imagine that Sherlock’s behavior is somewhat understandable.
He had been staring at him, or should I say “it”, since just after it appeared that morning in the study. We had come down for breakfast as usual only to find a cat sitting in the chair across from Sherlock’s. It was a rather large cat with big green eyes and a grayish coat that suggested bluish black stripes.
“Hello? What’s this? What are you doing here? How did you even get in here?” Sherlock wonderingly asked, never expecting a reply. But then the most unimaginable thing possible happened: The cat broke into a very wide grin and while gazing in the direction of the front door, replied, “Hello to yourself Sherlock Holmes. I am here to engage your services, and I came through that door”.
We stood there rather shocked for a moment before I addressed Holmes asking, “Did that cat just talk to us?” To which the cat turned and looked directly at Sherlock and replied while nodding
its head in my direction, “Not very observant this one, is he? Or is he just hard of hearing? Now I know why you’re the detective.” Sherlock broke into a wide grin himself and slapped me on the shoulder saying, “Good job Watson! After all these years, you have finally managed to pull one over on me. I really did not know you were into ventriloquism. How long have you been working at
it? You did an excellent job you know! Just smashing! And how on Earth did you manage to get the cat in here? I was up rather late, and I locked the door myself last night. There were no cats here in the study when I went to sleep.”
The grinning cat then jumped off the chair saying, “My dear Mr. Holmes, this has nothing at all to do with ventriloquism. Your friend Watson could not throw his voice even if he had a catapult.” At which point its grin grew impossibly wider, and it laughed: “Get it? A ‘catapult’?? I’m a cat??? Never mind. I know you are not noted for having a sense of humor. As I was saying, I came ‘through’ that door.”
At that point, the cat casually walked towards and then completely through the solid wooden door vanishing right before our eyes. How in the world could it do that? Were we seeing things? I was about to ask Sherlock if he had seen the same thing I did, when there was a considerable amount of loud scratching on the other side of the door and we were able to hear a cat mewing outside of the door as well. However, before we could react, the cat’s wide smile and piercing eyes appeared on the inner surface of the wooden door winking at us. This was immediately followed by the rest
of its head (minus the body mind you!) reappearing on our side of the door, saying, “See? Like I told you, I came ‘through’ that door. I can do that, you know. We Cheshire Cats are noted for such things. “Seeing our shock, he added, “Really we are. I could do it again if you don’t believe me.”
It then continued coming ‘through’ the door, completed reforming the rest of its body, slowly crossed the room, taking particular care to rub itself several times against Sherlock’s pants leg, leaving a good quantity of cat hair as it did, jumped back up on the chair, sat down and stared at us. Sherlock brushed the cat hair off of his leg, very carefully examining it with the hand microscope he had removed from his pocket. Although one might not expect it, Sherlock Holmes is quite the expert on cat hair. He had once written a monograph on the subject. I think it was titled: ‘Determining Human Disposition to Violent Behavior Based on the Nature and Quantity of Cat Hair on Clothing’, or something like that. Sherlock then crossed the room, slowly seated himself into his chair right across from it and commenced staring at the cat.
This had begun at about 7:00 am, and the clock was now already near 9:00 am. Nothing had been said; neither one had moved. They sat quietly staring at each other the whole time. Just out of curiosity, to answer a question that came to mind while I was waiting and observing, I had gotten up, opened the door, looked at the outside of it, verified the brand new scratch marks on the outer surface, closed the door, and sat down again. Now that I think about it, I recall Sherlock writing a paper on identifying scratch marks as well. I think it was called: ‘Identification and Classification of Mammalian Species Based on Scratch Marks on Wooden Doors.’
At one point, I had considered throwing a blanket over the cat to remove it from our sight, but just at the time that I was considering that, it turned and looked at me with its impossible grin as if to say, “Watson, you know that would not accomplish a thing. I would simply dematerialize and let the blanket pass right through me, re-materialize, and be sitting right here still waiting for Sherlock Holmes to say something.”
But Holmes did not say a thing. He continued sitting there staring at the cat. I could almost see the gears and cogs of his analytical thinking process as he considered, reconsidered, analyzed, and then eliminated one explanation after another for our very strange visitor. I am sure each possibility was more bizarre than the previous. Yet in his mind logic must prevail. There is always a simple explanation if one can get one past the confusing distractions. As Sherlock had admonished me so many times previously, “After eliminating the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be true.”
Finally, close to 10:00 am, with a long deep sigh, he shook his head, stood up, went over to the breakfast table, poured a saucer of milk, apparently for the cat, poured for me and himself two cups of tea, brought them back into the study, and set them down. He looked at the cat intensely and said. “All right. Against all rational logic, probabilities and likelihoods and as completely strange as it may seem, you really are here. Have a bowl of milk. Now tell me, how can I possibly be of any help to you? I am sure you are not here to read my paper on ‘Malfunctions, Breakdowns and
Misdirection in the Feline Homing Instinct’.”
This is the first chapter of Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Grinning Cat. Bookmark Steampunk Journal to keep up to date with the latest news, reviews, articles and previews.
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