Free to a Good Holmes

Not for the first time, I was awakened early one morning by a resounding crash from our sitting room, followed by a scream.

Sighing, I put on my dressing gown and went downstairs. It sounded like my medical expertise was needed.

Holmes' deal table in the corner lay overturned, spattered with a thin purple liquid and surrounded by shattered slides and petrie dishes. Nearer the door—and my heart—a once-fine breakfast was strewn over the floor. Mrs. Hudson stood frozen amidst the debris, hands clapped to her temples in horror.

"What have you done to him?" she shrieked.

"I've done nothing to the little—kitten," Holmes retorted.

"Then why is he purple?" Mrs. Hudson demanded.

"Because he is gram-positive."

I picked my way over the fallen breakfast tray, spilled tea, and clumps of bacon and eggs. ""What's happened?"

Mrs. Hudson looked at me with tears in her eyes. "He's turned the kitten purple!"

The kitten sat huddled on the hearth, flicking drops of purple stuff off his paws. He seemed deeply offended, but unharmed. And he wasn't entirely purple, merely spotted.

"What have you done to him, Holmes?" I said.

"As I have been trying to explain, nothing! I was engaged in staining bacteria when the little wretch jumped onto the table and upset my delicate experiment."

"Bacteria?" Mrs. Hudson gasped. "Have you brought bacteria into this house?"

"On numerous occasions. One can hardly help it, after all. They live everywhere—on our clothes, on our teeth, in—"

"Please!" I interjected.

"Your kitten, Mrs. Hudson, has occupied this domicile for sixty-seven days, eighteen hours, and twenty-three minutes," Holmes said, consulting his pocket watch. "In that time, he has been responsible for five acts of accidental damage, and at least one of outright vandalism. He simply has to go. You found homes for the others. Please do likewise for him."

"Well, who'd want him now you've turned him purple?"

"If you will attempt to give him a bath, I will see what I can do about him." He thrust the kitten at Mrs. Hudson.

"Mr. Holmes, you are the worst tenant in London!" she exclaimed, slamming the door on the way out.

The freshly washed kitten, still partially purple, sat unhappily in a covered basket which I insisted on carrying.

"Holmes," I said, "we will take this animal to neither the laboratory nor the Thames."

"My dear fellow, why should we, when young ladies are so unaccountably fond of kittens and purple things?"

"To which young ladies are you referring?"

"Ah! The perfect thing!" Holmes pointed to the shop we were passing, dashed in, and dashed back out with a pink ribbon which he tied in a lopsided bow around the unfortunate kitten's neck. "What a pity they had no sequins."

"Sequins!" I exclaimed. "What on earth do you want sequins for?"

"To sprinkle on the kitten, of course, in order to make him more attractive to the young lady."

"What young lady?"

"If you will get into the cab which I have summoned while you were busy talking, we will proceed to her home."

"Holmes!" I raised my voice over the rattling cab and the kitten's indignant yowling. "If I were to inexplicably forget everything I know about you and ask if you are attempting to court a young lady by bringing her a stained, beribboned cat—"

"You would be gravely mistaken, Watson."

"That's what I thought. But what are you doing, then?"

"Ah." He pointed to one of a row of terraced houses. "I am going there, Watson, and so are you."

I gave the driver a shilling and requested him to wait. No matter who was in that house, they would most certainly desire us to leave with all haste.

"Holmes, for what reason do you believe your young lady will accept this truly unique gift?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson." Holmes sprang up the steps and rang the bell. "Her father owes me."

The door was opened, not by a young lady, but by a weary young constable. I didn't need Holmes' skill at deduction to perceive that the young man had drawn the night shift, and would have no patience for early-morning disturbances.

"Good heavens, I fear it's hereditary," Holmes muttered.

As this remark could mean nothing to anyone but him, I spoke up. "Good morning, sir. I am Dr. Watson, and this is my colleague, Mr. Holmes—"

"Come in, then." The constable turned and bellowed up the stairs, "He needs help again!"

Not understanding that remark, either, I stepped into the house. The delicious aroma of ham and eggs nearly made me faint with hunger.

The kitten meowed loudly, battering at the basket lid.

The young constable folded his arms, scowling suspiciously. "What have you got in there, sir?"

"A gift," Holmes said. Oddly enough, he seemed to have lost his nerve. "For your—for Miss— Is she at home?"

"I'll see." The constable went into the kitchen. When he reemerged, he was accompanied by a most handsome young lady, with shining black hair and dark eyes. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite work out where I had seen features like hers—although, aged approximately twenty, she was hardly to be any longer enchanted by kittens, bows, and purple.

Holmes gulped, finally managing to speak. "Miss Lestrade?"

I honestly did not know who to stare at, the lovely young lady, the detective who obviously had not expected this turn of events, or the constable, who was looking more annoyed with every passing second.

Holmes nudged me, pointing to the quivering, yowling basket. "Give her the—"

"Ah. Yes. This is for you, Miss Lestrade."

Miss Lestrade lifted the lid and drew the kitten out, exclaiming in horror, "What have you done to him?"

The constable glared at us. "Cruelty to animals is what that is! You ought to be arrested."

Somehow we got out of the house alive and relatively unscathed.

"Holmes," I said, once we were safely in the cab, "when Lestrade and his wife heard the shouting and came downstairs (and incidentally, I fear from their state of dress that we interrupted them in middle of something rather personal), they said you weren't meant to know where they lived."

"And I wouldn't have, if I hadn't plied Gregson with brandy, then asked him."

After a suitable silence, I said, "Holmes, why were you so overcome by the appearance of Miss Lestrade?"

"Because, Watson, my deductive powers were defeated. How was I to know that she was—?"

"A beautiful young woman?"

"Well, really, Watson, you've seen Lestrade. Is there any evidence whatsoever that he might have fathered an attractive-looking child?"

"Fair enough," I conceded. "But on what grounds did you assume that she was approximately five years of age?"

"Again, you must blame Lestrade."

"How is that his fault?" I asked.

"It's perfectly obvious. He is either cleverly concealing his true age, or he was a father before he was old enough to vote."

I shook my head at this twisted logic. "Holmes, you will never do anything like this again."

"No," he said. "I most certainly will not."

I sincerely hoped that he meant it.