Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Lost Puppy
Based off the story 'Die Like a Dog' by Rex Stout
Additional material by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Chapter One: Doctor Watson's Novel Idea
It was a rainy day when the hansom deposited me before our address on Baker Street, but my thoughts were not on the weather. This was early in our career, before I met my beloved Mary. I was returning after meeting my young friend Doyle who said he knew someone who would publish my novel. Getting one's first book published presents something of a paradox. Publishers prefer established authors, so breaking into the field is difficult for an unknown. I had agreed to go halves with Doyle and even let him have the byline if he could accomplish the miracle of getting my novel published, and to his credit he promised me he would spare no effort at getting it done.
As I strolled into the front door of our Baker Street address and placed my hat and raincoat on the coatrack that doubled as a hat stand I noticed a Mackintosh in the same color and style as my own near Sherlock Holmes' Inverness cape. As I wondered who our visitor was I was rewarded by encountering said individual as he descended the stairs in a state of irritation, if not barely concealed fury.
He said not a word but I believe that I heard an animal grunt as he pulled a Mackintosh off the coatrack and brushed past me. I stared after him, hoping that he hadn't done my friend any harm. I then ascended the stairs to find Sherlock Holmes lighting his pipe with an ambiguous combination of satisfaction and disappointment.
"Who was that?" I asked him in barely hidden astonishment.
"That my dear fellow was Richard Meagan," Holmes purred in the satisfied drawl he affects when he has truly infuriated someone. "It seems that Mister Meagan has mislaid his wife and placed high hopes that I was willing to find her."
"Did you take the case?" I asked him.
"No," he said darkly.
"Holmes!" I ejaculated in exasperation. "Have you lost your mind? You know how badly we need the money! That man was a potential client!"
"That man had murder in his eye before I refused him Watson," he drawled as he sucked on his pipe. "I think that it might be best for Mrs. Meagan if Sherlock Holmes didn't get involved in the case, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes," I sighed in defeat. Holmes had described me once as having a chivalrous nature and had correctly deduced that I would agree with him despite the hardship it would bring us. "I just thought it would put meat on the table. Our purses are getting mighty light you know."
"Trouble at the races, old boy?" he asked coyly.
"No," I blushed at the insinuation.
"Really?" he asked with skepticism. "Your little jaunt to Kempton Park yesterday did little to raise your spirits, and when you returned home all you could talk about was various methods of supplementing our income. Are you sure you didn't bet more than we can afford old fellow?"
"No." My cheeks were burning now.
"That's good," he purred. "I just thought we might be having trouble with our finances, that's all."
"Interesting that you should mention it," I said firmly.
"Yes, interesting," he agreed as he looked away with a dreamy expression on his face.
"Speaking of supplementing our income, I think I might have found a way to earn some money," I continued in the same impatient tone.
"Have you old boy?" he murmured without the slightest sign of interest.
"Aren't you going to ask me how my meeting with Doyle went?" I asked as I tried to hide my irritation.
"Yes. You must."
"If I must," he sniffed disdainfully. He reached into his desk and opened a tin of tobacco and muttered something when some spilled on the rug. "What a waste of a fine shag. I really must find a better place to store this, Watson."
"Holmes, are you listening?" I asked impatiently. I knew what was happening of course, but was determined to bull through anyway.
When I first met Sherlock Holmes, he admitted that he could get down in the dumps for days on end and advised me not to take it personally. I myself admitted that I could have a temper; the words I used were 'I keep a bull-pup.' That turn of phrase will become important later.
It was obvious that Holmes was starting to fall into one of his moods and that was no doubt a factor in his decision to turn down Mister Richard Meagan's case. Chasing after an absent wife was beneath him when he was like this, as indeed saying 'please' and 'thank you' were now beneath him. He had told me often that his mind rebelled at stagnation, and he was no doubt baiting me to start an argument. Well if it would keep him away from the morphine and cocaine, who was I to refuse him? As both his friend and doctor it was my duty to give him the most stimulating argument I could muster. For Mister Sherlock Holmes, boredom could be as dangerous as excitement.
"I'm riveted to my seat old boy," he assured me. "Pray continue."
"It's my book Holmes!" I continued as I summoned some childish glee. "Doyle thinks he's found an editor that will actually read my book!"
"Has he?" Holmes sniffed in disinterest.
"Yes," I nodded, determined not to let him crush my enthusiasm. "He's found an editor from the Ward Lock Company who's willing to take a look at it! Isn't that wonderful? By this time next year it could be in Beeton's Christmas Annual!"
"A magazine?" Holmes snorted disdainfully. "It won't even be in hardback? Dear me, more's the pity."
"You don't understand Holmes," I continued. "The important thing is to get something published! Once I actually have something in print finding a publisher will be easy. The hardest part is getting your foot in the door."
"Well done Watson," Holmes surrendered as gracefully as he could. "Capital. Alpha plus. What is your book about again?"
"What is my book about?" I gasped in exasperation. "My book is about you."
"What about me?" he asked with feigned ignorance.
"It's about our first case together," I exclaimed. "Our Study in Scarlet! Remember? The poisoner. The Jefferson Hope case!"
"Oh yes," he nodded. "That American chap who murdered those two Mormon fellows. That's right."
"Yes," I nodded. "Remember? I was so incensed about the way Lestrade and Gregson got the recognition for the case you solved that I swore that one day the public would know the truth. Who knows? Perhaps sometime next year that day will come."
"Is this your book, A Tangled Skein?" Holmes asked dryly.
"Doyle suggested we change the title to A Study in Scarlet," I replied as I sat down in my chair. "He felt that a more lurid title would increase sales."
"You realize that you're perverting what should have been a scientific treatise of the practical application of observation and analysis into a sensationalist and romantic fairy tale," he scolded. "Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid."
"But the romance was there," I remonstrated. "I could not tamper with the facts."
"Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them," he insisted. "The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unraveling it."
I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been specially designed to please him. I confess, too, that I was irritated by the egotism which seemed to demand that every line of my manuscript should be devoted to his own special doings. More than once during the years that I had lived with him in Baker Street I had observed that a small vanity underlay my companion's quiet and didactic manner. I bit back an impertinent reply and vainly continued to plead my case.
"But surely Holmes, if the actual facts of the case are a tad sensational, it will only increase sales," I protested. "A few extra coins in our pockets can't hurt us."
"You'll get pennies for it after you split it with young Doyle, I fear," he muttered.
"But think of the publicity," I continued. "It would be like having the publishers pay us for the privilege of advertising for you. I took great pains in my second chapter to let the world know that you're the world's only private consulting detective and that Scotland Yard comes to you to solve its most difficult cases! We don't have to buy that kind of publicity; they could be willing to pay us some money to give it to us!"
"Very well," Holmes sighed. "Just don't get too disappointed when the editors refuse to even look at your manuscript. They get hundreds, if not thousands of submissions a year you know and it's likely that they won't even give you a chance. It's a good thing you finally mastered the typewriter by the way. I suspect the failure to sell your first draft was due to the fact that no one but a pharmacist can read a doctor's writing."
"Holmes," I scratched my head warily. "Do you have some objection to my selling an account of one your cases?"
"Not in the slightest my dear Watson," Holmes shrugged. "It's not like anyone in this fickle nation will actually read it. In any case you were careful to change your description of my physical appearance weren't you? I go through a fortune in greasepaint as it is old boy."
"Of course Holmes," I assured him. "Your literary counterpart will be combination of Doctor Joseph Bell and our dentist."
"Doctor Brett?" Holmes asked.
"Yes, the one you said had a nice large skull for brain room," I nodded. "Jeremy Brett would make an excellent Sherlock Holmes."
"What about that Irish fellow you hired to be our solicitor, Downey?" Holmes suggested. "His features are rather distinctive I should think."
"Oh no," I shook my head. "Too Jewish. He would make a terrible Sherlock Holmes. Besides, I can't imagine the solid and dependable Bob Downy as a cocaine abuser."
"I don't abuse cocaine," Holmes sniffed indignantly. "I just use it to get me out of the doldrums once and a while."
"You abuse it Holmes," I insisted. "For the life of me I can't imagine why you for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed! Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to another but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent answerable!"
"I've upset you," he said gently.
"No you haven't," I denied.
"You're upset," he observed.
"No I'm not," I shook my head.
"It's that woman isn't it?" he guessed. "The one who left you for a barrister? Went for the larger checkbook did she?"
"Leave Carol out of this." I admit I became agitated at this point.
"I must confess that I am in some way responsible for your financial straits, my dear fellow," Holmes murmured. "If I didn't invite you along on my cases you would have more time to devote to your own practice and more money to lose at the racetrack."
"I do not lose money at the racetrack!" I protested.
"At cards then?" he guessed. "Dice? No matter. Because you accompany me while I earn my livelihood you have been denied the chance to prosper at yours. It's only fair that I sacrifice my privacy to allow you a chance to recoup your losses."
"Very big you," I muttered sarcastically. I heaved a great sigh and rose to my feet.
"Where are you going?" Holmes asked with a trace of concern.
"Out!" I fumed. I had warned Holmes that I kept a bull-pup when we first met. I confess that thanks to my temper we would soon keep one literally.
"You just came in," he said.
"I think I'll take a walk around the block if you don't mind," I snorted. "As it is, I could do with a bit of fresh air!"
I marched down the stairs and retrieved my hat and raincoat. I donned my hat, but the Mackintosh didn't really fit me. After examining the offending garment, I climbed the stairs again.
"Back so soon?" Holmes asked with a trace of surprise. "My, doesn't time fly?"
"Holmes your client…"
"He's not my client."
"He was never my client," Holmes corrected.
I snapped my fingers in frustration. "That man, Meagan. Whatever his name is! When he left here he took my raincoat! Where does the fellow live?"
"He left his card here," Holmes nodded to a calling card that was nearly invisible atop a pile of letters. "According to his address he lives only a few blocks away."
"Good," I said as I went back to the door. "I need a walk anyway."
"If you're going for a stroll, don't forget your umbrella," Holmes muttered as I made my way out.
I declined a reply because a proper gentleman doesn't make rude suggestions about where an umbrella should be placed. I marched out of our home like a man on a mission, but little did I realize it was a mission that wouldn't be accomplished anytime soon.