Elémentaire – by Ian A.

It had been some months since Inspector G__ had paid us a visit at our rooms in Fauborg St. Germain and I was becoming increasingly worried about my friend, C. Auguste Dupin. His fame had increased in Paris upon being responsible for solving a number of high profile murders and other cases and I knew this sat uncomfortably on his shoulders. These events meant that Dupin had not set foot outside our door for the last two months. He was a man who required stimulation. His most remarkable feature was his mental character. I would forever marvel at his ability to solve enigma and conundrum but, alas, I feared for his health. During the previous months Dupin had rarely moved from his chair and ate very little. Everything I tried had but no affect.

It was a dark, gusty autumnal evening when I managed to persuade Dupin to partake of the luxury of some inward meditation and a meerschuam. As we sat in silence I watched him, eyes hidden from me by the green glasses of his spectacles. After about an hour I observed a faint movement in Dupin’s head. His chin began to move to his chest as if falling asleep. Before I could move to rescue his pipe and avoid him harm Dupin spoke.

‘Move not dear man. I am not asleep.’

‘How did you know? I had not made the slightest motion.’

‘You should know me well enough by now. I read the signs.’

‘Pray, what signs did I give on this occasion?’

‘You trifle with me. I can see your game. I’m not ready to play.’

‘Not ready?’

‘Yes, you heard me. Not ready.’

I knew Dupin wanted to outline every intricacy of my movement and thoughts that led him to know, even before I did, that I was going to move. I decided that I would not give him the satisfaction and that if he wished me to go along with him he would have to break his state of moody reverie. Dupin often said that he had a window into the bosoms of others and I wished that he would act on the window that was open in my chest. I longed to see again the frigid, abstract manner that he wore, witness the vacant expression in his eyes and hear his voice rise to a treble as he excitably explained his reasoning in solving a case.

Before I could utter a word about my thoughts Dupin said, ‘Say nothing. It is here.’

‘What is?’

‘The very thing I’ve been waiting for.’

At that, there was a knock at the door and Dupin rose from his chair, stiffly moved across the room and opened the heavy door a narrow crack. Through the opening a letter was passed to Dupin and he immediately shut the door. Upon taking his chair Dupin relit his pipe and spent a good twenty minutes sitting, staring over his spectacles at a spot on the wall. Only then did he open the missive he had been given.

‘Excellent. I must pack a bag,’ said Dupin.

‘For where?’ I enquired.

‘I must embark for England.’

‘England? What did the letter say?’

‘It is from my client, he has located the protagonist of this story, or at least his aide in this foul deed.’

‘But who is your client? How? You’ve not left these rooms for the last months. How did you receive a client?’

‘Never you mind. You will have time to fathom it out whilst I’m on my travels.’

‘You don’t need me to come with you then?’

‘No. This is a job for me alone. Never fear. I will return, my prey will do me no harm. I must merely locate the despicable felon.’

The next day C. Auguste Dupin left for England. After a difficult passage across La Manche Dupin took a tug up the Thames and disembarked at Southwark where he took a room at a cheap hotel, despite his fame his circumstances were still lowly. The next day Dupin set about finding the address he had been sent and checking its circumstances. After two days Dupin booked out of the hotel and walked through the busy streets, his trusty sword stick clutched firmly in his hand, until he reached the thoroughfare he was after.

In order to keep abreast of what was happening in the street Dupin walked on the opposite side of the road to that of the address he sought. The house was at the upper end of the street so Dupin found he had a long enough walk to survey all that occurred. Just below the address he crossed the street, his cane musically dancing across the cobbles. Dupin extinguished his cigarette as he made the bottom of the seventeen steps that led to the front door of the house and began to climb. As he made the door he reached for the large knocker suspended just below the address’ number. Before he took aim with the hefty piece of metal he made sure to check he was at the right place, the number – 221b.

***

The last few mouthfuls of my breakfast were disturbed by the rustling of paper and shouts of ‘Where is it? Where did you put it?’

With my mouth still full of bacon I replied,’I haven’t put it anywhere. If you took more care of these rooms they wouldn’t be such a mess and you could find what you are looking for. Now tell me, what have you lost?’

‘My tobacco. My tobacco, what have you done with it?’

‘Have you tried down the side of your chair’s cushion?’

Without a further word my friend threw the bundles of paper he had lifted back into the corner of the room and plunged his long, thin arm into his chair.

‘Eureka! Well done Watson!’ he shouted as he pulled a Persian slipper from the depths of the chair.

I shook my head as Holmes pulled some tobacco from the toe of the slipper and stuffed it in his pipe as he moved towards the fire.  Although it was autumn the day was mild so Mrs Hudson had only laid a small fire. Holmes stood at the mantle piece and lit his pipe, continuing to stand with his elbow on the wooden surround nestling against the jack knife that secured his unanswered correspondence.

Holmes stood that way for the next hour, smoking. I took the opportunity to read the morning paper and take some tea. However, after another half an hour it got too much for me.

‘Holmes. You know I like a pipe as much as the next man but the poisonous atmosphere you’ve created in here is just too much. Pray let me open a window.’

Holmes did not respond.

‘For God’s sake man, I’m going to open a window.’

The breath of autumnal breeze that fought its way into the room was an elixir. Holmes tapped the bowl of his pipe out into the fire and flopped into his arm chair, his long limbs sticking in all directions. I continued to read the paper as the atmosphere of the room cleared. Holmes said not a word and just starred across the room.

I finished the paper and folded it before placing it upon a pile of Holmes’ documents. As I turned towards my friend he leaped from his chair and shouted, ‘He’s here!’

‘Who? I didn’t hear anybody knock?’

At this there was a sharp rap on the front door below. I heard muffled voices and, eventually, a knock on the door of our room.

‘Let him in Mrs Hudson, let him in,’ Holmes shouted.

The door opened and a somewhat dishevelled man, small in stature, carrying what appeared to be a sword stick entered the room ahead of Mrs Hudson.

‘This gentleman asked to see you Mr Holmes. I think he is a foreign gentleman,’ Mrs Hudson offered.

‘Yes Mrs Hudson. Yes.’ As Mrs Hudson was in the act of presenting the visitor’s calling card Holmes said, ‘M. Dupin I presume?’

‘That is correct monsieur. Le Chevalier Auguste Dupin.”

Holmes passed me the calling card without reading it, so I took it upon myself to show our visitor some courtesy. The card was bent at two of the corners and very plain. Upon it was printed, in   stark, thin letters:

C. Auguste Dupin

33, Rue Doinôt

Fauborg St. Germain

Paris

Whilst I looked at the card neither of the other men in the room said a word. The only activity was that of Mrs Hudson leaving and shutting the door after her. In order to avoid any embarrassment I said, ‘So Holmes, how did you know that our visitor was arriving before he even knocked on the door?’

‘My dear Watson, it was simple. I knew that our guest was coming to England as he had deliberately left a trail at Calais for me to pick up. Upon his arrival in London I had one of the Irregulars follow him. They came to see me before you rose this morning and told me that this gentleman had booked out of his hotel. I made a calculation as to how long it would take him to reach Baker Street so knew within a set of times when he would arrive. I took to my chair during the period I expected our guest and as you had helpfully opened the window I heard his sword stick on the cobbles. The way it had been made, in the French style, sent out a certain, unmistakeable tone on the road so I knew he was nearly here. What sealed it for me was the smell of his tobacco as he passed under the window not without I would suggest,’ at this point Holmes broke into a whimsical grin, ‘the faintest hint of garlic.’

At this Dupin shouted, ‘Stop. I’ve heard enough. Where is he?’

‘Who?’ said Holmes.

‘Your man, the one my client seeks.’

‘Who is this Dupin?’ I asked, ‘Why has he come here and started shouting at us Holmes?’

‘Watson! You have not heard of the somewhat over rated French detective C. Auguste Dupin?’

At this Dupin took a step forward and I rose from my chair.

‘No I haven’t Holmes. Tell me more.’

‘M. Dupin gained notoriety for helping the Parisian police solve a number of crimes. Most notably the demise of Madame L’Espanage and her wretched daughter, the murder of the poor cigar girl Marie Roget and the case of a minister’s missing letter. All trifling efforts I would suggest.’

‘Oh, you’re so superior. I’ve read about your alleged escapades in one of those tawdry periodicals. My client, M. Poe asserts that your Mr. Doyle is nothing but a plagiarist. He argues that you are two stooges and Mr Doyle has taken M. Poe’s ideas and falsely made money from them.’

‘That would be the drunk, drug taking, poverty stricken failed poet and author called M. Poe,’ said Holmes.

‘That’s fine coming from you, with your client, a man of science who cannot see beyond spiritualists and fairies for the shams they are. Perhaps, that’s where he got his ideas from, to steal another’s work and pass it off as his own. There’s nothing worse in this world than a plagiarist, monsieur.’

I watched as the two great detectives continued to argue the case for each of their clients, each trying to out wit the other with swathes of intricate analysis and rhetoric. As I sat and listened the only reasoning I could come to was that both of their logical conclusions were indeed, elementary.

 

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