Act two (part one)
In which Mr Ayres and Mr Bananas hold that office party…
Christmas in my household had come and gone in a dreadful blur, to me at least. I had contracted an appalling malady of the head, no doubt from some foreigner. On that subject, my good lady wife had invited Stanislav “The Pole” to dine with us on Christmas day in an act of English charity; he being so far from the bosom of his own kind. However, I was by then, unfortunately abed, suffering the most abysmal brain fever and delirium; had it not been for Perkin’s Gentlemen’s Energizer, well, I shouldn’t like to wonder, so it fell to Mrs Maroon to keep the young lad entertained. I felt most guilty at this abrogation of my duties as host, but judging by the whoops of mirth that reached me from the parlour, she managed to pull it off.
By the 31st ult., the date fixed for the great beano and last day of 1888, I felt well enough to cross the threshold and re-enter the society of my good friends in Baker Street. Mrs Maroon was indisposed with a headache so had decided to forgo the party and rather stay home and play cards. To this end she had sent for Stanislav to bring a special herbal remedy of his, and for her close friend Tabbie Litmus to attend, in order to make a threesome.
By the time I arrived at Baker Street, the soiree had begun and I was immediately cheered by its gaiety. All the guests were in costume, greatly adding to my excitement and interest. All that is, except the Great Detective himself, who had rather shockingly disrobed and was cavorting round the room naked, making jungle noises and stealing food from plates like a common baboon. It shamed me to see my friend like this and I cursed Ayres for his lack of fraternal vigilance. As I stood dumbfounded, that most remarkable intellect was now hopping from foot to foot in an obscene parody, picking fruit from the headgear of one of the lady guests. I’d seen enough. ‘In vino veritas’ I swore, and took a step forward to intervene, whereupon I was halted by a familiar hand on my shoulder:
“Maroon! How are you, old fellow: enjoying yourself?”
“Blistering barnacles! G.B. it’s you!”
Sure enough, there was the greatest of detectives before me, and fully clad in the manner of the most splendid pirate, complete with mynah bird on his shoulder dressed as a parrot.
“I cannot say how pleased I am, Bananas,” I all but cried in my joy, “to see you here,-dressed like this.”
“As a pirate?”
“Yes indeed, as a pirate!”
“And what of you, Maroon?”
“I haven’t changed yet.”
“No, I meant…oh never mind. Here, have a drink.”
“I say Bananas, who’s the chap making a damn fool of himself? Is he family? They always let you down don’t they? Relatives! They come up for the hols, you give them room and board and first chance they get, they get drunk and they sick up over the vicar. Damn bad show. Is he a nephew? They’re the worst. What has he done with his clothes, the oaf?”
In answer, the Finest Brain of the Age put down his glass carefully and reached out a long arm, arresting the progress of his intoxicated kin by grasping the pelt on his excited juvenile head.
“Nowyerforrit!” squawked the mynah bird, staying in character.
“Look out G.B.!” I remonstrated “I’m sure the young fellow means no harm.”
But the marvellous ape ignored my entreaties and with his great strength, heaved at that hairy cranium, at which point the whole head parted from the dancing body beneath with a ‘gloop’…
…I came round to see Ayres smirking over me with a bottle of smelling salts in his hand. Beside him stood the whey faced butler, Mr Eater, dressed from the neck down, in a suit of fur, calculated to represent, in a ridiculous, hateful, approximation, the appearance of a gorilla. An infant would have been insulted by such a poor disguise.
“I might have known,” I spluttered. “only you Eater, would be so utterly tasteless, so louche, as to attempt such perfidy. And you can stop wafting that bottle under my nose Ayres; what is it anyway?
“It’s my own compound. I call it ‘amyl nitrate’.”