A tale of mystery and suspense from the casebook of Doctor Maroon
Not long past, on just an afternoon as this, having dined too well at Simpsons, and with a horror of my club, (and indeed all the mountebanks of the St James’ set), or because an east wind had brought with it, a salt tang up the River, rather than return to my desk, I stepped smartly into that endless current of humanity that runs through our great city, with the intention of seeing whither the tide would take me.
I had been an hour adrift in the Metropolis in this way, when I came to rest like flotsam, outside the door of my old friend Mr Gorilla Bananas, the celebrated investigator.
Looking back, after all the subsequent events, I often wonder what part a malign Fate played, in bringing me that day, to 221 Baker Street. Was there even then, a premonition, a hesitation on my part, as I pulled the bell next to his nameplate?
The agreeable scene into which I stepped, the routine domesticity of two bachelors sharing comfortable rooms, dispelled such notions, however vague.
I found him loafing by a cheerful fire in his overstuffed wingbacked chair, his hands behind his head, reading pages from The Illustrated London News, which he turned with his feet. He had dressed as usual, in his red smoking hat with the hanging tassel and a dressing gown of the finest silk, now fallen open in a most unflattering manner.
Mrs Hudson was clearing the table of a late repast while Ayres sat at his little bureau, bent over some complicated apparatus.
“I do wish you’d cover yourself Bananas, especially when Mrs Hudson’s present.” said Ayres as she closed the door.
Taking seat, I asked after my friend’s young ward in Africa.
“How is the boy then? When did you hear from him last?”
Looking at the lithograph of Tarzan on the mantle, as if to remind himself, he replied:
“He’s very well thank you. He writes when he can, but he’s so busy these days, what with the elephants’ graveyard, diamond mines, lost cities. It’s a lot of responsibility, I‘m very proud, we all are. He doesn’t have the time. And there’s Jane and the chimps now, as well…”
Bananas trailed off, his rolling bass tinged with a disappointment, however slight.
“Blast this thing!”
“Still not working Ayres?”
“No, and if it doesn’t soon, it shall feel my boot!”
Ayres and I had been up together, both Trinity men, but had drifted since.
He with his bits of wires and electric fluids, me to study for the Civil Service Examination. There was also a trivial matter of a missed luncheon appointment. He’d accepted at the time, that the King of Spain should take precedence over lunch, yet it lay between us still.
I wandered over to lend assistance.
“Can I help?”
He looked at me with the look that the expert reserves for the layman.
“Look Maroon this is very sensitive equipment, I doubt if you’ve even seen one before.”
“Yes I have, The Office has one. Tickertape. All the news from the Empire.”
“Not like this one. This is the latest. Bluetooth!”
“Perhaps“, I continued “if you were to throw this switch, wait a few moments, then…”
“You don’t understand Maroon, data might be lost it‘s not as simple as that…”
“Will we try it anyway?”
Without waiting for his answer, I broke the circuit, counted to three and reapplied the voltage.
In an instant, his coloured lamps lit up, a brass bell rang and the paper tape started issuing from a slot designed solely for that purpose.
“That was pure luck Maroon, you could just as easily have ruined everything.” he said petulantly.
He’d won a half blue for cooking and a black belt in teriyaki if I remembered right.
Tearing it from the machine, Ayres passed the tape to Bananas saying:
“It’s the confirmation from Barbudo we’ve been waiting for, G.B.”
Intrigued, I had to ask,
“May I see?”
In silent thought now, the great Ape passed me the message, no bigger than an omnibus ticket. The tape read simply:
“I say Bananas, that’s a bit thick!” I exclaimed
“No, you misunderstand Maroon. It’s thruppence a word so we have to abbreviate! ‘Texting’ it’s called. The full message actually reads;”
“See You Next Tuesday…EL Barbudo.”
“Why, according to the date on this then, that means the day after tomorrow!” I expostulated.
“Yes indeed” said the Ape, concern flitting across his countenance, “you’ll stay and take tea with us Maroon?”
“I’m sure Maroon has many things to do, Bananas” suggested Ayres hopefully.
“No,” I replied, “apart from a minor Afghan uprising, and some trouble in Persia, I’m quite free thanks.”
“That settles it then. Ayres, ring for Mrs Hudson!”
“Look I‘m busy with this Bananas! Besides, you’re nearest to it.”
With a sly wink in my direction, the remarkable detective reached out with a foot and gave the bell-pull a tug.