The Mystery of the Missing Shirt

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The "Mystery" of the Missing Shirt is an American Sherlock Holmes parody written by A. E. Swoyer first published in The Sunday Oregonian on 18 august 1912.

Characters are Herlock Shomes (Sherlock Holmes), Fatson (Dr. Watson), Mr. Dalrymple (the client) and Desperate Desmond (Moriarty-like).


The "Mystery" of the Missing Shirt

The Sunday Oregonian (18 august 1912, section 6, p. 3)

By A. E. Swoyer

(With abject apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Herlock Shomes, the great detective, sat, pipe in mouth, idly strumming a banjo. Times were dull in the sleuthing business, and our hero had not the price of his regular shot of hop; no mysterious murders nor clueless robberies sought his mighty brain for a solution. The truth must be told — the peerless Shomes was on his uppers!

"Great days, these, Fatson!" he said, carefully emptying the ashes from his pipe into a bit of paper, and dexterously rolling it into a cigarette. "Great days! No work for me; no annals for you to chronicle (at so much per chronic) for posterity! It seems as if the pleasures of a neat murder no longer appeal to the strong-arm man; we are becoming a race of mollycoddles!" A tear for a moment dimmed the eagle eye of Shomes, trickled gently down his classic nose and lost itself in the stubble of his two weeks' beard.

"Education has done it," replied his friend. "The real brainy criminal has learned that it is easier and more genteel to start a bank than to break into one; while the monetary results are the same. But, cheer up, Shomes, nothing can keep a good man down but a tombstone or a cash register!"

"You are right, Fatson! And even now I feel that in exactly five minutes, by yonder clock, a client, the victim of a dark and awful crime, will come—"

A ponderous knocking at the door interrupted him. Rising hastily he set the clock ahead five minutes. "Thus is the power of deduction vindicated! Right to the minute! Fatson, open the door. It is our client! (Or, perhaps, the landlord for last January's rent," he muttered, aside. "'Tis well I was not seen!")

Before the faithful Fatson could reach the door, it opened, and a tall man, with a huge and shaggy beard, entered and sank heavily into a chair; the latter, not built for heavy sinking, collapsed. The strange visitor continued until stopped by the floor.

"Aha!" said Shomes. "I see that you are the victim of a slight accident! You wonder how I know? These things are easy to the trained mind! Fatson, you remember the interesting little problem of the Emerald Frankfurter, in which this power enabled me to trace a clew the dull wits of the police had not even seen?"

The stranger, who, framed amid the wreckage of the broken chair, had been listening, open mouthed, now rose. "Mr. Shomes," said he, "you are the man I need! Something mysterious and dreadful threatens me! I am a marked man! Last evening" — the trembling tones of this strong man made even the callous Fatson shiver — "last evening, as an evidence of this power, the very shirt was stolen from my back. You, alone, can save me!"

"This is, indeed, a mystery, a case after my own heart. I can see in it the hand of that master criminal, Desperate Desmond, who has thwarted me for years! Our lives are all in danger! But come, tell me the details."

"They are few enough. In the first place, my name is Dalrymple. I run a doughnut foundry, and am fairly well to do. Last evening I dressed carefully to go to the club; I remember my undershirt particularly, it was of the knitted kind I always wear, but new. I spent an hour at the club, and on retiring found the shirt was gone! My outer shirt, vest and coat were intact."

"H'm!" said Shomes. "You must have been robbed of this—er—undergarment then, either in your home, at the club or between the two places!"

"Marvelous" ejaculated Fatson.

Shomes, with the remarkable agility he always showed when on a clew, whipped out a pocket rule and measured the distance between Dalrymple's eyes. Swiftly he entered the results in a large ledger. "'Tis, indeed, Desmond's work!" he muttered. "We must be quick! Mr. Dalrymple, may I have a sample of your whiskers? It is important! Thanks." Snipping off a generous portion of the guest's lace curtains, he turned his back, stufed them into his pipe and began smoking vigorously. Again turning to his guest, he shot the question, "Have you dined? No? Good Then we will accompany you — you must not be alone!"

Dashing to the table, he seized a celluloid paper cutter and placed it in his pocket. "This is a desperate case — we must go armed!" he gritted, with a sinister scowl. "Fatson, call a taxi. And, he hissed, in a tone so low that Dalrymple could not catch the words, "don't get that gink on the corner, you lunkhead! Remember, we hung him up last week!"

Quickly disguising himself by turning up his coat collar, the great detective led Fatson and Dalrymple to the door.

In three-quarters of an hour the speeding taxi landed the party at a famous restaurant two blocks away. "Fatson and I will enter first, Mr. Dalrymple," muttered Shomes. "We must not be seen together!"

"Why did you leave him, Shomes?" asked Fatson, timidly, as they hurried into the restaurant.

"Fatson! Fatson! You will never be a great detective. Don't you know that the last man out pays the taxi? You would do well to read my monograph upon the subject."

The meal passed in silence save for the voice of Dalrymple ordering fresh supplies. Like all great men, Shomes sometimes went for days without a meal, particularly when broke; then he ate ravenously. So it was on this occasion. Fatson, being an opportunist, did likewise. Dalrymple watched them with ever increasing respect. "I am glad the other fellow got my shirt!" he muttered, as he paid the check.

At the scenes of the crime, as Shomes called them until he could determine which was the scene, the famous sleuth was at his best. Magnifying glass in hand, he poked and measured everywhere, entering notes lit the big ledger which Fatson carried. From time to time he put choice bits of evidence, such as a bottle of Wilson's, a few cigars and about a quire of the club paper into his pockets; clews like these could not escape the eagle eye of Shomes.

Finally he rose. "Mr. Dalrymple," he said, proudly, "I know the criminal! No further attempt will be made upon your life tonight! Go home, and tomorrow night I will have news for you! Fatson and I will now retire."

The next day was a busy one for both Fatson and Shomes. The former went about his medical labors in the veterinary department of the S.P.C.A.; the noted sleuth elected to experiment in his laboratory, as cool and collected as if Dalrymple were not compelled by a fiendish crime to wear his extra shirt. He refused to satisfy Fatson's curiosity by any statement other than "Tonight we shall know all!"

The day passed slowly for Fatson. Twice his boss called him down for an abstraction which caused him to inject strychnine into the veins of horses used by members of the Society, instead of those of less fortunate equines placed in his hands for a painless quietus. Annoyed by these trifles, Fatson returned, to find Shomes deep in one of those profound chemical researches which would have made him famous in the world of science had he cared to follow such a life. In the present instance he was trying to make a rye highball out of wood alcohol and lithia water.

"How's the case?" asked Fatson, cheerfully.

"We haven't had a case for a month you rummy!" retorted Shomes. "The last one we had you finished up when I wasn't around. Got soused on two bottles, too! Thank you for reminding me of this."

"I meant the case of the stolen shirt," replied Fatson, hurriedly.

"Oh — that! The crime was committed by a tall, dark, red-headed man, with a scar on his left cheek — a tool of Desmond's! I have decoyed him here to-night. He thinks to find money and jewels; instead, he will find me!" No one but Shomes could have been so deadly menacing.

The telephone jangled. Shomes tore down the receiver.

"That you, Shomes? This is Dalrymple. Remember that shirt business? Well, we were scared for nothing. It seems that at the club, Smith (he's a trifle near-sighted) thought he saw a raveling on my coat. It happened to be a thread of my shirt, and when he kept on pulling-well, you know what happens when you pull a thread of one of those knitted things. I guess we can call the mystery unraveled."

"Just what I was about to inform you, Mr. Dalrymple. Herlock Shomes cannot be deceived!"

Hanging up the receiver, the greatest of all detectives turned to meet the admiring gaze of Fatson.

(Copyright by Shortstory Pub. Co.)