The Solution of a Daring Robbery

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Solution of a Daring Robbery is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series Memoirs of Curlock Combs, written by Newton Newkirk, published on 10 august 1902 in The Boston Post, starring Curlock Combs as the detective and Dr. Spotson as his sidekick.

The Boston Post (10 august 1902, p. 26)

The Solution of a Daring Robbery

'The Great Detective and Dr. Spotson Bend Their Crafty Energies Toward the Solution of a Daring Robbery

One morning, as I was about to charge a patient $5 for looking at his tongue, someone rang my office doorbell violently. It so startled me that I charged the, patient $10, and, excusing myself, went forward to answer the summons. As I opened the door a messenger boy thrust a note into my hand, which I read eagerly, as follows:

Dear Spotson — Come to my home at once. A terrible calamity, about which there is an air of deep mystery, has befallen me.

I told the boy to return to Combs and tell him that I would be with him at once. Then I returned to my private office, only to find that my patient had escaped via a rear exit. I had hoped to prolong the examination until I could conscientiously charge him $15. He may have suspected this. At any rate, he was gone, and I was obliged to console myself with the fact that I got only $10 out of him.

I slipped a revolver into my pocket, also a set of false whiskers and a pair of handcuffs. I have learned in the past that when Combs sends for me in great haste it is well to prepared for emergencies. Taking a short cut through back alleys I soon found .myself at Combs's rear door. I knocked loudly, but no one opened or answered. I knocked again. but with the same result. Then I remembered that Combs had often told me that in the event of his not being at home I should walk right in. I did so, and, proceeding to his study, sat down to await his return.

After a few minutes had passed there came a knock at Combs's front door. I felt it my duty to answer it. so I left my seat and opened the Portal. Before me stood a sorry-looking species of humanity. He belonged to the genus known as "hobo." He had a stubby black beard, bleary eyes, and a bloom on his nose; he also wore a slouch hat and a few other ill-fitting tatters.

"Hullo!" he said, although I did not remember of ever having met him in society. "Is Combs, de ole sleuth, ter hum?" I told him that Mr. Combs, the great detectives. was absent, but that I expected him to arrive home very shortly. At this the hobo pushed past me into the house and, sitting down on a plush rocker, leaned back luxuriously and placed his feet on the centre table among Combs's valuable papers. Such impudence was more than I could bear, and I told him right to his face that if he did not remove his feet from the table at once I would tell Mr. Combs all as soon as he should return. When the hobo saw that I was losing my temper he pulled his whiskers out by handfuls, and, to Curlock Combs. the greatest living detective, sat smiling before me. The smile soon faded. however, and in its stead there crept over Combs's features lines of deepest sorrow.

"Spotson." began Combs, "are you prepared for the worst?"

I told him I would try to be brave and bear tip for his sake.

"Then, Spotson," went on Combs, "some thief has stolen my lawnmower!"

I turned ghastly white, and would have fallen had not Combs sprung to my tide and supported me. After he had led me to a chair, he sat down opposite me and proceeded to state the facts in the case.

"I mowed a portion of my lawn yesterday afternoon," he began. "In fact, I mowed until my spinal column began to creak as if it needed oil; then I thought best to stop. Instead of taking the lawnmower into the house and locking it in my private safe. as is my custom, I placed it in the woodshed, which is located in my hack yard. This morning when I opened the woodshed to get the mower, that I might finish giving my lawn a haircut, imagine my horror to discover that it was not to he found.

"I at once sent for you, and I perceive that you have brought your handcuffs, which is well, because anyone who would steal a lawnmower is a desperate character to deal with."

Before I could ask Combs how he knew I had a pair of handcuffs on my person, he said he recognized the string which I keep tied to the handcuff key sticking out of my pocket. Then Combs resumed the sickening details of the lawnmower robbery. He said it was plain to him that the lawnmower had either been stolen or kidnapped, or, perhaps, both. Combs suggested that we go out and examine the scene of the crime, which we did. He told me he had delayed a critical examination of the woodshed and surroundings until my arrival.

After we had entered the woodshed, Combs painstakingly examined the ground where the lawnmower had rested; also the boards against which the handle of it had leaned. I could gather from his features no indication that he had struck a clew; his face was as passive as that of a sphinx. Next he went outside and examined the ground about the woodshed door.

"Ah-ha!" he exclaimed, suddenly, dropping upon his knees. "Here is the trail the lawnmower made when it left the premises!" Sure enough, there was the corrugated track of the lawnmower wheels in the soft earth. Combs sped forward, bending over the trail, which led through a ride gate and out upon a brick pavement. Of course, where the bricks began all traces of the direction taken by the lawnmower were lost. There is nothing can track a lawnmower over a brick pavement except bloodhounds, and we didn't have any of those with us. Combs strode hack and forth along the pavement many times, scrutinizing every brick for signs of a clew, but his quest was fruitless.

The great detective then said we would make a reconnoitering trip around the block. He said he would go one direction and I the other, and that unless we met with some some mishap, we would meet again in a few minutes on the opposite side of the block. Before we parted we shook hands.

"Good-by, Spotson, old man," said Combs, trying hard to mater the emotion in his voice. "If death comes to either of us while we are separated, we will meet it bravely like true arms of the law, knowing full well that we have died doing our duty, which will he a great comfort to us afterward. Keep your eye peeled for the lawnmower."

With this parting inunction, Combs and I turned our backs to one another and walked rapidly in opposite directions.

"See anything of the lawnmower?" asked Combs, eagerly, as he greeted me on the opposite side of the block five minutes and ten seconds later. I told him I had not, and, turning about, he started sadly to walk toward his residence. I took my place in silence by his side. As Combs was about to enter his own gate he was interrupted by the voice of Mr. Nextdore, his nearest neighbor:

"Mr. Combs," called Mr. Nextdore, "I went over to your house this morning to borrow your lawnmower, but finding the lawnmower in the woodshed I decided not to bother asking you for it, so I brought it home with me. I am willing to lend it to you occasionally, when I am not using it myself."

Combs stood with his mouth open Mr. Nextdore went back into the house and closed the door behind him. Then Combs made a few remarks which have no place in this chronicle.