The Adventure of the Brixton Builder!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Adventure of the Brixton Builder! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 15 january 1916 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Adventure of the Brixton Builder!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
Herlock Sholmes took the cask from the corner, and the hypodermic syringe from the coal-box. With his long white fingers he adjusted the needle, and turned back his trouser-leg. For some little time his eyes rested dreamily upon the pink sock, all scored and spotted with innumerable darns. Finally, he pressed the sharp point into the fatted calf, and sank back into the armchair with a loud snort of satisfaction.
Many times I had witnessed this operation, but never had I found the courage to protest. But now I could contain myself no longer.
"What is it?" I asked. "Morphine or cocaine?"
He raised his eyes dreamily from the front page of Chuckles.
"Cocaine," he replied. "A seven-hundred-per-cent solution. Would care to try a gallon or so, my dear Jotson?"
"Sholmes," I said earnestly, "count the cost."
He shook his head.
"My dear Jotson, my chemist makes a reduction upon large quantities. He supplies my weekly cask at reasonable rates."
"I referred to the cost to your health, Sholmes. The continual use of cocaine may result in rendering permanent the state of mental idiocy which is now only intermittent."
"Perhaps you are right, my dear Jotson," he said thoughtfully. "But my powerful brain rebels at stagnation. Crime, my dear fellow, is on the down-grade. Since the death of Professor Hickorychicory — pronounced Hickychicky — really interesting crimes have been disgustingly rare. Give me a case which calls forth my transcendent abilities, and I am happy. Otherwise——" He made a gesture towards the cask of cocaine.
At this moment the door was flung violently open, and a young man rushed into the room.
"Mr. Sholmes," he exclaimed, "shave me — excuse my agitation — I mean save me. I am the unhappy Hector McWhusky."
"Indeed!" drawled Sholmes. "I do not think I have the honour of your acquaintance, Mr. McWhusky."
"You have not heard my name?"
"Then you have not seen the morning papers. Mr. Sholmes, even now the police are on my track. They believe me guilty of the murder of the Brixton builder."
"Calm yourself, Mr. McWhusky," said Sholmes. "If the police believe you guilty, the great probability is that you are innocent. Their methods are not mine."
"Bless you for those words, Mr. Sholmes. But Inspector Pinkeye is even now at the door. I saw him following me on the next motor-bus. Listen to my story."
"Take a swig at the cocaine, my dear fellow, and proceed."
"Look at the head-lines in the paper, Mr. Sholmes. 'Disappearance of a Brixton Builder! 'Murder and Incendiarism!"Arrest of the Criminal Hourly Expected!' Last night, Mr. Sholmes, I stayed at the house of Mr. Lathan Plasster, the Brixton builder. This man has always been the bitter enemy of our family. Judge of my astonishment, therefore, when he asked me to visit him, and showed me a will he had made in my favour, leaving a row of houses in Gerrybilt Street. I stayed with him till after midnight, and when I left, I left him alive and well. But you will see in the paper——"
Herlock Sholmes glanced at the report. It stated briefly that Mr. Lathan Plasster, the well-known Brixton builder, had been murdered the previous night, and his body disposed of in a burning wood-pile in the backyard. His boots, partly burned, had been found, as well as several waistcoat-buttons, amid the charred embers. There were bloodstains in the house, proving beyond doubt that several pints had been shed.
"I left him alive and well," repeated Hector McWhusky. "But the police——"
There were heavy footsteps on the stairs. Inspector Pinkeye, of Scotland Yard, entered the room. "Mr. Hector McWhusky," said Pinkeye, "I arrest you——"
"Save me, Mr. Sholmes."
The inspector smiled.
"A clear case this time, Mr. Sholmes — what!"
"Perhaps so," said my companion enigmatically. "Mr. McWhusky, rely upon me. I will do what I can for you."
"Ha, more theories?" said Inspector Pinkeye. "I think my facts will weigh more with a jury than your theories, friend Sholmes. But we shall see."
And Inspector Pinkeye led his unhappy prisoner from the room.
Sholmes was silent for several minutes, during which I regarded him curiously. I confess that to my mind there appeared little doubt of the young man's guilt.
Sholmes rose at last and stretched his long neck.
"Would you care for a morning in the beautiful and salubrious suburb of Brixton, Jotson?" he asked.
"Certainly, my dear fellow." "But your patients, Jotson——"
"The last of my patients died while we were busy upon the case of the Pawned Pickle-Jar," I replied. "I am quite at your service."
An hour later we were in Brixton. Mr. Plasster's house was in the possession of the police. Inspector Pinkeye was there, and he welcomed us with an ironical smile. It was evident that the worthy inspector was assured that he had found the right man, and that he was elated to think that Scotland Yard had succeeded, for once, without the assistance of Herlock Sholmes.
"You would like a look round, Mr. Sholmes," he said affably. "Pray go ahead. If you discover any clues I have missed, you are welcome to them. There is not the slightest doubt that young McWhusky murdered the old man, and cremated him in the wood-pile to cover up his tracks. His stick has been found, covered with blood."
"He left it behind specially to assist you in your case, doubtless!" said Herlock Sholmes, with a touch of sarcasm.
"He left it behind, at all events," said Inspector Pinkeye, nettled. "There is no room for wild theories here, Sholmes."
My friend did not reply, but he proceeded to a close examination of the building. While he was so engaged night fell, but Herlock Sholmes did not tire. The inspector watched him at work, with the same ironical smile. He was evidently enjoying his anticipated triumph over my amazing friend.
Suddenly the sound of a loud snore was heard, proceeding from a direction that could not be ascertained.
Herlock Sholmes smiled.
"What is that, Pinkeye?" he asked. "A snore, I presume," said the inspector testily. "What importance do you attach to that common everyday sound, Sholmes?"
"That is what we shall see."
"It is probably the housekeeper snoring," said the inspector, with a stare. "Really, Sholmes, this approaches absurdity."
Sholmes smiled again his inscrutable smile. The sound of the snore was almost continuous. Inspector Pinkeye returned to the lower room with a gesture of impatience.
"Come, my dear Jotson!" said Sholmes, at last.
We descended the stairs.
Inspector Pinkeye greeted us with a mocking grim.
"You are finished, Sholmes?" he asked.
"You have come to the conclusion that there is nothing doing?"
"Not at all. I advise you, my dear Pinkeye, to effect the release of young McWhusky at the earliest possible moment."
"Sholmes" — I could see that the worthy inspector was a little staggered by my friend's confident manner — "what do you mean? Who is the man who murdered Mr. Plasster, if not the young man who was with him last night, and who benefits under his will?"
"No man at all, Pinkeye."
"A woman?" exclaimed the inspector.
I regarded my friend in amazement. The inspector stared at him blankly.
"Who, then?" shouted Pinkeye.
Herlock Sholmes' reply astounded us.
"Sholmes! If this is a joke——"
"I never joke, my dear Pinkeye. There is one thing, and one thing only, that I need to conclude my case."
"And what is that?"
"A — a — pick-axe?"
I could see that the inspector believed that my amazing friend had taken leave of his senses. The same fear came into my own mind. But Herlock Sholmes, with the same inscrutable smile upon his face, took a pick-axe, and proceeded up the stairs. We followed him. Our amazement intensified when Sholmes raised the implement, and crashed it upon the wall of the upper passage.
There was a spattering of lath and plaster. A door, cunningly concealed, burst open.
The sound of snoring suddenly ceased, and a man with a scarred face sprang into view.
"Good-evening, Mr. Lathan Plasster?" said Sholmes calmly. "Pinkeye, there is a prisoner for you, to replace the one I have been compelled to deprive you of."
"Alive!" yelled the inspector.
"Mr. Lathan Plasster, alive and well!" smiled Sholmes. "You will arrest him upon a charge of conspiracy, with intent to cause serious bodily injury. That would certainly have resulted, Pinkeye, if you had succeeded in hanging our friend McWhusky."
The handcuffs clinked upon the wrists of the Brixton builder. Leaving the astounded Pinkeye with his prisoner, we returned to our cab.
"Sholmes! I am on tenterhooks——"
Herlock Sholmes smiled as he stretched himself in the old armchair, in our rooms at Shaker Street.
"Nothing could be simpler, my dear Jotson," he drawled. "It was a cunning scheme. The Brixton builder's object was, of course, revenge. He was the old and bitter enemy of the McWhuskys, as young McWhusky told us. He had, in former days, been the suitor of McWhusky's aunt, and she had accepted him — hence his hatred of the family. The will, the bloodstains, the buttons in the burnt wood-pile, were all in the game — yet I confess that even I might have been deceived but for the fact that the plotter betrayed himself."
"How, Sholmes? I am quite in the dark!"
"The snore, Jotson."
"The snore?" I exclaimed.
"Undoubtedly. He had built himself a secret recess, wherein to lie hidden while the police hanged McWhusky for his supposed murder. During the day he lay there silent and safe. But at night, Jotson, he slept—and he snored!"
"Then it was not the housekeeper who snored!"
"That, Jotson, was the most obvious theory, which was, accordingly, seized upon by Inspector Pinkeye, in the well-known Scotland Yard manner. I ascertained that, at that precise moment, the housekeeper was in the kitchen, frying bloaters. Evidently it was not the housekeeper who snored. Then, who was it? The conclusion was inevitable."
"To you, Sholmes," I said; "but to no other. It was fortunate, indeed, that young McWhusky came to you."
"Fortunate for him, and fortunate for me, my dear Jotson," said Herlock Sholmes. "This amazing case has supplied me with the stimulus I needed — and the cask of cocaine will now last me over the week-end."