The Case of the American Millionaire!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Case of the American Millionaire! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 22 january 1916 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Case of the American Millionaire!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
The name of Ephraim Z. Squawk, the millionaire Beef King of Chicago, was, of course, well known to us. The enormous number of tins he exported yearly, and the mystery surrounding their contents, had made him an interesting figure. I could not help regarding him with some curiosity as he was shown into our sitting-room at Shaker Street.
Herlock Sholmes had been about to make one of his accustomed inroads upon the cask of cocaine. He rose, however, and yawned in the polished and courteous manner so characteristic of him.
The millionaire, who in features somewhat resembled a hatchet, was pale and agitated.
"Mr. Sholmes," he said, "I guess I want your help. I calculate if you work the riffle, you can count out your own spondulics. A gripful of greenbacks more or less cuts no ice with me. I guess I am up against it, and it's a regular cinch for that hoodlum who is after me!"
Sholmes, who speaks American like a native, nodded. As on so many occasions, his gifts as a linguist stood him in good stead.
"Pray give me a few details, Mr. Squawk," he remarked. "You may speak quite freely before my friend Dr. Jotson."
The millionaire sat down and glared at the fender, and then under the table, and then into the fire, and told his story.
"I guess I wasn't always what I am now, Mr. Sholmes. Jest now, the name of Ephraim Z. Squawk is known throughout the world as the biggest exporter, sir, in all Chicawgo. Squawk's American beef is known wherever the American language is spoken. But at one time, sir, I was simply manager of a canning works in Chicawgo. It was then that it happened."
"What happened, Mr. Squawk?"
"The unfortunate death of Mike Mulligan, sir. He was a man at the canning works. I guess I hardly knew him by name. P'r'aps you know, Mr. Sholmes, suthing of the working of an American beef factory. The machines, sir, go on night and day. The steers are driven in one gate, and at another they come out in the form of Squawk's potted beef. Stopping the machinery means the loss of a heap of dollars, and a foreman who stopped for a minute, sir, would be fired before he could say 'No sugar in mine!' It sometimes happens, unfortunately, that a man falls into the machines and gets mixed up with the beef. Of course, it's unfortunate. But sich things, sir, can't be helped in a hustling town like Chicawgo. It doesn't happen often — not mor'n once in a week, I guess. Such a man, sir, disappears from human knowledge. When he comes out of the machinery, he comes out along with the beef, and is exported in tins to all parts of the world. One bit of him may go to England, another bit to Russia, another bit to South America — it depends on the tins he's potted in."
Herlock Sholmes nodded.
"Well, sir," resumed the millionaire, "men have disappeared that way and nothing has happened, till it happened about Mike Mulligan. He got tipsy and pitched in, and vanished from the airth. His brother, sir, came to see me to have the machines stopped. Stopped, you know — a loss of p'r'aps five hundred dollars! It couldn't be did! Besides, by the time we'd got 'em stopped, Mike Mulligan would have been turned into canned beef, and it would have been a sheer waste of time. But, for some reason, Paddy Mulligan was wild, and he left the works swearing revenge."
The millionaire mopped his perspiring brow.
"Waal, Sir, now I come to the pint. This man, Paddy Mulligan, took it to heart. He wrote threatening letters, making the most unreasonable demands. He wanted the body of his brother Mike for burial, sir. Now, I put it to you, Mr. Sholmes, as a reasonable man, what could I do? If I had opened all the tins in the factory, what was left of Mike wouldn't have been recognisable. Besides, he was already exported. At that time we were working at pressure on contracts for London, and, while Paddy Mulligan was bothering me, his brother had already been distributed in fragments all over the Yewnited Kingdom. His own relations in Ireland, sir, may have received him, in parts, without knowing it."
"Certainly it would have been a very difficult task to collect him," Sholmes remarked.
"The only way to satisfy Paddy Mulligan, sir, would have been to hand him the whole week's output of the factory—beef and Mike and all — and let him bury it," said Mr. Squawk, "and you can bet your bottom dollar, sir, that I wasn't doing that. Besides, as I've said, Mike had already been exported. Since that date, Mr. Sholmes, Squawk's potted beef has achieved a worldwide reputation. Its peculiar flavor, sir, has recommended it far and wide, especially in the South Sea Islands. But, while I have piled up mountains of dollars, sir, I've been haunted by that guy's threats of revenge. Paddy Mulligan is still demanding his brother's body for burial, and threatening revenge if he doesn't get it. I confess, sir, that I came to this benighted island chiefly to get away from Paddy Mulligan. But he has followed me here, and I live in terror, sir, night and day, of having my brains knocked out with his shillelagh."
The millionaire paused, in great agitation.
"It's a regular cinch for him," he explained. "I guess I can't always dodge him. Mr. Sholmes, I want you to nail the hoodlum."
Herlock Sholmes looked thoughtful.
"You want this man captured?"
"Put where he can't do any harm!" said Mr. Squawk.
"But so far he has only written threatening letters," said Herlock Sholmes thoughtfully. "For that, he could only be given a term of imprisonment. When he came out, he would be as dangerous as ever."
"More dangerous, perhaps," I ventured to remark.
Mr. Squawk gave a groan.
"I reckon that's so," he said. "I guess I'm up against it. I want him nailed and kept safe somehow. Mr. Sholmes, give me your advice for making that man safe, and name your own figure."
"I am entirely at your service, Mr. Squawk. Fortunately, I am able to suggest a plan which would be thoroughly efficacious, if you carry out my instructions to the minutest detail."
"Go ahead, sir."
"So far, this man has threatened your death, and for that he could be imprisoned, but he would be subsequently released, when he would doubtless carry out his threat at once. The best thing you can do, Mr. Squawk, is to encounter him personally——"
"He will then, doubtless, knock out your brains with his shillelagh as you have remarked."
"And for that," explained Herlock Sholmes, "he can be hanged. He will then be safe from doing further harm."
I could not help giving my amazing friend a glance of admiration at this simple and the same time subtle suggestion. The millionaire, however, did not appear to be satisfied. Such a method of disposing of a dangerous character appeared to be admirable in its simplicity, and certainly would have been thought of by no one but Herlock Sholmes.
"Excellent!" I could not help exclaiming.
"Jerusalem crickets!" exclaimed Mr. Squawk. "I guess that cuts no ice with me, Mr. Sholmes. I calculate I'm not taking any."
Sholmes stiffened perceptibly.
"If you decline to follow my directions, Mr. Squawk, I can only decline to take up the case." he said. "I always insist upon my clients placing themselves unreservedly in my hands."
Mr. Squawk rose, and, after making several uncalled-for remarks of a personal character, quitted the room, closing the door behind him with a bang.
Herlock Sholmes elevated his eyebrows.
"A very peculiar client, Jotson," he remarked. "I can do nothing in this case, but I fear that he will have reason to repent of his obstinacy. By the way, Jotson, you might mention to Mrs. Spudson that under no circumstances whatever is she to make any use of American canned beef in our cuisine. It would be distinctly unpleasant to be served with any portion of the unfortunate Mike Mulligan which may still be in existence."
I have not recorded this interesting case as one of the triumphs of Herlock Sholmes, but rather as an example of the disastrous results which followed in the rare instances where his professional advice was disregarded by a client. Such instances were very rare, and in every case Sholmes was justified by the results.
We did not see Mr. Squawk again. I hoped that, for his own sake, he would return and place himself in the hands of my amazing friend for guidance.
But he was a man of obstinate character, extremely self-willed and pertinacious. We heard later that he gone to the police for protection, and naturally, we were not surprised to hear that the result was what might have been foreseen. The shillelagh of the revengeful Paddy Mulligan claimed his victim, and the man then disappeared without leaving a trace behind him — as completely as if he had fallen into the machines in the canning works at Chicago.