In the city of Los Angeles, there’s no private detective quite like Jack Watson. A tough-as-nails gumshoe, he’s made a reputation as the kind of sleuth who will take any case, no matter how sleazy or small. He’s in the middle of a particularly nasty divorce investigation when his client’s mistress sees fit to club Watson on the back of the head with an iron. When he comes to, he’s in the hospital looking at Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes is translucent and floating slightly above the floor—a figment of Watson’s imagination that has come to transform a mediocre detective into a great one. Hired by the notorious Hollywood producer Osgood Kane, Watson is about to stumble onto a truly baffling case, the sort only Holmes can solve. They’re thousands of miles from Baker Street, and a lifetime away from the Victorian era, but when Watson’s brawn teams up with Holmes’s brain, the game is afoot once again.
Written by legendary Holmes expert Barry Day, whose Sherlock Holmes: In His Own Words and in the Words of Those Who Knew Him is the quintessential biography of the great sleuth, this is an adventure that even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle couldn’t have dreamed up. Witty, exciting, and irresistibly fun, Two for One bridges the gap between the modern mystery and history’s greatest private eye.
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Two for One
A Sherlock Holmes/Jack Watson Novel
By Barry Day
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 2014 Barry Day
All rights reserved.
Perhaps I should begin by telling you how I came to meet Sherlock Holmes.
I'd been involved in one of those boring bread-and-butter cases that usually end up as bread-and-margarine and low fat margarine at that. You don't expect much to start out with and that's exactly what you end up with. Stale, flat and most definitely unprofitable, as the Bard says.
Oh, there was one bonus. As I was pointing out to this errant husband the desirability of returning to the domestic hearth and home — his forsaken spouse being my client of record — the lady who was the current object of his affections decided to strike while the iron was hot and used that very item to register her personal displeasure.
As all the best private eye novels have it — a bottomless black pool opened at my feet and I dived in.
When I finally surfaced, I was lying propped up in a hospital bed, bandaged like the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb and Sherlock Holmes was sitting in a chair at the corner of the room.
Well, he was and he wasn't.
I could see him but when I looked directly at him, I could also see through him. It was as though he had decided to materialize and hadn't quite finished the job. There was the Inverness cape and the close-fitting cap so familiar from the stories. There was the aquiline profile and the hooked meerschaum pipe. Then I remembered reading that Conan Doyle had never had Holmes smoke a meerschaum. At which point it morphed into a well-used briar, which didn't appear to surprise Holmes half as much as it did me, for he puffed on it contentedly.
Clearly, I was hallucinating and I shook my head to clear it. Which was a distinct mistake, as the contents of an average-sized junk shop rattled round inside it. When most of it had settled and I ventured to open my eyes again, Holmes was still there.
Now he was studying me intently and I gained the distinct impression I wasn't the only one in the room who wondered what the hell was going on — even though, strictly speaking, I was the only one in the room, if you see what I mean.
Then, even though his lips didn't move, Sherlock Holmes spoke inside my head.
"Well, Watson, this is a fine old kettle of fish. But apart from that rather rakish bandage you are sporting for some reason, I declare you look the same blithe boy as ever you did. If anything you look younger than I remember — though I must say, I miss the moustache."
As he spoke, the strangest sensation came over me.
For, you see, my name is Watson. Jack Watson. Licensed Private Investigator in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles. Forty years old, currently a bachelor of this parish and marginally solvent on a good day. Now that I've started, I might as well get the boring biographical bit out of the way. Born in Cleveland. Well, everybody's got to be born somewhere and it could have been New Jersey. Quite bright at school and might easily have amounted to something if I hadn't cottoned on to the fact that flunking was more fun than competing. Even so, I finished up at UCLA. Minored in English Lit. Majored in movies, my lifelong passion. Well, I was in the right town for it. And that's quite enough about me for now.
So, there I am, Jack Watson, minding my own business — and having it minded for me by a lady with a steam iron.
And now, for some reason I couldn't begin to fathom, a fictional character seems to think — through a coincidence of name — that I was his Watson.
So how do you resolve a situation that doesn't really exist to begin with?
Hey, you're a private eye, Watson. Go figure.
"Come, old fellow, it's not like you to lie abed when the game's afoot. Stir your stumps!"
And with that Holmes drifted out of the chair he had been approximately occupying and began to hover near the door. For no good reason other than reflex action I found myself struggling into my street clothes and then navigating the hospital corridors towards the reception area.
After a brief exchange of opinions with the nurse on duty about the medical advisability of my releasing myself from their care and a rather more prolonged debate — in which she showed far more interest — about the validity of my credit card, I found myself in the parking lot and unlocking a Corvette (c.1967) the Smithsonian would kill for and I can barely pay for.
We were soon hiccupping our way — an imperturbable Holmes in the passenger seat — towards my apartment, a few unfashionable blocks behind Hollywood and Vine. I slid a tape of vintage rock 'n roll into the deck. I find it cancels out the vintage knock of the muffler. I'm definitely getting that muffler fixed when I get a case that pays its bills in anything but Confederate dollars.
Holmes seemed to quite like it. I noticed those long, thin fingers tapping out the rhythm on the dashboard.
A few minutes later we were pulling into the car port that serves as my garage.
I live in the upstairs half of a weathered clapboard that you could call retro, except that it's been this way all along. Some people might say the paint-work is peeling. I prefer to call it multi-textured. As for the strip of garden that holds the encroaching concrete at bay — well, I can honestly say that I've been into organic long before it was fashionable. Some of those weeds have been with me man and boy.
I tip-toed past the front door of the ground floor apartment but my fairylike tread failed once again and, turtle-like, my neighbor's head popped out.
Mr. Gryppe must be ninety, if he's a day, and I swear he never sleeps. Whatever hour of the night or day my benighted profession unloads me on that little wooden hill, Mr. Gryppe is there to give me a local news update. Insomnia was probably a prerequisite of his old occupation of undertaker. You can't afford to sleep in case you miss the latest customer for The Big Sleep. In idle moments I have imagined his advertising. "Our caskets undercut the competition. Gryppe Never Gyps!" But then, I have that pointless kind of imagination.
Today's bulletin was terse and to the point.
"He's been at it again. I told him." Then the head snapped back and the door was closed.
Holmes raised an eloquent eyebrow and drifted up the stairs. I clumped up after him, the point of my thoughtful tip-toeing having once again been lost.
I turned the key in the lock, edged the door open and, wraithlike, sidled in. Also in vain.
Mike leapt at me and gave me a big wet kiss.
Another world of explanation needed here, I think.
Mike is my dog. He's a cross between a Jack Russell and a Jackof-all-Breeds. The first time I met him he was licking his privates. "Why do dogs do that?" I asked him. "Because they can, I suppose?" I answered myself after he'd paused to give it a moment's thought, then returned to his more imperative activity.
He was sitting on the landing outside my apartment door when I opened it one morning. His mission accomplished, he trotted in, established himself on the settee and has never left, except to accompany me wherever I go. There's a regular battle to see if I can close the front door before he can get out of it and it's another one I rarely win. On the rare occasions that I do, Mike will proceed to be "at it" until I return, thus earning Mr. Gryppe's commentary.
While I was disentangling myself, Holmes sat down in my favorite chair and stretched out his long arms and legs towards an imaginary fire. A moment later Mike was curled up at his feet and I had the distinct impression that each was perfectly aware of the other and just as much at home. Dogs! Now I had two uninvited lodgers.
I got myself a cold beer from the refrigerator and pointedly didn't offer one to either of the others. Since the only other chair was temporarily vacant, I lowered myself gratefully onto it and there we were, the three of us, staring at each other. So now what?
It was Holmes who broke the silence.
"A far cry from Baker Street, eh, old fellow? No peasoupers, no hansoms, no Mrs. Hudson, not even our old friend Lestrade. And even I appear to be in some way a figment of your somewhat fevered imagination. All we have to rely on — as ever — are our own resources and, of course, Mike here, the Hound of the Baskervilles ..."
And at that I would swear Mike grinned. He certainly tried to rub himself against Holmes's legs and seemed surprised when they offered no resistance and he fell over.
"Nonetheless," he continued, "this new set of digs offers certain points of interest. Not to mention your funereal neighbor downstairs ..."
"And what can you tell me about him, Holmes?" I found myself saying, as if by long habit.
"Other than that he was the proprietor of a funeral parlor for many years, once affected a wig, which he has ceased to wear, is hopelessly myopic but too vain to wear his spectacles for even the most casual social encounter and requires the services of a reputable dentist, I can tell you nothing. Oh, and he has a macaw of which he is inordinately fond."
Seeing my predictable astonishment, he elucidated.
"At first glance I thought he might be an actor. The complexion is that of a man who is used to wearing make-up and the wig ... But the facial lines suggest a single assumed expression, that of a Uriah Heep-like servility. And who would need to be permanently welcoming but someone who was accustomed to welcoming people professionally without necessarily knowing them? The myopia? Observe the deep indentations on either side of the nose and the unfocused look. Even in his anger he failed to see you clearly.
"As for the dentistry ... the human frame shrinks with age and dentures, which were clearly a considerable financial investment when he was a younger man, no longer fit his mouth properly, causing him to constantly push them back into place with his tongue ..."
"But the macaw?" I interrupted. "I have never heard so much as a peep out of it?"
"That is because he keeps a cloth over the cage when he hears you about. I was able to catch a glimpse of a shrouded object over his shoulder as we passed. When his sole intention is to complain about your shortcomings, he has no intention of providing you with grounds for counter-complaint. Hence the silence of the bird. What put the matter beyond doubt was the feather adhering to the side of his head. He likes to perch the creature on his shoulder. And, of course, the residue on his collar, which I had initially thought to be dandruff ..."
"Yes, Holmes," I said, "I get the picture."
"Your vocabulary seems to have deteriorated in my absence, my dear chap, if you don't mind my saying so. 'Get the picture', for instance. And some of the argot you exchanged with the young lady at the hospital would not have passed your lips in the old days. Ah, well — autres temps, autres moeurs, I presume. Was it not our old friend, Oscar Wilde who said that America hadn't been discovered — merely
"And now, shouldn't we be addressing ourselves to your new latest case?"
"Chance would be a fine thing," I muttered, draining my beer and wondering if I should forage for another. "I haven't had a sniff of a decent case for weeks. I'm thinking of entering my office for the World Dustball Championship."
Holmes appeared to be looking into the far distance as he said — "I think you'll find, Watson, that a client is en route for that very spot even as we speak. If you wish to remove those dustballs before he arrives, I recommend we take ourselves there post haste. Something else to do with a bird — or I miss my guess."
Minutes later the three of us were bowling along in the nearest approximation to a hansom cab I could muster (courtesy of General Motors).CHAPTER 2
The sky had that slightly smudged purple look, like the skin under the eyes of a woman who's been crying too long. The funny thing is, I'd never given Mother Nature a second thought until I became a private eye but these days, wherever I went, laconic imagery seemed to seep out of me. Too much Marlowe, I guess — Philip not Kit.
I tried it on Holmes for size but he and Mike just looked at each other, so I let it lie. Wordsworth might have done better with his observations on daffodils but I doubt it.
Fifteen minutes later we were parking outside my office building. I say 'my' but in reality it was an 'our' since I shared it with a mixed bag of other denizens.
There was Sharkey, the aptly-named bond bail man.
There was Goble, Gable and Gunst, a firm of cut price lawyers who looked as if, should business be slack, they would probably sue one another.
Down the corridor from me was the Colossal Casting Agency, a name presumably derived from the ladies of varying ages but uniformly impressive body mass who stomped their spike-heeled beat to and from the erratic elevator and never seemed to surface in any movie I ever watched, no matter how late the hour.
Whenever Bernie (Mr. Colossal Casting) and I ran into each other in the corridor, the routine was invariable —
"How's business?" Me.
Then he'd say — "How's the private eye business?"
And I'd say — looking up."
It was the kind of routine that has made vaudeville what it is today.
As for the rest, their closed doors were a closed book to me. Behind them Tolstoy, Jr., might be tapping out War and Peace 2 or aliens working on new plots for The X-Files. Who knew? Whatever it takes to make a buck. Right?
As we shed the Corvette, I saw Holmes inspecting the building — a sort of Nouveau-Deco-Rococo-Palazzo-Retro structure.
"It's called The Century Building," I said, to keep the conversation flowing.
"So I see. I was merely wondering which century would care to take credit for it?"
Inside the lobby there was the homey smell of chlorine that accompanied Mrs. Plack, our hausfrau-in-residence the way that other women trail clouds of Chanel No. 5. Mrs. P. regarded The Century Building the way other people viewed the Forth Bridge. The moment she'd finished cleaning it, it was time to start over.
"Who's a lovely boy, then?" she crooned, looking up momentarily from her bucket and mop. One glance at my bandaged head in her high gloss floor reassured me that she was addressing Mike.
Now, ordinarily Mike is his own man following the sound of his own drum but around Mrs. P. his cuteness is disgustingly Disneyesque. He even deigned to bend his head to be patted.
It was only after witnessing many such stomach-turning displays that I solved the puzzle. With an act of prestidigitation worthy of Maskelyne & Devant, Mrs. P was able to transfer scraps she had secreted in her apron pocket, heaven knew how long before, to her patting hand and for Mike to effect the transfer from hand to mouth, so to speak, without a flicker of expression on either side to give the game away.
Some detective, huh?
To distract me further, she now addressed me through Holmes's ectoplasmic presence —
"You want me to clean your office?"
This was another regular routine that brightened up a dull day — at least it did for me.
"Dear lady," I say, giving my incredible impersonation of W. C. Fields, "Why, in my office there is dust ..."
"... that properly belongs in the Smithsonian."
Why do so many straight men feel the need to step on one's lines?
"So that's a No?"
"A definitely tentative 'No', dear lady. Tell me, is there any part of my 'No' you don't understand?"
I couldn't imagine what Holmes was making of all this but the social niceties must be observed.
Like any woman, Mrs. P. must have the last word.
"Personally, I wouldn't want a visitor of mine ruining a beautiful new suit on a dirty chair but chacun à son goût."
"Yeah, and from what I can see you don't get that many that you can afford to waste a live one. Went up in the Death Trap ..." — she indicated the antique elevator that stood with its mouth open, leering at us like a Great White at feeding time.
"Couple of ticks before you arrived. Well set up, good looking young guy. I'll have him when you've finished with him. But not as beautiful as you, my darling!"
Excerpted from Two for One by Barry Day. Copyright © 2014 Barry Day. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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