Short Story Prompt: “The Red-Headed League” by Arthur Conan Doyle
I sat in the apartment of Mr. Shyrlick Homes, watching the Great Detective admire himself. How did I know he was the Great Detective? He had business cards printed to prove it. As a reminder to me, he showed me his card every time I came to visit him in his boudoir.
I know the word “boudoir” applies to a woman’s private quarters. Unfortunately Homes insisted on calling his apartment his boudoir. When I objected, he said, “Tut, tut, tut. Now, D. R., one mustn’t abuse the language, you know. The word for my quarters is boudoir.”
Why did he call me D. R.? you ask. That too was a misunderstanding I had given up correcting. I have on my card “Dr. Henry Wotsun”. He mistook the Dr. for D. R.
“My dear fellow,” I would retort, “I think not. I think the OED is quite clear on the definition of the word ‘boudoir’.”
“I have taken up the matter with the Word Committee at OED. They assured me they will make the correction with the next edition. Until then, old chap, you will have to take my word for it, will you not?”
“Of course,” I answered, resigned to the absurdity.
Why did I choose to join Mr. Homes in his “boudoir”? It was a good way to while away the afternoon. I needed entertainment after a long morning of patient after patient wanting their buns tucked, their breasts syliconized, their lips botoxed. One more pouty mouth and I swear. Well, you get the photograph.
So there I was, observing Homes admire himself in the mirror for a good fifteen minutes. It was such amusement to watch him stroke his chin and make faces, then turn to his left side and give his face the eye. Then it was to the right and more eye. Finally it was a full face. He turned to me and asked, “I need your professional opinion on my appearance.” I am a plastic surgeon so I do have a certain expertise in these matters.
“Yes.” I knew that I should tred lightly in supplying an opinion on such a delicate matter as Mr. Homes’ face.
“I am thinking of having my hair dyed. What say you, old fellow?”
I was flabbergasted. “You have such a marvelous head of black hair. Why would you want to do such a villainous act?”
“I want to die my hair blue. What say you, old chap?”
“This is madness.”
“Will you do it?” he pressed.
There was no convincing my friend once he had set his mind on a thing. What choice did I have? “Yes, I will.”
Homes grabbed me and hugged me and raised me in the air, then spinning the two us. Finally his enthusiasm exhausted itself and he dropped the two of us to the floor.
“I will,” I said, “if you will share with me the reason.”
He looked at me with a deadly seriousness. “I am joining The Blue-Haired Boys.”
“The Blue-Haired Boys? No, Homes, you can’t. I won’t have it.”
“You have no choice.”
He was right. I had no choice.
“Why?” I asked. The Blue-Haired Boys were the most dangerous gang of thugs in London.
“I have been invited to join. I will have you know. And join I shall.”
“But why would you want to join that gang of thugs?” Every crime in the city of London since The Great War could one way or another be traced to the Blue-Haired Boys. That was what the newspapers said. That was what the police said.
“Now, now, now,” Homes said. “Their reputation is simply a matter of bad public relations. Which I shall rectify once I am a member in good standing.”
Finally I agreed to the dying of Homes’ beautiful hair. I gave him the full body treatment. Not one hair on his chinny-chin-chin would be another color. All the while thinking that once you’re true blue, you cannot return to your former tincture.
Several days later I visited Homes in his “boudoir”. Once again, he stood before the mirror. Once again he admired himself quite extensively.
Finally, he said to me in his cheerful way, “Well, D. R., I am off to the races. The game is indeed afoot.”
“What are you up to, Homes?” I was becoming concerned that my friend might be getting into deep water. I am speaking metaphorically here, of course. What I meant was that he might be getting in over his head.
“The Blue-Haired Boys have accepted me as one of them. I am indeed True Blue, as we say in the trade.”
“So what dastardly path are you about to set out upon?”
“I am bound and determined to show the world what nice fellows my new comrades-in-arms are. And I shall do this one alone.”
In the past, I had accompanied Mr. Shyrlick Homes on each and every investigation. I was actually the detective, solving the crimes he received credit for. I liked it that way. It kept me in the shadows in the public’s mind and gave me a certain ability to move about unchallenged. But now Homes had decided to do this one alone. His very life could be in danger. With this in mind, I followed my friend.
He walked to the waterfront and to a certain ship whose name shall be nameless. No use accusing a ship when it may very well be totally innocent. It was the Blue-Haired Boys headquarters. For many months, I suspected it. Now I had proof. Mr. Shyrlick Homes was taking his blue hair there.
I left the shadows and rushed to the nearest telephone. It was in a pub called the Rotten Smelling Egg. It was a smelly place if ever there was one.
Sergeant Roughed answered the line, “Scotland Yard at your service.”
“This is Wotsun,” I said to the Cop Shop. ” Dr. Henry Wotsun. Give me the Top Cop.”
“It is indeed.”
“And you say you want the Top Cop in the Cop Shop?” As you can see the sergeant was not the brightest bulb in the room. No wonder the Blue-Haired Boys had escaped so many times before. But not this time. I had them and I was not about to let them escape. Besides Homes might be in a bit of the way. His very life could be in danger.
“I do indeed want the Top Cop in the Cop Shop. And get on it chop-chop,” I said amazed at the slowness of the man’s brain.
“Did I hear you correctly, sir? Did you say that you were about to chop the Top Cop in the Cop Shop? That’s illegal, you know, sir. I will have to report you to my superiors.”
“Look, Pop, hop to it. Chop chop. Get the Top Cop in Cop Shop. And don’t slop, please.” My nerves were beginning to fray. What could I do to convince this dodo bird that my call was serious.
“Well, sir, if you insist,” the other end of the line said.
I looked at my watch. It said fifteen minutes till seven. Soon it would be six forty-five and the Blue-Haired Boys would be getting away.
The other end of the phone finally said, “Detective Scheister. May I help you.”
I related my story. Before you know, a battalion of London bobbies had arrived and arrested the world famous criminal, Blue Berry Pi, and his gang of Blue-Haired Boys.
And, of course, Mr. Shyrlick Homes got all the credit. But that is the way I want it. It is the way of we Incognitos.