A Study in Pork Chops, short story by Rex Fausett at Spillwords.com
Crimson Rose

A Study in Pork Chops

A Study in Pork Chops

written by: Rex Fausett

 

“I am buoyed by these walks through the town just before Christmas, Watson. The local shopkeepers and innkeepers and some of the residents light up the streets with candles and lanterns, and people decorate doors and windows with greenery. Prickly holly with its red berries and pine branches tied with red ribbons. Groups of wandering singers cheer everybody up with yuletide melodies. It makes for a very festive atmosphere.”

“I entirely agree, Holmes. I enjoy the goodwill that permeates the neighborhood. Speaking of goodwill, have you made arrangements for Mrs. Hudson’s Christmas gift? She works so hard for us all year that she deserves suitable recognition.”

“Um, yes, but you should know, Watson, that my own purse is not full this year. In fact, once we have seen to Mrs. Hudson, there will almost certainly be a shortage. It’s the Carruthers case. Commander Carruthers has failed to deliver the funds I was entitled to, having solved his mystery and recovered his brother’s lost property. I feel like going to his house and giving him a good thrashing.”

“How unfortunate, Holmes. I also find myself short this year. You will recall that I bailed my nephew out of a financial morass a few months ago and the money from my practice is not filling my pockets as it once did.”

“We are maturing, Watson, that’s the problem. We are of an age where things slow whether we like it or not. Perhaps we need to closely examine our living standards in the near future.” Holmes looked morose. “I’m low on pipe tobacco and I need new shoes.”

Doctor Watson looked up and noticed that the sky was darkening; it was getting colder, and it was likely that it would snow soon. The idea of not being able to afford coal suddenly troubled him. “Holmes, why don’t we … look out!”

Watson was startled to see a man running straight towards them at high speed. A man of low birth, obvious from the style of his clothing and general demeanour, his cloth cap, and an unkempt, straggly beard. A thug, Watson thought. Holmes didn’t speak but stepped aside so that the man would not strike him and deftly pushed his walking stick between the man’s legs. Thus, he fell forward at speed and slid along the ground, hitting his head on a bollard.

“Well done, Holmes. And here’s a policeman.”

A large, overweight, and quite unfit member of the police force appeared, puffing loudly and waving his truncheon. “Stand aside, please. This man is a thief! Stand back, sir.”

“I certainly shall. I …”

“Why bless my soul, it’s Mr. Holmes. I’m Sergeant Wilson, sir, we met at the trial of that black-hearted criminal Cedric Carstairs. I was the arresting officer. Are you all right, sir? Did this thief assault you?”

“Not at all, Wilson. In fact, I probably assaulted him by tripping him up. Do you know his name? What has he stolen?” A cloth bag was still clutched in the man’s right hand.

“He attacked the person of Mr. Cleaver, the butcher down in Birch Alley, grabbed a handful of meat, and raced off without paying. Mrs. Clatworthy, the Bishop’s wife, was in the shop at the time and her screaming caught me around the ear. Near deafened me, she did. I’ll just have a look, Mr. Holmes, see what he took.”

Sergeant Wilson reached down and plucked the cloth bag out of the thief’s hand. He opened it up and looked inside. “Aha. Pork chops and mince.” Holmes and Watson both salivated.

“Might I have a look, Sergeant?” the detective asked.

“Of course, Sir.” Wilson passed the bag to Holmes, and the Great Detective made a show of inspecting the contents. Three thick pork chops, freshly cut, along with a large handful of lamb mince, and an unidentified substance, possibly sawdust.

“Is Mr. Cleaver licensed to sell pork, Sergeant? I seem to remember there are regulations about the husbandry and correct processing of pig meat.”

“I’m not aware of regulations of that nature, Mr. Holmes. I’ll make inquiries.”

“Perhaps Doctor Watson and I could do that for you, Sergeant. You must be very busy this near to Christmas. Why don’t we make those inquiries on your behalf and report back to the Police Station later on?”

“Well, you’re quite right about how busy I am, Mr. Holmes, so that would be a big help. Thank you for your very kind offer. As to the thief, he is still unconscious and can be left there to consider the consequences of his actions when he comes to. Good day, gentlemen.” Wilson nodded to the famous pair and wandered away.

Holmes and Watson watched the policeman until he was out of sight, and intuiting Holmes’s not-so-complicated thought processes, Watson raised the question of ethics.

“It’s Christmas Day tomorrow, Watson, and we don’t have a turkey, nor do we have a goose or a duck. By way of an astounding coincidence, we do have pork chops for the three of us, and I’m sure Mrs. Hudson can do something with the mince. I intend to sleep well tonight in anticipation of a pared-down but tasty Christmas feast, and I suggest you do the same. A Merry Christmas has dropped into our laps, Watson!”

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