Standard works of fiction about imaginary success
Over the years, it has always fallen to my dear Boswell to record our adventures. He started with the very first case on which he accompanied me. He chastised me when he learned I did not record anything, everything of value was stored in my head, the rest discarded. I met his presumption that I may find something useful for a future case, with my flat refusal to note it as I could simply research the ‘thing’ again. Why bother myself with the dull details again. Presumably not persuaded by my intellect and ability to do so, he created ‘case files’. Scores of notes neatly organised, tagged, and indexed in a blog he created. If I needed to find a token, a name, whatever, he could present it to me with any cross references in any other case. He met my protests for him to use his time more productively with sighs and hushes. I left him to get on with his writings. In all the years he worked with me, I never once asked for anything, not that that fact deterred him, much to my amusement. In the old days, I read his blog occasionally, just for authority’s sake, but he liked to focus on the scandalous side of the case, not my deductions. I felt he was playing up to the perceived (and possibly imagined) audience.
One of the first police investigations he wrote about was of a child with a great sense of reasoning, a mind; I had no doubt, which could surpass mine if trained well. The child’s father, Mr Anderson, had requested my services. As you presumably know, I am selective in the cases I take, only taking those that peak my interest. Therefore, when Mr Anderson approached me, the email raised my heartbeat above its usual 43 b.p.m. Eager, I read the details, and logically worked the solution, came to some possible but improbable answers, and requested the man speak with me in person.
Doyle joins us for the meeting, taking minutes, recording them digitally on his mobile phone’s software. Mr Anderson explains his son has recently fallen. A twelve year old falling is not a great case I tell him, I urge him on. Since then, the boy presents him, each morning, with a cryptic style clue written in Latin. Mr Anderson explains there had been no medical complications or problems since the fall. The boy, functions normally, exactly as before, except for the five-minute period each morning during breakfast, when he scrawls the message and hands it to his father, uttering no words and responding to none. Mr Anderson tells me the boy is in the gifted programme at school, a local comprehensive. As far as anyone can ascertain he has never studied Latin. Outside of this period, the boy can recall nothing of it and professes to know only a select few words. Mr Anderson hands me the collection of paper, each torn from the same faint lined exercise book, the indentations on the page, matching the previous messages. Underneath each are English interpretations of the phrases. I tell him they are wrong and he replies he has been relying on a translation software program online. I view the man, his hands bear no callouses, no sign of manual labour, although several small paper cuts exists around his fingertips. The sheen indicates a recent manicure, although chewed nails indicate a fresh upset. He is clearly educated, but to what standard. At the top right corner of each sheet, the same pen and script number them.
Mr Anderson tells me the boy is at chess club at the school until 18:00 and he could take me to meet him. I tell him that is not necessary for the moment and I will contact him in due course. Doyle, who has been translating the notes into his journal, takes this as his clue to see our guest out.
‘Okay Professor, let’s have it’ he says on returning to the room.
‘Have what?’ I reply with no indication to what he refers.
‘The case. The Answer.’
‘Oh that.’ I say with no further suggestion of an answer.
‘Ahem’ he coughs, standing, arms crossed, staring at me, awaiting a response.
‘The boy clearly wants to go to Florence’.
‘And how do you get to that conclusion?’
I sigh; they never see the logic, ‘the cryptic clues point to Dante’s Divine Comedy, Vergil as his guide, blah, blah, blah…’
‘Right. And you didn’t tell the father because…?’
‘I’m hoping I am wrong. Unlikely and illogical, I know, but I need something to do’ I snap.
I snatch Doyle’s journal from the table and read his translations of the text.
‘Oh Doyle, do not be lazy, you know full well this pig Latin will not do,’ I toss the book into the chair, noticing the flush to Doyle’s face. ‘I’m off to see Beatrice, are you coming?’ I ask as I put on my coat.
I am out on the street before Doyle is by my side again.
‘And Beatrice would be…?’
‘The woman’, I reply.
I spot her as soon as we enter the street. Very American, girl next door, Disney-esque. She is fourteen, five foot four inches, long bleach blonde hair extensions, false nails painted a metallic sky blue, subtle make up barring the shocking Barbie pink coloured lipstick. Although wearing the school’s signature uniform, she has customised in a manner only a girl interested in fashion could.
I stop, putting my arm out to halt Doyle.
‘There, outside the gates, by the railings.’ I tell him pointing to the group of schoolchildren further down the road.
‘How do you possibly even know which one could be Beatrice?’ Doyle asks somewhat stupidly.
‘I may have little interest in the unfairer sex but that does not mean I do not know what teenage boys are like.’
As we watch them, they part for a group of boys, the boy amongst them. He is little different in appearance from the others, save 20 pounds heavier. Same gothic recently dyed black floppy hair, same expensive branded footwear, already showing signs of wear, although not from sport. Someone said something, we are too far away to hear what, but the group giggles collectively, much to the embarrassment of the boy and friends. After a short while, we follow the boy. Doyle suggests a ‘sorry and grab’ to see if we could find out what books and files he is carrying. I have already noted from the shape of his backpack that it contains a laptop, so point out that he probably has e-books and PDFs as opposed to anything physically printed. Although why he does not figure this himself is beyond me. We follow him onto a bus into town. Apart from a couple of texts, no doubt from the father, he does little else of interest. We alight at the same stop, allowing a few people to come between us. I ask Doyle for money, a note of some kind, as he opens his wallet; I snatch £20 from it and sprint after the boy.
‘Mi scusi, onorevole, lei è sceso questo[i]’, I say waving the note at him.
He replies in almost perfect Italian that it is not his; it must be my lucky day. Laughing, I say, ‘Facit mutatio, deos potest subridens in me hodie[ii]’ slipping into Latin.
In the milliseconds before he recognises and translates some of the words, I can see the confusion on his face. The boy nods and tells me, ‘Deve essere il vostro giorno fortunato[iii]’ again.
If this boy is writing these notes, he is either finding the them and memorising them completely, not impossible, but improbable, due to the length of the text and the grammar. Or he is not writing them. I make a mental note to ask Mr Anderson if he actually sees him write them or whether there is just an illusion. Not that it really matters.
The boy’s mobile phone rings, I say rings, nobody’s phone rings anymore, they all play the same regurgitated rubbish, loudly and badly.
He answers it, ‘Yeah...’ as he starts to walk. Doyle joins me as we fall in step behind him.
‘But I’m in town now.’
‘Yes, I have money.’
‘No, I’m alone.’
‘Yes, I always do,’ annoyance, irritation and disappointment echo in his voice.
‘Fine...whatever...yeah’, he hangs up and thrusts his phone in to his trouser pocket.
‘Girl trouble?’ Doyle offers.
I stop and look at him for a trace of sarcasm or irony on his face, nothing but an eager look, like an excitable Labrador pup.
Judging by the phone call and my earlier meeting with Mr Anderson, I have concluded the strained relationship is due to the father’s incessant inability to connect with his son, I suspect, having replaced his mother with a younger, newer model and is working extra hours to fund his addiction to her affections.
[i] Mi scusi, onorevole, lei è sceso questo = Excuse me, sir, you dropped this – Italian to English translation
[ii] Facit mutatio, deos potest subridens in me hodie = Makes a change, the gods must be smiling on me today – Latin to English translation
[iii] Deve essere il vostro giorno fortunato - It must be your lucky day - Italian to English translation