The Adventure of Quai D'Orsay - Sherlock Holmes
The Adventure of Quai D’Orsay
(My own piece of fan fiction)
There were many cases in which my friend’s extraordinary skills of deduction have baffled me; yet none have intrigued me in their simplicity as much as this one. I had not expected Holmes to pay as much attention to the case as he did yet his toxic hobby refused to let him pass it up. It is a simple story to produce, yet interesting enough to dive right into, so I will waste no time with introductions. Rather, I will tell the chain of events as they happened.
One early summer morning I was sitting in my familiar cushioned chair by the fireplace reading the Daily Chronicle . It was about 8 a.m. when Holmes burst through the apartment door with a small parcel in his hand. He was always a late riser so it surprised me to see him so active this early in the morning. He sat down at his desk behind a mound of books and unopened correspondence.
I did not expect him to greet me with morning cheers or even acknowledge my presence so I turned my attention back to my article on the marriage of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Minutes later Holmes’s voice intruded upon my thoughts.
“I am sure that is not the case with you Watson."
“Indeed it is not!” I exclaimed back, realizing that he had answered the deepest thought in my mind. I looked up at him aghast.
“This is nonsense! It is beyond what I can imagine. How on earth did you know?”
He peeked at me from between two books.
“It’s elementary Watson. I observed you reading the front page story when I walked into the apartment precisely 13 minutes ago. There is nothing in the Daily Chronicle except worthless scandals and I recognized Wellesley’s face immediately. He’s famed for his poor choice in women, otherwise he would not make it into that newspaper. Your expression while reading the paper was one of utter disgust. Your eyes moved through the words quickly and you stopped to mouth the word ‘ten-thousand pounds’ in astonishment. It was clear then how the events of the spiteful divorce turned out.”
I understood how Holmes deduced the contents of the morning paper but I was far from satisfied as how he read my innermost thoughts. “What clues gave me away?”
“Not clues, Watson. It is human nature and it is all in your subconscious. You did not give yourself away I assure you! Feel free to continue your movements throughout this room, for the average mind will not intrude in your thoughts as I have.”
“I am certain of that! So far you have followed my train of thought correctly,”
With a pleased smile he continued, “After you had finished your article you looked on the right-hand side of the paper at the photograph of the woman’s face. You didn’t notice but almost immediately your thumb grazed your wedding band and your eyes concerned themselves. It is from this action that I deduced you were thinking about your own wife and asking yourself if you could ever have such a monetary divorce.”
“You have outdone yourself Holmes. I must confess that I am amazed to think that you deliberately scan every client that sits before you with such detail. And then you draw out their innermost confessions without them ever laying a word before you!”
Holmes smiled at me and ushered me to his desk.
“Take a look Watson,” he grinned. “What do you make of this?”
“It looks like a regular cigar that has been poorly cut and barely half smoked,” I replied with certainty.
“False! You are mistaken, gravely mistaken. This is the aftermath of a cleverly crafted murder. Take this letter and read it aloud if you may, and tell me again what you can deduce from this cigar.”
I took the envelope from his hand and examined the address. “It was sent from France!” I exclaimed and began to read.
“Charles Willow, please accept this parcel as a late Christmas gift from me to you. It has been a long time since I have visited London and I miss you my dear friend. I am sending a little part of France through this package in hopes that you will enjoy it. Perhaps if you enjoy it enough I may persuade you to come and partner with my prosperous tobacco business here in Bordeaux. Your colleague, Matthew.”
Before I could say anything more about the cigar, Holmes interjected.
“Don’t you think it is strange that such a prosperous tobacco company owner would send only a lone cigar to his lifetime friend, instead of an entire, unopened, carton?”
“I suppose it is strange, but I do not see how a man can die from smoking a cigar. You have gone to far worse extremities and still you stand before me.”
“Indeed...however I do not poison myself with mercury-filled-tobacco. The fine aroma of this Quai D’Orsay has been tarnished by the impurities of mercury. But this is not something a smokeless mind would observe.”
I picked up the parcel gently and sniffed the cigar inside. It hardly smelled like an expensive cigar.
“I believe you have a case Holmes; have you met with a client today?”
“I have. He is a very affluent client who has offered his weight in money to have this incident solved. Sir James Lyre owns a large tobacco farm north of here and several holds in France, and he is much inclined to disprove that he had any implication in the murder of his nephew, Charles. He is an old and diseased man who has confessed to me that he recently wrote a will to leave everything he possesses to his nephew."
I stared at him from behind the letter and said, “Writing an entire will exclusively for your nephew seems like a gracious-enough reason not to murder him.”
“Precisely, which is why I did not choose Sir Lyre as a thread. That one has been cut and I am left with two others.”
“The sender of the letter and...” I trailed off.
“Ms. Willow. Charles’s sister and Sir Lyre’s niece.”
“This is an intriguing will then,” I suggested. “All endowed to Mr. Willow and no mention for his sister. Are you suggesting there is familial dispute at work here?”
“I am suggesting much more than that, Watson. I myself have no interest in the compensation my client has offered me. I will not even leave this chair to waste my energy with this elementary case for it is already clear to me. I will send a telegram to Sir Lyre explaining the case to him with a request that he not contact me about it again.”
I could not contain my curiosity on how the particulars of this case have been solved so rapidly so I decided to ask Holmes to enlighten me. “And what do you propose happened with this French cigar?”
Holmes picked up a book from the enormous stack on his desk. It was his own collective notes on everything related to tobacco. From the obsessive and intricate scribbles one could believe him to be an informed scholar, or a drug merchant.
“Quai D’Orsay ,” he began, “is not a brand exclusive to France. I would be a fool to tell you they are produced in Bordeaux. Ms. Willow, being the niece of a tobacco owner could quite easily obtain such a cigar.”
“But, how did you deduce it was she who sent the package?” I asked.
“It is another reason this case amuses me Watson. Ms. Willow did not need to travel to France to send a parcel from that country. Ample postage, a simple false address, and a silent night to place it on the doorstep before the morning post is enough to convince even the highest intellectual that he has received a foreign package.”
“I hardly think that will be evidence enough to prove Mrs. Willow sent this parcel. Surely you must gather another clue.” I retorted.
“I thought your powers of observation must have been keener than that, but perhaps I was mistaken.”
“What have I overlooked?”
He smiled and continued, “That envelope in your hand. Do you notice the slight pink stain near the opening flap?”
I turned the envelope around and found a curved stain. It was small, but there were ridges visible within it. It was unmistakably the mark of a lipstick touching the paper.
“Exactly Watson. Your train of thought is correct.” Holmes interrupted again.
I did not ask him how he knew what I thought. He went on.
“All that is left to be said to Sir Lyre is to observe the color of Ms. Willow’s lips when she is out in town. If he believes the colors match, we have our leading thread and he may do what he wishes with the information.”
"Are you really not going to do anything more about this case?"
"And why should I Watson? I have all the money I will ever need to retire comfortably from the affair I solved for the British government."
He grabbed his pipe from inside his drawer and lit it.
"And enough to carry on my, what do you call it? Toxic hobby?
He puffed out the smoke.