One day, at midnight we received a notification from Inspector Lestrade, who required our immediate presence in a certain number of the Strand, near Temple Bar. Holmes was so eager to take action that I was not able to convince him to take our time to dress, so Lestrade was puzzled when he saw us appear in night shirt and night cap. However, the case in front of him was too complex to give relevance to such a trivial thing. Indeed, in the middle of a room no larger than the Royal Albert Hall lay a paleontologist in the middle of a large pool of ink.
“What has happened?” I asked Lestrade as Holmes took out his large round magnifying glass and began to trot around the corpse with the trunk very tilted forward to approximate the magnifying glass as much as possible to its target.
“You tell me” was the answer of Lestrade, whose expression was so remarkably baffled that I felt seriously troubled at his appearance. “The body has no apparent signs of violence except for that butcher knife stuck in the chest. But where the hell is the blood?”
“That puddle around the body …”
“India ink, the one commonly used in inkwells.”
“You are wrong, Lestrade,” Holmes suddenly blurted with the magnifying glass attached to his face. “This ink was created specifically for printing and is made of turpentine…” He paused to look aside and added: “…and crushed turtle shells.”
“How do you know that?” said Lestrade.
Lestrade and I turned to look where Holmes was staring and we saw a row of a dozen shell-less turtles heading towards the door. “Follow them, Watson, quick, and don’t lose them!”, Holmes ordered me.
I spent the whole day and part of the next night following the damn turtles, and that just to reach around the corner! There was an old wooden door there, and the door had a cat flap where the turtles sneaked in. Since I couldn’t fit through the cat flap, I knocked on the door. An ink-stained man opened it and I could see that the place was a printing press. I was asked with bad manners what I wanted. I told him that I was following some shell-less turtles, and then I received a heavy blow to the head.
When I woke up, I found myself in a kind of dungeon, except for the fact that there was a door that opened onto the street and I had only to open it to escape from my kidnappers. Since I was still in nightshirt and night cap, I didn’t carry money; so I had to walk to Baker Street. There, Holmes and Lestrade were waiting for me, anxiously wanting to know where my research had led me.
Thanks to the information I provided, Scotland Yard was able to dismantle a dangerous anarchist organisation dedicated to spread terror among London population by printing leaflets where Queen Victoria was described as “a female” and (in case that was not clear enough) “a woman of feminine gender”.