THE SCREWBALL

One night I was going back home to Baker Street after visiting a patient when I heard a death rattle behind me. I feared it was my patient, so I turned quickly. Then I faced myself with a dockworker-looking man. Not just any dockworker but one who is familiar with his trade from a theoretical point of view: a dockworker who has learned everything he knows about cargo stowage in Oxford or Cambridge and who has not set foot in a dock in his entire life. (Such insight I achieved working with Holmes.) He looked sick and I immediately realized what caused his unhealthy appearance: the man had a harpoon stabbed into his body. (Such insight I achieved at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.) The guy collapsed in my arms. But before breathing out his soul, he handed me a piece of paper and said: “My dying wish”. I took the paper: it was a leaflet advertising a corner shop next to Covent Garden.

Commenting on the incident with my friend at dinner, I noticed that Holmes was moved by my story. He asked me to show him the will the deceased had entrusted to me. I gave him the leaflet and my friend began to examine it through his large round magnifying glass. After a while he exclaimed “Here it is, Watson!”, and showed me a line in small print that said: “Great deal on cod.” I asked him if that was important and he was amazed that I doubted it. “Cod is the key to this mystery”, he said bluntly, and added that the next morning we would go shopping.

The corner shop was no different from any other London corner shop except for the fact that cod was abundant in it, which Holmes found tremendously significant. After buying the whole assortment of cod, we returned to Baker Street where we began to gut the fishes.

“What exactly are we looking for, Holmes?”

“Something out of place.”

“Like what?”

“The probability of finding it, is low, Watson, so I prefer to avoid disappointment. You keep looking and don’t worry: if you find what we are looking for, you will notice right away.”

We gut one cod after another until arriving at one of the last of the batch. Holmes had just gutted it and, opening his eyes wide, shouted “Eureka!”. He was holding a blue diamond the size of a ping-pong ball!

“You won’t believe it’s authentic, right, Holmes?” I asked. But my friend, in reply, disappeared into his room and returned shortly afterwards with a back issue of The Times, from which he began to read aloud:

“BIG-MONEY REWARD.

During a cruise on his yacht, the financier and gem collector Henry Philip Hope gave his fiancée, the prestigious opera singer Renata Calabrese, the famous ‘Hope Diamond’, one of the largest diamonds in the world. However, it seems that the capricious prima Donna had hinted that what she wanted was a Pekingese dog. So she got angry and, in a rage, threw the gem into the sea before the stunned look of her fiancé, who witness how a cod swallowed the diamond. A substantial reward…”

Holmes stopped reading and asked me:

“Do you still think it’s fake, Watson?”

“What I think is that the dockworker must have been killed because of that diamond.”

“Elementary, my dear Watson.”

“Holmes, does that mean we are also in danger?”

“It depends. If by danger you mean being poisoned, we are in no danger. On the other hand, if by danger you mean being pierced by a harpoon, then we are in serious danger.”

“Let me just go get my gun!” I said hurrying to my bedroom.

A while later Holmes and I were moving around London in a cab. 

“Where are we going, Holmes? To claim the reward?” 

“Elementary, my dear Watson.”

A footman with livery opened the door of the Hope mansion located on the banks of the Thames. Holmes was asking him if we could meet Mr Hope when we heard a soprano voice asking “Who is it, James?” Holmes came forward bowing and introduced himself to Mrs Calabrese, who showed with great fuss the joy of meeting the famous detective and invited us to accompany her to the terrace overlooking the river. Her fiancé Mr Hope was attending his obligations in the City, she said, but she offered to hand him anything we had for him. Then Holmes took a handkerchief out of his pocket, unfolded it, and before us the blue ‘Hope Diamond’ shone in all its splendour. Mrs Calabrese turned green at the sight of it, frowned, and with a rage and a force that I had never seen in a woman, grabbed the diamond and threw it into the Thames while claiming that what she wanted was a Pekingese dog.

Thank God I carried my gun with me! Otherwise, we would have suffered the same fate. Which shows that my friend was not wrong when he said we were in serious danger. Only the danger didn’t come from a harpooner but from a screwball.

This is a non-profit blog whose purpose is to raise funds for children in need. So if you want to make a donation in exchange for this story, click on this link to UNICEF. I really appreciate it!

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