Sherlock Holmes kept up-to-day an archive with the full names and postal addresses of all the Archibalds of Great Britain. He had the firm conviction that behind much of the crimes that occurred in Britain, there was an Archibald. Such conviction was not the result of a whim but of a complicated mathematical calculation that he had been perfecting since, at school, a classmate named Archibald hid his breakfast sandwich. (Forty years after that incident, he still retained the hope of finding his sandwich one day.) Therefore, it should not be surprising that when a bachelor called Archibald Newcombe moved to No. 231A, Baker Street, my friend’s instincts kicked in.
Holmes put aside all the cases he had going on and concentrated all his efforts on unmasking that criminal brain that lived on the opposite sidewalk. He intended to take advantage of an absence of Archibald Newcombe to surreptitiously enter his home and search it thoroughly for some incriminating evidence. But it turned out that Archibald Newcombe never got out of the house unless he was asked for it at least eight months in advance. Holmes couldn’t wait that long, so he decided to sneak into his house during the night while he slept. He asked me to accompany him to have a scapegoat in case of being caught red-handed, so I could not refuse.
A moonless night, my friend and I dressed in black from head to toe, painted our faces with soot and waited for our landlady Mrs. Hudson to go to bed. Then, we quietly crossed the street and entered through a window in the house of the alleged criminal. The house was as dark as pitch, but Holmes was like a cat: he was able to dilate his pupils to see in the dark. I was clinging to the skirt of his jacket. Before searching the house, we needed to know the exact whereabouts of his owner, so with a stealthy step we began to walk the rooms. On the top floor we found the bedroom, but Archibald Newcombe was conspicuously absent. That made my flesh creep. If he was not sleeping, the probability that we were caught red-handed increased exponentially. And in such eventuality my role would be that of scapegoat! So I insisted on the convenience of leaving the house. But my friend had already start rummaging in the garbage can. According to Holmes, criminals tend to get rid of any piece of evidence by throwing it in the trash. That’s why the garbage can was always the first thing he inspected when searching a house.
While Holmes rummaged through the garbage like a pig, I just was looking around with my eyes wide open for fear of being surprised by the owner of the garbage. But it was so dark in there that if I had been blind, that would have made no difference. Suddenly I heard that Holmes was muttering something like “look at this”. I turned immediately to him and in that instant something hard and cold as marble entered my mouth. “But what do you do, Watson? Spit that rubbish!” I heard Holmes say, and immediately I spit out the object. At that moment Holmes let out such a yell that probably caused the whole neighborhood to wake up suddenly. The object I had spit had struck him in the eye. I jumped and hurried to cover his mouth with my hand. But he bit me with such force that I could not help but let out an even more powerful yell.
It was impossible that Archibald had not been alarmed at such a chorus of screams. Holmes was already saying out loud the speech he had prepared in which he put all the blame on me. However, the minutes passed and nobody came to meet us. In fact, the house remained silent as a grave.
“Luck is on our side, Watson. Archibald must be deaf as a post.”
I was still clutching the skirt of his jacket, so I realized that Holmes had ducked again: he had put his nose back in the garbage can!
“Holmes! Are you going to keep digging in the trash? Have you gone crazy? Our screams will have awakened the neighbors. The police must be on the way! We gotta get out of here!”
“You are right, Watson. It is not convenient to abuse luck. Follow me.”
We started moving towards the exit when Holmes suddenly stopped and ducked again.
“Well, what is it now?”
“Be careful, don’t trip over the corpse.”
Then I tripped and fell on something soft. Although I didn’t see anything, through the sense of touch I could verify that Holmes was not kidding. I grabbed my friend’s skirt again and we both rushed to the window we had left open.
Minutes later we were safe in the sitting room of our apartment. Because of my nerves, I was shaking like a rumba dancer. Holmes, on the other hand, remained as calm as if nothing had happened. We said good night and each one got into his bedroom.
The next morning, while we had breakfast, we could see through the window a large number of policemen entering and leaving Archibald Newcombe’s house.
“As you see, Watson, our night out was not in vain. Our screams alerted the police and, thanks to that, they have found the corpse.”
“And what are we going to do now? If they find out we were in the house, we will be the first suspects.”
“Did you leave a cover letter? Then there is nothing to worry about. When we finish breakfast, we will cross the street and offer our collaboration to Lestrade. From here I can see that he is in charge.”
Shortly after we were back in the house opposite, observing the strange posture of the corpse in the company of Lestrade. Archibald Newcomb had his hands around his neck and his tongue hung out of his mouth.”
“What do you think, Holmes?” said inspector Lestrade.
“Apparently he strangled himself.”
“You are wrong. ‘Death by almond’. It’s what the report says.”
“Strangled by an almond?! Even an idiot like you is able to see that that is ridiculous!”
“Do you see that paper cone next to the body? The guy was eating almonds when he choked and died asphyxiated. We have found an almond traversed in the trachea. However, there is something that does not fit. ”
“What do you mean?”
“The neighbors say that last night they heard two powerful yells coming from the house. A man who is choking cannot speak, and even less yell. This data seems to indicate a violent death. Watson, what do you say?”
I was about to choke on my heart. I could only say:
“If you want my medical opinion, this man died because his time had come.”