On one of our night walks through London, Holmes and I witnessed a scene that sent a red flag up Holmes. Two stocky men of bad appearances were moving a wardrobe from an old Soho house to a wagon parked in front of the main door.
“Look at that Watson. Each of these men must weigh at least 300 pounds. And yet they have difficulty moving an old wardrobe. I wonder what its content is. And why move it so late at night?”
Once the wardrobe was loaded with difficulty in the wagon, the two men climbed into the coachman’s seat.
“Hurry up, Watson! We’ve got to follow them!”
The wagon started and Holmes jumped on my back. It was not the first time that Holmes used me as a means of transport when there was no cab in sight.
After twenty minutes running, I watched with relief that the wagon stopped. Holmes dismounted and I collapsed exhausted.
When I had recovered enough strength to get up, I looked for my friend but I didn’t see anyone in the vicinity. Then I heard the Alpine yodelling which was the agreed signal with which, in case of danger, Holmes warned me. Anyone who had heard it would have thought that it was simply a Tyrolean longing for his homeland, and wouldn’t get suspicious.
But I knew it was a signal, so I followed the multi-pitched yelling until an abandoned plot of land. The gaslight of a lamppost barely illuminated the place, but the Alpine yelling led me to Holmes, who was crouched in some bushes.
“Holmes! What’s going on?”
“Sshh! The killers will return at any time.”
I immediately crouched beside him and lowered my voice until it was almost inaudible:
“Open the door and see it for yourself.”
Holmes pointed to the wardrobe that was lying nearby. I slipped stealthily there. But before I could open the door, I heard the Alpine yodelling that warned me of danger. I turned to look and, in the lamppost gaslight, I saw the two men whom Holmes had called “the killers” entering the plot loaded with another wardrobe.
“What was that?” one of them asked.
“Bah. Nothing to worry about. It’s just a Tyrolean longing for his homeland. ”
“Damn!” I said, and couldn’t think of anything other than hiding in the wardrobe. I lit a match and… had to suppress a scream of horror. Beside me, there was a corpse. And it wasn’t just any corpse. It was the corpse of a bearded man disguised in a female ballet dress.
Then I heard a heavy object falling down near my hiding place. I remained paralyzed with fear for several minutes. Suddenly, the wardrobe door swung open and my friend’s face appeared before me.
“Gosh, Holmes! You scared me!” I exclaimed as I rushed out of the wardrobe.
“Don’t worry, Watson. The killers have left. But they won’t be long in coming back with another stuffed wardrobe, I’m afraid.”
“What makes you think that?”
Then Holmes guided me to other wardrobes scattered all over the place, each one containing a bearded man disguised as a ballerina.
The next morning, we were heading home after notifying to Scotland Yard our macabre discovery, when suddenly Holmes stopped and stared at a poster stuck in the wall.
It was an advertisement of the Drury Lane Theater and it read like this: “The exotic ‘Bearded Ballet’ of Moscow opens its must-see ballet show.”
A few hours later we were in front of Drury Lane Theater.
I had just purchased a couple of tickets for the evening session, and I couldn’t find Holmes anywhere. Then I saw him near the theater’s back door whereby bearded men did not cease to come in.
I joined him, and he pointed to a placard next to the door with the following notice: “Urgently required bearded men who know how to dance on their toes.”
When the curtain finally rose, Holmes and I, as well as the rest of the audience that filled the theater, witnessed the most deplorable spectacle we would have seen in our lives. Big bearded guys in tutu dresses and pink ballet slippers were scampering about, running haphazardly from one side of the stage to the other. When some of them tried to stand on tiptoe, they invariably fell backwards, causing the audience to laugh. At a certain point, one of the individuals we had seen queuing at the theater’s back door went on stage in leotards and started chasing a bearded dancer in a tutu, who start running away from him. It soon became clear that the guy in leotards just wanted to dance a pas de deux with the bearded dancer in a tutu. So, the guy in a tutu let himself be apprehended by the guy in leotards, and the two began to dance something that didn’t even remotely resemble a pas de deux. However, letting himself be dragged by the charm of the music, the guy in leotards grabbed the guy in a tutu by his bulky waist and, in what was intended to be a graceful artistic movement, threw his dance partner into the orchestra pit crushing a violinist and a flutist. This circumstance caused the stampede of the remaining musicians and the end of the pitiful spectacle.
In the audience (unaware of the tragedy that had ocurred “on backstage”) only me and Holmes refrained from laughing, whistling and throwing vegetables.