There has been much talk about the alleged scam starring Sherlock Holmes when he charged tickets for the exhibition of a stone.
Here I will demonstrate not only the falsehood of such accusation but its meanness and its contaminating potential in the environment!
(No, this last is false and I will also prove it!)
In fact, Holmes was especially disgusted with the crime of scam, especially if he was the scammed. I would dare to say that the crime of scam horrified him even more than that of murder.
Although it is very possible that he confused both crimes because, once, he went into the apartment in a rage proclaiming that he had been the victim of a homicide. But what had actually happened is that he had been sold a telescope that turned out to be a simple metal tube with a drawing of a starry sky stuck at one end.
Be that as it may, in that case the scammer played with advantage, as the stars exerted a great fascination on Holmes. It was especially when the sky was clear when he wanted to go for a walk at night. I had to keep an eye on him all the time because he walked at a fast pace gazing at the sky. That contemplation inspired to him deep thoughts of the style “Gosh, how many stars!” or “It’s really pretty!”
It was one of these comments pronounced aloud that attracted the attention of an individual who was looking out a window. He greeted us and asked if we wanted to buy a falling star that had fallen in his garden.
Despite my warnings, Holmes was willing, and shortly after we were in a backyard haggling over the price of a large stone. However, it was not a stone according to the seller, but a falling star that had hit on his head while he was trimming the hedge. (As a result of this he began to speak an unknown language, probably of extraterrestrial origin, consisting of guttural sounds.)
The next day we sent a wagon to move the star to 221B Baker Street. But since the stone did not fit through the door and through Mrs. Hudson’s mind, we had to change plans on the fly.
A few months before Holmes had been elected Fellow of the Royal Society for his contribution to knowledge of the natural world through his scholarly treatise in which guidelines were given to distinguish a mountain from a valley and a valley from an ocean.
So he made the necessary steps to be allowed to set up a place in Burlington House, where the Royal Society was based, for the exhibition of the falling star to the London public for a reasonable fee.
The truth is that when I saw the star in broad daylight, my scepticism only increased:
“You don’t think that’s really a star, right Holmes? It doesn’t even shine.”
“Don’t be naive, Watson. When a star falls from the sky, it loses its brilliance, hence it resembles so much a common stone.”
On the day of the inauguration, the street was full of Londoners queuing to see the star. And except for some incidents involving rioters who demanded that they were paid back the cost of the ticket, the exhibition was a success.
The problems arose when the doors were closed.
Holmes had a bad feeling, and insisted on spending that first night next to the star to ensure that it was not stolen. (The security measures were very limited: they consisted only of an old church bell tied to a rope. Every time the eventual thief pulled the rope hard, the bell rang.)
Of course, I could not but offer to accompany him. Each slept in one sofa until about two in the morning when we heard the bell ringing. We rushed to the bell, but when we arrived there was no one below.
Holmes took out his magnifying glass and spent a long time examining suspicious shoe prints, after which he ruled that the intruder was a man between twenty and seventy years old, medium build and with a scar on his cheek.
“How did you figure out about the scar?” I asked stunned.
“Elementary, dear Watson. Only a man with a scar on his cheek could have pulled the rope without arousing suspicion.”
Holmes’s logical deductions were not always within the reach of my limited intelligence, so I refrained from going deeper into the subject. Then we ran back to the exhibition room because we had left the star unprotected.
Unfortunately we were late: when we arrived, the star was conspicuous by being absent. I began to lament bitterly, but Holmes immediately followed the tracks, consisting of the same shoe prints we had found under the bell, as well as a trace of chafing on the floor due to the dragging of the star on the polished surface.
“Do you see how the thief had a scar on his cheek, Watson?”
I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, so I proved him right.
Tracking the shoe prints led us to a sort of porthole in the back of the building.
“Won’t you think the thief has run away loaded with the star through that little window, right Holmes?”
“The tracks are unappealable, Watson.”
“But the stone … (I still hadn’t got used to calling it by name) … the star is ten times bigger than that window.”
“You must understand, Watson, that in criminal matters, not always two plus two makes four.”
Suddenly he let out a little scream and pointing to the floor he said: “But look, the thief has left his visiting card!”
Indeed, on the floor next to the little window there was a visiting card with a name and an address in print.
“We face an intelligent adversary, Watson.”
“Do you think so?” I said with some scepticism.
Shortly after, we burst in with the police to the thief’s home. He was arrested and the star was returned to Burlington House where it can still be seen today for a small fee.