Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The World’s Worst Private Detective

Note: I wrote this a while ago but this is the first time that it has seen the light of Winter House's paradoxically black background. I wrote it in one sitting inspired by a random burst of creativity the origin of which I still haven't uncovered. It was however a similar impulse of decisiveness that compelled me to post it here, and I am still in doubt as to what to make of it. Critique of whatever kind would thus be helpful. Do please excuse the length, I am fully aware that what is here is something well in excess of a normal blog post and that is why I dare refer to it as a blok-post and I am sure my fellow cabbalists would know what I mean...
I endeavoured to write a little introduction, aiming to at least absolve myself from the responsibilty of excessive explaining...
PS. the little quatrain at the very end is courtesy of the late Lord Byron.

The story below would, on first reading of course, make hardly any sense. As indicated by the title, it is meant to be satirical and it is for the most part though the faithful reader would certainly not find it hilarious nor excessively entertaining. The author would also like to acknowledge the often child-like simplicity of the narration which some readers may unsurprisingly find rather tedious. The author is fully aware of this and apologises in advance and in his defence, this ‘simplicity’ is merely there to make the story that bit more efficacious and thus compensate for its modest length. Likewise, if on a second or third reading the reader is still somewhat perplexed as to the purpose of this text, he/she should bear in mind that it is allegorical and serves (in the author’s view) as an apt summation of some if his observations and accumulated experience. All the characters presented hereafter are exaggerations; they are symbolic and reflective of reality and to unlock the mystery of their role in the story, the reader needs simply to make an association between them and their historical background. This is will be accomplished only by means of a close read and an imaginative interpretation.

The World’s Worst Private Detective

‘I’ve found it! Yes, I’ve found it!’ cried private detective Shedlock Knows.
‘Found what, sir? The Object?!’ answered Dr Watson, kneeling down beside him, with a powerful torch in his hand…
‘Yes, it’s the object that we’ve been looking for…that very same one! Oh, do you have the torch? Give it to me!’ Knows was suddenly in a frenzy as he observed that Dr Watson could still not find the object despite the fact that he was the one with the torch, and he still couldn’t see it!
Illuminating the object using the torch, Knows looked at it and gleamed in happiness.
‘This is what it all comes down to! This is all that we’ve been working towards! And now it’s ours!’ Knows shouted with triumph in his voice that silenced even the thunder that was forcing itself outside. So loud was his voice…
‘Sir, please…please don’t! You’ll wake the neighbourhood!’ Dr Watson trembling in fear and desperation tried to silence Knows so that from now on, he would know not to raise his voice like that.
‘Hold on to the torch.’ Shedlock Knows said to his valorous partner. ‘There it is’ he was uttering continuously as he picked the porcelain object and held it in his hand, being wary of its evident fragility. It was in fact, a beautifully ornamented Oriental amphora, mostly sepia in hue.
‘Can you see it! Oh my beauty!’ Knows was overcome with joy and a smile sneeringly made its way onto his face. He kissed it.
Dr Watson was wide-eyed and a tiny bit confused as he peered down at the object.

With great, almost microscopic precision, Knows carefully shook the dust off the object, and all with his bare hands! Both men walked out of the flat and onto the dark, scarcely lit corridor as they made their way towards the exit.
‘This is history, Watson, this is history…’ Knows turned to his partner and patted him on the shoulder.
‘Eh, no sir, this is the elevator shaft…’ Dr Watson keenly observed.
Realising this, Shedlock Knows slipped and fell on the floor a step short of falling down the elevator shaft. ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?!’ he bitterly complained to his valorous partner. ‘Where is the actual elevator gone?’
‘Eh, I don’t know sir. It was here just a minute ago. We did arrive as quietly as possible using the elevator, sir. But now, it’s gone.’
Shedlock Knows got up and looked about the deserted and gloomy corridor.
‘Something is rotten here in this council estate…’ he observed sharply.
Something was however missing, it transpired to our two brave fellows.
‘The object! It’s fallen down the elevator shaft! Oh, no…it’s probably been shattered into its elementary bits!’ Knows kneeled and gazed down the abyss of the shaft.
Dr Watson was however still a bit confused.
‘Did you say elementary sir?’ he inquired with an attentive look.
‘No, I meant elementary as in its individual, constituent parts.’ Knows clarified thoroughly.
‘Oh, but it’s now at the bottom of the shaft sir! What shall we do?’ Dr Watson was worried.
Both of them set about thinking.
Out of nowhere, suddenly something fell down onto Knows’ head. He jumped up courageously and a shiver protruded down to his very spine.
‘What was this sir?’ Dr Watson inquired frightfully.
‘I don’t know, I don’t know! Check what it is!’ Knows logically panicked.
Dr Watson fearlessly picked it up and observed it carefully for approximately a minute. ‘It’s an…an apple sir…’ he turned to his colleague.
Knows was mystified.
‘An apple? Ah yes! I know what we shall do now! Hang on Watson, I’ve got an idea!’ he assured his valorous partner. ‘We shall get a rope! Yes a rope! And we shall suspend it down the shaft, and that’s how we’re going to get to the object!’
Knows stood daringly at the edge of the shaft, and his magnificent shadow was traced onto the wall opposite him, for he was no doubt preparing to go down there.

‘Now, Watson, when you get down there, make sure you are careful about how you pick up each of the elementary parts…’ Knows was assuring his poor partner who was trembling in despair as he peered over the edge of the bottomless shaft. He bore a deathly pale countenance, indicating that he maintained his calmness even in this severe moment of threat.
‘I am ready sir.’ he uttered.
‘Ok, Watson…be careful and remember to simply shake the rope to indicate that you are at the bottom.’ Knows was giving some last minute advice. ‘Oh, and here’s a bottle of water, just in case the shaft turns out to be deeper than I think…’
With those promising words kept at the forefront of his mind, the valorous Dr Watson slowly descended down the shaft, and in no time he was lost in the claustrophobic darkness that ensued around him.

Up there, at the edge of the shaft stood the worried Knows. He gazed down the infinite abyss and for the first time in the history of their partnership, he was proud of Dr Watson. Outside, the storm was still in full force, and Knows, looking down at the shaft uttered in a moment of glory, ready to express fully his sympathy towards his partner and friend…
‘When shall we meet again? In thunder, lightning or in rain?’
Yes, he was indeed inspired by the sheer courage of Dr Watson.
Suddenly however he heard footsteps echoing down the corridor. Knows hid himself around the corner just by the stairs, and observed who it was that was coming.
Yes, he realised it. It was the occupant of the flat from which they acquired the object.
She was of medium height and had a rather dejected face with dark patches beneath her nevertheless, pretty eyes. She unlocked the door and went in.
Before she managed to close the door however, it was time for Knows to make his move. He hurried after her and confronted her directly, remembering Watson’s remark on the quietness which he had to maintain in order not to disturb the neighbourhood.
‘Stay still!’ he uttered all of a sudden. ‘This is private detective Shedlock Knows!’
The poor woman, who was of middle age, became wide-eyed in astonishment. She was afraid.
‘What is happening?’ she said with an accent, in a state of fearful trembling.
‘I know all about you.’ Knows said and approached her. ‘I know you’re living here, in this flat, illegally!’ This pitiless accusation was signalled by the malignantly triumphant expression on his face.
‘Please, I don’t know what is happening.’ the poor woman uttered with a rather hard intonation.
‘This flat, and I know this for a fact, was not even officially bequeathed to you by your ancestors and as such, you have no right to live here!’ Knows reproached her with disdain and hostility. ‘You’re living here illegally!’
‘But I just…came home from work…I’m really tired…’ the poor woman said.
She lived alone in the flat, or rather existed merely in it for the rest of the time, she was swamped by the wretchedness of her piteous job.
‘Oh, don’t pretend to be innocent! I know of your guilt!’ Knows shook his head in disapproval. ‘I know where you’re going! You will be coming with me!’
He turned around, convinced of her weakness, and certain that she would follow him.
‘Come on!’ Knows beckoned her ignobly without even looking at her eyes.
The poor woman suddenly felt completely forlorn as a person. She lived alone and was as such lonely and friendless most of the time. The image of a young boy flashed before her very eyes. It was her little son, and she was constantly haunted by the thought of him being motherless in a country distant and obscure. His smile warmed her heart but stole a piece of it every time she remembered it.
All of a sudden, she felt bitter and her fright disappeared in favour of fury. She became determined and instinctual in her drive for action. She ran towards Shedlock Knows and grabbed hold of him, pushing him about with animalistic vigour.
‘Ahhh…’ he was stunned and lost balance. The poor woman did not let go of him and continued dragging him in a senseless way towards an unknown end.
They were nearing the elevator shaft where valorous Watson was still descending down towards the bottom, trying to reach the object.
‘What are you doing you wretch!’ Knows shouted in panic, but there was no-one to help him, and there was no going back. Before he even realised that he was standing on the very edge of the shaft, he found himself plunging down into the utter darkness of this abyss.
‘Ahhhhhh…Watson, do something!’ Knows was frantically shouting for his valorous partner to save him.
‘Sir! Hang on, I’ll catch you!’ Dr Watson spread out his arms, ready to embrace private detective Shedlock Knows.

Eventually, both of them found themselves at the bottom of the shaft. Still shocked and delirious, Knows got up and looked around into the impenetrable darkness.
‘Finally, we have reached the bottom!’ He thought, still shaken as he recalled the way he found himself there in the first place.
‘Ah and here is the object!’ he was restored to his previous state of joy, as he peered down onto the shattered amphora. ‘Here it is!’ he turned to Dr Watson.
‘Hey, Watson…’ he observed his valorous partner who lay there motionless.
He did not move a limb and there was no sign of life within him. The fall may have proved too much for our fellow.

Disregarding Dr Watson, private detective Shedlock Knows instantly turned back his attention towards the amphora or whatever remained of it now. He could scarcely see which part fitted the other, but his total effort was still dedicated towards rebuilding the amphora. He could not give up now for he was holding in his hands, what he had been aiming for in the past couple of weeks.
His efforts at rebuilding the object however were in vain. He was despairing over what had happened. In the meantime, the sound of the police sirens echoed throughout the elevator shaft, much to the alarm of the detective.
‘No! It cannot end like this!’ he was saying to himself as he gripped some of the constituent parts of the object in his sweaty hands, in an almost child-like manner.
The police was arriving.
Looking over his dead partner’s body, he again gazed down at the shattered amphora.
In a state of pathetic indifference, Shedlock Knows began placing some of the parts in his very mouth. He tried to chew them, and a self-indulging smile appeared on his bruised face, perversely enjoying the insipid taste of the porcelain parts there in his mouth.
Yes, he was consuming them just like an animal would gorge on dead flesh, and all the time, the laughable smile did not vanish from his face but was even more intensely pronounced than ever.
Suddenly, as though resurrected from his grave, the valorous Dr Watson raised his head and looked at his partner, in shock.
‘Sir, what are you doing? You’re…you’re eating the elementary bits…’
Knows did not even pay attention to him, but was instead focused on the feast that he was pleasuring in.
‘Sir, but don’t you know? This porcelain….it can never be digested by your organism..’ Dr Watson looked in disbelief. ‘You’d not be able to digest it, sir!’
Knows did not pay any attention whatsoever.
Suddenly though, as he was about to consume the next substantial bit of porcelain, Private Detective Knows noticed an inscription on it, with very clear letters, in English.
He looked at it, and began reading it, and at this very moment, the police, having arrived, flashed some light down into the shaft and Knows was able to see his own reflection on the smooth surface of the porcelain. When he looked into it, a skull ablaze in fire, looked back - a fire which interestingly enough was not giving out any heat.
The inscription on this very same bit of the amphora read as such:

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
In me behold the only skull,
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.