No. 32. The remarkable case of the reconstituted artichoke

 

Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr.Watson were enjoying a hard-earned weekend in Margate. Watson perambulated gaily along the thronged promenade, his light step and rolling gait betraying not only the spiritual rejuvenation engendered by the sea air, but also the sheer exhileration of the pair's temporary escape from the stuffy confines of 221b Baker St.
     Holmes, conversely, preferred a brisk military march. Puffing manically on his distinctive cherrywood briar he casually inflicted a pungent cloud of his specially blended mixture, Tutenkhamen's Fine Olde Pharoe No.2 Shag, on each passing stroller.
     Frustrated by Holmes' reluctance to engage in frippery, and noting the first drops of an impending shower, Watson dodged into a nearby joke shop, so that he might indulge his childlike fondness for novelty items. Emerging half an hour later, he located Holmes in a cosy teashop where he had taken refuge from the pouring rain. With a look of intense concentration, the damp detective was studying a dismembered starfish through a magnifying glass. Watson entered, just as several customers with small children were leaving hurredly. He ordered a pot of tea and idly picked up a copy of The Margate Examiner lying nearby; whereupon his eyes alighted on a story.
         "Good heavens Holmes!" he cried suddenly, "Old Monty Bowman's bought it!"

Holmes looked up, irritated. His ample eyebrows seemed, momentarily, to be trying to change places with each other as he attempted to comprehend these words. Watson appeared perplexed. "My dear chap, you must remember old Monty....tall with a stoop, went to Eton, slight stammer...... his mother was the Times' gossip columnist who married Randolph Ghillespie, the fake Russian orthodontist. Turned out to be a bit of a cad and a terrible man for the horses and the cards apparently."
            Holmes' somewhat sarcastic expression informed his companion that, although the world famous sleuth had made a thorough search of his mental filing system, no-one by the name of Monty Bowman dwelt there.
         "According to The Examiner" continued Watson bravely, "he was celebrating a big win at the roulette table with some friends in a suite on the third floor of the very hotel we are saying in, when he happened to spot a cat patrolling friskily on the ledge outside his window. Its acrobatic nimbleness fascinated the impulsive Monty so much that in his champagne-induced reverie, he decided to join the beast on the balcony. To his friends' horrified amusement he frolicked with the cat on the ledge, me-owing and matching its every move, but suddenly tragedy struck. In the middle of this human-feline pas de deux, he trod on a half eaten mouse, slipped, and plunged to his death on the pavement below. Poor old Monty. A salutory reminder don't you think Holmes, of the tendency of alcohol to encourage reckless bravado?"

        Holmes put down his magnifying glass and relit his pipe, driving the two remaining customers out of the cafe and into the pelting Margate monsoon. Expelling a perfect smoke ring which hung in the air like a toxic hula hoop, he declared drily; Its a mog's game, gambolling.

       Watson, utilising all his strength of character, waited patiently until the sleuth's notoriously weak bladder forced him to visit the gentlemen's lavatory; whereupon, with the understated grace of a professional conjuror, he sprinkled a teaspoonful of Sneezo, the sneezing powder he had purchased earlier, into the detective's unattended cocaine pouch.