Author Topic: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Stolen Bicycle

After my bicycle was stolen on Tottenham Court Road during a real London particular, I made the long walk to Baker Street, for despite the unimaginativeness of the crime, I had hopes that the Great Detective would take my case; if only because the chances of retrieval of my beloved mount were so very slim and I’ve often read that he likes a challenge.

Mrs Hudson answered the bell and ushered me up into the sancto sanctum sanctorum — not before I’d noticed the curtains fluttering up above. Once inside, Watson immediately put me at my ease with a jolly story about the Afghan campaign, quieting only when Holmes developed a tic and muttered something about ‘that damned Jezial bullet’ in an uxorious tone. Truly they were like an old married couple.

In the silence that followed I felt Holmes’s scrutiny most keenly. His eyes were insatiable, feeding gigabytes of information to that vast computer of a brain as fast as they could alight on each minute detail of my countenance. I must admit I squirmed a little, nervous that the intrusion might penetrate my very psyche as if I were sitting on the couch of Mr Sigmund Freud, and leave me feeling picked clean like the bones of a fish. Even Watson grew restless after a spell.

Suddenly Holmes unfolded from his crouch and sprang out of his chair, almost knocking over his pipe. ‘Come, Watson, the game is afoot,’ he ejaculated, and the two of them swept out of the rooms. I found this most singular and not a little rude. The landlady kindly ushered me to the door, tutting all the while.

Several weeks passed without word from Baker Street. Even my emails went unanswered, save for a polite autoresponse. Or perhaps it was just my impatience which prompted such unkind thoughts. Oh, I admit it. I was an emotional wreck. I’d heard stories about what can happen to stolen bicycles that would make a grown man weep. It seemed that I’d caught my own Jezial bullet.

Presently there came a knock on my door. I extracted myself from the tangled detritus of the nest I’d made (mostly bicycle bits and bobs which brought me comfort, but also a fair amount of oriental takeaway containers), and went to greet my unwelcome caller.

He was a most peculiar-looking man, humpbacked yet militarily straight, with a single arm several times too long for the rest of his eggcup-shaped body, the complexion of a charred beetroot, nose like a weathercock and the scalp of a sheared rabbit. He was also quite maladroit in the manners department. He scurried in before I could bar the way and ululated most remarkably for a minute before settling down on my favourite settee.

‘What on earth is the meaning of this intrusion? — ‘ is as far as I got before my visitor broke into the outraged peroration I had planned with a cackle and threw off his disguise with a flourish. It was Holmes himself! I fairly collapsed into my nest, tapped out in every department, whereupon Watson swept into the room, immediately assessed the situation like the medical professional he is, gave Holmes a severe look (which the latter studiously ignored), and put me to bed with a cup of broth.

When I awoke they were both gone, but a loitering Baker Street Irregular was waiting at my door to hail me a cab. Presently I found myself once again in the company of Holmes and Watson. ‘Do sit down, my good fellow,’ said the doctor. As I was taking his advice Holmes gestured to the Irregular, still awaiting his silver, whereupon the little scalawag absconded from our presence momentarily and just as suddenly reappeared, carefully steering my bicycle into the room. Needless to say I promptly fainted once again.

‘--inexcusably dramatic’ I heard Watson scolding Holmes as I emerged from the mental fog which had minutes before enveloped me. I looked at them both. ‘Explain,’ I croaked, whereupon Holmes fairly rubbed his hands together with glee.
‘It was perfectly obvious to anyone with eyes to see and an analytical mind that you had recently suffered a loss of a most devastating kind,’ he began in preamble, dispensing with his pipe and declining the cocaine offered by his Irregular supplier, whom he now shooed away. ‘I’ve seen that look a thousand times and recognized it as such even as you stood, a broken man, outside this window a few short weeks ago.

‘Even if you hadn’t been wearing your cycling mitts’ (they were on my hands still) ‘there was every indication that you are of the velo persuasion. I won’t bore you with all the details, but will leave it to Watson should he ever put pen to paper in another of his fanciful tales’ — this followed by a hurrumph from the wounded party.

‘Suffice it to say the fact that you stopped and checked the way for other cyclists before crossing Baker Street, rather than blindly blundering into that mighty avenue like most pedestrians and motorists temporarily unawheel, was a thunderingly obvious clue.

‘Bare seconds after Mrs Hudson escorted you to my study I had deduced that your missing bicycle was of the hybrid variety, charcoal in colour, with foam grips, bar-ends, a lowrider rack, Lumocycle Standlicht dynamo lamp, equipped with toe-clips (uncinched). These observations were really all quite elementary.

As you know, when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Moriarty is behind the theft. He sits as does an evil spider in his web. I fear he has stripped your poor Marin’s vital components for resale before offloading the empty husk to an unsuspecting party in another town. It was easy to conclude that even I would not be able to retrieve your stolen bicycle in a state in which you would wish to find it — although I did hear talk of it in Lewes, where the disguise you saw allowed me access into that dark world — and it would be far easier and kinder to simply buy you a new one. After perusing the agony columns I came across an ad from our local bike shop and sent Watson to fetch a similar beast. It appears the doctor has erred on the side of generosity in his task.’

It was of course true. In my excitement as the Irregular had wheeled the bike in I had singularly failed to take note that it was nothing like that which had been stolen. It was even a different colour. I could not thank them enough. As I collected my new steed and prepared to leave Baker Street, it occurred to me that the great detective might be able to help me with another matter:

‘A friend of mine possesses a bicycle which evinces a peculiar “ticking” sound emanating from the vicinity of the bottom bracket — ’

As Holmes’s face assumed a rictus of undiluted horror, Dr Watson bundled me out of the study and onto the street. ‘Terribly sorry old chap’, he said. ‘There are some cases that even Sherlock won’t touch.’

Cycling Today, 199something