The Last Open Problem

Sherlock Holmes, and his trusted leiutenant, Dr. Watson, have had some strange cases to handle, but nothing more instructive and intricate than the one brought to them by Miss Love Adalace. It was impossible to refuse a glance to this young and beautiful woman, tall, graceful, and queenly, who presented herself at Baker Street, upon Wednesday, the 18th of July, and implored Holmes' assistance and advice.

Holmes took the lady's ungloved hand, and examined it with as close an attention and as little sentiment as a scientist would show to a specimen.

"You will excuse me, I am sure. It is my business," said he, as he dropped it. "I nearly fell into the error of supposing that you were a musician. Of course, it is obvious that it is the computers. You observe the spatulate finger-ends, Watson, which is common to both professions? There is a geekiness about the face, however which the music does not generate. This woman is a web surfer."

"Yes, Mr Holmes, I spend a lot of time on the Internet."

Holmes lighted his pipe and settled down in his chair. "Now, what has happened in the frontiers of Routers and Servers that brings you to our humble abode?"

The young lady, with great clearness and composure, made the following curious statement:

"The Web has been unleashed, Mr. Holmes. I have been trying to make sense of it, to tie the loose ends together and extract a coherent source of information, nee knowledge, from the web, but to no avail. The data on the web is growing faster than the I can handle. The reliability of the sources decreases faster than Search Engines can rank them. I turn to you now, Mr. Holmes, to help me from being overwhelmed by the flood of information."

Holmes rubbed his hands and chuckled as he prepared to add this incident to his collection of strange episodes.

"Your experience is, so far as I know, not entirely unique," said he. "Indeed, I have been witnessing this strange turn of events with interest. Before we start to investigate that, let us try to realize what we want to know from this dump of data, so as to make the most of it, and to separate the essential from the accidental. Well, Watson," he asked, turning suddenly upon his friend, "what do you make of it?"

"Holmes," Watson cried,"this is impossible!"

"Admirable!" Holmes said, "A most illuminating remark. It is impossible as the lady states it, and therefore, our beautiful friend must, in some respect, have stated it wrong. Yet you are seeing it for yourself. Can you suggest any fallacy, Watson?"

"I am at my wit's end."

"It is true that we have solved some easier problems. You see, Watson, it is an error to argue in front of one's data. A person finds himself insensibly twisting them round to fit his theories. At least we have plenty of material, if we can only use it."

At this critical juncture, when Holmes was about to bring his great logical powers to bearing on the problem, there was an interruption. There had been, Watson later recalled, some dramatic entrances and exits upon their small stage at Baker Street, but he cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling than this. The figure who burst into the room was extremely tall and thin, obviously the last few years had not been easy on him. His forehead domed out in a white curve, and his two eyes were sunk deep in his head. He was clean-shaven, pale, and ascetic looking, and still retained something of the professor in his features. His shoulders were rounded, as if from continual furtive movements, and his face protruded forward and was forever slowly oscillating from side to side in a curiously reptilian fashion. He peered at Holmes with great curiosity and triumph in his puckered eyes. Moriarty had arrived, rejuvenated, so to speak, from the land of the presumed dead.

To say that Holmes and Watson were not shocked would be grossly erroneous. Holmes, as usual, was the first one to regain composure. "Professor, you have less frontal development than I should have expected", said Holmes at last. "It is a dangerous habit to finger loaded firearms in the pocket of one's overcoat."

At this remark, Moriarty drew out his weapon and cocked it above Holmes' eyes. "I have triumphed at last. This is my Last Bow. While the world slept, safe in the thought that you had overcome me, I lived to have my revenge on you." So saying, he put the lead through Holmes eyes, but not before Holmes himself had retrieved his revolver from the drawer and put one through the Professor's heart. Miss Adalace promptly proceeded to faint, her delicate senses unable to bear the strain and flopped on the rug.

Watson caught Holmes as he fell down and rested his head on his lap. "I think that I may go so far as to say, Watson", gasped Holmes, "that I have not lived wholly in vain. If my record were closed to-night I could still survey it with equanimity. The air of London is the sweeter for my presence. In over a thousand cases I am not aware that I have ever used my powers upon the wrong side. Of late I have been tempted to look into the problems furnished by the Web rather than those more superficial ones for which our artificial state of society is responsible. Your memoirs will draw to an end, Watson, upon the day that I crown my career by the extinction of the most dangerous and capable criminal in Europe. But, for this final open problem which this dear woman has brought to my notice. I am sure there will be someone who can do something worthy to purge the world of this unsolved problem." His head dropped to one side, and the breath drew shallow. The light went off his intelligent eyes, and Watson was left unsolaced, with the much disarrayed lady a mute spectator to this heinous crime and victory.


As the world is left emptier, we strive to solve the last problem worthy of his attention. Our work is a tribute to the legend.

He he he.

Adapted variously from "The Solitary Cyclist" and "The Priory School", the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Return of Sherlock Holmes".