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Arsenic and Anaesthesia


Arsenic and Anaesthesia
By
Justin Casey Screams

"Come here, Watson. I need you. Just look at this," said Oliver looking up from his test tube, "Our man has definitely been poisoned."

"How do you know that", I asked.

"Alimentary, my dear Watson. Would you do me the favour of admitting a visitor who, at present, is climbing the stairs? I would do it myself if not for the fact that I donít trust my feet in my present drugged state."

Anticipating my quest for enlightenment on the deeper machinations of his mind, he continued, "Ah! You want to ask me how I know it. I have here a device that enables me to see through walls. People call it a window."

"A window, that seems to ring a bell", I remarked sarcastically.

"It would ring a bell. You worked with both the famous Dr.Bells, didnít you ? The one in England and the one across the Atlantic. But what you heard now was the doorbell."

I opened the door and ushered in an old man, expensively dressed, with a troubled expression on his face. He walked in and said, "Oliver Mordecai, I presume?".

"You would be presuming too much if you were to step on the carpet in your dirty boots, sir", Oliver replied with his back turned to the visitor.

Our visitor let out a gasp and divested himself of his boots. "How in heavenís name, sir, did you figure out that my boots were dirty when you werenít facing me?", he asked.

"Thatís a professional secret", Oliver replied enigmatically.

I decided to get my own back at Oliver. So I told our guest, "They do it with mirrors."

Introductions soon followed.

"Iím Mortimer Brewster. I think Iím being poisoned."

"Do you get sudden impulses to set things on fire?"

"No. Why?"

Iíd gotten used to Oliverís peculiar sense of humor by now. So, it was no surprise when he said, "Just looking for symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Please go on". Oliver then went into that famed pose, leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed. He did tend to drop off now and then, but he had a tape-recorder handy for such exigencies.

"Sir, for about two weeks now, Iíve been having these dreams, delusions if you will. Each time, I dream of the same sequence of events. I take a gun out of my desk, put it in my mouth, and shoot myself. Canít imagine how I could have the same dream over and over again. The only explanation I can think of is that somebodyís feeding me hallucinatory drugs."

"Opium would be just about perfect for this. ", said Oliver speaking from personal experience. "Tell me about the members of your household."

"Thereís my wife. Then, we have a son, Ralph, who inherits my fortune. They are both above suspicion. As for the servants, we have a butler and a parlourmaid. The butler, Jeeves, has been with us for 10 years. The parlourmaidís been there only a year but sheís very cute. She wouldnít do something like this. "

Oliver appeared very interested in the matter and promised to look into it. We made an appointment with Brewster for the next afternoon.

Breakfast, the next day, brought forth startling developments that made my head as scrambled as the eggs we were having. "Stock up on your beer. Brewster dead", screamed the headlines in the papers.

"Did he shoot himself?", asked Oliver.

I consulted the paper and told him, "No".

"Thatís funny. Tell me, was it lead poisoning?"

"No. He apparently took some liquid form of chloroform. Why on earth did you think it was lead poisoning?"

"He dreamt of shooting himself in the mouth. I thought he might have been eating a bullet symbolically", Oliver mused.

10 a.m. found us at the residence of Mortimer Brewster where we were greeted with surprise by Chief Inspector Koreann.

"Fancy seeing you here. This is an open-and-shut case. No clues for you to crack. The butler did it. We found some form of chloroform hidden in his room. Apparently, you can mix this stuff with food and nobody will be the wiser. He doesnít have an alibi either."

Oliver proceeded to narrate the encounter we had had with Mr.Brewster the previous day. He wasnít convinced that the butler did it.

"Inspector, have you noticed something very singular, plural actually. One, he does not have a motive. Two, if he wanted to kill Brewster, why be stupid enough to leave the incriminating evidence in his own room?"

"Maybe he was using reverse psychology. As for the motive, I can think of many reasons. Maybe he was stealing and Mr.Brewster got wise to it."

We proceeded into the house and saw Jeeves polishing some shoes. He appeared to be very nervous, so nervous, in fact, that he was applying black polish to a brown shoe.

Suddenly Oliver shouted, "Roger Ackroyd!" and startled us all.

"Do you realise the enormity of what you have done, Jeeves?", asked Oliver.

"What are you referring to, sir", Jeeves asked, unable to hide a tremble.

"You have ruined a perfectly good pair of brown shoes. Who does it belong to?"

Jeeves was in shock from what he had done. It was some time before he summoned up the courage to say, "They were my masterís, sir."

"Are these the shoes he uses every day?"

"Yes, sir"

At this, Oliver did a little jig and shouted at Koreann, "This man is innocent. The shoe is on the other foot." The rest, as they say, is history. Oliver Mordecai has a lot of vices but modesty is not one of them. When you ask him for explanations, he just snorts. If you are clever enough to hold a few grams of heroin under his nose at that exact moment, you would put him in a more pleasurable mood and heíd bestow upon you an explanation. This is what he told me when I used about 10 gramsí worth on him.

" Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?", he started. Seeing that the remark didnít seem to have enlightened me greatly, he continued. "It was blindingly obvious. You see, Iím no chauvinist. I always preferred the parlourmaid to the butler. When Jeeves told me that his master wore brown shoes, I figured it all out. You will remember, Watson, that our visitor wore boots. So, the person who visited us must have been someone impersonating Mortimer Brewster. Who but his son Ralph Brewster could have done it? We have only his word for it that they had the best of relations. What if the son was in love with the maid and Daddy found out? I must admit the plan was brilliant. We have a man who keeps dreaming of killing himself. If things had gone according to plan, we would have found that this is indeed what would have happened. If we then looked beyond suicide, the butler would have been the prime suspect. But things went wrong. The maid put too much chloroform in the food and Mortimer Brewster died before they could put a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. They still had Jeeves to take the rap. But the shoes gave them away. There was no getting away from it. Milton had it down pat. "They also serve who only stand and wait"."

"What do you mean?", I asked.

"Sheís going to serve time, isnít she?"

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.

 

Addendum

by Justin Caseye Missed-de-Funda

"Come here Watson, I need you" were the first words spoken on the telephone. Dr. Alexander Graham Bell was addressing his assistant, Watson.

Anaesthesia was invented by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes got his name from Oliver Wendell Holmes and a Yorkshire wicket-keeper called Mordecai Sherlock.

Mortimer Brewster is the name of Cary Grantís character in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Chief Inspector Koreann was succeeded at Scotland Yard by Chief Inspector Japp who makes his appearance in the Hercule Poirot stories.

Oliver Mordecai finds it all "blindingly" obvious because Milton put him on the right track.

Oliver Mordecai is addicted to opium but heíd settle for heroin "at a pinch".

Watson responds to Oliverís Milton quote with Oliver Goldsmithís "The Village Schoolmaster".