THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE: THE CASE OF THE OUTWITTED DETECTIVE
Chapter I: "Setting Up the Board"REVISED EDITION
Dramatised by Diane N. Tran
- To the "old" Basilian crowd, you know who you are, I remember you still and think of you still and love you all the more that you still remember me, too.
To Sherringford Basil, she was always the Woman. Before then, her public entitlements were many and varied — the Primadonna Teatru Wielki, la Seconda Donna della Scala, la Reine du Palais Garnier, la Princess of the Renaissance, the Actress, the Adventuress, the Professional Beauty, the Woman in the Little Black Dress, the Jersey Lily, the New Helen, the Gibson Girl, but rarely was the name of Mademoiselle Irene Relda spoken under any other name, under any other entitlement, by my friend than the Woman. In his eyes, she eclipsed the whole of her sex. I can recall vividly our first encounter with the formidable woman those years ago. Her scheme to crumble the Kingdom of Bohemia, though foiled by Basil and I, was indeed ingenious and her escape even more so, with a blackmailing photograph, the root of the scandal, still in hand, leaving the best laid plans of the Great Mouse Detective beaten by a woman's wit. And yet, in spite of this, he held no grudge, no resentment, against her, but the greatest and gentlest of admiration for her bold and exceptional nature. Her name would reflect back thoughts and emotions that would remain his, and his alone.
It was on a drizzly day in March when these very thoughts re-surfaced again. Basil was laboring with chemical experiments, mumbling to himself, as he often did. A large, curved retort was boiling furiously over the bluish flame of a burner and distilled liquids of different colours and of different odours were condensing into measuring cups, as he dipped into his bottle or that, drawing out a few droplets of each with his glass pipette, and jostled a test-tube containing a solution with a jaunting eye, when a telegram arrived at our shared rooms of Lower 221B Baker Street.
"By my troth," his eyes twinkled and a grin flared widely across his face, as the detective began to paraphrase a Shakespearean quote with a clicking of his tongue, "it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be always astounded with her."
"What is it, Basil?" I asked, lowering my paper, and walked towards him.
He laughed to himself and handed me the card merrily:
- MY DEAR MR. SHERRINGFORD BASIL:
I SHALL CALL UPON YOU THIS AFTERNOON AT FOUR ON A MATTER OF SOME IMPORTANCE. I AM CERTAIN YOU ARE AWARE OF OUR HISTORY TOGETHER AND I HAVE NO DESIRE TO IDLE OURSELVES WITH EMBITTERED TIMES, BUT HOPE WE CAN START ANEW BY EMBARKING ON A BRIDGE OF MUTUAL AGREEMENT UPON MATTERS OF BUSINESS; AND I REMAIN, DEAR MR. BASIL,
VERY TRULY YOURS,
MLLE. IRENE RELDA.
I heard the sound of his scurried foot-steps pass behind me. He passed affront of me the second time, with bundle of old newspapers in his arms, hiding them behind the desk, then grabbed a silver savour with a tea-china set, and scampered across the room. He shot open a door and tossed the entire set carelessly out with a deafening crash. As he slammed the door, our landlady gave out a harsh wailing.
"It's all right, Mrs. Judson, I shall recompense for the lost," he hollered and off he went again.
Never had I seen Basil so agitated — or was it excited? — over the impendence of a client!
After some minutes, he finally walked calmly out of his rooms, sweeping his hair back, wearing his smartest ascot. He then glanced over the study, making certain that everything was in order, and then to myself:
"Good heavens, Dawson! You're not wearing that, are you? No, no, no, too late now!" he urged me away to answer the light knock at the door, with a hasty shooing of his hands. "Go answer the door and give her your full attention, for here she comes!"