Four Very Basic Tips For Writing Sherlock Holmes Parody Stories

2016 Artwork Sherlock Holmes parody article sketch

Although I regret to say that, at the time of writing, I have not written a “serious” story that features the great detective, I’ve done the next best thing. I’ve written parody stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes. If you’re not interested in reading my nostalgic ramblings about them, then feel free to skip the next three or four paragraphs.

When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I had a lot of fun writing a series of unpublished short comedy stories (featuring a Holmes-like character called Dalton Coates and a Watson-like character called Larry Richs) set within the college I was studying in at the time.

These were stories with titles like “The Adventure Of The Missing Mouse Ball”, “The Invigilator Substitution Scandal” and “The Case Of The Disused Classroom”. When I later went to university, I ended up writing another Richs & Coates story called “The Hound Of The Student Halls”.

I also briefly revived the series for three short comedy stories in 2013- 14 (set several years later, when Dalton Coates has become a Tory MP) – called “The Case of The Phantom Funds” , “The Case of The Uncertain Constable” and, my personal favourite, “The Case Of The Absent Snuff-Box“.

And, before any of my regular readers ask, Dalton Coates was one of the many inspirations for Harvey from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series:

"Damania Resurgence - Debunked (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Debunked (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

Anyway, Sherlock Holmes is is one of the easiest characters for comedy writers to parody. Still, if you want to write a Sherlock Holmes parody story and don’t know where to start, then here are a few very basic tips.

1) Read the original stories. All of them: One of the easiest ways to learn how to write funny stories about Sherlock Holmes is just to read the original stories themselves.

Depending on where you live, all or most of them are in the public domain and can be legally read for free on sites like Project Gutenberg. If you prefer reading traditional books, then it isn’t like modern reprints of Sherlock Holmes are that expensive (eg: if you’re in the UK, then the Wordsworth Classics and Penguin Classics editions of the stories are worth checking out if you don’t want to spend too much).

The reason why it’s important to read as many of the original stories as you can is because it’ll give you a sense of the narrative voice that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used. After being exposed to tens of thousands of words of Conan Doyle’s wonderfully dramatic Victorian narration, you’ll get a good feel for it and be able to copy it fairly easily.

Reading the original stories will also show you a few of the techniques that I’ll be mentioning in this article, such as…..

2) Amusing case names: One of the cool things that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did in his Sherlock Holmes stories was to have both Holmes and Watson talk about cases that never appear in any of the “official” stories (the classic example is the case of the “Giant Rat Of Sumatra”).

Doyle used this technique in a “serious” way in order to make Sherlock Holmes appear to be a more experienced character, to add more realism to his stories and to intrigue the audience. However, it is also perfect for comedy too.

If you want to add a bit of extra humour to your story, then just come up with a few hilarious – but intriguing- story titles and have Watson mention them briefly in passing. Eg: ‘I glanced again at Sherlock Holmes’ gaunt visage, his brow furrowed in stern contemplation. Not since the mysterious affair of the missing scones had I seen him in such a grave state.

3) Change the setting: Sherlock Holmes is a timeless character and this is why he has appeared in films and TV shows that have been set in time periods from World War Two to the present day. It is, theoretically at least, possible to set a “serious” Sherlock Holmes story anywhere and/or in any period of time.

However, there are some places where a Sherlock Holmes-style story would be hilariously silly (eg: a sixth form college, a supermarket etc…). If you set your story in one of these places, then the potential for comedy is endless.

A smarter way of doing this, which I used in my own parody stories, is to set the story in the modern day but to use the “Victorian” version of Holmes and Watson (or similar characters). It might just be my sense of humour, but there’s something absolutely hilarious about seeing Victorian characters in modern settings.

4) Deductions:
One of the things that Sherlock Holmes is most well-renowned for is his deductions. This is where he can work out everything about something or someone through nothing more than careful observation. After deducing something, Sherlock Holmes always explains how he has done it. It doesn’t take a genuis to see the potential for comedy here.

For example, you could have Holmes say something like “But, my dear fellow, it is plainly obvious! The faded ink stains on your left hand indicate your recent enthusiastic perusal of certain illicitly-printed French lithographs. Likewise, the purple feather lodged in your hat brim could have only come from the feather boa of Madame Fioriana of the Burlesque parlour in Soho. I’d recognise that brand of mauve dye anywhere. Not to mention that the stench of cheap gin and opium smoke cannot be easily concealed by even the strongest cologne. It appears that you have had quite the night, Watson.

—————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (16th September 2014)

Sorry for the long introduction but, I recently rediscovered some old drawings I made back in 2007 and I thought that I’d re-make at least one of them in my current art style.

Today’s painting is based on an illustration I made to a ( badly-written and thankfully unpublished) “Richs and Coates” story I wrote called “The Case Of The Sandown Gamblers” – which involved Richs and Coates solving a very contrived mystery on the Isle Of Wight.

The illustration is from this part of the story (complete with the original tense and grammar errors) where Coates strikes it rich:

“My next memory is of waking up behind the sand mound in the afternoon, unsure as to whether I’d fallen asleep or fainted from sheer exhaustion. As I opened my eyes, I saw Coates standing over me. Instead of his usual jeans and dark t-shirt, he was wearing a rather impressive suit. A cigarillo extended from one corner of his mouth and he puffed on it while talking to me in relaxed tones:
“Larry, you look terrible, glad to see that you survived last night’s ordeal though.”
“More importantly, did the police get Ebenezer?”
Coates shook his head as he helped me to my feet, I brushed the sand from my jacket and stared again at his smart clothes. Chuckling, he continued:
“Oh, these? Let’s just say that I was one of the casino’s first customer’s this morning after the police left.”

Like with all of these redrawings, I’ll include the original badly-drawn illustration from 2007 for comparison too.

As usual, both of these pictures are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"The Sandown Gamblers" By C. A. Brown

“The Sandown Gamblers” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the hilariously terrible original drawing from 2007 (Wow! The perspective is terrible!):

"Richs And Coates in 'The Sandown Gamblers'" Original illustration from 2007 by C. A. Brown

“Richs And Coates in ‘The Sandown Gamblers'” Original illustration from 2007 by C. A. Brown

The Case Of The Absent Snuff-Box – A Richs and Coates Mystery (Fiction)

[Well, I felt like writing another one of my “Richs and Coates” Sherlock Holmes parody stories and, well, this has got to be my funniest one yet. Although, no doubt, I probably got some of the details about the setting of this story completely wrong.]

The Case Of The Absent Snuff-Box

A Richs and Coates Mystery By C. A. Brown

"Mr Dalton Coates MP eased the old wooden doors open. I peeked through the doorway and stuttered 'By Jove, it's even more spectacular than it I thought it would be!'

“Mr Dalton Coates MP eased the old wooden doors open. I peeked through the doorway and stuttered ‘By Jove, it’s even more spectacular than it I thought it would be!’

With a sly grin, my friend and fellow investigator, Mr Dalton Coates MP eased the old wooden doors open. I peeked through the doorway and stuttered ‘By Jove, it’s even more spectacular than it I thought it would be!’

‘It’s nothing amazing, Larry. It’s just where I work when I haven’t got a case.’

Despite his false modesty, I could tell that Coates still regarded this hallowed chamber with all the reverence that it deserved. After all, even visiting the magnificent seat of our democracy for several hours every day would do little to diminish it’s well-worn splendour and rich history.

As my eyes drifted over the green leather benches, I could not help but think of all the great statesmen, from Major to B’stard, who had once sat upon them. Not only that, I couldn’t help but think that my humble friend was indeed part of this grand tradition.

But, despite my awe, one thought still nagged at me. I turned to Coates and whispered: ‘Wait a minute, you said that this is where you work when you don’t have a case.’

‘Yes.’ Coates stroked his beard.

‘Therefore, using your own deductive reasoning, the only reason that we’re here at nine o’clock on a Sunday evening is because you have a case here. Damn it Coates, I’ve been asking you to let me visit for months and the one time that you actually let me visit is when there’s a mystery to solve.’

Coates put his finger to his lips before stepping through the door and beckoning for me to follow. As I stepped inside, I noticed an old man perching on an ornate wooden chair beside the door.

"As I stepped inside, I noticed an old man perching on an ornate wooden chair beside the door. No doubt that he was the rogue which Coates had brought me here to apprehend. "

“As I stepped inside, I noticed an old man perching on an ornate wooden chair beside the door. No doubt that he was the rogue which Coates had brought me here to apprehend. “

No doubt that he was the rogue which Coates had brought me here to apprehend. But, just as I was about to point accusingly at him, Coates shook his hand.

‘Larry, this is Wentley, the Commons Doorkeeper. Wentley, this is Larry, my friend and occasional assistant.’

Wentley held his hand out and I shook it briefly. There was a gleam in the old man’s eyes and he said: ‘I hate to pry, but I couldn’t help overhear you earlier. You should be more careful, the journalists here love nothing more than snooping for scandals amongst Members and their partners. But, if you’re going to have a tiff, then I can’t think of a better place than this.’

I looked away and said ‘Partners only in the business sense of the word’. I thought about adding ‘unfortunately’ too, but no doubt that gossip flew around this place faster than the mice did.

Coates turned to me and said: ‘Larry, we are here to investigate a highly delicate matter which must be kept as secret as that business with the octopus, the bullwhip and the leather handbag last month. Not a word of this matter must leave this chamber, do you understand?’

I nodded silently as Wentley slowly got to his feet and pointed to an empty shelf next to his chair and said: ‘It’s missing! The snuff-box is gone!’

Even Coates couldn’t help but gasp at this. The parliamentary snuff-box had been a regular fixture in the Commons ever since a certain miserable king had forbidden members from smoking their pipes in the chamber over three hundred years ago. The idea that anyone would stoop to stealing such a hallowed and valuable fixture was almost unthinkable. And, yet, there it was – an empty shelf next to the doorkeeper’s seat.

Instantly, my mind set itself to work. Using the methods that Coates had taught me, I attempted to make a logical deduction from the facts. Since tourists were only allowed to visit the public galleries on the upper floors of this room and most of the staff members were extensively vetted before being employed here, it was only logical to conclude that the thief must have been among the six hundred and fifty men and women who visit this room on a regular basis. Well, six hundred and forty-nine, excluding Coates.

Finally, I said: ‘Have you checked the security footage? I hate to suggest it, but there may have been a crook or two sitting on those benches over there.’

Wentley sighed and said: ‘I’ve gone over the footage twice and I’m on the verge of bringing the police in on this matter. It will be the ruin of me if word of this ever gets out! That’s why I called your business partner here to help me out with this matter.’

I let out a sigh and said: ‘I suggest we check the voting records of every member of this chamber. Since every member here already has ample wealth, we can discount simple greed as a motivation.’ I ignored a quiet chuckle from Coates and continued ‘As such, their motivation must have been ideological.’

By now, Coates’ quiet chuckling had broken into a loud guffaw which echoed around the entire chamber. Both Wentley and I glared at him, such behavior was both indecorous and unbecoming in a place like this. But, despite our stern expressions, he doubled over and began to laugh even more loudly before finally catching his breath and getting to his feet.

‘Coates! What is the meaning of this?’ I whispered to him.

‘The meaning of this? Well it is simple. The snuff-box never so much as left this room!’

'The meaning of this? Well it is simple. The snuff-box never so much as left this room!'

‘The meaning of this? Well it is simple. The snuff-box never so much as left this room!’

Wentley’s eyes widened and he pointed at Coates with a bony finger before saying: ‘This is no time for jokes!’

Coates was silent for a second before saying: ‘It is no joke. If you observe closely, you will notice a light sprinkling of snuff on the edge of the shelf. Now, if someone had merely slipped the box into their pocket, then there would have been traces of snuff on the carpet surrounding the shelf when the thief moved the box from the shelf to their pocket. Since the cleaners do not enter this chamber for another three hours, we can also discount the possibility that such traces would have been vacuumed away.’

Bending over, I examined the carpet surrounding the shelf. To my astonishment, Coates was right. There wasn’t even a single granule of snuff on the pristine green carpet.

‘So’ Coates said ‘ If the box has not been moved from this shelf recently, how can we account for it’s disappearance? The answer is simple.’

Stroking his beard again, Coates turned to Wentley and smiled ‘You put it on the wrong shelf again.’

Wentley gasped and was about to bluster out a stern rebuke when Coates said: ‘It’s on the bookshelf next to your chair. I noticed it shortly after we entered the chamber, but I initially just discounted it as being nothing more than a glasses-case. Still, when you have eliminated the impossible – whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’

Turning around, Wentley glanced at the shelf, before his eyes fixed on a small wooden box beside a large tome of the collected editions of Hansard. He shot out his arm and grabbed it, before holding it aloft as if it were Excalibur. ‘By heavens, you’re right!’

He slowly lowered the box and opened it. Once he was satisfied that it contained the appropriate amount of snuff, he proffered it to Coates and I.

Coates took a large pinch of it before returning the box to Wentley. He smiled at me and said: ‘Anyway, Larry, we have yet to visit the part of this building where I do the majority of my work.’

I raised a quizzical eyebrow and I could see a thin smile cross Wentley’s lips too. Finally, the old man pointed to the door and said: ‘The bar is down the corridor, you can’t miss it.’

The Case Of The Uncertain Constable – A Richs and Coates Mystery (Fiction)

2014 Artwork Richs And Coates Uncertain Constable Illustration 3

[Well, since I haven’t written one of these Sherlock Holmes parody stories in almost a year, I thought that it was about time that I wrote another one.]

—————

The Case Of The Uncertain Constable

A Richs and Coates Mystery By C. A. Brown

"Coates stood in the doorway and grinned at me 'You're thinking about that business with the empty lager can on the college roof and the feral cat in the biology lab again, aren't you?' "

“Coates stood in the doorway and grinned at me ‘You’re thinking about that business with the empty lager can on the college roof and the feral cat in the biology lab again, aren’t you?’ “

It was a dark autumn evening in the year of our lord twenty-fourteen when I joined my friend and fellow investigator, Mr.Dalton Coates MP, for a long weekend of pheasant shooting and backgammon at his official residence in the Newleyshire countryside.

Both of us had been exceedingly busy of late – myself with the stock market and Coates with both official matters of state and his unofficial duties as a private investigator. So, a meeting like this was as rare as it was fortuitous.

Still, as I sank down on the easy chair beside the roaring fire and glanced about the opulent wood-panelled lounge, I couldn’t help but think of the old days once again. Those days, but a mere decade ago, when we were both sixth form students and the only people who stood between order and chaos in our college. No doubt that Coates would think me a sentimental fool for reminiscing about our early cases, I couldn’t help but remember them with glee.

Stroking his dark goat-like beard, Coates stood in the doorway and grinned at me ‘You’re thinking about that business with the empty lager can on the college roof and the feral cat in the biology lab again, aren’t you?’

I leapt to my feet, astonished: ‘By Jove, how did you know?’

Walking over to the other chair, Coates perched himself on the edge of the seat and said ‘Easily deduced, Larry. When I entered the room, I noticed that your left hand twitched involuntarily and you crossed your legs slightly. I can think of no other case, but the one in question, which would have elicited such a reaction in you.’

‘Astounding, simply astounding! Your powers of deduction never fail to amaze me.’

‘Tish, pshaw! That was nothing compared to the business in which I have recently found myself. Larry, would you take a look at this? I found it in the hallway less than three minutes ago’

At that, he handed me a small slip of paper. In block capitals, it read: “MR COATES I NEED YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE STOP ALARMING DISCOVERY AT LOWER FRAMPTON BUS STATION STOP COME AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN – DC LESTER.”

I handed the paper back to Coates and said: ‘We should probably get going. If my memory of the local area is correct, Lower Frampton is but three minutes away by cab.’

‘Larry, does anything strike you as strange about this message?’

‘Not particularly. Apart from the fact that it was written by a detective constable called Lester, it is far to vague to give us any details. But, no doubt you have already ascertained both the particulars of the case and the identity of the culprit from both the shape of the note and the variety of paper upon which it is printed.’

Coates gave me a sly smile before getting to his feet and walking over to the telephone in the corner. He dialled for a cab before turning to me with a grave look upon his face: ‘You’d better take your revolver with you, Larry. This matter may require it.’

‘My revolver? You know as well as I do that I do not own a revolver! Nor, with your recent amendments to the Firearms Bill, could I do so without incurring a sentence of up to ten years’ imprisonment.’

‘No, I meant that Beatles cassette you were talking about last week. I think that “Revolver” was it’s name. Although I care little for modern music, I cannot abide conversations with cab drivers and could really use some loud music for our journey.’

Before I could shake my head, Coates glanced at the window before picking up his jacket and saying: ‘No matter Larry, the cab company’s reputation for lateness is most undeserved. If we hurry, we can be there and back in time to catch my speech on BBC Parliament later this evening.’

———————–

"At this hour, the station was completely deserted and I could only perceive one stationary bus at the far end of the station."

“At this hour, the station was completely deserted and I could only perceive one stationary bus at the far end of the station.”

After a short and awkwardly silent journey, our cab arrived at Lower Frampton bus station. At this hour, the station was completely deserted and I could only perceive one stationary bus at the far end of the station.

Coates reached into his bulging wallet and handed a note to the driver before whispering something to him and motioning for me to leave the cab. I shivered against the cold and looked around the station once again. The ticket office windows were dark and there was no sign of even a police car, let alone Detective Constable Lester.

For a second, I felt an even deeper chill run down my spine. Perhaps, like in the case of the crooked biscuit, we had arrived but a few seconds too late to prevent the perpetration of a most ghastly crime. It was indeed possible that some calamity had already befallen Lester and we would be powerless to do anything but call for an ambulance.

Before I could say anything to Coates, I heard the loud roaring of an engine behind me. Turning around, I briefly saw Coates through the cab window as the cab began to speed away. Too shocked to move, I merely stared at the cab’s number plate as it grew smaller and smaller. Why would my loyal friend and fellow investigator maroon me at a bus station in such an abrupt manner?

Still, since I was here, I decided that it would be remiss of me not to take a look around. So, I peered through the darkened windows of the ticket office and began a thorough examination of the bus. However, before I could take a good look at the undercarriage, I heard an angry shout behind me and leapt to my feet. There was a tall man in a yellow uniform standing beside the ticket office and glaring at me over his moustache.

He strode towards me and said: ‘What in blazes are you doing snooping around here at this time of night? If you don’t leave immediately, then I’ll be forced to call the police.’

I smiled at him and said: ‘That may be a good idea. I am looking for a Detective Constable Lester in connection with an unusual discovery made here earlier this evening. No doubt, you are already fully aware of the details of this matter.’

The man stared at me as if I’d just materialised out of thin air before saying: ‘I don’t know what the bleedin’ ‘ell you’re talking about, but if you don’t get out of here right now, then I can have a police van here in less than five minutes. I’m sure that they will treat you much less charitably than I have done.’

Sighing loudly and turning away, I said : ‘That will not be necessary, I’m leaving.’

——————————

"Reaching down, I picked it up and glanced at it - it was nothing other than a large crowbar. "

“Reaching down, I picked it up and glanced at it – it was nothing other than a large crowbar. “

As I crested the small hill near Coates’ mansion, I heard an almighty caterwauling behind me. Before I could turn around, a blur of bright blue sirens flashed past me. It didn’t take an experienced investigator to know that the police cars were heading in the same direction as I was.

So, taking a deep breath, I doubled my speed and, within a minute, I found myself outside the open gates of the mansion. Three police cars were parked outside the front door and I could clearly see Coates holding a short man in a midnight blue sweater by the scruff of his neck. He thrust the man in the general direction of the police cars before saying something indistinct.

The man tried to run towards me, but before he could get very far, the car doors opened and seven constables converged on the man. There was a brief scuffle, but within minutes, the man found himself in the back seat of one of the cars. Then, as quickly as they had arrived, they left.

Once the coast was clear, I walked gingerly down the driveway until I had reached the front door. Coates leant against it, staring into the middle distance and stroking his beard in the fashion that he always does when he is deep in thought. I coughed quietly and glared at him. A few seconds later, he turned towards me and a smile crossed his face.

‘My sincere apologies for ditching you Larry, but as you can see, I had more pressing matters to attend to.’

‘What the devil are you talking about Coates? And, more importantly, who was that man?’

Coates opened the door and beckoned me inside before saying ‘A cat-burglar, Larry. I thought that even someone of your ordinary skills would have deduced that fact.’

‘Yes, even someone of my “ordinary skills” could have worked that out. But, why did you abandon me like that?’

Walking into the lounge, Coates found a bottle of brandy and poured me a large measure before pouring one for himself. I took the brandy from him and sipped it quietly as Coates sat beside the fire and rifled around for the strip of paper which had started this whole sorry business.

When he found it, he held it aloft and said: ‘Do you still not notice anything unusual about it Larry?’

‘No, I don’t. Only that it is a telegram which someone obviously sent to you in order to lure you away from your mansion, so that they could burgle it.’

‘Exactly!’ It may have been the fire, but I could almost certainly see a mischievous gleam in Coates’ eyes as he looked at the paper once again. ‘Although I may not be well-acquainted with modern technology, I more than aware of the fact that the Post Office no longer sends out telegrams. Despite my many letters of protest and early day motions in Parliament, they stubbornly refuse to bring them back.’

‘So, you knew that it was a ruse all along! Still, I don’t quite understand why you had to leave me at the bus station.’

‘Larry, the Post Office no longer sends out telegrams. As such, the only person who could have delivered the message was the burglar himself. From that fact, it is logical to deduce that he must have been waiting nearby and watching for both of us to leave for the bus station. Since time was of the essence and I had no wish to see you harmed, I decided to return alone to confront the thief. Who, when I caught him, was in the process of trying to dislodge my antique bust of Pallas from the mantelpiece with a crowbar.’

At that, Coates gestured towards a wonky old statue above the fire which looked all the worse for wear. I glanced around the fireplace until I noticed something unusual lying next to the poker. Reaching down, I picked it up and glanced at it – it was nothing other than a large crowbar.

Slowly, a smile crossed my face and I said: ‘Capital! But surely we should give this to the police. It is, after all, evidence.’

‘No point, Larry. According to the constables, he is wanted in connection with a string of other antique thefts. And, well, I have always wanted a crowbar of my own. I consider it more than fair restitution for the damage caused to my statue.’

Before I could bluster out a few words of reproach, Coates leant back in his chair and reached for the television remote. Without even looking at me, he turned the TV over to BBC Parliament and sipped his brandy: ‘Anyway, Larry, we have already missed the first five minutes of my speech in the Commons about the upcoming agricultural reforms.’

Today’s Art (31st January 2014)

Well, I produced two new watercolour pencil drawings for today (well, the second one is technically a single-panel comic), but neither of them really turned out as well as I hoped they would and they are best viewed at about a quarter of their original size.

Maybe this is a sign that I still need to give my imagination a break for a while and return to re-drawing my best old drawings for a bit longer?

As usual, these two watercolour pencil drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Nightmare City" By C. A. Brown

“Nightmare City” By C. A. Brown

Nightmare City” was an attempt at drawing/painting a random dystopic sci-fi scene. But, unfortunately, this painting ended up being slightly rushed and it didn’t really turn out as well as I hoped it would.

"Richs and Coates" By C. A. Brown

“Richs and Coates” By C. A. Brown

Richs and Coates” is a drawing of two characters (Coates is the one on the left and Richs is the one on the right) that I originally came up with when I was about sixteen or seventeen for a series of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ parody stories I wrote at the time.

Interestingly, I actually wrote a new “Richs and Coates” story last May (set several years after the original stories) and it can be found here.

(Random Fiction) The Case of the Phantom Funds: A Richs & Coates Mystery

"Richs & Coates" was a series of badly-written Sherlock Holmes parody stories I wrote when I was 17.  After it was mentioned in a comment earlier tonight, I thought it'd be amusing to write another story to see what had happened to them over the last few years... (As for this picture, Coates is the one on the left and Richs is the one on the right)

“Richs & Coates” was a series of badly-written Sherlock Holmes parody stories I wrote when I was 17.
After it was mentioned in a comment earlier tonight, I thought it’d be amusing to write another story to see what had happened to them over the last few years…
(As for this picture, Coates is the one on the left and Richs is the one on the right)

It was a blustery April evening when I joined my friend and fellow investigator, Mr. Dalton Coates MP, in his new rural lodgings. As I poured a glass of brandy from the tantalus and sank back down into the easy chair by the fire, I congratulated him once again on his by-election victory. After he had led the investigation into that business with the previous incumbent, the chief constable had practically insisted that he stand for election.

Whilst I would love to regale you of our exemplary detection in that case, it is an even more delicate matter than the Mystery of the Speckled Cats and it is perhaps best left unspoken in these journals.

‘Oh, forget the election, Larry.’ He muttered in sombre tones as he sipped his brandy. ‘My mind is weighed down with much heavier matters.’

‘The tabloids? Was there another flattering editorial? I hear that they’re even bringing out a special edition of the Daily —- about your career.’

‘No, although their insufferable praise bothers me quite considerably, this matter is much more serious. I find myself in the midst of a mystery once again.’

I gasped and almost spilt my brandy. Coates remained silent. Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t help but feel a slight thrill. Ever since The Adventure of of the Siberian Pencil, life had, quite frankly, become fairly dull. Concealing my excitement behind a stern frown, I leant forward and said: ‘It must be quite the mystery.’

Coates threw his hands into the air and let out a long sigh: “Indeed it is! Indeed it is! You see, a signifcant quantity of funds has gone missing from the constituency budget.’

‘But surely you voted in favour of that? I mean, you even gave that ripping speech in the house of….’

‘No, Larry. It is quite unconnected to my recent speech. I am at quite a loss to explain it. The money just went missing overnight, the police are at a quite loss to explain it too. I fear that there may be villainy afoot!’

I let out a gasp. Never since the Case of The Sandown Gamblers had we uncovered such audacious criminality. If we did not resolve this matter soon, then editorials of a different kind would be appearing in the tabloids. I immediately suggested to Coates that we make a thorough examination of the relavent accounts, but he merely shook his head: “It is of no use, Larry! I have been over each ledger more than ten times and have not spotted any irregularities.’

‘Ledger? But I thought that these days it was all done with computers.’

‘Damnable machines! You cannot beat the solid reliablilty of good old pen and paper. Although, alas, my secretary does not agree.’

I nodded in agreement and a heavy pall of silence fell over the room. If Coates’s sharp mathematical mind had found no irregularity in the ledgers, then it pointed to nothing other than theft. Finally, I asked the only question I could. ‘How much was it?’

‘Ten pounds Larry, ten whole pounds!’ He let out a sigh of deep anguish.

‘Surely you mean ten thousand? A mere ten pounds is nothing for a constituency of this size and vintage. It barely even covers a glass of decent wine.’

‘No, but it is the principle of it that matters.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes, I had that money earmarked for new biscuits for the constituency office. It looks like we’ll be stuck with nothing but bland own-brand digestives if that money isn’t recovered. It is hardly befitting for a man of my rank. ‘ He sighed once more and slumped into his chair. It was easy to see why such a thing could drive a man to the depths of despair.

But, for once, I had the beginnings of an idea in my mind. ‘Your secretary. Does he, perchance, eat biscuits?’

Coates leapt to his feet. In an instant, he looked once again like the master investigator who had been at my side during the Mystery of the Crushed Can. Without a word, he reached for his greatcoat and gestured for me to do the same. By the time I had seized my coat from its hook, Coates was already at the door and beckoning for me to follow.

We stepped out fearlessly onto the rain-lashed streets, the smell of manure hanging heavily in the air. Coates strode ahead of me as we neared the village centre. To our shock and horror, the lights were still on in his office. Whoever had purloined his funds had made the predictable error of returning to the scene of the crime to gloat about their misdeeds.

As we neared the office windows, we kept low and Coates beckoned for me to be silent. We would require every ounce of stealth and cunning in order to crack this case. I stayed back as Coates crept up to the bright window and pressed himself against the wall. Gingerly, he looked over his shoulder into the room before turning to me and nodding.

With a sudden motion, Coates rapped loudly upon the window-pane as I dashed towards the door to catch the startled miscreant. Even after six years, our techniques still worked perfectly and it wasn’t long before I found myself wrestling with Coates’s secretary. He was quite the strong fellow and I had to use all of my training in the martial arts in order to even stay on my feet.

Finally, after we had exhausted ourselves, Coates turned towards his secretary and shouted: “Confess! I know that you are behind the missing money! What was it? Gambling debts? A mistress? Opera tickets?”

"Coates turned towards his secretary and shouted: "Confess! I know that you are behind the missing money! What was it? Gambling debts? A mistress? Opera tickets? ' "

“Coates turned towards his secretary and shouted: “Confess! I know that you are behind the missing money! What was it? Gambling debts? A mistress? Opera tickets? ‘ “

Confronted with his crime, he turned pale and said: ‘Biscuits! It was those confounded digestives! They will be the ruin of me! When I heard rumours that you were planning to replace them with custard creams, I could stand it no longer! I had to take action!’

Coates let out a loud laugh ‘No, my dear fellow. I had planned to replace them with macaroons or possibly Viennese swirls.’

‘You monster! You fiend!’ He bellowed as he lunged at Coates.

I could only stand there frozen in horror as they began to fight. But Coates soon had the upper hand and whistled loudly for a passing constable. Fortunately, it was the chief constable himself, wandering home after a few pints of ale at the local inn. Despite his drunken state, he quickly found reinforcements and the thief was soon led away by a group of burly constables.
—–

Later that night as we sat once again in Coates’s lodgings, he congratulated me on my deduction and poured me a glass of claret. As he sat back in his chair and glanced towards the roaring fire in the corner of the room, I noticed the beginnings of a smile creep across his face.

‘Larry, I am in need of a new secretary! Would you be so kind as to do me the honour…’

‘Of course’. I could feel a warm glow of glee in my heart. The prospect of working alongside Coates again was too astounding to decline, even if it was on mundane matters of state.

‘…of passing me the phone directory. I need to call the secretarial agency and ask for a refund. I am most definately not a satisfied customer!’