This is a Sherlock Holmes spoof/parody that I wrote when I was ten years old.
Entitled The Adventure of the Brick in a Sock, it is the earliest story that survived the ravages of age, cats and general soiling in the various attics that housed it.
As mentioned in a previous blog, https://greebohobbes.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/short-story-discovery/ I had written quite a few stories from this time period. Some are alright, some are better left forgotten.
I am going to share a few. They have been written down faithfully from the original exercise books. In some cases, I have modernised references to pop culture or untangled torturous phrasing. The names are exactly the same though despite it probably being easier to write names as Foxley instead of Ffoxley-Ffinch. Wherever it works or not, I can’t judge.
So with that said, I hope you will enjoy what you are about to read. Please forgive me for I knew not what I did.
The Adventure of the Brick in a Sock
The year 1925 saw my friend Benjamin Ffoxley-Ffinch at the very height of his inconsiderable powers of guessing and waxing lyrical. Reading through my dog-eared journals for that year, my somewhat random attention is caught by a number, nay a score, of cases; some commonplace, some bizarre, some just stupidly macabre plus a few that would be a cause of brown underwear if they were ever published (by that, I mean, right proper bowel-blubbering capers).
For example, I recall The Enigma of the Cold Fusion Teapot for which Ffoxley-Ffinch received a telegram from the king, a pint of Crowley’s Amber Flame from the landlord of The Liar and the Wireless public house and a trip to the lay of the land (Miss Sally Sin, tuppence for her favours and no questions asked). But that case would present some embarrassment to those of a nervous disposition. Other cases like The Mystery of the Headmaster’s Leather-Clothed Harem would only interest the degenerate editors of specialist journals.. Even our easiest cases, like The Case of the Cat in a Tree, wouldn’t be of any interest, except to those that are anally retentive enough to know all about our private lives or about the bouncability of a ginger tom.
Recently, Ffoxley-Ffinch had been feeling quite blue. His powers of guessing and waxing lyrical had not been, or so he thought, taxed sufficiently enough recently. Even that incident involving Roger Beccesley the self-taught hypnotist of yew trees (The Adventure of the Man Who Mesmerised Yew) had not raised one iota of improbable guess-work.
It was not until the last few weeks before Christmas that he finally cheered up. I fell down the stairs. He laughed and laughed for days about that. So happy was he that he gladly accompanied me to my sister’s marriage to the inventor of the decaffeinated coffee table.
Returning from the shindig, it was a cold-chilled night and the frost struck my bones like a blind archer. Ffoxley-Ffinch, on the other hand, was striding down each road like a drunk with the keys to a brewery. He was in unusually good cheer, he had imbibed a great deal of sherry, I fancy.
It was in this state that we arrived at our digs. Ffoxley-Ffinch leaped up the steps of 1701d Bacon Street. Inside his cheer turned to a mood of lucid contemplation as his eagle-like eyes spied upon a worn business card. His face turned to one of utter disgust. He looked like an asthmatic dust mite.
Upon the card, printed in crayon, was this:
Gerald St. b’Arnaby esq
25 Lamarr House
London, Earth, the Universe
Turning to me, he asked, “What do you make of this card, my dear Doctor Pond. Pray tell. Use those grey cells for once.”
Using all of my brain power, I remarked, “Dunno, mate, I haven’t the foggiest, old bean. My only experience of cards is from Christmas or telephone boxes.”
Giving me one of his patented ‘why I oughta’ stares, he said, “Pond! By the worn edges I can see that it has been kept in a pocket or maybe an envelope rather than a wallet or a cat. Cotton pockets may I add so perhaps not an envelope at all.” Turning over the card, he continued. “There is no crayon marks on the back of this card so I can safely say that he has a selection of cards which he has cut out for him. As blank as a politician’s promise. Presumably, made just for us.”
“But Benj…,” I started.
“The person who placed the card upon the hallway floor? Our landlady, Mrs Tarwhine. I’d wager a bushel of Skinnen’s finest shag tobacco on this. The fact that she rang me up at your relative’s house to tell me is neither here nor there.” He rested upon his weighty laurels. I don’t know why. A cane or a mantelpiece would have been much easier to rest upon.
“You rotter!” I sputtered as he picked himself up from the floor, the laurels having been inadequate to the task.
“Not so much a rotter as the dubious b’Arnaby!”
“What do you dislike about this jackanapes?”
“He is a bloody know-it-all!” cried out Ffoxley-Ffinch. I remained silent as I did not wish to be beaten with my friend’s mallet. “The worst in London and possibly Luton for that matter.” Still perusing the card, he held it up to the light. “My giddy god,” he blasphemed, “he has only gone and had the cheek to watermark the card with a message. Blasted gonk!”
The watermark read:
Will come at 10.10pm, dear oiks, December 18th. Ta ta!
“The cur,” growled Ffoxley-Ffinch. “That is today and in a few minutes. What a cunning git!”
To which you may ask a pertinent question: Why did we return home at such an early time of night? You have to remember that this was 1925. People simply didn’t stay up too late in case they were set upon by errant orcs. The past is truly a different country, eh?
“Don’t you like him,” I asked, adding to the conversation what I felt would be an amusing comment.
“You ignorant bloater!” my dear friend ejaculated. “Don’t be shy of sense, you utter buffoon! I hate the cad, I wish he wasn’t coming here but alas I doubt he would cancel. It is my own fault anyway,” he mumbled this last part, “since I was the one who invited him. Aargh!”
“Why did you…”
“I don’t know! I had too much of my three percent solution and one thing led to another and now he is coming and I simply look a fright. I need to put on a dressing gown. Also some underwear.”
“Now make haste, you portly ponce and hide the silverware under your mattress! He is a thief.”
Ffoxley-Ffinch snatched his dressing gown and underwear from the cat who had been strutting around our humble digs like lord of the manor. After a few mistakes, my friend managed to dress himself.
“What does this cad do? Besides thieving,” I asked, reaching for the silver goat slicer.
“He is a copper’s nark but not in the good sense of the word. Reporting people’s secrets to the police unless they pay him not to. A blackmailer. He is a criminal genius, better than Wright the Ripper even. There are no flies on him which is surprising given what he is full of.”
“Ripper as in that horrid man who did in those ladies of the night in 1888?”
“Erm, no, Pond. I meant that bloke in Bethnal Green who rips ladies’ undercrackers off their washing lines. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Woe be to those who cross b’Arnaby’s path. He makes his money by finding out the compromising matters of the gentry, then he bribes the blue blazes out of them before selling their stories to the newspapers. He is a racist of whom even the London Metropolitan Police hold in awe and with great esteem. I recently found out that he had scammed three pence out of the Lairwites, the wealthiest family in Yorkshire. Forgive me for my digressing but he really gets on my goat.”
Ffoxley-Ffinch’s goat look quizzically up at him.
“Not you, Ponsonby.”
“What does the law say of this bribery and blackmail and the getting on of your goat?”
“They say, ‘Rightio, you’re nicked, old son. What? Thirty sovereigns for me? Well, ta, mate. On your way now. Gawd bless’, and not much besides. Bribery doesn’t get you many years in gaol, and anyway what is that compared to the damage he does to his so-called clients? Folks such as us most find ways beyond the law to punish him. Such as a half-brick flung at his head or a brick inside a sock swung to clonk his noggin. That usually works for me.”
My friend was right. He had used the brick in a sock technique during our last case, The Adventure of Why Not Enough Is Being Done For the Apathetic, which involved the aforementioned sock-brick combo, a deformed pseudo-Victorian circus performer and a cat called Gin-Gin. Now I come to think of it, all of our cases tend to end with a socked brick.
Suddenly the door flew open and out through the window. Ffoxley-Ffinch and I looked at where the bedroom door had been and shook our heads. Not again, I thought. I made a note to buy a new door.
Suddenly the apartment’s front door whammed open. WHAM, it whammed. A figure burst into our quarters, splattering the walls with entrails. We were about to clean up the mess, by which I mean to ring the bell to summon Mrs Tarwhine to scrub it up, when a man entered. It was b’Arnaby. The cur.
“Wotcher, Benji!” he grinned like a piano that had been walked upon by an elephant wearing jackboots. “What is the name of your chum ‘ere?”
“Pond,” I said. “Doctor Knatchbull Pond. I’m a doctor.”
“Bully for you,” said our guest. “Benji, I need yer ‘elp. I’ve got a nutty assassin after me.”
“Well, well, well,” said Ffoxley-Ffinch. “What gives you that idea?”
“My cronies are being wiped out, yeah. Beagle Perkins was murdered at Lords cricket ground. Skegger too. My last dodgy pal, Cain Prawn, was murdered a couple of days ago by suffocating on gerbils! Now it is my turn!”
“Hmmm? Have you any reason to be assassinated? Are there any people you think are the culprits?” smirked my friend.
“Well, Sheikh Yehbommbomm isn’t too keen on me for revealing his goldfish addiction. Nor is Lady Edwina of Snood. I bribed that one about her collection of bovine moisteners. Heh. Last but not least is the famous wireless chef, Archie Dribble, and his cutlery cats. Let me just say that some of his food would delight the cannibal tribes of Milton Keynes, eh.”
“Is that all,” the great defective drawled, scratching himself on the skirting board.
“Inspector Ghoul of Scotland Yard hates me for finding out his secret…”
“Horsley Ghoul?” perked up Ffoxley-Ffinch.
“The very same. He does laps.”
“Nothing wrong with swimming, old sausage,” I said.
“No. Laps as in ‘dancing’. Lap dancers, yes?” said the cur. Turning to my friend, he touched the side of his head with a finger and twirled it. Ffoxley-Ffinch nodded. I did not know what any of that gesture business meant but I figured it to be a gesture belonging to some secret society such as the Freemasons or the Boy Scouts.
“Anyway,” my friend said, “what makes you think that you are next?”
“I received a call on the blower from my foe. Disguised their voice. I’m to be killed on Christmas Eve or the day after depending on whether my killer can catch the early morning train. Two weeks and my gizzard will be cut.”
“Interesting,” said Ffoxley-Ffinch. “Now, b’Arnaby, how much will we be getting for our services?”
“Eh? But what about the…”
“Hush, buffoon,” hushed my colleague. “Don’t worry, we’ll sort that out. Now about our fee?”
“Would a thousand pounds sort you out?”
“Certainly,” I burbled.
“I’ll be off then,” said b’Arnaby. “I’ll forget about blackmailing you about the you-know-what.”
After the cur had taken his leave (but not the silverware), me and my friend played a rousing game of Strip Scrabble. Which I lost.
Over the next few days, I didn’t see much of my friend. When he came home, his hair resembled a haystack, his gaze was meteoric, and he had lipstick stains all over his starched collar.
“Where have you been?”
“Out. About. Spying upon our bribing Gerald b’Arnaby. Getting the plans of his house from London City Council. And, also, making a plan.”
“Don’t repeat everything I say, you rapscallion pig-dog!” snarled my gentle friend. “Anyhoo, my plan is to break into his house tonight, watch over him and catch the assassin at work. All without the permission and knowledge or arousal of our client.”
“Isn’t that illegal? Breaking and entry surely?”
“My dear Pond, that is for the law to decide. And it is trespass not breaking and entry. No breaking is required. Idiot.”
“Well, when do we go ahead with your ‘plan’?”
“The 25th of Decembermas, dum dum. At one minutemas past twelvemas, midnightmas. Todaymas. Don’t worry, our client won’t die. We’ll be watching him.” My friend took a purse of florins, ha’pennies and shirt buttons out of his pocket. “We’ll be protecting him until I’ve completely spent our fee on hookers and gin,” he joked. “Now, my dear friend, I’ve got a cab waiting outside to take us to where the cur lives.”
“Tally ho,” I muttered, reaching for the Prozac.
“Don’t forget my oafish friend, you owe me a bushel of Skinnen’s finest shag tobacco.”
To cut a tedious story short, we stole in through the attic skylight after abseiling from one of London’s Hackney skycabs. We were criminals. Afterwards, I vowed to take sterner measures against myself with a birch cane.
The musty air of the attic playic havoc with my nostril hairs, plucking at them like a manic harpplayer. Ffoxley-Ffinch was in his element, the element of air, which was handy for breathing.
My friend found a trapdoor amongst the various forgotten objects. He beckoned me with a finely gloved finger and we were soon in a hallway. I followed him, my podgy footsteps making the floor vibrate like the bedsprings of a ninety-year-old wannabe lothario living la vida loca in Berkshire. Why Berkshire? Why not?
Eventually we arrived in the study where b’Arnaby slept, worked and got rat-arsed in. Upon his shelves were purloined library books by Byron, Dickens, Keats and Titpecker; all were selected for their ability to impress the lasses I would have imagined.
Hearing footsteps, we dashed towards his bed, collided, and rolled underneath amongst the dust-bunnies and socks as the cur himself entered the room.
From our highly disadvantaged viewpoint, we could only see him from the knees downwards. From what I can tell, judging from the sounds he made, he was counting out his money. The odd muttering could be heard.
“Kelviscio owes me ninety. Sir Faces owes me his first born child plus his horse, Saffron. Spake…” he broke off as a shattering filled the room like treacle filling my mouth. Hmmmmm, nom-noms…
Gerald St. b’Arnaby fell to the floor with a muffled thud.
“Crikey!” I ejaculated.
“Crikey schmikey,” smirked Ffoxley-Ffinch, getting up.
I followed my friend from beneath the bed. Wiping the smuts from my brogues, I gaped as I realised what he was doing. He was at b’arnaby’s desk, packing the aforementioned money into his voluminous pockets.
“Benjamin!” I cried. I must have been quite shocked because normally I would never be so crass to call him by his first name unless we were in bed. “Benjamin!” I repeated. “You cannot steal from him!”
“Hard cheese and actually he is dead.” He held up a hand to belay my querying this diagnosis. “His dentures are loose and he has no pulse. As for the gold loot, the dead have no need for material gains.”
“You are not a doctor. How can you tell for certain?”
“Well, Pond… I… Erm… Shut up!” Ffoxley-Ffinch continued with his theft, now stashing the coins and notes away into a hessian sack. I was agog with shock.
“But how was he murdered?”
“Idiot, Pond, I beg thee to turn your attention to the sash windows where there is a hole. This hole could only be caused by a brick in a sock flung by a wicked man. A red sock judging by the strand of wool snarled among the shards. You nut.”
“But where is the socked brick?”
“It bounced off his noggin and went straight back out the window.”
I rushed towards the window. I was stunned. In the road below, I could see a figure holding up the evidence. I couldn’t tell much about him but I was able to vaguely describe him. Also, I described the cats that surrounded the culprit, each of them carrying a spoon in their little kitty mouths. Aw, how cute…
“Checkered trousers, a white shock of hair, a peg leg all equal up to one suspect, Archie Dribble! The cutlery-carrying cats only seal the deal.”
“Note the trousers. Only a chef would wear trousers like that. Add that to the cats and it really is quite elementary, Pond. Also, Dribble is the only long-haired chef in England.”
“‘Oh’ indeed,” said my friend, only pausing to stick a Ming vase down his trousers. “Indeedy doo. We’d better scarper. We’ll be done for breaking and entering.”
“I told you so!”
The next few days were uneventful. Christmas passed like wind from the bottom of a lover of baked beans. I gave my dearest friend a packet of bath salts whilst he got me a subscription to the wireless criminal’s periodical of choice, The Radio Crimes. I was quite pleased, Ffoxley-Ffinch less so after he tried to eat the bath salts. The rest of the festive holiday I was grinning like the cat that had hijacked the milk float. Ffoxley-Ffinch, on the other hand, was about as impressed as a bishop in a brewery, especially after having his stomach pumped to rid his bowels of the sweet-smelling sudsy gloop.
We had partaken of breakfast (eggs and bacon wrapped around a dormouse and burnt to a crisp. Yums) when Mr Ghoul of Scotland Yard was ushered into the room by our landlady.
Horsley Ghoul was a strange person. Most people thought he was conceited, then they realised he was conceited. To top this off, he was sometimes drunk. Or rather, more honestly put, he was sometimes sober. He shrugged off his drunkedness by claiming that if his wife had not driven him to drink, she would have been unbearable.
Ghoul had joined the force in 1888 and was, to his onw mind at least, the acclaimed champion of justice. To his superiors he was reckoned as useful as twenty foxes in a dimensionally transcendent chicken coop. Dogsbody of the Yard we called him, kept on by pity by the police force who were loath to lose such a valued racist and bribe-taker.
“Bhrp!” he burped. Wiping the saliva off his lower lip, he said, “Hullo, Mr Ffoxley-Ffinch. Hullo, Doctor Pond, still cuttin’ up little old ladies in pursuit of medical fame?”
This was an outrage. It was only the one little old lady. I thought she was a roast potato. Honest.
“What do you want?” I asked, trying to not remember the way she tasted with butter drizzled over her potatolike body.
“Mr Gerald St. b’Arnaby was murdered a few days ago. I forget exactly when, sometime in the past it was. Recentwise though which is why I am here. That devious blackmailer was being spied upon by stout members of the law, also us police.”
“Do you know who did this crime?”
Ghoul gave me a look of pure hatred, it quite reminded me of my wife and put me off my stroke. “Yeah, we do. You two! We saw you leave the premises just after the git was deaded by a brick inna sock. Have you anything to say?”
Ffoxley-Ffinch suddenly smiled. “Mr Ghoul,” he said, carefully foling his legs to hide his single naked ankle. “I believe you have a rather singular interest in dancers of the lap variety.” At this, the inspector’s face went purple, red, white, purple again before returning to the usual blotchy grey hues. His eyes a-boggling, his jaw a-gaping, his hands a-clenching.
“Now, my dear thing,” went on my friend smoothly. “It would be an utter shame if these incidents of lappiness should become known to the gutter press, would it not?” Now let me show you door. On second thought, let me open the window and I’ll show you that instead.”
Ghoul’s jowls were shaking ten to the dozen. ” Wha? I mean, where did you get that information?”
“I’d like to say from b’Arnaby but actually it was from youur mother who asked me to tell you “Why do you never write anymore?’ Now I suggest you buzz off or else you will be the laughing stock, and possibly envy, of Scotland Yard.”
Horsley Ghoul’s face seemed to shiver with anger. “I’ll go but be warned, I will be keeping an eye on you!” And with that, he took out his glass eye, placed it on the mantelpiece, exited the room, fell down the stairs and spent the rest of the day with concussion.
“Ffoxley-Ffinch,” I said, formal to the last. “By golly, molly and dolly, tally ho and all that, what were you thinking? He could have thrown us in gaol or beat us up. Have you not heard of police brutality?”
“You idiot,” he exclaimed. “He will never lay a hand on us because of what we know about him and his transvestite problem.”
“What?” I spluttered.
“Did you not see the visible panty line below each buttock, straining beneath his tweed trousers? A tight fit me thinks, clearly thinks he is much smaller than what he actually is. Don’t worry, Pond. He won’t hurt us as long as we have means of revealing his habit of wearing frilly knickers.”
“But what about Archie Dribble and his cutlery-carrying cats?”
Ffoxley-Ffinch gave me his trademark enigmatic smirk. “Pond, have you seen today’s Daily Scream?”
I picked it up and read out aloud for the benefit of any nosey passers-by.
Archturo Dribble, wireless chef, was yesterday arrested on suspicion of murder and cannabilism. A mysterious source had given the police some vital documents relating to Dribble’s crime. His cats were also arrested on suspicious of carrying catnip
“But who would have told the police about him?” I asked.
“Pond, old chap, remember our little adventure in b’Arnaby’s home?” asked Ffoxley-Ffinch.
“Let me just say that I didn’t just steal his money and Ming vase, wh?” Grinning, he passed me a glass of whiskey. “Cheers!” He raised his glass towards Heaven and the flies on the ceiling.
And with that final cheer, the most interesting case for Benjamin Ffoxley-Ffinch, in the year of our tentacled Lord 1925, finished with us many thousands of pounds richer. Which we promprtly spent on making cats wear capes and domino masks.
…or is it?
(Yes, it is! Now go away!)