Holmes & Watson: On Your Case (Week II)

In perplexing matters of the heart, conundrums involving social occasions, shopping tips, or any number of mysteries one might face in their daily lives, there is one place to turn for help: Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson!

Through a crack in space/time 221B Baker Street sporadically appears outside of the Tor.com offices here in New York City, during which time we drop in on this detecting duo and submit your questions to them. Last week, they helped the Tor.com staff with some of our problems.

This week, they are back to answer YOUR questions, pulled from last week’s letters, about insects, dining out, and what to do about secret admirers!

Missing Buffalo writes:

Mr. Holmes,

How can I recognize and avoid supping with that annoying breed of human who, after dining at a fine restaurant with five friends and ordering appetizers, wine bottles, and dessert, tallies the check and announces to all that each owes an identical amount for his or her dinner?

Holmes: The key is to always to dine in and take your meals alone or in the company of your flat-mate. Further, if you enter into a career as a “consulting detective” you can write off nearly any outside meals you may have to endure as “occupational expenses.” I myself have even written off many evenings at the pub with Watson in this manner. If you, Missing Buffalo, were to live your life in such a way that the rules of society didn’t apply to you, (an iconoclast if you will) then you’d not find yourself in situations of having to be at the mercy of those who exploit those absurd social conventions.

Watson: I think what Holmes might be suggesting is to get absolutely knackered on the least expensive wine possible, and then pretend to have misplaced your wallet in the loo. After performing a fictional search for your wallet, return and announce that you’ll “get everyone back next time.” I think you’ll find this sort of behavior will win out over that “annoying breed of human” you refer to.

Louie Ramos asks:

Dear Mr. Holmes and Mr. Watson,

Lately I’ve been tasked with developing an experimental assay, which may determine the hormone-signaling pathway between a specific type of body wall tissue and the brain of an insect. However, I don’t want to rule out any possibility as to the signal’s origin. It may be transmitted via small molecule, protein, or even some secretion from an intermediary tissue on the pathway! How would you suggest I go about determining, which it is, especially provided the myriad of small molecules, proteins, and tissues present between the body wall and the brain?

Additionally, I would like to learn how to play the violin, but I fear that, at 27 years old, I may be too old to start. Guidance with either or both issues would be greatly appreciated.

Holmes: Mr. Ramos, as you are likely aware, I have extensive knowledge of the apis mellifera, known to a layperson (unlike yourself) as the honey bee. In my cultivation and care of these creatures one feature has come across as particularly instructive. Though characterized as drones functioning as a whole, these creatures are still highly autonomous units, at least when viewed by themselves. It occurs to me that the methodology you should employ is the same that I employed when trying to determine which of my honey bees would likely win in a race against a flock of sparrows. I isolated them in order to determine their individual properties, and selected the bees for my racing team accordingly.

Watson: I won about fifty pounds from you during that race Holmes!


Holmes: Indeed Watson, but if we were to have a rematch, I am sure my bees would beat your flock of sparrows in an instant. In short, I was not focused enough, just like this gentleman. One must focus.

Watson: What about the violin Holmes? Wouldn’t that help this chap focus on his studies?

Holmes: Quite! One is never too old to begin playing the violin. Nor is one ever too old to develop a cocaine problem.



Prof JM of Oxford writes:

Dear Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson,

I teach at a local university and I am concerned that one of my students has taken an unhealthy interest in me. I spot him following me around campus at odd hours; my colleagues tell me he is telling tales about how I am his “arch-enemy.” I found evidence that he has been through my desk and may be aware of my upcoming pleasure trip to visit scenic Reichenbach Falls, and frankly I have begun to fear for my safety.

Please advise as soon as you may.

Holmes: I’m not sure you should consider any statement made by such an exceptionally bright young man as “telling tales.” We all see the world from our own vessels and as such, from this prodigy’s perspective, you may very well be his “arch-enemy.” An old friend of mine once noticed that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. I’m not sure I completely subscribe to this, as a world of extreme relativism is horrific to my sensibilities. Because I am concerned above all else with the objective truth of things, I simply need more data before helping you. I too was planning on vacationing near the Reichenbach Falls. Perhaps we could meet and you could explain this problem to me further. Where exactly will you be staying? I know a good spot right near the edge of the cliff.

Watson: Would you like me to come along on this trip Holmes?



Holmes: No need, Watson. I’ll leave you a note if anything interesting happens.


Need help sorting out your problems? Write to Holmes and Watson for the answers: [email protected].

Want more? Click here for the entire Holmes & Watson: On Your Case advice column.

Got more Sherlock to talk? Visit our partner mystery site Criminal Element and their growing index of Sherlockiana, including TV rewatches, book discussions, and more!


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