Murder Most Towel

Here’s a short I wrote a while back. I hope it’s still entertaining.

Lestrade was still insisting that the assistance of Sherlock Holmes was unnecessary when Holmes energetically swept us into the scene of the crime. The scene looked undisturbed: A private study of moderate size, made to look more intimate by the furniture close-set into the space. A large desk stood before a tall bookcase, both of the same dark wood and facing a severe guest's chair that lacked even a cushion. Nearer to where we stood rested an overstuffed chair upholstered in a deep red.

Occupying this chair was the victim: Sir Argyle Rutherford. His head tilted back and his eyes stared up to Heaven as though looking toward his final reward. A thick towel of rich moss green occupied his mouth, spilling out of it in a grotesque imitation of either consumption or expulsion.

"Well, Holmes," said I, "I'd guess even you have little to add to the method of this particular crime." I stopped at the towel, but Sherlock Holmes swept past without looking at it.

"Only if you consider South American parasites to require no elucidation, Watson," intoned Holmes, bending over to peer closely into the grain of the desk at the far end of the room.

"Parasites?" said Lestrade.

"I don't know, Holmes," I said. "Seems all of crystal to me that the criminal suffocated his victim with this towel."

"A ruse the murderer hoped would catch the investigation. But I assure you, it shall not." He looked over from where he was pulling books off the shelf to taste certain of their pages. "Do get rid of that thing, Watson." At Lestrade's assent, I began withdrawing the towel from Argyle's mouth.

"It's quite in there," I said. "Farther in than a man can push with his fingers. As a medical man, Holmes, I have to believe that the victim was still alive when this towel was pushed into his throat, and that his convulsing muscles must have done the work of pulling it ever deeper."

"What parasites?" said Lestrade.

"Of course you must," said Holmes, cutting into the upholstery of the desk chair. "But if you'll only look at the man's fingertips, you'll see a characteristic greenness--"

"I'm afraid I don't," I said.

"Which is why you are you and I am I," said Holmes. "That and the monogram should make everything clear."

"Oh," I said, looking at the towel still in my hands. "There is a monogram! But it's just the poor man's initials."

"Nonsense! The initials match his most ingenious and prideful enemy, whose initials happen to be the same."

"I'd guess this case to be much simpler than that, Holmes," I said. Detective Gregson came in from elsewhere in the house and whispered a few words to Lestrade.

"Only because you choose to ignore the obvious signs of the South American towel-dwelling pageworm."

"Is he all right?" said Lestrade.

I leaned close and whispered, "He's indulging in his seven-per-cent solution again. I only just managed to find him and start bringing him home when he saw you leave the hansom and insisted on following you in."

"Well, it's simple enough to be over," said Lestrade. "I have it from Gregson that we found a towel missing in the house collection -- this matches the set, by the way -- and just got a confession from his son, who's begged our mercy."

"The son's name," shouted Holmes. "Arthur? Arturo? Anson?"

"Theodore." Holmes's face fell.

"Why don't we get home?" I led him from the room.

I think I shall not publish this tale with the others.