THE CASE OF THE SINGING DOG

1 Aug

Holmes was at the end of his tether. Literally. He was writing a monogram on restraining vicious dogs whilst under attack, and had tied himself with a leather leash to a lamppost for experimental purposes.

You’ll have to help me here, Watson,” he begged.

I say begged. Maybe I should have said requested politely

Not that Holmes ever did anything with the totality of politeness. His ego saw to that!

It was last July when he had a case involving what some might call a vicious dog, hence the planned monogram and its associated research.

We were darning our socks in our room at 221b Baker Street, having nothing better to do and Mrs Hudson complaining of arthritic thumbs which made darning our socks herself an impossibility, when that good lady herself opened our door and introduced a new client, the Lady Bwahbwah Pondlife.

She was a fine woman in her middle years, possibly fifty, though she looked considerably older and had a face embarrassed by warts, and she was dressed after the manner of her class and, in order to stress her social standing had left both couturier’s outlet ticket and price tag on the collar of her outdoor coat.

I have come to engage you, Mr Homes,” Lady Bwahbwah said, addressing me.

That’s Holmes with the grey knee-lengths,” I said, indicating my friend who had his lips pursed as he threaded a needle with strong wool.

Then I have come to engage you,” she said to Holmes, scowling in such a way that a couple of her warts rippled. “I wish to have my husband, the Lord Pondlife, followed and any misdeed he is contemplating noted down. You may take a pistol and shoot him if it is serious enough: I have influence and there would be no prosecution!”

You must be mistaken,” replied Holmes crisply, “I don’t pursue domestic issues.”

You will pursue this one!” she said with ice and vitriol challenging each other for supremacy in the tone of her voice. “The Lord Pondlife is suspected of having a dalliance with a dancer!”

A dancer?” I exclaimed, “that’s pretty low!”

And not just any dancer,” continued Lady Bwahbwah, “but the one with the piggy nose and large posterior who entertains the riff raff at many a corner music hall. She who is alleged to reveal her ankles on a nightly basis and causing much dismay to others of her gender by the obscenity of it! And if it is true, if Lord Pondlife is dallying with the creature you may shoot both of them! You have my full permission, and I will see to it that the gendarmerie are not involved!”

But…” began Holmes, but it was obvious that he had lost before he started.

You will do it!” commanded Lady Bwahbwah, “and when you have done it I will reward you with one hundred pounds!”

There will be times in the future when such a sum may seem to be almost nothing, but in these times with Queen Victoria not long in her tomb it is a vast sum, and not to be sneezed at.

See to it!” barked the honourable lady, and she swept out.

This is a to-do, for sure, Watson,” muttered Holmes.

I don’t like the smell of it, Holmes,” I agreed.

Quite.” He paused for a moment, gazing blindly out of the window at the passing traffic.

Then he apparently came to a decision. “It would be an insult to so fine a lady to ignore her request,” he said slowly, “and I did see in The Times this morning that Pondlife was visiting Skegness, a charming seaside town in Lincolnshire, where he is probably to be honoured at a civic reception this very evening. So fetch my hat, Watson, and come! We must catch the 8.50 and so arrive in Skegness early this afternoon, refreshed by black smuts and smoke from the steam steed that will tow us along!”

That first part of the day went according to plan, and by two o’clock we were making out way to the civic centre in the seaside town.

I grabbed hold of Holmes by one shoulder when I spied her. “Look!” I gasped.

I know. I saw her ten minutes ago,” he replied. “It is the woman the good Lord Pondlife is alleged to be playing with. See, the piggy eyes, the cute complexion and the enormous bottom…”

And the pretty little ankles,” I added, a lump in my throat.

Quite,” he said, “though I still can’t see how an ankle can ever be properly described as pretty.”

It is most certainly her, Holmes,” I whispered.

And we will follow her,” said Holmes decisively.

You are quite masterful today,” I murmured in devout praise.

He nodded. “We might well need that hundred pounds,” he agreed.

We followed the beautiful piggy-eyed creature down one of the streets that lead, in Skegness, towards the sea. Her walk was provocative, to say the least, and that more than ample rear of hers wiggled and wobbled like a thing with a mind of its own.

I’ve never seen anything like it, Holmes,” I breathed.

It is a thing of wonder,” he agreed.

We arrived at the sands in due course, and the lady we were following actually put first one, then a second foot onto the powdery dry stuff before bursting into the most melodious singing I have ever heard. It was glorious, the way her voice rose and fell and trilled, and a growing crowd quickly gathered to her.

And then, from under her coat, she withdrew a sign attached to a post that she stuck into the sands.

SEE PONDLIFE THE SINGING DOG read the sign, in tasteful italics.

Pondlife, Holmes,” I breathed, pointing.

Yes, I see Watson,” he replied, “but look.”

The rare beauty with the wiggling bottom slowly and one must say with undue eroticism started to divest herself of her coat revealing a dress that was both sparkling and huge. Then, and here I almost faint at the thought of having to record this, she pulled her skirt to one side and a dog stepped out, a dog that must have been lurking within the folds of that garment.

It’s a dog, Holmes,” I gasped.

So I see, Watson,” he replied thoughtfully. “It would appear that the woman is going to sing, and the dog will perform with her, and they will create the most unlikely duet ever heard on Skegness beach!”

And then it happened just as Holmes had predicted.

The piggy-eyed singer started an aria of rapt beauty, her voice the most perfect sound heard on any beach anywhere. Then the dog, a handsome beast if ever there was a handsome beast, joined in. I don’t know how it managed to have such perfect pitch, but it did, and such was Holmes’ fascination that he pulled a small box camera from a hidden pocket and pointed it at the duo.

I must record this for posterity, Watson,” he murmured.

Taking the greatest of care he aimed the lens of his simple camera towards the stars of the show, and took careful aim.

Poor old Holmes! He wasn’t to know, and who could blame him, but that dog performed nightly with the lady with the pretty ankles during the last performance of the day at the music hall, and a stage-hand named Pierre (he was French) took delight in photographing the act. The flashing of the spotlight reflecting from the camera lens infuriated the dog, and this time, being not on a stage but on the beach, it decided to do something about it, and charged at Holmes.

Holmes was rewarded by capturing a perfect image of a row of savage canine teeth before they grabbed hold of him by a well darned sock, and he ran like the wind down the beach, towards the sea.

Pondlife!” shrieked the pretty singer, and the dog, wagging its tail at such fun, returned to the woman, and continued warbling in tune.

When he recovered his breath Holmes marched back to the station, a look of suppressed fury on his face, and he remained stalwartly silent until we arrived back in Baker Street.

The lady will pay,” he told me grimly as he sent for Lady Bwahbwah Pondlife, and when she arrived he delighted in receiving her note for one hundred pounds whilst informing her that if she was married to the Pondlife who accompanied a certain dancer and music hall entertainer then she must surely be wed to a dog, and he wasn’t in the business of shooting dumb animals.

Not that he can’t sing,” he added, “beautifully.”

© Peter Rogerson 22.07.17

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