Saturday, November 12, 2011

Continuing the saga of the Lennon tooth: there’s material enough here for Conan Doyle, were he still alive, to write a really gripping new Sherlock Holmes.

‘The first thing to ask, my dear Watson,’ Sherlock said, as he paced the room, ‘could this be yet another of Moriarty’s fiendish schemes? And if so, what does he hope to gain by it and who, in the process, will kick out his life in the dentist’s chair as it were? By the way, Watson, do you know where the expression “to kick the bucket” comes from?’

‘No, actually I don’t, Holmes, but I do wish you would stick to the matter in hand or the case of the Lennon Tooth will never be solved. Scotland Yard is at its wits end and they don’t know which way to turn.’

‘They seldom do, Watson, It is with irritatingly smug self-satisfaction I can say, they seldom do.’

‘And, Holmes, if I may say so, don’t pick up that violin now. This is not the time for music, no matter how soothing. Mrs Hudson is taking her afternoon nap and you know how absolutely beastly she gets if she doesn’t have it, like a schoolboy missing out on dirty doings in the dorm.’

‘It helps me concentrate, focuses the mind quite brilliantly, Watson, but you are absolutely right and I will at this point acquiesce to your wishes.’

‘And please refrain from smoking that awful Meerschaum. It stinks the place out and I don’t want to have to open the windows as we will without doubt catch our death. It really is high time you threw it out and got yourself a new one.’

‘Throw it out? My favourite pipe! My old and trusted friend who has helped me solve many a tricky case? I suppose you would like me to get rid of my magnifying glass, my smoking jacket and tasselled cap as well. What kind of a detective would I be without these accessories? No, no, Watson, I couldn’t dream of it. Were I to do that I would spend more than half my life down at Limehouse. I spend enough time, and a great deal of money I might add, down there as it is and those particular dreams are becoming quite disturbing which is putting it mildly. I know you have retired from practice but you could be called on at any moment to look into something absolutely ghastly and where would you be if I had encouraged you to throw out your old and trusted surgical apparatus?’ Doctor Watson winced and raised an eyebrow at the word “apparatus,” almost as bad as paraphernalia. ‘You would have to use your fingers,’ Holmes continued, ‘perish the thought. But this exchange, delightful as it may be, is getting us nowhere so back to the investigation in hand. What we have to discover, and prove, or disprove as the case may be, is the provenance of this mysterious tooth – that is, did it indeed come from the mouth of the great John Lennon or is it an ingenious and total fake? It is described by a certain young lady as being of a somewhat gruesome appearance, well to a young woman of a sensitive disposition it would, that goes without saying. She goes on to give an uncannily accurate description of the object in question as being yellow, browny (a word I have to admit I have never come across. I wonder if it is in the lexicon) and with a cavity, and her intimate knowledge does, I have to admit, arouse my suspicions. However, let us ask a number of pertinent questions. Let me see now, where to start? I have it. Quite obviously the cavity was the cause of excruciating pain and the sole reason for the tooth’s extraction. Was the tooth pulled in Liverpool or New York and who was the dentist who pulled it? If he is still alive perhaps he could confirm to our satisfaction that this is indeed John Lennon’s tooth and not just any ordinary old tooth. Of what age was Lennon when his visit to the dental surgery necessitated the extraction of this particular tooth? Judging by the description given by the young lady he was of mature years. Did the tooth really come into the hands of his housekeeper’s daughter and what did she do with it? Perchance she hung it on a chain and wore it around her neck. Girls have been known to do that sort of thing, bizarre as it may appear. And where is that young girl now to whom the tooth was given? Though I don’t see that as being particularly relevant as she could quite easily have been palmed off with any old molar in the first place and, if she got rid of it, how, why, where, and to whom was it got rid of?’ Holmes wasn’t too sure of his syntax here. ‘I have to admit in this we have quite a conundrum, Watson. May I smoke my pipe now in order to solve it?’

‘By the way, Holmes, purely as a matter of interest… Doctor Watson tugged at his left earlobe, a habit he had when asking a serious question… ‘how did the expression “kick the bucket” come into being?’

‘Well, my dear old chap,’ Holmes said, tapping down the tobacco in his pipe with a well-tarred thumb and searching for his Swan Vestas, ‘evidently the French when they kill a pig, string the unfortunate creature up by its hind legs to a beam in the barn, the name of which sounds suspiciously like bucket in English, and slit the animal’s throat, at which point of course in its death throes, its hind legs kick the bucket. You haven’t seen my Swan-Vestas anywhere have, you Watson? They do so have a habit of disappearing.’

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