“I Use Sherlock Holmes’s Methods—and Triumph” (by Terence Faherty)

Terence Faherty has contributed more than two dozen stories to EQMM over the past twenty years. They range from entries in his popular Owen Keane series (whose 1990 debut novel, Deadstick, was nominated for an Edgar) to new cases for his post-WWII private security op Scott Elliott (whose most recent novel, Play a Cold Hand, is currently nominated for a Shamus Award) to his Star Republic stories (the most recent for EQMM currently nominated for the Macavity Award) to a yearly Sherlock Holmes parody for our annual Sherlockian Issue (January/February). It’s Sherlock Holmes who was irresistibly brought to the author’s mind by the (true) incidents described in this post.—Janet Hutchings

On a recent Sunday morning, my wife and I went to our local Cracker Barrel restaurant for breakfast. I carried along our Sunday paper, still in its red plastic delivery sleeve. Unfortunately, we were seated at a two-top table, rather than a more spacious table for four, which is much better suited to reading a Sunday paper. Determined to make the best of this difficult situation, I emptied the sleeve, sorted out all the ads and circulars, and stuffed those back into the red plastic, which I placed at my feet.

Shortly afterward, my reading was interrupted by the arrival of the waitress. My wife, who had been perusing her menu, placed her order. I ordered from memory, after observing, mildly, that I hadn’t been given a menu. The waitress apologized and left.

Some little time afterward, my wife said, “Are you sure you weren’t given a menu?”

I’ve long been a student of Sherlock Holmes’s methods of deductive reasoning. This appeared to me to be an opportunity to put those methods to use. I devoted myself to a few minutes of quiet ratiocination, at the end of which, I reached down and produced the red sleeve. Sorting through its contents, I soon produced the missing menu. My wife was astonished—perhaps even dumbfounded.

There was no time then to explain my complex chain of reasoning, for at that moment our breakfasts arrived. After placing the plates before us, the waitress asked if we needed anything else. I replied, mildly, that I hadn’t been given any silverware. The waitress apologized and left, returning a moment later with a knife, fork, and spoon wrapped, in the Cracker Barrel fashion, in a paper napkin secured by a paper tab.

We enjoyed an excellent breakfast, though I noticed, when I happened to look up from the newspaper, that my wife appeared to be slightly distracted. Sure enough, after we’d finished and paid and were leaving the restaurant—along with our newspaper, now reunited with the circulars in the red plastic bag—she said, “Are you sure you weren’t given any silverware?”

It would have been easy to have despaired of solving this new problem on the short walk to our car. Luckily, I had also worked hard to emulate Holmes’s famous powers of observation. They enabled me to perceive a suspicious bulge in the side of the newspaper sleeve. It was the work of a moment for me to produce the missing silverware, still wrapped in its protective napkin.

Leaving my wife standing speechless in the parking lot, I reentered the restaurant, where I presented my trophy to the hostess with a flourish. She was astonished—perhaps even dumbfounded.

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