Sherlock Holmes and The Rangers Tax Case by Desimond
(aka A Study in Red White and Blue)
It was just after breakfast on a Tuesday morning in Baker Street. My violin playing flatmate had barely touched his crumpets while I had wolfed down my kedgeree. I lit my pipe for a standard post grub puff while my flatmate perused the morning newspapers. Mrs Hudson had returned to clear the table. The housekeeper had only just reached for his plate when my flatmate raised an eyebrow, and then a finger.
“I fear the crockery may need to wait Mrs Hudson,” said Holmes.
“Why is that now dear?” asked our housekeeper.
“It would be a dangerous to try and open the front door while carrying a tray of our finest china, wouldn’t you agree?”
Mrs Hudson was just about to ask “Why open the door” when as annoyingly as usual when he prophesied such an arrival, the doorbell duly rang.
“Oh I don’t know how you do it,” said Mrs Hudson, someone like myself who had experienced Holmes’s art of predicting unexpected visitors on the doorstep on such a regular basis. Mrs Hudson left the table and turned and headed downstairs to meet whoever was ringing the bell.
“Well?” I asked.
“I feel fine thank you Watson, if that indeed was the intention of you questioning me with the word ‘Well?'” replied Holmes.
“You know fine well what I mean by well. How did you know the bell would ring. I don’t recall you mentioning any appointments before or after I went for my morning shag this morning.” Unconsciously I patted my recently filled tobacco pouch which sat in my waistcoat pocket.
Downstairs we could hear a few voices, Mrs Hudson’s and at least two others. Soon their voices were coupled with the sounds of their footsteps as they slowly climbed the stairs towards our flat.
“It’s quite clear Watson. The sound of a Hackney cab at this time in the morning can only mean two things. We have visitors or someone is leaving. Given no one else stayed the night, and allowing for your brief tobacco trip to Segar and Snuff Parlour at 8am this morning, to pick up two ounce of rare Havana Rub, if I’m not mistaken judging by the size of your vest pocket bulge and the unique aromatic blend of hemp, banana and palm leaf that filled the room air when you lit up only a few minutes ago. No one has left this household since Mrs Hudson’s young nephew went to Euston on Sunday night to head North on the Caledonia Sleeper. I would presume he has completed his journey and he is back working as a clerk in East Kilbride by now. Therefore, it meant a visitor.”
“I see.” I replied, while glaring at my pipe, which of course contained the exotic Cuban tobacco. Identifying the tobacco was one thing but how the dickens that man’s ears could hear the sound of a cab above Mrs Hudson’s chirping or the sound of his own humming, which he often did when reading the newspaper, was beyond me. Mind you, my hearing wasn’t exactly the best; age and a lifetime under fire certainly hadn’t helped the old Watson ears.
There was a polite knock at the open doorway. Holmes and I turned our heads to see Mrs Hudson and two gentlemen standing there. The younger of the pair was of a wide girth and panting heavily while the older one had a ruddy complexion and stood slightly in his shade with a stoop to his gait. Mrs Hudson only managed to say “Excuse me Gentlemen, may I introduce..” when my friend held up his hand and the housekeeper, a woman used to such direction, immediately ceased. My friend arose from his seat and said “No need Mrs Hudson, please show Mr David and Mr Wallding in and close the door on your way out”. The Housekeeper stared at Holmes with her face a volatile mix of confusion and anger at his visitor knowledge and his abruptness. Being a lady, she said nothing and duly ushered the visitors in, pulled the door behind her and left the four of us alone.
“Mr Holmes, how the Devil do you know our names?” gasped the larger of the gentlemen who was now wiping his sweaty brow. This was a scene I was becoming more and more accustomed to. Complete strangers would appear in our flat and Holmes would take one look and tell them everything from their shoe size to their mother’s favoured side for milking. I gestured for the men to take a seat and lifting my notebook and pen, I settled in for yet another Holmes dissection. The men sat down, Holmes nodded and took his cue, directing his attention to the older gentleman first.
“Sir, your hands. The nails are cracked and ragged. I note your fingers are bruised and stunted and with marked indentations. This shows extreme digit action over many years. Now I admit that abused fingers such as these first suggested a career in massage. That was my first thought but then I realised that this would be just too abhorrent to be true so I then concluded typing. So with those horrible fingers and with your very reddened face, probably caused by alcohol, exotic holidays, Thailand judging by the wristbands, or the combination of both, I can then deduce you are a former newspaper man, now retired. By the aged engraved Express pen in your blazer pocket, a pocket which shows 3 ink stains from the same pen – which your cheap dry cleaner hasn’t even got close to removing by the way – may I propose a combo of wax foil and acetatic solution, I see you have worked in Fleet street. In your other pocket I note there is a well dog-eared copy of ‘Great Scot’, a biography about Simon Scot, former manager of deceased football club Rangers. The dog-eared pages and such a vulgar display of a poor selling publication suggest it means more to you than most. It suggests you like to read it over and over – if you will excuse the pun – and this also allows you to show it to people at any chance you get. These facts, lead me to conclude you are Mr Leggat David, author of said wearisome tome”.
The older mans jaw fell open but Holmes was already turning to face the younger and much larger man sat across the room.
“And you Sir, you, I see have a sense of authority. You walk with an air of responsibility but this is a self-deluding sham to anyone with one iota of sense. In fact it’s plain to see like the beads of sweat flowing from your shiny brow. For instance it is easily noted by the quality of your blazer, clearly peg not bespoke. I also note the non first class train ticket edging out the top of your jacket pocket, the closing stitching within the said pocket is only half opened; a problem due to your large clumsy fingers is my assertion. Upon those said fingers I can see several rings, Sovereign and Masonic. On your lapel I see a pin showing the flag of the union. This dull pin sadly lost its sheen a long time ago telling me it is of cosmetic value rather than of the genuine quality silver expected of a true gentleman of stature. I would suggest that it was purchased from around Ibrox stadium, a fact indicated by the red ash which is caked within your very badly scuffed brown brogues. The same shoes also need heeled and soled following recent marches you have attended. I also note the irregular RSA engraved handkerchief in your hand, a handkerchief that is by now very wet indeed. Taking all that into account, and the cheaply printed business card that you were so desperate to hand to me on your entry, I concluded immediately that you were Mr Mark Wallding, collective spokesman and desperate to be, but still non-Board member.
This time it was the turn for the larger younger man’s jaw to drop. For a moment I feared a black hole style gravitational pull would end us all but thankfully Holmes brought the open mouths to a close by concluding “And now that Dr Watson and I, Sherlock Holmes, know who you are, please tell us why you are here.”
The two visitors exchanged glances and then the older man spoke.
“We seek a man,” said the elder visitor. “Or a woman, but probably a man.” added his younger companion who suffered a glare for his intervention. Holmes sighed at their ineptness but waved his hand to encourage the older man to continue. The older man said “We seek a foe, a bane, and not a welcome Bain at that. We seek help in finding our deepest darkest enemy Mr Holmes. A person who has caused us untold misery and sleepless nights and despite our very best efforts still alludes us?”
Wallding suddenly wailed out “It’s a ghost Mr Holmes, it’s a ghost I tells you!” before burying his face into his sodden handkerchief.
Holmes stared at me intently, his way of ensuring I stifled my desire to laugh. Holmes took a few paces and turned to the older man and said, “Tell me of this strange enemy, why does he irk you so?”
“It’s a mystery. No one has seen him, or her, and no one even knows its real name. Whoever they are they have destroyed our people’s lives, they have shattered our people’s illusions. They have taken everything we believed and turned it to dust!” said the old man.
“And how much have they stolen?” asked Holmes.
“That’s the thing,” replied the older of the two. “The foe hasn’t stolen any money, nothing of value interests him, not cash, jewels or otherwise. They haven’t made anything at all, well bar a name for themselves. They’ve just taken apart our little Empire brick by brick. It’s been a death by a thousand cuts and no mistake. We are left impotent, bereft. We were a proud clan Mr Holmes, we ran our game from highest North to deepest South, now we are having to beg steal or borrow just to stay alive. It’s not right. We need your help Mr Holmes”
“Pray tell me, what’s the history of these attacks,” asked Holmes
“They came from nowhere. Everything was going okay, times were tough sure but nothing drastic. Then one day the whispers started. That was all it took. No kicks, no punches, none of the usual assaults we know so well. No this was just a whisper. Then the stories started. First of all the facts didn’t seem to add up, the leaders didn’t mind, laughed even. Then one thing led to another, the cracks began to appear, before long everyone was getting scared. Everyone started looking at each other in fear, the trust had gone you see. After that, it was chaos. All we know now is total panic. All it took was a word, all it took was a whisper in the night, and then he was gone”
Holmes walked the floor, paused, turned, walked again. He then asked “Does this Phantom have a name?”
“They call him the RangersTaxcase Mr Holmes,” said the younger man who had finally stopped crying.
“Ah” noted Holmes as he turned away from the men and was facing my chair. I thought I detected a slight smile just before he turned back and then said “I’m sorry Gentlemen, there is nothing I can do.” The two men and I all gulped in unison of shock.
“But Mr Holmes,” begged the older man “They say you are the greatest detective. A man for whom deduction is an art and a calling. They say no case can beat your logical mind. What do you mean there is nothing you can do?’
“Exactly that Gentlemen, I bid you good day,” said Holmes sweeping a dismissive hand towards the door.
“Now Mr Holmes, we have come a long way, if you will not help that is your choice but Sir, I implore you, please do not send us back to Scotland without at least an explanation of why you cannot assist us.” The younger begged anxiously.
Holmes stared at the large tear stained face and for a moment I believe I almost detected a hint of humanity in both of them. “Very well” said Holmes, “The reasons are clear to anyone with the eyes willing to see. First of all, you must ask this question – This RangersTaxCase, why in this day and age, why does no one knows their real name? Given how easy it is to gather information then you must conclude that is only because they do not want it known. You are dealing with a person who knows the intricacies of identity masking, a person who can blend in when needed, a person who can appear or disappear when needed, a person who can be a non person when needed. This person won’t be caught because this person cant be caught. There is no point in pursuing the impossible. It’s Elementary”
The men stared at Holmes but he was far from finished.
“That is the name dealt with but do not forget you would also need to find their location and their means of execution. This Blogger Superior has led hordes of your clan a merry dance for years now, Your sad exasperations are no secret, even here in the South our journalists have commented on the activity within the Empire’s Second City. Your efforts have been poor and amateur. Ultimately fruitless of course, which was inevitable when dealing with a mind so very superior to your own. I recall there was an embarrassing attempt to try and close down a similar style attack from a Free Statesman but even in that you found failure. Given that outcome when the assailant was well known, any such requests wouldn’t even get close to establishing the Tax Casers location.
“But Mr Holmes,” stuttered the older man which immediately met the raised Holmes finger. As per Mrs Hudson, the old mans lips sealed immediately.
Holmes continued, “Third, this person has contacts beyond your wildest imaginations. You think because you meet in darkened halls once per month or week that it makes you connected. Poppycock. The world has changed and this person has connections that you can only dream off. The connections allow them to provide the public with information garnered from such sources that no one know who is inside his circle and who is not, except for you two of course, you have access to no vital information whatsoever. The person behind this deed can call on esteemed willing contacts including journalists, lawyers, her Majesty’s friends within Customs and Excise, Court appointees, possibly even Policemen. Worst of all for you, all logic suggests they have contacts inside your own beloved organisation itself. Your puny minds cannot conceive of the wonderful web that this person has spun. Every web a web within a web. This is no rabble association. This is precision. Every connection is vital. Every connection leads to every attack. Every attack succeeds. There is no match here. Look at their output, look how clinical, look how precise, look how deadly. This is no person. Oh no! This is a Spider! And Sherlock Holmes does not hunt Spiders! Gentlemen, good day!”
Holmes walked to the door, opened it and leaning into the hallway called down the stairs, “Mrs Hudson, please show our visitors out.”
The two men, their faces ashen, staggered to their feet and stumbled passed Holmes and down the stairs. We heard the front door close and Mrs Hudson then came back to the flat to finally pick up the breakfast tableware.
“Will you be needing anything else Mr Watson?” asked the housekeeper.
“No thank you,” I replied while reaching for my pipe.
Mrs Hudson then turned to face my flatmate who was at the window watching the visitors cab leave down on the street below. “Anything you’re needing Mr Holmes?” asked the housekeeper. Holmes turned his head, paused for a second and then said “Just one thing, can you tell your nephew that I wont be needing any more of his help, I think it’s time I found myself a new distraction.”
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