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Inknbeans Press

Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD

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It was with great excitement that I first learned of a deed box that had been deposited in the vaults of one of our great London banks nearly one hundred years ago, and somehow left untouched and forgotten for most of that time. My friend at the bank told me that this box had on stencilled on it in white paint the words "JOHN H. WATSON MD" on the top, with the initials "JHW" and the legend "To be left until called for" on the side.

On my opening the box, I discovered a treasure trove - treasure, that is, for all who have followed the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and have been tantalised by the hints dropped by Watson concerning the cases about which he had written, but had never published. Two of these cases, Sherlock Holmes And The Case of the Missing Matchbox and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Cormorant fall into this category. The hints dropped by Watson about these hitherto undescribed cases in his other accounts have long intrigued Holmes scholars.

When reading through the manuscripts in the deed box, it proved difficult to make a decision as to which tales to include and which to exclude. I have chosen here to include three tales which show hitherto unsuspected aspects of Holmes, some of which have been hinted at earlier by Watson.

The Odessa Business

In this story we see a further side to Sherlock Holmes – that of his family. For a long time we have known about his reclusive and enigmatic brother, Mycroft. What was never alluded to by Watson in any of the published accounts was the existence of Evadne, his younger sister. She proves herself to be a true scion of the Holmes family, combining the energy of Sherlock with the raw mental capacity of his brother Mycroft. It is also refreshing to see familial affection between the siblings described in this story.

The Case of the Missing Matchbox

The second story here, the Case of the Missing Matchbox, deals with a bizarre crime, and also shows us a side of Sherlock Holmes which we might have guessed, or rather suspected, but which had remained unknown to us until this time. We have known from previous cases of his skill in fisticuffs, as well as in singlestick and the mysterious Japanese wrestling art with which he bested Professor Moriarty in his battle above the Reichenbach Falls. Not until this time have we had a chance to discover the side of Holmes that delighted in single combat, and not for its own sake, but on behalf of those unable to defend themselves.

The Case of the Cormorant

The final story in this short collection, the Case of the Cormorant, is to my knowledge unique in the canon of tales about Holmes. Watson alludes to this tale in another story, and it seems to have been regarded by him and probably by Holmes, as an “ace in the hole” to be played in the eventuality of an attack on Holmes or on Watson’s records. It is, when one reads the story, not in the least unusual or strange that Watson should have withheld it from publication. The principal figure in the case, even had he been disguised by a pseudonym, would have been instantly recognisable to any contemporary, and it is quite likely that students of that period’s history would likewise have encountered few difficulties of identification, even had the name and the location of the events described been changed. It is printed here in the hope that it will throw some light on some of the curious political machinations that occurred at this time.