The Grape Harvest

 

Today is Colin Jeavons’ birthday. Now while I could have made up another Lestrade-fic, I chose instead to take on his other, less-known role as one of the most alarming Professors ever to grace the screen. Played with “chilling authority” by Davies, Jeavons made a Moriarty on the little-known show, The Baker Street Boys. While Moriarty never encountered Sherlock Holmes in front of the children, he did confront Dr. Watson and it was quite the showdown of wills. Perhaps someday I’ll get to see it the full episode.

I answered a meme-monster by going to the French Republican Calendar on wikipedia and looked up the meme prompts for October 20:

  • Season: Vendémiaire (Grape Harvest)
  • Day: Orge (barley)
  • Numerical day of the calendar: 29

 

One really needed to pay for the experts.

The professor toyed with the notion of just turning his back on the window and not looking out, but everyone else was watching the divers at work and he knew the arithmetic of standing apart.

Amateurs.

Below them the Thames swirled, filthy from the recent sewage and whatever the autumn rains at the headwaters had pulled down.

He shook his head as the brokers murmured and flowed about him. He was a small man, but the set of his shoulders and the glimmer in his eyes discouraged one from coming too close.

The water stirred and the river-police began shouting. They swarmed like ants with less the efficiency and clustered about the pumping-station.

The body emerged in sections, like the raising of a boat.

“Terrible thing.” Someone was saying. He looked; it was the old book-seller, here to ply his trade among the merchants’ elite. A barely-read copy of CROMWELL’S ECONOMICS hovered in a spidery claw. The book was cleaner than its vendor.

“That it is.” His beefy customer agreed. “Vamberry was a good sort. The best wine-merchant you’d ever think to see.”

He was a drooling fool, the professor thought. And he sold you all that wine at a loss because he needed those barrels to hide other things. The world’s better off without him and you think he’s a good man because he was cheap to your pockets.

But he remained silent, as always. Here was a place of business, and here it was sensible to mingle with the masses even if they hadn’t the collective sense of a flock of geese. At least the geese knew where and how to fly for the winter.

They stepped aside as he passed; the sharp grey eyes of the bookseller seeming to linger on him. Well he would have to find another customer for his wares.

The professor was a spare man, and not obtrusive in the room. He threaded obediently closer to the window like everyone else, a cool-faced overly calm man with measured speech and an even more measuring gaze. Outside of his tutoring room he was far from the warm, friendly numerical adviser his students recognized. The reason for this was simple: numbers were his humanity. He loved them with a passion few could fathom, and he learned early on that no one else cared about them the way he did.

No one else, not even Moran, could understand him. If he told anyone that numbers had their own personality, that the number nine made a perfect square or that the recitation of the Fibonacci Sequence never went far because the hilarity of the numbers made him laugh helplessly…they wouldn’t understand and they would at best nod without comprehension. Between himself and the comforting world of numbers, he built a sheltering wall.

The wall was imperfect in his youth; the slight fog of apartness and his business dealings had cost him his educational post but he was older now, less prone to mistakes and certainly less innocent.

“Excuse me, sir.”

Below them Vamberry’s soggy remains were being stretched out on the wet cobbles; a police surgeon waited nearby. He thought he recognized a few of the faces among the police although he rarely encountered that particular branch.

He turned his head from the monotonous scene and looked upon his broker. “Yes, Mr. Higgens?”

Higgens touched a gloved hand to his waxed mustache. “The shares have been finalized. Are you certain you wish to trade?”

The professor wished brokers looked to the numbers behind the numbers; the stories they would find would be illuminating. And they would at least reduce his need to answer questions.

“I do, Mr. Higgens.”

“Then all we need is your signature.”

They crossed the carpet together, with the space opening up as more people realised they could see more of Vamberry’s corpse.

A shame it hadn’t been Moran in charge, he thought. Vamberry wouldn’t have been found within a hundred miles of London.

Higgens produced a full quire of paper; multiple copies of each and the waiting document to seal. His secretary pulled out a chair for the professor first and then his superior.

“Not many people are seeking to trade in the corn shares now.” Higgens noted. It was his way of confessing the curiosity was about to expire him. “They’re all caught up in the grape harvests.”

He thought of telling the man the truth. That with Krakatoa bursting the volcanic ash into the atmosphere would affect the climate and pinch the crops. Long-season corn would be rendered obsolete save in a few isolated pockets of the world. Only cool-season corn like barley, rye, and spelt would remain stable.

But then, if the man only knew his history, he would already know from the examples of the world.

From small events come large changes.

He once calculated the necessary drop in temperature to bring about the next Ice Age.

Seven degrees.

That was all.

If the world cooled off by seven degrees they would be back to the wintry wastes.

He chose to say nothing again. The man didn’t understand…couldn’t understand. There was no equal among him that would fathom his thoughts. Another stone within the wall.

“Excellent, sir.” Higgens was useful in his lack of imagination. He even believed the story that his client had been given the bulk of his shares by a considerate relative. He gestured and the secretary briefly vanished; with a flourish he opened a locked drawer and pulled out his japanned tin of sealing-wax.

He had to admit, he enjoyed this part of business. Higgens was so punctual in his movements, and if they shared something besides the client-broker relationship, it was the satisfaction of a job well done. Higgens folded the papers over in the appropriate dimensions, and held out a neatly trimmed stick of wax. Not a speck of candle-soot marred the bright red wax. It melted in the heat of the lamp-light by drops, and he swiftly transferred the drops to a cooling puddle. One press of the seal and the job was finished.

“I sincerely wish you well, Professor.” Higgens informed him gracefully. “Just as I am certain the Crown is appreciative of your support.”

He smiled at that. “No doubt, Mr. Higgens.” He agreed softly.

“Truly, sir. We do not have as many purchased shares in the Company interests like we used to. I suppose the new generation is too caught up in the temptations of striking out solitary into the world.” He sighed and grew momentarily regretful. “Now that Mr. Vamberry is gone, you are my last such farseeing client.”

“Then I hope you find more.”

Higgens nodded mournfully, and they looked up at the arrival of the secretary. He bore a tray and two glasses with a bottle. It was the last part of Higgens’ ritual, the conclusion of it all.

“It would have been more fitting if this had been one of Mr. Vamberry’s bottles.” Higgens regretted as the wine was poured. “But a Chenin from 1829 can hardly be rejected.”

Moriarty felt a moment of relief and quashed it. “I’m sure he would appreciate your thoughtfulness.” He was determined to never, ever touch his lips to anything with Vamberry’s name to it ever again. For the sake of his own sanity and acumen.

Higgens sighed and they swirled the pale liquid against the thin glass. The wine painted the sides a delicate yellow; grapes from the south. The vintage reminded him of a field of barley-straw under the sun. Assuming there would be much sun this year. His calculations were against it. “The man had a hand with the wine.”

“That he most certainly did.” His client agreed evenly.

“I still cannot believe he is dead.” Higgens sipped at the same time as Moriarty; the flavours mingled dry as chalk with a hint of spiciness. “Who would wish to kill Vamberry?”

“Perhaps a business venture gone wrong.” Moriarty offered evenly. “A wine-merchant’s clientele can be a…temperamental lot.” He took a second sip, appreciating the second rush of flavours. “A client might have found disagreement with the quality of one of his barrels…that might be all it took for all we know.”

“That is true. Wine-merchants are a flighty lot.” Higgens agreed.

.”But they do have their uses.”  Across the table, Professor Moriarty smiled.

You Buy Bones: AudioBook

You Buy Bones: Sherlock Holmes and his London Through the Eyes of Scotland Yard Audiobook

I have been a real dupe and failed to push this like I meant to.  Real Life is a fickle beast and likes to hide under the bed with my calendar.

At any rate, I’m pleased and happy about this latest offering.  I haven’t given up my intentions for Large Print books, as I’m a little obsessed in making books for those who need that extra umph in reading.

This book uses Whispersync for Voice, and all those pages translate into over 7 hours of listening, so if you like those long-term purchases, this should be right up your alley! I say very confidently that it wouldn’t be possible without Dominic Lopez, the voice actor willing to put up with 7.75 hours of the punishment required to do this!

Click on the title above or go here for the page to check out the audio deals!

And I have to say, I really enjoyed Kindle Customer’s review of the book! Which is right here!

 

 

Review: The Adventure of the Missing Necklace by Daniel D. Victor

The fourth offering to the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, Vol. IV: 2016 Annual. One of my favorites and you are about to see why.

When I was much, much younger, I shared a love of reading with a dear friend who sadly passed away a few years ago.

I am convinced that from beyond the grave that Ree is dancing with glee, clapping her hands, and chortling with the joy Mr. Victor brought us for this adventure, and–icing on the cake–used Sherlock Holmes, one of her heroes–to do it.

Because this Adventure yanks out Guy de Maupassant’s infamous tale of “the Diamond Necklace,” and throws it to the ground, and gives us a much better story.

I can’t stress this enough.  “The Diamond Necklace” gave a lot of high schoolers (all girls) flipping nightmares.  It really did.  It upset us, scared us, made us furious and worst of all, made us feel impotent against society and injustice.  It made us feel like we belonged to a different subspecies, that women and their vanities made things worse instead of better.  It didn’t matter that I was a child of a comfortable middle class and Ree often went hungry. She knew what the wages of poverty and politics meant more than most adults. It didn’t break her, but it gave her an almost supernatural ability to see past the false fronts people erected in order to look “good” whatever that meant.

(Or as we sourly wondered, Did Mrs. Forrester never notice her glass necklace was replaced by diamonds? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to hire a detective to find the necklace? Did no one notice the couple dropped out of sight to work this thing off?)

We spoke of this story once, and never again.  It was too hard to talk about. But we remembered it.

Mr. Victor gives us the true story from the thoughtful eye of Sherlock Holmes, who makes no bones about his feelings for  de Maupassant.  Worse than being a mere ‘scrivener’ is the fellow’s willingness to bend and twist truthful events into something more ‘appropriate’ to his tastes.

We can relish Watson in his absence, for it is clear that Watson finds all of Holmes’ mental workings fascinating and worthy; with de Maupassant Holmes has to find an experience worthy of his attention–and Holmes has it: A dull grey bowler left in a peculiar place.  Noting the clues and the out-of-placeness of the hat, Holmes follows a thin trail to a surprising story and helps a young couple in unexpected ways.  The slow twists of this short story are a delight because we can “see” Holmes in his quiet narration with an interesting little story. Tracking a man from his hat-size is a fresh and delightful method of crime-solving, and his patient work shows just how much Holmes loves to learn about the world around him–and because he does, we appreciate the complexities of the world around us.  And with a hard-edged anger we understand his gun-shy distaste for fictionalizing the clean, cool workings of his mind.  Such workings have invaded his privacy and betrayed his ethics in ways that are difficult to express.

In a book of gems this one stands out–no glass, no paste.  This is a real treasure. Reading it lifted a terrible weight off my shoulders–a weight that has been there since 1989. I can only think that Ree and I weren’t the only ones bitterly affected by that story.  Thank you, Mr. Victor. What a satisfying conclusion!

 

 

Review: The Mystery of the Turkish Cipher by Deanna Baran

Deanna Baran has beaten me to the punch.

I’m a fanatic about honey, and quietly stockpile single-cut honey from all over the world because I too, believe in medicinal properties of honey taken from specific plants (and the flavors?  Don’t get me started on the flavors!!).  My official state’s flower is known for its infamous properties for specific effects which makes me leery of assuming anyone else’s honey is “a-ok.”

But it was only a temporary disappointment that Ms. Baran has written something I’ve toyed with; she does an incredible job of bringing out a lovely story.  The trick to a straightforward mystery is keeping its identity a secret until the very end.

In an era where open lines of communication were the norm, ciphered messages, letters and telegraph wires were rampant. Holmes enjoys ciphers and the way they hide the obvious.  His method of walking Watson through his demonstration of how he cracked the code of his client’s correspondence is true to form, for Holmes can be his most charming and reachable when he is showing another a new method of problem-solving. He loves learning, and we suspect he likes to give others the tools they need to learn for themselves.

Geeks can enjoy the long, gnarled threads of history, science, social politics, society’s norms, botany, and even aggravating family bonds in this smoothly written and all-too short short story.  I enjoyed every word.

We are quite lucky that David Marcum managed to pull this writer into the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories.  I will be watching for this name in the future.