The Case of the Shrinking Head
"A Sherlock Holmes Story."
She was renown throughout London for her busts of famous men and women. Her name was Mademoiselle LaFete. She was tall, robust and dressed like a humble artist, which she was. So it was on wonder that when Messier Dorso entered her simple shop located in the Bloomsbury district, within walking distance of the British Museum where a series of portentous events had occurred only recently, much to her and other artists sense of horror and dismay.
But that was some time ago now and the wounds of that peculiar battle were healing across London and everyone and everything was settling back into its normal routines once more, as were her routines. She gathered her flowing smock, spattered with some oils from a recent foray into abstraction in the rear of her shop, she came out with a bright smile. Any time she had a customer it was like a light going on within her, for any artist worth theirs salt felt more happy when their work was becoming known, as opposed to festering in some dark corner or closet somewhere.
"How may I help you Messier Dorso?" She inquired, wiping her hands on her smock and coming forward in the shop so he could see her better.
He touched his top hat and gave her a smile such as only the most elegant of Frenchmen could do so well. She felt her heart flutter when he did, for it had been a long time since she had felt the touch of a man.
"Mademoiselle La Fete, I am come to you because of a most distressing problem, which I had hopes of you resolving."
Her eyebrows shot up. The mystery of his words excited her imagination. Was it a decaying fixer on a portrait, a child had spilled food on a painting that needed cleaning, a portrait of a mistress had been found out that needed explaining?
His smile vanished. "I am afraid it might be beyond even your elegant touch, but I had no one else to turn to." He explained.
"Tell me. If I may help, I shall do whatever is in my power to do so." She said.
He nodded, touched by the sincerity in her voice. He appraised her more closely, noticing the gentle curves of her body so well hidden, yet revealed beneath her smock. Her soft, auburn hair that fell like soft autumn leaves across her brows, and the pale blue eyes that seemed to look off into nowhere, but had so much focus to them as to make one feel they could see everything in a man's soul. The delicate hands, paint spattered, but delicate nonetheless, with fingers that even Mozart would envy. A slender neck that could have been carved from stone by the Divine Michelangelo.
"I have a bust."
"It is of a very interesting man I had met sometime back on my travels to the Scots."
"It is shrinking."
She gave him a distressed look. "But how is that possible? Is it made of a porous material. Usually busts are made of a fixed metal that once cast remains unencumbered by time's hands."
He shrugged. "Nevertheless."
Suddenly, from the right, and the shadows of the shop a tall man with a sharp beak of a nose, high eyebrows and a high forehead denoting great intelligence stepped into view. He held a small painting in one hand that he had been examining with great interest. His deerstalker hat and cape seemed to paint him as a man to be noticed, even without the great name that was surely attached to...
"Sherlock Holmes." He said, putting the painting down, and handing over a small business card to Messier Dorso, then one to Mademoiselle LaFete. "I find it fascinating what you have just revealed. I do hope you'll pardon me for the intrusion into your affairs."
Mademoiselle LaFete could barely control her expression of both anxiety and hope. "We are so honored to have you in this shop, Mister Holmes."
"Please." He said with a warm smile. "Call me Sherlock. All my friends do."
She blushed at his piercing glance. Another man who caused her heart to flutter, but in ways she was not sure she could measure. "Sherlock."
"I would like to see this bust." He told Messier Dorso. "If you don't mind?"
"I would be honored."
Watson and Sherlock climbed out of a Tesla cab and walked the short distance up the walkway that led to the front door of the Windsor style mansion that fronted the street.
"Magnificent structure." Watson noted.
"Indeed, Watson. Mister Dorso built it himself as part of his climb into power as a master architect and builder."
Watson eyed Sherlock. "You seem more than casually interested in this."
"Indeed. Indeed." Sherlock acknowledged, then raised a fist to knock upon the door. It opened before he could do so and Mr. Dorso stood there beside Ms. LaFete, who gave Watson and Sherlock an embarrassed look, as if trying to explain how a single woman could be found alone with a man.
Sherlock gave her a scant smile, then reached out a hand to Mr. Dorso. "Are we late?"
"Not at all. Come in. Come in."
They went into the living room of the home, then were through glistening wood walls with tall bookshelves loaded with books on architecture and building, then into a well appointed study, where a bust sat on a huge desk, surrounded by large, plush chairs.
"As you can see I have it upon my desk this very moment."
Sherlock, without further ado, went to the bust and then pulling on a set of gloves, lifted it carefully and rotated it in his hands. "Watson, would you be so kind as to give me a swab?"
"Surely." Watson agreed, and reached into his medical bag, which he was never without and pulled out a swab, and handed it over.
Sherlock gently swiped at the base of the bust, then looked at the swab. Keeping the swab between his gloved fingers, he set the bust down, then eyed Mr. Dorso. "It appears to be of excellent condition."
"Yes. It is. But unfortunately, it is now half the size it began."
Sherlock nodded. "How long has this been going on?"
"Since two months ago."
"And your home has the usual security?"
"It does. Provided by a subsidiary of Mister Houdini himself. Surely if someone had broken in the magical alarm would have announced them at once."
Sherlock nodded. "Now show me where the bust was orignally placed."
Mr. Dorso took him to a bookcase where a large area was now empty.
Sherlock took a chair to stand on. "May I?"
"But of course."
Sherlock climbed onto the chair, then examined the wood of the shelving a moment, noting several odd stains on the sides. "Do you use any kind of stain cleaner on this wood?"
"I do not."
Watson handed up another swab.
Sherlock swabbed the stains he had spotted, then gesturing to Watson, who took out a vial, he placed the swab within it, the climbed down.
"We will return tomorrow at the same time. Good day, sir."
"But aren't you..." Mister Dorso began, but Sherlock and Watson were already out of the study and heading for the front door.
That night, before Watson retired for the eve, he spotted Sherlock madly scribbling notes as he read a volume entitled "Legends of the Scots."
The next day Watson and Sherlock arrived at the front door at pretty much the same time as the day before, and this time also the door opened swiftly, and again Ms. LaFete and Mr. Dorso stood there.
This time Sherlock's eyebrows raised slightly, but he said nothing.
They proceeded to the study, where Sherlock and Watson sat down. Mr. Dorso helped Ms. LaFete into a chair and sat behind his desk. He leaned forward eagerly. "Anything?"
"Yes. Please correct me if I'm wrong."
"You purchased this bust where?"
"Three months ago."
"And at that time it measured approximately eighteen inches in height and ten in depth. Am I correct?"
"But how could you possibly know that?"
Sherlock's eyes drifted to Ms. LaFete, who suddenly looked quite anxious and nervous. "Your husband was French?"
"But you are not."
Sherlock steepled his slender fingers together and smiled in such a way that Ms. LaFete felt her heart fluttering again, but not happily. "You are in fact from the Scots, are you not?"
Mr. Dorso rose angrily. "Here now, how dare you insult this good lady?"
Sherlock looked at him sternly. "You wanted an answer. I am proceeding to such."
He looked again at Ms. LaFete. "You, Madam, are a fraud."
Both she and Mr. Dorso rose in alarm and anger.
Sherlock remained seated, a thin smile on his lips. "Your father in fact was a man named Morgan Le Fay, and a distant relative of Morgana Le Fey, am I not correct?"
She shrunk before everyone and shriveled down onto her chair again, sweat beading her forehead. She glanced at Mr. Dorso, who was not comprehending what was going on. He only saw the woman his heart was growing more and more fond of in great fear and trepidation. "I'm so sorry, Victor. I am a fraud."
He gave her a shocked look.
Sherlock rose the same time as Watson to leave. "Your bust has not been shrinking without a bit of help. Magical help. Am I not right, Ms. LaFete."
In answer Ms. LaFete broke into sobs and fainted.
Sherlock turned to Mr. Dorso. "You must not be too hard on her. For a woman so hard set on winning a man whom she saw as too far above her station to approach in any other manner, is not necessarily an evil person."
He and Sherlock left the home and climbed into their Tesla Cab which headed back for 221B Baker Street.
"You were awfully kind to that woman, Holmes." Watson pointed out.
Sherlock nodded. "I could see how attached he had become. While not being totally honest with him, she undoubtedly had the best of intentions. I am not, as you know, overly eager to be in a relationship of some kind, but in her I could sense a heart of great strength and courage. A mind that burns like quick silver and an intellect that could pierce the stars."
And without further word the two detectives returned home.
But for Mr. Dorso, there was no more shrinking head to discover. Instead, he had a lifetime to learn about a woman who would go to any length to discover the heart of a man whom she had been blindly drawn to and adored. A woman, whom, while related to an ancient who had been a dark and malicious soul, was still a good person at heart...despite her station in life.
John Pirillo"Writing fuels the heart and soul!" Science Fiction, Fantasy and Adventure Tales to Take Your Breath Away!