Mablethorpe is a small seaside town that abuts the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire in the Greater Britains. Officially, it is a town filled with fishermen and common folk, not noted for the fame of its thinkers, but rather the skills of its netters and its ship builders. During the India Isles Wars, it had become a quick port for the Greater Britain armies to embark and debark from the mighty wooden ships of that time to fight over in the heathen lands, as the Church of England, designated them.
Being the middle of January, the seacoast was littered with sea debris washed in by the larger than usual tides of that time of the year. One could find mussels, crabs, starfish, pieces of waterlogged wood from sunken ships swept under by the Might Neptune’s Trident, as well as the occasional bottle with a note from a loved one lost at sea or a note from someone separated from a loved one, hoping to reconnect somehow.
Such a time and place, day and location were where Sherlock found himself with Watson, briskly pacing near the water’s receding and ebbing flows, deep in thought.
“I rather like this place.” Watson commented as he too in a deep lungful of fresh, salt-tanged air that was moist and vibrant with the purity of the sea.
Sherlock said nothing. Watson expected no less.
They were on an unusual case of lost fishermen, who had been seen in this area but hours before his disappearance, and had left no trace or makings of his withdrawal from either his home or ship at the time.
It was a very remarkable case in that the sea usually didn’t sweep something out without rolling it back in again later on. The fisherman had left behind a family of four and a large certificate of insurance, which is what brought Watson and Holmes to the area.
Watson shrugged his jacket on closer to his neck, wishing he had brought his muffler as he had planned, instead of braving the cold morning airs without it.
He had personally thought, considering his own way of life as a practical and astute reflection of what he might have done in the fisherman’s place. He personally thought that he would have vanished somewhere to leave the money to his family, knowing that he could be replaced more easily than their poverty otherwise. He had voiced the theory to Holmes, but he had said nothing one way or the other to the theory, but instead had proceeded to book them on the first train to Lincolnshire.
After a day’s dreary ride on the old, coal burning antique, they had arrived late, with the moon hanging overhead like a sad puppy over its master’s shoulder. It was dull and dreary as the ride, with red marks on its surface from burning coal in outside barrels where fisherman were drying out their catch for bringing further into the Europes for sale. Dried and canned fish bore higher market values than fresh these days, what with the droughts and loss of other protein sources since the last wars.
“Fact, dear Watson.” Sherlock said suddenly, his eyes still off in the distance. “Fishermen know their way better than most. What does that suggest to you?”
“That he did not get lost, nor lose his way.”
“Fact. He was not the sort of man to abandon his family. He came from a tradition of fishermen, who not only lived near the sea, but oftentimes upon it.”
“True. I thought that rather odd he would just up and disappear as well. I can’t imagine a good man doing that.”
“Fact. He has no record of arrests, nor of fights with his immediate family.”
“In fact, Holmes, he was known as an extremely generous man, who would take in strangers.”
“Fact. The sea is mysterious. It contains many secrets.”
Sherlock stopped and Watson kept on walking a moment, before he realized he had. He turned back. Sherlock was eyeing the waves coming in and how they were rolling a bottle with the ebbing wave.
He strolled out several yards and retried the bottle.
He eyed it a long time, and then dropped it back into the surf, for the sea to reclaim it. He watched it roll and toss on the outgoing wave, until it bubbled off into the distance. Then he turned back and rejoined Watson.
“We must return to the fisherman’s cottage at once!”
Without further delay, they made their way from the sandy beach to the sea-weathered planks that had been inset into the offset of land beside the docks and climbed to the street above. They made their way down Winsome, then right to Windermere, and finally stopped in an older section of the town, where most of the sailors of the area had their humble abodes. They stopped before one such place. It was weathered looking. Maybe even a bit beaten up, but it was clean.
Sherlock walked about the home, followed by Watson.
“Nothing around her but these strange slithering marks in the sand, Sherlock.”
“Yes.” Sherlock replied, and then rushed them back to the front door.
Sherlock didn’t wait to be asked in, when the Lady of the house opened the door. He went inside and sat down at the table near the fire and began rubbing his hands together briskly. “My dear Mrs. Ansom, you have undoubtedly been put through a great deal of trouble because of your husband’s loss.”
She wrung her hands and looked to the other room where their children slept soundly. “Aye! But who…”
“The insurance, no doubt, would be a handsome payback for the loss of your good man.”
“A sore repayment if you ask. But who are…” She admitted.
He rose and turned to face her. “If it were found that your husband were alive, you’d stand to lose what might keep you and your family from debt for a great man years.”
“It would break my heart and that of the children to lose their father, my husband and the money at the same time. But who are you?”
“Your salvation, dear Mrs. Ansom. Your truth in a bottle.”
Watson gave Sherlock a strange look.
“We have looked at all the facts which are possible, but have ignored…”
“The impossible!” Watson exclaimed, his cheeks reddening. “My God! You think!”
“Exactly. That is exactly what I think.”
Sherlock turned to Mrs. Ansom, who was so confused by what was going on that her hands were winding up like a propeller as she wrung them over and over again.
“Mrs. Ansom, you do remember the legends of this area, do you not?”
“Yes, the seal people.”
“Do you believe them to be real?”
She gave him a blank look.
“Do you believe there are such creatures?”
“Uh, uh…anything is possible.” She finally stammered.
“Have you noticed any seals in this area recently?”
“Have you seen one that looks familiar, that comes close to your home on a regular basis.”
“Yes, now that you mention it I do. He is a rather brutish sized one, with rather large eyes…reminds me of…”
Watson took hold of her so she wouldn’t collapse to the floor.
She began to weep. “No!”
“I’m afraid so, Mrs. Ansom.”
They left Mablethorpe that afternoon and went straight back to 221B, where Holmes began immediately to scribble furiously at his desk until he was finished. Finally, yawning from the long journey, he stood up, stretched and went to the sitting room, where Watson was seated before the fire, reading the newspaper.
Watson nodded and took the paperwork. “I shall deliver it in the morning to the Insurance Office.”
“But pray tell me, Sherlock. How did you figure out the man was a seal?”
“Everyone has a secret they keep to themselves for fear of it coming back to haunt them later on.”
“What better secret to hide than one that could mean the liberation of your family?”
“Ah.” Watson said, understanding.
“A man in love will do anything to save his loved ones. When all else had failed for him, he saw only one course of action to take.”
“To return to the sea.”
“But Sherlock. I have one question.”
“What will happen when the children start turning into seals?”
Sherlock smiled as he sat down to light his favorite pipe. “That day will be another day. For now, let them be safe with their secrets.”
Watson nodded, set the paperwork down and let his eyes close. It had been a long day and night. Perhaps tomorrow he could rest more.
A banging sound.
Watson’s eyes snapped open.
A moment later he heard the door open and Mrs. Watson’s voice greeting someone, then Inspector Bloodstone came running up the stairs, his face blanched as a ghost.
“We’ve got trouble!”
Sherlock stood up and smiled. “The game never ends, hey Watson?”
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