Reddit Writing Prompt #17: Sherlock’s Warning

Sherlock (either BBC series or historical) dissuades a young boy from becoming like him. – thoma5nator

Sherlock Holmes stared down at the sign on the small card table, while the brown-haired boy awaited an answer to his question. It read: “25 cents per day, plus expenses – no case too small”. Sherlock tutted; the boy was either selling himself short or the town of Idaville, Maine was economically trapped in the sixties.

Sherlock had only heard about the boy through the faintest whispers on the grapevine: a name periodically found in the reports made by the Idaville police chief, the boy’s father, who would consult him on difficult cases. It had been on a particularly boring day that Sherlock had heard about the boy, and decided on a whim to fly across the world to see the boy for himself.

“‘Scuse me, but can I help you?” the boy asked again. Sherlock looked up, scanning the boy.

“Perhaps you can,” Sherlock said, fishing a coin from his pocket. A fresh, shiny quarter, which was slapped on the card table in the small garage with the impact of a gavel. “I have a case for you, Mister Brown.”

The boy took the quarter, dropping it into a jar filled with similar coins. “A bit older than the usual customers,” said the blonde girl bouncing a tennis ball against the far wall of the garage.

“A quarter’s a quarter,” the boy said. “What’s the case?”

“Tell me,” Sherlock said with a small, snakelike smile, “who I am. Where I’m from, what my name is, my occupation, everything you can logically discover about me from where you’re sitting right now.”

“That’s easy,” the boy said. “You’re from London, England, your name is Sherlock Holmes, and you’re a private investigator and occasional police adviser.”

Sherlock smiled. “Very good. How did you know?”

“I’ve seen you on television,” the boy said simply.

“Of course you have,” Sherlock said. “What else can you tell about me?”

“You came here as quick as you could once you got off the plane, and took a bus to the Idaville Bus Depot. You walked there from here,” the boy said after a moment of thought. “You haven’t changed the time on your watch yet, and you couldn’t have driven here because I didn’t hear a car approaching before you arrived. You could have caught a taxi from the depot, but you felt like walking because you’ve been sitting down enough for one day.”

The blonde girl rolled her eyes, just like John would after Sherlock showed off his deductive abilities. “Very good,” Sherlock said, allowing himself another small smile. “Then can you guess why I’m here?”

“I could, but I think you’re going to tell me,” the boy said.

“Clever. Quit playing at detective, boy.”

The words fell on utter silence. The blonde girl stared at Sherlock, and missed the rebound of her tennis ball; it hopped weakly around the garage before rolling out the door and down the driveway.

“You’re nuts,” the boy said. “Why would I do that?”

“Because eventually, you’re not going to be satisfied with simple childhood games of deduction,” Sherlock said, voicing the words he wished somebody had told him a long time ago, when he’d had a table just like this one. He had charged a pound per case, though. “You’ll get bored with scheming juvenile conmen, and yawn when Tommy from down the lane asks you to help him find where he left his bike again. You’ll keep hunting for challenges, begging your father for more complicated cases, for bloody, grisly horrorshows that set your mind on fire. This small town isn’t going to be able to amuse you forever, and when it turns into a bore, you’ll leave, and you’ll hunt down brilliant cases just to keep yourself from going insane. And your friends will drag themselves along for the ride, trying to stop you but praying you’ll keep going because the game is just so exciting. And when you reach the end, when there’s nothing left to interest you any longer, you will understand why boredom is worse than death.”

The two children were utterly silent, weathering the battering rain from the stormcloud Sherlock had become. “You’re a smart lad. Find something else to apply yourself to. Don’t hunt down mysteries just to prove that you’re cleverer than the rest. You’ll only find pain and worse at the end of the line.”

The boy stared at him. “I,” he said, swallowing dryly, “I’ll have to think about that.”

“I thought you would,” Sherlock said. He straightened, and nodded at the boy. “Have a good day.”

And with that, he left.


It was dinner time. Only the boy’s mother was eating, his father too busy explaining a dastardly theft, and him staring at his peas, lost in thought. “-but there was no sign the safe had been opened,” his father finished. Silence. They were waiting for his answer.

It was obvious. How could they not see it? Nothing had been taken from the safe because nothing had been in the safe in the first place. An elementary school student could have figured it out, but why couldn’t they see it?

“Leroy?” his mother asked. “Is something wrong?”

The boy looked up. They were staring at him, waiting for the answer. He always knew the answer. No matter how impossible the mystery seemed, he always knew.

This is boring, a tiny voice said to him. Why can’t they ever give me a real challenge?

He swallowed.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Encyclopedia Brown. “I don’t know.”

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