Sherlock Holmes and the Patchwork Man

I called upon my friend, Mr. Holmes, one morning in his flat located at 221-B Baker Street. There, I found him quite engrossed in performing one of his violin recitals. His audience was a tall man of above average height, pale patchwork skin,  oddly mismatched limbs, and he was wearing rough, hand-sewn clothing, judging by the coarse threads and jagged lines of the hems and seams. The man, if such an abomination could be addressed as such, was performing a dance, awkward in choreography, twirling himself and lifting his hands to the heavens in a manner quite consistent with an orchestra conductor, humming along in an off key rendition of the waltz Mr. Holmes was performing.

It had been a blustery day outside so I took a seat next to the warm hearth and patiently waited for my friend to finish the carefully and precisely metered waltz he was in the midst of.

Perhaps five minutes had expired before Sherlock Holmes’s bow drew slowly across the strings of his violin, marking the end of his recital. At once, his audience gave a final twirl and fell into a high-backed chair opposite myself, while the sustained note Holmes was holding faded into the crackle of the now waning fire.

“Ah, yes, my dear friend Watson. I am pleased that you have chosen this time of morning to call upon my quarters. My friend and I were quite engaged in a slight break from our conversation in regard to a most vexing conundrum he has presented me with,” said Holmes.

“Ungh,” groaned our guest.

“Oh yes, it seems that my friend can only communicate via grunting, moaning, and humming. We have worked out a most remarkable system that has given seed to a lively conversation,” continued Holmes.

“Ungh,” the man grunted.

“That, Dr. Watson is a confirmation,” said Holmes, taking a moment to not so gently place his instrument back into its case.

At once, I was intensely puzzled and intrigued by what my dear friend seemed to be proposing. “Surely you do not mean to imply that you are in the employ of this gentleman?”

“Aanh,” The patchwork man protested, half rising from the seat he had taken.

“Now, now,” said Holmes, easing his visitor back into his seat with a peacefully raised hand. “This is my nearest and dearest friend. I assure you, his brief indiscretion is indeed only brief. Please allow me to inform him of the fantastical task our discourse has outlined.”

Visibly relieved, the patchwork man gave me a final grunt and fell back into his chair again, humming to himself.

Now I have been faithfully at Mr. Holmes’s side for a great number of adventures, but never one presented by such as that before my eyes. I was in utter amazement. For it is without fail that the most puzzling and strange cases seem to fall into the consult of my dearest friend. However, in all of our years of companionship, this was by leaps and bounds the most curious of the lot. I could not wait for Sherlock Holmes to explain away the veil of puzzlement that had descended upon me.

“Now Watson, my friend has traveled a considerable distance to consult with me in regard to a matter of great import.”

“Ungh.”

“Well, do fill me in Holmes, the suspense is killing me,” said I.

“It seems that our friend has wandered through the metropolis to impress upon me to undertake his cause. It appears, as you know doubt have surmised, that our friend has been patched together from a number of sources into a somewhat grotesque amalgamation of mismatched limbs and internal organs. His previous memories however do not exist in his present state, as he no longer possesses the lucid faculties he by default once had. He does however possess a profound appreciation for violin and dance.

“Yes. that is all quite clear,” said I. “Please, continue.”

“This gentleman, while not being able to recall his previous life, or lives if you prefer, has, in the past, contemplated his existence and would like me to reconnoiter the sources of his parts to their original owners, so to speak, to ensure that none of his parts were ill-gotten.”

“Ungh,” the patchwork man grunted, somewhat enthusiastically.

“And you discovered all this using his grunts?” I asked, quite skeptical of the answer Mr. Holmes was to provide.

“It was merely a matter of deduction Watson. Any man who deems it necessary to venture into the night under the cold weather we’ve had of late would, as a matter of course, have an inexplicable burden weighing heavily upon the mind. Upon my friend’s arrival, I could no doubt see the patchwork construction of his frame and arrived at the conclusion that he must have a question as to his source, or sources, as it were. It really was quite a fortuitous accident that I happened upon his intense and remarkable infatuation with music. When he arrived, I was tuning my violin and had absentmindedly placed the instrument into the crook of my arm.  His guttural expressions, combined with an accurate pantomime of a violin player, guided me to his wish to hear me play. Since then, our discourse has been interspersed with a song here and there. It appears that he much prefers the metered waltzes, as opposed to the more lively sonatas.”

“Indeed,” said I, amazed and dumbfounded at the deductive prowess of my friend.

“Some two hours ago, my friend gesticulated to his pocket in which had been secreted a diary. The name on the cover is quite an ineligible now, it has been exposed to a number of elements that have compromised the quality of the ink and paper. The diary contained a vast number of notes and references in a doctor’s scrawl—how you can decipher one another’s writing is thoroughly beyond my reasoning—which is somewhat legible in places, especially where names and places are concerned.”

As was his custom, Mr. Holmes took up his pipe and confined himself to a high wing-back chair, and lit it with a flourish.

“My dear Watson, I know that you have the same affinity for the bizarre as I, so long as it is outside the realm of ordinary conventions and quite apart from humdrum everyday life.”

“That is quite true Holmes, I much prefer the considerable task I have undertaken to annotate your cases, they certainly provide the most startling glimpse into strange goings-on that I find most satisfying.” I looked across to our current visitor, who was in the midst of humming along, quite oblivious to our dialogue.

“Might you be available Watson? Would your patients get along without you for a while?”

“You know I wouldn’t be able to say no Holmes, this may prove to be one of the most compelling subjects on which you have consulted.”

“Well then, let us meditate until nightfall. That way it will prove easier to disguise our friend.”

With that, Holmes resumed his playing.

While Holmes was entertaining our visitor, I began the necessary preparations for his daily dose of cocaine. Upon his last note, I called him over to give him his infusion.

Holmes recommenced his playing and I set about to apply my own powers of reasoning in deciphering the text contained within the diary the patchwork man had provided. It was indeed a doctor’s journal, of that I was quite certain. From what I could glean, the good doctor had pieced the man together from parts of deceased individuals. The doctor had catalogued a most detailed list into rows and columns which indicated sources for a great number of the man’s organs. There was however, a slight anomaly in the list: under the column designated for the heart there was a somewhat cryptic notation “DCD NSF.” There was no further notation or any indication of its meaning, only the name on the entry gave any clue as to the source: Kaleb Ringlets.

“I say Holmes,” said I, motioning my dear friend over. When Holmes looked over my shoulder at the macabre table, I indicated the entry with my hand. “There is quite a perplexing entry here, a Mr. Kaleb Ringlets is the—or, was, as it were, the owner of our friend’s heart.”

“Indeed Watson, it seems the entire tableau is laid out in a prudishly careful manner I find difficult to fathom was created by the same hand.”

“What do you make of this entry for his heart though, ‘D-C-D N-S-F.’ Could that be a type of code Holmes?”

Holmes rose up to his full height, “It is a notation I’m not familiar with.” He let out a brief sigh and plucked a string on his instrument. “It seems most curious, Watson.”

As was Holmes’s custom he lapsed into a meditative state, slowly walking about in ever widening circles. I know he was thoroughly confounded by the queer notation and its myriad possibilities. I looked across to the patchwork visitor who was still humming along to himself.

It was now late in the day and I could tell the puzzle had posed a considerable hurdle for Holmes to encounter. For hours he had done nothing but walk about in his meditative state, absentmindedly plucking the strings of his violin. The patchwork man and I passed the time exploring the limits of his conversational abilities by the fire when Holmes uttered, “Watson, do be a good fellow and summon the messenger boy. I dare say that I need a little help from that contemptible buffoon Lestrade.”

Lestrade, the ‘contemptible buffoon’ was the local chief of detectives at Scotland Yard. Our adventures had had a number of notes so fortuitous intersections with those of the local police and Holmes had developed an extreme dissatisfaction with their methods, which is the reason I was stupefied by my friends need for his assistance.

“I shall do so immediately, Holmes.”

Forthwith, I went out to the street. The boy whom usually carried Holmes’s messages was standing behind a carefully dressed gentleman, the man’s string from his coin purse poised between his fingers. I walked up behind him slowly, determined to thwart his attempt at thievery without losing the service of our loyal messenger boy. A well-timed hand on the boys shoulder startled him enough to cause him to drop the purse string as the man walked off.

“Come boy, I need you to summon Lestrade from over at Scotland Yard. I shall give you your customary two bits upon your return.”

Exasperated no doubt at my thwarting his attempt, the scofflaw replied, “Sure thing, guv, only it’s ‘otta be four bits, ‘sidering you made me miss a good score.”

“I shan’t give you more than three, now go. Make haste, boy.”

Upon my return to Holmes’s quarters I was surprised to see that our guest had disappeared. “Before you go about worrying Watson, I’ve escorted our friend to my private study. I would think it unfashionable to have that twit, Lestrade, stumble upon our guest. Even he couldn’t allow such a detail to escape his notice, and our friend’s presence would border on the unexplainable.”

“Quite so, Holmes. I must concur.”

It wasn’t a quarter of an hour before Lestrade and our messenger boy came calling. I gave the lad his three bits and sent them along.

“To what do I owe your call, Mr. Holmes? ‘Tis not often we are consulted by your sort,” said Lestrade after warming his hands by the fire and taking the seat that the patchwork man had been in.

“No pleasantries this time, Lestrade?” asked Holmes.

“It’s been quite a busy day. It seems your nemesis, Moriarty, is up to his old tricks again. He’s been implicated in a new plot to steal the Crown Jewels and replace them with a set of cleverly disguised fakes. We’re quite lucky to have discovered the plot, as the thief contracted to do the job fumbled the replacements and dropped the scepter in front of the palace guard on his way in.”

“Discovered, humph. Sounds more like stumbled blindly into…. How was Professor Moriarty connected?” asked Holmes.

“Well, as you know, Holmes, only Moriarty has had the jewels in his possession long enough to actually get a detailed enough description to have such a set of fakes constructed. So his connection to the matter is still supposition on our part, but we’re confident he’ll rear his ugly head once the crook is discovered to not make it back to the hideout,” Lestrade finished.

“I’m sorry that I cannot be of assistance on those matters, I have a prior engagement that should keep me quite dispatched for the next day or two,” Holmes declined Lestrade’s thinly veiled request for assistance. “At any rate, Lestrade, it seems like you have got the matter sufficiently summed up. Although, I would keep watch over the thief. Knowing Moriarty, he would no doubt make an attempt on his life. I’m sure such fakes as you describe cannot be gotten cheaply.”

“Aye, Holmes we already procured a comfortable cell for the crook at a local precinct wholly separate from the Tombs,” said Lestrade.

“Now onto more pressing matters, eh? Do you have any knowledge of any attacks in the last, say, three years, that were under mysterious circumstances and the victim was missing any number of organs?” asked Holmes.

“That sort of case, is it? Let me think for a moment,” said Lestrade. After some minutes, he continued, “It seems there was an attack of the sort you describe in Bristol. I don’t believe it ever made the papers here in London. But the scene did make quite an impact on that town’s populace. For a few weeks after, not a soul could be found outdoors after nightfall. The whole town believed a wolf was on the prowl. Hunting parties were formed and the whole lot. Nothing ever came of the matter, as I can recall. However the bloke’s heart was ripped out of his chest and he was left to bleed out.”

Holmes thought for a moment. “That sounds like it may prove promising. Did you say Bristol?”

“Aye. The town returned to normal and there haven’t been any further attacks,” said Lestrade.

“Yes, yes. Of course,” said Holmes in an off-hand manner. “That must be the key.”

“I take it your engagement intersects with this town, Holmes?” asked Lestrade.

“I believe it may, detective,” replied Holmes. “Now, if you will, take your leave. I must make a number of preparations for our impending departure.”

“So pleased the Yard could be of service,” said Lestrade in a tone that was lost on Holmes.

“Pray tell, Holmes, what weighs so heavily upon your mind?” I asked after Lestrade made his exit.

Holmes took a moment to respond, “I believe the answer to our enquiry on this matter will present itself on our arrival in Bristol, Watson. For the time being, will you locate a hansom we could rent for three days? It should not be necessary for the driver to accompany us, I think.”

“Sure thing, Holmes. I believe I saw one on the street earlier,” said I, turning to exit.

On the street, I located the driver of the hansom I had seen earlier and contracted with him the rental of his cab. He was a bit hesitant of course. However, he warmed up to the idea for half a pound per day, plus care and feeding of the horses. I was not entirely certain of what lay before us, but I was intrigued and anxious to begin.

Upon my arrival back at 221-B Baker St., Holmes and the patchwork man were on the stoop, waiting for me. Bags at their sides. Holmes assisted the patchwork man into the cab while I placed Holmes’s bag into the boot.

Holmes and I drove the team all night. During the day, the road to Bristol is only five hours ride. However, at night, it is quite a different story. The dense cloud cover made it impossible to gauge the passage of time. The single candle lanterns that flank the driver seat were not of much help. At times, only the clop-clop-clop of the horses’ shoes and a brief flicker of a horse’s tail give any indication anything was in front of us.

I could tell Holmes was deep in thought. In the seat next to me, steady streams of smoke teased my nostrils; but not a word was uttered until it was time to exchange the reins for a chance of shut eye.

“Holmes, I believe I’ll catch a nap, would you mind driving the rest of the way?” asked I.

“Not at all, Watson. I’m sure this has been quite a long day for you, old boy. Pass me the reins and get your rest.”

Early the next morning, I was awakened when our hansom came to a stop at the local constablery.

“I’ll be but a minute, old boy,” said Holmes as he handed over the reins. “I need a bit of information from the good fellows inside before we continue.”

Holmes hopped down and darted into the office. He emerged several minutes later, “Ha, Watson, we’ve encountered a stroke of luck. It seems the cemetery where the bloke was buried is just around the bend. Although it seems there’s a slight discrepancy, these blokes have never heard of a Kaleb Ringlets,” said Holmes, as he climbed up into the cab.

I drove the cab in the direction Holmes indicated, to where we encountered an ornately fenced-in cemetery. Ivy crept along the top of the fence, snaking into every nook and cranny, covering the fence entirely. In several places the fence peeked out from its blanket of waving, rustling leaves. The air was gritty—no doubt from the dust kicked up from the hooves of our horses. Once the dust began to settle, I detected a crisp yet briny quality to the air, “Are we near the coast, Holmes?”

“I believe the cemetery is set on a cliff that overlooks the bay,” said Holmes. “The ocean should be just on the other side of here. Come now, old boy. Let us attempt to resolve this whole sordid matter.”

“Indeed, Holmes,” said I.

Holmes and I then both proceeded to the passenger compartment to help the patchwork man down.

“Urnngh,” the patchwork man groaned as he stretched out his limbs once on the ground.

“There you are, chap,” said Holmes. “Quite a bit of a ride, eh?”

“Ungh!”

“Well, let us proceed. I believe we shall have our answer shortly,” said Holmes.

It was still too early for the caretaker to be present, so it looked as if we would be on our own to locate the plot that contained Kaleb Ringlets. Altogether we walked the paths in the cemetery for over two hours. We encountered a great many plots, however none that belonged to any Ringlets’s.

Just then, a bloodcurdling scream emanated from what sounded like the other end of the cemetery. Holmes and I both looked to each other, then to the patchwork man, who was nowhere to be found.

“Let’s go, Watson,” said Holmes. He must’ve surmised—as I did—that the patchwork man had wandered off and encountered one of the local citizens. Together we ran in the direction from which the scream had come.

Behind a small grove of trees we discovered the patchwork man. He was poised over the supine form of a young woman in a small clearing that had previously escaped our notice. He had the young woman’s head cradled in his lap and was softly stroking her hair and face. On our arrival, he looked up at us. In a thickly accented and gravelly voice he stated, “Me heard crying.”

Needless to say, Holmes and I were dumbfounded. Once I regained my faculties I asked him, “I thought you couldn’t speak?”

In that same gravelly voice he replied, “it is much hard for me to speak. Takes much power. Me heard crying, come to look. Me found her.”

Just then Holmes interjected, “Watson, since you’re a doctor, check on the young lady. It appears as if she hit her head.” He was busy inspecting one of the grave markers that lay behind the young woman.

I checked on the young woman. She had apparently hit her head. No doubt when she fainted. There was a small bruise on her left temple that had a slight abrasion that trickled blood. “This shouldn’t take long to staunch, Holmes. I shall need my bag from the cab. I’ll be back in just a minute or two,” I told Holmes, and ran back to where we parked our hansom.

Upon my return the woman was just coming to. “Now just a minute young lady,” I told her. “You’ve got a nasty bump on your noggin.”

“Uh, I, uh, had a terrible fright,” said the woman, raising her hand to where she bumped her head. “I saw the most horrific thing.”

“Now, now,” I told her. “Can you tell me your name?”

“Yes, it’s Delilah. Delilah Blake.” Then she asked, “Am I still in the cemetery?”

“Yes, my friends and I were looking for a specific plot when we heard you scream,” I told her, indicating Holmes and the patchwork man with a sweep of my arm.

Upon seeing him again, Miss Blake screamed and tried to get up to run. Holmes rushed over to help me restrain her.

“No, no! Get him away from me!” she yelled, struggling against mine and Holmes’s grips.

“Miss Blake, stop resisting these are my friends.”

She slumped into Holmes’s arms, “I suppose, it’s no use trying anymore,” she said. “Just keep that monster away from me,” indicating the patchwork man.

“Can you tell us why are you here so early?” asked Holmes.

“Once a week, I stop to mourn at my brother’s grave just over there,” she replied, indicating a small grave marker with her hand. Holmes went over to the marker to inspect the name. “But why are you all here?” she asked, looking again at Holmes and myself, but not at the patchwork man.

“We’ve come to visit a distant relative’s grave, said Holmes. “Tell me, when did your brother die?”

“Not more than six months ago, now,” Miss Blake replied. “He was killed by a pack of wolves.”

“And his name?” asked Holmes.

“Sterling. But what has that to do with your business here,” asked Miss Blake.

“Eureka, Watson!” exclaimed Holmes, ignoring Miss Blake’s enquiry. “I believe I have a solution to our mystery.” To Miss Blake, he stated, “Miss Blake it seems that your brother was not killed by a pack of wolves but by an overzealous lunatic bent on bringing his creation to life.”

“To what creation are you referring, Holmes?” asked I, taking a glance at the patchwork man. “Surely you do not mean our friend here….”

“Indeed I do, Watson,” replied Holmes.

“The notion struck me when we encountered the notation ‘D-C-D N-S-F’ in the diary that our friend had with him on his arrival. Our discoveries of this morning have crystallized that notation’s meaning; which can only indicate that a deceased heart was insufficient and this doctor had to appropriate a living heart for his experiment. The name on the grave marker that Miss Blake was visiting has the inscription Sterling Blake, which I suspect is the plain text meaning behind Kaleb Ringlets. It’s a simple transpositional cipher, Watson, a relatively old form of cryptography that requires the sender of a secret to encipher the plain text by way of an anagram; so that we get two entirely different meanings from the same letters.”

“Well Holmes, it seems you’ve done it again,” said I, turning to look at our friend. However, the patchwork man was not standing where he was only moments ago. I turned about in a circle looking for him. Finally, my eyes located his form walking away from us towards the cliff face. “No!” I yelled.

“No, Watson,” said Holmes. “It’s better this way.”

Together we watched as the patchwork man lumbered toward the edge of the cliff. Putting it all together, Miss Blake realized that her brother’s heart was about to walk off the cliff. She started after him, “Wait!”

I reached out to take hold of her, “Let him go, Miss Blake. That’s not your brother, or any part of him anymore.”

She slumped against my outstretched arms, “But….” Suddenly, with a strength that did not seem her own, she ripped her self for my grasp and began running to the cliff’s edge. Holmes and I gave chase.

When we arrived at the edge of the cliff Miss Blake, fleet of foot as she was, was standing there, looking down at the rocks below. No sign of the patchwork man could be seen.

I expect his body, with its sewn together construction, shattered, and was dismembered on impact with the rocks, for not a trace of him was left. All that remained was the diary that he had dropped in the leaves, it’s gold-lettered spine, faded by wear, reflected the morning sun. The spine read, “Frankenstein.”