Fanfic Title: The Book of My Enemy has Been Remaindered (Pt. 1 of 7)
Pairings (if any): None
Summary: When Jefferson Poole discovers that his bookshop has been mysteriously rearranged, he goes to Sherlock Holmes for assistance. In the process, he draws a hitherto undrawn conclusion about the relationship between Holmes and Watson.
Warnings: A disorganized bookshop
Author's Notes: This story is not Watson-bashing. If it seems that way, I have done something wrong. Also, the title comes from Clive James's brilliant poem of the same name.
Word Count: 1793
Chapter 1In which we learn the importance of reading one’s lease thoroughly, discover the values of a large stock in trade, ascend a long staircase, and see another use of overshoes beyond keeping one’s feet dry.
Although my acquaintance with Mr Sherlock Holmes has been as yet of short duration, few others can aspire an understanding of his mind and methods as complete as mine. It sounds conceited to say it, but I flatter myself that I had taken his measure, and accurately too, within an hour of our first meeting. Because of the high regard in which I hold him, I find that it is my duty to set straight some aspects of his life that neither he nor his biographer, for reasons that will become clear, will ever reveal.
My name is Jefferson Poole. I run a bookshop in the West End, and although my interests run more to shorter fiction and periodicals than to the most recent fantasy by Carroll or the memoirs of Ruskin, I nevertheless make it a point to stock all the recent publications that may be of interest to my customers. This has naturally led to the accumulation of a large amount of stock, but I have been particularly fortunate in my choice of business location. Shortly after I opened my doors, I discovered that an oversight in my lease entitled me to a great deal more square footage than my landlord had originally intended to offer me. In the end I took him to court over the matter, but the magistrate decided in my favour, and as a result I have quite a sizeable amount of space at my disposal for which I pay remarkably little, and for which I have acquired a not undeserved reputation as the man to see for any desired printed matter. I am thus understandably proud of my domain, so much so, in fact, that I believe no other affront to my person or reputation than the one I suffered in early spring of 1890 would have sent me to the door of a private consulting detective.
It was a raw day when I rang at his door, and my perplexity and dislike for the vandal who had forced me to venture out-of-doors was only heightened by the cold rain that settled underneath my collar and the wind that made it difficult to stand upright. As I ascended some twenty or thirty steps up to the detective’s consulting rooms, I found my breath becoming increasingly short with the interminable climb. The squelching of my galoshes added to the indignity of my position,, and by the time I was ushered into Mr Holmes’s presence, I found myself practically steaming in fury. The first voice that greeted my ears no doubt was meant to sound welcoming, but to me it grated on my already raw nerves, and now, of course, after all I have learned about the man, I find that my first encounter with Dr John Watson does not improve with later recollection.
“Mr Poole,” he greeted me unctiously, “I’m so sorry that you had to come in such dreadful weather. Allow me to take your wet things. You’ll find this chair, here, closest to the fire. There’s tea on the side table, too. Do shift your legs, Holmes—your client is soaked through.”
At the time, I thought little of his greeting beyond annoyance that he was evidently not detective I had come in such dreadful weather to see. His discourtesy towards Mr Holmes meant little to me at the moment, but I should have expected little else, had I known then what he really is.
In response to his associate’s reprimand, Mr Holmes looked up, blinked once, and then turned his full attention to me. I was transfixed by his gaze; in this (as in so many other things) his biographer had not done him justice. “Sharp and piercing” hardly did him credit; it was as if I were being impaled by twin steel spires. I felt a warm rush rising to my ears, and at last my chilled extremities began to warm. Holmes’s eyes crinkled at the edges, and at that moment I knew that he was the man to fix everything that troubled me. He gestured to a chair by the fire, and briskly invited me to tell him my woes. Dr Watson had perched nearby on a settee with pen and journal, and to my dismay I realized that he intended to listen to all I said, and even make notes of it all. I ignored him, and, having shed my coat and galoshes, I mustered all the dignity I possessed as I explained why I had come.
“I am here today,” I told him, “because I have suffered the most outrageous assault upon my property and livelihood. I run a bookshop called Poole’s not far from here. You may have passed it, Mr Holmes—indeed, if you have not already I strongly recommend that you stop in some time. I make a point to carry anything that could interest my patrons, and I hope that you will find something to your taste there. If you do, I would be very grateful if you told your acquaintances. I admit that I do not now suffer from lack of business, but a wise proprietor knows—“I was interrupted by Dr Watson, who started coughing. Mr Holmes shot him a sharp glance, no doubt in castigation, and then turned his glance back to me, his eyes crinkling again. Ever the gentleman, he encouraged me to continue:
“I believe I have seen your shop. But please, do tell me why you have come today.”
“Ah—yes, of course. Well, yesterday morning I entered my store and discovered that someone had rearranged all the stock in my front room!” My temper began to rise again as I recalled the fury I felt at the violation. “You must understand that the organization of my shop is impeccable. I pride myself on it: no one need spend hours to find the object of his search at Poole’s. Fiction is in the front room; the alcove off to the left contains metaphysics and biology. The side room is periodicals and essays, while the back room contains foreign literature, both translated and in the original. I also have a basement, where I store extra stock, and sort the new arrivals before putting them onto the shelves.”
“And the attic? What do you plan to keep there once it’s ready?”
“Good heavens,” I gasped, “how on earth do you know about the attic? I have just won the rights to it in a lawsuit from my landlord, but I have not yet told anyone about that.”
“Your feet tell the whole story,” Mr Holmes responded. “A West End attic usually is inhabited by a distinctive set of opportunistic denizens—both mammal and insect, to say nothing of birds—and I can see from the soles of your shoes that you have not cleaned up their leavings. Your galoshes preserved the traces on your shoes—quite fresh. You were there either this morning or last night, I should imagine. A respectable man would not walk in an attic that is not his own, and a proprietor who values the size of his stock as you do would not allow valuable space to languish unused, nor would he allow his stock to sit in a place where vermin could damage it. I conclude, therefore, that you have only recently acquired the attic, and you have not yet cleaned it and converted it to business space. But you have been examining it thoroughly, which means you evidently plan to do so. Please understand, Mr Poole, this is hardly an idle question. Whoever committed this outrage upon you is clearly interested in the organization of your shop, so it is important to know not only how you lay out your stock now, but how you plan to change your arrangements in the future.”
As this explanation progressed, Dr Watson’s pen moved more and more slowly. At one point it stopped entirely, and as I shot him a glance I saw him cover his face briefly with his hand. His ears looked pink, and his complexion was florid when I saw his face again. That is just the sort of man he is—unnecessarily stuffy and prudish in matters that are crucial to accurate investigation. There was no call for such embarrassment, and I, of course, understood the necessity of examining everything, regardless of propriety. I made a point of nodding at Mr Holmes’s pauses; I was not put off by what he said, and hastened to reply with as much poise as I deemed necessary to show Dr Watson the proper manner of behavior. The nature of my response made that more difficult, but I flatter myself I succeeded quite well.
“Well, you know that I pride myself on satisfying my customers, and many of them have asked me quietly to supply another type of book—something of a more carnal nature than my usual fare. I thought that the attic would be a discreet place to put that stock without putting off the customers—including ladies, you know—who look for the other types of writing.”
Indeed, I took pleasure in my response; Dr Watson is obviously so sheltered that he cannot with equanimity hear discussion hinging on animal leavings and gentlemen’s earthly desires. Such a man has no business accompanying a detective, and I endeavored to show this to him, speaking perhaps louder than was strictly necessary. His face became even redder as I spoke, but his pen did not slow any more.
Mr Holmes said nothing for a few minutes, and I was grateful for the pause to sit and drink my tea. At last he leapt to his feet.
“Mr Poole,” said he, “your case is extremely interesting. I expect I’ll be able to clear it up for you, but I must first examine your shop. Have you changed anything since you discovered the vandalism?”
“No, indeed! I closed the shop—locked it, and went home. I was too furious to deal with it immediately. My housekeeper suggested I visit you, sir. She says you cleared up a little matter for her nephew regarding a lost scarf last month, and that you might be able to lay hands on the perpetrator.”
“A lost scarf . . . I can’t say I remember anything of that nature, unless—oh, of course! But that wasn’t a scarf at all, of course—well, anyway, yes; I hope you’ll find me equally helpful in your case. Let us just put on our things, and we’ll all go together."