Character(s): Holmes, Watson, OFFA (="original female fuzzy animal")
Summary: Holmes and Watson acquire a new pet.
Warnings: Tarantulas (highlight to read; it's a bit of a spoiler and I promise nothing bad happens, but some people get twitchy around this)
Author's Notes: ACD book-verse. Entry for Watson's Woes July writing prompts; fill for July 11 prompt: "kitten (or another equally fuzzy animal)."
Word Count: 1,115
Holmes burst into the flat, exuberant. Somewhere behind him, Mrs. Hudson was yelling execrations, but he paid no attention, beyond a brief moment of relief that Watson was not in the sitting room to hear them. He flung his parcels down upon the table, rubbed his hands together, paced giddily around the room, and at last could contain himself no longer. With a quick glance downstairs to make sure Mrs. Hudson was no longer voicing her absurd complaints (or at least no longer voicing them so loudly), he bellowed his flatmate’s name, and when he appeared, Holmes announced triumphantly, “Watson, it is exquisite! An absolutely beautiful case, and entirely absent of malfeasance!”
Watson’s expression was a dynamic mixture of concern (probably due to the volume of the summons, which, now that Holmes thought of it, might have been so overenthusiastic as to inspire alarm), annoyance (no doubt a result of the discovery that no alarm was necessary), and curiosity (well, of course, bless his soul.) When he spoke, his tone conveyed more of the first two than the last, but Holmes was sure that would soon change.
“What,” said Watson, “the Penge Bungalow murders? You were the one who convinced Gregson that we were dealing with murder, and you can hardly have murder without malfeasance.”
“No, no, no, no—not those. The missing ring of the South American explorer’s wife!”
“Ah—I though you weren’t going to take that one. ‘I have no interest,’ you said, ‘in repairing the damage wrought by feminine absentmindedness,’ and then you threw her poor maid out of our flat. If you refuse to deal with mysteries caused by absentmindedness, you will drastically reduce the number of cases in your files that lack wrongdoing.’
“But it wasn’t absentmindedness. I did the poor woman a disservice, and you’ll be pleased to know that I apologized quite handsomely to her when I called on her mistress just now.”
Watson glowered a bit, but his annoyance was beginning to dissipate, and the curiosity was growing. At last he sighed, and asked,
“All right, then. How did the ring go missing, if it wasn’t stolen and it wasn’t misplaced?”
“You jump too quickly to conclusions, Watson. I said there was no malfeasance; that does not mean it wasn’t stolen. You may have noticed that the maid was quite uncomfortable when she spoke to me, twitching and shifting in her seat. Did you observe the rash on her hands and wrists?”
“As a matter of fact, I did. The heat was dreadful that day, and her exertion in coming here could not have helped, and then you made her leave before she had properly cooled off—“
“Yes, yes, yes, but did you consider the source of the rash?”
“It could have been anything. Heat rash was certainly possible, given her wool dress, or some allergy to something. If you hadn’t made her leave so quickly I could have offered—“
“Really, Watson, is that necessary? I have said that I apologized. At any rate, the possibility of an allergy occurred to me as well, and when I looked up this Mr. Froxbury Timson in my files, I learned that he was given to taking animals home from his travels. An English woman like his wife’s maid might well develop an allergy to such exotic beasts, and I could imagine half a dozen such acquisitions being attracted to bright objects such as ruby rings, so I thought I might take a look.”
Watson nodded, still not entirely mollified. “I see. So the pet macaw had it, did he? Or did the jaguar kitten take a fancy to it?”
Holmes laughed. “Not quite so straightforward as that. As it turned out, the ring was stolen by a hamster that the lady’s son kept as a rather mundane pet, in the midst of his father’s menagerie. However, the hamster had himself run afoul of Nora, one of Mr Timson’s acquisitions, who had escaped her pen. Mrs Timson’ s maid, it turned out, was suffering from a reaction to the hair on Nora’s abdomen, which she had needed to touch in helping to recapture her. Anyhow, as the poor hamster was quite digested by the time the crisis was over, nobody bothered to examine its crate, and if I had not tracked it down there, the maid might have thrown the ring that the hamster that the pet ate stole into today’s rubbish.”
Watson blinked a few times. When his face cleared, Holmes continued, “And I have been paid most handsomely. In addition to my usual fee, the family have decided that they no longer want Nora around, so I have brought home an addition to our household. Doctor Watson, please meet Nora. Nora, my friend and colleague, Doctor Watson.”
Holmes picked up a paper bag from his pile of parcels and extended it to Watson. It rustled softly. Watson looked inside, blinked twice, and looked up again, his face a blank. “She’s extremely fuzzy.”
“Well, yes. They usually are.”
“I’d have thought she’d need be bigger to eat the hamster.”
A benign smile lit up Holmes’s face. “She is still young, but evidently precocious! No fear; she’ll get bigger.”
“Has Mrs Hudson seen her?”
A long pause. “She was not entirely pleased, but as Nora will do a good job keeping the mice away, I imagine she’ll eventually come around.”
“Until then, we should probably keep her in a pen. Do you still have the cage you used for your newts? That should be big enough—for the moment, at least.”
Holmes smiled brilliantly, and announced, “I do indeed!” He dashed into his bedroom and a few minutes later emerged with the item in question. The two flatmates set it up by the fireplace—“After all,” said Holmes, “she comes from the Venezuelan jungle”—added a bowl of water for humidity. Nora was carefully placed inside, where she examined the enclosure carefully, and then curled up in a corner. Watson went up to his room to get some old shirts (“to make it more home-like, until we can do better”), and Holmes went out again to pick up some plants and a permanent water dish.
In the silence that now pervaded the sitting room, Nora rustled again. She inspected the water dish, paced the sides of her pen, and returned to the corner. She curled up six legs around her cephalothorax and cleaned her fangs with the other two. Her eight eyes gleamed in the late afternoon sunlight, and she relaxed into her new home. As the sun went down, the peaceful quiet lulled her into a comfortable doze, her pedipalps twitching as she dreamed of hamsters.