The Case of the Missing Elephant

***I meant to post this on Friday – better late than never!***

Today happens to be my birthday, and as giving is supposed to be better than receiving (who comes up with these sayings?) here’s a daft little story gift from me. Hope you enjoy it – and if you do, pass it on!

The Case of the Missing Elephant

It was a day like any other at 221B Baker Street. Holmes sawed at the strings of his violin, deep in thought, while I, rendered blissfully immune to Holmes’s din by my patent earplugs, read the latest Strand Magazine. Thus we heard nothing until the door burst open, flung wide by a red-faced, scowling Mrs Hudson. I snatched out my earplugs, and Holmes paused in his cacophony.

‘Mr Topper,’ bawled Mrs Hudson, and withdrew.

Holmes pointed his bow at Mr Topper. ‘From your brass buttons and your peaked cap, I deduce that you are a public servant of some kind.’

Mr Topper stepped forward and swallowed. ‘That’s right, sir, I…’

Holmes wrinkled his nose. Indeed, the advancing man was accompanied by a loathsome smell. ‘Lavatory attendant?’

‘Er, no, sir. I am the head keeper at the Zoological Gardens, in Regent’s Park.’

‘Just as I thought!’ Holmes exclaimed. ‘And what brings you here, my good man?’

Mr Topper’s words came out in a rush. ‘The pride of our zoo has gone missing, sir! Our Indian elephant, Maharajah, has disappeared from his enclosure!’

Holmes sat bolt upright. ‘Are there any traces of forced entry?’

‘No, nothing at all.’ Mr Topper began to sniffle. ‘He was such a lovely, gentle pachyderm…’

‘There, there,’ soothed Holmes. ‘We will find your elephant, never fear.’ He sprang to his feet, swapped his violin for a deerstalker and magnifying glass, and motioned to me to follow.

At the zoo we were obstructed by two university students shaking buckets in our faces. ‘Money for Rag Week, sir!’ Holmes waved them aside irritably, and strode to the unoccupied elephant house.

Mr Topper and I watched from the path as Holmes turned straw, peered into corners, and tested locks. ‘You are right, Mr Topper. An elephant has vanished and left no trace. This is indeed a worthy mystery.’

He’s not an elephant!’ shouted a pointing small girl, and began to wail. Holmes climbed out and stood with us, nonplussed and sheepish, as the child’s nanny led her away through the crowd. Then a piercing trumpet cut through the hubbub like a knife through butter. Holmes and I exchanged glances and rushed towards the entrance, with the keeper in hot pursuit.

The Rag Week Parade was approaching. At the head of it, ridden by a crew of students in white coats, stethoscopes and top hats, was a disgruntled-looking elephant.

‘Is that him?’ Holmes asked Mr Topper.

‘Maharajah!’ breathed Mr Topper, his face suffused with joy. He rushed towards the elephant, who halted, grasped the keeper round the waist with his trunk, and plonked him on his back. The crowd cheered. Mr Topper doffed his cap, bowed and patted Maharajah, who trumpeted.

Holmes reached up and grabbed the ankle of the nearest student, who appeared rather seasick. ‘Care to explain?’

The student swallowed. ‘We thought it would be a good stunt to get an elephant for the Rag Week Parade, so we bribed one of the night keepers to let us borrow him for the day. We were going to give him back, honest! See how much money we’ve raised!’ He thrust his bucket, brimming with coins, under Holmes’s nose.

Holmes promptly swiped the bucket. ‘This is the elephant rental fee. Get down right away and we won’t press charges.’ The young man nodded and, with a whistle to his friends, slid down Maharajah’s tail.

‘I think this will do, Mr Topper,’ Holmes shouted, rattling the bucket. ‘Case closed.’

The featured image is Elephant by Lucas Santana, reproduced by permission of Creative Commons license 2.0. No changes were made.

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