The Canberra Incident

‘How many times do I have to tell you?’ Ser Loque burst out, in one of his usual mid-case rages. Our landlady, Ms. East – who had rapped me on the knuckles for calling her “Mrs.” on the day of my moving in – hastily reached for the tea tray that sat beside Loque’s armchair.

         ‘No sugar, no sugar,’ she mumbled to herself as she rushed past me out of the room. I heard her murmur something about where Loque could place the sugar if he detested it so much, but felt it best not to listen too closely.

         ‘Tough case, old boy?’ I called out, tossing my hat onto the stand and unbuttoning my waistcoat.

         Loque, predictably, didn’t hear me, glaring into the fire over steepled fingers.

         Suddenly, he shot to his feet with a cry of triumph. He spotted me, and his grin spread wider at having an audience.

         ‘Radfcliffe!’ he beamed. ‘Who would be administering affordable ducted heating repairs near Canberra?!’

         ‘Canberra?’ I gaped at him. ‘Why Loque, I thought your case was in London?’

         ‘It is!’ he chuckled as he sped past me to his vast library. ‘But as usual, you’ve grasped at the tail of the problem – not the hound itself!’

         He skidded to a slipper-aided stop in front of the wall of books, muttering to himself as he deciphered his incomprehensible organisation system, running his finger along the spines.

         ‘Ah-ha!’ he crowed, snatching a volume from the shelf, his finger sliding down the page even before the book was fully open in his hand. ‘Heating services, Canberra,’ he repeated to himself, eyes black with concentration.

         His finger came to a stop a few lines from the bottom, and a change came over the man. Ashen white, even more so than usual, he put the book back on the shelf, eyes cloudy. Whatever they were focusing on, I sensed it wasn’t in this room, but rather the problem in his mind.

         ‘Loque?’ I asked, rushing to grasp his elbow. ‘What is it?’

         Those dark eyes locked onto me, as he slowly shook his head. ‘The gramophone, Radcliffe,’ he rasped. ‘How did I miss the gramophone?