1 a.m., August 22, 1909
The English Channel, the promenade deck of SS George Washington en route from Bremen to New York via Southampton and Cherbourg
"That's elementary, dear Watson, quite elementary," Sherlock Holmes said, turning to his companion, who stood beside him on the deck, dressed as a woman. "You ask me what's the idea of this masquerade, don't you?"
"Yes, Holmes, that's what I want to know. You haven' t yet explained why I should be wearing this silly getup, dressed in frock and hat, disguised as some Mrs. Brown."
"Not some Mrs. Brown, but Mr. Brown's wife, that is my honest and beloved spouse. You see, we both have to conceal our identities on board this vessel."
"But it's me who must present myself as a woman, while you still retain your male look. You haven't even replaced your famous deerstalker cap with something else, while I am supposed to be wearing this outfit and behave myself as a lady all throughout our eight days' voyage from Southamton to New York. That's how I get your plan, am I not right?"
"You're absolutely right, my dear friend. Your fake female identity is going to play a pivotal role in this case, the case which will undoubtedly be the last link in the long chain of my attempts to destroy my nemesis - Professor Moriarty."
Sherlock Holmes took his smoking pipe out of his pocket and unhurriedly lit it.
"Do you think Professor Moriarty is on board "George Washington?" asked Watson.
"According to my information, as well as my deduction, he's to get on board this morning in Cherbourg. He finished his vicious business in France and now is about to go on with it in New York."
"What's he up to now?"
The detective took a long drag on his pipe, then slowly let the smoke out of his mouth.
"For more than a year Moriarty has been stealing pieces of art, very specific pieces of art they are, I must say. He's been stashing a collection of art presenting female nudity, paintings and statues of naked women. He robbed a few dozens of museums and private collections, palaces and castles throughout all of Europe. Now this Napoleon of crime has wrought a vicious plan to rob the Metropolitan Museum of New York city, as well as some other museums of art in the United States."
"Naked women?" Watson pronounced inquiringly. "What's got into him? Why is that obsession with the female form?"
"We're to learn it very soon, dear Watson, and, as I said, you're going to play a pivotal role in this case."
"I hope you don't intend to get Moriarty interested in my naked body, dear Holmes."
"Of course not. But remember this - when being close to Moriarty, two things are vital to you. The first is the presence of mind. Got it, my dear friend?"
"The presence of mind," Watson repeated,nodding his head. "And the second?"
"The absence of balls," replied Holmes.
"The absence of what?" asked Watson, surprised.
"The absence of testicles," said Holmes, then took the pipe out of his mouth and, swinging his hand, stabbed Watson right in his groin with the tip of the pipe's stem.
"Aaaaah!" Watson cried out, doubling over, his right hand clutching his injured testicles through the fabric of his dress, his left grasping at the rail of the deck. "My balls, Holmes, my damned balls! They hurt like hell. Why did you do that?"
"To show you how easily you can give away your male character," said the sleuth and put the pipe back in his mouth.
"No need to do it in such a cruel way," Watson said in a whining tone and hunkered down, still holding his balls with one hand, and the rail with the other. "You've almost pierced through my poor testicles with that pipe of yours."
"Dear Watson," Sherlock Holmes took his pipe out of the mouth and knocked it several times against the rail, emptying its contests into the water below, "you maybe know that Achilles, a great Greek hero, reluctant to go to the Trojan War, disguised himself as a girl and spent some time in the court of the king of Skyros as a lady-in-waiting. Things went smoothly for him until one day one of the king's daughters, quite by accident, slapped his groin. Of course his reaction was that of a male. His true gender revealed, he had to go to war and perish there by the walls of Troy."
"My poor nuts, they hurt like hell," the grimace on Watson's face confirmed his pain. "What I'm least bothered about now is the Trojan War."
"It'd be more correct to say you're not bothered in the least. Okay, let's try to distract your attention from your testicles by doing some deduction. Well, what have got here on the deck, let me see. Watson, do you see that man standing over there by the rail. What could you tell me about him?"
"He seems to be urinating from the deck right into the English Channel below."
"That's right. What else?"
"I can't use my mind properly because of this pain torturing my balls. You'd better tell me what you can determine by his appearance."
"Well, I'll try," Sherlock Holmes said and took a good look at the pissing man . First, he is a Jew."
"Don' t tell me that in this gloom you're able to make out if he's circumcised."
"Of course I'm not. It's just my deductive method, my dear friend, nothing but my deductive method. Well, he is obviously a physician by profession, though unlike you, Watson, his realm is not the ailments of the body but those of the mind. A slight cocaine addiction, that's what I also detect in him. And he definitely thinks you're envying him his penis."
"His penis? What utter nonsense, Holmes!"
"He thinks you're a woman, even though you're so ostentatiously clutching your male genitals in your hand."
"Even if I were a woman, why should I envy him his dick?"
"That's his theory, dear Watson."
"How do you know all that, Holmes?"
"Just happened to come across one of the books authored by him. 'The Interpretation of Dreams', that was the title. An amusing read, I must say. Well, I think it's time for us to retire to our cabin and get some sleep. We've got lots of things to do tomorrow. Let me help you get up. I'm sorry indeed for your poor balls, my dear friend."
Sigmund Freud buttoned up his pants and turned his head to the left. That odd English couple had just left the deck. He'd first noticed them when they were boarding the ship at the port of Southampton. He could at once smell couples whose sexual life was full of curious kinks.
Freud looked up at the dark sky. Oh, those kinks and tangles of the mind, those mysteries and enigmas of the human psyche. They were as numberless as the stars above him. He's been analysing and unravelling them all his life. Europe had already dubbed him the Father of psychoanalysis and now at last he was sailing across the Atlantic to bring his ideas to the United States. He was scheduled to give a series of lectures on psychoanalysis at the Clark university in Worcester, Massachusetts. No doubt psychoanalysis was fated to conquer America, he was absolutely certain about the inevitable triumph of his ideas all over the New World. It was written in those stars. Ye stars, which are the poetry of heaven, as Lord Byron once said.
Freud grasped the rail with both his hands and gave a wide grin to the invisible powers above. Hold on America, old Siggie is coming up to you!
Two days earlier,
221B Baker Street, London
"Holmes, have you got into floriculture?" asked Watson, after he entered the sitting-room and found the detective busily employed in watering an array of potted flowers set on the wide table by the window.
"Dear Watson, I've just solved the case of the Orchid Hunters, and all these flowers, previously stolen from their owners, will soon be returned to their proper greenhouses.
" Are they orchids?" asked Watson, lowering himself into the cosy armchair.
"The genus Ophrys of the Orchid family," Holmes explained. "The smartest plant on the Earth."
"What's so smart about them?"
"They employ sexual tricks for reproduction."
Sherlock Holmes ceased watering the flowers and sat down in his armchair.
"Yes, my dear Watson, they play sexual tricks on poor insects, male bees to be precise, in order to spread their pollen around. These flowers are brainless plants that fool brained creatures by means of sexual deception."
"How do they do that?"
"Elementary, dear Watson, quite elementary! They do it by pretending to be girl insects and take advantage of the male sex drive."
"So, male bees.., they.., they mate with..."
"Exactly Watson! They choose to copulate with a flower rather than a female bee."
"They bang a plant? Some perverts they must be!"
"No, they aren't perverts. They are some horny dupes hoodwinked into having sex with a flower."
"But what does the flower gain from being banged by some insect?"
"My dear friend, what is the bee to you?"
"Why, it's a winged insect, living in a group and producing honey."
"You're absolutely right, that's what the bee seems to you. But to the plants all bees, regardless of their sex, are nothing but flying penises."
"What does a bee do to plants? It transfers their pollen, that is plants' sperm, from their stamens, plants' testicles, to their pistils, plants' vulvas. They are just plants' penises, flying winged penises, or their pollinators, if you like the latter term more. Most plants reward their pollinators with the sweet nectar of their flowers, but the Ophrys had a better plan - it offered sex to the male bee. The ophrys flower not only looks like a female bee, it also smells like a female bee, and when touched it feels like a lady bee. A lustful male bee would eagerly make love to such a beauty, just to get some of its pollen on his hairy body and then deliver it to the next object of his sexual desire, some other flower pretending to be a bee girl."
"It all sounds weird, dear Holmes."
"It sounds extremely smart! Could you, after you've learnt of their creative ruse, call plants unintelligent creatures? Though brainless, they sometimes surpass those with brains. By the way, Watson, did you ever feel like pretending to be a girl?"
"Holmes, but why..,"murmured Watson and cast an embarrassed look at his friend just as the door opened and Mrs. Hudson entered the room.
" Mr. Holmes, there is a gentleman downstairs to see you."
"Please let him in, Mrs. Hudson."
Soon in the room there appeared a tall, dark haired man with a neat beard and moustache, holding a leather portfolio in his hand."
Holmes and Watson got up from their armchairs to greet the visitor.
"Good morning Mr. Holmes," said the man. "My name is John William Godward. I'm a..."
"Oh, wait a second," Holmes interrupted the visitor, "let me guess it.., you are a.., I think you're a painter by trade."
"That's true," said the man, a bit surprised.
"You're painting mostly women," the detective continued, "in ancient settings and classical Greek dress, though sometimes in the nude."
"That's right, but how?" the artist inquired, bewildered.
"I just deduced it from your old boots and a missing button on your jacket, Mr Godward."
"My boots and a button? How on earth..?"
"Just kidding, Mr. Godward," Holmes smiled. "There's a directory of British artists in my library."
"Oh, I see, Mr. Holmes."
"Well, Mr. Godward, what has brought you to me? I suppose some criminal incident that occured to you recently."
"You're right. One of my latest works has been stolen. It's called 'Athenais', I have a small copy of it. Let me show it to you."
John Godward took out a sheet of paper out of his portfolio and handed it over to Holmes.
"Gorgeous," pronounced Watson, looking at the picture over the detective's shoulder.
"Gorgeous and hot," Holmes said. "Are you sure, Mr. Godward, that the painting was stolen and not given to someone as a gift or sold by you while you were wildly intoxicated?"
"Why, Mr. Holmes, it's just..," the artist said indignantly.
"Just kidding again," Sherlock Holmes chuckled. "Well, you'd better have a seat on the sofa and tell us what really happened."
"I have a studio in St Leonard Studios in Chelsea, and rent a room in a house nearby," Mr.Godward said after all the three took their seats.
"And where did you keep the painting?" asked Holmes, lightning his pipe.
"In the studio, of course. My room is not ample enough for keeping my works."
"You said it was one of your latest works."
"I finished it a few months ago. I called the painting "Athenais", that was the name of a prophetess who lived at the time of Alexander the Great. It was on display at the Royal Academy Exhibition this summer, and at the moment, with the intention of selling it, I've been looking for a suitable buyer."
"When and how did you find out the painting was missing?" Holmes went on with the interrogation.
"This morning," John Godward said with a deep sigh. " I'm an early bird, and when I came to the studio at seven o'clock, I just found that the canvas was cut out of the frame."
"Had the door been broken open, when you came to the studio."
"No, it was locked."
"Has anyone else got keys to your studio?"
"Jane Carter, my model. It was her who posed for Athenais, and we were about to start on a new painting - Helen of Troy."
"In the nude?" asked Watson.
"Yes, in the nude," answered the artist.
"Watson, please refrain from asking irrelevant questions," Holmes cast a look of reproach at his companion and then turned back to the painter. "Have you seen this young lady, Jane Carter, this morning?"
"No, I haven't. Jane was supposed to come to the studio twenty minutes before me. She always does so, it was agreed that it was her duty to do some cleaning and preparation of the studio before we started our work. But this morning she didn't come. Instead of Jane I found my painting being stolen."
"So, Mr. Godward, I assume you may have a certain reason to suspect Miss Carter of stealing the painting," Holmes said inquiringly. "How long have you known her?"
"Well, I've known Jane for two years. I first met her in 1907 at the London Pavillion, where a group of artists were putting on tableau vivant, a show presenting living naked statues. She appeared as Venus there. I made her acquaintance and offered her a job as my model. She accepted my offer and since her first day she's never given me any reason to suspect her of anything criminal up to this morning."
"How much money were you planning to get by selling the painting?"
"Thomas McLean, an art dealer, is the man who actually sells my works. We've agreed to place Athenais on display in his gallery on next Monday. As for the actual price, I must say that my works are rapidly getting out of fashion. They've done in the classical genre, or neoclassical, as some call it. Classicism has fallen out of favor with the public. What excites people now is cubism. Such artists as Picasso and Matisse, not Godward, attract all attention and money. That's why, as you've noticed, I must wear old boots and a jacket with missing buttons. Have you seen what these so-called artists draw? If not, I'll show you."
John Godward opened his portfolio and extracted two sheets of paper.
"These are reproductions. Here's a Picasso," the painter gave one of the sheets to Holmes. "This one is called 'Seated Female Nude'. Do you like it, Mr. Holmes?"
The detective scanned the picture with a thoughtful look on his face and said nothing.
"And this is another nude, this one by Matisse," Godward handed the second reproduction to Holmes. "How can these ugly doodles be compared to my Athenaias? These pictures are mere crap, while my works are so sensual, full of taste, harmony and eroticism. Don't you agree with me, Mr Holmes?"
"Well, I'm not a connoisseur of art, but what I can say is that your works look more realistic, Mr Godward."
"And at least," Watson took one of the reproductions in his hand, "they can give me erections, while Picasso..."
Holmes cast another look of reproach at his companion to make him silent, then turned to the painter and asked:
"Have you informed the police, by the way?"
"Not yet. A fellow painter, whose studio is next door, at once recommended your service to me. A few years ago you helped him find one of his paintings that'd been stolen. He said you'd be able to solve this theft in no time at all."
There was a knock at the door, then Mrs. Hudson entered the room.
"Mr. Holmes," she said, "there came a messenger boy from North German Lloyd and brought you this."
Mr. Hudson handed an envelope to Sherlock Holmes and said:
"I had to tip the boy a shilling."
"Okay, Mrs. Hudson, just add it to my rent payment next week," Holmes said as the landlady was leaving the room.
Sherlock Holmes tore the envelope open and extracted two slips of paper.
"Here they are," he pronounced loudly, "our tickets to New York."
"New York?" Watson gave his friend a look of surprise.
"Sorry, Mr Godward," Holmes said solemnly, "unfortunately I cannot help you with this case since I and Doctor Watson are leaving for the United States of America tomorrow evening."
"But how, Holmes?" asked Watson, bewildered.
"I'll explain all later, Watson. As to the stolen painting, Mr Godward, I advise you to go immediately to Scotland Yard and find Inspector Lestrade there. He is the man who will undoubtedly solve this problem in the most effective way."
John Godward looked extremely disappointed.
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr Godward, " Sherlock Holmes said, escorting the visitor to the door. "Maybe some other day I will be of more assistance. Goodbye, Mr. Gordward."
"What do you think of the man, Watson?" asked Holmes, after the artist left the room.
"First of all I'd like to learn more about our voyage to America," replied Watson.
"Here's what Sir Walter Raleigh once said," Sherlock Holmes came up to the window, and while watching John Godward walk down Baker Street, recited the following lines:
"The Artist uses honest paint
To represent things as they ain't,
He then asks money for the time
It took to perpetrate the crime."
When the artist turned round the corner, the sleuth sat down in his armchair, and looking at his companion, said:
"As to our journey, dear Watson, we are to get on board the George Washington ocean liner at the port of Southampton tomorrow evening. Then, after eight days' voyage across the Atlantic, we'll disembark in New York city to start solving cases far more interesting than that of the disappearance of John Godward's nude painting."
"But the tickets are for Mr. and Mrs. Browns," said Watson, picking up the tickets from the coffee table.
"You're right, dear Watson. I'm going to board the ship as Mr. Brown.
" And Mrs. Brown..?"
"That's you, Watson," Holmes grinned widely. "My wife, of course."
"My dear friend, we can't lose any time, today we have to buy a set of proper clothing for you, and it certainly is going to take some of our precious time."
"But I've never worn women's clothes in my life!" exclaimed Watson.
"Watson, you haven't got the point yet," Holmes said calmly. "Artists represent things as they ain't, orchids represent themselves as things they ain't, and now you have to represent yourself as something you ain't, even though you never felt like dressing up as a girl."
"Well, Holmes," Watson said in an embarrassed voice, "I hope you don't intend me to perform some sexual tricks on some flying penises."
"Not sure, Watson," Holmes chuckled, "not so sure."
9 a.m., August 22
Cherbourg's Maritime Station, France
Anna Pavlova, seated on a bench in the passenger concourse, sighed deeply and closed her eyes. Her tiresome ballet tour across Europe at last finished, she was to embark on the George Washington steamboat to sail to New York city with her partner, Michael Mordkin, and her manager, Victor Dandre, in order to make her debut on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. The voyage promised her eight days of rest, the thing her body so badly needed. Not only her body, but also her mind had to be left in repose. Her poor mind, which felt so disturbed after that silly accident that had happened during her last performance on the stage of the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. The accident because of which she'd had to change her partner at the very last moment before leaving France. The accident due to which the press had nicknamed her Anna the Nutcracker.