Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Curious Case of the Conundrum of Christmas

This story was written for Tales by the Tree  - a Christmas Flash Fiction Anthology

Title: The Curious Case of the Conundrum of Christmas
Author: Nick Johns
Genre: Holiday Humour (?)
E-Book: Yes
Dedication: For dreamers everywhere, who help preserve a sense of wonder in the world.


These journal notes were found amongst the personal effects of the late Doctor John Watson. The precise reason for the lack of publication of this episode in the escapades of his long-time companion are, as yet, still unclear, but the possibility that a childish appeal of some sort may have been made, or perhaps even that the good doctor's own innate sense of wonder prevailed, cannot be discounted.

The Curious Case of the Conundrum of Christmas

Lounging amidst the scarcely creditable chaos of what had once been our shared rooms, I impatiently awaited the return of the Great Detective.
Presently, the peace was abruptly disturbed by the rush of footfalls on the stairs as Holmes burst into the Front Room, flushed with manic energy and beaming with the inner glow that I could only ascribe to yet another deductive conclusion.
“Ah Watson, you have been waiting only a short while, I perceive, so apologies for my tardiness are not yet required.” He busied himself with the construction of his latest fad cocktail and raised a quizzical eye in the direction of my retort.
“Damn me Holmes, how do you know how long I have been here? Have you been loitering at the door in disguise again? Were you the washer woman that I passed in the alley before entering?
A sardonic grin twisted his aristocratic features.
“Nothing so mundane, my dear Doctor. Deduction alone is my tool of choice on this occasion. The rain, that fell in a brief Yuletide shower earlier, ceased only some five minutes ago, and I observe that the droplets from it are still visible, having not yet soaked into the weave of your fine worsted overcoat that lies on the hall stand. Ergo, you could not have been waiting many minutes.”
“As always Holmes, simple, logical and supremely obvious when accompanied by your explanation. So then I, for my part, deduce that you have solved another case, such is your high good humour and lightness of step. Will you tell me of it?”
“Another little morsel for the pages of your journal? Very well. This tale is one of which you will be well aware, having been the centre of frenzied international speculation for many years. I have finally turned my attentions to its solution”
“You don't mean that you have solved the conundrum? I gasped.
“Just so, Watson. Or, more accurately the conundrum in so far as it relates to the deed itself.” He twirled dramatically, raising his glass in salute to his own accomplishment.
“I, Sherlock Holmes,” he continued “have succeeded once again where the assembled critical faculties of Scotland Yard's finest minds, if that is not a contradiction in terms,” he grinned at his aside, “had signally failed.”
“Mark you,” he continued with a rather more subdued air, “they will not credit my exposition of the true origin of the events and are still hunting high and low for some more convoluted answer. They may eventually find something more to their taste, but it does not change the fact that it will be based upon fallacious reasoning. I have explained all of this to them, as one would to a child of six, but they continue in their vain and wrong-headed pursuit of a complex answer to what they perceive to be a complex question. They are, as they ever were, deluded.” He took a long swallow of his drink and paced the floor restlessly.
“Well Holmes,” I asked rather more tartly than I had intended, “are you going to entrust me with the outcome of your investigations, or will you merely continue to approach the solution incrementally like an Indian vulture circling a mortally wounded animal?”
“Ah Watson, your reproof is well aimed; since your matrimony and removal from these premises, I have grown accustomed to solitude and have lapsed into the habit of protracted monologue as a substitute for the civilised conversations in which we were wont to engage.”
He moved to the window and stared silently into the afternoon bustle of Baker Street. Such was the length of his reverie that I feared myself forgotten. Abruptly he pointed through the window.
“The wonder of life is ever decreasing in our modern world and I fear that it may be the unwitting cause of many catastrophes before some equilibrium is finally arrived at. Such was the origin of the matter at hand, Watson. But the telling clue to this case was there for all to see in our own lodging house. Here, peruse the vital evidence yourself.” He paused and produced from his waist-coat pocket a white ornamental card, larger than a business card, yet smaller than a menu. He waved it contemplatively, but did not hand it over for my review. Rather, he regarded the offending card with all the hawk-like concentration for which he is justly renowned.
“This poor exemplar of the printer's art is the keystone to this entire affair Watson.”
“I don't follow, Holmes. It is but one of the newly fashionable so called Christmas Cards. What bearing does this have upon the mystery? We observe these items delivered each day. Do the other geegaws and trinkets not have a similarly mundane origin?”
He shook his head slowly and, I thought, a trifle wearily.
“No, Old Friend you have the crux of it. Occam’s razor. The simplest explanation, all others being discounted, must be the correct one. But I can scarcely credit it...” he paused, all of his previous exuberance crushed out of him. He stood there reeling, like Atlas with the weight of the sky upon his very shoulders.
“I have mounted a surveillance operation such as was only previously required against Professor Moriarty. I have deployed all my resources, including my Baker Street irregulars, and have drawn a blank. I have bent my not inconsiderable talents entirely to the task of unmasking the means of delivery of the presents that are deposited with such speed and regularity in the room of every child in the land, and have reached an impasse. Therefore, I am forced to conclude, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that Saint Nicholas does, indeed exist.”

This story appears in 'Tales by the Tree' an anthology of flash fiction - 75 stories from over 40 authors
It is available to purchase at Amazon in print or for Kindle (these are Amazon Uk links but it is available at .com


  1. Ha ha, and I saw Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman deliver those words in my head!

    1. Thanks Lisa. I had Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce in mind! But that's my age :-)

  2. *squeals* You delivered Holmes and Watson beautifully! For the record, I had Basil Rathbone and Howard Marion-Crawford acting it out in my mind. (Marion-Crawford being a far superior Dr. Watson to Nigel Bruce's)

    1. Thanks Mary - I'm pleased the story worked for you!