Evolving Ideas: 5-Minute Sherlock Origins

                With the release of 5-Minute Sherlock: The Case of the Damaged Detective, we’ve got something of a rare opportunity on this site. I’ve talked before about how I’ll often use the blog as a test kitchen, playing around with concepts and ideas that seem fun, but might not support a full story/book in their current form. 5MS is the first of my blog ideas to been fully developed into book-form, and taking it there was certainly a journey.

                As part of my efforts to pull back the curtain on writing, I thought it would be fun to do a blog-series on the process of evolving Sherman Holmes from a quick one-shot story character into the leading man of a full on series.

                Today, we’re starting where it began, with the original 5-Minute Sherlock shorts. I took these down to avoid confusion during leadup to The Case of the Damaged Detective, but I’m happy to re-present them below in proper context. If you’ve listened to the book already, (which I do recommend for this series) then you’ll notice the character below bear some serious differences from their final versions. These are the proto-versions, the beta-test, and while we’ll go into how the process of changing them worked next week, for now let’s just look at where the journey began.

5 Minute Sherlock - The Case of the Shit-Soiled Trousers

              Sherman Holmes, thanks to a powerful trip on experimental drugs, gained the power to channel the deductive reasoning of his great-grand-uncle Sherlock for five minutes every day. These are the tales of how he utterly wastes that ability.

                “Mr. Holmes, I really wish you wouldn’t-”

                “Silence Watson! This is a mystery that must be solved, and only I can do it. I activate my powers of deduction with the ancient phrase to pique all deductive minds: A case is afoot!” Sherman’s eyes twitched as his pupils expanded, the processing power of his brain increasing exponentially. It would have been a far grander sight if he weren’t doing so in a small bedroom festooned with empty beer bottles, three bongs, and a jar of various substances simply labeled “Get Weird”. The image certainly wasn’t aided by the fact that he was wearing only a stained t-shirt and a towel that was wrapped loosely around his waist. Joe Watson stood nearby, dressed in a pair of khaki’s and an ice-blue polo, clutching his nose with his right hand to try and defend against the potent smell assaulting his senses.

                The source of the scent in question was what had prompted Sherman to use his power: A pair of faded jeans and boxers with a shocking amount of feces pooled inside of them. As Sherman’s body stopped tensing and he swept the room with newfound brilliance he let out a small tsk under his breath.

                “I see. It appears the lesser version of me awoke to find that some unforgivable vagrant had soiled our favorite pair of trousers,” Sherman said, taking a deep, like weirdly deep, whiff of the horrible smell. “Truly, a crime such as this is no small matter, but fear not, Watson, I shall unravel it, even with my limited time here. First, we must assess my own whereabouts last night, since I find my memory strangely blank of information.”

                “You went to a bar with dollar shots, that’s why you don’t remember anything,” Joe told him, choking the words out through his carefully gripped nose. It wasn’t helping as much as he’d hoped, the stink was so potent he could taste it.

                Mercifully, Sherman threw open the door to the living room, a much more fastidiously kept space, both allowing the horrible stench out and some much needed relief in. Joe would have to shampoo their carpets to get the rest of the house smelling right, but in that moment he was so thankful for even somewhat decent air that he wasn’t bothered by it.

                “There’s no need for you to waste breath with such details, I can gain all I need through the power of deduction.” Sherman walked over to the plastic bag containing his wallet, keys, and cell phone; also known as what could be salvaged from the wreckage that was his pants. Sherman went for the phone first. “According to my online credit card history, it seems I spent twenty-five dollars at our local watering hole. See, Watson, from that amount we can deduce that I indulged in more than mere shots.”

                “No, you didn’t,” Joe said, taking a seat at the kitchen table. “You drank all twenty-five of them. You did ten, screamed at the bar that you weren’t backing down from this challenge, even though no one had challenged or talked to you, and then you did fifteen more.”

                “Did I now? Quite impressive, if I do say so.” Sherman continued to scroll down his phone, until he arrived at another entry. “It seems my quench for alcohol led to a pang of hunger, as I see I spent thirty more dollars at the fast food eatery Burrito Bell. Such a significant amount… yes, it all begins to come together.”

                Setting down the phone, Sherman turned his attention to the wallet, which he cracked open only to find a great surprise waiting. “By Baker Street, all of my cash is gone!”

                “Yeah, you started balling it up and throwing it when-”

                “What part of silence do you not understand, Watson?” Sherman demanded. “In these precious moments, you will learn far more by sitting silent and observing than by attempting to interject your own half-formed thoughts. It’s clear to me that I was using the cash to tip my bartender for the many rounds of shots I downed, your wasted words have done nothing more than piss away the small amount of time I possess to work in.”

                Joe clammed up as Sherman continued checking the wallet, pulling open a small pocket and grinning at what he saw inside. Sherman dropped the wallet back on the table, and as Watson moved it and the phone back into the plastic bag (they would both require extensive cleaning) Sherman walked into the center of the living room and took a wide-legged stance that threatened the integrity of his poorly secured towel.

                “Despite your interruptions, Watson, I have reached the solution to the case of ‘Who Shit My Pants.’ Thanks, barely, to your witness account of the bar, I know that I put on a primal display of fortitude and dominance by downing twenty-five shots in short order. No doubt, this endeared a member of the opposite sex to me, who then accompanied me for post-drinking food. You see, thirty dollars at Burrito Bell speaks to enough food for several people, which means I purchased late-dinner for my companion and myself, and perhaps you as well you useless tag-a-long. Once we were filled with food and liquor, we returned here, whereby my dame and I proceeded to make sweet love for an untold amount of time. This I can ascertain plainly from the missing condom in my wallet, you see. Then, and this is where it gets truly ingenious, Watson, while my lover and I slept, a fierce gorilla snuck in through the chimney, lured no doubt by the primal pheromones we’d been giving off, and it squatted over my trousers before kidnapping my lady-”

                “Just going to hop in real quick,” Joe said. “One, since you always suggest it was a runaway gorilla, I called the zoo this morning - they know me by name now, thanks for that - and confirmed that no gorillas have gone missing. Not anywhere in the state. Plus, we don’t have a chimney.”

                “No gorilla, huh?” Sherman tapped his hand carefully on his forehead, eyes darting to the clock. Time was running out, not much longer to solve the case. “Very well then, in light of that evidence, it shames me to admit that do to the effects of the liquor I must have delivered less than the biblical level of love-making my partner expected. Enraged at having been denied the legendary Holmes experience, she vented her frustration by squatting down and defiling my trousers before racing off into the night.”

                “Yeah, about that… there was no girl. You’re the one who ordered and ate thirty dollars worth of cheap Mexican food,” Joe said. “I watched you do it. Honestly, it was more impressive than the shots.”

                “But my missing condom…”

                “You wanted to see if you could get it around a burrito. You did, then you used it to hold that burrito together while yelling that condoms for burritos was the next billion dollar idea,” Joe explained.

                Sherman’s eyes went to the clock, less than twenty seconds now. His mind whirled as he processed the data, ruling out possibilities with the new evidence that Watson had presented. At last, with only ten seconds left, his face went pale as he reached the new conclusion.

                “Oh my… Watson, if all that you say is true, then it seems the only one capable of shitting my pants last night… was me.”

                The five minutes ran out, and Sherman flopped to the ground, suddenly unconscious as the toll from using his gift and the hangover from last night’s outing combined to tear his mind from the waking world. With a resigned sigh, Joe Watson went and got a broom from the nearby closet and started rolling Sherman back into his room.


5-Minute Sherlock: The Case of Briskly Burned Shed

Sherman Holmes, thanks to a powerful trip on experimental drugs, gained the power to channel the deductive reasoning of his great-grand-uncle Sherlock for five minutes every day. These are the tales of how he utterly wastes that ability.

                The occasional spark leapt up from the pile of ashes and warped metal, the last gasps of a fire that had given up the ghost long ago. Standing on the porch, Joe Watson waited with a hose in hand in case things heated up once more. He was dressed crisply, as always, although his hair was mildly disheveled. While he prided himself on appearance, having his female guest bolt from his room in the middle of dalliances thanks to fire outside the window had put a touch of urgency in his step, and so it could be forgiven that some small details were overlooked in his race to get outside. He hadn’t even dressed properly at the time, waiting until the flames were quelled before heading back in to don proper clothing. Today was going to involve a lot of explaining to the neighbors, again, so he needed to look the part for it.

                From behind him, the sliding glass door opened and Sherman came stumbling out, dressed in a pajama shirt and pink capri sweatpants with “Bodacious” on the rear. Where he’d gotten them was a mystery, especially since Sherman hadn’t entertained any guests of his own in months. Those sleepy, still-addled eyes turned to the pile of cinders in their backyard and went wide.

                “Good god Watson! Our shed, what’s happened to our shed?”

                Joe opened his mouth to reply, an act of unfathomable optimism, only to be cut off instantly.

                “Why am I bothering to ask you, of course you wouldn’t know who did it. No, this is a job for someone with proper deductive skills.”

                “I am begging you, just this once, please don’t.” Joe knew his words were falling on deaf ears even as he wasted them.

                Sherman straightened his back, and took a deep breath, which led to a coughing fit. Once it passed, he tried again, projecting his voice for all it was worth despite the early morning hour and the proximity of their neighbors. I activate my powers of deduction with the ancient phrase to pique all inquisitive minds: A case is afoot!” His pupils expanded as his eyes twitched and his brain sped up, like a child’s toy car hooked up to a NOS tank. “I see, so our shed has been torched. A grave crime, no doubt an act of retribution for my aid in solving a past case. I’ll have to quickly obtain every detail to see which vile villain would dare-”

                “You burned it down!” Joe, in an uncharacteristic fashion, briefly raised his voice to drown out Sherman’s. “Sorry, but I’m not going to let this be another time where it takes you the whole five minutes to realize you shit your pants, or tried to super-heat a computer in the oven, or dosed the entire bake sale with shrooms. You burned it down. I think you were-”

                “Hold Watson!” Sherman said, taking control of the conversation back. “While I’m sure your suspicions would be an amusing way to waste my time if I had infinite of it, there are only minutes to work with. Rather than squandering such a window with your prattling, I will observe the crime scene and tell you why I deemed it necessary to burn down the shed.”

                Walking over to the charred remains, Sherman hunkered down close, way too close to be safe actually, and carefully noted every item still recognizable. “With a careful eye, one can still make out beakers, tubes, and other lab equipment present. I see, now it all comes together. In my infinite quest for knowledge, I was no doubt conducting scientific experiments for the betterment of mankind. I must have discovered something so potent, so world-changing, that I burned the shed to the ground and purged my own mind with various substances to ensure it would never fall into the wrong hands, even if that meant destroying it outright.”

                “No, you watched an episode of that show about people who make their own moonshine and decided you wanted to do it. Only you thought you could improve on the recipe by making what you called ultra-shine. I don’t know what was going to be in it, but I found some chemistry sites open on your computer, and one about cooking meth that I’m going to choose to believe was opened by accident.”

                “There are no accidents, Watson, only clues!” Sherman skulked around, surveying the scene from every angle. “So, in my efforts to improve the world I hit upon a new recipe for some manner of enhanced moonshine. But why would I destroy such a creation? It makes no sense.”

                Joe let out a long, tired sigh, not even bothering to toss out a reply.

                “Wrong, Watson! The truth is that I didn’t destroy it, as you so foolishly claimed, but rather fed you that story for your own protection. No, what we see here is an act of malicious arson, perpetrated by a vile fiend who wished to keep my wondrous discovery away from the world.  Clearly, no sooner had I finished my fabulous work than a rogue gorilla, escaped from a nearby zoo, came into the yard with matches and-”

                Sherman stopped talking as Joe sprayed him with the hose, soaking the bottom part of the pink capris. “I already made the zoo calls. Steve told me that, as always, there have not been any escapes. Also I’m having dinner with him and his family next week. See, we’ve become friends since I have to call him every damn week.” Joe paused, forcing a measure of control back into his voice. “So, yet again, no gorilla.”

                “Hmm.” Sherman walked around one more time, glancing at the “Get Krunk” watch on his wrist. Less than a minute left. “If those wicked gorillas haven’t yet made their move, then there is only one villain capable of such an unforgivable act. Jim Moriarty: my arch-nemesis. He learned of my experiments and snuck onto the property, dousing the shed with gasoline that still lingers in the air and then torching it with a match. Knowing that he would stop at nothing to cover his tracks, the lesser me was blinded by emotion and lied to keep you safe from the truth. The cursed thing is that with all the evidence in smolders, I fear he may get away with this dastardly crime!”

                “First off, just because Officer Moriarty arrested you for drunk and disorderly conduct doesn’t mean he’s your arch-nemesis. He’s just a cop who lives down the street. Second, and more importantly, you brought the gasoline into the shed. Again, I don’t know what was in that ultra-shine, but apparently it was highly flammable given the fireball that burst out of the shed. Honestly, there was a mystery to solve here, if you’d listened: how in the hell did you survive long enough to get out of the shed in the first place?”

                Turning his eyes to the scene once more, Sherman took careful note of the utter devastation and his unsinged, yet curiously chosen, outfit. “Indeed, Watson, if you’d spoken up sooner perhaps this time could have been put to better use. Try not to make such a blunder of relaying the facts when we deal with future… cases…”

                Falling face first into the grass, hard, Sherman passed out as the five minute time limit struck. Joe looked over at the burned remains, all too aware that no one else yet knew Sherman had survived the incident, and then let out another sigh. Instead of anything criminal, he contented himself by spraying Sherman’s unconscious body with the hose for a bit longer. It was petty, true, but as the one who would have to go shopping for a new shed this afternoon, not to mention purchase flowers as apology to his now-gone guest, Joe felt entitled to a touch of pettiness.