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.