Inspector Baynes On The Real Mystery In
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GARRIDEBS –
Mrs. Baynes had just put aside the book which she was reading. She had a mischievous look on her face and a bit of a twinkle in her eye.
"Well'" she said, "it seems that your friend, Sherlock Holmes, was a real pussy-cat, wasn't he, Inspector ?"
With a snort, I replied, “ I think that Sherlock Holmes was a man with an iron will and nerves of steel. What do you mean by that remark? "
"I mean that he couldn't hold up under pressure. When things got tough and he was under stress he came all unglued and fell apart. He just didn't know how to react to a dangerous situation."
"Which story have you been reading this time?" I asked with resignation.
She opened the book and pointed, proudly, to the Three Garridebs escapade. I knew immediately what she had in mind, or I thought I knew. So, I challenged her upon the point. It was in this story, you may recall, that Watson was shot and Holmes reacted in panic. He did lose his icy reserve and cry out: "You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake say that you are not hurt!"
I read the passage aloud and told Mrs. Baynes that Holmes did have a heart and that it was no embarrassment to his grace-under-pressure that he permitted Watson to see a glimpse of his feelings under those circumstances. I smiled with satisfaction.
"Not so fast, big boy." she rejoined. "That's not it at all. You've flat missed my point entirely. You see, when it comes to gun play your friend, Holmes, lacks the basic instincts - the quick response needed for survival. Heavens-to-Betsy, he couldn't have made it through Paris Island, or Quantico either one."
I re-thought the story and couldn't imagine what she had in mind. My curiosity drove me to ask, " What, in particular, do you make reference to?"
"Well, I guess I'll have to lay it out pretty simple for you." She beamed, for she knew that she now had center-stage and my full attention.
Then, pedantically, she began, "It's like this:
“(1) Holmes knew that the man he was after was a killer. He knew that it was James Winters, alias KILLER Evans, who had adopted the name of John Garrrideb.
"(2) Holmes knew it was a dangerous mission and that he might have trouble. He had told Watson to go armed and took his own weapon, too.
"(3) He and Watson had even hid out so as to get the drop on this `Killer' Evans guy, and they did get the drop on him. - So far so good.
"(4) Evans was down in a hole below floor level. He was surprised by Holmes and Watson who both `had him covered', as they say. Look right here in Watson's case report. It says:
"`’ [Evans's] face turned upon us with a glare of baffled rage, which gradually softened into a rather shamefaced grin as he realized that two pistols were pointed at his head.' "
I interrupted, "That sounds like good police work to me. Two officers for one apprehension. Always have a back-up. And you approach a known danger with your weapon un-holstered. Sounds to me like it's all by the book."
She blurted out: "Hold on there, Inspector, I haven't finished yet."
Then, Mrs. Baynes continued to pontificate -
"(5) Evans comes to the surface facing two men with pistols in hand. Watson and Holmes both have him covered.
(6) “Yet without them noticing, or doing anything to stop it, they let Evans pull out his gat and shoot John Watson--- a tragic and dangerous situation. Now, how did Holmes re-act to that.?”
“I’ll tell you how,” she continued. “Instead of taking down the villain, what does Holmes do ? Well, he hits the panic-button; that's what he does.
"(7) Holmes just fell apart, Inspector. He had no instinct to survive. Instead of pulling the trigger and taking Evans out, Holmes raises up his arm and exposes to Evans the major target area as he lifted his pistol so as to bring it down on the top o f Evans' head. He did all that, Inspector, while Evans had a fully-loaded, once-fired revolver in his hand."
Mrs. Baynes paused, then she continued her lecture:
"(8) The message here is very clear. Your friend, Holmes, lacked the training and the instinct. He should have fired, but when it came to taking someone out, he was a pussy-cat. It's just a wonder that Evans didn't fire as Holmes began his head- clubbing antics."
I smiled as I said to her, "You make an interesting observation, my dear, a very interesting observation."
Then she had her supreme moment of triumph. "The only mystery of the Three Garridebs fiasco," she declared, "is why Holmes didn't get blown away on that afternoon in late June of 1902."
I nodded. Sometimes, it's easier to agree with Mrs. Baynes than it is to argue with her.
Respectfully, Insp. Baynes
of the Surrey Constabulary
(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at email@example.com.)