Miskman's Adventures With Supersleuth Sherman Holmes

INTRO: MISAKMAN MEETS SHERMAN

     Herein lies the sweeping saga of my time spent with the amazing supersleuth Sherman Holmes, the great-great nephew to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s supposedly fictional Sherlock Holmes. Stung by the sluggish sales and less than stellar reviews of his recent self-penned account of several of his most celebrated cases, the crime-solving savant solicited me to create a surefire superseller for his subsequent effort.

     He had snail mailed me a missive entreating, “It would be my singular pleasure to secure the services of the esteemed Misakman to pen a whole slew of suspenseful ready-to-tell adventures. Since I gather from your latest sit-down interviews with Howard Stern on Sirius Satellite and Steven Colbert on the Late Show you have yet to select a suitable subject for your Letter S passage, may I suggest yours truly.”

     I responded swiftly stating that I shared his enthusiasm and thought it a splendid idea which so stimulated my imagination that I sought to have a serious discussion posthaste. He sent for me from the States booking me a seat on the next British Airways 747 to England and then a shuttle to convey me speedily to Baker Street.

     When we met he was still smarting from the scathing criticism slung his way re his shortcomings as a storyteller. Said one snarky critic, “The superintellectual Holmes should stick to sleuthing and shouldn’t subject us to anymore soporific snoozers.” Snickered another, “A slopwork of a storybook by a skillless hack. It is such a stultifying borefest I can scarcely read a single page without falling into a slumber. Leave your sleeping pills on the shelf. Indeed if somnifacient drugs didn’t put the sandman out of circulation this surely will.” Yet another snorted, “At least a shoutout is due in that the book looks spiffy in its stylish serif font and is free of solecisms, errors in syntax, and overuse of annoying semicolons. Yet overall, our sophisticated friend has offered up a striking example of suckiness beyond the pale.”

     At our meeting I found satisfactory his proposal on how to split royalties if the new book sold well. Furthermore, shaken up as he was from the shellacking he’d sustained from those sour-tounged cranks, he happily surrendered all the writing duties saying, “It is my solemn wish that you shoulder that responsibility and be my faithful scribe, but there’s a slight catch.” Sheepishly he continued, “I haven’t been altogether straightforward and it’s time to spill the beans. The skinny of it is that I have nothing new to speak of yet, but… (now pointing to a slipcase on his desk filled with A Study In Scarlet, Adventure Of The Speckled Band, and other thrillers)… a book of tales as superb as these all steeped in complexity and simmering with intrigue is near I swear. I just need someone to be my assistant, that’s you Misakman, to go scurrying around the globe with me and chronicle as I search, investigate, sniff for clues and solve my next superexciting cases. I feel it’s firsthand not secondhand accounts that sparkle and make books sell.

     You see Misakman, my usual sidekick Dr. Sebastian Watson … (yes, he was somehow related to Sherlock’s famous simpatico with that very surname)…well the old sawbones is a scratch. He’s apparently swamped with patients and too busy wielding his scalpel and applying sutures and whatnot and says he can’t accompany me even for a brief spell.

SEBASTIAN WATSON’S REFUSAL

     Watson had rebuked me sternly, ‘Look Holmes, I must be sensible and smarten up and not put my career as a surgeon, for which I have had much seriously expensive schooling, at a standstill once again to go snooping around with you. Smug with the silly notion you were the next Mickey Spillane you heeded me not a smidgen when I strove to convince you to let me write the last series of adventures. Sadly yet predictably the critics savaged your woefully subpar tome. When I squarely and honestly admonished you that your writing style was too scholarly and stuffy you took it as a slight and swore I didn’t know squat. You’ve shot the whole works, our whole stock of heart-stopping sizzling tales now lying squandered in that soulless sterile stinker.

     I cannot with a straight face tell my employer I need another sabbatical or I must again lend succor to a despondent and sickly relative somewhere far away sloughing off yet again my responsibilities on my fellow staff members when we’re spread so thin already. Just today I did a heart stent procedure then a sacroiliac joint fusion, and for both I was the sole soul available.’”

SHERMAN PREVAILS AND OFF WE GO

     I admitted I was somewhat startled by this bit of subterfuge but Holmes countered, “It was a tad snaky not disclosing the substantial time commitment involved, but I can’t stress how much I need your support with Watson dumping me so suddenly. With the utmost sincerity do I claim that every Miskman story is a seriocomic jewel and that you’ve sparked a whole alliteration subgenre of humor. Yea even the ruthless subindustry of sharks they call book critics have stood up and saluted your artistry.” After he gave a verbal synopsis of what was in store, I was satisfied the prospects for a hit book were stupendous and so what follows is my supercool even surreal journey with the ever surprising Mr. Sherman Holmes.

     Our lead was supplied by Holmes’ client, one Lord Summersby, head of a consortium of superwealthy shipping magnates who were steamed that the heads of state and influential solons around the globe were shrugging off the sobering reality of a bad situation. Lord Summersby had sullenly written Holmes, “These spineless twits won’t schedule even a few seconds at their summits to discuss this sinister scourge, a sea monster, yes a semihistorical legend come to life. They dismiss well-substantiated accounts as merely speculative even sensationalized. Therefore we will sponsor our own superthorough investigation. At your disposal will be my spacious aircraft helmed by Sparky, my personal superpilot.”

     Next thing we were off to Sydney, Australia to meet one Simon Smythe, a rare survivor of an attack. Holmes explained, “The beast is solely responsible for countless shipwrecks, scores of dead sailors, and much loss of shipborne goods. Many a hardy swab and old salt have met a sorry fate to this savage menace, and with replacements skittish about shoving off, crews are shorthanded. With all the sunken ships, the shipwrights are reluctant to send any craft down the shipway. Why even seasoned tars are spooked and bringing their seagoing vessels ashore sending them up the slipway and into storage.

     The monster’s sphere of activity is the Pacific with reports surfacing from as far down as Singapore and Sumatra, then up past Southeast Asia, on past China where it recently swallowed up sixteen seamen and sank a schooner off Shanghai, and finally up near South Korea.”

WE MEET UP WITH SMITTY

     When we sat down with our man at his Smitty’s Seaside Bar & Grill, Holmes asked him to succinctly explain how he’d survived his ordeal. The very sociable Smitty, not one to skim over details or give a short take, recreated his seafaring odyssey, the whole shebang, including his close shave with death…...

     Well sonny boys, I’d already shut off my open sign here and was scraping the grease off of my grill while a few stragglers finished eating when Squinty Stede himself, one of the surliest most sadistic pirates ever lived appears! My patrons scram and I’m alone stupefied and stuttering and stammering I tell him, “Sorry we’re c-c-c-closed but the saloon across the street serves up grub along with steins a flowing with beer all n-n-n-night long.” He snarls back, “Cease your senseless jabber you stupid swine and scare me up a sausage and spinach omelet before I slit your scrawny neck!” After that none too auspicious salutation I weren’t about to sass this sourpuss so I grab my spatula, put on a smiley face, and do up one savory omelet with sides of hash browns and a few slices o’ toast with strawberry marmalade spread to boot and a cup of my celebrated slow-roasted coffee.

     This stealthy corsair always seemed to have a secret cove somewheres near every seaport district where he could make a stopover slipping in and out at will while picking up supplies. Yet the showman within couldn’t resist permitting periodic sightings of him to cause a stir. Those customers skedaddling allowed the rumor he’d been slain in a recent skirmish off the coast of Spain to be squashed by morn.

     When done eating he saunters closer crowing, “Lucky sod your culinary skills meet me satisfaction and are required aboard me vessel the Sadie Sue. Me last cook the old sot got himself sozzled and stumbled overboard in his drunken stupor as we were scudding along over by Samoa. Aye it was a stormy night, the wind a squalling and the waves a swashing, and weren’t no way of seeing or hearing him splashing into the water and being swept away. We wuz expecting his usual slop next morn but something was amiss, not a sound from the kitchen. Damn shame it was.”

     Switching gears he goes, “Aye I can spruce up me own quarters with some of your stuff hereabouts,” and grabs my favorite saltshaker shaped like a starfish , my seashell ashtrays, and a ceramic sauceboat and just tosses ‘em in his satchel probably breaking ‘em into shards anyway. Not done stealing, he takes a bunch of my soupspoons then points to the stool he’d been sitting on and remarks, “Much softer and swivels better ‘n mine,” and strong as he is he don’t need a screwdriver but just uproots it and slings it over his shoulder. Next he signals a stocky even more sinewy pirate was standing outside who grabs me by the scruff of my neck almost strangling me, puts a sock in my mouth, and stuffs me in a sack.

SMITTY AT SEA

     Once we’re seaward they dump me so I slam headfirst onto the deck making me like semiconscious. They ungag me which is supernice since I was practically suffocating and while I’m all sprawled out there I shook off the cobwebs enough to hear Stede singing my praises, “Softy landlubber likely don’t know the difference between a sheepshank and a slipknot or between sculling and rowing or what a sextant does but Hail Smitty!...The Sage Of The Skillet, The Sultan Of The Saucepan!” With the crew shouting and slapping me on the back I took solace in being a celebrity though I’d been shanghaied by pirates, stolen away without consent. For them life was one big shindig until that superdiabolical leviathan done spoiled their fun. By the way he was spot on about my not having sailed much. Been on my friend’s spinnaker, an 18 ft. skiff class, a few times. An avid seaman, he also brought me sailboarding once where I did okay using a good swift slalom board equipped beauty.

     Though my new shipmates was soft toward me cuz I kept their bellies sated, they was sure enough spiteful marauders, semicivilized brutes all who slew without mercy. When they couldn’t find a ship to loot of its seaborne cargo they’d land and sack whole villages shamelessly swiping anything of value. They’d be waving scimitars, cutlasses, machetes, a few even sporting smoothbore pistols while pillaging.

     At one village this shopkeeper was a squawking about them plundering his stockroom. Next thing a staccato blast and yuk, you had blood and brains splattered all over like spaghetti with sauce. Another time someplace else this scrappy fiery preacher was a scolding them while up on his soapbox imploring, “Cease this sordid mayhem, ye unrepentant scoundrels and sybarites!” Unimpressed with his sermon, they stripped him down to his skivvies and hung the Jolly Roger up on the spire of the steeple of his church then looted his little sacristy. Then one of my scurvy mates, found the fellow too sanctimonious and superpious for his tastes I guess, reached for his scabbard intending to slay him.

     But didn’t Stede all of a sudden step in. Now he held to the superstition that it was sacrilege to shed a holy man’s blood ... he still saw fit to rob shrines etc. though! ….and like the Grim Reaper with his scythe …or is it a sickle I dunno…and don’t he with one swoosh of his famous sword, ah with its superfine blade and ornate scrollwork, sever the mates head off!

     The preacher goes, “Son, I sense a spark of goodness yea selflessness in ye saving my neck as you did. Embrace the sacred over the profane and tip the scales of judgment toward salvation over damnation that thou shalt be blessed . Slink not back into sinfulness. I have escaped with nary a snick upon my skin nor a stain of blood upon my surplice thanks to you yet I am sorrowful blood was spilt on my account.”

     Stede replied, “Sakes alive, the semidomesticated oaf knew me standing orders to not harm saintly type fellows. That was fine speechifying good shepherd but Aye!...the sirens relentless seductresses they be do beckon me seawards to resume my seamy life of swordplay and debauchery. The shackles of a life settling down and landubbering don’t suit me, it being like sleepwalking through life. I’m not the servile type to be beholden to a gold-striped admiral or rich as Solomon merchant or superior acting fool. The time is nigh to sail and feel the light sting of spindrift upon me face. A buccaneer’s life of skullduggery and shenanigans awaits, savvy? Farewell!”

THE SADIE SUE MEETS HER NEMESIS

     Shortly after this we were near Saipan. We had a shipload of booty from many a successful sortie aboard. Stede and his top men had scouted around and located a few seemingly deserted isles to stash it all for safekeeping but hadn’t made a selection yet. Being more a cook than a sailorman I weren’t privy to the necessary sort of info, lats and longs and suchlike, to pinpoint where the giant serpent done smote everyone save me that day. I outta set out with a soothsayer or psychic someday to help me find the swag around those parts. Anyways, was after sundown, a foggy and dimly starlit night, and I was down the stairs beyond the galley in the storeroom doing stockkeeping duties checking if I had enough salt pork, spices, and whatnot for the morrow.

SMITTY REMINISCES ABOUT FAMILY

     Mind you it squares me with my upbringing not to be stargazing or smoking my ciggies or scrimshawing or stringing together another shellwork necklace till all my shipboard duties was done. My sweet old mama always warned, “Don’t be skipping your chores or I get my switch or Pa’s strop and commence to swinging.” Aye she was a scullery maid as a lass and fled that life of subminimum wages and endless soapsuds drudgery in the city to elope with her sweetheart my country boy sodbuster Pa. His farm weren’t for slackers though, always crops to be sown, soil to be tilled, seedbeds to prepare, and sundry other chores…yeah mixing the sod with the sphagnum peat moss was another. He put down stakes up near Alice Springs, wild Northern Territory which ain’t been granted statehood just yet.

     Yep, she’d be out there, a supermom I tell ya, with her sunbonnet on slaving away with me and Pa. I did my part with the spade there but we had a fine sorrel draughthorse all stalwart and steadfast and my main job was to keep him smooth, shiny and fed. Pa had a still out back to make homemade shine too and Shoot!...Seagram’s folks had nothing on Pa’s smoky brew…but I’m getting sidetracked here…

SMITTY BACK ON TRACK

     Now that night was spooky with the weather being serene and calm yet the sturdy Sadie Sue kinda creaking and shaking. I hurry on up the staircase to share my suspicions and find Sullivan the steersman. I blurt out, “Sully I smell danger. Perhaps a sperm whale is stalking us or a sneaky tsunami is imminent.” He sneeringly barks, “Everything is swell. Quit spending your time spouting nonsense. With suppertime done go figure what you’ll be serving for breakfast then dream of lucky shamrocks and shapely ladies.”

     Then from a bit starboard I make out Stede who cautions, “Shhhh! Silence!” Now he had superhuman sensory perception and from the seriousness of his tone though things was sketchy, you knew the old seadog hadn’t shushed us for no reason. Heck, he’d just peak at the sky and could tell to the second the time of day then say, “Ah, the sundial, the Swiss watch, all superfluous.”

     Just then with the suddenness of a steak of lightning the sly monster sprang up from the lower depths of the seabed and before Captain Stede could remove his saber from its sheath the beast skewered him clean through his stomach and out his back with one of its spiked claws. Then with one of its squiggly tentacles it grabbed poor Sully and squeezed him until his guts came spurting out. I recall him swatting at it with his shillelagh saucily mocking it, “Well shiver me timbers an overgrown salamander!” and yelling copious swearwords, but I couldn’t save him or the Cap it had struck so quickly.

     Though I was stunned and all supertense me thoughts did turn to getting at the shipwide com by the stairway. But then didn’t the beast start making these shrill ear-splitting noises worse than a shrieking banshee. I still suffer from hearing loss like I got stopples in my ears from that. I gotta blast my old Sony stereo at like 10 now to hear my Frank Sinatra. Well with that the crew come spilling out on deck anyway but the hellion starts spewing fire making shishkebab out of ‘em. Meanwhile it’s smashing everything to smithereens and we got debris shooting around like shrapnel. Then it slams down with its ultimate sledgehammer move and Socko! as if hit by shellfire the front part I was on was sawn off and separated from the rest of the Sadie Sue. I then notice struggling in the water a ways sternward this scuzzball Skinner.

SMITTY BACK OFF TRACK RE SKINNER

     A shiftless slouch always shirking his duties, no one spake well of him especially the stouthearted men who had to pick up the slack for him. Aye one day he snuck back in line aiming for seconds of my stew and when I told him to scoot and put the lid back on my saucepot he blew his stack and socked me leaving a shiner. Early on before I got my sealegs I was feeling so-so so Stede suggested once, “Smitty, you’re outta sorts today and not your sprightly self. I can take Skinner off from swabbing the deck to help you slap together our meal.” I told him, “Captain, I’m only slightly seasick and feeling stronger by the minute. I prefer working solo so no sweat we’ll be all supping on time. Besides, Skinner loves to scour away getting things spic and span.”

     Now I was in good stead with the skip especially considering the sludge the old cook used to serve up so he replied, “Aye Smitty you’re a standup guy but if I notice you all swoony and a losing your stamina then I’ll take Skinner off standby to help.” Well Skinner that slothful slug felt snubbed and wanted off the more strenuous sweaty labor. Soreheadedly he scowled and sniped at me, “You’re my sworn enemy now and I’m gonna shiv you one day you lowly squib.”

BACK TO SMITTY’S ORDEAL

     Well regardless of past squabbles I woulda saved him if possible but there wasn’t a sliver of a chance with the waters swirling against me. Then don’t the beast just snag him outta the water and Scrunch! …Skinner was dinner! Next it goes soaring off without snarfing me down too. I’m like what a scatterbrain it is but then don’t it shoot me a look slantways, a steely glare but kinda sarcastic like I was one of them nuisance bony scup fish anglers scoff at and throw back when they’re saltwater fishing. Actually I was quite the well-sculpted specimen way back. In my salad days I was a sweeper for a semipro soccer team before my shin splints made me quit.

     Anyway, all stranded now I squinched myself onto a big broken off slab of wood and a few days later I was spotted by some scuba divers. Lucky for me since I lacked sustenance from the outset and was facing starvation, suffering from sunstroke, and sapped of any energy all limp like a spindly scarecrow. Later I called my beloved spouse the wonderful Sophie, told her about my ordeal and survival and that I was of sound mind and fairly stable health. Sophie straightaway went supplicating to our fine statesmen reminding them, “My Smitty can’t just swim back so someway, maybe via navy submarine, please help!”

     One of the swellheaded satraps snidely boasted, “Soon as he arrives he’ll either get a stiff sentence or be hung from the scaffold for piracy.” Now Sophie, a naïve schoolgirl she ain’t, shrewdly sidestepped them and found a certain somebody gonna be more sympathetic, the Prime Minister himself, Yes Siree! Now there’s synchronicity for you! He was the friend who took me on those sailing trips before my stint with Stede. Ever since he was a mere sapling of a boy, the P.M. would swing by Smitty’s for my shrimp on the barbie and my vegemite sandwich. With consummate statecraft he succeeded in superseding all those scumbuckets wouldn’t help Sophie proclaiming, “Old Smitty is a superpatriotic citizen and shan’t be stigmatized as an outlaw of the high seas having been kidnapped by that sociopath Squinty Stede.”

SMITTY WRAPS IT UP

     Smitty then grabbed a sketchbook he had and scribbled a charcoal drawing of the serpentine terror explaining, “The image of that scary miscreation, the spawn of Satan, is seared into my cerebrum. But I believe you, Sherman Holmes the sagacious sleuthhound, can crack this supermystery!”

     He confided, “I’m really a subdued dude, not one to shill for publicity and turn my life into a sideshow you know. I pretty much skirt the press like when a reporter showed up here yesterday I shooed her away. I savor living near the seafront here with my Sophie, the sweetest wife ever unless like a stupe I forget what a stickler she is about hygiene. Yep, before I added more seating I had a buffet type setup here and once when I was dropping off the succotash I stuck my head under one of them sneezeguards. With me having this shock of hair and not wearing my snood …Whoa! She chucked her poultry shears at me…and I still got the nasty slantwise scar I’m hiding under my shirt to prove it! Anyway, I sincerely hope you find a solution to this case.”

     Holmes smiled, “Indeed! But now it’s skyward and onward to the Tshushima Strait in Japan, The Land Of The Rising Sun. From there we go by seaplane to a tiny speck of an island per Lord Summersby and the shipowner types who hired us to meet one Sadaharu the only other to survive an attack. Farewell!”

SADAHARU WITNESS #2

     We eventually found Sadaharu’s shack in a remote fishing village where the spry septuagenarian insisted on firing up his spit outside (stoves, who needs ‘em?) and sizzled up some swordfish along with a type of mottled skate fish and happily served up sizeable portions. Translating was a smart sprite of six who spoke English of whom Sadaharu bragged, “My grandson, he was the schoolhouse spelldown champion and always drinks his soymilk!” He told us that on special occasions he sometimes prepared raw sashimi but luckily for squeamish me, different seafood was on the menu. Yeah, I’m a scaredy –cat about sushi all raw and squishy, especially since I once tried sturgeon roe or maybe it was shad roe on a cruise ship and wound up in sickbay.    

     Anyhow Sadaharu’s scrumptious sapid fare trumped not just the smallmouth bass I used to catch (using smelts that’s the trick) and sockeye salmon from anywhere but even Mom’s Boston Baked scrod (i.e. Eastern Seaboard codfish). As we scarfed down the meal and drank his tasty saki brew he related his swashbuckling adventure with the prodigious saurian wonder……

SADAHARU’S TALE

     I was out alone on a simple fishing trip far from shore when I felt a surge rocking my tiny sampan, very strange since the weather was nice and sunny, the air mostly still and calm. Then just ahead was a frightful sight, a slithery monster of immense size and strength savagely thrashing and stomping away sinking a large sailboat. With its scissor-like claws and razor sharp tail it reduced the craft to splinters in like an instant. Red eyes smoldering, it was shredding men to pieces with its sawtooth fangs. One man was swimming toward me with a look of sheer terror. I steered toward the stranger thinking, “This is suicide but to sneak off just to stay alive is to be a shameful coward, an even sorrier fate.”

     Next after the beast had sprung up into the air, its wings spanning the horizon, it came swooping down again scalding him with a stream of fire breath. It snatched up the burnt and screaming man then let out a horrid screech and came speeding towards me! Our eyes locked in a staredown but there was no standdown on my end as I refused to submit to fear, stayed focused, and instinctively grabbed my sword….after all, according to ancient scrolls I have ancestors who were samurai for many a shogunate. He had scales like steel plates which formed a superthick protective shield and had many tentacles not only serrated like the snout of a sawfish but equipped with suction cups like those of a squid. When he swung a tentacle at me the boat got like superglued to a cup taking me perhaps seventy feet in the air.

     I stabbed it repeatedly but my swordsmanship was for naught against his stony covering. I looked to strike a sensitive area but the boat was swaying too much while suspended in the air for me to maintain a steady view or aim anyhow. I was about to be his supper when Splash!...it unceremoniously dumped me to go after a school of snapper fish nearby. While he began scooping them up and shoveling them in his mouth, I seized upon this startling stroke of luck, my new status as a lousy second rate snack, and swam shorewards…sidestroke to conserve energy. Though my boat was smashed to bits, I was thankful I had been spared by the gods, granted safety from certain death.

WE WRAP IT UP W/SADAHARU

     Upon being shown Smitty’s sketch, Sadaharu shuddered a bit then offered, “Sensational job. Superaccurate. Godzilla on steroids.” Holmes beamed, “Sayonara Sadahuru and thank you!” then after commending the little sport for staying so focused, speaking so well, and not getting squirrelly and restless during our session, he informed me, “Misakman, it’s off to Saporro to the splendiferous estate of one Madam Saito, a soever resourceful friend with scads of contacts who can help us locate my prime suspect in this affair. After soaking up every last scrap of info, sorting it all out, and scrutinizing every last scintilla of it much like Morley Safer of Sixty Minutes would, I am supremely confident I know who the sicko is that is working behind the scenes siccing this superabominable monster on the world.”

EN ROUTE TO SAPORRO

     Once we took to the skies, Holmes confided, “In my youth my studies brought me to spellbinding fascinating Japan for a semester. I met Madam Saito serendipitously at a museum exhibit showcasing the exquisite sculpture and stoneware pottery --intact not in sherds!--of ancient Sparta and Greece. I’d gone stag but then the sublimely beautiful Madam Saito resplendent in her strapless sundress struck up a conversation with me. A steamy affair ensued, a summertime romance in which I was a crazed satyr sowing my wild oats satisfying my sensual desires with my sultry lovemaking mentor, my senior by a score and ten years more or less. And never mind the Kama Sutra she could have written the sequel.”

     Holmes then pulled out an old sepia-toned photo of a strikingly elegant supermodel beautiful young Madam Saito in a spangly gown. Poised at a stairhead she appeared goddess-like perhaps semidivine with a mysterious sphinxlike air. When I commented on her staid almost standoffish expression Holmes barely stifling his laughter reminisced, “She was in a snit after the clumsy sommelier at this particular event spilled a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon on her fur stole. Later she was the first socialite to strongly advocate the use of more humane synthetic faux fur as a substitute for sealskin, sable, and stoat etc.

     A superconfident go-getter she became the premier shot caller of the underground business scene in the Pacific. Yet upon the completion of my schoolwork she was sobbing, ‘I’m not the superromantic type prone to saccharine sappy sentimentality but it saddens me my young stallion that our season of love is over. May the fates shower favor upon you, keep you from sickness, and arrange that sometime in the future we reunite.’ I’ve always been skeptical of this idea of the scheming fates, yet surprisingly it’s the selfsame Madam Saito whom we now seek. Indeed she’s a supersophisticated businesswoman with a staggeringly huge web of contacts from every stratum of society whose interests cover a wide scope of activity. She knows all the movers and shakers in the Orient from the scrupulous to the shady, from the superheavyweights to the small timers. I don’t believe it’s a stretch to suppose that one of her sources can get us closer to one Dr. Smedley C. Shockley.

SHERMAN ON SHOCKLEY

     Now a while back the Baker St. Sentinel to which I subscribe ran a headline concerning this suspicious character which stated, ‘Famous Scientist S.C. Shockley Lost In Snowstorm’ with a subheading, ‘Avid shutterbug was at Mt. Shasta hoping for a snapshot of the elusive Sasquatch’. The local sheriff issued a statement which explained, ‘While roaming the sierra my searchers found at the base of a slope along some sagebrush terrain a pair of snowshoes and a scarf belonging to Shockley but no body.’ Yet the next day a few sightseers doing some shopping at one of the souvenir stores there noticed a slovenly man wearing dark sunglasses and a sunhat who definitely bore a similarity to Shockley as he stole a Schwinn bicycle and rode off into the sunset. I feel Shockley, a hardy survivalist and not your stereotypical lab rat, did not shuffle off this mortal coil that snowy day but took shelter in perhaps a cave and after the snowfall had subsided emerged from his sanctuary very much alive.

     I venture that he staged his disappearance, a mere smoke screen allowing him to surreptitiously relocate quickly and go about setting up shop far away to attempt to shroud in greater secrecy his controversial research. Back in his native Somerset, England the locals, scared even panic-stricken that shuddersome breeding experiments were afoot, made enough of a stink that official scrutiny was in the offing. This after a local angler by the shoals witnessed a mutant sego lily type of flower in a sedge marsh as it snapped up a swallowtail butterfly whole!

     Consider his talk at a symposium in Stuttgart a few summers ago when things went sideways according to a snippet from the Spectator for which I also have a subscription. He claimed there that he had shreds of DNA from an ancient stegosaurus and Scylla the sea monster of Greek myth and through cutting edge gene splicing and cloning sorcery could create a sui generis, a new monster.

     A shocked colleague scorned him, ‘You are a sick man with semiformed ideas and lack the scruples to reconsider your scattershot methods and shaky ethics!’ Another cried, ‘Curb your swollen ego and permanently shelve these screwball ambitions!’ (Author’s note…my grasp of Sigmund Freud is spotty but why is it never ‘Curb your superego’?) Seething at being spurned by his peers, Smedley fumed, ‘You couple of stodgy fools, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, yea sniveling cowards married to your schoolbooks who lack the scrotum to strive to make new strides in knowledge. To all now, keep stinging me with petty slander you mindless scorpions. Know that you will be shamefaced over your shortsightedness when my creature storms forth to smite you. I alone possess the sine qua non, a bold sureness of purpose that makes me a shining trailblazer while you standpatters just follow in my slipstream later.’

     This angry screed signifies that revengeful spite is what spurs him on. It’s not spoils since during the spate of attacks salvage crews have swum to the depths and had great success retrieving cargo. But now if Shockley has sequestered himself on some secluded outpost we can assume he’s gone the sub rosa route re getting supply shipments and is utilizing the shadowy underworld of smugglers. This is where our streetwise benefactor Madam Saito, embedded in the subculture as she is, can help us in spades. By merely sifting through her Rolodex, making some calls, and stoking the gossip mill, she’ll eventually find out who the supplier is and where he is schlepping everything.

     One could easily fill a scrapbook with the many significant discoveries made by the superachiever Smedley C. Shockley during his storied career. He developed synfuels for a shale oil company and cutting edge software for Silicon Valley moguls. He helped Cedars Sinai in their research to cure shingles, spina bifida, sarcoma, and multiple sclerosis. He perfected an artificial sweetener they later named Smedulose which was sweeter than sorbitol, sucralose, and stevia etc. and which was nicely soluble in coffee. The originator, a sorely desperate food giant unable to eliminate the side effects had summoned him. Lab rats were exhibiting stunted growth and what sexologists would term sadomasochistic tendencies while producing stillborn offspring before Smedley fixed all.

     He even proved how salacious and erotic subliminal messages could cause stiffies among men and conversely how by adding saltpeter to your scrambled eggs one could suppress the libido. But then one day while walking past the sandlots he was severely hurt in the noggin by an errant softball and with his serotonin levels now screwed up he began exhibiting subhuman tendencies, unable to stay his wrath.”

WE REACH MADAM SAITO’S

     Not only was Madam Saito’s wealth in the stratosphere so was her stately mansion situated as it was at the summit of a lofty cliff, a former military strongpoint actually, with an amazing seascape view. Inside, her great knack for feng shui and keen spatial awareness lent her home a cozy ski lodge vibe, amazing since this veritable showplace had maybe sevenfold the square footage of the White House!

     At the reunion she was in seventh heaven and the normally stoic Holmes was noticeably sanguine as well. She was still a very sexy superchic gal and no spinster, a true stunner in a flowery silk kimono with golden sash studded with gems. I later asked if she would mind sharing her secrets on how she kept herself in shape exuding such sensuality at her age. She responded, “Well my satiny complexion is not due to sandblasting my face or undergoing plastic surgery but is from using a supereffective cream with sunflower oil and sassafras in it and always having cinnamon bar soap at the sink and bath. I also spend hours on the Soloflex, follow the Scarsdale diet to avoid the dreaded saddlebag thighs and cellulite, and seldom cheat on sweets.”

     Insisting that we poor souls must be starved, she prepared for us a yummy sesame soy chicken with crispy fried shallots and also sukiyaki with shiitake mushrooms all of which perfectly satiated us while we sipped an exotic soothing seaweed tea with a touch of spearmint. Sashaying about quite seductively, she sidled up to Holmes and propositioned her former studmuffin whether he was game for a spirited romp between the sheets. Alas her ex-student demurred explaining there wasn’t time to socialize never mind get shagadelic and quickly summarized our case and the superimportant reason for our coming.

MADAM SAITO HELPS OUT

     Shifting now into superserious business mode and psyched to be of service she made like a sextillion phone calls within the space of an hour then summed it up for us, “According to the scuttlebutt, at the southernmost tip of New Zealand and even beyond Stewart Island is another island the seal hunters know about but the mapmakers pay scant attention to. The bartender at Seiji’s Shipside Bar informed me, ‘Scout’s honor Madam Saito…a guy sits down at the bar, he’s slugging down a Smirnoff’s on the rocks, claims he’d brought scientific equipment including serums and syringes and lab smocks there. He told me, ‘The island has a spit where a Dr. Strangelove kinda guy…remember the Peter Sellers movie from ’64, the cold war sendup directed by Stanley Kubrick?... well he’s building a landing strip on it but so obsessed is he with his secretive experiments that progress is sporadic and it’s still only shuffleboard court length so he’s dependent on my sealifts if you will.’”

     Madam Saito continued, “At the shoreline he was met by a sleepy-eyed galoot built like a sequoia redwood.” Holmes cried, “Yes! Salvatore ‘Spats’ Santini, born in Capistrano home of the swallows. ‘Sal’ later moved to Sicily where he became a stoneherted mob enforcer. A standout performer, he was later dispatched to San Francisco where he eliminated with his signiature semiautomatic pistol with silencer whatever rivals specified by the crime syndicate he represented. But he tired of the sickening violent life of a Mafia soldier and made a career switcheroo to become Smedley’s assistant, his loyal squire, entrusted with a wide spectrum of duties. Smashing job Madam Saito! But time I stopped babbling like an excited schoolboy. Continue!”

     She went on, “Well Smedley spuriously claimed that certain of the superquality goods were shoddy and that the spoilage rate on the foodstuffs was significantly higher than expected and shortchanged the visitor by figuring in a steep discount for the alleged screwups. The man explained, ‘Hey, I’m no sap prone to being swindled but there was no breaking the stalemate with this skinflint, and that simian lug of his was just itching for a scrum. I’d shoehorned in his appointment before important stops I had yet to make so I settled for like a sixth of what had been stipulated and sped off. I got stiffed there but it’s a supercompetitive business and I couldn’t have my rep sullied like I’m a slowpoke sloppy about punctuality with my five star clients on account of this stingy sleazebag.’ My bartender friend concluded, ‘Word spreads fast so good luck to that shifty egghead finding another of these independent sailormen gonna risk getting suckered’”

OFF TO BEYOND STEWART ISLAND

     Holmes marveled, “You are worthy of sainthood for so skillfully assisting us locating this serial mass murderer.” He then strode purposefully to the door and sighingly bemoaned, “It is with great sorrow that I inform you we must sacrifice our comfort and end our sojourn here to continue southward for our inevitable showdown with Smedley. Madam Saito, you sweetness is my weakness as soulster Barry White he of the silky baritone once so sensuously crooned. We ought to be spanked for treating you shabbily by stampeding off like thoughtless steer but many lives are at stake. Farewell!”

     En route Holmes offered, “The sample of incidents though scattered geographically have a specific pattern in that it appears with each successive attack the beast cuts a wider swath shoreward. I surmise that Smedley is systematically training his superdevilish killer such that each episode is a test scrimmage where he slowly builds its endurance. Not to be a scaremonger but before long I think the skulking predator will be showing up on land slashing away through seaside towns in all its gruesome splendor toppling structures and yes, very Smaug-like indeed, strafing from above with its fiery sulphury breath.”

SUMMERSBY’S SUPERPILOT COMES THROUGH

     Later with the island within our sights our serviceable yet overtaxed plane started to fail, with the engine making sputtering coughing noises and not susurrating whirring ones. In the pilot’s somber assessment we had a ruptured drive shaft seal and with the plane spasmodically jerking now we passengers were squirming in our seats. He cautioned, “That landing strip that was spoken of is probably that area covered with shrubbery and tree stumps and branches over there. Not surprised though, wouldn’t be too slick to leave it sticking out like a sore thumb if he’s as superinsistent on privacy as everyone says. The intel said it wasn’t yet of sufficient length for us to land safely anyway so let’s scrub that option. We’ll put down near that sheltered sandbank just beyond that swampland. Given our mechanical snafu, there’s no time to go searching for anything closer to that stockade looking facility which stands to reason is his new stronghold. Heck, strategically it’s not a bad scenario since from my standpoint we’re far enough away they maybe haven’t spied us yet and the element of surprise may still be in play. Just go into stealth mode and smoothly and silently try sneaking up on him like super ninjas.”

     Once our skilled pilot, a former squadron leader, a master of the skyways, with effortless savoir faire landed the plane we thanked our lucky stars, but he insisted we’d skated by thanks to the Patron Saint of Travel St. Joseph. “I keep a scapular of him hanging from my speedometer. He just stepped in from the clouds to stave off disaster and was waving a semaphore flag like a signalman guiding me down! I guess he can spontaneously levitate like Sally Field in that Flying Nun sitcom!” Holmes cried, “Kudos to you our superheroic aviator with the shatterproof nerves and your supernatural ally St. Joe! Now while we sally forth you dig out the sealant from among your spare parts and get this plane shipshape”…… (Author’s non sequitur to spice things up….why isn’t it planeshape?)

CLOSING IN ON SMEDLEY

     With that Holmes and I went slogging through the soggy silty terrain but no sooner had we embarked did the scenic yet perilous jungle overwhelm my delicate sensibilities…my mind now full of scarifying thoughts, my nerves in a shambles. Would I be a luckless schmuck sucked into quicksand slurped into oblivion? Would I be bitten by an evil slinky snake and be squealing in pain only to stiffen up all paralyzed like a statue then die of heart stoppage? Would I be assaulted by slimy mutant leeches which would siphon off all my blood leaving me an empty shell, a shriveled corpse? Would I be eaten by scavenger creatures of unbridled savagery or be done in by the sweltering heat and be a sunbaked treat for them? Adding to the strangeness were these birds, a cross between stork and spoonbill, scrounging about for food. Would one get snappish and poke my eyes out of their sockets with its spatulate bill?

     To surmount this slough of despond I scoured my mind for when I’d displayed superexceptional fortitude. Ah, when I was seven, on a dare I ate a sachet of silica gel and lived. It was the dessicant in Mom’s very cool sideboard with sliding doors and well, stamped right on it was a stark “Do Not Eat” warning. I was once invited up to Mt. Sunapee N.H. by my Uncle Seymour who was a selectman in nearby Goshen to go snowboarding which is like skateboarding but on snow not land….but Aw Shucks! …never mind…It was sleeting so like a wimp I played it safe had him take me to a swap meet instead.

     Well my nerves were stretched tighter than a snare drum but one sidewise glance at oh so stolidly calm Sherman Holmes and I rallied and soldiered on with strengthened resolve inspired by his sangfroid. Sensing I needed a break, Holmes said, “Let’s find some shade, fill our canteens at yonder streamlet, and apply salve to ward off poison sumac.” As we rested Holmes sapiently observed, “The monster seems to be slavishly subservient perhaps spellbound by Shockley. With his Svengali-like hold, he sends him out on killing sprees then summons him back like a puppet on a string. Maybe he’s subjecting him to his control via an implanted semiconductor microchip linked to a supercomputer. It’s best I just subdue and apprehend Smedley and not use this sidearm here in a messy shootout. If he dies in such a scuffle and the beast is out slaughtering and causing strife far away will you or I or even Salvatore be able to snap it out of its trance and spin it around? Alas, lest we become sleepyheaded and turn this into a siesta, while there’s still sunshine let’s proceed.”

     Just after dusk under cover of semidarkness we reached Smedley’s skunkworks. Finding it surrounded by a wooden fence, we smeared ourselves with some stickum-like substance, slunk over to the fence, shinnied up a corner post, and cautiously slid down the other side. Holmes whispered, “A long seclusion has led to a slipshod approach to security.” He then observed, “Smedley has no searchlights scanning back and forth or surveillance cameras or motion sensors going and no one is on sentry duty. I bet both of those stinkbugs are inside engaging in subversive activities.” With no need for a long stakeout waiting for the safest moment to steal our way in undetected, we just swaggered up front and waltzed in.

INSIDE SMEDLEY’S LAIR

     We lacked building specs and schematics of any kind but open hearing an incessant strident screaky wail coming from a sublevel, we found a stairwell and descended. After passing through a slender corridor we came directly to a stadium-sized strongroom with a retractable roof. So whenever it suited him, Smedley could simply press a button, make it slide open like a nuclear weapon silo, release the beast from solitary confinement, and let it soar to the surface.

     We then came across a sad spectacle and Holmes gasped, “Holy smokes, the beast! And it’s a shadow of itself in the throes of a seizure lying supine alternatively spastically thrashing about then remaining stationary just motionless and notice the unhealthy splotches of yellow dotting its spiniferous body.” Smedley was stooped over it, emotionally shattered, probing with his stethoscope. He then sniped at Salvatore, “You simpleton, didn’t I specify no scallops lest he go into shutdown mode and succumb?” Salvatore shrank at the verbal salvo and weeping and sniffling answered, “But I didn’t want to be selfish with the shellfish.” Smedley ranted, “To overcome this supercolossal setback due to your stupidity I must create a brand spanking new beast. Taking no shortcuts and working with dogged sticktoitiveness I will with utmost surety eliminate susceptibility to allergies this time and make a spitting image of him.”

     Ready for showtime and with gun drawn Holmes cried, “Not to be a spoilsport, I admire your spunk but nay, you’re going to the slammer and you won’t be sequencing any DNA there. Don’t be sapheads and try any stunts but raise your hands.” Smedley enthused, “The famous shamus himself, superstar detective Sherman Holmes, bane of scofflaws worldwide! Who else to find my inner sanctum and snare me. Alas, I gave short shrift to the rumor that the superrich shipbuilders and bigtime shippers of the world, stirred to action by shrinking profit margins…notwithstanding insurance settlements…and jittery stockholders, had hired you. Yes I’m a bit shuttered in here but I do have a shortwave radio that picks up mostly static but also intermittent stray chatter.”

     Holmes warned, “No tricks!...I’m a sharpshooter who at the last Scarborough Fair won all the stuffed animals at the shooting gallery. Alas the scumbag carny, sulking over my cleaning out his vast stockpile of snuggly prizes, came at me with two scruffy ruffians. One grabbed me in a stranglehold, the other held a switchblade to my neck, while the carny smirked at me as he took back his Snoopy, Sylvester the Cat, SpongeBob Squarepants, and everything else and scampered off. I’m not the submissive type and can handle myself in a scrap but I was a bit sallow with a stomachache from too much sarsaparilla soda and Skittles and felt a bit too sickish to resist much.”

     Smedley remarked, “Try you? Holy Schmoly Nay! An old schoolmate of mine became a sergeant at Scotland Yard and once told me you smoked their top snipers in an off the books, not even semiofficial yea not sanctioned at all contest.”

     Holmes replied, “Indeed, now be seated on that sofa without moving your hands in the slightest. while I straightaway get you apprehended.” Holmes then removed one of his sneakers, a shoe phone a la Maxwell Smart! to dial the New Zealand police superintendent who was at the nearest substation at the ready. After supplying him with the specifics he admonished, “No need for a SWAT team swarming in here laying siege to the place. No splashy theatrics. Just a speedy seamless transfer to your custody.”

     Next while staring at me Smedley inquired, “Holmes, may I get my specs from my shirtfront pocket?” Holmes agreed whereupon Smedley scanned my features again then all smiles chirped, “Shazam! I should’ve known! The literary stylist Misakman! Ye of the snappy prose and stirring alliterative tales. Now call me sixpence short of a shilling (Author’s note…British slang for screwy) but chances are slim you’re here for the scenery. Listen, there is a superabundance of info about me but it gets a bit scanty out there when it comes to Salvatore, no mere servant but my Sancho Panza, my loyal swordbearer. Indeed you’re doing Letter S thus…Holmes!...before the police squad shows up let Sal to give a summary of his life to Misakman. I’m not slinging bull when I say it reads like a great screenplay!”

SALVATORE: A LIFE

     Holmes nodded and Salvatore obliged going, “Well when I was a mere squalling suckling in swaddling clothes momma, a spiritual lady but Sheesh! darn the luck, passed away while on a sightseeing tour of Vatican City. She had bumped into the sacrosanct ruler of the Holy See, the pope himself, out for a stroll stretching his limbs after a long synod. After he sprinkled holy water on her she tripped on her shoelaces and smacked her head on the cement and Splat!... her brains were strewn all over St. Peter’s Square. She was a good signora so I bet she went to St. Peter’s Gate and not southerly where the bad sinners go.

     Later poppa fell for a pretty signorina who became my stepmother who I remember stressing, ‘Salvatore, it’s nel sangre, in your blood, to be a man of science like a the great Santorio Santorio (a.k.a. Santorius of Padua) , your ancestor on your momma’s side.’ In the late sixteenth early seventeenth century he wrote the De Statica Medicina. Poppa was a humble shoemaker and not one for speeches but while on his sickbed dying from a severe strain of salmonella poisoning from some bad scungili, old Salvatore Sr. softly but clearly said, ‘You’re momma was a sweetie pie but she no tie her a shoestrings too good. She always say Sal must be a studious boy no like a his smartass brother Silvio who become a stickup kid and a safecracker and wind up in a San Quentin.’

     I tell you his sheepskin moccasins, supersoft yet durable and free shoetree with purchase!, were better than Sebagos . I recall too a fine pair of slingback stilettos he made one time for this splayfooted high society lady who liked to dance the samba. When I was a little squirt and helped as his shoeshine boy he’d make me a sub heavy on the salami and pesto.

     Anyway, in spite of my parents’ consistent stance, I shunned the schoolroom in favor of the streets and became a shakedown artist/enforcer type. So one day I’m bashing a guy’s skull against the sidewalk. He’d been caught schtooking a mafia strongman’s wife and muscling in on his slumlord racket. I’m busy snuffing out this sleazeball and he’s all splayed out there on the blood spattered pavement when this superintense feeling sweeps over me. There was this seismic shift in my thinking, an epiphany, and I’m like, “I’m spinning my wheels and need to do some stocktaking.” There was an image of a sandglass superimposed over the sky draining away quickly symbolizing how I was letting my life slip away. Doling out superviolent punishment on guys even those lousy snitching sewer rat stoolies didn’t seem fun anymore. I wasn’t some snaggletoothed senile old man yet but I didn’t need a stopwatch to tell me my reflexes were slowing down and that the odds of surviving much longer against younger slicksters eager to make me a statistic were low. My enthusiasm had slackened to the point I felt stymied like by a giant sedative. That very weekend I decided no more shilly-shallying I’ll go to the superette and grab the Sunday paper then look through the classified section and find a new job that suits me.

     There was an opening at the switchyard for a guy to stencil label the cars but I’m a slobola with paint and one for a switchman there too. There was one for a stockboy at a superstore, a plaster and stucco guy, a sax player and a silversmith even. There was one for a sous-chef but no one likes my spam dishes and they say my sorghum sourdough bread tastes too much like seawater. There was a systems analyst job but being semiliterate at best with computers and always bad with SKYPE and Excel spreadsheets, I passed on that. There was one for a sotto voce male opera singer for a semistaged production of Stauss’s Salome who wouldn’t overpower the soprano female but my vocals are too scratchy. The ones for semiskilled labor jobs didn’t offer enough simoleons to get by but then one offering a decent salary for a lab assistant provided a stimulus. When I was a schoolkid my family stressed this field so much it finally seeped in. Smedley hired me and things went swimmingly except for a slip-up…he skipped mentioning my having to clean up lotsa stinky smelly monster poop.”

THE JIG IS UP FOR SMEDLEY & SALVATORE

     Next the cops arrived and with a strictly business attitude (Holmes’ message sunk in!) they slapped the cuffs on and ushered them to a spartan yet sanitary and adequate cell at their main station. Luckily our pilot was a supertalented mechanic and had the plane sounding great after hours of sweating over the repairs. “I shall book a suite at the hotel a stone’s throw from the courthouse in New Zealand where supercriminals are tried,” said Holmes as we boarded.

     On the plane he added, “For shites and giggles, from the vast salamagundi of superfantastic theories I discarded re the beast, I’ll sling your way my shortened versions of a few…

     I visited a village in Slovakia where a storekeeper claimed the beast was conjured up by a magic spell gone awry from a local coven of skanky scabby scraggly shrewish hags during a sabbat celebrating some solstice or another. They intended to invoke a succubus to sexually assault the village smith while he slept. The head of this vile sisterhood had one spitfire temper and he’d managed to put her in a snippy mood. Now he cut quite a strapping figure with his tight stonewashed jeans and his buff suntanned look. One day when he came from his smithy to deliver a stockpot she had ordered she tried to seduce him but he rebuffed her smoochy advances and also said no to trying her shortbread sugar cookies laced with scopolamine to make him more susceptible. She then vowed revenge via satanic rites upon her uncooperative studhorse

     The group was adept at summoning demons (no run of the mill séances here) while in a stepwise methodical not at all slapdash fashion adding items to a boiling spuming cauldron. But a semitrained initiate not up to speed on the ritual let things spiral out of control this night mistakenly adding stalk of snapdragon instead of sprig of skunkweed and adding scarabs instead of sandworms. Not only that she added stem of southernwood instead of stamen of spiderwort and instead of a sex demon our superformidable nemesis appeared. However after studying the mishap I found it was a not at all similar monstrosity, a huge spider with a squirrel head, that the eyewitness, a local stonecutter, has noticed scuttering about the woods since that day.

     Another theory had Druidic shamans engaging in sylvan rites aligning their magic scepters with the Stonehedge monuments on the Salisbury plain at Wiltshire back home and opening up a stargate portal. But while they brought in superintelligent beings from Sirius our beast slipped in from the Orion system. I traced this all to a few bored scriptwriters stoned on ‘shrooms snowjobbing a newsguy for kicks.”

SHERMAN ANTICPATES TROUBLE (IN N.Z.)

     At the hotel Holmes smelled a rat warning, “When I nabbed my last superbaddie Sol ‘The Skunk’ Sistrunk, I was victimized by strong arm tactics. The trial was slated for the afternoon in a Syracuse N.Y. courthouse. When I arrived to take the stand I was told a superfast trial had been held at sunup and he’d already been ‘sentenced’. It was a sham conducted by a sidewinder of a judge, a Samuel Softon. Rumor has it he asked Sol, “Why rot in Sing Sing if you can practice your specialty messing with sarin gas and strychnine and whatnot working for the supersecretive Spiderweb organization spearheading our research into supervirulent bioweaponry? Well it wasn’t a superdifficult decision for this sleazy scuzzbucket and once he assented the law was subverted and he was whisked off to a subterranean lab to ply his trade for the superpowerful group.”

     Next a group of submachine gun toting heavies stormed into our room located at the top story of the building and dangled each of us over the sill while the leader sardonically cracked, “If you do any stalling and don’t just pack your suitcases and get the next stagecoach outta Dodge you’ll get a free skydiving lesson from us sans the gear.” While I was speechless Holmes obliged with a sedate acquiescence while giving me a sidelong glance and winking.

HEADING BACK TO BAKER ST.

     On the plane Holmes divulged the superslick stratagem he had up his sleeve. He related, “After being snakebitten with Sol “The Skunk” Sistrunk I am hip to the smothering enormity of these superplayers’ pull. The sentencing there was merely to give the proceedings a semblance of justice. Though shunted aside again I will get the scoop on what the judge, a Sanford Softon, Sammy’s equally slippery sibling, is up to. Sheldon, the courthouse janitor, er sanitation engineer, will secretly record every word, every syllable uttered by those two slimeballs Sanford and Smedley.

     My superbrave friend Sheldon reassured me, ‘Sherman you old stinkweed, in a bit of a sticky wicket eh? I’ll just channel my inner Sam Spade and Spenser for Hire. Got the subminiature mics you mailed me, hid ‘em in the wall sconces in the courtroom for starters. In the chambers got one in a Lazy Susan and another in a coal scuttle beside a showy faux fireplace and yet another behind a supersized portrait of Softon’s Uncle Cecil, and Great Scott!...he’s one ugly sucker with his sourball expression.’”

     Re Sheldon Holmes elaborated, “I met Shelly at a Sussex countryside farm where my Uncle Sherwood kept a few of his prize steeds: a massive shire horse named Silas and a racehorse Sheba. I still have a saddlecloth from when she won at Salisbury! He was a stable boy/ farmhand doing the ‘lowly scutwork’ in Uncle’s words, but disregarding his subjective bias, I’d help my pal clean the stalls and come seedtime help with planting. Well through the social media site Snapchat we reconnected recently. He told me that when he was in his sixties a distant stepbrother bequeathed him a stud farm in New Zealand. He worked like a slave there until his seventieth year when he became semiretired after finally selling it.

     The sedentary life had him feeling spiritess so he visited the judge who once bought a Shetland pony from him explaining , ‘Got a bit socked away from my stockbreeding days but didn’t realize it stunk so bad being idle. But I got me a shed fulla tools…my stepladder for your odd jobs and my trusty straw broom to keep your courthouse spotless. For big jobs gotta pair of sawhorses (Yank synonym for sawbucks…not the bills worth 10 smackers but the things for cutting scaffolding planks). I’m not a plumber per se but I can fix a shutoff valve and install a sump pump if need be.’

     Softon replied, ‘Ok you’re my maintenance supervisor! Grab some sixpenny nails and get to securing the loose floorboards under the skylight in the lobby where I stubbed my toe and aggravated my sciatic nerve yesterday but check the subflooring first. We may be sundrenched now but that area gets sopping wet when it’s raining so check the shingles on the roof. In my chambers are new semifinished sycamore cabinets in need of a coat of shellac before being hung from the soffit above. I also have two semiround sidepieces, a set of half moon night stands I picked up at a yard sale that are on shims, that I need you to straighten up and make level.’

     Softon reminisced, ‘Ah Sheldon! How my wife loved your sheltie, rode it sidesaddle wearing her skirts she did, until the scoliosis in her spine got too bad. Then a trader intrigued by his siring possibilities and his unique sienna coat paid us severalfold what I paid you and made him a steeplechase champion!’”

BACK AT SHERMAN’S PLACE

     Once we made it back, feeling somnolent due to our superarduous journey, we enjoyed a salubrious few days of rest. Our lengthy sleeptime was preempted by the overly strepitous chimes, Auld Lang Syne ad nauseum, of the doorbell. “When I switched the ring from Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony to this I must have turned it up a skosh when I meant to soften the volume,” said Holmes. Anyhow, at the stoop was a smallish package from Sheldon and arriving simultaneously a newspaper proclaiming in superlarge font, “Case Sewn Up. Shockley Off To Supermax Prison”. Holmes cracked, “Play me for a simp eh? These recordings from old Shell’s high stakes mission will reveal the scam these scurrilous shysters are pulling.”

WE CHECK OUT SHELDON’S INTEL

     Sheldon’s note read, “These memory sticks will prove my boss is a sellout to this supergiant heinous group. Maybe I’m sophomoric in my paranoia or belong in a sanitarium in a straitjacket but I fear these insidious screwworms have created spyware that can infiltrate all internet servers worldwide. I know it strains credulity but it’s not as superimprobable as you think so I shipped ‘em rather than leave the stinkeroos a cybertrail.”

     The nearly seventeen hours of recordings offered substantive proof that this group of superarrogant manipulators were indeed sabotaging the current order on a massive scale in order to supplant it with a shockingly brutal form of totalitarian socialism. Here are the highlights of the scandalous transcripts featuring the smarmy Judge Softon and the impressionable scuzzbag Shockley:

Softon:

      “My, are you strung out! If the jailhouse experience was suboptimal I must shore up any deficiencies”


Shockley:

      “It was stressful your honor. The cell was like a shoebox, enough to make one stir crazy or suicidal before long. They could splurge on A/C because it was like a sweatbox too. And the stench…P.U!....it stank of a sickroom and could’ve used a spray bottle of Febreeze. I recommend their ‘sandalwood and soothe’ scent and that you get Lysol air sanitizer too. For a pleasant setoff to the drab place, you could spiff up the walls with a few coats of calm Schauss pink semigloss too. The soup was a cross between pond scum and raw sewage so you ought to keep Alka-Seltzer and sodium bicarbonate handy. That one spoonful I had wasn’t lovin’ me (John Sebastian fans…Smile!...a joke just for you!) and the saltines were stale anyway. The Saharan conditions had a somniferous effect upon me but Salvatore’s snoring kept me awake. Now I’m no epitome of sanctity but noticing a softcover edition of the Bible, I figured the Song of Solomon, that uplifting book of the Holy Scriptures, might have a salutary effect upon me. My spirit soared but alas, the substandard illumination, barely flickering striplights, made reading impossible.

      If there was a survey 1 to 10, I hate to be supercritical but I’d give the place a subzero mark. But today’s breakfast of southwestern burrito with salsa and bacon strips on the side, all very succulent, and then the cinnamon scones to die for, positively Savoyesque, merits an asterisk.”

     Now Sanford was a former seminarian but he scuttled that career by being sloshed too often instead of learning the sacraments. He finally embraced sobriety, put his smarts to work, and excelled scholastically to become a master of statutory law. As a judge he was prone to sententious sermonizing and earned the sobriquet “Softie Softon” especially for letting schnooks and crooks get off scot-free.


Softon:

      “Be confident that those stumblebums who have lowered our standards allowing such squalor and misery will be sacked forthwith. As a consolation, relax in my supercomfortable shiatsu massage recliner and enjoy a creamsicle smoothie in my chambers. Also choose from a smorgasbord of delights…s’mores snickerdoodles, ginger snaps, Sno-Caps nonpareils, and even sugarplums. A veritable sweetshop!”

      Once Smedley had chosen his stimulating massage settings and got busy slaking his appetite, Softon went into his salesman mode……


Softon:

      “Smedley, I represent the superelite clandestine Spiderweb that all superpowers as well as smaller nations are subordinate to. You can settle for a life in a filthy sty of a prison where you just stare at ugly walls forever or work for us in a swanky superluxurious subsurface lab. This is no sinecure where you just screw around but it’s no sweatshop either. At this supermodern facility, a resort spa really, we pay a healthy stipend. With hefty allocations from our septillion dollar budget you can work in the subscience of creating monsters like your strangeling beast. We don’t ask you to sublimate your sinisterial impulses and be good but we do ask our supervillains (our favorite demographic subcategory) to subsume their megalomania enough to let us call the shots and work with us in solidarity of purpose. We want to sow so much misery that the sheeple will beg their leaders, all in on our supranational cabal, for solutions allowing us to superadd to our power until we satisfy our objective and the world is one big superstate, national sovereignty be damned.”


Shockley:

      “What a spectacular plot to gain world supremacy and subjugate all mankind! Stinko for any poor schlub not in the club, any dumb schmo not in the know, and any lame-o schlemiel not in on the deal! Sign me up!”     


Softon:

      “Bravo! Now Smedley, our plan to hold sway is more scrutable if you understand the subplot, a more sparsely populated planet. You must get your brain synapses firing and do the mental somersaults necessary to devise superefficient methods to reduce the troubling surplus of Homo Sapiens which has septupled over the last two centuries. Of course with us subsidizing your work, your superweapon of a monster will surpass the old one. As a secondary thing you can help us with superbugs…we have smallpox, syphilis, and other tiny even submicroscopic germs you can tinker with.”


Smedley:

      “No prob! With my beast I think I’ll sharpen the fangs so they’re like stalactites upper and stalagmites lower. I’ll make it sonar-proof, undetectable by subs or submersible devices. It’ll evade sounding equipment by being able to keep to the seafloor like a shipworm subsisting on sediment and whatnot.”


Softon:

      “Great! Other supersecret projects require your salient insights. Should we boost the superstrength toxicity of our chemtrails, maybe add more strontium or mold spores or perhaps a smattering of aluminum or other supergerms? We just give the simplistic explanation that what’s being sprayed is as harmless as what skywriters use! With our subatomic nanotechnology could we make our smartdust even smarter? Help with our cloud seeding so like the supermen gods of old we can create sandstorms, cyclones, and weather anomalies. As scripted, disaster relief contractors and subcontractors will quickly sweep into town followed by real estate speculators while the poor mostly subliterate get displaced."


Smedley:

      “Boy this all sounds great and I feel superlucky to have won a slot with you guys!”     


Softon:

      “Capital Smedley! We’re syncretizing all religions…Christianity with all its subgroups due to schisms, Shinto, Santeria, you name it…into one as well, no sectarianism allowed. We’ll keep engineering stagflation, economic slowdowns, and depressions at will while piling surtaxes upon taxes. We’re an ancient superpatient group that has just hit the speedup button so the world is one big slaughterhouse, a saturnalia of war and mayhem. Then we’ll have our spinmeisters present a supersmooth politician….think the supercilious President Snow played by Donald Sutherland in the Hunger Games…..


Smedley:

      “Yeah, he was cloned by an alien seedpod in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and became a spaced out zombie, a simulacrum of himself!”


Softon:

      “Er... interesting sidelight info Smedley but continuing on…. With great showmanship this silver-tongued fellow will deliver his specious spiel prepared by our speechwriters holding himself up as a savior, an ace problem solver. Anyone who tries to smirch his high sheen carefully manufactured squeaky clean image and expose the skeletons in his closet will be eliminated as our loyal serf superintensively pushes forth our agenda. The world, a big snarly mess due to direct and spillover effects of our actions, will snowball out of control like it’s supposed to. We the unelected superclass who storyboard mankind’s fate with deft sleight of hand will keep staging elaborate supercatastrophes then go steamrolling over the Constitution till we reach a synthesis, a stratified society administered by sharpie technocrats, distant suzerain overlords if you will, as the scrabbling masses grovel in servitude.

      Our subjects will be segregated from us and be herded into scroungy semiderelict at best slums, shantytowns essentially. Yes we’ll always need a subclass, an untouchable subcaste, to do hard labor. The victors will live sumptuously in guarded isolated sectors, pristine cities shimmering in the distance. Researchers will live securely in superdeluxe apartments below and jet-setters and administrators will remain above in these supersafe cities in snazzy homes and buildings, each an architectural showpiece.”     

Smedley:

      “But what of superloyal Salvatore who despite screwing up at times is a rock of stability with whom I’ve had a symbiotic relationship?”

Softon:

      “The star chamber deep within our superorganization is very selective. Only the superaccomplished can join us and be taught our shibboleths and the meaning of our occult symbolism. I know it sucks but be not saddled with sadness. He’ll be set up with a concession stand business offering Italian slush, spumoni, and sorbet on a Sausalito beach where he’ll compete with the shawarma and souvlaki guys.”

      Then Softon, using his personal stationery, scrawled out his quick summation of the proceedings ending with, “The supersharp cunning of the police and my stringent application of the law has scotched the machinations of Mr. Shockley.” He proceeded to summon via speakerphone his man Smithers to tell him, “Smithers, you’re my stenographer and court secretary and now you’re my media spokesman too. No speechmaking for me today considering not only am I stubbly having not yet shaven but I am still clothed in my sleepwear and wearing my slippers and overall look like a slob. Before first sunlight today this massive sumo wrestler of a guy snagged me out of bed and tossed me in a big black sedan and told me, ‘No time to issue subpoenas or suborn witnesses per the group! Under whatever subchapter you choose… subsection this, subpart that, subparagraph this, and subclause that…suit yourself just convict Shockley. Then from the courthouse steps tell all that the specter of mayhem from his superaggressive beast is past.’ Don’t soil your pants Smithers for the assembled press is mostly slavering sycophantic Spiderweb assets anyway and you’ll be Cicero with your sparkling oratory.”

SHERMAN (AND I) HAVE VISITORS!

      Next direct from a Roaring ‘20s speakeasy came two guys in sharkskin suits, a stubby little fellow puffing a stogie resembling Scarface Al Capone and a big superstrong looking lug with a rather saturnine expression like a stonefish. Said the diminutive one in a raspy sandpapery voice, “I’m Shorty and this is Sluggo. No we didn’t shimmy down the chimney like Santa, but I merely shimmed the door lock.” We’re taking you to Lord Summersby’s supertanker currently at the port in Southampton where you can sum up how you solved the case.”

      We hopped in a very sleek Stutz Blackhawk and with Shorty driving we quickly reached the seashore. We were hustled aboard ‘The Samson’, no mere sloop indeed!, and were led to a stateroom where the chief steward brought us endless salvers of food. For appetizers we had the Szechuan scallion pancakes and subgum fried rice and while I quaffed on a sangria spritzer Holmes enjoyed a soave spumante. For the meal while the wiener schnitzel and shrimp scampi were tempting we picked the beef stroganoff and cheese soufflé.

ENTER SUMMERSBY

      The superbusy tycoon arrived, via Sikorsky helicopter no less, explaining, “I left a business seminar in Switzerland early to rush here and release my shipmaster from his duties and as a stopgap measure take over for the hopeless souse after summarily dismissing him. When he got stewed on a bottle of sambuca recently the Samson went slamming into a sandbar running aground on a shallow reef. Before that despite having plenty of searoom to maneuver in a well-mapped seaway he managed to smash the hull against a seamount specifically marked on the chart. Later over by Seattle near Puget Sound he toppled a cable stayed bridge. The governor of Washington in a splenetic rage issued a statewide ban on us.”     

      Slumping into his chair he continued, “Today on his approach he hit a Sunseeker off our stern. The angry sportsman, his craft now a pile of sticks, reproved our captain in stentorian fashion uttering salty billingsgate of utmost severity from the water. Vowing to sue us he kept up with unkind slurs but when a scow unable to sheer off just plowed over him he submerged then drowned. Pardon my sarcasm here but perhaps his shortness of temper invited a divine smackdown.

      I found out today that my accident prone skipper was so strapped for cash he was barely solvent, in a financial sinkhole from gambling poorly playing skat versus card sharps. To alleviate his shortfalls I found out the stinkpot took to raiding the strongbox and even allowed stowaways on board for a fee. First was a fugitive shoplifter who’d swiped a bunch of sportswear and sporting goods from a supercenter warehouse. His haul included Speedo swimsuits, various sweatpants, semifitted yoga pants, Slazenger sweatshirts, a few six-packs of Sportcraft shuttlecocks, a seine fishing net, and… a big surfboard to boot! Next was a drug dealing scuzz of a guy who hooked many subteens on speedballs and had escaped a police standoff down at the schoolyard.     

      Well, enough of my shoptalk…Now Sherman, do you recall at my semiformal ball at my summerhouse in Shrewsbury when you bested me at my skeet range while I made my first stab at hiring you. Well I have since added a red dot scope to my shotgun and sharpened my aim considerably and am now salivating for a rematch. Besides, I could show you my new solarium I built, yes a sunroom, which beats sitting under a sunlamp, and my new sauna bath too.” Holmes replied, “It would be bad sportsmanship not to accept, but don’t rip up the scorecard or rip hair from your scalp again when I soundly beat you.” Summersby admitted, “I must not get all supercharged with emotion and act like a stubborn schoolchild and embrace serenity instead.”

      Our host who had cast a few sideward glances my way now donned his spectacles to scrutinously observe me. Then as if rocked by a sonic boom he leapt up and shouted, “I’m starstuck! It’s The Misakman. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe your seminal epics of scintillating wit and satirical humor. In fact I believe I have the symptoms of Misakman syndrome, so common within that subpopulation of diehard Misakman superfans. Indeed my old faves---Steinbeck, Shelley etc.---have become boring soundalikes, their novels reeking of a stagnant sameness. Even Stoker with his sepulchral tales of the suave vampire Lestat from the Carpathian steppes rising from his sarcophagus to add to his slavelike harem fails me now.”

      He expounded, “I aimed to be a screenwriter but managed only submarginal schlock full of stilted dialogue and trite staple literary tropes. Most of my work…serial adventures, sci-fi spoofs, soap operas, semidocumentary style film noir, semiautobiographical dramas...was flung in the Hollywood scrapheap. My ‘Scantily Clad Stewardesses Vs. The Spacemen’ was a semipopular sexploitation flick but didn’t exactly skyrocket me to fame. Neither did the follow-ups ‘Sexpot Starlets Vs. The Saturnians’ or ‘Seminude Showgirls Vs. The Flying Saucer Men’. When the domestic box office was pure suckdom with them, the distributor added subtitles in Spanish, Swahili, and Sanskrit but foreign returns proved skimpy.

      By the way Misakman, my nephew Sumner, who got into Suffolk University on a merit scholarship and graduated summa cum laude, took a course on their syllabus in the newest subdiscipline of literature Allit 101 in which the students dissected all your superexcellent works replete with quirky storylines, sidesplittingly funny humor, and interesting subthemes.

      I can’t shake the feeling I should’ve kept at it. When I was a mere sprog instead of making sandcastles when they put me in my little sunsuit and dropped me in the sandbox I’d build a Mississippi steamboat, yeah one of those old-fashioned sidewheelers, or a huge steamship like the Titanic superliner, or a noble sachem spearing a bison, or St. Nick with his sleigh complete with sleighbells and reindeer. Then with a starburst of creativity I would concoct cool stories involving my sandy masterpieces.

      Then I look at a Hollywood in a creative stasis afflicted with sequelitis churning out subaverage fare. Instead of the sextillionth movie with semianimate zombies or comic book superheroes how about I dust off my ’Sunbathing Sorority Girls Vs. The Killer Seabirds’? That’s when a mutant subspecies of seafowl run afoul. Who joins the seagulls and their ilk but the shorebirds too like the long billed sandpipers. Later the psycho finches, seedeaters gone amok, enlist as do the beserk shrikes…Yikes! It’s not too smutty though the heroines’ swimwear does get torn off while they sprint away in terror.

      I finally sensed it was time to join the family stockbrokerage firm and embrace my role as the scion of the house of Summersby. Under my stewardship we now have numerous subsidiaries even spinoff companies. Synergy is a challenge but there’s a steelyard, smelting plant, shipyard, television superstation, and even a sawmill though I’m allergic to sawdust. We’re a big stakeholder in a commodities firm where my supersmart traders bet well on soybean and sowbelly futures and whatnot.

      Alas I am prone to soliloquy, gushing like a broken spigot or showerhead gone haywire. Let us segue to the case!.... Call me supersuspicious but was that Smithers doing a phony shtick for that seedy Softon guy? Then I thought, ‘Holmes is back but likely out of sync with jetlag and needing sleep but at the same time with Shorty and Sluggo already in Soho nearby delivering sis per sixtieth birthday gift… exquisite stemware I won at a Sotheby’s auction, antique brandy snifters!… I’ll seize the day and get him.”

      Holmes replied, “After sewing up the loose strands of the case that had stumped all I was about to speed dial you anyway. Indeed we got shafted with some thugs not very subtly demanding we skip town before the trial….but they underestimated my spycraft. I have supersensitive info, audio that sinks the credibility of Softon and the elite snobs who control him.”

SUMMERSBY’S REACTION

      After playing a sampling of the recordings through the portable speakers attached to his Samsung laptop, Summersby commented, “These slobbering sows whose gluttony for control cannot be surfeited now have this Shockley snugly within their clutches. I thought I was shockproof but this sockdolager floors me. These stinking rats, saboteurs of the current order, with consummate stagecraft manipulate world events. They will leave me, the starchy aristocrat, a man of stature, with nary a seaworthy vessel and will have me living in a shanty no better off than the squeegee man. Alas I’ve always subscribed to the slogan ‘Sic Transit Gloria’ anyway.”

      Holmes added, “The suckup corporate media, collectively just a subagency of simpering lackeys to the Spiderweb, skew the news to suit an agenda instead of safeguarding freedom of the press. They snooker the public spoon-feeding them with superficial sugarcoated slanted explanations of events.” Summersby vowed, “I’ll do like Edward Snowden and inform the man they deem a scandalmonger to be squelched, Julian Assange of the whole shemozzle. If I’m found out they’ll accuse me of sedition even supertreason for hipping Wikileaks. Unless they have me ‘suicided’, they may stage a fatal ‘skiing accident’ like they did for songster Sonny Bono. They’ll claim I did my best sideslipping maneuver yet ran right smack into a snowmaking cannon or tree. Or I’ll end up in a slag heap of a prison camp worse than any stalag the goose-stepping swastika-wearing Nazis ever built.”

      He then grabbed a scratchpad and a black Sharpie and said, “Now being an avid autograph seeker I’m not shy so Misakman, Could I have your signature?” I complied unlike many a snooty sports hero who refuse starry eyed fans. He continued, “Sherman, superagent par-excellence, you a rare species who deserves all the specie in circulation for all this.” He then flipped open a snuffbox resting atop a sheaf of papers on his messy desk and pulled out a slip of paper. On it he superscribed an amount sixfold the original fee. He added an impression from his signet ring that sealed the deal admitting, “This smacks of extravagance perhaps with my finances in a swan dive, but any other sendoff and I’d feel like a scrooge paying subscale wages.”

      Next he buzzed our two city slicker friends who emerged from a sideroom and after a sidebar type chat with them announced, “The Stutz needs struts and suspension work so you will go via my sporty Stingray speedboat over the water to Summersby’s Swizzle Stick Restaurant. Enjoy the surf and turf while Shorty and Sluggo dig out my Supra stowed away in the garage there…after they get my snowplow and Sunfish out of the way!”

WE’RE OFF AGAIN WITH SHORTY AND SLUGGO

      At the restaurant I ordered a sloe gin fizz and Holmes a Singapore sling as we enjoyed the live skiffle band and watched a few surfcasters trying their luck along the shorefront. Then for surf we got skipjack tuna, filet of sole, even a pile of steamers!...while for turf it was steak tips with sautéed onions and spareribs to boot. We made like rambunctious scamps and played skeeball and table soccer while waiting. After the meal the server said, “I just gave Shorty a pail of sudsy water and a shammy so while he applies spit and polish to the Supra do you spongers, er fellows, want dessert?” Sis-Boom-Bah! Hooray! We certainly did so I got an orange sherbet and Holmes a vanilla sundae slathered with chocolate syrup and after that what the heck, I got an apple strudel and Holmes a strawberry shortcake.

      Shorty came warning, “Let’s scat. At the steering wheel will be part Michael Schumacker part Hollywood stuntman part Jackie Stewart..Sluggo! With him every sideroad is a superhighway , his own personal speedway but I’m tired and riding shotgun. He swerves around a lot but hasn’t had a spinout or smashup yet.”     

      Holmes confessed later, “The near misses!…the signpost, the semitrailer, the lady pushing a stroller who went skittering back to the curb, and then the guy on a scooter with the kid in the sidecar…Oh My! Now I’m at best semireligious, more of a secular type but I chanced to look up through the sunroof and noticed not St. Joe again but…a semimythical type entity, a sylphlike being whose brilliance shone like a sunbeam. Meanwhile the air smelt of a pleasant vanilla sage smudge stick. I looked sidewards to nudge you and apprise you my seatmate but alas, she had disappeared beyond my sightline into the skyline. Many would say I’m schizoid or had some bad snuff or was high on smack, but indeed she resembled my dear late sissy, perhaps now an angel jumping from the sidelines to save us in our scrape with death. If there’s a celestial scorekeeper keeping the stats he must now promote her to where the seraphs and sanctified ones are.”

      Later Sluggo nearly sideswiped another semi while getting off at the Sudbury exit after which he ran a stoplight and just missed hitting a streetlight while passing a little Subaru subcompact in his way. Finally he turned into a Sinclair Saltonstall’s Luxury Auto Showroom…according to the gaudy neon signage.

EPISODE AT SINCLAIR’S

      Sluggo drove near the salesroom where Sinclair was schmoozing with a client on the lot as he sang the praises of a Lamborghini Silhouette. Our hosts stared at Sinclair and were clearly stewing mad at him. The unaware Sinclair while flashing his semipermanent salesguy grin, nay risus sardonicus it was so over the top, was bragging, “Note the sinuous symmetry in the design, the custom rear spoiler.”…until he noticed them! With this unexpected shock he practically leapt out of his shorts and tried to scuttle away but the pair as if propelled by a slingshot at supersonic speed caught up to him. Sluggo slugged Sinclair right in the schnoz while Shorty whacked his shinbones with a tire iron. Sinclair tried to stanch the spillage of blood with his shirtsleeves but it leaked unabated like a sieve. Falling down he got all scuffed up and probably sprained his ankle.

      While they continued beating the stuffing out of him Shorty scornfully berated him, “You scuzzy cheat. With dishonest salesmanship you sweetened the deal with our boss with amenities then skimped on them. Where are the monogrammed splashguards, the fancy spoked rims, the reclining seatbacks, and the new skidproof tires to replace these with sidewall damage? A souped up Supra? You merely applied silicone goop to stem the oil seepage instead of soldering the oil pan as promised. What of the striated veneer interior as per the swatch you showed us to replace the sunburst orange? And what about the new setscrews you agreed to install so the rearview mirror wouldn’t sag, you sphincter?"     

    Sinclair pleaded, “Guys, I was out with a staph infection, then strep throat, and then had a subtotal gastrectomy for my ulcer. Then it was off to a specialist for my stye, Cy my eye guy. I left my lazy slug of a stepson in charge but he can’t even work the stapler or the pencil sharpener and just plays solitaire all day at his desk. He skips work a lot to go out to the skatepark where he just gets a shinner or a swellbow when he fails at a slappie or stalefish move. He had a job as a stagehand at I think it was The Strand or The Shaftesbury but he dropped a light stanchion on Patrick Stewart and was shown the door. He sneaks over to the races a lot and picks the slowest horse on the track or up on the simulcast. He spends the rest of his paycheck on slutty slatternly streetwalking strumpets whom he pays dearly to do striptease or shag him. Please be sane and civilized men and cease this one-sided slugfest.”

      Shorty was retorty--(I made that word up. Shaboom!)--“How ‘bout I make like a sexton and SPLOOSH! ring your bell just like that! Strutting about in that charcoal serge suit from Saville Row and shod in those fancy snakeskin Stacy Adams you’re just full of silken excuses and how superconvenient, you blame a scapegoat.” Shorty then spat copious amounts of spittle upon his foe while directing superoffensive scatology at him. Sluggo in turn unleashed a stunning jab to the solar plexus that must have ruptured Sinclair’s spleen. Shorty informed, “Hey Sinclair, just a sec…remember Leon Spinks? Well it was the fight simulation training he did with Sluggo as his sparring partner and not shadowboxing off by himself that got him the split decision with Ali and made him superfamous overnight!”

      Sinclair, saliva-drenched from being Shorty’s personal spittoon gasped, “I’ll do all the supplementary upgrades on the Supra today and subtract the luxury car surcharge that was tacked onto the sticker price to boot. Meantime borrow that superexpensive Shelby over there or even that rare Spyker SUV four-seater parked next to it.” (Author’s note: And I thought my Buick Skylark then my Pontiac Sunbird and Volkswagen Sirocco were cool!) Shorty barked, “OK but you’ll be subjected to a worse spanking if you’re lying. We’ll take the Spyker!”

      With that we tore off leaving singed asphalt and indelible skid marks and zipped through suburbia to get home. Shorty apologized regretfully, “It did suck you guys wound up spang in the middle of that spat especially with us smacking him around like a slapstick clown in a comedy skit, but that smartypants shouldn’t have lied and then stonewalled us for weeks."     

SHERMAN (AND MISAKMAN) CHILLING

      Holmes, admiring the streetscape illuminated by copper streetlamps and dotted with storefronts with their quaint signboards proposed, “Let’s head out and amble over to The Stockyard a fine steakhouse to celebrate our return. En route Holmes quipped, “I must eat more sparingly or I’ll go from svelte to stout and have to go to the Baker St. Men’s Shoppe with my slacks bursting at the seams and ask them about spandex.” Once there we forwent the apple cider braised beef shanks and sirloin supreme with smokehouse blend seasoning they were featuring and just had spotted Richard suet pudding and chose a fine semidry sherry with a tasty semisoft (some would say semihard) Stilton cheese with crackers. Holmes marveled, “A nice view not yet spoilt by skywalks, cell phone towers, or superwide billboards!”     

      At ease in familiar surroundings (the maitre d’ had seen to it that we had a table in the semiprivate dining area reserved for his steadiest customers) Holmes recalled, “It was sophomore year in high school and I scrimped and saved for the annual storewide supersale at Schroeder’s Music and bought a great sonorous tuba. But later when the stationmaster noticed me boarding his southbound train whacking into the straphangers already packed in like sardines, he ordered me from the subway with a pointed sermonette on etiquette and bade me return it to the salesclerk for a less imposing sousaphone. If I splutter into that thing while meditating I can tap into my subconscious thereby opening the sluicegates of my mind. I go into a semimystical trance and feeling superlight I journey ever spaceward like I’m skysurfing though I’m motionless on the settee not at all squiggling about or somnambulating. Finally it’s as if a giant switchboard is activated and the mentally seesawing back and forth is over …it is spelled out in stardust no less the next case to choose!”

      Back at the flat he tried Semper Fidelis from his J.P. Sousa songbook on that sousaphone but then commented, “No quick supernova type blast today but it will come in stages.” He then grabbed his sitar, a gift from the owner of The Sahib where he went often for satay chicken, and played a Ravi Shankar songfest. As he strummed away I thought, “This is a semidetached building with superthin walls so he ought to soundproof the place.” He then tried his semiacoustic guitar with an amplified soundbox and did Santana’s Samba Pa Ti. Next after quickly snapping out of his dreamlike semiawareness he gave a shout---”It’s Sikkim Misakman! Now enjoy your sleepover and get plenty of shuteye for tomorrow it’s off to the Indian subcontinent!”     

SHERMAN ELABORATES

      I was awakened at sunrise by serenading songbirds mostly sparrows and starlings just as first light stippled through the slats of the blinds. Or was it the aroma of Sherman’s slapjacks made from stoneground flour and just the right amount of shortening and semisweet chocolate chips? He also prepared breakfast spuds and even butternut squash hash and brewed his saffron herbal tea, the equal of my Aunt Sossi’s springtime blend which had a touch of sorrel and a hint of skullcap herb.

      “I’ve received many solicitations from the Smithsonian Institute to find the abominable snowman synonymously known as the yeti.” he said at meal. “I texted my most active suitors, a few key senators on the board,and mentioned I was now smitten by the idea of seeking out the semilegendary creature. I therefore bypassed Washington’s sclerotic bureaucracy with all its subdepartments and subcommittees and suborganizations etc and all was arranged!”     

OFF TO SIKKIM…WOW!

      When we reached Sikkim we went by skiplane to the snowcapped Himalayan Mountains at Soniolchu where coincidentally according to Sherman’s sourcebooks the superwise swami Shamir resided high above. Sherman explained, “The leader of a semimonastic religious sect, he’s known as a superdoctor, one who can cure my clogged sinuses and sniffles.” Once we reached base we found our Sherpa guides who led us from the superhot scorching heat down below. Boy was I glad I packed my sunblock and sweatbands and spring water especially with the dry streambeds we encountered. Indeed it was like going on a safari into the savannah and I felt like one superbright senor for remembering to bring my sombrero for sunshade. When we got to the colder superhigh altitudes I was psyched I’d gone to the skiwear place and bought my snorkel snowsuit, La Sportiva mountain boots, and heavyknit stockings .

      After we scaled upwards yea sunwards for hours I realized the supple limbs of my youth were now like shattery ice. I felt stabbing pains in my sternum and the soles of my feet and began to feel back spasms. But then while surveying the massive skyscape with his spyglass Holmes cried, “It’s an old swarthy fellow with an oblate spheroid bulbous head in a yogi squat chanting away with great sacerdotal zeal!” When we got closer we approached with solemnity and introduced our humble selves. Shamir remarked,”Though I’m the songwriter I still forgot a few stanzas. I first had a syncopated soca beat in mind then considered suffusing it with a bit of a schmaltzy cabaret feel or adding ska overtones, but I decided on a Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos singsong chant kinda thing.

      Anyway, being scrooched down on this rock making like a piece of statuary I could’ve used a Sealy memory foam pillow or even a sandbag for my bum. With stingingly painful bursitis flaring, my bursa sac is all inflamed. I’ll need sinsemilla, yep seedless hashish, to help. That’s on top of my rectal suppository before/sitz bath after routine!”

      Wearing gold sequined sandals and a sarong swathed in sapphires and diamonds he was arrayed like a Saudi sheik. Not only that his shawl had beads of semiprecious gems, what looked like snowflake obsidian and sunstone. He explained, “I know I’ve been the symbol of simplicity and superpeity but the sackcloth robe was like saguaro cactus and was killing me so I scrapped that persona. Besides, I’m not exactly living at a subsistence level anymore hawking cheap Shamir statuettes to keep from starving. I’m the principal shareholder now in some solid business startups of mine. Here I not only breed celebrated Himalayan sheepdogs but I also cultivate the finest silkworms for thread which we roll into spools. I also teach Shaolin masters my unique subbranch of Kung Fu based on the movements of the sandhill crane.

      Now being a seer with sibylic powers I know this group seeks the yeti. Well it’s only my stepbro Skippy. He periodically dons a shaggy outfit he sewed up himself and runs about the snowdrifts. The inspiration came from a Scooby Doo episode that had him in stitches one day. A bit schizophrenic, he at times grows a beard and sideburns, puts on a stovepipe hat and black suit, then gets on stilts to be more statuesque, and vows to defeat the secessionsists from the slaveholding states. Then he as the sixteenth president Honest Abe claims, ‘If an assassin shoots me tell my successor that socioeconomically, the crummy sharecropping arrangements won’t be much of an improvement over slavery.’

      He also claims to be a spacefaring alien from a supercivilized galaxy whose spaceship crashed on a patch of scrubland nearby but not due to a shootdown. He says that during one fateful spaceflight a solenoid subassembly, a sprocket type thingie, went bad. Ejected from the spacecraft he landed in a thicket of shrubs and though like semiunconscious, faintly recalled a few servicemen hauling it away with one muttering, ‘Faltering sputnik from a Russian spaceport my butt, it’s more like a shuttlecraft from a starship and made from an unknown scratchproof superalloy.’ Heck, at times Skippy thinks he’s suffragette (or is it suffragist? Darn those suffix choices!) Elizabeth Cady Stanton and talks about how at Seneca Falls he delivered the famous Declaration of Sentiments.

Shamir Explains About Skippy….Eventually

      My dad by blood was a schoolmaster who while on vacation in Sri Lanka got too into the sonnets of Edmund Spenser one day and got smushed to death by a streetcar. A regular Pythagoras of Samos in math and geometry he taught all about sines and cosines, secants, scalene triangles subtended by the circumference of a semicircle, and the difference between subsets and supersets…but his heart would sing when he taught poetry. He would enter poetry slams and use his own sociological some would call it semipolitical verse. He’d blow it in the semifinals when they’d crank up the soundboard mixing levels and turn up the strobe lights. To the chagrin of his staunch supporters, he’d get unnerved and mess up with spoonerisms and overreliance on simile with no use of metaphor.

      Mom was a fine seamstress, a sartorial magician who could make her own saris and shirtdresses etc. and worked at a Sanjay’s tailors. She met dad, a schoolteacher then, when he walked in with a suede slipover sweater in need of mending . I forget how she met my stepfather to be, a superglue tester. One day the plan at his job was to suspend him from a beam between two skyscrapers. At the suggestion of his boss he smears the goo atop a hardhat, slaps it under the beam, sticks his head under the hat, and grabs both sides at the brim. Suffice to say but this supersweet guy died going…Swaap!...into the stonework pavilion below. He’d just quit working in smokestacks all day toiling as a steeplejack and chimney sweep because he hated getting all sooty.

      He once said, ‘Shamir here’s the whole schmeer. Yes I’m your stepparent and you’re my stepchild not of my sperm but I love you as I do Skippy, who’s a bit subnormal ever since he whacked into that spruce tree with his toy sled. Though he’s no longer tugging at your shirttails, you must remain supercautious and look out for your troubled sib.’ I was still a mere stripling myself at the time but to be supercandid here my stepdad didn’t trust mom. Even then there were signs of some slippage with her suggestive of early senility.

      For instance, always a supersaver she became a spendthrift shopaholic first buying enough saran wrap to cover the Sphinx then buying a tub of sauerkraut though she always had an allergic sensitivity to cabbagy foods like cole slaw. She also kept buying slipcovers for a sectional we had deep sixed long ago and bought home a shorthaired Siamese cat though our spaniel was already fighting with the Siberian cat next-door nonstop. My stepfamily did number five since I had an older blood sister… not a stepsister therefore a stepdaughter to him…from my high scholar biological dad, But it was superevident to him that she, stagestruck from birth, was in her mind a showstopper and would be too busy chasing stardom to mind spacy Skippy.

      Well a grownup Skippy left the sheepfold when a tribe of seminomadic sheepherders passed through recently and he fell for a sightly girl of their number. They do okay since he easily sells all the shearling coats and skeins of wool they make from the sheep, but they’ll never be in dire financial straits with Skippy flexing his psychic supercapabilities whenever it strikes his fancy. He can win any sweepstakes he cares to enter, hit the superfecta at the track at will, and for a fee foresee the sex of your little sprout-to- be better than any sonogram. No he doesn’t go by sunspot activity or use scatomancy where one stares at poo but just has a gift.”

SHAMIR ON HEALING

      Holmes asked, “Is it true you can cure my sinusitis and put a stop to my sneezy fits?” Shamir frowned, “I’m no sensei of allergies. Heck, go to CVS and get some Sudafed or a saline solution to sluice out your nose or get a scrip from your doc. Get shots or do sublingual immunotherapy with your allergist. Honestly, a supermarket tabloid is guilty of starting that myth. They were preparing their semiannual superspecial with a segment on astral projection. Their man visited asking, “Did you indeed synthesize the work of Ingo Swann, Emanuel Swedenborg, and W.J. Stockum, and using them as a springboard create a streamlined method of time travel?” I may be a shrunken superannuated geezer now but I was a showboating rascal then, so feeling superoptimistic I told the ace word slinger that I would wander the spacetime continuum for him. I traveled and returned but he was too soddenly drunk from swilling down his peppermint schnapps to listen to my knock-your-socks-off tales. Just my luck he stays drunk all day before getting sobered up but now facing deadline just scamps his piece.

      When this guy so accustomed to smog had woken up and deeply snuffed in more of our superclean air, his snuffly nose was clear and his sinus issues were gone. He hurriedly wrote that I was a storehouse of knowledge on every medical topic and subtopic. He crowed that I was Jonas Salk, Albert Schweitzer, and Albert Sabin all wrapped into one semisacred superexalted being!

      For the record, I had visited the late seventies where I was above the skyboxes and the sportcasters’ booth at a ballgame watching Ozzie Smith, shortstop for the San Diego Padres, bat against Tom Seaver of the Cincinnati Reds. Tom had many career shutouts and strikeouts but no no-hitters. Usually a scrub,

      a non-starter type guy would ruin his bid. I also visited the late 1700’s at a salon…not where they snip hair but a room for socials and such…in Salzburg, Austria. Mozart was performing a sonata on the spinet at this intimate soiree while rival Salieri sniggled jealously nearby.”     

SHERMAN HAS A REVELATION

      Holmes then exulted, “I’m now snot-free and superenergized myself! I was all for straightening out my deviated septum or undergoing a sinuplasty before coming here. This Shangri-la paradise has conferred supervitality upon me! My heart sings as I dream of forsaking this septic tank of a world saturated with evil to live here!” Shamir replied, “A guy I know in the Secretariat building can pull strings and get it done if you wish to embrace the solitude of my often stormbound haven and grow spiritually.”

      Holmes enthused, “Yes! I can shampoo and bathe the dogs, keep them shorn, and train them to shag things. After all, growing up I helped Miss Sims the old schoolmarm for whom dogs were like surrogate children. I’d walk her exotic sharpei and shih-tzu, her noble spitz, and her cute miniature schnauzer which she forgot to spay and had sextuplets. When you’re snowbound I won’t be snowmobiling or skiboarding or snowblading but will be out there working a snowblower…I’ll get us a semicommercial grade one. I’ll learn Sikkimese, part of the Tibeto-Burmese subfamily of Sino-Tibetan languages, too.

      I will learn your famous sayings and teachings and wise saws free of deceptive syllogisms, clever sophistry, tricky subtexts and semantics, and shopworn clichés, and become not merely a sentient being but an enlightened one untrapped from selfhood. Your stylistic choice of the shaved head/Telly Savalas look over the semispherical Moe of the 3 Stooges bowl cut everyone makes sport of is the clincher.”

CHILLING WITH SHAMIR

      We repaired to Shamir’s cozy stormproof abode carved out of a sandstone rockface where he, a strict ascetic not one to get slaphappy, grabbed a Sharp’s non-alcoholic beer for himself but a bottle of Scotch for us. While we sat on his large sisal rug swigging away and eating his homemade samosas he informed us, “Many celebrities, people in the spotlight, have been seekers here. That booze was a gift from Sean Connery superspy 007 from the semifictional (the Spiderweb is very Spectre-like eh?) James Bond films but I guess spymaster M needed him and he split. Clint Eastwood gave me the serape from his Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and a seersucker suit off the set of The Mule.     

      Songsmith Paul Simon left me his Fender Stratocaster guitar and the Swedish supergroup Abba left me a signed 7” disc of their platinum single SOS. I recommended they add a few singers and become a sextet or a septet but they said, “Nah…We’ve always sung as a quartet with supertight harmony but maybe we’ll do more scat vocals together like the Andrew Sisters or make like Bruce Springsteen and add a saxaphone playing sideman and get more soulful.” Songstress Barbara Streissand autographed my A Star Is Born soundtrack album. My Sanyo turntable has nice stereophonic sound but I broke my stylus.     

      Got an autographed spacesuit from Alan Shepard who told me it was from one of his spacewalks but that it had shrunk on him after he got it wet during a splashdown. And the shah of Iran once brought antique Persian silverware from the Sassanid dynasty.     

      NBA swingman Sidney ‘Sid the Squid’ Montcrief autographed a Spalding basketball for me. Hockey great Stan Mikita, after teaching me his stickhandling moves and slapshot technique, gave me a pair of skates he wore in ’61 when he won the Stanley Cup. Baseball slugger Dick Stuart, Dr. Strangeglove the sportswriters called him, was here and left me his Red Sox stirrups. He bragged, ‘I could hit southpaws and righties whether they threw spitballs, sliders, slurves, sinkers, or whatever. I kept the scoreboard guy busy even if it was Sandy Koufax or Mel Stottlemyre pitching.’ Mr. superathlete kept it up boasting, ‘After facing me, scrubeenie pitchers had to go back to playing stickball and stoopball back home.’”

      Shamir then warned, “Many will doubt your soundness of mind suggesting you are straddling the line between sanity and insanity.” Holmes answered, “Bah to the snotty fools and this world which has spun off course with no shortage of shocking headlines…true and not concocted by a schlockmeister!....     

      *’Intolerant Skinhead With Scattergun Goes On Rampage At Synagogue’

      *’Scoutmaster Forcibly Sodomizes Youngster During Spelunking Expedition’

      *’Skyjacker Commandeers Superjet. En Route To Scandinavia Diverted To Senegal.’

      *’Executive Shakeout at Skincare Giant’…….Their new sunscreen was found to exacerbate seborrhea, (when the sebaceous glands secrete too much oil) and cause scabies and more intense sunburn as well!

      *GMOs Causing Superweeds Which Are Overwhelming Many Seedlings

      *At Statehouse And Elsewhere---Stevedores, Skycaps, Stonemasons, Steelworkers, and Steamfitters All Picket. Strikebreakers Beaten Up.”

      We toasted…SKOAL! then Holmes said, “Misakman my sterling chap of great sand and grit, tell our backers about sportive old Skippy and that we found no abominable snowmen. I entrust you to sublease my place to Watson who hates his studio and hasn’t yet bought that choice sublot within the subdivision out in the suburbs he’s mentioned. There’s nothing in my lease which says I can’t sublet to a subtenant.”     

      I agreed and headed back stateside, but burnt out I played my Slingerland drum set banging the skins for days mimicking the stylings of Sib Hashian, Ringo Starr, and Clyde Stubblefield and trying out my new swish cymbal. Reenergized I got into a speedwriting mode and dashed off and even spellchecked this Letter S passage with supreme care just for you!

THE END

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