At the foot of the portico at Dunbroke-on-the-Wye, I was left dumbstruck by countenance: darker than a Moor’s, and framed by thick cascading ropes of benighted locks I can only liken to Medusa’s, extending far past the point of any notion of propriety I had yet brought it upon myself to consider after fifteen years among the trollops, scalawags and ne’er-do-wells that any Scotland Yard inspector engages while navigating the multifarious skullduggeries of our calling.
After our exchange of salutations, he said not a word all the way through the wisteria to the portcullis. I would not venture to say he was taciturn, but rather unprepossessingly inquisitive, pausing to stare at the ironwork, the knockers and the doorknob. The furrowed brow fairly froze upon his visage as we moved through the manor into the study, where Crumwall Thurton, Esq. had been found slain not two days before. He ran his hands slowly across the wainscoting, and then swerved suddenly to the desk, producing an immaculate kerchief to draw up the slender vial containing a tincture of laudanum that lay beside Crumwall Thurton, Esq.’s manteau.
Yet there was something malodorous about him. Not his character (at the time, I had nothing upon which to base any supposition), but rather his person. Despite his startling appearance, I had no reason to doubt his ablutions, and would have settled without hesitation upon the notion that they were beyond reproach, save for the mysterious treacly pungency that wafted in the ether wherever he stood, a mixture that whispered of incense and shouted some herbal concoction I had not yet encountered, one foreign to the opium dens I had frequented during other investigations, but perhaps not distant cousins from the same. His studious carriage was further undermined by his bloodshot eyes, an unsettling affliction palpable even at a distance.
Then, too, this: he dropped to the floor suddenly, indiscriminately on all fours, to examine the single peculiarity that had all but announced itself among the particulars of Crumwall Thurton, Esq.’s study, namely the heretofore inexplicable, small, circular creosote stain upon the oriental rug to the left of the base of the desk. And then, moments later, with equal alacrity, Dreadlock Holmes leapt up again and spoke.
“De man you seek is a left-handed man, not tall, yah, wit’ a cane or somet’ing he’ll be leanin’ on, paaaale and stuttering as the day he was born.”
My mind reeled at the rapidity of his assertions. “But…how can…are you certain?” I gasped.
“Inspectah Frampton, dis I know, as I know de one who is God and God alone witout apollo-gee, Jah Rastafari Haile Selassie-aye, has not yet been born upon dis eart’.”
“But,” I ejaculated.
“Inspectah Frampton, dere is not time for aaall dese tribula-tions,” he said. “We must return witout delayin’ to Londontown and find my asso-ciates, Jimmy, Peeet-ah and Bob.”
Apace we caught the ten-past to London. During our trip, I took it upon myself to commence my inquiries as to the origin and delineation of the singular deductive methods of Dreadlock Holmes. He spoke calmly and freely, but in an accent I had never crossed in all my years of investigation, and though it was not for lack of wanting on behalf of both parties, our initial forays into the forest of his methodology proved less than fruitful. I asked him what in the arrangement of the elements and sundries of the study conspired to bring forth his assertions regarding the telltale characteristics of the perpetrator of the foul deed visited upon Crumwall Thurton, Esq., a query met with the following response:
“All praise to Him Alone Most High Haile Selassie-aye, de mighty, mighty lion of our redemption who has not yet come to greet us.”
And as I ventured ever backward during our trip, seeking only the most rudimentary encapsulation of his methodology, he spoke of all things flowing from Jah Rastafari, brought forth in radiance from the Kingdom through the line of Solomon. In truth, the only sliver of light shed upon my bewilderment came forth when I asked Mr. Holmes what, in his estimable opinion, was the central necessity of fundamentally sound investigative endeavors.
“De vibe,” he said. “Most definitely de vibe is aaall sal-vaation, witout hesi-taation.”
The vibe; a term whose meaning I did not and could not hope to grasp at its broaching, but came to know as our evening wore on.
Arriving at his flat in Camden Town, I was taken aback to be greeted by a thick obscuring haze the moment we opened the door, and equally surprised by Dreadlock Holmes’ lack of affect upon its apprehension. He merely welcomed me to his abode and escorted me into the living room, where we were met with another peculiar tableau: three somnambulant gentlemen strewn in haphazard fashion upon a plush divan bedecked in verdant fabric, half buried amidst a lavish pile of gold and vermilion pillows, and all enshrouded in smoke.
“Inspectah Frampton, may I present, left-right, my humble assoo-ciates, Jimmy, Peeet-ah and Bob.”
With that prompt, from letheward Jimmy returned, sluggishly lifting his hand to greet me.
“Bob, Bob and Peeet-ah, Dread is back, mon. He come wit’ a friend. Lively up, Peeet-ah,” he said.
And slowly the other two rose.
Like Dreadlock, this shambolic triumvirate bore the same stolid expression, the same Moorish complexion, and the same extravagances of hair. And like Dreadlock, this soporific trio had long since acclimated to the haze; indeed, it appeared to be their quotidian atmosphere, the result of the butts of several curiously outsized cigars burned to their end and now resting upon a table before the divan, adjacent to a small lacquered vase holding several burning sticks of a beguiling incense, contesting the acrid smoke of the long-spent rivals. The bittersweet, malodorous mixture was familiar to me upon first sensing it at the door: that it was the source of Holmes’ distinctive pungency was beyond conjecture.
“Bobby. Pee-tah, Jimmy, you know what?” said Holmes. “De game is afoot, mon.”
And with that the threesome slowly stood up, mumbled “De game is afoot, always de game is afoot,” shuffled toward the door, and presently disappeared from the room. As we sat on the divan, Holmes produced two cigars the likes of which I had not seen before, identical in their prodigious circumference to the remainders on the table, and daunting in length.
“Inspectah Frampton, togethah we must contemplate de perfidiousness of our villain, yah,” said Holmes, lighting the cigars. “One for you, an’ one for me.”
I fumbled at first, but when I took to the instruction of Holmes as to the proper method for drawing in the smoke, I was soon overtaken by a series of sensations to which I can do no justice by resorting to the weak verisimilitude of words.
Time slowed, rushed and slowed again. Contrary to Holmes’ exhortation, I soon found myself unable to concentrate for any length of time on the matter at hand, and found respite only when Jimmy, Peter and Bob rejoined us with musical instruments. As Bob strummed a guitar gently and slowly to the syncopation of Peter’s patient but unerring drum, Jimmy used his hands to pluck a cello, producing sonorous and pleasingly fathomless bass rhythms. In time, Dreadlock rose to attend to a simple melody on his spinet by the window, and as the room began to stretch and whirl, the merry foursome sang a sweetly plaintive tune whose refrain I ascertained and participated in after only a few repetends from my befogged colleagues.
No woman no cry. No woman no cry…
I felt the heady sensation normally associated with an evening spent in the company of strong libations, coupled with an incessant urge to touch my nose, a pleasing inclination towards easy laughter, and a sudden, unaccountable zeal for biscuits, which Jimmy presented in abundance upon my mentioning.
Cigars, music, biscuits and eventually claret engulfed the evening, and at some moment I cannot honestly pinpoint, all faded blissfully into oblivion.
I found myself prostrate on the divan in that same living room under a diminished cloud the very next morning, drawn from a cave of pillows and deep slumbers by the welcome scent of bangers and mash, prepared expertly by Bob and placed on the table before me.
“And where is Mr. Holmes?” I asked.
“Jimmy an’ Peeet-ah went wit’ Dread,” said Bob. “To appre-hend de man who done dat nice gentleman wrong.”
I could hardly believe my ears.
“What? Where did they go? How did — what man?”
To which Bob smiled with this rejoinder, “De vibe, mon, de vibe.”
It had come to Dreadlock Holmes in a reverie during the night: our nefarious quarry was none other than the diminutive Sir Clive Bloodnought Redrumming, notorious for his bilious temperament, his club-footed gait, his unbesmirched alabaster complexion, and his unbounded hatred for Crumwall Thurton, Esq., who had outwitted him in business matters, building a thriving establishment specializing in chimney construction, the very trade in which Redrumming had failed.
By a miracle of Providence and the grace of London traffic and all its vicissitudes, I rushed and caught up with Jimmy, Peter and Dreadlock in their pursuit. Met with our formidable bill of accusation, Sir Clive briefly attempted defiance, stuttering vociferously and waiving his creosote-stained cane with his left hand, but the weight of evidence, the burden of his own madness, the plangent insistence of his revivified conscience, the specter of Scotland Yard, and the spectacle of Dreadlock Holmes and his redolent, wild-haired assistants was too much for his protestations, and he desisted soon after.
Brimming with the ebullience befitting a job well done, we returned to Holmes’ abode to celebrate much as we had contemplated our criminal conundrum the night previous. And within the year, our intrepid magistrates saw to it that the murderous Sir Clive would answer for his transgressions.
And to you dear readers, I must now confess that which I have not yet divulged; even in those first few hours, my brief encounter with the peculiar and perspicacious methods of Dreadlock Holmes had forever changed me. For I no longer ask as to the origin of his gifts; indeed, a steady cadence of relaxation had by then already gripped my constitution, wrought from the enchanting power of the indigenous cigars an infectious rhythms of Dread, Peter, Jimmy and Bob. And here I can only relay in the briefest of terms that in future cases and further collaborations, I became further acquainted with the uncanny ability of Dreadlock Holmes to delve into the salutary revelations and secret truths that can only be derived from a resolute communion with that which I now know to be none other than de vibe.