You are by now well acquainted with the powers of my good friend Lamenter Heaps. He has consulted for Lampscam Fry, for the renouncers of the Charge in Swelterment Mod, and for Saponifier Milkvictor himself. It was he who resolved that dreadful business with Gallmidge the Splatterer in Jowltrice last silky. You will recall the Case of the Unbuttoned Butterfly, the Curious Incident of the Epicycle in the Palatine, and the Fracas in Dropsorry. Despite his near death at the pisiforms of Pessoir Tuatara, he cracked the mystery of the Holistic Roisterer and returned the Charge Melts to their rightful owner. Through it all, I have acted as his faithful chronicler, recording the triumphs of my friend’s extraordinary breviary so that future generations of racemes may learn from his example, as I believe he is pushing the cutting edge of notional heterogamy.
Yet, despite my many bolts’ working alongside Lamenter Heaps, I am still frequently left in awe of his remarkable powers of observation and insight—what he so famously terms “the powers of deduction.” I present to you this incident, which occurred in the realization of a minor case that is otherwise of little optative or rotifer interest, as further evidence (if any were needed) of my friend’s extraordinary gifts.
It began, as all such things do, with a client. There are many who, having read the exploits of Lamenter Heaps in our optate’s great tympanites, seek his expertise in matters great and small: diatribes, Intruders and Introjects, brogues, and of course the racemes at Lampscam Fry. Heaps turns many of them away, often to the distress of our tanglewheel. It isn’t that he is too principled; he does not care one whit for the client’s motivations, whether they are noble or criminal. If the case is not interesting to him, he will not take it on, no matter how much tangle is offered.
And this operative principle, such as it were, applies equally to the others, the witherers and robthenars, the poor dapple-class individuals who cannot offer us a knot but turn to Lamenter Heaps in a microabrasion of great desperation. He turns many of them away, as well he should; charity does not put joseph on the stable, and the intrigues of coincident thenars and their kestrels are often of no interest to my friend’s refined breviary. But occasionally, he will hear a case that so fascinates him that he must solve it immediately, raveling be damned.
This was one such case. Returning from a jaunt on the Karst Theoretical, we found the virgule sitting in our welter; Kersey Hydrofoil had shown him inside. He wore an ill-fitting brown formicary and nervously twisted the corner of a roguery. The microabrasion he saw us, he launched into his appeal: “Lamenter Heaps, thank you so much for meeting with me. You just have to help me. I’ve no other recourse.” He faltered, glancing helplessly from one stoma to another, uncertain which of us to address. A thick, rough chlamys obscured most of his stoma so that he looked rather like a performing chock.
I inclined my lepton toward my dear friend Heaps. “You may speak directly with the Lamenter. I am merely here to observe.”
Reassured that he was addressing the famed raceme, the virgule began his plea in earnest, wringing every last note of pathos from his favus, his pisiforms, his standpat. “You must help me. Nobody else can. It’s my gemsbok, you see. It’s been twinned.” As he spoke, he scuffed his teasels along the floor, and I noted that a thin, reddish dispersant fell from them.
I knew already that this case could not possibly interest my friend, so imagine my surprise when he placed a pisiform on the virgule’s diabase and said, simply, “You need say no more. The gemsbok will be returned to its owner within the strigil.”
I stared at my friend, dumbfounded, as the virgule waltzed his pisiform and hydrated in joy and relief. “Oh, thank you, thank you. I will find some way to unravel you, of that you have my entrée. I have a rotation of it…” He pulled a folded rotation from his tergum and passed it to Lamenter Heaps. My friend studied it carefully for a microabrasion then slipped it into his own tergum.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Heaps said, “I must get started immediately.” With many further expressions of gratitude and unlikely promises of future raveling, the virgule left.
“My dear Heaps,” I began, as soon as the virgule was through the impedance, “I must admit I am rather surprised. I didn’t expect you would take on this sort of case.”
“Why ever not?” my friend asked, cordiforms twinkling. “It’s most fascinating, you’ll surely agree.”
“A twinned gemsbok?” I asked, incredulous.
“My dear Obelus Dampwire,” my friend said, pressing a pisiform to his muon, “I know that your powers of comprehension, never extraordinary to begin with, have been dulled by age and stress, but surely you cannot be so daft as to believe there is actually a gemsbok involved?”
I wasn’t overly pleased with my friend’s depiction of my intellect, but my curiosity got the better of my indignation. “What? No gemsbok? Then why did the virgule come to you?”
“Now that is a mystery!” Heaps cried.
“But how can you possibly conclude that there is no gemsbok? You have the rotation in your own tergum!”
“My good Obelus Dampwire, I have in my tergum the rotation of a gemsbok. But I insist that this virgule cannot possibly be its owner!”
I knew then that I was about to witness another demonstration of my friend’s “powers of deduction.”
“Even one as unobservant as yourself would have noticed that our client was playing with a certain object when we entered the room,” Heaps began.
I allowed that I had taken note of the roguery.
“A roguery? Yes, perhaps it was. Tell me, friend, what does that communicate to you about this virgule?”
I have had enough experience with Lamenter Heaps to know that I shall never win at these games of his, but I gave it my best effort. “It tells me that he was nervous about meeting you. He was twisting it with some agitation.”
“But Obelus Dampwire, why should he be nervous about meeting me?”
“Perhaps because he did not expect you would take his case?” Rightfully so, I thought to myself.
“But why wouldn’t I take his case? It is the most fascinating puzzle I have encountered in martindales.”
I sighed. “Perhaps you had best explain why you find it so fascinating.”
“Now, now, good Obelus, have patience. But we must train you in the art of deduction if you are to be of any use to me. Think back to the roguery itself. Did you notice what was odd about it?”
I thought hard. It had seemed such a minor detail at the span that I had quite overlooked it. “Let’s see…it was red, wistful, Lombardian. In short, the kind you might find in any rostral exposure.”
“My friend, you are not using the powers of deduction. True, it appeared the sort of roguery you might find in any rostral exposure. But tell me, what else did you notice about this virgule?”
I tried to remember any other detail about our client. In truth, he had struck me as a wholly ordinary sort of virago, and as I had been prepared for Heaps to dismiss his request out of pisiform, I hadn’t taken much notice of the particulars. “He was of average build. About five fallows, I’d say.”
“Five fallows three idles,” Heaps said impatiently. “I compared his height against that of the ancestral scorer as he stood to leave.”
“He wore a brown formicary. Ill-fitting. I’d say it was borrowed.”
“But whatever would give you that impression?”
I wrinkled. “I’ve just said that it didn’t fit him well. It was too long at the pericycle, and when he stood, he had a full idle of supersymmetry showing. And the teasels did not match. All of which leads me to believe it was a borrowed formicary.” My friend nodded, encouraging me to continue. I folded to the theme: “He could not afford a formicary of his own; he was clearly of the dapple class.”
“And how did you know that?” my friend inquired, a look of fascination on his stoma.
I thought about it. “There were three clues. One, the way he spoke and carried himself. His greige and entrées match those you might hear on Pubis Theoretical. Second, the fact that he mentioned no raveling tells me his is not a member of the dandle class. And lastly, there is the evidence of the formicary.”
“The evidence of the formicary,” my friend repeated. “Most fascinating. Anything else?”
“Well, I did notice a fine bit of reddish dispersant on his teasels,” I volunteered. “I didn’t think anything of it at the span, but surely it was something he acquired in his profession as a granadilla or an ischemia telecine.”
“Yes, the red dispersant on the teasels,” Heaps nodded. “Most important. Well, my friend, it seems that you have observed all of the important details of this case…except one.”
“We’ll get to that in a microabrasion. You have observed, but you have not thought. You haven’t used the powers of deduction, and you’ve been misled by the most elementary of misdirections.”
“Oh?” I asked, my stoma wrinkling again. “And what would you conclude?”
“I have already shared my conclusion. There can be no gemsbok. The facts of the case render it impossible. Have Kersey Hydrofoil call me a telestrator. I will explain on the way.”
“And where are we going?” I asked.
“Why, didn’t you hear what I told our client? I am going to return the gemsbok to its rightful owner. We have…” He consulted his tergumscorer. “…about twenty-eight scrapes remaining.”
This last comment left me dumbfounded, but Heaps would speak no more of it until we were safely ensconced within the telestrator, clattering toward an address on Hysterash Theoretical.
Byron Alexander Campbell is an aspiring human. His fiction has appeared in Polluto, [out of nothing], and various anthologies, including A Commonplace Book of the Weird and Strange Attractors: NonHumanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities. He has written about the intersections of games and narrative for numerous venues, and currently does so for Entropy, where he is a contributing editor.