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Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 41

a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

...

Before Sherlock Holmes or I could respond to the disembodied voice's challenging remark, Otis said, "Look out in the corridor, getting off this train may be a little messy."

Holmes looked through the interior window. Being that my eyes were still located in my mid-section (how embarrassing!) I had to stand on the seat. Two men in conductor's uniforms were painting the aisle barn red. One was cutting in the borders whilst his fellow followed behind with - what? - a broom? No, not a broom. Though it had a handle much like that of a broom. But instead of bristles, or whatever it is that they use at  sweeping end, there was a cloth cylinder. Perpendicular to the handle. And then, the cleverest thing happened. The second man poured some paint into a tray, submerged the cloth cylinder in the paint, rolled it free of the surplus, and began to apply the barn red covering to the aisle in wide swaths with the paint-saturated cloth cylinder. "Would you look at that, Holmes, I'd bet Mrs Hudson wishes that scallywag she hired last spring had had one of those, what do you call them...?"

"A roller," said Evan. "Covers much more efficiently than a brush."

"Ingenious," said Holmes, "Though I think, if anything, Mrs Hudson wishes "That scallywag" as you call him had used an even smaller brush than he did. Could not you tell Watson, she was smitten?"

"Now that you mention it Holmes, the quality of our meals did seem to suffer whilst the painter was there. But I attributed that to the paint fumes. They certainly got to me."

"Really Watson? I rather enjoyed the effect myself."

"Holmes you have a penchant for chemicals, to say the least," I said.

"Then say the least, Watson and start thinking your way out of this compartment without staining our shoes."

Evan said, "I'd suggest we go barefoot on the wet paint if it weren't such nasty stuff."

"Nasty?" said Holmes.

"Most nasty," said the novice Knower, in an affirmative yet encouraging voice. Evan was proving to be a good choice for Knower.

My mind-share with Sherlock Holmes told me he agreed, and his only concern was that Evan not let his youthful ascendency to such lofty position go to his head.

You mean, your only concern was that Evan might let his youthful ascendency to such lofty position go to his head, I thought to Holmes.

He answered aloud, "No Watson, I meant what I said. Our young Knower needs to let his early success go to his head, for life is as corrosive as water," here Holmes turned to look Evan squarely in the face, "May it also be as refreshing."

Otis said, "Damn! there you go making me feel sentimental, Mr Holmes, just when I was planning pledge duties for our new initiate in the ruling elite."

Evan said, "You don't really have initiations and pledging and stuff, do you?"

"Only for the kind of people we gotta let in because they have so much money or so much power you gotta let 'em in but they're still people we think are real..."

"Point taken," said Holmes, "Remember where we are."

As if to drive home Holmes's point, or was it to mock us, in the outside window of the compartment there flashed a sign: "Skidmark-Pattern underwear - Boxers and Briefs."

"Final three stops," said the voice from the loudspeaker, "Park Place, Boardwalk, and Despair. Please do not track red paint on the station platform."

Evan said, "I always liked buying Park Place when I could."

Otis said, "What do you think Mr Holmes?"

Holmes said, "Young Knower choose, is the substance you spoke of as nasty being on our bare feet a worse prospect than us remaining in what is not yet may as well be Hell."

Evan said nothing, but bent down and began unlacing his shoes. Holmes did likewise and Otis and I followed suit. Then Holmes said, "Park Place it is."

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