You might think that in a story set in the future and on a spacecraft, Chapter 42 might have some hidden significance. The answer, as it were. Perhaps. Or perhaps we'll need to wait for that.
And now: (with apologies to Sir Paul)
Do you think I've managed
To make clues meet?
Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 42
a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Holmes, I would have expected that to hurt, I thought as I looked at what looked very much like a broken toe.
Using the confidential mind-link that the two of us shared in Hell, Holmes thought back, And what made you think it does not, Watson?
But Holmes that must mean the sharing of thoughts that we are experiencing down here is not absolute!
Or, Watson, it may mean that the hours upon hours you stood over the operating table in Afghanistan has numbed your feet to the exquisite pain that results from slamming the end of one's foot into a solid wooden object. Or artificially engineered wooden object in the case of the SS Oligarch. Emulating Honduran mahogany, I would imagine. I am just grateful they did not choose to create artificial lignum vitae.
As a doctor. I assure you Holmes, a broken toe is a broken toe. Lignum vitae, mahogany or balsa wood, the toe is either broken or it is not broken.
Watson it is my toe, my pain and it is I ...
"Watson!" Holmes now said aloud, "Look at what is happening to Evan's feet. What do you make of that?" Evan had been the first to walk down the sticky red of the freshly painted aisle of the passenger car. He had almost reached the bare metal of the inter-car passage, and instead of simply staining the bottoms of the young man's feet, the red had migrated around his feet in a thick covering. Like a pair of red galoshes.
"Does it hurt," I said to Evan.
"No, Doctor, this stuff won't hurt until I try to peel it off. But if I don't start peeling it off now. it will get worse. Much worse."
"Here," I said, "I'll be over to help as quickly as I can, I am a Doctor,. you know."
"Stop Docto..." Evan started to say, but I had already planted one bare foot on the red paint and the feel of the sticky red creeping over my foot was one of the more alien sensations I have experienced. "Never mind, Doctor. don't stop, hurry over carefully and for Heavens sake, don't slip in the stuff. There are parts of your anatomy you don't want it migrating to.."
"Watson, it looks as if you've been caught red footed." Evan, Otis and I gave a unanimous and, I confess, somewhat exaggerated groan at Holmes's play on words. And I tried to steer my mind away from thinking anything along the lines of, I wish I had thought of that. I did not want to encourage Holmes in the inventive use of language. That is my domain, and Sherlock Holmes has intellectual realms aplenty of his own. I did not turn around to see if Holmes had ascertained my thoughts, (does this red goop block thoughts from being read?) but I could visualize a thin, poorly disguised, smile. Or did my apprehension at the prospect of removing the unwanted booties drown out my thoughts in Holmes's mind? And how painful would the removal be? I would know soon. I was almost to the bare metal of the entryway.
"Stay where are for a moment Watson," said Holmes, and my shoes came sailing past my head, bounced off the vestibule wall, and landed on the metal platform.
"Very nice, Mr Holmes. A skill acquired playing cricket?" said Otis.
"Cricket?" said Holmes, "Nothing that active, it was the result of a painfully learned billiards lesson when I was a mere schoolboy."
"Would you all shut up for a minute and let me talk Dr Watson off this wet crud!" said Evan. Then looking at my feet, he said, "I see that your advanced age has given you one big advantage," (I think I heard Holmes snort a quickly repressed laugh) "Your legs are less hairy than those of a younger man. Hold still!" Evan removed his jacket and, ripping it into pieces, used a now-detached sleeve as improvised gloves with which he proceeded to peel the rapidly congealing red solution off one of my feet. Age or no age, it hurt. "Now put the cleaned foot on the bare metal, and I'll take care of the other."
I felt a brief wave of empathy with my patients over the years, thinking of the times I had brusquely removed bandages, but then I noticed Evan's feet. The red was creeping up his legs at a noticeable pace. Mid-calf it was. He had sacrificed his own comfort for mine. "Let me help you, now," I said.
"Make sure to protect your hands," said Evan, handing me the other sleeve. Brusque removal may seem cruel, but it is the least bad alternative. Nevertheless, the sound of the hairs being pulled out of Evan's legs, and the lack of any audible protest on the young Knower's part convinced me of his courage. Soon enough, he too had clean feet, and was standing with me on the bare metal.
"Good job, Watson," said Holmes.
Otis said, "Evan, you now look as if you're standing on a pair of frenched lamb chops. Perhaps I should let you remove my galoshes. Dr Watson's legs are looking better than your's."
Holmes said, "No, Watson needs to be the one to treat you, just as Evan needs to be the one to treat me. The mind-sharing would be an impediment to rapid removal. And we should both start to make our way now. The train is slowing down."
Holmes and Otis reached the edge of the vestibule, and after the not-so-tender ministrations of Evan and yours truly, were soon standing on the bare metal. Shoes in hand. It was crowded, and Holmes said, "When the train stops at Park Place, we must jump to the platform and move away from the car. Only then will we be able to put on our shoes in relative safety."
"Park Place," came a voice from the loudspeaker.