Dr. Flotsam slowly worked himself up the stairs to Sherlock Holmes’ flat on a hot sticky morning in August. He stopped to catch his breath on the landing. "Too many of those damned cigars!
He thought to himself. He tapped the door with his cane and walked into those familiar rooms overlooking the Harbor in New London. He found Holmes standing over his dining room table strewn with books of ancient Greek and Roman Mythology from his extensive library.
“Holmes! What are you up to now my dear man? Thinking of touring Rome or the Greek Islands again?”
“No, Dear Doctor. That would be a pleasure that, at the present, I have little time for. Right now I need to put all my powers into solving a recent murder of an unknown victim that some are attributing to the “Ruler of the Seas.” The ancient Greeks called him “Poseidon” and the Romans, who stole all the Greek Gods, renamed him”Neptune”.
“So, my man, how do all these pictures of mythological Gods pertain to this murder, or do you intend to keep me in suspense? I dare say, Holmes, you seem to enjoy keeping me wondering.”
“Sorry, my dear Doctor. My apologies. I admit sometimes I get lost when focusing and ignoring everything around me. It seems the locals have taken to blaming this mysterious death on King Neptune. If you look at these pictures of the crime the constable gave me you will notice the body has three evenly spaced stab wounds in his chest. In the pubs, they are saying that King Neptune himself was seeking revenge on this poor fellow by using his three pronged trident spear. Look at these old prints of Greco-Roman statues of Neptune. See how every statue is holding a three pronged spear. That spear is called a “Trident”. Now, closely examine the pictures of the body. Do you notice any clues, my good man?”
“Well Holmes, It is obvious to me that these mortal wounds could have been achieved by Neptune’s trident. I must admit my common sense tells me that Neptune is a mythical deity that most modern men don’t believe in. But to those who live off the sea? Well, you and I know they hold their legends quite close.”
Holmes looked perplexed at his old friend. “Doctor! As a man of science, your assessment surprises me. You have completely missed the obvious. Look at the large spaces between each of the forks and points of the ancient tridents. Notice they are approximately five inches apart. Obviously, a trident was meant to be a lethal weapon. They were even used in gladiatorial combat in Rome’s great coliseum. Now, look at the pictures of the victim. Those wounds are only an inch apart. This was no Neptune’s trident my friend. This was done by something much more common to the folks who make their living on the water. I will prove it to you doctor by treating you to lunch”!
“Holmes! I can’t wait. You never cease challenging me!
As they stepped out of the house, Holmes made a beeline to New London’s infamous “Blakely’s Fishery and Pub where every fisherman, sea scow captain and salty sea hand and their mermaids consumed intoxicating grogs and greasy food. Holmes and the Doctor sat in a booth and when Old Annie came to take their order, Holmes took her aside and whispered in her ear. She made a beeline for the kitchen, and fifteen minutes later returned with two tankards of stout and two bowls of greenish stew with stale bread. Doctor Flotsam immediately reacted.
“Holmes! What is the meaning of this! Eel stew??? You know how I hate eels! This is what you call lunch???
“No Doctor. This is what I call a strong clue towards solving this murder. Drink your stout comrade. The clue is in the stew!”
Flotsam drank but continued his perplexed look as he stared into the slimy stew for answers. Finally, Holmes decided to end the Doctor’s befuddlement.
“How do they catch eels, my good man,” said Holmes.
“Why they catch them in eel pots or spear them” the Doctor replied.
They both looked up at the same time as the Doctor exclaimed “An eel spear! That’s the weapon! Three shafts and points close together! Why I’ve watched fishermen use them a thousand times! Holmes, you are a clever man.”
Holmes paid the tab. They walked down to the New London waterfront where lips were usually kept tightly closed. As they walked they examined clamming, scalloping, oyster dredge and some larger ocean cod and tuna boats. Towards the end of the sea wall, they spied an unfamiliar boat in seedy condition. As they came closer they noticed that lying on its deck were several old rusted eel spears. When they asked around the general opinion was that this boat was a new arrival from somewhere else and that the master of the vessel seemed anxious and unfriendly.
Holmes went to get on the boat for a closer look when a menacing bearded man jumped from the cabin and grabbed one of the spears and pointed it straight at Holmes’ chest.
“Calm Down, Dear Man,” said Holmes
“Nobody boards my boat!” said the obviously stressed man. “Folks who get nosey don’t tend to live long, “He said in a sneering voice.
Holmes persisted. “I am here to inquire where you come from my friend and what you expect to do in New London.
The man began to relax a little. “I am from Mattituck, across the Sound” I am here to see the constable and report a tragic accident but I have been holed up in my cabin mourning the loss of my brother. I have not had the strength of mind to go and see the constable yet. I am tired and at my wit’s end, forgive me for being so out of sorts but my sorrow has gotten the best of me.
Holmes and Flotsam listened closely and watched his tears falling from his eyes.
“We were eeling together when a quick storm came up. My brother rushed towards the bow to throw out an anchor as the waves began tossing us furiously. He tripped and one of the eel spears struck him in the chest. I rushed forward and quickly pulled it out but I could see he was done for. As I stood there in shock, a giant wave crashed upon us and his body was thrown into the sound. I have been searching for him for days. I cannot go home to my mother without my brothers remains to bury him with our long gone father.” At that point, the man dropped the spear and fell to his knees on the deck crying and sobbing like a child.
Both Holmes and the Doctor then boarded the boat and held the man in their arms. Eventually, the Doctor went and returned with the constable. He told him his brother’s body was found and then sent him to Mrs. Amstead’s Boarding House to rest. A few days later the constable got together a crew to tow the eeler’s boat back across to Mattituck with the two brothers on board. Sadly, one was in a beautiful maple casket paid for by Holmes and Dr. Flotsam.
As they watched the boats disappear in the distance, Holmes turned to the good doctor saying “Not all mysteries are crimes, my Dear Doctor. Sometimes they turn out to be innocent tragedies!” He lit his pipe and the wind took the smoke in the direction of Mattituck.