Echoes of Holmes, Phillips & Ryan
Two tasty morsels from Echoes of Sherlock Holmes for you today…
by Gary Phillips
The dean of black empowerment lay dead on the worn throw rug. A ragged bullet hole violated Professor Lincoln Barrow’s wrinkled forehead. He was dressed in slacks and slippers, a ratty robe splayed open over an athletic T-shirt covering his pot belly. Near his outstretched hand was the spilled cup of tea he’d been holding. The stuff had soaked into the rug, the cup and saucer amazingly unbroken though the summation was he’d dropped to the floor instantly after being shot.
“That was part of a set C.L.R. James had given him,” said the beefier of the two men who stood looking down at the body. He meant the fine china items on the floor. “He mentioned it to me once,” he added, as if that meant the murdered man had shared a confidence.
The one he told this to was also over six feet. He had shoulders like a linebacker, thick Fu Manchu mustache, modest sideburns and hair flattened on top and close-cropped at the sides, what they called a “fade” in uptown barbershops. John “Dock” Watson turned from the body and began inspecting the spacious room–chamber he supposed it would be called in The Post. Two walls were composed of tall built-in bookshelves. On those packed shelves were numerous first and rare editions, from W.E.B. DuBois’ The Soul of Black Folk to Capital by Karl Marx and a personally signed copy of I am not Spock by the actor Leonard Nimoy.
by Hank Phillippi Ryan
“It’s the end of literacy as we know it,” I complained. I leaned back in my swivel chair, plonked my black boots on my desk, and glimpsed the last of the Wednesday sunrise, wisps of pale lavender, still visible behind the coppery foliage of our town’s famous beeches. This morning, however, I was lured from our front window and the glorious autumn by the curious email that had pinged onto my computer. I studied it, perplexed. I recognized the sender, but there was no subject line, nor were there words in the message section. The page showed only a colorful jumble of tiny graphic symbols.
“Clearly, the human need for language is threatened, do you not agree? Once we descend into ambiguous shorthand?” I reached for my white mug of oolong, grumbling, not taking my eyes from the screen, then removed my tortoiseshell spectacles, wiped away an annoying speck of dust with my handkerchief and put the glasses back on. “What, pray tell, does a smiley-face mean? ‘I’m only teasing’? Or, ‘I’m happy’? Or, ‘you win’?”
“You’re becoming a curmudgeon at age 30, girlfriend,” Watson warned. She placed her laptop on her desk, flipped the computer open. It trilled into life, and I heard Watson tapping keys as she talked. “By forty you’ll be totally ancient.”