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Old October 6 2009, 03:26 AM   #62
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

September 2009 Challenge-A Mystery Tale Winning Entry

The Hound of the Baskervilles?

(Note that the basic plot outline, the characters and certain dialogue at the beginning of the holosuite program come from the serialized crime novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)

Dr. Julian Bashir admired his reflection in Garak's shop mirror. The tailor had outdone himself with the Sherlock Holmes costume. Bashir felt like Holmes as he put an empty calabash pipe into his mouth and gave a playful puff. “Elementary, my dear Watson,” he said, turning to the Cardassian attired as Dr. Watson.

Garak let out a small put upon sigh and called into the dressing room, “Chief, are you dressed yet? I'm not entirely certain how much longer I can wait.”

“Just give me a minute,” Chief O'Brien's gruff voice called back to him, sounding annoyed.

Bashir rolled his eyes. “You'd think I asked the two of you to attend a Klingon opera holoprogram,” he said. “This is supposed to be fun, remember? Besides, Garak, I think this will give you a much better appreciation of Earth mystery novels.”

O'Brien shoved the red curtain aside and stalked out, digging the fingers of both hands under the high stock collar of his costume. “Bloody uncomfortable is what it is,” he groused. “How'm I supposed to breathe?”

“You'll get used to it,” Bashir said, already regretting asking both of them to participate together. The Chief's dislike of Cardassians combined with Garak's haughty disregard of his favorite mystery novels was making him feel defensive, not the best frame of mind for enjoying a good mystery. He hoped that both of them would settle into it once they reached the holosuite and they could see how detailed the program was.

He enjoyed the looks they got in Quark's, knowing that he cut a dashing figure in the houndstooth cape and hat. If Garak and the Chief hadn't been acting like leashed cats in his wake, he might've suggested they have a couple of drinks at the bar before starting the program. Instead, he sent O'Brien, playing the role of the young Sir Henry, in ahead of them, telling him they'd meet up with him later.

“Now remember, Garak, we'll want to pay attention to all the clues, even things that may seem innocuous. You didn't read the book ahead of time, did you?” he asked.

Garak held up both hands. “Doctor, believe me, the furthest thing from my mind was reading another of these Holmes books of yours.”

Bashir pressed his lips together in a frown. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered with the infuriating Cardassian. He had to admit it was likely for the challenge of it. So few people truly managed to challenge his intellect. “All right, then. Let's go,” he said, sweeping one shoulder of the cape back with a flourish. He was going to enjoy himself in spite of his companions.

The doors swept open, and the two stepped through. When the doors shut behind them, they shut out the noise and lights of Quark's Bar and encased them in a late morning scene of a Victorian era sitting room. A cheery fire burned in a grate, and a breakfast table was set with a silver coffee pot and service. Bashir took off his coat and hat, hanging them on pegs near the door, and then took a seat at the breakfast table with his back to Garak. “You'll find a walking stick by the hearth,” he told the Cardassian. “What do you make of it? Tell me of the man who left it, since we have missed his visit.” He knew it wasn't an exact quote, but he also knew Garak needed to be coaxed into this. Being verbose wouldn't help.

Garak obliged and picked up the thick stick, reading the inscription on its silver band aloud, “To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H. 1884. Our visitor is named James Mortimer,” Garak said, feigning shock. “Who would've imagined?” He hefted the stick in both gray hands and eyed it critically. “He doesn't care well for his things. This stick is just five years old and looks as though it's at least three times that. He has allowed some sort of animal to chew on it. He walks in mud. Really, D—Holmes,” he corrected himself, “he can't be all that old and is very absent minded. I'm sorry I can't tell you a thing about the abbreviations as I don't have the proper cultural references.”

Bashir scowled. He was playing Holmes, not Garak! With difficulty, he asked, “Why do you think he's young and absent minded?”

Garak tutted and shook his head. “Because an old man who actually needed this stick would never leave it behind, and only an absent minded individual loses track of a nice gift.”

The doctor sighed inwardly. This wasn't turning out nearly as fun as he hoped it would be. The sight of a tall, thin man accompanied by a curly-haired spaniel took his mind off of that. He stood and crossed to the recessed window, delivering one of his favorite lines from the book as he then went to answer the door. “Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill. What does Dr. James Mortimer, the man of science, ask of Sherlock Holmes, the specialist in crime? Come in!"

The gentleman in question came inside, taking the stick from Garak's hand with earnest joy and allowing “Holmes” to introduce him to “Dr. Watson”. He then began a study of Bashir's skull, commenting upon the shape and size of it and running a finger along the top of it.

Garak stared with open confusion. “What is he doing, Doctor? Is this some odd human courtship behavior?”

“Computer, freeze program,” Bashir said, irritated. “No, Garak, it's called phrenology. It was a popular study during the Victorian Era of Earth's history. They believed that the shape and size of the skull indicated all sorts of things, from personality to intelligence, even indicating a proclivity for criminal behavior.”

“I wonder what they'd have made of a Cardassian head,” Garak mused. “I'm sorry, Doctor. I won't break character again.” He smiled that bland smile that drove Bashir halfway insane with frustration.

He gave him a long, hard look before starting the program again. The three of them retired to seats around the hearth, and Dr. Mortimer produced a manuscript detailing the lurid legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles as it related to the Baskerville family. Much to Bashir's relief, Garak finally seemed to be taking this seriously, listening very intently to every word.

Bashir dismissed the manuscript as Holmes did in the novel, prompting Mortimer to read a more recent newspaper article detailing the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville from apparently natural causes. After the doctor read the article, he gave private details he had not shared with reporters when interviewed, revealing Sir Charles' obsession with the Baskerville legend, his declining health, and lastly the discovery of suspicious footprints near the body.

“A man's or a woman's?” Bashir recited the line, glancing over at Garak, eager to see his reaction to the imminent revelation.

“Mr. Holmes,” the man whispered, “they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

The Cardassian covered a yawn behind his hand. Sighing quietly, Bashir continued with the tale, prompting Mortimer to speak of his fear of supernatural involvement, describe the crime scene in detail, and express his concern for the safety of the last remaining Baskerville heir, Sir Henry, who was to be arriving from Canada in less than an hour. He convinced him to pick Sir Henry up and return with him in tow at ten o'clock the next morning.

After Mortimer left, he said, “Why don't you go out, Watson, and leave me to think on this?”

“Go out and do what?” Garak asked skeptically.

“Enjoy the setting,” Bashir said. “It's not every day you'll have the opportunity to explore Victorian London. You and I aren't scheduled to have another significant encounter until tonight. Take advantage of it.” He had an ulterior motive. He wanted the chance to explore Holmes' study without the tailor there to cast a damper on everything he enjoyed.

“Very well, Holmes,” Garak said, shaking his head and letting himself out of the house. He called back before shutting the door, “Are you aware it's raining out here...and cold?”

(cont' next post)
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