“Nigel, Laura is waiting. Will you tell me what is wrong?”
Nigel separated the letters and displayed them on the desk in front of Reggie.
“Part of my job is to reply to correspondence that should have been
delivered elsewhere—or rather, not at all.”
“What’s the problem? If it’s misdelivered, send it back.”
“I can’t. It’s in the lease.”
“That the tenant receive these letters, and not complain to the postmaster to get them stopped, but instead respond to them—with these bloody forms I have around here someplace.”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The in-basket is full of them. Just take one off the top.”
Reggie did so. He began to read one letter—and then he abruptly stopped. He stared at the name of the addressee for a moment, and he gave his brother an incredulous look.
“Nigel, is this a joke?”
“It’s not a joke.”
Reggie read aloud the address on the envelope: “Mr. Sherlock Holmes, 221b Baker Street, London.”
He tossed the letter dismissively back onto the desk in front of Nigel.
Nigel was unfazed. “Look at the others,” he said.
Reggie picked up another letter and read the address: “Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, 221b Baker Street.”
And another: “Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Bee Keeper, c/o 221b Baker Street.”
Nigel nodded and folded his arms as though he’d made his point.
“Are you telling me everything in this basket is addressed to him?” demanded Reggie.
“Yes—they’re pretty much all like that, although most aren’t so much interested in the beekeeping aspect.”
Reggie stared at the letters in his hand and then back at Nigel again.
“You mean simply because our address is—”
“Yes,” said Nigel. “Simply because you’ve located your chambers in a building that takes up the entire Two Hundred block of Baker Street.”
“But surely no one could actually believe—”
“Apparently some would do.”
Reggie looked again at the letters that had piled up in the basket. There were dozens of them, in all kinds of formats—scrawled in longhand and typed on ancient Remingtons; laser-printed and hand-lettered on lined yellow pads.
In fact, the letters to Sherlock Holmes outnumbered all the legitimate correspondence. This was annoying.
“Doesn’t it occur to these people that if he were real, that he’d be long dead and rotten?”
Nigel shrugged. “What can I tell you? Dorset House has been getting and responding to the letters for years. The Baker Street Tourist Board loves them for it.”
“Then let them handle the responses. Why should we worry about—”
“Because the letters have always been delivered to this floor of this building—and now you’ve taken a leasehold on it. And as you know, the lease specifically says that the occupant of these premises takes responsibility for the letters.”
Reggie said nothing for a moment, and now it was Nigel’s turn to give the older brother an incredulous stare.
“You did know this, of course,” said Nigel. “I mean, you did read the full lease agreement before signing?”
“Of course,” said Reggie.
“Article 3d, paragraph 2a, of addendum G?”
Reggie was silent. He knew what had happened, though he was loathe to admit it—especially to Nigel. The lease terms had been too favorable—and he had been too eager.
Excerpted from The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson.
Copyright © 2009 by Michael Robertson
Published by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.