Feb. 15, 2020
PRESIDENT & CEO, KUROSAWA HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD.
TOKYO, BRUSSELS, PANAMA & MACAO
Dear Mr. Nicholas Mayer:
As you know by now (the Internet allows no secret), I was the anonymous purchaser of the Watson journal at Sotheby’s last year. Since my childish, I have loved Dr. Watson’s accounts of the great detective. Please excuse my English. I attended Penn State many years ago, but I lack perfection. Also because I am with the flu at present, I have some confusion.
I was most pleased with the work you performed on the Protocols ms. but now confess I did not share the contents of the entire document with you at that time. Watson’s dairy [sic] continues some years. Most of the entries are so-so. They mainly deal with W’s medical practices and his marriage, also London Olympics of 1908, where he treated injured competitors. They could have been written by any doctor of the time.
But in 1910 Watson becomes again involved with Sherlock Holmes on a most bazaar [sic] case. If you are agreeable, I would entrust the pages to your labor as I am sure the world would (will? Please excuse) find them most bazaar [sic]. I am thinking he meant to publish one day as he gave those pages a title.
On this occasion I am prepared to offer a nominal fee for your services.
I send this to you via private correspondence and would appreciate your discretion until such time as we have made the agreement.
Let me know at your earliest, etc.
Very truly yours,
PRESIDENT & CEO
I was of course surprised by this communication, even more to learn there was more to Watson’s journal than I had been led to believe when I edited the excerpt known as The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. Of course, I agreed to Mr. Mishima’s proposal. As Watson says at one point in the ms., old habits die hard.
As Mr. Mishima rightly points out, this section of Watson’s journal was evidently considered worthy of publication by the doctor, who gave it a good deal of attention, making my task considerably easier than my previous effort, where entire pages had been suppressed.
That said, some of Watson’s Egyptian references have been shown to be inaccurate, due either to his own ignorance or the effect of subsequent discoveries that shed new and different light on his narrative. What follows must nonetheless speak for itself, with the remaining qualifications: there is some debate as to when Holmes actually began his years of retirement. Watson’s journal herein may compound that confusion. When did Holmes formally begin bee-keeping on the Sussex Downs? Many scholars point to “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” as evidence that Holmes was retired by 1909, when the case is ostensibly set. Other scholars—wouldn’t you know—have theorized that “The Lion’s Mane” itself is entirely bogus, not to be relied on for anything. So we must take what follows bearing these controversies in mind.
Another point: Watson was writing in 1910–1911 and evidently revising some time thereafter. Language, as we all know, is a living thing and vocabulary as well as prose changes with the times. What Watson wrote in 1886, for example, is not the way he wrote some twenty years later. His actual text—FedExed to me from Tokyo by Mr. Mishima—suggests a diary that was subsequently revised with a view to publication; thus tenses and perspectives sometimes shift. I have chosen to leave these inconsistencies alone as I think they convey the flavor of both the case as it unfolded and also Watson’s later hindsights. Likewise, I’ve not corrected Watson’s orthography or Mr. Mishima’s English. I find Mr. Mishima’s letter poignant as written and correcting his language, I feel, would dilute the emotion I believe I detect between lines written under duress. I’ve tried to keep footnotes to a minimum. You can always ignore them.
I have added illustrations and maps to Watson’s text, which I hope will clarify places and things for the reader.
Finally, Mr. Mishima’s letter, while self-explanatory, does contain a melancholy postscript. Shortly after I had agreed to his conditions, I received an email from his personal secretary, Mr. Watanabe, that the CEO of Kurosawa Heavy Industries had died. He was a vigorous eighty-four and had, as I understand, just returned from a Chinese business trip.
At the time, we in the United States were just becoming aware of the pandemic that would shortly change (or shorten) all our lives. By the time the legal aspects of the Watson journal entries were resolved, I was in lockdown in Los Angeles, stuck with only the ms. for company. I can only hope I have made good use of my time and Mr. Mishima’s trust.
It should also be understood that I have no way at this point of knowing if this case is the last entry in the journal Mr. Mishima acquired with his Sotheby’s purchase. As he originally chose not to inform me that the journals continued after the adventure of the Protocols, I have no way of knowing if the same journals continue beyond what Watson calls The Return of the Pharaoh. I have asked Mr. Watanabe this question but as of today’s date have received no answer.
Nicholas Meyer, Los Angeles, September 2020
I AM DEALT THE SAME HAND
Thursday, 3 November, 1910. Juliet’s cough is back. She tries to conceal it from me but I hear it early in the morning when she wakes, and sometimes in the middle of the night when she imagines I’m sleeping. In addition, I can hardly miss the other signs—fatigue, occasional fever and night sweats. She appears to have scant appetite and her pallor is not her own.
Yesterday I finally persuaded her to visit Stark-Munro, who has taken over from Agar, and we went down together. Juliet insisted it was just a cold, but we both knew better. Understandably neither of us wishes to confront the likely reality. Unspoken between us was the thought that we have been so happy.
And also unspoken by me was the enraged thought that this couldn’t be happening again.*
Stark-Munro was kindly and tactful but quite thorough. While Juliet waited docilely in his consulting room, pretending to read a back number of The Strand, I stood beside the specialist as he peered through the microscope.
“There can be no mistake,” Stark-Munro advised me, tugging off his gloves. “The bacillus is present.” He stood aside, inviting me to see for myself.
As I stared through the microscope, my vision hopelessly blurred. I had attempted to prepare myself for this blow, but my colleague’s diagnosis staggered me, made worse, if I’m not mistaken, by the very gentleness with which it was delivered.
Copyright © 2021 by Nicholas Meyer