A young man visits the famous detective Squareknock Holes to request his help. For several weeks the young man had been employed in an unusual capacity and had been paid handsomely for the work. All of a sudden the League he was a member of has seemingly disappeared, along with his income, and the young man wishes to find out why.
Squareknock eyed the wall with ill-temper. The wallpaper was dingy, once white and now nicotine-yellow, and there were numerous small holes in it, so much so that it badly needed the attention of a qualified plasterer. He was certain that something behind the wall had moved, and now he was sitting perfectly still in his armchair, listening as intently as he could. His breath was slow and regulated, unlike his pulse which was racing. He could hear the thud of his heart as a dull, irregular beat in his ears, and cursed himself for not being able to silence it so that he could better apprehend the intruder approaching the door.
A floorboard outside the door creaked, and he immediately gauged how long the creak lasted for, and whether or not it terminated abruptly. It didn't; whoever was outside had obviously not paid attention to the creak and didn't realise that they'd just given their weight away. Squareknock tensed slightly, still not moving from the chair but bringing his muscles a hair's-breadth away from activation, ready to leap into action.
The doorknob rattled as a hand on the other side took hold of it, and Squareknock's hand came up. In it was his service revolver, which the Army were still attempting to reclaim from him and for which they sent a middle-aged man with psoriasis round every few months to question him further. As the doorknob rotated to the left Squareknock's finger squeezed the trigger and the bullet exploded from the chamber, racing along the barrel and punching its unforgiving way through the wooden door and into the person stood behind it.
"Squareknock!" shouted James Wilson, leaping from his chair as though he'd been shot himself. He'd been sleeping until that moment, that morning's newspaper draped over his face to conceal that he drooled while he dreamt. The newspaper fluttered to the ground, several sheets detaching from the whole and scattering themselves across the never-cleaned carpet. "What the hell was that?"
From the other side of the door came a distinctly feminine groan and a thud as of a body slowly slumping to the ground.
"An intruder, Wilson," said Squareknock with more a hint of smug satisfaction in his voice. "An intruder who weighs no more than sixty-eight of those european kilogrammes we read so much of in the popular press these days. An intruder who sought to gain entry to our rooms while you slept and I pondered, considering the viscosity of Afghan tobaccos."
"You've shot someone? Again?" Wilson hastened to the door, his patent leather-soled shoes slipping on the sheets of newspaper and slowing his progress. "I've told you again and again, Holes, you can't shoot people you can't see!"
"Naturally I can," said Squarelock, elevating his jaw a little so that he was peering along his nose at Wilson. "And I think I have demonstrated that point quite adequately, so I'd be grateful if you could stop making these patently false allegations."
Wilson reached the door and pulled it open. Outside was the unconscious, bandaged form of their housekeeper and landlady, Mrs. Bloodhound, and cowering next to her was a young man with bright-red hair and a suspicious damp patch around his crotch. "Holes, you know perfectly well that I meant to say that you must not shoot people you cannot see," he said, kneeling down and gently rolling Mrs. Bloodhound over. "Sooner or later you will kill Mrs. Bloodhound, and then Inspector Lestreet will come here and arrest you. And you won't be able to talk your way out of it, either."
"Lestreet is an idiot and I shall be able to convince the poor fool to arrest the dead Mrs. Bloodhound," said Squareknock, but there was less confidence in his voice now than earlier. "You will note that I was quite right about the weight, though."
Wilson shook his head, but didn't say anything. The bullet appeared, this time, to have gone straight through her shoulder and could be simply bandaged up, making almost all of her left-arm now covered in bandages, poultices, and sticking plasters. He stood up to go back into the room and find his medical bag.
"Oh," he said, realising that he could smell something that confirmed his suspicions about the damp patch at the young stranger's crotch. "You should probably just go in, Holes is about done shooting people now." He led the way, so as to reassure the young man that Holes wasn't about to start shooting again, but the man remained in the doorway.
"I'm looking for the famous detective, Squareknock Holes," said the young man, a tremor in his voice. The pallor of his face did not sit well with the fieriness of his hair.
"And you have found him," said Squareknock putting the revolver under his chair and standing up. "You are here to commission me, I suspect, mostly likely about a job you no longer have, related, I should estimate, to a facility you have that most people would not consider a talent."
"What?" said the young man, his face glazing over as he tried, and failed, to follow Squareknock's words.