Of all the cases I have had the fortune to assist my friend Sherlock Holmes with, perhaps the dullest was that of the Mute Moviegoer. It occured on a blustery day in '83, as I recall, when I was still living at Baker St., before matrimony carried me away from the twin pleasures of Holmes's fiddling and his violin playing. We had awoken late, as was our Bohemian wont, and were lounging on opposite sides of the fire, myself surrounded by a cloud of newspapers, Holmes with his trousers around his ankles, injecting cocaine into his groin.
"I say," said I, "did you see this item in the Kitchener St. Moustache?"
"The article about the mute moviegoer?" said Holmes, his lean face flushing as the drug entered his veins. "Why yes, dear Watson, I not only read it some hours ago, but I have just now received a telegram from the mute man advising me that he intends to call within the hour."
"Although I have just this minute finished reading the article in question, perhaps you would care to refresh my memory of its contents."
"Very well. Last evening, a young gentleman was found wandering the streets of Foxknob End, disoriented and mute, and without any means of identifying himself. He was quite unable to say who he was or where he had come from, or even how he came to be in such a state. The only items in his possession were the stubs of several cinema tickets."
"What movies were they for?"
"That, dear Watson, is the mystery. The titles were obscured by grime and moisture, and quite illegible. I suspect that were it possible to retrieve this information, the question of the ticket-holder's identity would be a simple matter of deduction."
"You mean to take on his case?"
"We shall presently see, for I believe that I hear his footstep upon the stair. Come in!"
A young man of perhaps seven-and-twenty entered and with a kindly smile Holmes bade him sit.
"Now, sir, allow me to examine your movie tickets and we shall see what I can deduce."
The young man handed over what were unmistakably cinema ticket stubs, and Holmes proceded to examine them through his lens before finally running his naked eye over their wrinkled contours, perhaps in silent tribute to our own naked, wrinkled encounters.
"I'm afraid the tickets themselves reveal naught. I wonder if a close examination of the young man himself may suggest the films the tickets were for, and thence lead to the identity of the man himself."
Holmes had the young man stand and spent the next ten minutes in silent contemplation of his features. Finally, Holmes bade his subject sit once more, while he himself lighted a pipe, grinning in that loveably arrogant manner of his.
"My dear Watson," said he, "I have solved the case."
"Surely you jest!"
"One who knows me as well as you do, Watson, would know that I never jest about my work. Allow me to reveal to you the process of my thought."
"If you would be so kind."
"I observe that the subject is lined about the eyes to a degree uncommon amongst those of his age. I divine, therefore, that he has children. You will notice he is in possession of four ticket stubs, two of which are grey with grime, while the other two are merely creased, although still illegible. This suggests two separate visits to the cinema. As the subject has children, and as it is the school holidays, I believe his companion on both occasions to have been a child."
"Quite so. As to the films they saw, the matter couldn't be simpler. You have doubtless noted the presence of a large number of dog hairs on the subject's right boot. This suggests that the earlier film was Disney's new version of The Shaggy Dog."
"Because, dear Watson, that film is of such terrible shittiness that it has driven more than one audience member to the most heinous of crimes."
"You don't mean..."
"But I'm afraid I do. This young man, whom I deduce to be otherwise of excellent character, has spent the last week kicking every dog he has chanced upon on the off chance that it was Tim Allen in disguise."
"God, yours or anybody else's, has very little to do with it, Watson."
"How do you know that The Shaggy Dog was the first film they saw?"
"Ah, I see that once again you have looked but failed to observe. Much of the dog hair on the subject's boot is partially covered with mud, and as you are aware the city has been on the receiving end of neither rain nor mud wrestling championships since early last week."
"Holmes, you have outdone yourself!"
"The second film was the remake of The Pink Panther that is currently infesting the multiplexes. Perhaps you have heard of it?"
"I have done better: I have seen it! It is a poor production, although I can't help thinking this appropriate given how dire was the original series. But how can you know this young man has seen it?"
"It is simplicity itself. You know well my interest in bodily fluids, Watson. Indeed, you and I have worked together on some very interesting experiments with same. As a result, I can deduce things from a man's excretions that would take Lestrade and his cronies an eternity to discover. Now, you will notice that the subject's face is crusted below the bottom lip with dried saliva. I detect that this saliva is of the lustful variety, as distinct from the hungry, stupid, or Pavlovian varieties."
"Meaning what, precisely?"
"Do I need to spell it out? Meaning that this young man has recently, or at least since he last washed his face, dribbled at the sight of a lithe young piece of woman flesh!"
I was startled, but then a word began to form in my mind, to which I unwittingly gave voice.
"Precisely! By the state of his clothing we can assume our man to have been on the streets, as it were, for under twenty-four hours. The state of the second pair of tickets indicates that the film was viewed sometime early in that period. In its turn, the dribble indicates that that film was The Pink Panther and that Beyonce's cleavage was at least one highlight in an otherwise mediocre and forgetable caper. His muteness may also be explained thus."
"I don't care for such specimens myself, as you well know, but that Beyonce is indeed a delight!"
"Certainly. One may enjoy beauty without wanting to sully it with one's lust. Not so this man, apparently, but one must live and let live."
"And his identity?"
"Elementary, my dear friend. This is none other than Lord Filtration Unit, heir to the Highbury Snail Pellets fortune. I recognised him the moment he walked through the door."
"Then..." I stammered, "then this business with the ticket stubs has been to no purpose?"
"On the contrary, it has provided me with a chance at sharpening my deductive skills, while allowing you to fall ever deeper in awe, and dare I say it love, with yours truly."
"There is that consolation, I suppose."
"Now, we must alert the police so that this man may be reunited with his family. But first, I am having difficulty locating a vein in which to inject my drug of choice. Watson, you are always so good with my groin. Perhaps you can find something."
And so the mystery was solved, and once Holmes and I had finished injecting, Lord Filtration Unit was returned to his family. He was never to speak again.