Archive for the ‘Serials’ Category

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Bees, Part V

July 28, 2008

We didn’t forget our thrilling adventure story with Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and other assorted super-heroes. It’s just been busy around here. For those of you who need a reminder, the first four parts of the adventure have been collected here and you can read them in the order they were posted.
Chapter Seven – A Midnight Ride

We join our intrepid heroes as Dr. Watson crept around the edge of the corral. It was a dark night in the Rocky Mountains and he could barely see.

“Psst! Watson. Over here.”

Suddenly and without warning, Watson shifted the narrative into the first person.

I [Watson] joined Holmes next to the fence, just above the creek. “Did anyone see you?” demanded Holmes.

“Not that I know of.”

But I was wrong. Two pairs of eyes had followed me from my room. Two pairs of eyes with six legs.

Holmes and I led two horses silently away from the corral. “As soon as we’re down by the creek we’ll mount and ride upstream,” whispered the English detective.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Up river and then to the Monsanto Ranch.”

One of Holmes’ more annoying habits was that he hardly ever told me his plans. Partly the result of his professional caution, it nonetheless bothered me greatly since I was left to surmise exactly what game it was that was afoot. That night was among the worst. A great challenge was before us and I knew little or nothing of what would happen. I had no idea why we were going to the Monsanto Ranch in the dead of night. It was a long ride that night in the darkness of the mountain forest. But I knew that every stride of the horses was taking us nearer to the conclusion of the adventure of the missing bees. Earlier in the evening at dinner, Holmes had told me that he had been in contact with his brother Mycroft in London. I knew that Mycroft had contacts at the highest levels of the British Government. “Mycroft has informed me there is a British secret agent here. We must try to contact him. Apparently another agent who was here first is missing.”

We rode for two hours or more. Eventually we topped out on a ridge overlooking a pristine mountain valley. A few lights glimmered far below us.

“That is Monsanto Ranch headquarters and the end of tonight’s journey Watson. Please dismount and walk on tiptoe and, above all, do not talk above a whisper.” We dismounted, tied the horses and moved cautiously along a faint trail. Holmes stopped when we were still several hundred yards from the ranch house and high above it.

“This will do,” said he. “These rocks upon the right make an admirable screen.”

“We are to wait here?”

“Yes Watson,” said he, “we wait until dawn.”

“But Holmes,” I cried. “That isn’t for three more hours!”

“Yes. It gives us a little time for sleep. I have brought two pads for us to lie upon while we wait.”

We bedded down there as the planet turned and waited for the dawn. From the darkness came Holmes’ voice.

“This reminds me of a joke about us Watson.”

I groaned. Holmes’ jokes were never very funny and I was tired and cold. “Yes, Holmes.”

“Sherlock Holmes and Watson were on a camping trip and sharing a tent. In the middle of the night Holmes awakens Watson and says, ‘Watson! Wake up! What do you see?’ Watson looks about and says, ‘Well, I see stars and the outline of trees.’ “And what do you deduce from that?’ Holmes asks. ‘That the universe is a huge place and that we are very small.’ ‘No Watson. Somebody has stolen our tent!’”

Chuckling mightily, Holmes was instantly asleep. I, however, wasn’t so fortunate. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being watched and not just by the Great Horned Owl in the fir tree above us.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Bees, Part III

May 30, 2008

(Editor’s Note: This is our third riveting installment in the serial about the missing bees. You can read the first installment here and the second part here if you are new to the spine-tingling mystery.)

Chapter Five

After checking in at the hotel, Holmes and Watson went to the bar.  They ordered a pint of bitter.  No one had a clue what they were talking about. So, they got sarsparilla.  “Watson, this tastes like brambles!” exclaimed Holmes.

Watson called the bartender over, “I say, my good fellow, haven’t you got something that tastes better, like beer?”

“Well of course we have beer.  Why didn’t you order one?”

“We thought we had.  Terribly sorry, old chap.”

“I’m not old and these are jeans I’m wearing, not chaps.”

Holmes drained his beer. “Another glass, Watson!”

“It is a good beer, Holmes.”

“A remarkable beer, Watson. The bartender has assured me that it is from Franz Josef’s special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace. Come, let us strike up a conversation with that man on the sofa over there.”

Holmes and Watson walked over to the sofa.  Noticing that a crossword puzzle was available, Watson moved on to a table where he could work on it.   The clue for 1 across was “A five letter word for fish.”  Dr. Watson was an expert fisherman and knew the answer was “trout.” Of course, the hotel was a trout-fishing resort so it wasn’t difficult.  6 across was also easy, “A red-necked assertive hummingbird.”  Watson filled in, “Rufous.”   11 down was a scratcher though, “Famous fictional English detective.”

In the meantime, Holmes said to the man, “My name is Sherlock Holmes.  Do you mind if I sit here?”

“Of course not.  I am Bill Jansen.  Not from around these parts are you?”

“No,” replied Holmes, “but I perceive that you are a unmarried right-handed lawyer, fisherman, and bee-keeper.”

Jansen flushed, “How do you know that?  I am.”

“That you are right-handed is clear from the callus on your right middle finger where your pen rests when you write. That you are a fisherman I deduce from the callosity beneath the inside of your right-hand ring finger which means you cast with your right hand.  There is no ring on your left hand which indicates that you are unmarried.  That you are a lawyer is evident from the briefcase by your side and that you are a bee-keeper is apparent from the welt on your neck, obviously caused by a bee sting and also the fleck of honey in your hair.”

“You are very quick at observing.”

“That is my trade.  Tell me, have your bees been disappearing?”

Jansen looked downcast.  “Why yes, they have.  Over the winter, I lost almost all of my hives.”

“But not all?” inquired Holmes.

“No.  Two survived.”

“Was it an unusually warm winter?” Holmes asked.

“No.  It was about normal.  We had a lot of snow.”

A beautiful woman walked over and told them that dinner was being served in the dining room.  Holmes remarked to her, “ You are named after an American Robin, I perceive.”  The beautiful woman stared at him. “How do you know my name?” she asked.

“Your voice reminds one of the bright, rich call of a robin,” said Holmes. “Surely your parents noticed this and named you accordingly.  That they changed the spelling is of no account.”

Chapter Six

After beating him up for no apparent reason, the guards at the Nonsanto Ranch released Tonto.  He noticed a man being dragged toward a dungeon.  Tonto decided to rescue him.  Tonto hauled himself on his horse and charged the guards.  The man grabbed Tonto’s outstretched hand and swung himself aboard the horse as Tonto raced by.  They galloped towards the mountains with the guards close behind. It was an exciting chase with lots of hair-breadth escapes but we don’t have time to tell you about it. In the end, they got away and rode into the Lone Ranger’s camp.

The Lone Ranger said, “Well Tonto, who is that you have with you?”

The man walked up to the Lone Ranger and said, “My name is Bond, James Bond.”

A Scrub Jay called. This was Colorado and part of its year-round range.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Bees, Part II

May 21, 2008

(Editor’s Note: This is our second installment in the serial about the missing bees mystery. You can read the first installment here if you are new to the spine-tingling thriller.)

Chapter Two
Great Horned Owl
A Great Horned Owl called softly as the Lone Ranger rode into camp. He found Tonto reading a little blue book by the light of the campfire. The book had golden letters on the cover. “What are you reading, Tonto?” he asked.

“A little book with a long title, Kemo Sabe, ” said Tonto. “It is called The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen. Someone named Sherlock Holmes wrote it. He is from England. I thought it might have some clues for us about the bees disappearing.”

“Holmes,” mused the Lone Ranger, “That name is familiar but I can’t place it just now.” He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down. “Tonto,” he said, there is something strange going on at Nonsanto’s place down in the valley. I don’t know what to make of it.”

“I suppose you’ll want me to ride in and take a look,” said Tonto.

“Yes, Tonto, I think we have to get to the bottom of this before all the bees disappear. Does that book you’re reading have any ideas that might help?”

“Well, Kemo Sabe, he says that this colony collapse disorder could be caused by a lot of things; fungus, virus, corn syrup, nosema , nicotene based pesticides, antibiotics,radiation, or something called ‘genetic modified crops.’ And then he says it might be something to do with the climate changing.”

“That’s not much help Tonto. I don’t understand half of it.”

“The author says he needs more data. Says it is a ‘capital mistake to theorize before one has data.’ ”

With that, Tonto got up, mounted his horse, and headed for the Nonsanto Ranch.

Chapter Three

Goldfinger and James Bond

Meanwhile, back at that ranch, an industrial laser was slicing through a metal table to which a man was securely strapped. Dr. Nonsanto was leaving the room when the man shouted, “Round Up!”

Nonsanto returned to the table and looked down at his captive.
“Bah,” he grunted, “Words you overheard and which can have no possible meaning for you, Mr. Bond.”

“Are you willing to bet the ranch on that, Nonsanto?” said Bond.

Nonsanto thought for a minute as the laser drilled closer and closer to Bond. “Turn it off and take him to the dungeon. We may need him to convince his friends that everything is all right.”

Just then, one of Nonsanto’s henchman came in. “Boss!” he cried, “We just caught an Indian hanging around.”

Nonsanto replied, “I don’t have time to deal with him. Beat him up and send him away.”

Chapter Four

Anna\'s Humingbird

Meanwhile, not far away, a train pulled into the station at Wagon Wheel Gap. Two men got off the train. One of them walked to the station master and said, “I say, old chap, is there a decent hotel in the vicinity?”

“Not from around these parts are you, fella?” said the man.

“Why no, we’re not. However could you tell?” Watson responded.

“Elementary. Your wearing tweed. And your friend there is wearing a funny looking hat and smoking a pipe. No pipe smokers around here. And yep, there is a hotel just up the creek there. I’ll give you a lift in the buckboard it you want.”

As they headed up the little canyon to the hotel, Holmes asked the driver if he had noticed anything out of the ordinary lately. “Just the bees being gone. And it seems like we don’t get as much snow as we used to and it melts earlier and earlier. Oh, one other thing too. The birds are coming back earlier every year. We got us an Anna’s Hummingbird — that’s a picture of one back up the page there — and they don’t hardly ever get this far north.”

“What about the flowers?” inquired Holmes.

“Funny you should mention it. That field over there ought to be full of wild Iris right about now but they all wilted off and died just yesterday. You should have seen them last year. I got a picture right here taken by a Mr. Galen Rowell. This is what they looked like last year. Now, they’re all dead. Makes a man want to cry.”

Wild Iris

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Bees

May 13, 2008

(Editor’s Note: In the old days of Victorian England, serials were popular. Most of Dicken’s books were first published as serials as were the Sherlock Holmes stories of Conan Doyle. Today, we borrow the idea. Here is the first installment of a brand new mystery. The second installment will come sometime next week.)

Chapter One

“I shall have to go Watson.”
“Go, Holmes? Go where?
“To America, of course. Somebody has got to find those bees.”
“Holmes! You astonish me! How did you know that I was just thinking about that?”

Holmes frequently astounded me with observations that seemed to come out of the ether. We were sitting in our rooms at 221B Baker Street in London and I had been considering the mystery of the disappearance of the honey bees in North America. Since Holmes had been studying bees for most of his life, his interest in the subject did not surprise me, but reading my mind did.

“Elementary, Watson. You see but do not observe. You are sitting by the window where you always sit to read the papers. The stain on your left thumb is newsprint of a type only American newspapers use which means you’ve been reading one of their papers. You had honey rather than marmalade on your breakfast toast which I deduce from the spot of honey on your right index finger; so naturally you were thinking about bees when you sat down to read the papers. And the American papers which came yesterday included the Sacramento Bee so the inference was obvious to the trained mind which sees and observes.”

“Holmes, you amaze me. I was thinking of the American bees. Their disappearance could be catastrophic for the world.”

“Yes Watson, I know. Bees pollinate almost every plant in the world that the birds don’t. And without the Western honey bee, which are the ones used in commercial farming, there would be no food crops. The birds can’t do all the pollination. In fact, without bees, birds won’t have enough to eat themselves and pretty soon neither will humans. We must get to the bottom of this ‘colony collapse disorder.’”

Holmes was off on a didactic dash. “Watson, bees pollinate 80% of all fruits and vegetables. When the plants flower, if the bees aren’t there to move the pollen to other plants, the plants are sterile. At least one third of all crops in the United States are pollinated by bees. Almonds, peaches, soybeans, apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers and strawberries are just some of the crops bees pollinate. And blueberries, Watson, blueberries! Watson, more than a million bee colonies died this winter! 35% of all their colonies, gone!”

“But Holmes,” I cried, “What is the cause?”

“Ah, Watson, that is the question, isn’t it? We shall go to America and examine the clues. Perhaps the dog did not bark in the nighttime.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch in America, The Lone Ranger sat his horse, high up in the Rocky Mountains. Below him lay the pristine and remote Nonsanto valley. A Blue Jay squawked at him. He was just below the tree line. He knew not to skyline himself. He had read the Louis L’Amour books; the good books, the old books about the days when a man’s gun was more important than his flag pin. “Men who skyline themselves don’t last long in this land,” he thought. The Lone Ranger was a thoughtful man and he was thinking. About bees. He too wondered where the bees had gone. The Lone Ranger didn’t know much about bees. He and Tonto were bird watchers, which is why he knew that bird hopping around on the ground over there was a Mountain Chickadee. Bird watching was what they did in their spare time when they weren’t fighting a never-ending battle for “truth, justice and the American way.” “No,” he thought, “That’s Superman. We’re the “Champions of Justice!”

Tonto and the Lone Ranger both knew that in nature everything is connected to everything else. No man is an island and all that. If the bees were disappearing, the birds could not be far behind. And mankind would surely starve to death without the birds and the bees. Of course, without the birds and the bees, the species would soon die out anyway.

“Something strange going on down there,” he thought. From where he sat he could see the ranch in the valley bottom. Little men in white coats were scurrying around the buildings. “I’ll have to send Tonto down there to see what he can learn about what they are doing.” The Lone Ranger sent Tonto into towns and ranches since his disguise depended on being rarely seen. Besides, somebody always got beat up and, being a thoughtful man, the Lone Ranger thought it was better for Tonto to get beat up than him.

“I’d better get back to camp and warn Tonto,” he thought and, with a whispered “Hi Ho Silver,” the Lone Ranger rode off. A Western Bluebird watched him go.

Had the Lone Ranger known what was happening in the ranch house at that very moment, he might have decided to ride down there himself, six-guns blazing. In one of the ranch buildings was a man; spread-eagled on a metal table, looking up at a strange device boring a hole in the table, coming straight at him. Tied tightly to the table by rawhide strips, the man could not move. There was nothing he could do but talk.

“Do you expect me to talk, Dr. Nonsanto?”
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”


(Editor’s Note: The next installment of our exciting serial has been posted. You can read it here.)

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