(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.)
“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.)