Mortimer Mudge and the Fur Watch Chain

Work on Volume 6 of the 223B Casebook Series is still going on. I’ve got to write 16 introductions, add a dozen more footnotes, add the corrections from the beta reader and wrap up five years of Conan Doyle’s life. I want to get the book finished by the end of February, and right now we’re on track to do that. After that: Volume 7!

223B Casebook Volume 6

Coming soon!

In the meantime, here’s a newly discovered parody from the 1920-1924 period. It came from the Washington Times newspaper in 1922. It’s by “Rhoda Montade,” apparently a humorous byline whose joke is lost to the ages.

Bill Blackbeard, in his “Sherlock Holmes in America,” found one story by her, but it turns out that Montade wrote seven of them featuring Mortimer Mudge and his friend, Snoggs. One of them will appear in the book, but here’s a different one to tide you over.

Mudge and the Fur Watch Chain

“Rhoda Montade”

“I don’t know.”

These were the astounding—if you knew him—words that I—who did, intimately—heard Mortimer Mudge utter. I rubbed my ears. I could hardly believe them.

The great detective noticed my amazement. “These,” he said, and pointed toward his desk.

I sighed with relief. It always relieves me when I understand.

The desk was piled high with thousands of telegrams. An international crime wave was raging. As usual, the police appealed to Mudge. Hence the telegrams.

“A sea wave,” Mudge remarked, “is, as you know, merely a succession of smaller waves. Now, Snoggs, It is obvious that I cannot combat each separate crime wave. Therefore, I don’t know.”

But he said it with less conviction. Perhaps he did know!

“What would you think, Snoggs, if I should conquer the big wave, and in so doing conquer all the waves?”

I told him.

“And what do I say of any given crime? ‘Find the woman,’ do I not?”

He does. I said so.

“All right, then,” said Mudge, “I will. I will find the woman who is at the head of this gigantic criminal activity, this wave. But not a word of this to them,” and he pointed toward the anteroom. There, as I knew, were seventeen chiefs of police from all over the world, in full uniform, each begging Mudge to return with him and put down his particular crime wave.

Mudge threw open the door of the anteroom. The chiefs sprang to their feet and were jostling each other quite rudely.

“Attention!” Mudge commanded, and they snapped to. “I am going for a walk. Ten of you may go with me, If you will promise to behave. The others must stay here. Eenie, meenie, minie, mo—” And he went on counting out those who must stay.

We left the unlucky seven, cheered somewhat by the promise of a parchesi board, which Mudge had sent his man to buy, and strolled toward the Bowery. The ten chiefs huddled together and kept close to our heels. We came to a corner en which were perhaps a hundred men, each silently holding out some article which, Mudge told us, he was offering for sale. “Chiefs,” Mudge said, “these are stolen goods—” He started.

Directly before us was a tall, thin man precariously dressed, who held before him a pocket knife.

“That knife!” Mudge hissed. “Two blades and a stag handle?—my knife! I left it on my desk when we started, and now, half an hour later, it has been stolen and is already for sale. You see, chiefs, the close organization of the criminals.”

The chiefs, however, were so alarmed at the thought of what might have happened to their comrades left alone in Mudge’s office that they paid no attention. We led them away.

“Snoggs, did you notice anything strange about that man? He wore a fur watch chain!”

And so he did, as I then remembered; a narrow band of fur across his waistcoat from pocket to pocket. Remarkable!

“Mark it well,” was all Mudge would say about it, however.

“Well, boys,” he said to the chiefs, “you have had a shock. Supposing we have a soda or something at a cabaret?”

“Oh, goody! Let’s!” they cried. So we did.

At the cabaret was a dancer, a short, plump, dimpled girl with bobbed blond hair—the very type of a vampire, as we found her to be.

For she whispered to a man as she danced past him! And the man wore a fur watch chain! And at the end of the dance the man threw money on the floor at her feet!

“The queen of the crooks!” Mudge hissed. “He is giving her the spoils of his latest robbery, which I deduce was of an automat restaurant.”

But the man must have suspected us, for he suddenly exclaimed, “My wife!” and fled.

As we reclaimed our hats on departing Mudge silently directed our attention to the man in charge of the hat stand. He, too, wore a fur watch chain. “That proves it!” Mudge hissed.

He dismissed the police chiefs, and they, after giving the Police Chiefs’ Benevolent Association yell, started toward the railway station. Some of them, we learned later, sneaked back to the cabaret.

As we entered Mudge’s office alone I called his attention to something on the desk. It was his knife!

“Ah, Snoggs,” he said, “the crooks have been warned. They have returned the knife, you see. We must nab them before they escape. Where are the other chiefs?” But the seven had disappeared, taking the parches board with them. He rang for his secretary.

“Have this telegram sent to all police departments everywhere: ‘Crime wave in your city work of organized band. Led by woman. Trail every man wearing fur watch chain. Arrest him and first woman he gives valuables to, unless wife. Collect.’ Then have our police arrest the cabaret dancer. She is at the head of the international crooks’ organization.”

It was marvelous! In three hours Mortimer Mudge had solved the problem that baffled thousands of police departments.

Just then his secretary reminded him of a caller who had been waiting all day. Mudge graciously consented to see him.

On the doorway I was astounded to see him stop and throw his hands over his head. Then I understood.

Quick as a flash Mortimer Mudge had drawn his pistol and covered the man!

“What’s this for?” the man cried.

“That,” said Mudge, curtly. Then he pointed to the man’s waistcoat. There was a fur watch chain!

“Yes,” said the man, “but don’t shoot me for it. It was my idea, I admit I have patents pending on it. Yet my competitors are selling thousands of them and getting away with it. You must find them and stop them so I can bring suit.”

“Explain,” Mudge demanded, still keeping him covered.

“Why, my fur watch chains. I got up the idea and the slogan: ‘Have your watch chain match her furs.’ I sold millions. Will you stop my rivals?”

But Mudge was already talking to his secretary, whom he had hastily summoned. “Have those telegrams gone yet?”

They had!

Slowly Mudge pocketed his pistol. Then he exclaimed triumphantly, “I have already solved your case. The sale of fur watch chains will have stopped by this time to-morrow. Five thousand dollars is my fee—see the cashier.” And he had the man led out.

“Snoggs, how would you like to take a trip with me—to the Island of Yap, say?” he asked. “The crime wave there interests me.”