The victim had fallen splayed across an Afghan rug in the bedroom and had bled a good deal from a head wound apparently sustained long enough ago that rigor mortis had indeed set in.
“The victim was one Francois de Nada, a Frenchman. Seems to have sustained himself as a freelance writer for the newspapers. Gutter press kind of stuff. No known connections to the sex trade.” Martinez was already making notes.
“He must have been a dedicated hobbyist. Who’s the model?” I was looking at the impressionistic portrait above the mantel of a young woman seated at a cafe, perhaps on some Parisian boulevard. Even allowing for artistic licence, she had obviously been very striking. Her blonde hair fell expansively down to her shoulders. She wore a violet summer dress that did nothing to conceal the ins-and-outs of her figure.
“The neighbour downstairs says she’s the victim’s wife. He heard a disturbance last night at around midnight and clocked that the front door was open this morning. Decided to check and found the victim here around midday.
“Dead around twelve hours,” said the man to whom I had been introduced as Sherlock Holmes. He seemed to be admiring the painting too, puzzled. “What else do you infer from the corpse, Doctor Watson?”
“Oh, I’m not a Doctor,” I said sheepishly. “At least, not a Doctor of medicine. Forensic Science, actually. Just call me John.”
“Inspector Martinez assured me of your qualifications. No doubt you found yourself with some free time after you were invalided out of the army.”
“I didn’t tell him about that,” put in Martinez.
“I observed the limp on the way up here and the badge on your lapel,” said the strange man, helpfully. “Naturally I put two and two together.”
“Next thing you’ll tell me I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress.”
“We each have our own peculiarities, Doctor Watson. Delighted to make your acquaintance. But now, if you’ll turn your attention – a man is dead…”
photo: Martin Freeman in the BBC production “Sherlock”