"I've brought you all together," the famous British detective said, glancing meaningfully around Mayor Marty Chavez's conference room, "because I believe I've come to the end of my, ahem, investigation into the missing evidence."
"Now hold on there, Holmes. No one yet's proved there's actually any missing evidence from the room. The whole thing's nothing more than a politically-
"Calm down, Mr. Walz; don't get so hot under the collar,” Holmes replied. “Must I remind you that you are here only as a courtesy to Mayor Chavez? He told me he wouldn't attend unless there was newspaper coverage. And he specifically requested your paper, the Journal's, presence. But I must caution you that any further outbursts ... by the way, where is the mayor?"
Deborah James, the mayor's press secretary, reddened slightly. "His 10 a.m. press conference is running a bit late, but I'm sure he'll be here any minute. He has another one at 11 a.m. and his costume changes usually take at least five minutes. I'll check on him."
The famous detective adjusted his deerstalker, loosened his cape and pulled his deep-bowled meerschaum out, fiddling nervously with it as he paced back and forth before the assembled officials.
Dash these Yanks and their strange attitudes about smoking in public buildings. He didn't dare repeat his last attempt at lighting up two days ago. City Attorney Pete Dinelli had confiscated that pipe and God knows when he'd get it back.
"If only Watson were here," Holmes mused. "I could use his help." But Watson was still serving a sentence at Metropolitan Detention, locked-up unceremoniously, apparently for nothing more than speaking with a British accent to an APD cop in an Old Town parking lot.
Some crazy idea they had about defusing major crime by smashing small offenses into oblivion. Brutal, really, but Watson, he'd been promised, would be out by midday. Never could figure his offense, but best to keep your mouths shut around these chaps.
There was a scuffle at the other end of the room. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White was attempting to film the proceedings for use on the Fox Network's "Cops" reality show, and several policemen attempted to wrestle his tiny, smuggled spy cam away from him.
White was resisting mightily. But eventually a Chamber of Commerce official threw herself into the fray, aiming a well-placed kick at his ankle. The county's top law enforcement guy went down with a whimper. Holmes rushed to help him up, but the camera had already been seized.
"The mayor's been very clear," Terri Cole scolded White, tossing the Minicam to Police Chief Schultz. "No more reality show footage of our police force in action. It isn't good for tourism."
"Well where is the mayor?" Holmes said loudly, trying to regain control of what was coming dangerously close to a law enforcement free-for-all. "I'd like to explain my findings to the person in charge."
The entire room immediately grew hushed. The embarrassed silence was thick enough to cut with a telephone survey. No one looked directly at the Englishman.
He couldn't imagine what he'd said to produce such a result. At last Deborah James cleared her throat and stepped forward.
"Well, Mr. Holmes," she started, but didn't know where to go next.
Then Schultz tried to bail her out. "You have to understand, Sherlock, that in our system, um, well ..." and he, too, was at a loss for words.
It fell to Mr. Walz, the Journal editor, to explain the situation. As he had so often had to do in recent weeks, he interpreted for an uncomprehending public an approved version of what had really happened ... appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
"Look here, Holmes," Walz began, "the thing is the mayor had absolutely nothing to do with this issue of the missing evidence, understand? It isn't his problem, is it? I mean no one should blame the city's chief executive just because a little clerical mishandling has gone on among some low-level underlings."
Holmes removed the unlit pipe from his lips and struggled to frame his question. "But if the man at the top isn't to be held accountable for, um ..." he pulled out his notes and consulted them. "Yes, here it is, ’missing narcotics, thousands in cash and perhaps hundreds of guns never accounted for', well, I daresay then no one is to blame."
"Exactly!" the assembled officials shouted in unison. "It's elementary, my dear Holmes," former Chief Gallegos added enthusiastically. "I've been cleared."
"And so have his deputies!" current Chief Schultz smiled.
"And the whole darn force!" Shouted the whole innocent lot who were busily shaking one another's hands and patting one another's backs.
Holmes stuffed his calabash in his pocket, removed his cap and wiped his face with a large, checkered handkerchief. "Damnedest thing I've ever seen," he said to himself. "An entire town that's convinced itself that no one's guilty because no one is to blame and no one wants to know the truth."
He and Watson flew back to London that afternoon. This was one caper he never wanted to see in print.