I arrived at the scene to find the great man already engrossed in his work, his keen eye sweeping the kitchen for the slightest slip that would signal the chase was on. He froze for a moment, transfixed by a solitary mug upon the worktop, a ghostly vapour writhing and dancing above its surface.
“Here Watson, quickly!” I strode over to join my friend, peering down at the untouched beverage before us. “Observe my good man, our prey is a gentleman, left-handed and of above average intelligence. Further more, he has taken flight mere moments before our entrance, no doubt spooked by my timely arrival. With good speed we shall yet apprehend him!”
I eyed my mentor with unabashed admiration. “My dear Holmes, I can see how you would draw the conclusion of our suspect’s recent and hasty departure from the warmth of his tea,” I began, taking of my hat and scratching my head in bewilderment, “but how on earth do you deduce all of that information from a simple cup?”
Holmes smiled, relishing the opportunity to demonstrate once more the remarkable intellect that had proven the scourge of the criminal underworld and drawn world wide acclaim for his detective talent. “Take note of the colour of the liquid, Watson. Only a student of the fine art of tea-making could achieve such perfection.”
He closed his eyes, bending his commanding frame to better position that famous nose above the mug and with a flourish he wafted the vapours toward him with those long elegant fingers so perfectly designed to caress the ivory keys of the magnificent Steinway that graces the orchestra pit at the Royal Albert Hall.
He inhaled deeply, “I am getting notes of Yorkshire Tea, Gold label, a connoisseur’s choice, no less.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t prove everything you have suggested,” I argued, “it merely raises the possibility…” He silenced me with a raised finger, which slowly and deliberately he lowered to point in the direction of a small saucer next to the sink, where a solitary teabag lay crumpled, discarded and crushed with a manly vigour.
I nodded in admiration at my colleague’s powers of observation. “A man then, for certain. but a gentleman? The colour might have been pure happenstance. A fortunate stroke of fate, like the lucky gambler at the roulette table.”
A slight smile played at the corners of my old friend’s mouth. “Look closer at this teabag, Watson. Observe the colour of the liquid residue that lies about it.” I moved closer and donned my spectacles, determined to force my eyes to see the same evidence that had hitherto eluded me, yet had been so evident to the master himself.
I studied the saucer and its contents for a full minute without enlightenment before Holmes grew tired of the game and brought me up to speed. “For heaven’s sake Watson, look. There is no trace of milk on this teabag or its residue!”
I paled at this startling new piece of evidence. “You mean…”
“Yes!” he interrupted, “our man withdrew the teabag from the cup before adding the milk! This is a cultured, sophisticate that we are dealing with here Watson, no mere rank amateur, but a man not to be taken lightly! There is no time to lose Watson, follow me!” In a few rapid movements Holmes strode from the kitchen and was about to leave the apartment when I called to him. “Wait! Holmes, one last conundrum, how do you deduce that our man is a left hander?”
Holmes paused in his pursuit and turned to address me. “Observe the large chip on the rim of the mug. If our man were a right-hander he would no doubt sustain a decidedly unpleasant cut to his mouth were he to imbibe from this vessel. No Watson, our man is undoubtedly a lefty.” And with those words he was through the door and gone, taking the stairs four and five at a time with his marvellous athletic stride.
I stood for a moment in silent awe, my eyes scanning the room as I considered all I had learned. My eyes alighted on the abandoned mug, still steaming, invitingly. I took the mug in my left hand and permitted myself a chuckle, then drew a small slim glass thermometer from my pocket and checked the temperature of the tea. 60 degrees celsius.
I repaired to the lounge and sat down in a rather splendid Parker Knoll recliner and took a sip. Holmes was right as usual. Our suspect really did know how to make the perfect cup of tea.