This was sent in by a reader:
Holmes and I were sitting enjoying a quiet pipe at 221B Baker Street on a cold winter afternoon when we heard a knock on the front door. A muted conversation could be heard, followed by Mrs Hudson presenting herself at our sitting room door and informing Mr Holmes that a Dr Dusty Rose-Paddock wished to have an urgent interview with him at the earliest possible moment.
“Well,” said Holmes, “There is nothing pressing engaging us at the moment so please, Mrs Hudson, show him up”. A well-dressed gentleman was shown in and Holmes introduced us. “Now, Dr Rose-Paddock” said Holmes, “Please inform us of this urgent matter upon which you wish to consult us”.
“Well, Mr Holmes, I am most grateful for you agreeing to see me. I wonder if you could assist me in solving a most pressing problem? I am a medical man. My interest is infectious diseases. I occupy an important position in a large government department. What I have to say to you is top secret and must remain strictly confidential. It is no exaggeration to say that the very survival of the state as we know it is at stake”.
“Rest assured’’ said Holmes, “Anything you say to us we will go no further”.
Dr Rose-Paddock took a deep breath and said, “It is like this. There has been an outbreak of an infectious disease in government departments and amongst the government executive. As best we can tell the disease has been caused by a small microbe, just recently identified as Bacillus incompetens. It causes a disease called incompetitis. There is as yet no effective treatment”.
Watson,” Holmes interjected, “Have you heard of this microbe and its’ disease?”
“No,” I replied, “It must be something new”.
“Indeed it is” continued Dr Rose-Paddock. “The origin of the disease remains open to question but it may have originated in the miasma which frequently hangs in the air in government committee rooms. The symptoms occur after an incubation period of some 5 days or so and is manifest by an increasing level of bureaucratic incompetence, combined with a compulsive desire to make public announcements to the media and a refusal to accept any reasonable advice. The condition may progress to death. It is clear from the cases so far that the risk of severe disease and fatality is directly related to the level of incompetence of the individual prior to infection. Highly incompetent individuals are highly likely to develop severe symptoms and die. Very competent individuals at the most develop a mild illness lasting a few days and recover fully. I speak confidentially, Mr Holmes and Dr Watson, but most government employees at a high level are incompetent to a greater rather than a lesser degree. Regrettably, this applies to Ministers and, unfortunately, our Prime Minister. In an effort to control the disease we have quarantined nearly all of the government executive and the Prime Minister has been confined to the Beehive for the last week. We had hoped that case numbers would drop and indeed amongst the cohort considered most likely to develop the disease these numbers have tended to reduce. Our problem is that we now have mystery cases. These are cases that appear to have had no contact with any of the infected members of the executive or government. Worryingly various journalists and television commentators have developed the disease. The mode of transmission from the government executive and government bureaucracy to members of the media remains a complete mystery. It is absolutely vital, Mr Holmes, that we find the mode of transmission and stop it. Therefore, I have been asked to approach you to see if you would investigate and assist us.”
Holmes refilled his pipe, “Well, Dr Rose-Paddock, the case certainly has aspects of interest and I shall investigate forthwith, assisted by my colleague Dr Watson.”
Dr Rose-Paddock’s relief was palpable and he explained that pressure of work made it necessary for him to excuse himself immediately.
After he left Holmes looked at me and said, “Watson, what did you observe?” I replied that Dr Rose-Paddock seemed a perfectly decent sort of chap and obviously very worried.
“Yes,” said Holmes, “But did you not notice the Saville Row suit, the handmade silk shirt, the gold Rolex and the Lobb shoes? Dr Rose-Paddock is a man of considerable means, highly unusual for a civil servant, even one occupying a senior position.”
To be continued……