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STORIES OF TRAVELS
by Germán List Arzubide
 (Original en Español)
LONDON:
An interview with Sherlock Holmes

For Lic.Luis Echeverría Alvarez
(This story requested by a newspaper of the capital was returned to me because the editor said that it would annoy "Sr. Presidente".)

Arriving in London (1970), my first thought was to go greet Sherlock Holmes, a childhood hero of mine and admired detective of world renown. This would satisfy in some way my admiration for the astonishing police investigator and at the same time fulfill the intention I had, since I first thought of carrying out this trip, of contacting a conspicuous personality in each place that came within my journey. For a long time I had known where to locate the detective; Antonio Helu (r.i.p.), with whom he corresponded, had given me the address and as soon as I accommodated my valises in the hotel and changed my clothes, adopting the classic London attire (gray coat, striped pants, derby and black umbrella), I rushed to find bus Number 56 that would leave me near the street where Mr. Holmes lived.

I went, or should I say the bus went -it seemed to me- joyfully along on that sunny and transparent May morning, encouragingly and desirous that I arrive as soon as possible at my destination. I got off the bus on the convened corner and making a turn to the right on Baker Street I easily found number 221-B. I hurried up the stairs to ring the bell when the door opened and Sherlock Holmes appeared in the threshold. At once I recognized him: tall, thin, with a hooked nose, plaid cap, thick corduroy overcoat, flannel trousers, heavy shoes, bandoleered with a camera over his shoulder and the ubiquitous smoking pipe in his mouth. Behind him I saw the plump figure of his inseparable partner: Doctor Watson. Immediately Holmes stretched his hand to me saying:

"Mexican, am I right?"

Astonished I hesitated, this allowed me the time to take his narrow hand and contemplate the detective's face that depicted an ironic smile when surmising my stunned state. Finally, I responded:

"Mexican yes,  Mr. Holmes, but how could you notice it at first sight?

Holmes took the pipe from his mouth, looked at his partner and said:

"I say, Doctor Watson, notice the gentleman visitor's astonishment. He gives me all the ingredients to make a diagnosis and then he is confused that I discover his nationality. A single glance has been enough to let me identify it when he puts within my reach the thousand and one details that exhibit him. Elementary, Dr. Watson, elementary."

"But," I dared to babble  "no, I don't believe to have anything about me either folkloric or typical that says something about my country of origin. How have you so easily identified me?

Holmes smiled again and said:

"Let us look at the case.  You arrived here on a bus,  is that not so?

"Yes sir, on number 56."

"While you came closer to the door I noticed you feeling for your wallet, fearful that it could have been stolen in transit. This is a habit of all Mexicans when they descend from a bus."

Instinctively I touched my wallet again. It was in its place. Holmes was right. But, that  was all? Holmes continued while he looked at me from head to toe:

 "And that other gesture of  feeling your right side, in the back, for where a revolver should be. You don't carry it now and for that reason it is observable in your eyes - a restless look, and to tell the truth -of intimidation"

I could not stand to be treated in this way and I interrupted the detective saying to him furiously:

"Intimidation? That is not so, Mister Holmes: we Mexicans are very manly!"

Holmes turned his face toward Dr. Watson and said to him:

"How do you like that, doctor? The Mexican has become more Mexican. Or, rather, we have drawn out the Mexican in the Mexican. Yes now, even the charro* makes an appearance ..."

"The 'charro'?"  I inquired: "In what way do I look like a charro?"

Holmes laughed again. "In all Mexicans there is a charro, he said blowing smoke from his pipe. "Don not take offense, one only need to look at you. You may have surely never dressed in the suede suit, nor worn one of those fantastic wide hats whose shear weight has been making your compatriots shorter and shorter day by day. But you rub shoulders with them, you support them and in your inner self you admire them. In each Mexican there is something that encourages the vanity of dressing in gold and silver, with scorn for the unhappy ones who have gone naked to give brilliance to the charro. From there comes the insolent airs, the attitude of the armed bully: arrogant, boastful and unfriendly... but remove the gun from the Mexican, undress him of his golden filigree and what is left? Only a lonely submissive individual, obedient to the voice of the one that has the gun in turn. To the one that is imposed on him by his masters and is to be obeyed..."

 "Imposed on him? That is not true, Mister Holmes."  I protested furious. "We live under a regime of absolute democracy. We designate with our vote our authorities."

 "Very well, Mister Mexican", added Holmes satisfied. "You designate with your vote your authorities. Would you like for me to tell you starting today who your next presidents will be until the end of the century?"

"That nobody can know, Mister Holmes, you cannot penetrate into the heart of my people."

Holmes let out a large laugh then responded:

"Let us make some deductions. You will change presidents in the years of seventy-six, eighty-two, eighty-eight, ninety-four and one hundred, that is to say the year two thousand. I will give you the names of the five presidents who will occupy that position."

"But, Mister Holmes," - I told him astonished  - "do you pretend to be a seer?"

 "No sir", he responded,  "only a man capable of deduction."

I felt like my heart had leapt from my chest. To know, before anybody, who the next five presidents would be... to assure being tied to the cinched ... But, was Holmes truly going to figure out the names of the candidates? As if he had read my thoughts, the detective, after throwing a puff of smoke to the air, told me:

"You are thinking that I am simply going to guess, right? Because no, sir, everything is a question of simple logic if you take the trouble of studying how the previous ones have been chosen. I have said 'chosen' and not 'elected'. Are you in agreement with that term?"

I was in agreement with everything that Holmes had to say. What I was interested in at that moment was to know the names of the future chief executives and I didn't want to interrupt him. The deduction, the logic, that was everything.

"Take note," Holmes said,  "you and I will discover the unknowable. We will begin with the penultimate one, we will continue to the last one and we will thus disembark in the future. All this is so simple that it astonishes me that the Mexicans do not know a half century ahead who their rulers will be. There cannot be any others, all continue a chain. Concentrate and respond to my questions. We will locate each person in their place and you yourself will be able to picture the chosen ones and the reasons for them coming to be. Let us begin..."

At that moment a police car horn sounded. A sergeant approached Holmes and they spoke. Something very important must have happened because Holmes came toward me and said:

"It is impossible to continue with this chat. Come back on another day. There is a very important case that needs to be looked into. One more important than to discover those names that you want. Later... it is such a simple thing, really. You'll see..."

Holmes got into the police car followed by Dr. Watson. He waved a good-bye gesture toward me and went off. I had to keep to the itinerary of my trip and did not see him again.

_____________________________________
* "Charro" literally: a Mexican cowboy. Figuratively: a labor leader  who owes his position to political bosses and not the rank and file. Said to have originated with Luis Gómez Cepeda (a.k.a. "el charro") who was imposed by President Miguel Aleman (1952-1958) as leader of the Rairoad Workers Union.

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