THE ADVENTURE OF THE Giant Rat of Sumatra

 

                                                                        by Richard Nathan

 

Lights come up on SHERLOCK HOLMES and DR. WATSON.  It is important that the set have something behind which someone using a prop can hide.  It could be a table with a tablecloth going down to the floor, or it could be a large chair with cushions, or anything else that could hide someone. 

 

From off-stage, we hear the voice of MRS. HUDSON.

 

                                                            MRS. HUDSON
                                                     (off-stage)
                                    Someone to see you, Mr. Holmes.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Send him up, Mrs. Hudson.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    A new client, Holmes?

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    I never speculate when evidence
                                    is about to present itself, Watson.

 

Enter MR. HENRY NEWCOMB.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Holmes. 
                                    My name is Henry Newcomb.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Have you come about the rat?

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    Really, Holmes!  I thought you just said
                                    you never speculate.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Not until the evidence presents itself.  Mr.
                                    Newcomb has presented us with
                                    abundant evidence of his involvement
                                    with a rat.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    What evidence?

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Surely, Watson, as a medical man, you
                                    immediately noticed the marks of an
                                    animal bite on Mr. Newcombís right
                                    hand.  They are fading, but they are
                                    there for anyone to see.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    But how did you know they are from
                                    a rat?

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    The shape of a ratís mouth and the spacing
                                    of its teeth are quite distinctive from
                                    other animals, Watson.  Although I
                                    admit this rat must be unusually large.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    You said there was abundant evidence.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    I see not one, not two, but three grey
                                    hairs on Mr. Newcombís clothing. 
                                    Hair that is too coarse to come from
                                    a human, but just right for a rat.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    Anything else?

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Forgive me for being indelicate, Mr.
                                    Newcomb, but I couldnít help noticing
                                    that you smell of cheese, as though you
                                    were accosted to keeping cheese in
                                    your pockets to feed a rodent.  Am I  
                                    correct, Mr. Newcomb?

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    Absolutely correct, Mr. Holmes.  I want
                                    you to find my rat.  He is extremely
                                    valuable.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Tell us your story.

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    Iím an entertainer, Mr. Holmes.  I
                                    perform with animals, but my most
                                    amazing animal is Staccato  the Rat.  He
                                    is a genius among rodents, Mr. Holmes. 
                                    Remarkably intelligent and easy to train. 

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Yet he bit you.

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    An accident, Mr. Holmes.  When I was feeding
                                    him his favorite cheese.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    How did you obtain this rat?

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    From a sailor aboard the Matilda Briggs,
                                    who brought him back from Sumatra.  Thatís
                                    why I call him Staccato, the Giant Rat of
                                    Sumatra.

 

At this point, the prop person who is hiding behind the piece of furniture raises a prop RAT so that itís vicious-looking head peeps out over the top of the furniture.  Then the head goes back down.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    How long has the rat been missing?

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    Just a day, Mr. Holmes.  Someone must
                                    have stolen him, Mr. Holmes.  I always keep
                                    Staccatoís cage tightly locked.  But when
                                    I went to feed him last night, the cage was
                                    empty!

 

The ratís head pops up again and then pops down.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Has anyone made any recent offers to
                                    purchase your rat, Mr. Newcomb?

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    Yes, just last week a man told me he would
                                    pay me twenty pounds to purchase Staccato. 
                                    I said he was not for sale at any price. 

 

The ratís head pops up and down again.  This time Watson notices it.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    I say!  Holmes!!!

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Not now, Watson.  Describe the man who made
                                    the offer?

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    He was quite tall, thin, with a very large
                                    head and receding hairline.  His eyes were
                                    set deep in his head.  They had a
                                    hypnotic quality!

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Professor Moriarty!  Iíd stake my life on it!

 

The rats head pops up and down.  Only Watson notices.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    Holmes!

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Not now, Watson!

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    Who is Professor Moriarty?  Does he have an
                                    animal act?

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Only in the sense that his associates
                                    act like beasts.  Moriarty is the Napoleon
                                    of crime!

 

                                                            NEWCOMB
                                    But what would he want with Staccato?

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    I believe you said your rat was very clever. 
                                    Moriarty would like nothing more than to
                                    steal the crown jewels of from the Tower of
                                    London.  No human thief could reach them,
                                    but a trained ratÖ

 

The ratís head pops up again.  This time Watson rushes over and grabs it.  He pulls up the rat and struggles with it.

 

                                                            WATSON
                                    Holmes!  Look what I have!  You are always
                                    telling me I fail to observe things, but I
                                    observed this when you did not!  I found
                                    found the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Watson, if you had been truly observant,
                                    you would have remembered that I said
                                    the rat hairs on Mr. Newcombís clothing
                                    were gray.  The rat you are holding is black. 
                                    That is not the Giant Rat of Sumatra.  I fear
                                    you are holding a London sewer rat, although
                                    one of unusual size.  From the look of him,
                                    Iíd wager he has been in my cocaine.  Rats and
                                    cocaine do not mix, Watson.  Iím afraid you
                                    have a problem on your hands.

 

Watson struggles with the rat.

 

                                                            HOLMES
                                    Come, Mr. Newcomb.  We must go at once
                                    to the Tower of London.  I am sure that with
                                    a little cheese, we will be able to recover
                                    your GRAY Giant Rat of Sumatra!

 

Holmes and Watson leave.  Watson is left struggling with the rat.

 

Blackout.

 

THE END

 

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© 2008 by Richard Nathan.  All rights reserved

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