(If you have just begun reading the saga of Karl’s quest, you have caught it just as it reaches its thrilling conclusion! You may wish to read parts one, two, three, and four first.)
Hello once more, dear readers! I am delighted to report the wonderful news that Karl will be returning from his quest within the week! All is explained in his most recent letter, which I will not delay further in transcribing:
My dear Daisy,
I have described to you the circumstances that led to my growing dissatisfaction with Oxford, and in particular my anxiety for the life of my faithful messenger pigeon, Cecilia. In the end, I was forced to part ways with my generous host and quit the spired city. I took a train to London, where I intended to resume my search for the suspicious Waldo.
I soon became frustrated in my search, for so many were the city’s people, and so labyrinthine its streets, that I quickly became utterly disoriented. After too long wandering through the chilly night air, I caught a cold and was forced to check into a nearby hospital — only to find that they would treat neither head colds nor krakens!
Nevertheless, my venture into the hospital was not altogether in vain, for on my way out I encountered a doctor who had just finished work for the day and was heading home. When I told him of my predicament and explained that I was recently arrived in London and quite lost, he asked me how I had ended up in the city in the first place. I told him that I was searching for a mysterious and possibly sinister figure whom I had encountered once before.
“You are in luck,” said he, “for I know just the man to help you.”
I allowed him to escort me into a cab, which drove us through the heart of the city and finally came to a halt outside an inconspicuous-looking apartment on Baker Street. At this point I was beginning to recall reading something about a famous Baker Street resident, yet it was not until I was escorted upstairs and into a small, dim sitting room that I recognized the man sitting in the armchair before me.
Finally, someone who might be able to solve my mystery!
“Watson, who is this gentleman you have brought home with you?” asked the detective. “No – allow me to guess. From your tentacles, sir, I deduce that you are a sea-dwelling animal, yet I am familiar enough with the anatomy of both octopi and squids to say that you are neither of those. So we are left with legendary creatures. As you possess neither the tail of a mermaid nor the slitheriness of a sea serpent, I should venture to guess that you, my good sir, are a kraken.”
“Impossible, Holmes!” Watson interjected. “Krakens are a myth!”
“It strains credulity,” he admitted. “But however improbable, it must be true. Indeed, all that remains is to verify it with our guest himself. Are you indeed a kraken, sir?”
“You have identified my species with perfect accuracy, Mr. Holmes,” I replied. He looked pleased.
“Come, have a seat. I deduce from your sickly complexion and troubled stare that you have experienced some distress recently. The size of your bag indicates that you have been traveling for some time, and the scrapes and stains on its base show that you have had to do so in less than comfortable conditions. I can also see from the outlines of books against the sides of your luggage that you travel not with mundane necessities, but rather with books. You are a literary creature, then!”
“Remarkable!” I exclaimed. “Indeed, I am a kraken of impeccable literary taste. I work in a bookstore, you see.”
“I do see,” Holmes continued. “What, then, could have induced you to travel so long and far away from your place of employment? For it is obvious that few things could have induced a creature so devoted to the literary arts to leave a bookstore to which he has devoted all his working hours. I can only guess that you have perceived some threat to the safety of your beloved bookstore, which you could only counter by a quest of sorts. Yet this threat must be ambiguous to some extent, or the motives of its perpetrator unclear. Why else would you have sought the advice of a detective?”
“You are, I have read, a specialist in strange and unusual cases,” I told him.
“Ah, you read The Strand, do you?” Dr. Watson asked me. “Then you know, too, that you need only describe your case to Mr. Holmes, and he shall have it sorted for you within the hour, isn’t that right, Holmes?”
The detective merely leaned back in his chair and pressed his fingertips together, indicating that I should begin my story. I told him, to the best of my memory, the tale of my encounter with the mysterious person who called himself “Waldo,” my causes for concern, and my attempts so far at tracking this man down. When I had finished, Holmes sat silently, staring just below my tentacles at the carpet.
“Well, Holmes?” the doctor prompted. “The solution seems quite clear to me. This Waldo fellow was a criminal in disguise, and his lurid clothing was a signal to his accomplices.”
“I’m sure of it. No self-respecting man goes about in a crimson-striped shirt and cap without some hidden motive. I should not be surprised if this scoundrel turned out to be a member of some secret society.”
“I wonder, my dear Watson,” said Mr. Holmes, “if you might assist Mrs. Hudson with the tea. I can hear her clattering about downstairs, and I would prefer not to have another cup broken on the landing.”
The doctor looked slightly perplexed for a moment, then said, “Very well,” and left the room.
“Tell me, my dear kraken,” said Holmes, once his companion was gone, “what deductions you yourself have made regarding this mysterious character?”
I was completely taken aback. “Why should you ask me for my reasoning, when you are widely acknowledged as superior to every other person alive in the solving of mysteries?”
“A great mind,” said he, “knows its limits. And I am afraid my mind is focused on the world of reality, on bloodstains, footprints, and the distinctions between various types of ash and ink and paper. My reasoning leads me to believe that the solution to this case rests firmly in the realm of fiction, in which you, not I, are the expert.”
I was tremendously flattered, yet at the same time most surprised, for I had not expected I should have had any knowledge surpassing that of the legendary genius sitting before me.
“Let us take Mr. Waldo’s claim to be a beloved book character as true, for I see, as yet, no evidence to refute it,” he continued. “We should then be led to wonder, from what type of book might such a character have come?”
I sat in silence, pondering this for some time. “I suppose,” I said at last, “that his gaudy clothing would be more suited to an illustrated book than to one without pictures. He seemed to have taken great care to be recognizable, even in a large crowd.”
“A fact which, unfortunately, belies my dear friend Watson’s theory that he was part of a secret society, for any secret organization would know to keep its signifiers less conspicuous.”
“Quite so,” I agreed. “And yet I cannot help but be perplexed by his secretive behavior, for he seemed to be attempting to remain hidden or to camouflage himself within a crowd.”
“Indeed, there is the sticking point,” said Holmes. “How can one reconcile these two facts: that of his distinctive dress, and that of his apparent desire to remain hidden? It is a difficult contradiction. Nevertheless, both facts must be accounted for in a solution. I wonder if you have any ideas regarding this matter?”
Here I was forced to think again for some time.
“Why, I think I’ve got it!” I exclaimed suddenly. “I can only surmise that this Waldo character wished to make himself difficult to find, but also to be sure that once he was found, he would be easily recognized. But what, then, could his motives be in such contradictory behaviors?”
“What indeed? I confess, that is the point on which my reasoning can take me no further.”
“That is because his actions serve no tangible purpose, but rather a literary one,” I said. “For if we suppose that there are books in which this Waldo appears, hidden in large crowds or camouflaged by myriad distractions, yet identifiable by his characteristic outfit, then we must suppose, too, that there are readers who find the very act of searching for Waldo enjoyable for its own sake!”
Holmes frowned. “I am afraid I do not follow. Do you mean that people would endure the frustrations of searching for hours in confusing illustrations merely for the satisfaction of identifying a strange man in a red-striped shirt?”
“My dear Mr. Holmes,” said I, “I am afraid the rest of the human race is far less rational in its behavior than you give it credit for.”
“Speaking of which,” he said, leaning towards me, “I wonder if I might ask you to remain in London for some time, perhaps to accompany me on some of my cases?”
“Why, I was under the impression that that was Dr. Watson’s role,” I replied.
“Indeed, I have worked closely with Dr. Watson for many years, yet I fear he has learned little of my methods. No matter how I try to teach him, he is confounded and surprised whenever I explain even the simplest of cases to him. It has often made me wonder why I keep him around. But you, my dear kraken, have a mind to match my own, and a talent for writing short-form episodic narrative. You could fulfill all the same functions as dear Dr. Watson and give him more time to concentrate on medicine, where his true talents lie.”
“I am afraid I cannot do any such thing,” said I. “You see, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are destined to become iconic figures in literary history, whereas Sherlock Holmes and Karl the Kraken will never capture the imagination of readers to quite the same degree.”
He sighed. “Again, I must acquiesce to your impeccable literary sensibilities.”
“Besides,” I continued, “now that I am convinced that Waldo meant no harm to Bookmarks, I must return to the bookstore. I am sure there are many customers who are clamoring for my literary recommendations and regular recaps of events.”
And fear not, dear dragon, return I shall, as soon as Cecilia gets back from her trip to Paris. Evidently she has family members who congregate around the courtyard of the Louvre, and as I have asked her to accompany me on such a long and strenuous journey, I could not deny her request to pay them a visit. She has been posting a constant stream of photos to her Facebeak page (pigeons’ preferred social network), so she seems to be enjoying herself.
With high hopes of seeing you soon,
Karl the Kraken