Teeth tell Truth to Sleuth

Dear Reader,
Fairfax Holmes is a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Actually, he is the great great grand nephew of the illustrious Sherlock and named after him, for Fairfax and Sherlock both mean "fair hair". Coincidentally, Fairfax's best friend is James Watson, great great grand nephew of Dr John H Watson, Sherlock's friend and recorder of his cases. James, too, is named after his famous ancestor for Dr Watson's middle name, Hamish, means James in Scottish Gaelic.


My friend, Fairfax Holmes, and I boarded the Edinburgh to London night express, scheduled to leave at 8 pm and arrive in London at 4 am. Our carriage had 64 seats grouped in units of four seats with two facing two. It was early winter and already dark but our carriage was lit for the journey.

There were only five passengers in the carriage, including Holmes and myself. Two gentlemen occupied the rearmost two seats on the left-hand side. Facing them, and therefore facing the rear, sat a third gentleman. Next to him, on the empty seat, lay a briefcase, though who owned it was not apparent. Holmes and I occupied the next bay of seats, Holmes facing forward and I seated opposite.

No sooner had we boarded the train, than Holmes said he would sleep during the trip and only wake him when we got to London. He angled his tall frame between our seats and instantly went to sleep. I do not sleep so readily, but only needed to read half a page of a boring book I carry for the purpose and I soon nodded off.

I awoke a few minutes before we were due to reach London. Holmes was still fast asleep and, looking beyond him, I could see two of our fellow passengers were also asleep.

Suddenly, the carriage lights went out and we were in pitch darkness. About a minute later, one of our fellow passengers had found the light switch and turned the lights on.

Then all hell broke loose!

The passenger who had been seated immediately behind Holmes was standing in the aisle between the seats and screaming that his briefcase had been stolen by one of us. All four of us were now awake and all four were in denial of having touched the briefcase. As we were only five minutes from arriving at King's Cross, I suggested we stay together and call a railway guard to contact the police and have them come to question us. All agreed with my suggestion.

Holmes, having yawned himself awake, said he hoped the police would be quick as he needed to go to a dentist as he had a denture problem.

"I note you appear to have fine-looking dentures," said Holmes, addressing one of the two seated together. "Might I have your dentist's name and address that he might attend me, assuming he is in London?"

"Yes," replied the passenger, "Dr Petersen in the West End. He's very good. Tell him Jim Brown recommended him."

"Thank you, Mr. Brown," said Holmes, "however, a slight problem. I'm going to the East End."

Holmes then turned to his seating companion and asked, "How about you, sir, can you recommend a dentist?"

"Sorry. I can't help you," answered the gentleman, "I've never been to a dentist but it's about time I went for a checkup, so I'll go to Dr Petersen."

A moment later, the express pulled into King's Cross. The gentleman whose briefcase had disappeared signalled to the station guard who came on board and was asked to get police to come to the scene. Five minutes later, a policeman arrived and was told of the mysterious crime. He questioned us and searched our luggage and the carriage but found nothing and was bamboozled.

"Amazing, Holmes," I said, "a briefcase vanishing into thin air and not a clue."

"True, Watson, a briefcase gone, but it's left a case of brief clues," punned Holmes.

"What are you talking about, Holmes? Next thing you'll say, you've solved it."

"Indeed, I have."

"Though I know your incredible powers of deduction exceed any living soul, how on earth have you solved this case?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson, a sequence of cause and effect. I will now reveal all to the policeman and the passengers and name the guilty party."

Holmes then turned to the others and said, "Could I have your attention, please? I wish to make you aware of some salient points about the missing briefcase.

(1) The moment the lights went out it was pitch dark but no stars were visible. Evidently, we were inside the tunnel a few miles north of King's Cross Station.

(2) Suddenly, there was a minute increase in the noise of the train, both from the rattle of the rails and the noise of the engine. Evidently, a window had been opened.

(3) Also, a gentle wisp of wind that was cooler than the carriage air brushed my face and it had a slight whiff of smoke, thus further proof the window was open.

(4) A few seconds later, the noise diminished and the cool breeze stopped. Evidently, the window had been closed.

(5) When the lights were turned on, the briefcase was missing. Evidently, it had been thrown out the window and into the tunnel.

(6) Before, during and after the window opening episode, I heard a distinctive grinding sound. What was the source of that sound?

(7) When the lights came on again I looked at the two passengers seated opposite the gentleman who owned the briefcase. I looked closely at the mouth of each and noted one had immaculate teeth, obviously dentures, while the other's teeth were natural.

(8) I invented my dental enquiries to get their dental histories. I established the first had dentures and the second didn't.

(9) From before the lights went out until after they came back on I heard the sound of bruxism, or teeth grinding. What did this prove? It proved the bruxer had slept throughout the entire time the window was open and the briefcase thrown out.

(10) It is impossible for a person with false teeth to brux, and so I am able to declare the first gentleman, the one with false teeth, is guilty, and the second gentleman, the bruxer, is innocent. If you are quick, Mr Policeman, you may catch Mr False-teeth's accomplice as he emerges from the tunnel with the missing briefcase.

Another chapter for your casebook, Watson."


Note:
Bruxism (teeth grinding) affects 8 – 10% of the population.
Most teeth grinding happens at night when asleep.
The noise levels are on a par with those of a chronic snorer.
The noise is likened to fingernails scraping back and forth
on a blackboard, or it can sound like a pneumatic drill.
It can make a screeching sound and be an horrendous racket.

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