The courier offered no explanation to Doctor Watson as to the purpose for the summons from Baker Street. Experience told him that Holmes was embroiled in another challenging case involving something of significance. The old physician plunged into the chilled air of the foggy evening, hailing the first horse-drawn cab that happened by.
After being deposited in front of 221 Baker Street, he trudged up the familiar steps to the worn-out apartment on the second floor. “Come in, Watson,” stated Holmes as the old gentleman was about to knock on the door.
The old man entered the room that held so many memories for him. Holmes was playing his violin, deep in thought. “Watson, I’ve been pondering a subject that has been vexing my mind for some time now,” he stated flatly, setting down his instrument and picking up that day’s newspaper.
“Oh, what might that be?” queried the doctor.
“Time,” he stated matter of factly. “Yes, Watson, time. I have been doing some research this afternoon on the subject. It is that part of existence which is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc., or this process considered as a whole.”
“Well, of course it is!” responded the surgeon. “Did you bring me out tonight to tell me that?”
Disregarding Watson’s irritation, Holmes continued. “What has me baffled is what is happening to all the fleeting moments of life. Look at this photograph, Watson.” With that, Holmes handed him the front page of the London Times. But it was the bold headline that first caught his eye: “Young Woman Murdered in East End.” A picture of a lovely girl was positioned next to the story.
“Watson,” Holmes’ voice cracked the air like a whip. “That young woman was murdered last night and has moved into her eternal destiny. But what happened to the moment that was captured by that photograph? What happened to it, Watson?” Holmes was visibly upset at the thought of the contrast of the girl’s happiness depicted in the picture and the horror of her final moments.
“Well, it is lost forever, I suppose,” gruffed Watson, still wondering why his friend summoned him over such a trivial matter.
“Wrong, Watson! That moment has not been lost. It is somewhere… but where?” Holmes was deftly moving behind Watson now, even as he spoke.
“I don’t know,” quipped the disinterested elderly gentleman. “Suppose you tell me.”
Holmes picked up a book sitting on top of his bookshelf and began reading. “Time is sequential, meaning that actions and events succeed one another,” he began. “Human beings live in the present—the Now. Those experiences—no matter how mundane or how exciting—slip into our past moment by moment. Each moment is encountered, experienced and discarded. No sooner has one moment passed than another is there to take its place. This transaction occurs some 86,000 times a day! An unceasing flow of future moments are constantly streaming toward us.”
“Great Scott! How did you arrive at that?” asked a suddenly interested Dr. Watson.
“It’s elementary, my dear Watson. I read it in this book,” he said, returning to Watson’s view with an unfamiliar book in his hand.
The old physician took the paperback and read the title out loud, carefully pronouncing each word: “The Time of Our Lives in Light of Eternity, by Steve Gallagher. Who is he?”
“He’s utterly inconsequential… some American preacher,” Holmes responded, with a certain degree of distaste in his voice. “The important thing here is the concept of time that he stumbled onto. Think of it, Watson!” he suddenly barked. “We are continuously entering and leaving different moments of time.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t answer the question about this girl’s moment of joy, captured in this photo,” the doctor retorted, displaying the newspaper. “You still haven’t answered the question about what has happened to it,” he declared somewhat triumphantly.
“I know Watson. That’s what had me stumped. Then I began to realize that those moments weren’t the important issue; it is what people do with them that matters. The point the American makes is that the way we conduct ourselves during our time on earth is building something into us which will determine our eternal destiny.”
With that, Holmes seized the book from Dr. Watson’s hand. “Look, it’s right here,” he said pointedly, thumbing through the pages. “Yes, right here on page 55!” With that he began reading once again. “Every human has been allotted a short probationary period on this earth. All of the trials and temptations of life are meant to bring to light what is within the heart. Earth is where the mettle of our character is tested… Before we know it the curtain of life will fall, the sun will set and our earthly scenes will come to an end. The door of opportunity will be closed, and we will never again pass this way. Our character will be fixed, our destiny will be sealed and eternity will be upon us. When it’s all said and done, what will we have to show for our time on earth?”
The famed detective set the book down carefully, pondering what he had just read. “Don’t you see, Watson? It’s not what happened to that one moment or even the moment that poor girl was murdered. The important thing is what kind of character she had allowed God to forge within her that matters. That’s what she took into eternity!”
“The real mystery here is not who killed her or why,” continued Holmes. “It is the question of what she did with the time she was allotted on earth. That’s the most important issue at stake with every human being!”
“But what about the murderer, Holmes,” countered the doctor. “Surely you’re not just going to allow him to continue his evil ways!”
“Oh, him,” he said, with a wave of his hand. “Actually I solved that case rather handily this afternoon. He’ll take his evil to the gallows soon enough. But the bigger issue is the question of eternity that faces all of mankind. That’s what I must now consider.”
The look of utter satisfaction that Watson had come to recognize on his friend’s face when he has broken a case was absent this time. Instead, the famous sleuth looked perplexed, perhaps even worried, thought Watson. In any case, Holmes was deep in thought now. When it’s all said and done, what will we have to show for our time on earth? As the sweet harmony of the violin filled the air, Watson knew that there was nothing to be gained by remaining at 221 Baker Street. Holmes would be lost in thought for hours to come: contemplating the eternal implications of life. This was a mystery that eclipsed all others.
“Maybe I should give this some thought myself,” Dr. Watson muttered as he slipped out the door. “Yes, I think I will.”
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Moment,Share