Art by Mark Evan Walker
by Matthew Wilson
Telling the truth to Kassandra Prexler could get you killed.
Say you are a farm laborer from Nigeria. All the years of planting and harvesting peanuts and beans, and you have nothing to show for it, only the next meal or a trinket from the market—an umbrella for the rains, a wrist watch with numbers that glow blue in the night. So one day you meet a man in Konduga, and he says he knows a man like you who is now in Germany. And this man he knows now cleans the streets in a beautiful city, where the towers hold clocks and the clocks hold dolls that turn in a circle to dance on the chime of every hour. He asks if you know how to use a broom, and if your wife can use a toilet brush. In this city there are hotels like palaces, he says, and there are many toilets and not enough people to clean them. Forget that you have never seen a flush toilet, that your wife has never held a toilet brush. Tell this man yes, of course, my wife can use a toilet brush. And all the money you make in Germany together, this man in the market says, would pay for your roof and would feed you, and some you could send home to your father with the cane and to your mother-in-law with the pain in her hands. Enough money to feed them yams and cassava for all the year. And then when Kassandra Prexler asks you why you have come to Germany, you tell her this story, about your job turning the earth for someone else to make not enough to keep the hunger away, and how you have come to do the dirty jobs no one wants. You do not lie like you have about the toilet brush to the man in Konduga, and she will believe you because you are telling the truth. And then she will send you back to Nigeria.
It is better, then, to lie to Kassandra Prexler. Tell her instead you are afraid of the bombs. Tell her you were one of the lucky ones only injured and not killed when the woman blew herself up in the market in Konduga. Show her a scar from the bomb. It does not matter if you were not in the market in Konduga on that terrible day last February, and that you have no scar from the bomb. You must lie. Show her the scar from the time you were a boy, from the time you fell from the corkwood tree and you made a cut so deep it had to be sewn with thread. Show her this scar and say it is from the bomb. And after you have crossed the Libyan desert, and after you have straddled the inflatable boat like you were riding a donkey, and after you have watched four of your people drown in the sea, and after you have packed yourself in a train to this city, Nuremberg, where you now tell your story . . . perhaps Kassandra Prexler will believe you and allow you to stay in this country, to sweep the streets or to scrub the toilets in a hotel that is like a palace.
But Kassandra Prexler, she is not so easily fooled. She is a good detective. She has heard many stories from people like you. And people from other lands, from Afghanistan and Eritrea, from Somalia and the Congo, and especially from Syria. So you must do all you can to tell the best lie, the lie that is the golden ticket to the job with the broom or the brush, and to this thing they call asylum. But Kassandra Prexler—you call her Frau Prexler—Frau Prexler has seen so many scars. Scars from bombs and bullets, scars from the flogging for small infractions of Sharia law, scars on the wrists where the skin has rotted under the metal cuffs left on too long and too tight. And Frau Prexler has seen scars of the mind. READ MORE
Art by Jason Eckhardt
by Terence Faherty
Elsewhere in the recently discovered second cache of his writing notebooks, Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s biographer, speaks of bringing Holmes “down a peg.” That may have been his in-tention when he wrote the Strand Magazine version of the following story, “The Yellow Face.” In that version, Watson refers to the adventure as one of Holmes’s “failures.” This earlier draft shows that the doctor’s assessment was far from fair.
As has been our practice throughout this scholarly series, we have inserted Watson’s corrections and marginal notes into the text inside parentheses and used modern American spelling wherever possible.
Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took a walk unless he was paid to take it or unless that walk had at its terminus a pub. In the latter case, however, he was sometimes known to jog briskly. And, to be fair, in pursuit of a fee he was indefatigable. But exercise for its own sake held no attractions for him.
Early one spring day, however, Holmes found his normal sources of diversion unavailable. No case had presented itself, the papers were rehashing their meager copy, and his beloved banjo was off being revarnished. So I was able to prevail upon the detective to accompany me on a bird-watching excursion. It was on just such a day that the new crop of nannies and nurses would be out in the parks, wheeling their young charges about and perhaps showing a bit of ankle when they paused to discreetly adjust a shoe button.
After two hours, we returned to Baker Street. At the front door, we were met by the bootblack (page?) who hung about Mrs. Hudson’s establishment. The urchin informed Holmes that a client had called, stomped about the sitting room for a time, and then left.
My friend fixed me with a glare he usually reserved for barmen who handed him a too-foamy pint. “This is what comes of your ‘bird-watching,’ Doctor. My client is even now telling his woes to one of my rivals.”
“Perhaps he will return.”
“Perhaps the Churchill family will yet produce a prime minister,” Holmes replied with asperity.
His tone softened when we entered our sitting room. “What’s this? You may be correct after all, Watson. Our caller has left behind his pipe. And one he cares for greatly.”
“It’s just an old briar.”
“Yes, but note that the amber stem has been repaired twice and each time with a band of silver. So our client is sentimental and well-heeled, a very promising combination.”
“Do you know how to tell real amber from false?” I asked.
“Hark! I think I hear someone on the stairs.”
“Real amber will have an insect trapped in—”