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The Essay
Show #394
The Crypts of Lieberkühn
David Gunn

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were relaxing in their lodgings at 21B Baker Street, London, having recently solved the Riddle of the Barmy Bobbleheads for Scotland Yard, when there was a rapping on the front door. They could hear a muffled conversation from downstairs as their housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, answered the knock and engaged the visitor. Gradually, the discourse became more heated, and Holmes casually strode over to the fireplace and turned down the thermostat. A loud squawk from Mrs. Hudson preceded the sound of heavy footsteps tramping up the stairs. And then the door to the sitting room was suddenly pushed open. A man of medium height and weight but with no other conspicuous distinguishing characteristics stood before them, blinking in the room's bright light.

"Won't you come in, Doctor Lieberkühn?" asked Holmes easily.

"I'm sorry sir," said a breathless Mrs. Hudson, rounding the corner from the stairway, "but this, this rascal insisted upon seein' you, and I couldn't keep him from forcin' his way up here." She glowered at the man, but he paid her no heed.

"It's all right, Mrs. Hudson," Holmes said casually. "The doctor would seem to have a lot on his mind. We'll take it from here, thank you." And he coolly gestured for her to close the door on her way out.

Watson, however, was still in a bit of a huff. "D'you know this chap, Holmes? I'm not especially keen to have our musings disturbed in such a rude manner!"

"I implore you, sirs," said the stranger, "to hear me out before you cast me out. You're quite correct, Mr. Holmes. I am Dr. Lars Lieberkühn, Craniorhachischisiologist at St. Salmon's Hospital in Hummock-on-Smythe."

"Cranio-what?" said Dr. Watson skeptically. "I've never heard of such a thing."

Holmes lit his pipe and blew a smoke ring in the shape of a carcinoma. "It's a brand new medical discipline, Watson, and I learned of it only earlier today. I'm not surprised you've never heard of it," he added with characteristic haughtiness.

"You're right again, Mr. Holmes," said Lieberkühn. "I deal with congenital deformities of the skull and spinal column, but thatís not why Iím here. I'm ..."

"No, of course not," interrupted Holmes. "I just wanted to hear you pronounce that bloody word. No, you're here because of your grandfather, Johann."

Lieberkühn looked stunned. "But ... how could you know that?!"

"Quite simple, really," shrugged Holmes. "The manner in which you sought me out just now was rather bold, and Lieberkühn, as any novice translator knows, is German for 'rather boldly.' Furthermore," Holmes continued, warming to his inferential talents, "this morning's London Times-Argus reported the recent disappearance of the scripts of Lieberkühn from the St. Salmon's Hospital library. Since I once published a monograph on the scholarly writings of Johann Lieberkühn and knew them to be of some historical value, I deduced that someone--presumably a relative--would presently seek me out to help recover them!"

"That's perfectly astounding, Mr. Holmes," marveled Lieberkühn, "and quite correct, save for one small detail. The missing items are the Crypts of Lieberkühn, not scripts. It was a typographical error in the newspaper."

Holmes briefly brooded over the misinformation, then recomposed himself. "Very well, then tell me, tell us, about these 'crypts.' And leave out no detail, no matter how insignificant it may appear to you," Holmes declared, as he strode over to and threw himself into his armchair.

Lieberkühn began to pace about the room. "My grandfather, Johann, was an anatomist who lived in Berlin at the turn of the century--though exactly which century has never been made entirely clear. His research led to the discovery of what he termed the 'Crypts of Lieberkühn; which, at the time, was hailed as a very important breakthrough in the medical arts. But now, no one at the hospital can recall where these crypts are."

"Huh, it's not such a big mystery," piped up Watson. "You and your cronies have obviously been so engrossed in your cranio-whatsis that you've lost track of basic anatomy. Did you bother to look in the small intestine?"

Holmes sprinted over to the bookcase, pulled down a tattered copy of Gray's Anatomy, and turned to the chapter on the organs of digestion. Skipping the section on the Hammond B3 and Wurlitzer, he pored over the pages on the small intestine, then looked up triumphantly. "Listen: 'Crypts of Lieberkühn--simple tubular glands in the mucous membranes of the small intestine that secrete tangy juices for the purpose of organ-to-organ osmosis.' Watson's right. You've been looking in the wrong place."

Lieberkühn regarded both Holmes and Watson with amazement. "It's true. I had suggested to my colleagues that Grandfather had a thing about crania. Weíll revise our search coordinates at once! Thank you so much, gentlemen. And, ah, hereís a crown for each of you," he added, tossing a five-shilling coin to them both.

"You know, Holmes," said Watson, after the craniorhachischisiologist had left, "the whereabouts of those crypts wasn't so very hard to deduce. Perhaps this inferential reasoning thing of yours is not as abstruse as I'd imagined."

"It's elementary, my dear Watson."

"No, Holmes," the doctor countered. "For once it's alimentary!"

This 394th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is both elementary and alimentary in scope--the former because of how we plan to tinker with the fundamental laws of music, and the latter because of where that music will likely wind up. And here to begin the digestive process of music in general and the Barmy Bobbleheads in particular is Kalvos.