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At the Reichenbach Falls, May 4, 1891

This is how the two greatest criminal minds of the 19th century came to grips, and set the course for the history of Russia in both the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sherlock Holmes (right) met James Moriarty (left) in hand to hand combat, and the two of them followed Holmes’s hat (extreme left) downwards. But despite the appearances, not to the death of either of them. And so it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the plaque at the Falls today, which reads “at this fearful place, Sherlock Holmes vanquished Professor Moriarty, on 4 May 1891”, is a piece of Swiss confectionery, and not a very tasteful one at that.


Moriarty was saved by the buttons of the spats of his left boot, which snagged and held fast to an outstretched tree-branch, arresting the fall as the rest of him plummeted past. If you think that unlikely, stop reading at once – you are вне конкурса.

After drying himself off, Moriarty walked to the nearby Meiringen railway station; and waited for the afternoon express to Bern. On arrival, he lodged himself at the Bellevue Palace Hotel under the name Maurice Artouille, professeur de neurologie, Paris. He ordered a table with a lakeside view and ate a sumptuous dinner. He surprised the sommelier by ordering Condrieu with the veal, but nothing more exceptional than that happened. He wasn’t accosted once by either the guests, or the house detective, who had noticed the professor had been unaccompanied by any baggage.

The next day Moriarty arranged for the hotel valet to put a shine back on his walking-boots, and replace the damaged pair of spats. He went out and purchased a suitcase, and filled it with fresh clothing. He then booked a de luxe rail ticket from Bern to Venice.

In Venice, he boarded a tramp steamer bound, via the Black Sea, for Russia. Without difficulty at a single audition, Moriarty had had himself engaged as a knife-thrower in a touring American troupe of hirsute bears and bald ladies, which had signed a summer contract to tour the Crimean peninsula. Thus did the Professor arrive in Russia in early June of 1891. Because of the Black Sea swells at that time of year, and one unlucky lurch of the vessel, Moriarty’s knife-throwing practice had had to be cancelled. Later he claimed he had only nicked the upper thigh of the ringmaster’s wife, Nina. Her husband said the damage was much more serious. Moriarty paid what the two of them agreed to call “compensation for loss of companionship”, and Moriarty left the troupe at the dock of Sevastopol.

One of the bears had also tried to take a bite out of Nina, so it was agreed her days with the troupe were also over. She left — the she-bear that is — with Moriarty.

Moriarty renamed the bear Chere Lockie, and over those summer months in the south of Russia he made experiments in thought transference between himself and her. They were not all successful.

Much time passed, and Moriarty moved to St. Petersburg. There he continued to maintain a troupe of bears for experimentation, and for the wonder of his friends and business acquaintances. He also opened a bureau selling the rights to industrial patents he claimed to have invented himself, but had in fact stolen. His biggest sellers, and the makings of Moriarty’s fortune in Russia, were the electrolysis patents of Charles Hall and Paul Heroult. Theirs was the invention of the modern production of aluminium. It was Moriarty’s criminal genius to persuade Russia to pay him for it.

In 1917, still in St. Petersburg, Moriarty achieved a notable success, though the bear was given more of the credit than the Prof thought, in retrospect, was quite fair.

It was the realization that his legacy was at risk of being misunderstood, or not understood at all, that led Moriarty to decide to produce heirs — but keep their identities secret. The year was about 1920, and the Professor was then approaching the end of his child-bearing capabilities, though hardly of his infamous libido.

Arthur Conan Doyle tried to keep this under wraps so as not to offend the Victorian sensibilities of his readers, and threaten his royalty income. Seemingly, Conan Doyle evaded the problem by reporting that in England Moriarty had been unmarried, having spent his late adolescence obsessed with abstruse mathematics and asteroid astronomy. But the game is almost given away when Conan Doyle writes of Moriarty’s “hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind… Dark rumours gathered round him in the University town, and eventually he was compelled to resign his chair and come down to London…”

The rumours are given credence in coded notes found in a 1913 psychoanalytic archive in Vienna, where Holmes was getting therapy at the time for his cocaine addiction. There he admitted knowing that Moriarty, engaged for a time as tutor in maths to the young Holmes, had had an affair with Holmes’s mother, only to be found out by Holmes’s father, who had tried murdering them both; Mr Holmes succeeded only in despatching Mrs Holmes, before despatching himself.

When it came to selecting heir-bearers, Moriarty considered he was in the right place in post-war, post-revolutionary Petrograd, and so he made his choice of this Russian Orthodox lady in the lineup his friends had organized at a fancy-dress party at the Konstantinov Palace in the summer of 1919:

Actually, the old man tried all three. And from this complication stems the problem of identifying just who in Russia today is, or are, Moriarty’s genuine, if illegitimate, heirs.

Note the square set of chin and ears which have been passed on by Moriarty; and the small dark eyes and retrousse nose from the mother.

Yes, Moriarty’s first born turns out to be the youngster who became the much loved Stepan Stepanov, Dyadya Styopa (“Uncle Stevie”), whose many adventures and kindly character were first told in 1935 by Sergei Mikhalkov. Perhaps because he knew, perhaps because he didn’t know his origins, Mikhalkov starts Styopa’s story when he’s already a strapping adolescent. In retrospect, in today’s more scientific atmosphere, we’d also detect the signs of pituitary gigantism, just one of the “dark rumours” surrounding
Moriarty when he was the same age. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFw6A9AhOUM

Aluminium poisoning may also have been a compounding factor during Moriarty’s Petrograd period, for the metal’s properties are also known to make little men imagine they are giants.

The lad joins the Navy first, and then the Police. Wherever he goes, his giant height enables him to do good. He is all that Mikhalkov intended, and everything Moriarty’s experiment in personal eugenics had hoped for – a model of virtue.

Can this be true, Holiday Puzzlers? Can “hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind” be transformed on the passage from England to Russia? Why not, if it was just a case of electrolysis in the pituitary glands!

But remember again what Holmes had told Dr Watson of Moriarty: “He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, and abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.”

Yes, Holiday Puzzlers, Dyadya Styopa’s gratuitous and platonic kindliness had its limits. His giant virtue required sustenance; his organs came with humongous appetites.

He too had a libido, and though late in developing, it needed to find a natural outlet. So, in about the year 1952 – maybe it was after March 1953, when Stalin died and Styopa felt more secure – he had his first child. After Stalin’s demise, Mikhalkov was too busy twisting and turning to keep up with Dyadya Styopa as a family man. Indeed, Mikhalkov kept making new family friends for himself

until he died in August of this year, taking the secrets of Dadya Styopa’s genealogy with him.

And so to the mystery for this year’s Holiday Puzzle – WHO ARE THE HEIRS OF DYADYA STYOPA AND PROFESSOR MORIARTY IN RUSSIA TODAY?

Are they giants of the glandular type, doing daily good for the traffic circulation of Russia’s great cities? Have they moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow or to another town? Did they freeze to death of hypothermia during the winter of 1996, after Boris Yeltsin’s re-election. Are they cerebral giants inside small bodies of extraordinary versatility?

Are they still lovable by children for their good deeds? Or are they the masterminds of everything that is evil in our fair land? Can they be both?

The deadline for adjudication of your answers is midnight on Old New Year. Verse or prose is equally acceptable, but no doggerel please. Anything that smacks of the slightest reference to real people still alive will be passed to a London lawfirm specializing in threats of libel litigation.

To prevent improper influence, the panel of judges must remain anonymous; except to say that no member or hanger-on of the Mikhalkov family has been appointed, or even consulted.

At their discretion, the judges will decide whether to award one or several prizes from the Bears’ Picnic Hamper.

These are rarities to be appreciated for years to come. They include the last jogging suit Bernard Madoff wore before his sons turned him in; the last matzoh-ball soup served on Tverskaya Street; and a rare collection of bugs assembled by Vladimir Nabokov, when he had found all the butterflies he could manage, and was, on account of that, in one of his foul, non-libidinous, vindictive moods.

To whistle along as you compose your answers, here’s the original Bears’ Picnic Song (1932):
And for your personal security, pay close attention to the words.

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