It was an ordinary night at Baker Street. Sherlock was dictating the results of his latest case when, suddenly, he paused. “Watson, there’s someone here to see us,” he said. Sure enough, not a second later, there was a knock, and I opened the door to find a young lady tightly clutching a telephone, her face stricken in distress.

“Mr. Holmes, I apologize for the lateness of the hour,” she said, entering the study. “But I have in my possession a deep reservoir of text messages, and I can not tell if they are intended to be of a flirtatious nature.”

“Pray, give us all the details,” Sherlock said, bringing his pipe curiously to his lips. “When did this most ambiguous of exchanges begin?”

“About three weeks ago.”

His eyes narrowed.

“Three? That is a long while.”

“Yes, it is,” the young lady replied, shifting nervously on her feet.

“I shall reserve my final judgment until after I have heard all the facts, but this is a most peculiar time frame. It could suggest a desire to pursue a deeper, more meaningful relationship, or signify pure and utter stagnation. Fantastic!”

It was at this point that Sherlock arose from his armchair and began to pace, the conundrum swirling in his brilliant mind.

“Fantastic?” the young lady inquired. “It is quite vexing to me and occupies my thoughts more often than I should like to admit. I hardly think that is cause for celebration.”

“Yes, yes. Most intriguing,” said Sherlock, ignoring her distress in favor of his own amusement. “And how would you characterize your relationship thus far?”

“Purely collegial and quite proper. You see, we met at our job and—”

Sherlock interjected: “Things can get quite complicated with coworkers.”

“I don’t disagree,” she replied. “But this was a freelance job. Our chances of working together again are quite slim.”

“Alas. I feel relief,” he said. “Do continue.”

“After the job finished, he texted to say he enjoyed meeting me and that my work quality was most excellent,” she said.

“A compliment!” Sherlock exclaimed. “Often a sign of romantic interest, but surely not a definitive one, I’m afraid. May I see this initial exchange?”

“Absolutely,” the woman replied, turning over her phone.

Sherlock gasped.

“What is it?” I asked him, alarmed.

“It’s emojis, my dear Watson. Five of them.”

I often attempt to remain a neutral observer. But this revelation overtook me, and I admit that I became quite personally invested in the case myself.

The young lady divulged that she and the gentleman had kept up a cordial and, at times, more intimate exchange, but they never broached the subject of romantic entanglement. All the while, Sherlock continued to hold her phone in his hand, scrolling further back over the texts.

“What does ‘I’m a baby worm today’ mean?” he asked.

“It means that he’s quite cozy in bed. It’s one of our inside jokes,” she replied.

“One? You mean, there are several?” Sherlock asked.

“Oh yes, we share many.”

“In just three weeks of texting. How extraordinary,” he remarked. “Ah, but no messages since this Wednesday.”

“None at all,” she replied.

It was then we all paused, wracking our brains for an answer. Could some horrible accident have befallen him? Perhaps he tumbled into a drab and dampened hole and lay there, unable to reach his cellular device?

“The thing to remember is that we are in pursuit of the truth, not imaginative conjurings,” Sherlock cautioned. “So let us return to the facts. What is this gentleman’s zodiac sign?”


“And yours?”


Sherlock retreated to his bookcase and pulled out a well-worn tome called Horoscopes for Men of Science—a favorite of his.

“This is most intriguing. Listen: ‘Both being air signs, Aquarius and Gemini are known to be compatible lovers, with spontaneous Aquarius pairing well with restless Gemini to keep every day feeling fresh and exciting.’”

“That is great news,” the young lady exclaimed.

“There’s more,” revealed Sherlock. “‘Tonight’s lunar eclipse in the house of Scorpio will bring a much-needed dose of clarity, and Geminis should feel emboldened to make a big move.’”

“I feel tingles,” she said. “What shall I do?”

“There is only one thing to do,” he said, thrusting the telephone back into her hands. “Ask him if he is up.”

“At this hour?” she exclaimed. “Mr. Holmes, you forget yourself!”

“I trust my proclivity for logic against all else!” Sherlock slammed the book of horoscopes shut. “Now then: ‘u up’!”

“I shan’t!”

“You must!”

“I won’t! In truth, I don’t even know if I feel about him in this manner.”

The room fell suddenly quiet. Her own words surprised her, and yet they were accompanied by an immediate feeling of relief.

“Ah-ha!” Sherlock clasped his hands in triumph, his superior instincts having paid off once again.

As I fetched a glass of water for our client, Sherlock turned to the fire with a ponderous gaze.

“The easiest relationship is a fantastical one,” Sherlock said as he studied the flames. “But there comes a time when we must turn away from the imaginary and face reality.”

“Mr. Holmes, I must thank you for your candor,” the young lady said once she gained her composure. “You have saved me from many months of penpal courtship when, in fact, my true desires lie elsewhere.”

“It is merely my vocation, enabled by my innate powers of deduction,” replied Sherlock in his typical perfunctory manner. “Watson, please show the lady out, for there is someone else awaiting our services.”

Sure enough, I discovered another client on our doorstep: a young lady tightly clutching a laptop.

“Mr. Holmes, I am dreadfully sorry for the intrusion,” she said. “But I have been immersed in an ongoing email exchange, the nature of which I do not know to be romantic or platonic.”

“I am at your disposal,” he said, motioning for her to sit. “Now tell me, what is the average length of these missives?”

“Around seven hundred words each time. I have measured them in Google Docs.”

“Good lord!” exclaimed Sherlock, and I left to put on the tea kettle. It was sure to be another late evening at Baker Street.