“Watson!” bellowed Sherlock Holmes from the Chesterfield, handing me his laptop. “What do you make of this?” It was thrilling to hear the old excitement in his voice — his days of late consisted of playing the New York Times Spelling Bee and checking the Vaccine Tracker every three minutes. The computer was open to Facebook.
“David Worthington got his vaccine?” I cried in disbelief, staring at the photo of the band-aid on our friend Worthington’s well-muscled shoulder. “That guy’s 40 at most!”
“My thoughts exactly, Watson. And he’s really rubbing it in with the #DoingMyPart and #GetVaccinated hashtags.”
To say we were weary of the pandemic, after almost a year confined to 221B Baker Street, was an understatement. I had sunk so low as to binge-watch all nine seasons of One Tree Hill, a show I have never enjoyed. Also, I know for a fact that Holmes hadn’t washed his cape in over a year.
Returning the laptop, I stared at the empty street below. “But can we prove it, Holmes? He doesn’t list his age. I checked.”
“No one lists their age on Facebook, Watson. But the proof is in the pictures…”
A blur of images sped by — glamping at Burning Man, vacation in Iceland, axe-throwing birthday parties — until Holmes stopped on a class picture. A teacher with the “Rachel” haircut stood in front of her class. A letterboard read, “Mrs. Wogan’s 8th Grade Class, 1998-1999.”
“Are you saying we should track down Mrs. Wogan and see if she remembers Worthington’s age?”
“Think, Watson! If he graduated 8th grade in 1999, he was born in or around 1985, making him roughly 36 years old today! Too young for a vaccine!”
“Brilliant! You’ve solved it! I’ll ring up Scotland Yard now…”
“Not so fast,” said Holmes, staying my hand on the receiver. “I don’t want to tip our hand until we’ve exhausted all possibilities. His job might qualify him for the shot.”
“Is Worthington a teacher?”
“I’ve ruled that out. Look, he misspelled ‘NYU’ in the Education section. His favorite books — Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby— are all ones he had to read in high school.”
“He lists his occupation as ‘Bikini Inspector.’”
“That’s just internet drollery, Watson. But this is telling — look at his hands in this picture.”
“The one where he’s showing off his new Peloton? With #Blessed?”
“Precisely. If you zoom in, you can see the imprint from a well-used PS5 controller. This man is unemployed.”
“A-ha! So we can rule out restaurant worker, Uber driver, poultry processor, or first responder. Perhaps he’s obese? We’ve all put on a few pounds lately…”
“Impossible. He’s posted dozens of shirtless poolside photos, some as recently as last week. He even included #abs. It’s often pride that brings down the criminal, Watson.”
“It doesn’t add up, Sherlock. Worthington’s young, and he’s fit as a horse. He’s not a first responder, and he’s not a restaurant worker. He’s not a teacher, and he’s not obese…”
Holmes twirled his mop of hair, uncut since last February. “I’ll spring a trap, Watson. I’m setting up a Zoom meeting with Worthington now. I’ll see if I can coax it out of him.”
Just after 3 PM, David Worthington appeared on screen. “Worthington,” asked Holmes at his most imperious, “I’m going to get straight to the point. How did you possibly qualify for your vaccine?”
Worthington remained silent for an uncomfortably long time, all but confirming his guilt. But Holmes noticed something was off. “Worthington, you’re on mute,” he said.
“Oh, sorry about that! Can you hear me? Diabetes. I have diabetes. See?” He held up a medical bracelet proving he did, in fact, have the condition.
“Ah! Yes, I really should have noticed that. COVID really has me off my game…”
“Wait,” replied David, a touch of anger rising in his voice. “Did you think I was lying to cut the line?”
“What?” replied Holmes. “No. Uh, I was just, um, taking a survey. Good day.” And with this, Holmes ended the meeting.
Later that evening, as we put away our Whole Foods delivery, Holmes commented, “Wow, that was embarrassing. Not one for your annals, I’m afraid.”
“Do you think it’s possible,” I replied to my dear friend, “that this pandemic is turning us into monsters? Instead of celebrating these miracle vaccines, we scrutinize and doubt our own friends and neighbors. Sure, Worthington is a bit vain, but he’s a decent fellow and we really ought to have trusted him.”
“I daresay you’re right, Watson,” said Holmes, chastened, as he scrolled through Instagram on his phone. But a dark look soon returned to his eye. “But have you seen this?” There on the screen was the shoulder of Emily Charlton, our twenty-something upstairs neighbor, taunting us.