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The Adventure of the Hanging Baskets.

It was a dark and stormy night, as it always is in London on Christmas Day at five in the afternoon. Trevelyan was standing on the East side of the London Tower bridge watching the bits of litter slowly flowing down the Thames. There was one of those baskets used by old ladies for hanging flowers in their windows, still with a few stragglers of flowers and papers hanging on. Curious? He wasn’t exactly depressed, but how can an American toff who just lost a thousand pounds cash be feeling good? He wouldn’t be getting his allowance for another week, and other than those skinny fingered thugs who just relieved him of all his gold coins in the beautiful leather coin purse his grandmother had made for him, he was penniless and he didn’t know anyone this side of the Atlantic ocean.

Some of his indolent young Harvard friends still back in Boston, typically sent abroad in the summer to do their obligatory European tour, would have jumped off the bridge. But Trevelyan, even though he felt miserable just now, wasn’t that kind of guy. No, no, now was a time for an immaculately dressed Harvard student to consider his options. He could go to the police and ask for their help; after all, they must have had plenty of experience with this kind of problem. Surely, they would put him up for the night, give him enough to eat, and have the resources needed to contact his rich uncle Grosvenor, who would advance the money Trevelyan was expecting to receive on New Year’s Day. No. No. No! He had been sent abroad to learn how to cope with the world, and damn it, that’s what he was going to do.

Perhaps he should chase down those thugs who relieved him of his cash, creep up behind them and bludgeon them with some convenient item. He had noticed a pile of bricks at the end of the bridge where he had just come from, and where the thieves were still visible walking happily away. They were skipping along and looked like a couple of happy school kids who just got bicycles for their Christmas presents. But for Trevelyan it was a thousand pounds sterling gone, and in cash too! … But for the robbers … Blimey, it was a happy day, they had never even seen so much money.

Trevelyan considered running after them and yelling something … “Help, help, stop those thieves!” That sounded like a reasonable thing to do, but the traffic noise would drown out his voice, and they were now vanishing into the infamous London fog. Perhaps he could track them down, Sherlock Holmes-like. He had noticed some unique little details about them. The ruby-faced fellow had an unusual lavender piping on his jacket and square-tipped shoes and he walked with a unique limp. Obviously, he was an ex-soldier, and the shoes corroborated that assumption and the limp too. That narrowed the suspects down a lot. And … if he was an honorable man and so reduced in circumstances that he would have to rob people, he probably would be staying at some flophouse for soldiers who were “down on their luck.” Now Trevelyan was getting someplace. His classic Harvard background education wasn’t a hindrance, after all, it had given him the tools to think. To think for himself, and the motivation to figure out problems and the courage to explore his convictions and to act on them too.

Well, an hour later after some similar cogitations he was sitting in The Sisters of Mercy Home for Fallen Heroes, reading yesterday’s Times that he had fetched from a basket hanging there, just like the one he had seen floating down the Thames. He noticed a hook for hanging another basked in the ceiling. Curious? A local constable, one of the big friendly fellows for which London is so famous he had just met, was sitting across the hallway from him, also appearing to be reading an old newspaper. Everything seemed artificially friendly, as things usually do in such establishments.

Slowly, the heavy ancient ornate front door creeks open and in limps a red-faced fellow with lavender piping and square-toed shoes, obviously quite happy from having downed a pint or two of ale. Trevelyan says, “Alrightee mate, how’s it going? Haven’t seen yee for a donkey’s years. Have ya minted any coin lately?” He looked around and without any fuss, he handed over grandma’s coin purse to Trevelyan. Curious? No, not for a Harvard student.

Dudley’s writing group prompt, “hanging baskets,” obtained randomly from the third shelf over to our right, the third book in, page 17, line 20, where were found the words, “The hanging basket.” We each then wrote for forty minutes and read aloud our stories. I recommend joining a writing group doing these random prompts. It’s fun, and it takes you to strange places in your mind that you didn’t know existed, but when you get there it feels familiar.