The Curse of the Giants

Raffles Holmes’s love of baseball came as some surprise to me, and I said as much to him on several occasions.  That Holmes loved sport was not in itself surprising, but as a participant rather than a spectator.  Not until one morning in September did I learn from where his joy in baseball derived.

“Holmes!  Holmes!” I exclaimed as I pounded on the door to his bachelor apartment at the Rexmere.  Some minutes had passed since I had bounded the steps up to his eighteenth-floor apartment — so caught in the excitement of the moment I was that the convenience of the elevator escaped me — and been left winded from the exertions.

Moments passed, and the thought that perhaps Holmes was out crossed my mind, making my mad dash up the stairs pointless.  At long last, the door opened slightly, and Holmes’s head sheepishly came into view.  “I say, Jenkins,” said he in a whisper, “could you keep the racket down?  You’ll wake the young woman.”

“Woman?” I said with a start.

Holmes rubbed at his eyes and gave a nod.  “A busy night we had ourselves, too.  Had the most dashed time getting her up here unnoticed.”

I should have laughed at his audacity.  The Rexmere had strict rules on overnight guests, and Holmes could have been evicted for breaking those rules.  Knowing Raffles Holmes as I did, however, his scheme for getting the young woman into his room likely involved a bribe to the desk clerk, a telephone call, a cry of panic from someone outside the building, and a pulled fire alarm.

Holmes stepped out into the hall and pulled the door closed behind him.  “Now, Jenkins, whatever is so urgent that you had to wake me this morning?”

“Morning?  Why, Holmes, it’s half past two!”

“Is it?  That puts a crimp in the day!”

“Look at this,” said I, handing him the morning paper’s sports pages.

TRAGEDY AT THE POLO GROUNDS, the headline read, followed by GIANTS ROBBED OF VICTORY OVER CUBS and GAME ENDS IN TIE AFTER RIOT.

Holmes read through the article and handed the paper back.  “What is there to see, Jenkins?  I saw it myself.”

“You were there?” said I.

“In the flesh,” said he.  “And it’s a tale worth telling, more so than the papers say, if I don’t miss my guess.”

“Do tell, Holmes!” I exclaimed, knowing that one of his tales would be of profit to my bank account and interest to my readers.

Raffles shook his head.  “Not now, but perhaps over an early dinner.  Say, at four?”

“The Heraclean?” I said, thinking instantly of my club.

“I was thinking of the Caledonian,” said he.

I could barely contain my surprise — the Caledonian was Holmes’s club, and in the few years I had know him I could count on one hand the number of times we had dined there.  I said as much to Holmes.

“Patience, Jenkins,” said Holmes, a devilish gleam in his eye.

“Holmes, clever as always!”

Raffles gave a mock bow in reply.  “Now, Jenkins, I must wake the young lady, and I’ll see you round the Caledonian at four.”

Prior to my visit to Holmes’s apartment I had not heard from my friend in several weeks.  He had gone to England in mid July — family business, he said — and I had a book due to my publisher which meant I had barely left my own apartment in two months.  The work on my latest travel book, The Giraffes of Borneo, had become bogged down in the details — there are no giraffes in Borneo, a fact I might have discovered had I bothered to leave the comfortable environs of Manhattan — and the royalty checks from my previous book had at last run dry.  Holmes’s invitation to lunch — and the promise of a story — could not have come at a better time.  From Raffles I could expect nothing less than an exciting story, one that a quick afternoon’s work could turn into a narrative worth selling for a few hundred dollars, staving off once more the creditors seeking payment for the wife’s new couch.

I had been to Holmes’s club a few times before, and though I found it more liberal in its membership than my own, the Heraclean, I had to admit that the Caledonian’s cooks produced a far better dinner than the Heraclean’s.  I arrived by taxi slightly later than I had intended, and the club’s doorman, a stooped old veteran named Hunter, escorted me into the club’s dining room.

Holmes had taken a table by the bay windows, and seated across from him was a young woman.  She wore a cream-colored dress, and atop her long black hair was a wide-brimmed hat set slightly askew.  Holmes saw me as I approached their table and he gestured for me to join them.

He rose as I reached the table, a wide grin crossing his face.  “Jenkins, my old friend!” he exclaimed.  “It’s been too long.”

“Two hours,” said I.  “How was London?”

“A story for another time,” said he, waving the question away.  He gestured to his companion at the table.  “Jenkins, may I present Miss Perpugilliam Brown?”  A gentleman’s discretion prevented me from asking, but I presumed this was Holmes’s companion from the previous night.

She turned to me and I gladly took her extended hand.  “Perpugilliam,” I said, tripping over the syllables.

Miss Brown smiled.  “Mr. Jenkins, you can call me ‘Peri.’  Everyone does.”

I nodded.  “Peri it is.”

Holmes gestured to the empty seat next to Miss Brown which I gladly took.

Once I was seated Holmes said, clearly to Miss Brown, “Jenkins here is a baseball fan.”

Miss Brown smiled at me.  “Is he, now?  We’ve something in common, then.”

I returned Miss Brown’s smile.  “I’ve been known to follow the Highlanders and take in a game at Hilltop Park.”

“The Highlanders,” said Miss Brown, a hint of confusion in her voice.

Surely, I thought, a young woman in New York who followed baseball would know the Highlanders.  “The American League team,” said I.

She harrumphed and turned away.

I turned back to Holmes.  “Tell me, The riot at the Polo Grounds?  You were there?”

Holmes clapped his hands together in obvious glee.  “Naturally,” said he.  The story was impossible to miss — at the Giants and Cubs baseball game the day before the crowd rioted when the umpires made a controversial call robbing the hometown Giants of their victory.  The front page of the Times proclaimed the game an “Injustice at the Polo Grounds!”

“You, Raffles?” I exclaimed with obvious shock.  Raffles Holmes, though a sporting man himself, had shown little interest in baseball.  Though I myself followed the local American League team, the Highlanders, and had little patience for John McGraw’s squad, I still felt outrage at the fashion in which the demon Cubs avoided the loss.

“I had money riding on the game’s outcome,” he said.  “Sadly, the riot and the resulting tie forfeited my wagers.”

“Men and their games,” said Miss Brown.  Only my wife spoke of wagers on sporting events with more derision than our lunch companion.  I considered it fortunate that I had successfully kept my gambling losses from her these past ten years.

“Ah!” said Holmes.  “Had I not placed those wagers we would never have met, my dear.”

Miss Brown nodded slowly, a slight smile crossing her face.  “True,” said she.  “All too true, and you wouldn’t have had that guy take a swing at you.”

“Holmes!” I exclaimed.  “A ruffian threw a punch?  You were there, at the forefront of the riot?”

“Well, old chap,” said Raffles, “I shall have to tell you all about it.”

Holmes caught a passing waiter’s attention and ordered a bottle of the house Merlot.  He then began to tell his story of the riot at the Polo Ground.

“As you know,” began he, “the Chicago Cubs have been chasing the New York Giants all season for the National League pennant.  If the Giants could take this series from the Cubs it could assure them the pennant and a World Series berth.  You may be asking, Jenkins, why I should care for baseball, when you’ve yet to convince me to attend a Highlanders game at Hilltop Park.”

“I must admit, that the question has crossed my mind.”

“Quite simply, old chap, I had been feeling somewhat less than my usual virtuous self, and as I was back in town I decided to pay a visit to my favorite gambling den off Fifth Avenue.  You may think it unpatriotic and unbecoming a fellow Manhattanite, but I placed a wager of fifty dollars on the Cubs to win the game.”

“You, a ‘Manhattanite’?” I exclaimed.  “You, the son of Sherlock Holmes, the great consulting detective, the grandson of A.J. Raffles, the gentleman thief, born in London, a ‘Manhattanite’?  Surely, Raffles, you’re no more a Manhattanite than our delightful Miss Brown here is a Bostonian.”

“Oh, but I am a Bostonian,” said Miss Brown.  “A university student, if you must know.”

“Indeed?” said I, evincing some surprise.

“Of course.  I’m a Red Sox fan, through and through,” she said, “but how could I pass up the opportunity to see a game at the Polo Grounds?”  Now I understood Miss Brown’s obvious disdain for my Highlanders — the Highlanders were Boston’s closest rivals, though the Highlanders usually were not competative against the Boston squad.

Holmes harrumphed.  “Jenkins?  Miss Brown?  May I continue with my story?”

“My apologies, Holmes,” said I.

“As I was saying, once I had placed my wager, I resolved to see first-hand the results of the game, rather than merely read about it in the morning’s papers.  I went by subway to the Polo Grounds, bought a seat in the grandstand behind home plate, and settled in to watch the game.”

Miss Brown turned to me.  “Your friend was seated behind me and my…”  She paused, as if searching for the proper word, then said, “friend.”

“‘Friend’?” I said with obvious confusion.

Holmes waved the question away.  “We’ll come to him later.  I had arrived late to the game, as it had already begun by the time I’d arrived at the stadium, and the Cubs pitcher, the mighty Jack Pfiester, stood atop the mound, mowing down the New York nine, one after another.  While the Giants couldn’t score, neither could those dreaded Cubs, for our own Christy Mathewson retired the Cubs batters one after another.  It wasn’t until the fifth inning that either team put a run across the plate, and it was the Cubs that drew first blood.”

“You should have seen it, Mr. Jenkins,” said Miss Brown.  “Joe Tinker, the Cubs’s third baseman, hit a line drive toward right field, and the Giants’s right fielder tried for a shoelace catch, missed the ball completely, and it rolled out to the wall, giving Tinker an in-the-park home run.”

I could but shake my head.

“Ah, but Jenkins, the Giants struck right back, tying the score with some well-placed hits and some equally poor fielding on the part of the Cubs.”  Holmes took a drink from his Merlot, and continued, “As the game entered its ninth and climactic inning with the score still tied you could sense the apprehension, the anticipation of twenty-five thousand souls all rooting for the Giants to slay the vile Cubs.”

“Really, Raffles,” I exclaimed, “you speak of baseball as if it were a hunting party stalking wild game!”

Holmes laughed, and heads throughout the Caledonian’s dining room turned in our direction.  A harrumph from the maitre d’ quieted Raffles’s outburst, and he begged forgiveness from Miss Brown.

“Another thing, Holmes,” said I, “you’ve yet to tell how you met Miss Brown, beyond sitting behind her at the Grounds.”

Again, he waved away my question.  “We’re coming to that, Jenkins, all in good time.”

Miss Brown simply turned and smiled at me.

“The ninth inning,” said Raffles.  “The Cubs put a man on base, but scored no runs.  Then came the Giants’s turn, and their first batter struck out.  Their next batter put the ball into the outfield, but could only take first base.  The next batter, however, grounded the ball to third base, and the baserunner on first was out at second base on a force play.  Now, with two outs the Giants had a baserunner at first, the potential winning run, if only their new batter, Fred Merkle, could bring him home.”

“And did he, Holmes?” I asked, remembering only the riot the papers had reported, not the game’s outcome.

Miss Brown exhaled loudly.  “Not quite,” she said.

Holmes leaned back in his chair and took another drink from his Merlot.  “Indeed not.  Oh, Merkle put the ball into play, but even that hit couldn’t bring the Giants’s baserunner home.  Now the Giants had two runners on base, one on third base, the other on first, with only one more out remaining in the inning.”

“What happened then?” I asked.

Holmes smiled.  “Things took a decidedly difficult turn, and none of the twenty-five thousand spectators could have guessed that pandemonium was at hand.”

“The riot?” asked I.

“The riot,” said he.

“It wasn’t a riot,” said Miss Brown.

“Oh?” I said.

“It was a stampede,” she said.

I confessed to some confusion on the point.

“I shall endeavor to explain,” said Holmes.  “The last Giant batter came to the plate, and he made a solid hit into center field.  The Giants’ baserunner on third ran for home, crossed the plate, and the Giants had won the game.”

“The riot, then, was a victory celebration?”

Raffles nodded.  “But a premature one.  There was one other matter to consider.”

“Oh?” I said.  “And what was that?”

It was Miss Brown that answered.  “The ball was still in play, Mr. Jenkins.  If an out could be made, either on the batter or the baserunner coming from first, the out would count and the run would be erased.”

I nodded.  The rule seemed odd but with consideration made sense.  “I presume, from reading the article in yesterday’s Times, that the Cubs were able to force the out on the baserunning coming from first to second.”

“Yes,” said Raffles.  “But only after the crowd stormed the field, believing the Giants to have won the game because their runner crossed home plate.”

Miss Brown smiled.  “And this is where my part of the story begins.”

Raffles nodded and gestured for Miss Brown to begin her story.

“As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Jenkins, I am a university student from Boston, though currently I am on a sabbatical, traveling with a friend that goes by the name of ‘The Doctor.’  The Doctor is a scientist, and his researches had brought the two of us to New York City.  Specifically, they had brought us to the Polo Grounds yesterday.”

“Why?” I asked.

“While I enjoyed the opportunity to take in a baseball game at the Polo Grounds and to experience baseball history in the making, the Doctor took his own concerns just as seriously.”

“Just what were the Doctor’s concerns?” I asked.

“The Doctor believed that someone wanted to affect the outcome of the game.”

“But why?”

“Because the game ended in a tie, Mr. Jenkins.”  She gestured at Raffles Holmes seated across from her.  “As your friend said earlier, the Cubs and the Giants have been fighting all season for the National League pennant.  The Cubs entered this five game series three games out of first place, and with only weeks remaining in the season every game matters, every game can determine who goes to the World Series.”  She paused as if for dramatic emphasis.  “The Doctor felt that someone wanted the game to end in something other than a tie.”

“Surely your friend the Doctor didn’t know how the game would turn out before it was even played!”

“What if he did, Mr. Jenkins?  Trust me when I say that the Doctor’s concern that the fabric of history could be unraveled were very serious, and very true.”

“‘The fabric of history’,” said I, repeating Miss Brown’s words.  “I think, my dear, that you have a very active imagination.”

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine,” she said quietly.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“A quotation,” she said, then took a drink from her Merlot.  “The Doctor is an inventor, not just a scientist.  The Doctor builds gizmos, you see.”

“Gizmos,” said I, echoing Miss Brown’s word.

She gestured with her hands, as if describing a shape in the space before her.  “Gizmos.  Gadgets.  Little mechanical contraptions a scientist like Thomas Edison might make.”

“And your Doctor is a scientist.”

Miss Brown nodded.  “Of some renown.  Or so he says,” she said with a slight laugh.

“Might I ask what the Doctor’s ‘gizmo’ did, what it was meant to do?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Mr. Jenkins.”

“You’re quite the mystery, Miss Brown.”

She leaned back in her chair, turned, and smiled at me.  “You’ve read Wells, I assume.”

“H.G., the English socialist?”

Miss Brown nodded.  I felt as though I were suddenly on the defensive, and I looked quickly to my friend Holmes, who merely smiled at me, as though he knew where Miss Brown’s questions were leading.  I supposed that he did — after all, he and Miss Brown were having a quiet lunch by the time I had arrived at the Caledonian, and they had, by Raffles’s own admission, met at the game the day prior.  Curious as to the destination of the conversation, I could but follow the trail Miss Brown laid before me.  “I have,” I admitted.  “Particularly his scientific romances.”

The answer seemed to amuse her.  “How would you react if I told you that the Doctor’s ‘gizmo'” — she stressed the word, mocking the very derisive tone I had used but moments before — “could detect things from outside of normal time, things from the past.  Or the future.”

I slammed my palm on the table.  “Really, Holmes!  I cannot believe you invited me to lunch to hear this… rubbish!”

Once more Holmes laughed.  “Jenkins!” he cried.  “Hear the lady’s story out, and then decide if it’s rubbish.  Or not.”

“I come from the future, Mr. Jenkins, whether you care to believe it or not.  The Doctor and I were traveling in his time machine when he detected a temporal disturbance that extended from the twenty-second century into the past.  Just as ships leave wakes in the water, time machines leave wakes in the time continuum, and the Doctor’s scanners traced that wake to this year, 1908, and to this place, Manhattan.

“The game was just as Mr. Holmes has said, a tense affair, with neither team decisively having the advantage.  The lack of scoring actually bothered the Doctor, and he said that if he were trying to alter the game’s outcome he would want to do something decisive early on, so as not to leave things later to chance.  Something like what happened to Merkle, that couldn’t be predicted, nor could it be controlled.  It was, in the Doctor’s words, too random.  But other events in the game could be controlled.  That the game stayed so tight, right up until the end, concerned the Doctor far more than even he would admit.  The fact that the temporal wake we had followed to New York had not registered on his portable device clearly worried him.

“As the ninth inning began, the Doctor suggested that we should make our way toward the outfield, to get a better vantage point.  ‘If nothing has happened here, behind the plate,’ he said, ‘something must surely be happening out there.’  I wasn’t happy to give up my seat, not at a moment like this with the game on the line, but when the Doctor makes a suggestion like that you can’t just ignore it.”

“Holmes,” said I, “you didn’t tell me that Miss Brown and her friend left the grandstand.”

“I suppose I didn’t, Jenkins, but that’s because I decided to follow them, and their part of the story was so much more interesting than mine.”

“Really, Holmes.”

Miss Brown smiled at me.  “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Jenkins.  The Doctor realized, very quickly, that we were being followed.  I should tell you,” she said, looking directly at Raffles, “that at first the Doctor thought you were the very man we were looking for, the one who wanted to alter the game’s outcome.”

“What changed his mind?” asked Raffles.

Miss Brown shrugged.  “I couldn’t say.  But as we made our way through the stands toward the outfield bleachers and the overflow spectators, the Doctor said he was more and more certain that the person we were looking for was out there in the overflow and not following behind us.”

“How did the Doctor’s ‘gizmo’,” said I, placing carefully my emphasis on that word, “lead him to conclude that your quarry lay ahead of you in the bleachers and not behind, as my friend Raffles was?”

“By the time we reached the outfield the Giants were up to bat, and the Doctor was concerned that we were running out of time.  Fortunately, the closer we were to the outfield spectators, the more the Doctor’s device registered a temporal disturbance, proving the Doctor’s suspicions correct.  We had only to follow the signal his device detected, and then we would discover who had created the temporal wake stretching back two centuries and why he had done so.”

I could but shake my head.  “Quite fanciful!” I exclaimed, taking a drink from my own Merlot.

“The Doctor and I made our way through the crowd, difficult though it was as they were on their feet and crowding the outfield wall, hoping to get a better view as the Giants threatened in the bottom of the ninth.  I wouldn’t have thought we could make our way through, but somehow we did, the Doctor taking the lead with his device held out in front, I following as close behind as I could.  The Doctor stopped, folded up his device and pocketed it.  I wondered why, and then the Doctor said, ‘There he is.’

“‘There who is?’ I asked.

“The Doctor looked at me and smiled.  ‘Our quarry, of course.  The answer to all the puzzles.’  He pointed at a man, perhaps five feet in front of us.  I looked at the man and saw nothing wrong with him, but the more I looked at him, the more I saw that something was out of place.  His jacket, his hat, they looked right, but the more I looked at them, the more wrong they looked.  It wasn’t that his clothes were out of place, but they were off in the subtle details, so much so that I’d doubt that one in a thousand would even notice.

“Fortunately, the Doctor was that one in a thousand.  I only noticed because the Doctor made me look.”

“But the game, Miss Brown!  The game!  What does any of this have to do with the game and the subsequent riot?”

“Why, Jenkins,” said Holmes, “this has everything to do with the game.”

“I’m sorry if I don’t understand, but how?”

“You see, Mr. Jenkins, when the Giants’s baserunner crossed home plate the outfield spectators stormed the field.  The ball, though, was still in play — a force out could be made at second on Merkle or at first on the batter, Bridwell.  If the Cubs could retrieve the ball and tag out one of the runners the Giants’s winning run wouldn’t count.  When the Doctor and I saw the stranger leap the fence onto the field with the other spectators, it was obvious that he wanted to prevent the Cubs from recovering the loose ball and making the out.  ‘He’s going for the ball, Peri!  Quick, over the wall,’ the Doctor shouted, and over the wall we went.”

“As did I, old chap,” said Holmes.  “The chase was on!”

Miss Brown nodded.  “The Doctor and I ran after the stranger, and I quickly fell behind as my shoes weren’t made for running.  The Doctor reached him, laid a hand on his shoulder to slow him, but he twisted out of the Doctor’s grip.  Suddenly I saw someone leap at the stranger, and it was your friend, Mr. Jenkins, Raffles Holmes.  He launched himself at the stranger, and with a flying tackle brought him down on the outfield grass, and the two of them rolled in a ball, and then I saw that Mr. Holmes had the upper hand, straddling the stranger.

“The Doctor walked up and stood above Raffles and the stranger.  ‘So,’ he said, ‘what’s your game?  What’s so important about this?’  And the Doctor held out his hand, and in it was the baseball, the one that could decide the game.”

I shook my head in surprise.  “How did the Doctor retrieve the baseball?”

“She’s coming to that, old chap.”

I nodded.

“The stranger looked at the baseball in the Doctor’s hand, and his eyes went wild.  ‘How did you get that?’

“The Doctor smiled.  ‘Your device.  It fell out of your hand when this fellow here’ — and the Doctor indicated Mr. Holmes with a shake of his head — ‘tackled you.’  The Doctor pulled the stranger’s device out of his pocket and turned it over in his hand.  ‘Quite a remarkable little thing, can draw in any object you desire.  Twenty-second century, at a guess?’

“The stranger said nothing.  The Doctor shrugged.  ‘Have it your way, then,’ and he threw the ball back in toward the infield, where one of the Cubs players caught it.

“‘You shouldn’t have done that,’ the stranger said, his first words since Mr. Holmes had tackled him and pined him down.

“The Doctor knelt down, leaned in close.  ‘And why is that?’

“‘Because then the Giants won’t win,’ the stranger said.

“‘Is that so important to you?’ asked the Doctor.

“The stranger looked at Mr. Holmes, then he looked back to the Doctor.  ‘Let me up, and I’ll explain everything.  It makes no difference now, the game will end in a tie.’

“‘Just as it was meant to,’ the Doctor said.  He tapped your friend on the shoulder.  ‘Let him up.’

“Mr. Holmes complied, and the stranger pulled himself up and dusted himself off.  The Doctor held his hand out to Mr. Holmes and we made introductions to one another.

“‘So,’ the Doctor said, turning to the stranger, ‘why was it so important to you that the Giants win today, and what would bring you from the future to ensure that happened?’

“‘You know I’m from the future?  How?’

“The Doctor sighed.  ‘I have my methods.’

“The stranger shook his head, and clearly the Doctor wasn’t going to give him the answers he wanted.  ‘It’s as you say, I come from the twenty-second century, the year 2187, to be precise.  I’ve spent the last ten years as a researcher in the University of Chicago’s Temporal Studies Department, exploring the theoretical and practical applications for time travel.’

“‘You’ve made a breakthrough, clearly,’ said the Doctor.

“The stranger nodded.  ‘The details aren’t important, but we once we’d uncovered evidence that time travel was a possible rather than a theoretical we put our efforts into discovering how it was done.  We made the critical breakthrough a few months ago.’

“I had a question.  ‘But why here?  Why now?  Of all the places in the past you could go, why here?’

“He shrugged.  ‘I was born in Chicago, on the north side.  Though they no longer play baseball in my time, I knew what it was, through family lore and historical records.  And when I found a way to look into the past, I wanted to see why my hometown team, the Cubs, were cursed throughout time, so much so that they never won a World Series after 1908.  Despite the Curse of the Bambino the Red Sox won World Series in 2004, 2009, and 2012.  Despite the Black Sox scandal the White Sox were the world champions in 2005.  But not the Cubs, never the Cubs.”

I cleared my throat to stop Miss Brown’s narrative.  “‘The Curse of the Bambino’ ‘The Black Sox scandal’?  What are these?”

Miss Brown frowned.  “I can’t tell you.  I’m very sorry.  Too much foreknowledge could have dire consequences for the future.”

“But it’s merely baseball.”

“For some people, Mr. Jenkins, baseball is a way of life.”

Realizing that I could not convince her to explain these curious references, I asked her to continue with her narrative.

“‘The Cubs had a curse,’ said the Doctor.  ‘The curse of Murphy’s Goat.’

“‘I’m sorry,’ said Mr. Holmes, ‘a goat?’

“The Doctor shook his head.  ‘I doubt I could even begin to explain.  In 1945 the Chicago Cubs were playing for the World Series.  Legend has it that a man by the name of Murphy went to attend one of the World Series games accompanied by his pet goat, and when he was turned away for bringing his goat he cursed the team, saying that until the goat were allowed to see the game the Cubs would not win again.’

“‘The goat!’ the stranger shouted.  ‘There was no goat!  I should know, I went back to 1945 to check, to keep that fool Murphy from even taking his goat to Wrigley Field that day so he couldn’t curse the team for not allowing his goat to watch the game.  But there was no Murphy, there was no goat!  It was all a lie!’

“‘Perhaps,’ said the Doctor, ‘some things can’t be explained by curses.’

“‘Oh, but there is a curse on the Cubs, and I know what it is!’

“‘And what’s that?’ I asked.

“‘The Curse of John McGraw!’ the stranger exclaimed.

“‘John McGraw?  The Giants’s manager?’ asked Mr. Holmes.

“The stranger nodded.  ‘The Cubs stole today’s victory from the Giants, and after the Cubs win this year’s World Series they won’t ever win another.  McGraw went to his grave believing that the Cubs stole from the Giants the world championship they deserved.

“‘The Giants have a lead in the National League,’ said Mr. Holmes.

“The Doctor shook his head.  ‘Even with today’s tie, they hold the lead, but they lose the lead by the end of the season and, in a one-game playoff, the Cubs advance to the World Series where they defeat the Detroit Tigers.’

“‘If the Giants won today’s game, though, they would advance to the World Series, John McGraw would never curse the Cubs, and the Cubs might win another world championship.’

“‘Or the Giants might still lose their lead in the standings, or perhaps the Cubs simply weren’t meant in the vast scheme of history to win another World Series.’

“‘You can’t mean that!’ the stranger shouted.

“‘Come on, Peri,’ the Doctor said.  ‘I think we’re done here.  The fabric of history has been kept intact.’

“‘What about my device?  I need that to go home.’

“The Doctor tossed it to him.

“‘You can’t give that back to him,’ said Mr. Holmes.  ‘He could try again.’

“Again the Doctor shook his head.  ‘There’s a law of time, Mr. Holmes, that I doubt our friend knows yet.  He’s here now, he can’t visit here again.’  The Doctor and I turned to leave, and the crowd surged past us on the outfield as they had the whole time, not knowing that our little group of four held the fate of the game in its hands,” said Miss Brown as she drew her narrative to a close.

“But Raffles,” said I, “you said that the scoundrel threw a punch at you.”

“Indeed he did, old chap,” said Holmes.  “As the Doctor and Miss Brown were making their way back through the onrushing crowd, the ruffian, upset as he was at the failure of his scheme, took his frustrations out on the man who had brought him down, none other than myself.  I caught his oncoming fist in one hand, and with the other felled him in a single blow.”

“Really, Holmes,” I said, incredulous.

“It’s quite the dangerous life I lead, torn as I am between my father’s nobility and my grandfather’s larceny.”

“So who was it this time, Raffles, that led you into the adventure on the outfield?  Raffles, or Holmes?” I asked.

“Raffles, I should think,” answered a new voice.  I turned to the voice, as did my lunch companions, and standing behind Miss Brown was a tall man, with sandy straight hair, wearing an old-fashioned cricketing outfit.

“What would lead you to that conclusion, Doctor?” said Holmes.

“Oh, the fact that you seemed inordinately interested in my own device,” replied the Doctor.

“And how would you know that?” asked Raffles.

“Call it a sixth sense, if you must,” said the Doctor.  “But I think that the fact that the device is in your jacket’s breast pocket is proof enough.”

Indeed, it was just as the Doctor said, for Raffles reached into his pocket and withdrew a device of the like I have never before seen.  I have written many articles and books in the past, but nothing in my experience equips me to adequately describe what I saw in Raffles Holmes’s hand.  Whatever it was, it was red.

He held the device out, and the Doctor reached out and took it.  “Thank you,” said he.

“Would you join us for dinner, Doctor?” said I.

He shook his head.  “No, Peri and I must be on our way.”

“Oh, must we, Doctor?” said Miss Brown, clear from her tone of voice that she wished to stay longer.

“We must,” he said, and though she frowned Miss Brown took the Doctor’s request with good grace.  She bid Holmes and myself farewell, and the Doctor and Miss Brown departed.  Raffles expression and gaze as they departed confirmed my earlier suspicion — Miss Brown was the young woman asleep in Holmes’s apartment earlier.

“So,” said Holmes after a time, “what do you make of that tale?”

I could only laugh.  “A fanciful one, to say the least.  Perhaps too fanciful for my readers.”

“But a profitable one,” said Holmes.

It was not for several weeks that I understood what Holmes meant by that last statement when he reported to me his winnings from wagering on the outcome of the playoff game between the Giants and the Cubs.  “The Doctor was right after all,” said Holmes.  “Wagering against my hometown club may make me few friends, but who needs friends when you’ve ill-gotten gambling winnings?”