by Terry A.Klasek
During the many readings of the Sherlockian Canon that I have enjoyed I have been perplexed a great deal by "The Adventure of Black Peter", and one Inspector Stanley Hopkins. I had believed that there could not possibly be anyone as incompetent as Gregson and Lestrade; however, that was prior to my first encountering with Stanley Hopkins! Now we should go through the Black Peter investigation since Stanley Hopkins tried to!
The first chronological encounter one has with Stanley Hopkins is in "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez, and that story takes place near the close of November, 1894. His next appearance is in, our story currently under study, "The Adventure of Black Peter" which takes place in the first week of July, 1895. Between which there is an interval of approximately eight months. On either side of this interval we are exposed to two very different views of Inspector Stanley Hopkins! The point of my perplexity is: what caused this change, and how did it happen?
In "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez," Watson refers to Hopkins as,"a promising detective, in whose career Holmes has several times shown a very practical interest." Now we compare it to the following quote from "The Adventure of Black Peter",as Watson states;"a young police inspector, for whose future Holmes had high hopes." In the former quote Holmes thinks of Hopkins as promising with positive being taken several times. In the latter quote; however, Holmes lumps all hopes for Hopkins in the past tense. Our key is the phrase,"for whose future Holmes had high hopes," and that indicates Holmes had given up all hope of Hopkins rising to the pinnacle of the detective profession. Now we have a total reversal of abilities in about eight months! How? Why?
In "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez", we have Stanley Hopkins seeking aid of Sherlock Holmes the evening of the very day the murder occurred stating, "I can make neither head nor tail of it!" In "The Adventure of Black Peter" Stanley Hopkins comes to Holmes seeking aid no less than a week later!! Now, it took Mr. Hopkins a full week to come to the following decision "It's my first big chance, and I'm at my wit's end." To answer a question with a question, I must ask, What Wit?? It takes Hopkins six full days longer to arrive at the same solution that he came up with in the previous story. His wit is evidently somewhere else, if he still possessed one! Hence, Stanley Hopkins ran up against the proverbial stone wall in both cases. A little later Holmes remarks to Watson, "Stanley Hopkins’ methods do not commend themselves to me. I had hoped for better things from him." Holmes appears to have given up all hope for Hopkins alter the dolt arrests poor Neligan for the murder of Captain Peter Carey. As he was the only person to come near the cabin in all the time of the investigation. Hopkins was trying to save face at his expense.
As we turn our attention more to the investigation of Stanley Hopkins the words disbelief, incompetent, and stupidity take on an all too real meaning, literally. The obvious problem is that it took Hopkins a full week to realize that he was as lost as a goose in a windstorm. Part of the problem in that area was his pride of past successes (without crediting Holmes for helping), and his lust for prestige and glory for solving this, his biggest case, unassisted.
His next major setback was of his detail work. Yep, you guessed it there wasn't any detail work! In the case of the supposed lack of footprints outside of Peter Carey’s hut Hopkins appeared to be looking for some obvious and deep - deep impressions in the ground or possibly on the cabin floor. Dumbo -er- Hopkins expected any footprints present to be blatantly obvious at the merest glance, which adds laziness to his, now impressive, list of DIS-credits. When Holmes chastisingly corrects Bozo - er- Hopkins in the fact that he did not see any footprints, Hopkins, in his most innocent manner, flatly states that there were no footprints of any kind with an obstinate air of finality. This curious incident produces from Holmes his most famous quote about the Metropolitan Police in the story. He vouchsafes, "My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature. As long as the criminal remains upon two legs so long must there be some indentation, some abrasion, some trifling displacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. It is incredible that this blood-besplattered room contained no trace which could have aided us." Hopkins has the nerve to tell Holmes that he knows Holmes' methods, and applied them; however, that did not seem to help him either!
Another lapse in conscious reasoning and behavior was Hopkins’ energetic move to arrest the unfortunate John Hopley Neligan who, naturally enough, happens to be the wrong man. The arresting of the wrong person, usually the first available suspect, seems to have been a favourite pastime of the Scotland Yarders. Further, when summoned by Holmes to Baker Street to be in on the conclusion of the case Hopkins, in a somewhat cocky and arrogant tone, tells Holmes that, "I could not imagine a more complete case." Now this statement tells us a great deal about Hopkins' imagination. This, of course, is the total lack of one. Hopkins does not even stop to think how a frail, and sickly, young man could have hurled a 50 pound harpoon totally through the 250 pound torso of Captain Peter Carey, and impaled him into the wall. The entire head of the harpoon was deeply embedded in the wall after transversing the depth of a large body. Obviously, Hopkins was operating with the brain of a six-year old, but that did not help him either.
Now to be fair Stanley Hopkins DID make a few correct statements during the events of this story. Those assuredly true statements were the times he called himself "A FOOL" each time Holmes vouchsafed some true deductive reasoning built upon facts to Hopkins. I could go on and on about all the inconsistencies, errors in judgment, spurious deductions, and other lapses in conscious reasoning about this totally botched up investigation. I could also remark about the incredible methods of The Scotland Yarders, always a familiar punching bag in Sherlockian circles, however, the main quest at hand is to discover how and why Stanley Hopkins became the Bozo he turned out to be in only eight months. This has been an enigma to myself and others.
I was now determined to solve this enigma once and for all. Utilizing the master's methods I started off in hot pursuit of the truth. However, as is par for me I promptly ended up on the wrong scent. My first working hypothesis was that Stanley Hopkins was spending far too much time in the company of Sir Thomas of Collins and all the nefarious gang down at The Bobbie's Helmet Pub. I soon discovered this was erroneous after a very long talk with Sir Thomas of Collins, himself. I was able to confirm that old Stanley Hopkins was no more a frequenter of the premises than any other Scotland Yarder. So it was back to square one for me without collecting $200.00!
Now if I were a good efficient Scotland Yarder I would rush right out, and arrest the first likely looking suspect. Since I had slightly more sense that Hopkins I did not perform in that manner. However, I did closely examine several equally good theories, but with the same result. NUTS! Then one day as I was leaving a mental hygiene therapy session the answer almost bowled me over like a thunderclap as it hit me. It must have been some form of new disease! Stanley Hopkins’ conclusions most certainly were not normal, and his mind (what there was of it) must have been altered for the worse by some forgiven source. It was the only possible solution to fit the evidence so perfectly. I new that I had finally hit upon the right course. Now it was on to the next level of the investigation.
In "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez" Watson recognizes a young Stanley Hopkins, and that infers to us that Hopkins probably had not been on the force for any, but a very short period of time. It also infers the extreme youth of Hopkins in probably his very first job at a very impressionable young age. Moreover, all of Hopkins life was centered around Scotland Yard. It is quite easy to believe that most of his free time was spent within this new circle of friends. Additionally, it is a time honoured rule that all new officers would accompany the more seasoned officers to properly observe "correct procedure," and unfortunately he did. The two "most successful" officers, who had but one brain between them, were Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade. It appears that the youthful and impressionable Stanley Hopkins spent almost all of his working days in the company of Gregson and Lestrade, WHO ARE REFERRED TO, WHEN REFERRED TO AT ALL AS TWEEDLE-DUMB and TWEEDLE-DUMBER. Having made this discovery I knew that Stanley Hopkins was DOOMED before he ever started out on his first solo case.
My goal was racing towards me as I eagerly pressed on with the hunt. I knew that a disease was the answer, but it now remained for me to track down the one true disease to finally solve this enigma. Then I would be able to once more enjoy this story without that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something was just not right.
Since I had ruled out the drink in earlier investigations I felt certain that I could rule out all diseases and sicknesses related to Alcoholic roots and causes. It had, I felt, to be some type of disease that effected the brain, and the mind's ability to reason in a rational and analytical manner. Hence it must have been some type of mental sickness or disease. I also believed that the answer would be found within Stanley Hopkins’ sphere and place of work. A meticulous investigation was instituted by myself through the records at Scotland Yard. I concentrated especially on the personal files of Gregson, Lestrade, and Hopkins as well as all of their cases. It was an exhausting experience, but it was well worth it.
In view of my idea that Stanley Hopkins’ disease was one that came upon him in a work-related manner. This disease also probably came upon the hapless young lad from his almost constant association and exposure to his friends, namely Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade. Hence, the disease had to be one of a highly communicable nature, and one which would increase in severity by a prolonged and repeated exposure and association. I sat pondering this three-pipe problem when out of the blue the answer just came to me. I scurried to the file room once again like a roach running from a can of RAID!
Now I had all of the evidence, and each piece of the puzzle fit perfectly into place. It was as plain as a pikestaff that Inspector Stanley Hopkins did, in fact, have A.I.D.S.! Yes siree, Bob, from his close association of a very prolonged nature Stanley Hopkins had contracted that most dreaded and commonly running rampant disease of The Metropolitan Police Department, and Scotland Yard, in particular, namely: Acquired Idiotic Detective Syndrome!!! Yep, he was a goner! This disease affected all of Scotland Yard, but Stanley Hopkins had the most pronounced case, and the most cancerous. It just ate away his thinking processes to less than Lestrade. If he had opted for private practice he might have had a mediocre career.
The initials S.H. regarding Sherlock Holmes have come to mean "hat's off gentlemen, a genius." The same initials S.H. applied to Stanley Hopkins mean, "hat's back on gentlemen, an idiot!" So there you have it, the truth.