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On The Shelf

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The borrower placed The Sign of Four and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes carefully on the returns counter.

“Hello!” called A Study in Scarlet. “Nice to see you both back!”

“Nice to be back!” said The Sign of Four.

A librarian picked Sign up, took it over to the Crime Section and put it on the shelf with its fellows.

It settled itself down.

“So what’s been happening? Any news?”

“Well, Memoirs, Return and Case Book are all out at the moment,” said His Last Bow.

“And The Hound of the Baskervilles has gone missing!” added Study. “The librarians are making an official investigation!”

His Last Bow rippled its pages thoughtfully. “To be honest, I think it’s just fallen down the back of a radiator. There has been some very odd howling in the night…”

“Crikey, how mysterious!” said Sign. “I’m so glad to be back in the midst of the action.”

“But… isn’t Adventures joining us too?” asked Study.

Sign looked over at where The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was leaving with the borrower, its pages flapping in cheerful farewell. “Been renewed and being taken straight back out, if you can believe it.”

“The short stories are always in such demand!” said Study.

His Last Bow squeaked as it was taken down from the shelf by a passing reader and borne off.

Study laughed, its cover wide open. “See what I mean? Not like us poor novels.”

“Oh, don’t exaggerate!” said Sign. “I can see from here you’ve been taken out 5 times in the last six months. And I’ve been taken out 4 times myself.”

It turned to the book slumped at the end of the shelf.

“What about you, Vall? When were you last taken out?”

The Valley of Fear shrugged. “Don’t know. Can’t remember.”

“Well, let’s have a look at your date stamps then…”

“No!”

“Come on—just a quick look!”

There was a brief tussle, and then—

“What a fuss to make! It’s only been two months since you were last taken out. Anyone would think—” Sign stared a little closer at the year of the last date stamp. “Oh.”

Valley started wailing. “I just don’t understand it!”

“No...” said Sign.

“I’ve got Moriarty and everything! Admittedly offstage but I mean…”

“I know, dear. I know,” said Study soothingly. “Don’t upset yourself. Don’t they say there’s a reader out there for everyone? I’m sure you’re not going to be on the shelf forever.”

“I mean, you’re a fine book… Very well-written… Absolutely nothing wrong with you,” said Sign.

There was a pause.

Sign and Study exchanged a look and edged a little further down the shelf.

Valley scowled. “I saw that!”