TRUE! very, very dreadfully irritated I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? I’m a rational man, a doctor--my senses are fine-tuned, sharpened! My powers of deduction may not be so honed as those of my illustrious colleague, but my intelligence and reasoning are surely not to be questioned. If I am mad, it is only because he has driven me so.
I could tell you quite easily how the idea first entered my brain. I’d been thinking about how to get rid of it for days. I harbored no ill will against my flatmate, no matter how much he insulted me. I loved him, in a way, for the sense of purpose he’d given me (not to mention a place to say). You see, there’s no reason to think I meant him harm! There was no malice involved, so why should I feel guilty? (Even if I was hesitant at first.)
Now this is the point. Though captivating and brilliant, that man is completely and utterly inconsiderate and rude. Were I to be the victim of a crime or even to misplace a set of keys, I would call upon my dearest friend, but as a flatmate I would not wish the curse of his acquaintance upon the devil himself! Dishes piled in the sinks, bullet holes in the wall--bubbling test tubes emitting great belches of sulfurous fumes while one is trying to enjoy a takeaway curry. It was not to be borne! And yet, he entertained complaints with the haughty sneer of a man who cannot be bothered to consider such trifles--as if the matter of my own personal comfort and sanity were only a mere trifle to him!
And here is where you’ll call me mad, and tell me that I read much more into my friend’s actions that his intent should warrant. Here will you say that I’m obsessed with him and his opinion beyond all reason. If I were mad, how could I devise such a devious plan? You should have seen how cautiously I proceeded, with what cunning, what genius! A genius worthy of the man himself, I might say, though such comparisons are unworthy of me.
Human organs do not upset me; of course, I am a doctor! Were they in my surgery or confined to the bright, sterile passages of a hospital I should not bat an eye--might even think them beautiful. I had very nearly grown used to the sight of them chilling in our refrigerator or preserved in jars on the mantelpiece. The heart, though--the heart was to be the last straw!
Of course he had not obtained it legally! Of course! Trafficking in human organs--a major offense. He could go to prison for a very, very long time, and I as his accomplice, were one of Lestrade’s blackmail drug-raids to turn up a human heart in our flat’s refrigerator. Even more than its presence, even more than the knowledge that here sat a human organ mere inches away from the cold cuts with which I made my lunch was this knowledge that he knew the penalties, and did not care. What was danger to him? What trouble? That my career might be ruined wouldn’t occur to him, so long as that cold, graying lump of human cardiac tissue might provide for him a moment’s diversion.
Whenever the sight of that heart fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to rid myself of it forever.
One does not simply throw out a human heart with the rubbish; it was far too dangerous! Should a nosy binman find it, we would both be undone, and so I had to devise another plan. I would sneak it back into the hospital’s morgue--tag it for cremation, along with the other unclaimed bodies and misplaced organs. One might think an extra heart on the pile would send up a flag, but no, the genius of bureaucracy: so long as it had the proper tag, no one would question its presence. I would be rid of that heart and of my flatmate’s callous disregard all at once. If you still think me mad, surely you will think so no longer after hearing of the wise plan I’d formed to rid myself of these troubles?
I gathered up the offending organ and bundled it into a cooler, packed with dry ice. I was very nearly out the door with my burden when my progress was thwarted by the arrival of my landlady. She asked what I was about, and in my haste to seem casual and unhurried I assured her that nothing of import was weighing on my mind. She pressed me to see to the minor repairs I’d been promising to handle for weeks, and having confessed that my time was idle, there was nothing for it but to comply to her wishes. I ran back up to the flat and stashed the cooler in a cupboard before returning to her bidding.
Time raced on, though it seemed to be scarcely a moment since I’d last laid hands on my grim burden. When finally I could retrieve it, he had returned! I could not run to it, for he would read the intent of my purpose written all over my face. The only solution was to avoid his laser-beam deduction long enough for him to leave the flat, and me, to abscond with my prize.
I entered his presence calm as you please, for what had I to be nervous of? I was on the side of right, and I wrapped that knowledge round me like a cloak.
Immediately, he asked after the heart. I could see his steely eyes upon me, watching me for a reaction, but I did not give him one. I expressed to him my surprise that the organ should be missing, and my dismay that his experiment would go unfinished. What choice had he but to believe me for I, so clever, gave not a sign that anything was amiss or that I knew of anything to be wrong. I mentioned burglars, or the possibility that Lestrade had come while he was away and found the grisly display amidst our perishables. My manner, my actions, all were completely convincing, even if I was distracted by a small, quiet sound like a ringing in my ears.
Our talk moved on to other things and he began to lay out to me the details of his latest case. I would have seemed to him the perfect picture of calm, had I not discovered that sound was not within my head at all, but rather was coming from the cupboard where I had stashed the heart! Presently, I longed for my flatmate to take his leave and wished for him to be gone. Surely, he could hear the sound? Surely he knew? And yet he droned and gabbled on, giving me details of physical evidence and coroner’s reports, describing for me an interview with the victim’s brother, all the while the sound was growing louder and louder. He knew. HE KNEW. And yet he gave me no mercy, no respite from that hideous sound with his unceasing account of bacteria levels and insect activity. The beat thumped again and again, LOUDER - LOUDER - CLOSER until I could take it no longer!
"Villain!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear open the cupboard! -- here, here! -- it is the beating of that hideous heart!"