When I returned to my dormitory after four weeks of winter break, I suspected that my ever-present roommate would be there waiting for me. Hardly a day went by during fall semester when he was possessed to leave the room, let alone for class lectures. Simon, who was assigned to me randomly, spoke little of his personal life. I noted that he frequented Murphy’s Public House more often than most and spent many nights by the light of his laptop monitor. Seeing that Simon had not returned, I sought out our neighbor, Sherlock, who was quick to lend advice in all matters of varying importance. I found Sherlock in the room over, smoking an e-pipe while perched at the open window.
“Ah, John. How good to see you. Pleasant holiday season, I trust?” he said without turning to see who was at his door.
“Yes, and I hope the same for you. Pray tell, how did you know I was the one at your door?” I inquired.
“Quite simply, you are the only one on this dormitory floor who uses that particular brand of cologne. I smelt it on you a mile away.” He turned and smiled crookedly at me. “How may I be of service?”
I told him of my missing roommate and beckoned for him to follow me. Back in my dormitory, Sherlock glanced around the room studiously. Without a word, he grasped for a cap that was stuck between the bed and the nightstand. “Not yours I suspect,” he said after inspecting the brim. “Too small for your own cranium, I can see.”
“And I doubt it belongs to Simon,” I pointed out. “Unless I failed to notice it previously.”
Sherlock smiled wryly. “If you say it is not his, I wager it belongs to a brother or father. Note the strands of blond hair.” I saw the strands were an identical color to Simon’s own hair.
“I daresay a family member of Simon’s was here not long past… to help pack his things I imagine.” I nodded in agreement. Sherlock examined the tile floor. “These scuff marks, an indication that the bed has been moved.”
“Yes, we can determine that Simon removed all his belongings with the help of a family member, but why?” I asked. Sherlock pulled a notebook from under the bed. “Not all his belongings.”
The notebook was a daily planner. Sherlock handed it to me and I flipped through the pages. “Primarily devoid of inscriptions,” I noted to my colleague. “Save for the first week of classes and the last.”
Sherlock inspected the notebook. “This is his class schedule. I gather he was a biology major?” I regretted that I could not say for I never asked Simon, nor did he tell me.
“The month of December,” I pointed out. “He’s written some code of sorts I believe. XF, XD, what do you imagine that might mean?”
Sherlock examined the section for a moment. “You see how the letters are slightly apart and of a different color? I daresay our friend wrote the letters at different times.”
The first XF was listed on December 12, the first day of finals exams. “X, that could indicate “exam” and F might be his final grade,” I proclaimed, finally beginning to understand why Simon had left.
“I wager you are correct, John. This would be reason enough for Simon to not return for spring semester.”
I could not say that I was satisfied with solving the mystery. Although I hardly knew Simon, I felt terrible that he might have been forced to withdraw after a single semester. “How can we know for sure?” I asked.
“Along with the notebook, I managed to find this letter in the wardrobe.” Sherlock handed me a piece of parchment. Letter of Academic Probation. I eyed my friend with suspicion. “You knew…”
Sherlock gave a look that I took for agreement. “Well old chap, now that that’s over. Here’s wishing a pleasant semester to you, good sir.”
“And you as well!” And with that, Sherlock tipped his deerstalker hat and returned to his own room, 221B.