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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Chapters 18, 19, 20

 I find it incredibly strange that I’m often posting these around 12:30 at night.

Anyway, the next three chapters are here!  🙂  I’m currently at 22,308, which is not even halfway and somehow I’m supposed to be done Friday night?  I don’t really see that happening, since I had the day off today and managed less than 4500.  Of course, trying to piece together something readable is a bit harder than just working through leaving chaos behind (there’s plenty of chaos in that word count).  It also didn’t help that I started a week late, too.  It sucks a bit that this year I (probably) won’t finish in time but the last three NaNoWriMo novels that I did finish, I have not edited or shared, either.  So, toss up?  🙂

I’m pleased I got certain bits in these chapters, though I had hoped to be up through the wedding last Thursday!  I still have at least one or two more scenes before that yet.  Of course, the holiday was sort of problematic and while I did work some this weekend, I was fairly tired as well.  So, I’m chugging along.

Chapter 18

 

After John had spent a good portion of his afternoon pouring over his “letter” from Sherlock – at the end wondering idly how accurate the sketches included were, he began another letter to his intended.  He kept his salutation and greeting brief, knowing that Sherlock would either skip over these or discard the letter immediately if he thought the entire letter was composed of platitudes.

He wrote: Preparations for my removal to London continue.  I look forward to our meeting in London at Lord Sherrinford’s home a week hence.  I enjoyed reading your notes on the ghoulish case of the abandoned hands, but had a few questions.  The sketches show an excess of skin around the wrist; also, indications of disjointment instead of severing.  Would this be the case?  I find this highly unusual.

John closed his brief letter with, Yours, J.H. Watson, Capt. (ret.)

He didn’t need to mention the tailor that arrived from London, apparently at Lord Sherrinford’s request and with the same footing the bill.  Sherlock likely wouldn’t care that John had spent the better part of a day being moved around and prodded as he was fitted for not only his wedding suit but apparently an entire trousseau as well.

Sherlock didn’t need to know that John felt somewhat humiliated in being outfitted like a bride by his intended family, nor that he’d only accepted the clothes because otherwise he’d be an embarrassment to his future husband dressed in his more rustic and outdated wardrobe.

John also didn’t need to mention the blistering row he’d had with Harry over the documents Lord Sherrinford had sent along for Harry and his solicitor.

“I don’t see why I can’t read them, Harry!  They concern me more so than they concern you!  I want to see exactly what Lord Sherrinford is paying for me.”

“It isn’t any of your business, John.”

“The hell it isn’t!”

Harry looked startled.  The butler, Meade, stood quite still with the post still on its tray.  He stepped back as Harry rounded on John, anger bulking him up.  He stood over his shorter brother, towering, but John stood his ground.  If anything, John became more resolute.

“This is my life; this is our father’s estate.  You will show me every penny you’re getting and I will make sure it gets to where it needs to be!”

“That is not your place!”  Harry shouted at him, but the statement made John blindingly furious.

“My place?”

“Those contracts concern the estate, John.  You are part of that, not the head of it.”

John drew back, shocked.

“If you could have made your feelings for me any more clear, Harry Watson, we could hang them for glass in the conservatory.”  John had finally stalked away, the curved wood of his cane grasped so tightly that it nearly came to either the cane would break or John’s finger bones would.

Later, after Harry was drunk and abed, John broke into the study.  Harry always locked the door, but of course, Meade had the key.  Meade wasn’t particularly torn about handing it over to John, either.  He let the young man into the study, promising to turn up first thing in the morning to lock it again so Harry would be none the wiser.

John didn’t know why he’d sought permission.  If he’d expected kindness and reason from his brother, he’d apparently not met him.  Harry had not allowed John’s advice on the finances since John had been home (despite taking John’s pittance of a pension for household expenses); and while he’d occasionally asked for John’s opinion before he’d left for war, it was more in polite conversation rather than with any real desire for his input.

John spent some time looking through the account books too.  The figures were astounding, particularly in the columns owed.  They, no, Harry would certainly have lost the estate in a matter of months.  No amount of juggling could have saved it in the end.  It was amazing he’d kept it up as long as he did.  Not that Harry deserved the easy path in all this.

John finally opened the box from London, with the self-admonition to not shuffle things awry since the solicitor was coming the next day to go through them with Harry and the need for reorganization would alert Harry to John’s interference.  John cut the tie on the neatly wrapped package of papers.

John couldn’t understand every bit of it, but he could understand sums, even sums as large as these.  Not only was Lord Sherrinford paying every debt (and he certainly listed in depth every single debt, even ones Harry did not list in the account books) but he was supplying Harry a great deal of money towards the running of the estate for the next two years.  If Harry was able to keep the estate profitable, Lord Sherrinford would be termed an investor and Harry would begin to pay dividends out of his estate income.  John did a few sums on the foolscap and estimated it would take decades to pay out the money Lord Sherrinford was giving them, even if he wasn’t asking for interest.

Many addendums were added in case of John’s death, Sherlock’s death, Harry’s or Lord Sherrinford’s death without legitimate issue.  Harry made out well enough in any case, and John’s allowance would be continued.  John felt slightly guilty over this; Harry at least had been negotiating for John, not just himself.

It was well past three in the morning when John finally tidied up the pages, tied them again with the string Harry had in one of his desk drawers, and placed the closed box quite precisely where he’d found it.

No, Sherlock wouldn’t be interested in any of this and John himself would be glad to be rid of the worry of it.  In just over a week, he’d be married, out of his brother’s house and, much as Sherlock had declared, abundant in freedom.

 

Chapter 19

 

John and Harry rode to London in absolute silence.  The two times in the past week Harry had tried to speak to John, however politely, he’d been soundly ignored.  John had finished packing.  His trousseau would be waiting at Lord Sherrinford’s London house for the final fitting; so John had been somewhat surprised at how little he had to pack.

There had been a few trinkets of his mother’s that Harry had not thought worth selling: a small brass locket with one of John’s pale childhood locks closed inside; a few ribbons that she’d worn around her neck in lieu of ostentatious jewels and which John imagined still smelled like her, just a little; and a handkerchief that she’d delicately embroidered, so pretty that the square was never used but hidden away so the threads wouldn’t fade.  John had these in a small box tucked away amongst his few medical texts.

The servants that were left on the estate, many of them people who had been born here in the time of John’s father and grandfather, tearily wished him well as he left.  He would come back, he promised, and he thanked Mrs. Richardson for tending to him so well during his illness.

John wished he had the wedding purse, a little bag of coins to distribute upon his nuptials.  The servants didn’t seem to care, though, as if they understood John was being sold for their continued livelihood.  John promised himself to make sure the little extra money was sent along quite promptly, for their loyalty.

And now the long ride to London.  With stops, it was only eight or nine hours.  With Harry, it was about eternity.  Were their horses more youthful and fleet, their travel time might be cut significantly.  But they were in their own… no, Harry’s carriage, John corrected stubbornly in his head.  And the horses left to pull it were not Lord Sherrinford’s sprightly beasts.  John thanked his luck that the weather was clear and that their journey was not one of several days of unending jolts and rocking and thick, thick silence.

Their arrival at Lord Sherrinford’s grand London house, sprawled in the middle of Mayfair, did not improve matters.  Harry was tired, hung over, and snappish.  He’d spoken in John’s general direction during stops, though John had not replied.  His flask had been too small and emptied too early in the trip, with John glaring each time Harry unscrewed the cap.  Now he snapped at the servants, who were too well-trained to do more than utter, “Of course, sir,” when unfounded comments of carelessness were directed at them.

Harry stomped up directly to his room.  John spent a little more time outside the palatial façade in wonderment.  The Watson’s manor home was much larger than any village home, of course, but still modest.  The Holmes’ London property was utterly astounding.  John couldn’t rightly see all of it as close to it as he was.  He strode the length of it and back twice before trying the steps – the long carriage ride had stiffened his leg.

A footman so formally attired that John might not recognize him if three such footmen were in a line together led John up to his room.  For his luxury after his trip, a bath was being filled in an adjoining dressing room.  John took full advantage and took his time in the hot water.  He thought briefly of ordering dinner to his room and calling it an early night but he didn’t want to seem stand-offish or too delicate for travel in front of his new family.  And certainly not in front of Sherlock, he added to himself.

A valet helped John dress for dinner after his bath – no double duty for the servants in this household.  When John felt suitably groomed and presentable, he descended for supper.  Another footman (the same one?) led him to the study where Lord Sherrinford worked at a desk nearly as large as a bed.

“Captain Watson, welcome.”  Lord Sherrinford stood and grasped John’s hand as if he was genuinely glad to see him.  “I apologize for not being home to greet you upon your arrival.  I received a summons from Marlborough House this afternoon and had to rush away.  Please do sit.  Your brother has not yet come downstairs but I do expect him shortly.”

“Is Sherlock about?”  If Lord Sherrinford noticed the change of subject or the tightening of John’s mouth at the mention of his brother, he didn’t reveal it.

“Sherlock has quite removed himself to the house I found on Baker Street.  I do hope you find it to your liking.  If not, we can make other arrangements.”

“I’m sure it will do just fine.”

“It’s quite quaint.  A three-story townhouse with both a first and second floor sitting room, space enough for a housekeeper, maid and footman.  I’d send more servants along, but Sherlock finds their habits disturb him.”

“Habits?”

“Cleaning, working, being industrious.  Ah, speak of the devil and it arrives forthwith.”

“Brother, your footmen interrupted a very important experiment.  For what?  Dinner?”

Sherlock flopped into a large leather chair, his sprawl making it seem too small and very uncomfortable.

“Good evening, Sherlock.”

“Ah, John, you have arrived.  How many days does that make until the wedding then?”

“Three, Sherlock.”

“I suppose you’ll have to have the footmen roust me out for that, as well, Mycroft.  I had completely forgotten about it.  Why is the excess skin around the wrists unusual, John?”  Sherlock’s words so completely flowed into each other that John didn’t realize Sherlock was speaking to him at first.

“Oh!  So the sketches were quite accurate, then?”

“Of course they were, John.  I would hardly put false information in my notes.”

“Right!  Of course, sorry.  Well, usually when you perform an amputation, you leave as much skin around the stump side as possible, to cover the exposed end of the arm or leg.”

“How very curious.”  Sherlock shifted to lean forward, fingers steepled in front of his mouth.  “As an army surgeon, you would have performed many amputations.”  He said this thoughtfully, not really asking, but John answered anyway.

“Far too many.”

“You’ve seen enough violent injuries to know what they’re about, then?”

“Of course.”

“I shall take you in the morning to see the hands.”  He drifted off in thought and remained silent for several minutes.  John wasn’t sure what do to and Lord Sherrinford simply continued to peruse the papers in front of him.

“Stop reading so loudly, Mycroft!” Sherlock shouted suddenly.  His brother only lifted an eyebrow in response.  “It’s impossible to think when the cogs in your brain are turning so rustily!”

“Perhaps we ought to go into supper.  I don’t believe Sir Harold will be joining us.”

“Dinner, supper, tea.  Life is not meant to be lived around mealtimes, Mycroft.”

John turned his head towards one of the dark windows, London invisible beyond.  There was another small ting against the glass.  At first he thought it was bits of hail, but it had not been bitingly cold today and the noise was too evenly spaced and regular.  Pebbles?  Who would toss pebbles at the window of a mansion such as this?  John limped over to the window of Sherrinford house and peered down into the street.

“Sherlock, a squalid little urchin is trying to get your attention.”  Lord Sherrinford’s droll voice rose from his desk.  He had not risen to look out the window like John; of course, he hadn’t needed to.

Sherlock was already calling for his greatcoat in the hall.

John glanced between Sherlock’s retreating form and the street.

“Go on, then, Captain Watson.”

One final glance to assure himself Sherlock had not dashed away already and John fell into place two steps behind his future husband.

 

Chapter 20

 

“Wiggins, lad, what have you got for me?”

Sherlock slipped a coin from his pocket and the child in front of him made it quickly disappear somewhere about his person.  The boy didn’t have pockets.

“Some of the mudlarks down by Blackfriars saw a man drop a bag off the bridge.  They thought he was drownin’ pups or sommat and they waded out a little to see.”

“What man?  Did you get a description?”

“Tall, dark caped coat, top hat.  Couldn’t catch much more’n his shadow as he ran off.”

“Fine, fine.”  Sherlock’s mind whirled.  Another bag, another clue!

“What was in the bag, Wiggins?”

“Four feet.”

“Four feet of what?” John asked.  Sherlock made a disgruntled sound.  Wiggins stuck out a dirty, rag-covered extremity.

“Appendages, John.  Like the hands,” Sherlock explained quite impatiently.

“Oh, sorry, right.  Because body parts get tossed over bridge rails every single day.”

“Of course not, John, but it’s been a strange month.”

John looked at Sherlock, lips twitching with mirth.  Sherlock allowed himself a smile and turned back to the fidgety boy in front of him.

“Who answered the whistle?”

“River police, I guess.”  Wiggins shrugged.  “None of us stuck around to get caught.”

Sherlock rubbed together another two coins between his fingertips before dropping them into Wiggins’ outstretched palm.

“Very good job, young man.  Come along, John.  We must intercept the evidence before it gets too fouled by stupid hands.”

John kept up with Sherlock as far as the busy street where he hailed a hackney cab.  Sherlock swung himself inside with a flourish and shouted out his direction to the driver.  John hauled himself inside after and had barely settled before the coach set off towards the river.

“I do hope Dimmock is on duty tonight.  Lestrade owes him a favor so he may just foist the feet onto him and wash his hands of it.”

“And if it’s not Dimmock?”

But Sherlock wasn’t interested in making conversation.  He gazed out the window as they rolled through the smoky evening air.  John studied the silence and imagined he could almost hear Sherlock thinking, though his mind worked with a well-oiled whir as opposed to his brother’s supposed rusty clanking.  The thought made him smile.

“Donovan.”  Sherlock scowled as he paid the driver and leapt from the cab.

“Well, if it ain’t the mad little lordling.  I should have known.  Grisly remains discarded and Holmes comes walking up like he knew they was here.”

Donovan, new-made sergeant of the River Police, strode up to Sherlock and John as their cab departed.  He was big and beefy, his nose broken too many times and his dark hair was shorn as close as the five o’clock shadow that covered his face.  How the bully had ever made sergeant was a mystery that Sherlock couldn’t solve.  He caressed his truncheon far too fondly.

“You know, we had a report of a tall man in a caped greatcoat like yours running off the bridge just after the bag dropped to the river.  Have you got an alibi, Holmes?”

Sherlock drily replied, “What, a greatcoat like the one every gentleman of quality wears in November in London?”  Donovan was not insulted enough.

“What’s the matter, Holmes?  Did you misjudge the tide and your little prizes landed in the mud instead of the river proper?”

“New haircut, Donovan?  Criminals giving you fleas again or are you delousing after a particularly nasty whore?”

“Gentlemen!”  Lestrade’s voice punched through the tension.  “Donovan, this is clearly part of my case.”

“Talk to my superiors, then, Lestrade,” Donovan growled.  “Until I’m told otherwise, you’re out of your jurisdiction.”

“Do you really want to listen to Sherlock proselytizing until ten tomorrow morning when your superiors are in the office?  Because you know he will.  He can talk more useless nonsense than a politician and twice as long.”

“I’ll have you know that nothing I say is nonsense, Lestrade!”  John hid his smile at Sherlock’s indignation behind a cough when Sherlock glared in his direction.

Donovan looked torn between laughing at the insult and admitting just how true it was.

“Christ!  Fine, Lestrade, take them.  I’ll be glad to have that one off my hands.  Oi!  Bring the bag over here, lad!  We’re off!”  One of the other river patrols trotted up and tossed a burlap bag at Sherlock’s feet.  “And you.  I ain’t seen you before,” Donovan directed at John, “but you showed up with him.  He’s a madman, mind you.  Even if he ain’t the one who dumped these feet, he’ll be doing the crime one day and showing up the next to lead us all on a merry chase in the wrong directions.  And maybe that time, it’ll be your foot, or hand, or head falling from the bridge.  And I’ll earn my next promotion when his neck is stretched…”

“Donovan, enough!  I’m certain you have patrols to cover.”  Lestrade inserted himself in the middle of their little group.  He stood on guard like a fierce mastiff until Donovan and his underlings had sauntered off into the night.

“Jesus, Sherlock, what did you ever do to Donovan to make him hate you so much?”

“What do I ever do, Lestrade?”

“It’s like the menagerie, Sherlock.  Don’t provoke the animals,” Lestrade admonished once Donovan was out of earshot.

Instead of taking the warning, Sherlock chuckled.

“John, this is Lestrade, one of the only halfway intelligent men working on Bow Street.”

“He means the only one who will work with him.”  Lestrade held out his hand for John to shake.

“Lestrade, this is Captain John Watson, formerly of the 52nd Northumberland Fusilers.  He’s my…”

“Colleague,” John interrupted, not sure quite what Sherlock was going to say.

“Yes, colleague.”  Sherlock glanced at him curiously.  “He was a surgeon in the army.  I’m consulting him about the nature of the amputations.”

“The great Sherlock Holmes is consulting someone else?” Lestrade hooted.  “My goodness, man, you must be brilliant.”

“I hardly think it unusual that I would consult a man of experience.  He has been to war; I have not.  I may have expertise in anatomy, but I have never sawn off a man’s leg.”  Sherlock reverted back to a haughty, insulted tone.

“Now, Holmes, I did not mean to ruffle your feathers.”  Sherlock ignored him.

“Let’s get these to the morgue, John.”  Sherlock picked up the bag, swung it, mud and all, over his shoulder.  John gave Lestrade an apologetic look and trailed after.

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The crime! Chapters 16 & 17

Chapter 16

 

The carriage had barely made it to London and Sherlock was plastered to the window trying to judge precisely when forward progress would be faster by foot than through traffic.  His brother, ever indulgent no matter what Sherlock said, had instructed the driver to make directly for the morgue nearest Bow Street.  It was in the lower floor of a new hospital, St. Bartholemew’s.  Lord Sherrinford had not, of course, ever set foot in such a squalid earthy location, but it was a waste of breath to scold Sherlock about it.

The streets of London were full this time of day: full of people, full of life, full of smells and soot and heart-wrenching horror.  Nothing, nowhere, could ever be better.  Sherlock loved this city, this giant madhouse with over a million minds tearing it this way and that.  It was amazing, exciting, thrilling; he knew every inch of its thin, twisty streets, even the narrow alleys and courtyards, the sewers with child sized rats eking out a rancid existence.  If the cab or carriage weren’t so necessary for the long distances, Sherlock would never close himself away from his city so.  He wanted to feel the dirt and cobbles beneath his feet; less than three days away and he was ready to crawl out of his skin in gladness for being home.

Traffic slowed to a crawl about six blocks from the hospital.  Sherlock jumped out of the carriage – only his incredible fleetness and luck preventing a flattened foot or muddy splash to his boots.  Lord Sherrinford immediately rapped on the small driver’s window.

“He has made his escape.  Turn towards the London house at the earliest opportunity.”

Sherlock dashed through the myriad people as if they stood still; in truth, his world merely moved faster than most by comparison.  He took the familiar entrance that led directly to the morgue, dodging the fresh and not-so-fresh deliveries.

“Oi!  You can’t come in here!”

“I was invited.  Who the hell are you?”  Sherlock peered down his nose at the sniveling little man, who, in fact, was nearly as tall as him and thicker through the neck.  Sherlock saw him only by the size of his brain – insignificant! – and by his loathing for the detective.

“You know very well who I am.”  The man, more than thrice met, wrinkled up his pointy little face in a sneer.

“Nonsense.  I’d never forget meeting a rat-faced, mealy-mouthed little worm such as yourself.  Unless it was purposely.”  Sherlock sniffed.  “Now that I consider it, the instance of intentional amnesia is quite likely.  Now get out of my way.”

“Anderson, step aside and let Mr. Holmes through.”  Lestrade’s voice cut through their sniping.  “Holmes, I rather expected you at Bow Street first.”

“The hands are here.”

“I’m not overly concerned about the hands.”

“But the hands tell the story!  Five hands could mean as many as five victims!  We must catalog the details of each and compare them to reports of missing persons.”

“Holmes, I did not call on you about the hands.  They could be missing from cadavers already in morgues around the city; they could be some dumb prank by this year’s medical class, stolen from the labs at university; they could have been harvested like any other body part by cadaver men digging up graves.  And while all those are repugnant, the immediate origins of the hands do not concern me.”

“Then why on earth did your dispatch mention five disembodied hands?”  Sherlock threw up his very-much-embodied hands in exasperation.

Lestrade thrust a much-folded square of paper towards him.

“Because the letter addressed to you mentions them.”

Sherlock snatched up the note, reading it five times before taking note of the details in the handwriting, type of paper, flow of ink, scratch of nib.  All this he catalogued in silence.  Finally Lestrade interrupted.

“What does it mean, Holmes?”

Sherlock tucked the note inside his coat.  Lestrade knew he wouldn’t turn it back over the second he handed it to him.  He sighed at the lost cause.

“Not enough data.  What data do we have?  The note and the hands.  I must see the hands.”

“Anderson, fetch him the hands.”  The morgue attendant grumbled, but carried over two jars.

“What have you done to them?”  Sherlock was aghast.  “All the evidence is ruined!  You incompetent clod!”

The five hands had been stuffed in two large jars of alcohol and had slightly bloated.  At least they hadn’t been disposed of by fire or by burial in the lime-lined pits that were dug and filled almost constantly in a city as large as London.

“I wasn’t going to let them sit there and putrefy a sennight, was I?”

“Lestrade, you found these a week ago and didn’t notify me immediately?  I was still in London then!”

“Only four days.  And we began by contacting anyone who might have legitimately had body parts lying around to lose.  We have not been idle, Holmes.  There was no reason to call you in until the note.”

Sherlock grumbled.

“What was that?”

Sherlock cleared this throat and began again.  “You knew precisely where I would be.  Mycroft informed you we’d be away, didn’t he and told you not to interfere with his plans?”

“Lord Sherrinford does occasionally keep me updated.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrowed.  “Mycroft, damn him!”  Sherlock continued to grumble, roughly dumping out one of the jars across the autopsy table.  The liquid flooded across the slab and splashed onto the floor on the other side.  Anderson gave a disgruntled yell as he was splashed.

“Oh, do shut up, Anderson.  The smell hardly makes a dent in the miasma of death and decay that defines you.”

Sherlock pushed his face close to the first two hands, pulling back again and studied them from different angles.  He prodded at the fingers with one gloved hand, (which was a constant source of employment to his haberdasher).

“Anderson, your face is putting me off.  Twenty steps, that direction.”  Sherlock pointed to the nearest wall.

“It’s only ten paces to the wall,” Anderson replied smugly.

“”Then use the door and continue on the other side.”

Lestrade put up a hand to keep Anderson from slapping Sherlock with the wet rag he was using to clean up the preserving alcohol from the slab and floor.  The morgue attendant threw the rag in a bucket and skulked from the room.

“Sherlock, I appreciate that you are so concerned with these hands.”  And Sherlock might normally have interrupted Lestrade at this point, but he was engrossed and barely listening.  He could insult Anderson on pure instinct and a moment later be surprised he said anything at all.  “But the real reason I called you here was not because of the hands, but because of the letter addressed to you at Bow Street.”

“How can you not see, Lestrade, how intricately the hands are tied into the note?  If we can determine the origins of the hands, we can find a pattern or a location or a suspect.  With just the letter, we have nearly nothing.”

Sherlock and Lestrade stared at each other, both strong-willed and sharp.  Only Lestrade knew, however, exactly when to leave off and let the other have his way.

“Fine, Sherlock, do what you want.  Stop by Bow Street in the morning and I’ll bring you to see where the bag was found and you can interview the merchant if you want.”

“Yes, yes, fine.”  Lestrade could see that Sherlock was lost.  Maybe he was right, that if they found out where the hands came from, they’d find the connection that would lead them to… to whom?  Some sick bastard playing games with body parts.  Lestrade wasn’t even sure what he’d say to the magistrate when they found the person responsible.  Improper disposal of a corpse?  Or maybe it was murder?  Nothing for it but to let Sherlock have a go, he supposed.

But that letter.  That letter gave him chills.  It rang with the voice of a madman in Lestrade’s mind.

 

Chapter 17

 

Sherlock spent the rest of the evening at the morgue, tirelessly cataloguing the hands; he’d gotten enough sleep in the dull countryside to last him a week.  There was so much information to be gathered
by just a person’s hand!  Beyond their simple measurements, there were: imperfections and peculiarities; calluses; nail-length and neatness.  He plucked tiny hairs from fingers and the backs of the hands to examine the colour and texture of each.  He made copious notes complete with detailed sketches, labeling each mark and including the length and direction of the lines in each palm.  He concluded each bundle of notes with the likeliness of age and occupation for each hand.

His conclusions: five victims, as none of the hands were a matched pair; three male, two female; they had all labored for a living, though it would have been quite startling if they had not.  A missing noble or person of wealth would have been all the more noticeable than the droves of lower and working class.  He prepared a list of careers: chef, marine, seamstress, prostitute and dock worker, though he felt a wave of irritation for Anderson.  The alcohol may have preserved the flesh, but vital evidence washed away.  He could not smell them, for instance, for the alcohol was pungent and cleansing.  He could not even properly place residue at the bottom of the jars to a profile, for several hands had been shoved into one jar.

Incompetents.  It was no wonder guilty men walked free and the innocent were hanged.

When the sun finally rose again over the city, Sherlock examined each hand again by daylight in case the lamplight had obscured some color or detail.

Anderson opened the door in the morning for the overnight deliveries piled on the coroner’s wagon pulled up outside.  Sherlock’s continued presence in his morgue perturbed him, though, of course, he had locked him in when he left the night before.  Sherlock hadn’t noticed, but if he had, the bolt plate on the heavy door would have posed little trouble to the reputed lock-pick.

“I don’t suppose you’ll vacate so I can get some work done in peace today?”

Sherlock stood and waved at the open jars and clutter of hands.

“Do find separate jars for each this time, Anderson.”

With that, he left for Bow Street to inquire about the results of Lestrade’s investigation so far.

“All of the university labs have been accounted for; however, while nothing was reported missing, it isn’t like they keep the best records.  Some anatomy labs don’t want to know where the cadavers come from and, once used, don’t particularly make sure they’ve been given a proper burial.”

“All the more reason to check into missing persons, Lestrade.”

Lestrade sighed.

“What do you think about that cryptic letter, eh?  Any idea who sent it?”

“Well, I can narrow it down from several million speakers of English – and in conjunction with literacy rates and the mention of the hands, I can narrow it down even more.  However, more investigation into the identity of the sender is required.”

“What do you suggest I do?”

“This is hardly the business of Bow Street, Lestrade.  There is no crime in sending a letter.  You hardly believe in a crime where a bagful of hands is discovered in an alley by a merchant man.  Thus I will continue the investigation into the letter myself.”

“Holmes…”

“I will not hear it, Lestrade.  It was addressed to me, after all.”

“And why is that, do you think?” Lestrade countered irritably.

But Sherlock didn’t hear him, much as he said he wouldn’t.

“How long will it take to sort through the reports for missing persons fitting these descriptions?”  Sherlock handed over a single sheet with only the most relevant facts written in the most looping scrawl.  He had tucked the rest of his notes quite awkwardly into the pocket of his greatcoat where they swelled and bunched up and ruined the line.

“Descriptions?  None of our reports will have descriptions of hands.”

“No, Lestrade,” Sherlock said in the most exasperated voice, as if explaining things to Lestrade were the most tiresome duty he’d ever been assigned.  “But they will have occupation, approximate weight, hair color, and burns, scars, notable defects.  I have listed what I can deduce about those things, and none of the hands have notable defects, so you can remove files that do have them.  You need only go back a month or two.”

“A month or two?  For all the city?  That will take days, Sherlock, weeks even.”

“And you have more important things to do?”  Sherlock’s eyes glittered quite dangerously when he thought he might not get his way.

“You know, Mr. Holmes, that I only tolerate your demands because you have a keen nose for the queer and bizarre.  You sniff out the truth like a hound.  But I warn you not to push me too far.  I don’t care that your brother does have the ear of the Regent.  The Regent is far too above to notice an ant like me.”

“Really, Lestrade.  Hounds and ants and my nose for goodness sake?  You are awfully imaginative for a common thief-taker.”

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Chapters 10-15, Regency Johnlock

Chapters 10-15, because I want to get my plot to London and start the case! 🙂  I probably haven’t looked this through nearly enough, but I got in the bits I wanted and the next chapter will be London and Lestrade and Sherlock being his irritating self! 🙂  Total word count, 15776.  Still way too far behind (about half of where I should be) but hopefully the plot will make me write faster.  ?  Hope, hope.

 Chapter 10

John crawled under the thick covers of his bed that night with little promise of sleep.  The man he was to marry was unusual, extraordinary.  More changeable than the wind.  One second he was annoyed, the next, nearly flirtatious.  Perhaps he was just awkward and unsure of how to act; John certainly was.  Still, John didn’t get the impression that Sherlock Holmes thought too much about what others thought of him.

John had gone in search of his company tonight, he thought, to get to know his intended a little better but the man was a mystery and John had no idea how to talk to him, what to say.  What did he learn so far?  Sherlock and his brother got along less well than John and Harry.  Sherlock had a much more forthright personality, brilliant and demonstrative of that fact.  And last, something had happened to make Lord Sherrinford demand that his brother marry and Sherlock wasn’t going to volunteer the information.  He was upset by it.  How very curious.

John sighed and turned his head to the side and imagined the man in bed next to him.  He’d be on his side, head propped up on his hand, covers pulled up halfway over his bare alabaster chest.  He’d have that twinkle in his eye, a playful grin on his lips.  He might reach one hand towards John, his husband.  He’d say his name, “John,” in that voice that made John’s insides writhe like a happy puppy.

God, John, stop it, he scolded himself.  Don’t start fantasizing.  You don’t know that he will ever choose to share a bed with you.  While socially and financially fortuitous marriages between men were common, particularly among the aristocracy, the rules of marital intimacy did not apply.  If they both chose to do so, they could share a bed, share love.  More frequently, though, there were mistresses and illegitimate families, nearly separate lives.  Marriage between men, so often younger brothers, preserved the elder brother’s direct line of inheritance, since there would be no legitimate issue to divide the estate or monies.

There would be no children born of this union.  If John wanted children, he would have to go elsewhere.  And what sort of life would that be for them?  As a couple, they could foster the children of a relative, perhaps, or take in a ward.  Did Sherlock even like children?  Did he already father some?  Could that be the scandal his brother so desperately wanted to tamp down?

John wondered what Sherlock Holmes thought about him.  What such a dynamic man thought about being married to a man who couldn’t easily descend a stair.  Would he want a man whose leg was twisted with scars, who would always limp, who couldn’t sleep the night.  They couldn’t share a bed without injury, probably, even were Sherlock so inclined.

John blew out the candle by the side of the bed, always worried that his restless sleep would knock into a lamp or candle and start a fire.  The glowing coals in the fireplace offered some light in the middle of the night, but not always enough for John to awaken from his nightmares and realize exactly where he was.  A lamp would be better, but John worried.

This line of hypotheticals vastly dampened any fantasy John might have indulged in about Sherlock.  He turned onto his back, one arm above his head, and sighed.  What would life be like with Sherlock Holmes?

Chapter 11

Despite a sleepless night, John woke early with unusual energy.   Perhaps he was just anxious to see what would come out of Sherlock Holmes’ mouth today, but John slid out of bed as soon as he jerked the bell pull.  His bad leg almost crumpled as he tucked his feet into slippers and wrapped his thick dressing gown about himself.

The maid who answered seemed surprised to see him shuffling about already.  She set his tea tray by the fireplace and stirred up the coals.

“I’ll take my tea here, but I’ll be breakfasting downstairs today, Abby.”

“Oh, yes, sir,” she said about his change of plans.  Captain Watson always broke his fast in his rooms; but of course, there was company, and when there wasn’t, Sir Harold rarely showed his face until midday so there was little point.  “I’ll let Mrs. Richardson know.”  She bobbed a little curtsy and dashed out the door.

Moments later, without being summoned, the butler Meade rapped at the door.  He’d been helping John and Sir Harold dress since there was no one else anymore.  John thought momentarily about tipping the staff generously with the wedding purse for all they’d put up with in the past months, years, probably, and their loyalty.  He couldn’t even imagine how much would be enough.

Lord Sherrinford – John would have to ask him to provide the traditional purse for the staff and villagers.  Harry likely wouldn’t have the funds yet and wouldn’t think to ask.

John forced himself to pace back and forth in his room despite the pain in his leg.  It was always worst at night.  The cramps and spasms would wake him if the nightmares hadn’t already.  Sometimes he spent an hour or more hobbling back and forth in the dark before the pain eased enough for him to lie back down.

Meade made short work of dressing John for the morning, once John had decided what he wanted to wear.  And maybe Meade smiled just a bit too much at John’s consideration of his appearance.  In the end, he chose a dark blue waistcoat under a light brown jacket with buff breeches.  Meade fussed a little with his cravat before making sure John found his way steadily enough down the stairs.

Lord Sherrinford and Harry were already dining, though Harry didn’t seem to be enjoying his toast and tea.  There was much of importance to be discussed yet, despite Lord Sherrinford’s innocuous and pleasant conversation.

John was seated, bid the two good morning, and received his customary plate.  Sherlock breezed in when his meal was half over.

“Good morning, Sherlock,” John ventured, only to be rewarded with a bright smile.

“Good morning, John,” was the hearty response.

If John had spared a glance for Lord Sherrinford, he would have noticed quite a peculiar expression on the man’s face.  Sherlock tucked into his egg and toast without being urged, further annoying his brother with the normalcy of it.

“Did you see the grounds sufficiently yesterday, Sherlock, or would you like a proper tour?  Of course, Lord Sherrinford, you are welcome as well.”  To see what you are buying with all that money, John added to himself.  But really, how could he be churlish and bitter about the Watson’s rescue?

“Mycroft won’t come along, John.  It may require exercise,” Sherlock scoffed.  Lord Sherrinford ignored his brother and replied smoothly.

“I fear your brother and I have too many details to discuss regarding the marriage contracts, Captain Watson.  We may well be closeted in the study the entire day.  Thinking of all the work to be done wouldn’t allow me to properly enjoy a countryside jaunt, but thank you.”

Harry just looked miserable, and John was a bit glad of that.

“I, on the other hand, am dreadfully bored.  Let’s go.”  Sherlock jumped up from the table, stuffing the last of his toast into his mouth.

John marveled on how energetic Sherlock was.  Even now he tapped his foot as they waited for the butler to bring their outerwear.

“I apologize if our hospitality is insufficient to keep you occupied.”

“Oh, don’t be so stuffy, John.  Etiquette is boring.  I am away from the city, away from my experiments, away from life.  Of course I’m bored.  You shouldn’t take it personally.”

John hadn’t, not really, but he didn’t know Sherlock well enough to know if he should have.

“Do hurry, John,” he said as soon as they were wrapped up against the late autumn chill.  Sherlock darted out the doorway and down the steps, reminding John of a retriever he’d had as a teen.  Harry hadn’t said what happened to the dog while John was away, but he supposed he must have died.  It seemed likely, one way or another, since Harry had disliked the spirited pup, and the feeling had been mutual.

“I’m injured, Sherlock, you’ll just have to learn to be patient.”  John felt surprised that he felt so comfortable calling Sherlock by his Christian name, even, and especially, after their short conversation the night before.  He’d only had the privilege with a few childhood pals from the village and none since he’d gone away to school.

Sherlock scoffed, but bounced at the foot of the steps as John made his careful way down them.

“Nonsense, you are not injured.  Your leg has been healing a six-month, so your scars are probably fading to pink.  You’ve been taking long walks about the estate to help recover your strength after your bout of fever.  Exercise only helps with the stiffness, even if it tires you still.”

“Very well,” John chuckled.  “I am not injured.  Which direction do you prefer?”

“You pick, John.  I only explored the immediate area yesterday.  Lead me somewhere you enjoy.”

“Very well.  This way, then.”

John headed around the side of the manor house and then straight to the east where the meadows were harvested and quiet.  There was a stream a few stiles that way and a pretty little woods had sprung up around it.  It was the deep, dark forest of John’s childhood, where he’d explored and played at Robin Hood with some of the town children.

They walked in companionable silence for some time, Sherlock only opening his mouth to verify which crop was planted in which field, and sometimes narrate interesting facts about the hibernating wildflowers that grew along their way.  John couldn’t tell by their dry stems what they were, but Sherlock seemed certain.

Sherlock vaulted over the stiles with a whoosh of his greatcoat, but paid great care that John would not stumble on his way.  John said nothing about it and tried to change the topic even in his own mind.

“So, we know why I agreed to this marriage, Sherlock, but why did you?”

Sherlock had paused to pluck some remnants of clover from the ground.

“Sheep?” he said.

“What? Oh, yes, we graze sheep in this field sometimes.  Did you hear my question?”

“Why does anyone marry, John?”

“Is that meant to be rhetorical?”

“Freedom, John!  Is that not what we all want?  Freedom to live our lives, to come and go as we please, to direct our surroundings to our greatest pleasures.  Mycroft promised me a home of my own, out from under his watchful gaze, and if I’m to be saddled with a keeper, so be it!”

John wondered vaguely if Sherlock always spoke with exclamation marks.

“I’ll try not to restrict your pleasures, then.”  Of course Sherlock didn’t want this marriage, John, neither of you did.  Don’t be stupid.

“Oh, don’t be that way, John.  Besides, we both know that Mycroft has already asked you to spy on me.  You don’t need to confirm it.”

“That doesn’t mean I agreed to do so.”

Sherlock abandoned his long stride and John continued walking quite past him.  For the first time, he was ahead of the man, as much as he was guiding the tour.

After a moment, Sherlock jogged to catch up to him.  This time, the hand he placed on John’s elbow was much more pleasant.

“You said ‘no’ to Mycroft?”

“I take it that doesn’t happen often.  He seemed put out, even through that polite mask of his.”

“I’ve never known anyone to do so, except me.”

They resumed walking, Sherlock silent and lost in thought for several minutes.

“I never wished to marry.  I’ve always found young ladies, even if they might have had sharp minds, bred and nurtured to be simpler than their idiotic husbands.  I cannot tolerate insipid conversation.  And the very few men whose conversation I can tolerate have never enticed me.  And either way, I prefer to be alone.”

And there, right there, John could foretell the lonely state of their marriage.

Sherlock’s sharp eyes caught something.  “What are those?”  And he was off running.  John took his time ambling along until he was about twenty feet away from the curious objects which had Sherlock so fascinated.

“You keep bees!” Sherlock said with no little awe.

“Yes, we have hives scattered over the estate grounds.”  This one was surrounded by a little copse of trees.  There was a half-rotted stump nearby, plenty of overhang from the trees for shade and protection from winter snow.  “This hive was wild, in the tree here.  Our beekeeper managed to move it when I was a boy so we could more easily harvest the honey.”

Sherlock glanced around, but the brisk autumn sky held nothing but clouds.

“The bees are packed away for the winter, otherwise they’ll freeze.  Take off your glove.”

Sherlock didn’t ask questions, immediately removing one of his gloves.  John tugged on his hand and led him right up to the hive.

“They’re loud,” Sherlock observed.  “And warm!”  John had put his fingers over a vent hole in the top of the hive cover.  “Fascinating.”  John could see Sherlock’s mind working, trying to imagine the inside of the hive, the sheer number of tiny bodies wiggling and humming, keeping warm and sipping honey stored in the combs.

“We must come back in spring, then, when they’re open.  I’m sure Mr. Gilmore would be amenable to answering your questions.”  Maybe not all your questions, thought John, but the man did like to talk bees.

Chapter 12

After dragging Sherlock from the beehives, John led the two of them to a little copse of woods.

“I’d play here as a child.  Explore for ancient treasures.  Hunt the big, bad wolf.”

“There are few wolves left in Britain.”

“I know.  I got the last of them by the time I was nine.”

Sherlock started a bit, then realized the joke and laughed along with John.  He really was much more comfortable today.  Sherlock wondered why that was.  Perhaps out here, away from their brothers, he could be more himself.  Perhaps he, as a man of action, felt smothered indoors, straightjacketed by the need for propriety.

Sherlock thought that the woods were not only perfect for exploring and wolf-hunting, but with enough imagination, could pass for a perfect spot to bury pirate treasure.  And he said so.  This made John laugh, and Sherlock was inordinately pleased with himself over that.

“Look, just there, where the fallen tree crosses the other!  We should dig there; ‘X’ marks the spot, you know!”  Sherlock gamboled to the top of the recently fallen tree and peered at the ground around him.  “Well, perhaps not.  It doesn’t appear that the ground here has been disturbed since a badger abandoned its nest.”

“Badgers?  Oh, Sherlock, do come down from there.”

“Why?  They’re long gone.”  Sherlock crouched down and poked into the shallow burrow.  “Likely they’ve found somewhere deeper and more secure for the winter.”

“No need to tempt fate.”

“What else is there to do but tempt fate in life, John?”  What other thrill is to be gotten?”

John didn’t answer.  After a few moments of allowing Sherlock to explore the hollow, he said, “We ought to head back.”

“Oh, are you getting tired, John?”

John clearly wasn’t going to admit it, but Sherlock had noticed his pace had begun to slow and he stood a little stiffly now.  In his pride, they would likely take a roundabout route back.

“I’m fine.”  Liar.  “It’s just the fresh air inspires my appetite.  I’d love to see if Mrs. Richardson has any of those tartlets left.”

“Of course, John.  Let’s be off.”

Chapter 13

Thirty long minutes later the manor’s gravel drive finally stretched before them and John took a deep breath before heading towards the house.

“Oh!  Are you going to the downstairs or upstairs sitting room, John?”

“I had thought to go to my room for a while, actually.”

“That’s near enough the upstairs sitting room.  Leave your door ajar.”

“What?  Why?”  But Sherlock had already dashed up the stairs and into the house, and by the time John made it there, he’d disappeared somewhere into the house.

John looked up the broad staircase.  He’d overdone it with Sherlock in the countryside this morning.  He wanted to do little but rest.  And he had absolutely no idea what Sherlock had in mind when he so elegantly sprinted away.

Meade took his overcoat and followed him up the staircase making sure he wouldn’t fall.  Once John was safely in his room, he abandoned his jacket and cravat with Meade as well, and let himself fall into his favorite chair by the fireplace.  Meade helped him lift his leg onto a low footstool.

“Leave the door ajar, Meade.”

“Sir?”  When it became clear John didn’t have an answer for him, Meade responded, “Yes, of course, sir,” and left the room.

John closed his eyes and let himself slump into the chair.  He hadn’t slept much lately.  He might do for a nod in the chair after gamboling about all morning.  Perhaps it might even be restful.

And then, music.  That was something he hadn’t heard in this house in years.  Even when he had, it was inexpertly played pianoforte at a small entertainment, nothing grander.  But this lone violin was quite grand.  John almost got up to explore the source of the melody, but realized it simply had to be Sherlock.  Harry never took to an instrument and John couldn’t imagine Lord Sherrinford playing with such fervor.

John listened to the music creeping in through his door until his eyes grew unaccountably heavy and he fell asleep.

Chapter 14

 

Sherlock and Lord Sherrinford had joined John for breakfast the following morning.  Harry stumbled down just after Sherlock had pushed aside the remains of his toast.  John was still dug into a much heartier breakfast.  Harry studiously ignored the contents of his brother’s plate, requesting strong tea and nothing else.

The morning post arrived.  Mycroft’s eyebrows lifted as one letter was placed beside his brother’s plate.  Sherlock snapped it up with undisguised delight while Mycroft calmly flicked through the dozen or so letters that had arrived for him.

“Mycroft, ready the coach.  We must leave for London at once!”  Sherlock shot out of the room in a flurry of coat tails.  Lord Sherrinford plucked up Sherlock’s letter, still fluttering from Sherlock’s wake.

After a brief perusal, he said, “I apologize for this abrupt and untimely departure.  My brother’s presence is urgently required in London.  He has, on occasion, consulted with Bow Street on certain matters.  It appears something out of the usual course of things has occurred.”

“Yes, of course we understand, Lord Sherrinford.”  Harry’s hangover gave way to fluster.  Sherlock’s baritone bellowed in the hall for his luggage to be packed and to please be mindful of the violin.

“We’d better make haste, or he will begin running there on his own two feet.”

John and Harry pushed away from the breakfast table as Lord Sherrinford stood.

“Worry not, Sir Harold.  I will send the final paperwork around with my solicitor in a week’s time and we can pick a date as early as the reading of the banns allows.”  Harry dropped back into his chair at this, definite relief on his face.

“Captain Watson, I expect I’ll see you at the ceremony, if nothing else.  Good day.”

John bowed politely before Lord Sherrinford left the room.

“Heavens,” Harry breathed.

“Indeed.  Excuse me, Harry.”

John left the room to find Sherlock donning his greatcoat in the foyer.  The amount of servants seemed to have tripled, bustling down and back up the stairs, both with and without luggage.

“I’m sorry our visit was cut so short, Sherlock.”

“Doesn’t matter.  We will be married soon and you’ll be in London and, I imagine, heartily sick of me by summer.”

John smiled, wishing there was more he could say.

“Could I write to you?”  Where had that come from?  What would he have to say in letters to this man?

“Do as you will, John, but I’ll likely be too busy to read them.  I may make the time if you write about the bees.  I may just pour over your letters, then!”

“Will you write back?”

“I don’t have time for correspondence, John.”  He said it like it was a foul word.  “There are nefarious deeds in London!”

Sherlock shook John’s proffered hand and disappeared out the door, likely startling the horses that were pulling up the carriage outside with his shout, “Mycroft, do hurry!”

Chapter 15

 

Once the Holmes brothers had left, preparations continued in good faith.  The banns were posted with their intention to join the families.  A notice appeared in several of the newspapers that trickled in from London.  Congratulations and sometimes gifts were thrust upon John as he walked through the village.  Mrs. Phillips, formerly John’s nurse Miss Abernathy, handed him a rather bulky parcel tied with twine.

“Some good, warm jumpers, Captain Watson.”

John suddenly missed her voice calling him ‘young Master Watson’ and sometimes ‘Johnny’ when no one else was around to hear.

“Wear them in good health, young man.”  She fussed a bit over him like she used to do.  “I daresay you’ll make the most handsome groom since my Tom.”

“I wouldn’t say that, Mrs. Phillips.  You haven’t yet laid eyes on my intended.”

“So, it’s like that, is it?”  Her faded brown eyes sparkled with delight.

“No, no.  We’ve only just met.”  John blushed, wanting to pull at his high collar and choking cravat, but couldn’t due to the weighty woolen parcel in one hand and his cane in the other.

“Well, I hope Mr. Holmes appreciates his excellent fortune, then, Captain Watson.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Phillips.”

When John returned to the manor house, he unwrapped the bundle and admired the warm jumpers he’d been given.  One was a natural oatmeal color, thick and knit with a twisted cable design.  One was a darker blue and the third, green.  They were for informal settings – John had one or two he wore in spring and fall when walking about, or had done, but they were wearing in spots and had not entirely escaped moths in his absence to war.

John sat down that afternoon to write to Sherlock, whether Sherlock planned to read it or not.  He dipped his pen to ink a dozen times before writing any more than the salutation.  Nothing really happened to him.  What could he possibly have to say beyond, ‘My old nurse knit me several sweaters,’ or ‘I walked back to the copse of trees and the badger was indeed back in her den’?

The next day he relented and visited Mr. Gilmore, taking comprehensive notes for Sherlock on the proper winterizing of bees.

A week later, the final documents for Harry to peruse and sign arrived with the morning post.

Also on the tray lay a fat fold of paper with Captain John Watson’s direction scrawled upon the outside layer.

“You’ve got a letter?” Harry inquired, looking away from his dismally thick package.

“I suppose so.”

“Must be a long one.”  The papers didn’t seem to want to be folded, so they were tied with twine instead of sealing wax to keep them together.  “Who sent it?”

John flipped it around.  Barely legible was the name.

“Sherlock Holmes.”  He wrote back.  He actually wrote back.  John was sure it was stupid to be so giddy about it, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Oh, well, didn’t he say he’d write?  About time, then.”  Harry seemed about to try the egg on his plate, but pushed it away at the last moment.

“No, Harry, he quite specifically said he wouldn’t.”

John wanted to tear open the letter, so much so that his ears heated up.  He carefully severed the twine and let the pages fall open.

The contents of the letter were unusual, to say the least.

John glanced through the pages.  It wasn’t a letter, not exactly.  It was, what, notes?  Of what?  Autopsy, perhaps, but only of hands.  Hands, why only hands?  John started over at the beginning before starting to laugh.

Sherlock was incapable of writing a normal letter, like he’d said.  But he still wanted to tell John what he was doing, so he mailed him case notes.  And apparently, someone had found a bagful of hands and Sherlock had meticulously attempted to deduce the deceased owner of each one.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Seven Ate Nine…

After my day off yesterday and my late working day today, I had hoped to have much more done.  My official count is only at 14,051, mostly because my progress was made in finishing up some chapters moreso than writing altogether new.  Doubtful I’ll finish in Nov at this rate; something like 3000 words a day to finish, but I’m getting some readable stuff so far.  I could have posted more, but there’s a bit in the next chapter I want to play with a bit first.  I didn’t quite get a line in there that I wanted, and something got unreasonbly awkward, so I’m hoping to smooth that out first.

Chapter 7

 

Lord Mycroft Holmes, Viscount Sherrinford entered the sitting room where John was taking tea alone.  Sir Harold was still in his study, trying to make up for being passably sober all day.  Going through all the financial statements from the estate was proving to be a grueling job, and worse to come was the statements of debt.  Lord Sherrinford figured they could both use the break.

Sherlock, having grown bored with the finer details of negotiation, had been wandering around the house and grounds for two hours now.  Lord Sherrinford hoped he’d make it back before dinner.  Or Michaelmas, knowing Sherlock.

When Lord Sherrinford entered the room, John leaned heavily on his cane to stand.

“Oh, no need to stand for me, Captain Watson, as we are soon to be family.”

“I prefer not to be coddled, Lord Sherrinford.”

He allowed John to make him a stiff bow.  “May I sit with you, Captain Watson?”

“Of course.  Tea?”  John lowered himself back into his chair, resting his cane against the arm and stretching out his stiff leg in front of him.

John wasn’t sure if Lord Sherrinford would view their shabby furniture as distasteful, but the elegant man sat down looking like he owned the place.  For all the money Lord Sherrinford was expending in the marriage contract, it would be foolish for John to deny that, in essence, he did.

“I do hope Mr. Holmes has not gotten lost on the grounds.”

“Don’t worry yourself, Captain Watson.  Sherlock does not get lost, even when you really try.”

The maid in the corner moved to pour Lord Sherrinford a cup of tea.  If John had not received the tray only a few minutes before, he would have ordered a fresh pot.  Either way, though, it was unlikely their tea would be as exotic as the tea served at the Holmes’ estate.  Of course, Lord Sherrinford was too much of a diplomat to complain.  Maybe John wanted his future brother-in-law to complain.  Sherlock would have let his displeasure be known.  He was nothing if not completely, blatantly, forthright.

Lord Sherrinford, however, was untrustworthy, in John’s opinion.  He had the way about him of a man used to total control.  This was not uncommon among the aristocracy; however, it was typically illusion.  If the monarchy was in a state of more disarray, Lord Sherrinford, for all he admitted to “dabbling in the House of Lords,” would have been called king-maker.  As it was, he had the ear of the Regent and an ingratiating smile for everyone else.

“I wanted to speak privately to you, Captain Watson.”  And there was that soulless smile.

John met the other man’s eyes quite directly.  They were piercing and judgmental, and in no way friendly.

“You see, our parents died when Sherlock was very young.  I was barely of age to inherit the estate and I did not give Sherlock the discipline he needed.  I allowed him to have too much sway over his schedule and his tutors, and once he’d gone off to school, I barely saw him.

“You see, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with him.  Not the army or navy, like many second sons.  It was quite clear from the reports sent back from school that he would not thrive in such disciplined settings.  He excelled at the studies which interested him, but his impiety made him eminently unsuitable for the church.

“I’ve become resigned to the fact that Sherlock will receive his income from me.  At least it grants me some control over his rashness.  But I cannot be there for him all the time.  I cannot watch him all the hours of the day.  And I assure you, Captain Watson, I worry about my brother.  Constantly.”

“So, a husband.”

“Yes, Captain Watson.  A husband.  Preferably a husband with strong character to exert some influence over my brother’s… shall we say… impetuous tendencies.  A husband, Captain Watson, who is very aware from whence his income derives.”

John tensed at this.

“You wish to pay me to spy on your brother.”

“Spy is such a loaded term, Captain Watson.  I prefer to say that I am entrusting the care of my very precious brother to you, and I am extending you a comfortable living so long as Sherlock stays safe.”

“Yet you do intend for me to report back to you.”

“A bit of familial mail would not be unwelcome.”

John could not resist the need to snort at this.

“Lord Sherrinford,” he started as diplomatically as possible, “duty has made it known that I will be Sherlock’s partner for life.  I will guard him as I would any choice in spouse; with my life, if necessary.  I will do my best to fulfill my promise to honor and cherish him, as one should.  But I will not report back to you as if you were my commanding officer.  Sherlock does not deserve that subterfuge from a husband, even an arranged one.”

Lord Sherrinford’s eyes hardened to cool blue-gray granite.

“Very noble, Captain Watson.  Perhaps I’ve chosen for Sherlock a better man than I thought if you are so loyal after only a few hours of acquaintance.”

John didn’t reply.  He stared stonily and rather impolitely at the man until Lord Sherrinford stood.

“I have much correspondence that needs attending to before supper.  If you’ll excuse me.”

John briskly nodded his head, but this time he did not rise.

Lord Sherrinford noticed.

 

Chapter 8

 

Sherlock did not appear for the evening meal and Harry just picked at his food, refilling his wine goblet several times before John motioned for the servants to remove it from the room.  Lord Sherrinford had elected to take his supper in his rooms and John was glad for that.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to speak to him again so soon, neither something serious nor witheringly dull small talk.  Of course, company with Harry was less fun than a picnic out on the moors in February.

“It’s good of you to do this, John,” Harry slurred.  “I’m ever so sorry, John.  That man, he’s horrible.  I wish I didn’t have to beg you to do this.  There was just so much to pay in debt and taxes when Father died…”  He trailed off.  “And Clara, darling Clara, she hasn’t but a ha’penny to her name.  I love her so, John, but we can’t be together.”

Jesus, Harry was a dismal drunk.  No wonder nothing ever got better if Harry couldn’t see his way out of it.

“Maybe after my marriage, when things are looking up and more in control, her family will reconsider your proposal.”

Harry went on like he hadn’t even heard.

“I could sell the house, the lands, but what happens when that is gone?”  Gets taken away, he means.  Debts, debts to someone, a moneylender perhaps.  “We’ll have nothing to live on.  We’ll be lucky to eke out some sort of living for ourselves.

“Do you love anyone, John?  Have I, in my disgrace, done you a broken heart?”

“No, brother, worry not.”  John had courted girls in his younger years, the happier, brighter years, most recently in his dashing red uniform before heading to the war.  And they had swooned for Captain Watson, charming, vivacious, always ready with a genuine compliment and a request to dance.  But none of them were serious; none of the young girls or young men truly caught his eye.  Too insipid, too flirtatious, too, too much.  Frivolous, he supposed.  There would be plenty of time to settle later, particularly since he was not the heir and did not need to provide children.

Then army life was challenging, too challenging to think of things like love and marriage.  John spent most of his waking hours thinking of his patients, his comrades.  The occasional requirement of an Officer’s Ball kept his social skills in tact, but he could not help but feel they were a ridiculous waste of time.  They were at war, a seemingly endless war with the rest of the world, and somehow there was time for celebration and jubilee while his men were sometimes starving and cold, injured and dying.

Finally, there was the injury, John’s injury.  The one that would keep him from the army, from his career.  At least he’d kept his leg – so many others lost limbs or eyes or scarred so badly they were fearsome to look at even healed.  John had seen so many of these men, it broke his heart.  He’d done his best for each and every soldier he encountered but he was home now.  After Waterloo, most of them were home now.

Once, he’d imagined after the war he’d start up a small practice, but his after-the-war started so abruptly, and his recovery took so much time, and Harry could barely hold things together, well, he’d utterly abandoned those plans.  And now, now John had no real idea what his future held.  He’d be married to a stranger, living, most likely, in London.  His new family was gentry of a much higher caliber than his father, a landed country squire.  His future was a world apart from where he’d ever imagined.

Exposure to maudlin-drunk Harry was apparently contagious.  John pushed away from the table, aware that Harry was still muttering on to himself and had never stopped.

“Good night, Harry.”

His brother looked up in surprise, as if not realized he’d been talking to someone this whole time.

“Good night, John.”

John left the dining room and paused in the hall.  He didn’t want to retire, not yet.  He spotted a young footman with a covered tray dashing back towards the kitchen.  He was one of the three servants that had arrived with the Holmes brothers.  John wasn’t sure if it was kindness or insult.  The small staff the Watsons could barely afford to employ would be stretched taking care of the personal needs of the viscount and his brother; however, Lord Sherrinford knowing that in advance was shaming.

“You, there,” John called, trying to catch the man’s attention before he disappeared.  The footman stopped and stood at impeccable attention.

“Yes, sir.  What can I do for you, sir?”

“Has Mr. Holmes returned to the house?”

“Yes, sir, an hour since.  I believe he is in the conservatory.”

“Thank you.”

“Will that be all, sir?”

“Has he had supper?”

“Not that I am aware of, sir.  Mr. Holmes rarely keeps regular mealtimes.”

Whatever was that supposed to mean?

“Have the cook put together a cold plate and please bring it to him in the conservatory with some hot tea.”

“Right away, sir.”

The young man paused a bit, trying to judge whether John had finished with his orders or not.  When John began to shuffle towards the conservatory, the footman quickly strode to the kitchens.

The conservatory had been built onto the house only two generations ago.  It was a small room, one John had used as a reading room as a teen and a playroom when he was a child.  He was usually alone there; it was quiet and had a pleasant, foreign smell full of herbs and damp warmth.

It was still much the same.  John hadn’t spent much time in here since he’d returned home.  He more recently avoided it as he’d begun to fear that Harry would dismantle the room for the costly glass and metal framing.

The sloped ceiling was interspersed with glass panels, revealing a clear night sky.  John could remember a childhood of playing that the stars revealed through the glass panels was a sky revealed by the lush foliage of a jungle.  He’d peek through the plants, pretend-slashing at the leaves with his imaginary sword, and explore the wild unknown.

Sherlock Holmes had invaded his room, now.  In fact, he’d sprawled out on one of the heavy marble benches, his greatcoat balled up as a pillow beneath his head.  He was looking up towards the skylights, but John could see he wasn’t really stargazing.

“I’m sorry to intrude, Mr. Holmes.  You weren’t at supper, so I took the liberty to arrange for a plate from the kitchens for you.”

“Unnecessary,” the sprawling figure drawled without moving.

John wasn’t quite sure what to reply.  He stood awkwardly in silence a moment.

“You’ll want the tea, at least, surely.  If you were walking about the estate and came straight into this unheated room, you must be chilled.”  John’s intonation crept up at the end, a bit of a question.

Sherlock’s eyes flickered to him.

“Yes, very well.”  He curled up and rolled into a sitting position, but his long form was still rather languidly posed along the bench.  His long legs were crossed and stretched toward John and he leaned back, propped up on his arms.  He and John stared at each other for a long minute until the footman rattled the tea tray directly behind John and he moved, breaking the spell.

“Thank you.”

“Lewis, sir.”  The young footman set the tray on a small nearby table with a flourish.

“Thank you, Lewis.”

The young man quite expertly prepared Sherlock’s cup of tea.  There was a second cup on the tray.

“One for you, too, sir?”  John paused.

“Oh, do sit down, John,” Sherlock ordered, with a hint of smile around his lips no matter how abrupt the words.

“Yes, I suppose so, then.”

John made himself as comfortable as possible on a cold iron chair near the tea table.  The footman finished serving him and exited the room, likely to wait outside the door should he be needed again.

John continued to watch Sherlock, who had done little more than take a small sip of tea and set the cup and saucer on the bench beside him.

“You’re not hungry?  I see Mrs. Richardson has plied you with some jam tarts.  I couldn’t get enough of them when I was a child.”

“Do have some then, John, for my appetite isn’t nearly as appreciative of them as yours.”  Despite that, Sherlock was soon tempted and took a mouse-sized nibble on the corner of one.  Three more soon disappeared.

“I assume you wish to talk?”

“That’s what one normally does with company, isn’t it?”

“I would have no idea.  I strive to avoid polite company at all costs.”

“Oh?  And what about impolite company?”

Sherlock laughed at John’s forwardness.  “Oh, I’m sure the company I keep would be deemed by Mycroft as most impolite and inappropriate.”

“Is the company you keep the reason your brother thinks you should marry?”

John was genuinely curious, but he hadn’t expected Sherlock’s face to shut down and his mouth to tighten.

“Has he ordered you to keep a tight rein on me, then?”  John didn’t answer.  “I expect he has.  All he cares for is power and the proper image of things.  It is understandable that he’d want a loyal spy to keep watch over his shockingly uncouth embarrassment of a brother.”

“I apologize, Mr. Holmes.  I seem to have stepped into a puddle of which I knew not the depth.”

“Why do you call me Mr. Holmes when I call you John?

The change in course startled John and he had to think about his answer.

“It’s impolite to assume familiarity.”

“Do you feel slighted when I do so?”

“No.”  It’s quite nice, actually.

“Then call me Sherlock.  After all, we are rather betrothed, are we not?”  Sherlock’s voice grew lower and John felt a rather embarrassing flutter in his stomach.

 

Chapter 9

 

Sherlock wasn’t nearly as annoyed as he thought he’d be when John invaded his sanctum with tea and food.  Of course, it wasn’t Sherlock’s conservatory, and the way John looked around the place, it was likely John’s sanctum long before Sherlock had claimed it.

The quiet man put him on edge, sort of, or pulled him away from the edge.  Sherlock wanted to talk to him, or listen to him.  Shocking, that second one.  John had no necessary information about science or a mystery or a puzzle.  Yet Sherlock wanted to hear him speak.

So Sherlock ate, because it seemed to please John, to make him more comfortable.  And then Sherlock realized what John must have been occupied with while Sherlock was off exploring this afternoon.

“Is the company you keep the reason your brother thinks you should marry?”

Of course it was.  Obvious, he wanted to say.  Mycroft’s fingerprints were all over this man.  He ought to remember that, to not allow himself the ease.

“Has he ordered you to keep a tight rein on me, then?”  John remained inscrutably silent.  The conversation happened, even if John did not wish to admit it.  “I expect he has.  All he cares for is power and the proper image of things.  It is understandable that he’d want a loyal spy to keep watch over his shockingly uncouth embarrassment of a brother.”

“I apologize, Mr. Holmes.  I seem to have stepped into a puddle of which I knew not the depth.”

Sherlock waved the entire conversation away from his head and changed the subject.  He would come up with a way to get even with Mycroft if it was the last thing he did.

But first, what to do about Captain John Watson?  Was he going to prove a help or hindrance to the work?  He seemed thoughtful, meek even.  The years at war, though, and a certain… presence made Sherlock wonder otherwise.

“Why do you call me Mr. Holmes when I call you John?

The abrupt change in conversation flustered the man only momentarily.

“It’s impolite to assume familiarity.”

“Do you feel slighted when I do so?”  John didn’t act offended.  Sherlock liked to offend people as a matter of course.  Provocation more adequately displayed their true selves.

“No.”

“Then call me Sherlock.  After all, we are rather betrothed, are we not?”  Sherlock’s let his voice dip lower and was pleased when John didn’t appear to know what to say.  In fact, he excused himself shortly after and left Sherlock to his supper plate and cold tea.

Sherlock nibbled on another tartlet and considered the best way to make an ally of Captain John Watson.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

NaNoWriMo day 17, Chapters 5 & 6, word count 11875

This morning seemed much shorter than yesterday morning, so I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped.  However, I put together two more chapters.  Since I haven’t been writing as chronologically as I probably should, this did take some effort.  I have a lot of the time in the Watson household sketched out, though, and in a few short chapters we shall make it to London.

However, since I like Chapter 5 so much, I decided to post it.  And because my chapters have been so short, I decided to finish up Chapter 6 as much as possible and add that as well.  I haven’t kept strictly to the Sherlock chapter, John chapter format (though that would hoist along my word count since I’d be writing everything twice!!).  Anyway, ado ado ado… and without further ado… 🙂

 

Chapter 5

Tea went rather appallingly.  John silently observed the restless Sherlock, who only sat long enough to sip his tea and roll his eyes at his elder brother.  Once he’d stood and begun to prowl around the room, John felt a little more comfortable examining the man in more than peeks from behind his lashes.  Sherlock stared so forthrightly at him that he found he could not quite return the gaze.  But now that he was facing away, peering out the windows, he could look at him and not be so observed doing so.

Of course, Lord Sherrinford could clearly see him, but John didn’t quite realize that, so taken as he was with Sherlock.

Sherlock was a striking man, to be sure.  Tall, nearly a head taller than John.  His jet hair curled thickly about his head and not in any of the overdone pompous styles of the day.  His jaw was shaven, his skin all the more pale and marble-like framed with his dark sideburns and his amethyst cravat.  His eyes, his smoke-grey eyes, were the most intense John had ever seen.  When they turned on you, they took you apart, piece by piece.  He saw the skill of John’s hands in a moment, deciphered the age of his clothes, and pinpointed within three days precisely when John had been injured.

It was rather amazing.

“Your mother died when you were a small boy,” Sherlock suddenly rounded the sofa and directed himself at Harry.  “You took it hard, especially when your father remarried so soon after, barely out of proper mourning I’d wager, and the new wife had John here.”

“Sherlock, we talked about this.  Leave it alone.”  Lord Sherrinford stood, as if his presence held any sway on his brother’s tongue.  John could clearly see that it wouldn’t, that it hadn’t ever.

“No, go on,” Harry said.  “I’ve heard about this.  I’m curious to see it for myself.”

“Sherlock, no,” Lord Sherrinford intoned, but Sherlock’s eyes blazed with triumphant glee.

“John’s mother died early as well, probably during childbirth but not his; he was old enough to just remember her, but your father did not remarry after that one.  That made you angry, Harry, for your own mother to be put aside so quickly and John’s mother to be mourned for the rest of your father’s life.

“John was your father’s golden boy.  I mean, just look at him.  He’s lovely.  Must be the spitting image of his mother, for he looks nothing at all like you or the portrait above the mantel.”

John and Harry flushed for very different reasons.

“You, however, let the anger fester and worry at you.  It’s why you drink far too much now and why John is being forced into a marriage of convenience.  Your convenience, mind you, Harry Watson.  He’s always covered for you in the past, held you in much higher esteem than you deserve, and that’s why he’s going through this marriage without complaint now.  He thinks it will help you, Harry, but I’m not so sure.  And you certainly don’t deserve his loyalty.”

“Sherlock, enough.”  Lord Sherrinford was thunderous.

“That’s hardly enough!”

Sherlock fumed, crossing his arms over his chest, face to face with a very angry Mycroft.

“Mr. Holmes, if you please.”  The two Holmes turned furious eyes at John, their cutting gazes meant for each other and not for him.  “Mr. Holmes, might you take a turn around the room with me?”

John had not stood to make his offer, had not the time to struggle up from the settee.  His voice seemed to deflate Sherlock’s fury, and the man came forward and grasped John’s elbow to help him stand.  John tried to smile politely at him for the gesture, but he hated it.  Still, he guided Sherlock to the other end of the sitting room where they could speak lowly without being overheard and Mycroft could make his apologies to a purple-faced Harry.

“That was brilliant.  How do you do it?”

“What?”  Clearly Sherlock had expected another response, a quiet shaming perhaps.

“It was amazing.  How did you figure out all that?  I mean, the war, so many of us have been to war, it’s a safe guess.”  Sherlock looked to disagree on that point, but he let it go.  “But our mothers, our father, our relationship, that’s astonishing.  You were exactly right.”

“You’re, you’re pleased.”  Now Sherlock was the one astonished.

“To have Harry put rightly in his place for once?  Yes, quite.”

And Sherlock looked once more at this compact army doctor who smiled at him.  Who was amazed by him.

And if anything in the world could make him speechless, it was Captain John Watson.

 

Chapter 6

After tea was drunk and formal pleasantries re-engaged, Harry invited Lord Sherrinford into his study to begin preliminary negotiations.  Sherlock strode along behind them as if he’d been invited, though John was well aware that their presence was unnecessary to the proceedings and was likely unwanted as well.  Still, he limped after Sherlock with the hope of further entertainment.

Sherlock draped himself over the worn leather sofa, clearly taking in the detail of the new location.  Harry had been about to seat himself behind his desk, but he seemed to change his mind and went to the sideboard instead.

“Brandy, Lord Sherrinford?  Mr. Holmes?”

“Thank you, no,” Lord Sherrinford demurred, no matter that his polite mask couldn’t quite hide his disapproval as Harry poured himself a deep snifter.

“I must have a home in London,” Sherlock announced.  “I do not believe I can tolerate living anywhere else.”

“I, as well, prefer London.”  Sherlock glanced over at John, who had quietly deposited himself at the other end of Sherlock’s sofa.  He hadn’t expected the man to speak up at all during the negotiations.  “Can a portion of the provision be established for a London home?  I realize it’s an expensive city, but it needn’t be large.”

“I must have room for a laboratory.  And a housekeeper,” Sherlock declared.

“I shall have the estate agent begin a search for suitable lodgings right away.  You make take Mrs. Hudson from the London house staff, if she agrees.”  Lord Sherrinford had discussed this with his brother more than long enough to officially acquiesce.  Sherlock had refused to live as a married man in his brother’s home, whether Mycroft was in residence or not.

Sherlock did his best to hide his pleasure from his older brother.  He had no success.  He gloated.

“I’ll also be taking my library with me, so perhaps it ought to be a large house.  One with ten bedrooms.  Ten is a good, round number, don’t you think?”

“That many bedrooms, Sherlock, and people might expect you to entertain.”  Lord Sherrinford looked pleased when Sherlock’s face twisted up in horror.

“Very well, perhaps a smaller house will do.  Is there anything you must have, John?”

The men in the room looked at Sherlock in a bit of shock: Harry because Sherlock so casually used John’s Christian name, though he obviously flouted convention by referring to his brother not by his title but by his Christian name as well, not to mention in every other conceivable way; Lord Sherrinford was clearly startled because Sherlock asked for an opinion other than his own; and John because his name sounded so wonderful from those lips.

Sherlock noted Captain Watson was too uncomfortable to answer.  Perhaps he didn’t think he was earning this house, all this money from his brother.  Sherlock, on the other hand, knew just how much he could milk from Mycroft’s fat teat.  “And vast gardens, Mycroft.  I must have space to grow my poisons.”

Lord Sherrinford sighed.

“I apologize for the vivacity of my brother…”

“I hate it when you apologize for me.  There is nothing to apologize for.”

“He does have some eccentric hobbies, one of which is experimenting with poisonous vegetation.  I assure you that Captain Watson will not need to fear for his life.  Sherlock does not test his poisons on humans.”

But when Lord Sherrinford really looked at the Watson brothers, he noted that Sir Harold had buried his nose into the papers in front of him, while Captain Watson appeared…intrigued.

“Of course, John has nothing to fear, Mycroft!  Were I a widower, I’d be back in your household and entirely under your thick thumb again.”

And there were Captain Watson’s lips twitching up at the corners, trying not to laugh.

Fascinating, thought Lord Sherrinford.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

A little beginning… (word count 8974)

For NaNoWriMo this year, I have decided to go with having a little fun.  So I’m writing something that is a bit ridiculous and 100% for fun, rather than previous years when I wrote with the intention of editing the things someday.  I haven’t done so yet, so nothing much is ready for publication.

However, since this year I can be much less concerned about whether something is worthy of publication, I thought I might just publish (relatively) finished segments on my blog.  The end of this post will be the first four (short) chapters of my Sherlock Holmes fan fiction novella.

I may have mentioned in my previous post that I had been conflicted about doing a Sherlock tale, a romance book, or a zombie book.  I went with Sherlock just because that is what is strongest in my mind, and makes me most giddy to work with.  I had suggestions of doing all three in one story.  Well, since I’m a hardcore Johnlocker, romance was always in the plan.  I ended up getting an idea for a Regency romance with Sherlock and John, setting it well before their time, in 1815.  John has returned from the Napoleonic Wars, injured, and Sherlock would have been dealing with a much, much more inept police system, though in an age of scientific discovery.

The twisted fangirl in me, though, has decided to go Alternate Universe, beyond the time period and setting, because I’ve introduced Sherlock and John to each other on the threshold of their arranged marriage to each other.  Yep, Mycroft and Harry baked up a scheme to take their brothers off their hands and with an immense money exchange, John is a bought and paid for husband for flighty Sherlock.

All this, because, reasons.  Just wanted to, no excuse.  Sorry.  🙂

And while there won’t be zombies… precisely… I have figured out a brilliant plot and an awesome villain to go with.  So cheer me on and make me work!!

Last notes:  in England, civil marriage contracts were not made legal until 1836; until then, all marriages had to take place in an Anglican church.  I chose to ignore this because, well, I’m ignoring the fact that it would have been more than a little strange to have two men contracted to marry each other in 1815, so whether they choose to do it in a church or as a legal contract is somewhat irrelevant.  Also, I try to abide by the etiquette rules dealing with the forms of address for the aristocracy, but Jesus, it’s super nit-picky and makes my eyes glaze over.  I did the best I could and said screw the rest.  🙂  So if anything is wrong, well, so much is deliberately wrong that you ought to just chill out and enjoy the story.  🙂

Chapter 1

Captain John Watson, late of the 52nd Northumberland Fusilers, was in the upstairs sitting room when he heard his brother return from London.  So much for the peaceful afternoon.  John sighed and placed a marker in his book.  He could sit here and wait for Harry to come to him, or he could confront Harry directly.

John’s elder brother Harry had been recently in London for business, he’d said, though John knew that business was primarily wooing a young woman named Clara.  What Harry hadn’t mentioned before he left was that he’d taken the Gainesborough their Grandfather had bought with him.  It wasn’t the only thing missing.

The attics were empty of anything salable, though John hadn’t thought to even look until he wandered into the Peacock Room, his mother’s old bedroom, and realized it had been stripped clear.  Several other unused rooms were stripped of furnishings and antiques, things that had been on the Watson’s estate for three generations.  John had found the silver cupboard nearly bare except for the things they used on a regular basis.

People had been missing, too, though not in a totally sinister way.  When John was a child, the house was bustling with servants, guests, little entertainments.  In the months he’d been home, there had been no guests, few visitors, and the staff had been cut back to those that were left behind when the family was not in residence.  The stables were tended, though the horses kept were only the ones necessary to pull a coach.  There were none left to simply ride, not that John could ride anyway, not with the stiffness in his leg, nor the fiery pains that occasionally erupted from hip to ankle.

Since John had not seen many of these things packed up and removed, he could only assume they’d been gone long before his return home.  He’d been ill and confined to his room for two months with only the cook to nurse him, but he thought he would have noticed entire rooms being carried out the front door.

John had not expected this slow ruination after his interminable, miserable journey home from the Peninsula.  He’d expected more of a welcome, more gratitude that he was alive, and a lot less heartbreak.  Yes, Harry was glad his brother had not perished so soon after the death of their father, but John was a burden.  John was doctor visits and medicine.  John was questions about bare rooms and a mirror to the emptiness left behind.

John’s injury, illness, and sudden return home from war and career had been just another straw for the camel’s back, and clearly Harry was weakening.  The man spent most of his time in his study, papers spread before him, draining a decanter.

But this, this last lie, was utterly abominable, so contemptible and dishonorable, John almost couldn’t fathom it.

Harry Watson had barely removed his greatcoat in the entryway before his younger brother came limping down the stairs, gripping his cane in one hand and the railing in the other.

“Not now, John.”

“How could you sell my house, Harry?”  John’s grip on the stair rail was tighter than it needed to be for his support.

“It wasn’t yours.  Father left it to me.”

“Father meant for me to have it.  You knew that.”

“Father meant for me to allow you to live in it once you retired from the army.  I had no knowledge that you would even make it back from the war.  I needed the money.  I sold it.”

John gasped and stopped just a few stairs from the bottom.  This is the first time Harry had ever outright admitted he needed the money.  John had known, he was not stupid, and had long since offered up the pittance paid by the government to its injured soldiers, but Harry had never once told him how dire his straits were.

“You hoped I would never find out.”  I hate you, Harry Watson.  How could you?

“No, John, I hoped you would never find out.”  But Harry looked much more tired than vindictive when he said this.  “Come into my study, John.  We must talk.”

Chapter 2

Captain John Watson sat in his older brother’s study.  He no longer wore his uniform but he held himself with military precision.

“Marriage?”

“Yes, John,” Harry replied shortly.  “I’d do it myself but Clara’s family has refused my suit.” Not that her family had the funds to dower their daughter enough to meet Harry Watson’s needs.  He knew that, and somehow, they guessed that, too.  They wouldn’t throw away their perfect daughter and her healthy, if not estate-saving, dowry on a wastrel like Harry Watson.  The Watsons were without funds and, more recently, without connections.  Harry felt more and more spurned with every trip to London.

Clara’s father’s refusal was not surprising, given the heavy whorls of exhaustion beneath Harry’s eyes and the ever-present glass of port or sherry or Scotch whisky beneath his hand.  Harry picked one up now, port by the color and time of day, and took a gulp.  It was never a refined sip.

“We need the money, John.  The estate simply won’t hold together without an influx of cash.  I had to borrow to pay the estate taxes when father died, and those loans are quickly coming due.  I’ve tightened the household budget as much as I dared to keep up a good front, but soon I’ll have to borrow just to pay the staff that is left.  I don’t even know that there is anyone else who will lend to me.”

Harry continued to get more worked up, as if John was fighting him.  “Who do we let go next?  Which tenants have to try and pay more rent?  Which parcels of land do we sell off just to keep afloat, only to wonder where the payment is coming from next month?  I could sell everything and we’d be debt free, but we’d have nothing left at all.”

“Harry, please, I’m not fighting.  I understand.”

The look on Harry’s face told John that his acquiescence was almost worse.

“Of course you do, John.  You were ever the dutiful one, the obedient one.  You made father proud.  If you hadn’t been off at war when he fell ill, he would have made you his heir instead of me.  He didn’t trust me to take care of things, and here I am, proving him right.”

“Father didn’t take care of things properly, either, Harry, if he left the estate with enough debt to be bankrupted by estate taxes.”

“You’re just saying that to try to make me feel better, John.  It won’t work.  You were always his favorite and I was just his damned failure.”

John sighed.  No matter what he said to Harry, he wouldn’t be able to win this age-old fight.  Long before John had gone to university, to medical lectures, to war, he and Harry tended towards animosity.  Harry hadn’t liked the shining golden boy born to his father’s second wife, and John hadn’t liked the unending roughhousing inflicted upon him by his elder brother since before John was able to defend himself.  They’d been separated by age, school, and the army, but John was back at the estate now, with no one but Harry and the servants, contributing his meager army pension to the running of the household.

“So, which wealthy, illustrious family would willingly thrust one of their unfortunate children into such a household?”

Harry glared at him.

“Don’t be daft, John.  One that needs a husband for their embarrassment of a second son.”

“Embarrassment?”

“Some scandal at university, perhaps.  I have no idea.  We are not of a level fit to gossip about it.”  Harry sounded rather snide, as if he’d tried to find out details and been rudely rebuffed.  “It hardly matters, with the amount of money they’re offering.”

John didn’t reply – it wouldn’t make any difference if he did.  Harry had found a solution, somehow, and would cling to it desperately, through any sort of dissuasion.  John could protest, refuse, be thrown out to fend for himself on his pension and his cane, and be reminded daily that he’d let everyone down.  The livelihood of many people relied on the estate, and refusal would throw their fortunes to the wind.

“They’ll be in from London tomorrow afternoon,” Harry informed him, with a gesture of dismissal.

Chapter 3

“Mycroft, I will surely die if you leave me to rot in this hovel.”

“The Watson’s estate is hardly a hovel.  And before you spout off all the signs of neglect, do remember I am not blind.”  Lord Mycroft Holmes knew better than to try to curb his brother into being civil.

Sherlock huffed, but kept his observations to himself.

The front door opened as their carriage pulled up.  Sherlock trailed his older brother up the wide steps, past shrubbery that had not yet been either pruned or covered for winter.  The steps had not been brushed of leaves this morning, and the stately butler at the door noticed, but tried hard to ignore the embarrassment that crept up in front of such distinguished visitors.

“I will wither away from boredom here.  If you make me do this, I will never speak to you again.”

“Then do begin immediately, Sherlock.”

Sherlock sulked in response, following his brother into the foyer, his sharp eyes darting everywhere.  Baroque vase, dust in the crevices.  Either a lazy household or not enough maids to spare on the details.  The house was quiet, no dogs barking at the unfamiliar carriage, no maids tittering at footmen, no ground crew raking the stones in the drive.  The few paintings on the wall were amateur; talented, perhaps, but still amateur.  Either the work was hung due to sentimentality for the artist or the more expensive works usually boastfully displayed were sold and the bare spots hidden with inexpensive flotsam.  Combination?  A lack of money.  Obvious, given Mycroft’s long lecture (he said discussion) on the interminable trip here, so Sherlock kept his observations blessedly to himself.

A man started down the stairs, one hand grasping a sturdy cane, the other arm resting from elbow to fingertip on the bannister.  His hair was a dark blond, his height average, boots polished.  He held his head upright despite his reliance on both cane and bannister.  He had a kind face, if stoic and serious.  His eyes took in the two gentlemen in the foyer as he descended.

Another man, slightly older, darker haired, tired, no, hungover, entered the foyer from the left.  Study door.  They were meant to be announced, but the awkward timing of his brother on the stairs meant Sir Harold must greet them in the foyer to make proper introductions.  Formality, ridiculous.  Sherlock’s lip crooked up in a mild sneer.  Appearances were worthless.

“Lord Sherrinford, we are quite honored by your visit.”  Harry offered the elder of the two men in their foyer a short bow, getting little more than an imperious nod of the head in return.

“Sir Harold Watson, my brother, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” the elder motioned behind him where Sherlock was still busy taking in every minute detail of the entryway.  Apparently he took in enough detail of the people in the room, as well, for his only words were directed at John, though they had not yet been introduced.

“Waterloo or Quatre Bras?”

The man who had finally descended to stand behind his brother started.

“Quatre Bras.”

“You were ill.”

“Yes, enteric fever.”  The eyes had opened in wonderment.  Interesting, thought Sherlock.

“Lord Mycroft Holmes, Viscount of Sherrinford, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, my brother, Captain John Watson, late of the 52nd Northumberland Fusilers.”

Sherlock stared at John, taking in every detail of the small captain as he made his bow to his brother and shifted his cane from one hand to the other.  His hand was steady when he stuck it out for Sherlock to shake.

“You left for war at least four years ago, for that is how long that particular waistcoat pattern fell out of fashion.  Clearly the money for new was not available when you returned home, and your old clothes were not worn enough to justify replacing so you continue to wear them.

“You must have enjoyed being a soldier, for that length of service means you stayed when you could have been reassigned elsewhere.  There was nothing for you at home, or perhaps you felt needed where you were.”

Sherlock had waited longer than typically polite before grasping John’s outstretched hand in greeting.  John had been too surprised to pull it back when Sherlock had opened his mouth.

“Oh, a surgeon’s hands.  That is the thing.  You felt you were needed out there.  Surely you were.  Steady hands, steady nerves, skill with a scalpel and saw.  Did you keep track of your success rate?  I’d be interested to know.”

“No, sorry,” John stuttered.  “Field hospital.  It often went too quickly to keep track.”

“Pity.”

Sherlock’s eyes moved over Harry and he opened his mouth again.

“Brother, perhaps your observations are better left unsaid for now,” Mycroft intervened.  It wouldn’t do for Sherlock to spill what was so obvious about Harry and spoil the forthcoming contract negotiations.

“Yes, yes, please come into the downstairs drawing room.  I’ll ring for tea, shall I?”  Harry seemed spurred into action by Lord Sherrinford, burst out of whatever thoughts he’d been having.  He gestured the two men into their receiving room, following and leaving John to limp along behind.

Chapter 4

 

John descended the staircase slowly.  The gentlemen in the foyer were striking, each more intimidating than the other.  The elder was auburn-headed, with pale skin that would likely freckle if he let it, but something about his manner said that he’d never allow something as insignificant as the sun damage his skin that way.  He had penetrating eyes, much like a hawk, bored but always on the watch for some sign of weakness.  The younger was as fair of skin, but his hair was ebony and wild.  As John watched, Sherlock whirled his greatcoat from his shoulders, and gracefully over the arm of their butler.  Lack of coat revealed a long, narrow body; he was incredibly tall and his thinness only emphasized that fact.  He seemed stretched, so thin and narrow, though tight breeches indicated he was quite fit.  He had his brother’s eyes; they clearly missed nothing.  The pair was quite astounding.

Harry burst in to make introductions in the foyer.  Before the ritual of rank and introduction could be completed, the raven-haired man burst into words.

“Waterloo or Quatre Bras?”

John’s limp could have been anything, a childhood injury or deformity from birth.  He could have been thrown from a horse or fallen down the stairs.  The man in front of him simply wanted to know during precisely which battle he’d been injured.

“Quatre Bras,” he answered, amazed.

“You were ill.”

“Yes, enteric fever.”

Harry finished his introductions, clearly unnerved.  The elder was Lord Mycroft Holmes, Viscount of Sherrinford.  The younger was named Sherlock Holmes.  Unusual names for those that must be quite unusual men.

John made his bow to Lord Sherrinford.  The man seemed to inspect him up and down rather than bowing or nodding in return.  John offered the younger brother a hand to shake, switching his cane to his left hand in the process.  He faltered for a second, wondering if he ought to have bowed, though neither brother indicated that the younger brother as well held a title.

Sherlock Holmes did not take his hand.  Instead he further proclaimed a half dozen facts, knowing… well, knowing John quite exactly.  Then he took John’s hand in his and announced a few more.

Their odd conversation was interrupted by Lord Sherrinford’s disapproval and Harry took the break to usher them all into the drawing room.

And somehow, just then, John realized that this tall, bluff man was intended to be his husband.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Writings

 

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NaNoWriMo Day 11

So what did I say about NaNoWriMo last year?  Don’t get behind; catching up sucks.  What did I do this year?  Blew it off until November 5 and then only write anything longhand so that I don’t even have an official word count until Day 10.  Jeez.  Punishment, meet glutton.

To be fair to myself, I’m been having a rather unhappy fall.  Lack of money is getting stressful and I have no one to blame but myself on that one.  To be cruel, I would have felt much better if I would have been writing.  Instead, I’ve been burying myself in as many distractions as possible and trying to stay out of my own head.  Difficult to write, doing that.

However, Day 11, and I finally have an updated word count, even though it’s only 4416, when the schedule would have me at 18,334.  Oh well.  🙂  As I said, I have been working longhand this week, and not everything is typed up.  (Nor is anything I’ve written in much of a chronological order.)  That not everything is typed up makes me feel better.  The 4K+ is not only stuff already written, but it is quite a bit of elaboration on what I had.  Some things were just moments, just a few lines, and I put them into context (or sometimes not).  So I feel much more confident than I did at the beginning of the weekend.

I actually had the weekend off, which was nice.  Supposed to get one weekend off a month, but it doesn’t always quite work out that way (though if I plan vacation right, sometimes I get three.)  I really needed the down time, without having to leave the house, see or speak to anyone, get out of bed early or plan my day around anything else but what I wanted to do.  Glorious.  I didn’t even feel this good on my week off last month.  Of course, I wasn’t up until four or five or six in the morning this weekend, which helps a great deal.

I did, however, sleep in, and in the most luxurious fashion possible.  I awoke, lay in bed dozing and daydreaming of scenes in my NaNoWriMo fic, until it screamed loud enough in my head to entice me to grab a pen and notebook.  Interestingly, I have NOT been writing in the Sherlock notebook I put together on Halloween night.  I’ve been writing in a spiral bound legal notebook I got a few months ago.  Guess that just suited me for some reason.

So, what, precisely, have I been writing?  Yeah, I ended up with the Sherlock fan fic.  At least in that, I did learn my lesson from last year.  Write whatever is strongest in your head.  Sort of a strike while the iron is hot sort of thing.  Sherlock is still strong in my head (read, I’m unhealthily obsessed) and so I went with that.  And since I’m a diehard Johnlocker, of course it is romance, too. 

There have yet to be zombies, but I don’t really have a plot yet.  So, Amy, maybe.  Damn, I actually got a pretty awesome blip in the head right there… something about Frankenstein monsters… that’s sort of a zombie, right? 🙂  It would sort of weirdly fit, too, since I went back in time, pre-Doyle, and have a Regency Sherlock instead.  (Yum, Regency Sherlock with his greatcoat flapping on the moors, like gothic romance only Sherlockier.)  Hmmm, the plot bubbles are colliding and bursting in my little head.  Hmmm.  I’m chortling, so it must be good.  And there will be bees.

As they say, ta!

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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