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.
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accepted the clothes because otherwise he’d be an embarrassment to his future husband dressed in his more rustic and outdated wardrobe.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.
“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.
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.”
“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?”
“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?”
“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.
“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 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.