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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Chapters 48-49-50

I’m still plugging along here, though at a much slower pace than hoped (not expected, I quite expect to be slow).  I’m working on Chapter 51 at the moment, which should a fun chapter where something might actually happen.  Generally, I feel like I’m floundering a bit as far as the plot goes.  I know what will happen at the end and I know some of the stuff I want to happen along the way, but I don’t have a concrete plan for each step along the way.

This is why I generally insist that I’m a planner who hates to plan, or a pantser that cannot pants for the life of me 🙂  Anyway, I’ve worked out in my head the next few chapters and we’ll take it from there.  I’ve laid a few plot bits down, so I have ideas I can work with when it comes to that.

On FF.net, I got a second fan who decided to comment on every single chapter, which is awfully sweet.  I’ve now 135 reviews, and about a hundred of those are from two people.  They simply felt that I needed more recognition, which is quite flattering.  I’ve got more comments on AO3, though many are from just a core of a few dedicated fans.  It’s nice either way.  Not everyone is into AU fan fiction, especially one not even set in Sherlock time whether turn of the century or current.  So I’m not particularly distressed by lack of hits or comments.  I’m just happy writing whatever I want to write.  (And this is definitely that.  I’m just making crap up as I go along, which reminds me of a Star Trek song by Voltaire, and that makes me laugh.)

This week was somewhat difficult as I was without internet at home.  One would have thought I would have had extra time for reading and writing then, but it was distressing to such a degree (and I realized how heavily I used thesaurus.com) that I was more distracted by the not having internet than I am by all the distractions of the internet.  Weird.  Anyway, it’s clearly back now, and I got some work done, but it had been almost three weeks without a post on my huntsman story and it’s been about 2 weeks since anything on Regency Sherlock, so I feel underaccomplished and far past any mental deadline.

At any rate, I ought to get back to work now and finish Chapter 51 because I did promise my coworkers I’d have it up by 8 tonight!  EEP!! 🙂  Anyway, here’s the finished stuff, through a fluffy, pointless Holmes Home scene in chapter 50:

(oh, and a by-the-by, Chapter 49 is one of my favorite chapters of the fic.. I’ve been waiting to fit it in since I wrote it, which was probably around November as it was in my head very very early.)

 

Chapter 48

Sherlock skulked around outside the frosted windows of the pub, peering in the door when someone entered or left.  Why were John and Lestrade sharing drinks and chatting with each other and not interrogating the pub’s landlord?  What were they laughing at?  What were they waiting for?  Sherlock stomped around inside his own head.  If only Corbeau hadn’t been so duplicitous, if only Sherlock had been able to go in there, he’d have finished the task already.  He might even have a suspect he could hunt down, a name, a direction.

Maybe John was still a little annoyed with him and wanted him to wait out in the cold alone for a while.  That seemed unlikely; John had been quite amenable to his requests that afternoon.  He even read to Sherlock (in admittedly deplorable Italian) while he worked.  The sound of his mild voice had been desperately nice.  And John’s rather alarming attempt at the proper Italian accent had been quite funny even if Sherlock had been too intent on his experiment to laugh.

He hadn’t managed to replicate the concoction, but he could keep trying.  It wasn’t as important to the case as finding the culprit.  But the evidence was leading him all over London.  It wasn’t a matter of having too little evidence, but too much.  Too many possibilities.  Oh, but it was brilliant!  This interminable waiting, however, was horrendous.

Sherlock hoped that John and Lestrade might come up with a viable lead inside The Fortune of War.  Sherlock hadn’t been strictly honest about why Corbeau was so annoyed with him, and tossing him out of the pub was the best case scenario if Sherlock sauntered in.  Finding himself laid out on one of the benches in the back room with a price tag posted above him was much more likely.

Sherlock fidgeted, wanting to hurry John and Lestrade along.  What were they doing in there?  John was turned to Lestrade, his smile sunny and Lestrade winked back.  Blast!  The door swung shut again and a patron brushed Sherlock aside in annoyance.  Sherlock couldn’t even be bothered to deduce how much the customer had to drink or what sort of profession he held, or which streets he’d walked through during the day based by the mud on his shoes or the smell of his jacket.

Muddled, everything was muddled.  The past twenty-four hours thoughts of John had taken up a rather defensive position in Sherlock’s brain, despite all intent to rout them completely.  First John had gotten along at the Professor’s quite famously, proving himself well able to converse along the lines of Sherlock’s more peculiar interests.  John was intelligent; perhaps not up to Sherlock’s level of brilliance, but he’d educated himself well and perhaps only his dedication to his comrades-in-arms had kept him from rising higher in his ranks or securing a safer, more prestigious medical position in a hospital or university.

Later that night, John had become unbearably angry with him only to turn about and confide in Sherlock something private and, John clearly thought, shameful.  Sherlock couldn’t even focus completely on the heads in the morgue for thinking about how things were broken and how powerless he was to understand them, much less fix them.

And John had touched him.  John was always touching him.  Sherlock noticed this acutely.  They walked linked hand-on-elbow and John sometimes patted Sherlock’s arm which immediately turned his thoughts from wherever they were to John.

Sherlock couldn’t help his voice coming out a bit cross when John touched him.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like it.  He did – too much.  It distracted him and he could not afford to be so distracted in the midst of a case.  But he didn’t want to forego that touch either.  John’s hand tucked around his elbow, John’s fingers so light and careful on the bruising on his throat, John’s strong hand cupped over his shoulder.  Just those simple touches were too much, so much.

And there were more touches to think on – John’s hand warming his knee in the garden while pressing those (kind, smiling, pleasing) lips to Sherlock’s own.  It had been all Sherlock could do not to respond ardently in full view of his brother’s guests.  There was little, perhaps nothing, John could do to keep Sherlock from wanting to respond ardently, and therein lay the problem.  Sherlock wouldn’t let himself fall into that maelstrom of mindless lust and animalism that accompanied intimate relations.

Even now, when Sherlock ought to be spending his downtime going over the details of the case in his head, his thoughts were entirely on the handsome young man he had somehow agreed to marry.  It would have been so much easier if he could bring himself to ignore his husband’s existence.

And again, that warm hand on the middle of his back, John’s hand, nudged Sherlock out of his reverie and back onto Giltspur Street where both John and Lestrade were suddenly standing.

“You should have heard John’s Edinburgh accent, Holmes.  It was profoundly funny.  Had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing every time John opened his mouth.”

“I do hope it was better than your atrocious Italian accent, John,” Sherlock quipped dryly.  John laughed.  The sound was merry and made Sherlock warm even in the cold night.

“Oh, aye, I’m a right master of the language of my forefathers, husband,” John said in his thickest Scottish brogue.  “So prove to me your Italian accent is quality enough to deride mine.”

Sherlock felt a bit giddy as John looped their arms together and tugged him in the vague direction of home.  That giddiness was the only explanation for what Sherlock did next.

He began to sing.

The notes of the rude little ditty bounced along in a catchy manner, the words pronounced in his worst Italian, his rich voice full of all tones playful.

Sherlock could speak flawlessly in six languages, there was the interview with Corbeau to discuss, there was Lestrade to dismiss for the night, but instead Sherlock wanted to make John laugh.

 

Chapter 49

 

Sherlock burst into John’s bedroom the next morning with unusual fervor carrying, of all things, John’s morning tea tray.  He flew across the room dressed in nothing more than an untucked shirt and breeches under an open banyan, feet bare despite the morning chill.

“Do wake up, John!” he said, plunking the tea tray down on the table hard enough that the cup and saucer clanked and rattled.

The upon-waking bleariness shot out of John’s eyes as he assessed the threat before realizing where he was.

“Good morning, Sherlock,” he said when the fact that he was in their home in London, in his own warm bed.  It was a comforting realization he’d had to make a couple times in the night.  The lamp he left burning by the door still glowed in the daylight.  Sherlock noticed and padded over to extinguish it without a word.  The thick fabric of his robe billowed out behind him as he walked.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this early morning call?”  John adjusted himself in bed, sitting up and fluffing pillows against the headboard.

“An experiment, John.  I could barely stand to wait for you to wake!”

“You didn’t wait, Sherlock.”  But his annoyed tone was false and Sherlock didn’t notice it anyway.

“You were sleeping badly as it was.”  He made a sweeping gesture at John’s bedside table where a second lamp sat, oil somewhat depleted, as well as a book.  John imagined Sherlock knew exactly how many pages he’d read in the night, too.

“Come now, take your morning piss and drink your tea so we can begin.”  Sherlock brought up the chamber pot from under the bed.  “In whichever order you prefer, John, but do hurry.”

“What’s the rush?”  John tried to evacuate his bladder in the time Sherlock was turned away fetching his tea.

When John finished, Sherlock rushed away with the covered pot, leaving John to sigh and wonder if the man planned to experiment with it rather than just empty it. Really, he did not want to know.

Sherlock had left his tea on top of his book so John could reach it from the bed.  Matthews had been leaving it on the table near the fireplace when he came in to build up the fire.  The change was nice.  Usually it took him a good five minutes to balance himself out of bed and creak the short distance to his comfortable chair.  It was awful starting every day feeling so old and decrepit.  Perhaps he should request his tea tray beside the bed in the future.  The thought made him feel sixty.  Perhaps not.

Sherlock returned pot-less.

“So what is this experiment, Sherlock?”

“I’ve noticed your movements in the morning, John.  It takes you a painfully long time to rise and start getting about.  You walk about a good deal during the day with relative ease, thus your leg must stiffen in the night.  I would like to try some different massage and exercise techniques to see if any will make it easier on you.”

John’s eyebrows lifted as he sipped his tea.  That was thoughtful and… personal.  Very personal.

“Are you drinking your tea?  Have you drunk it?”

John hid his smile by further draining his cup before setting it aside.

“First, I must examine the scarring.”  He flung back the covers in one great wave.

“Sherlock!”  The chill of the room was a bit startling and John’s nightshirt was rucked up, leaving John on display from the waist down.  John flushed red and tugged the tail of his nightshirt to a slightly more modest position.

“Yes, what is it?”  Sherlock either did not notice his blatant nudity or he was pleased that he could freely examine John’s leg from hip to toe without obfuscation.

“Never mind,” John replied as he lay back and looked at the ceiling.  He did not need to look at his own leg again.  Let Sherlock see if he wanted.

“Aren’t you cold, Sherlock?” John asked after a few minutes.  Sherlock had stirred up the fire, but the room was still cold and now John’s lower extremities were fully exposed.

“Cold is a state of mind.”  Sherlock was wrong enough but his dismissive statement made John smile.

He tried not to think of the intense perusal, to pretend that Sherlock was just another doctor, not his rather distant husband.  Certainly not the husband that strode into his bedroom in a state of undress looking so handsome and long-legged and rumpled.  And definitely not the husband whose slim form John wished to similarly explore.  He could only pray that his hot blood stayed in his face and didn’t deflect to similarly heat up his groin.

It was clinical, Sherlock’s examination, and methodic, if very hands-on.  Sherlock covered each scar with cool fingertips, moving John’s leg this way and that, bending his knee and ankle slightly to see the movement.  Still, sometimes the movements were undignified and John felt incredibly uncomfortable cupping his hands over his groin.  If this was going to be a regular occurrence, he was going to wear drawers to bed.

“I shall try massage first, John.  It will also allow me to more deeply examine the scarring in the muscles and tendons underneath.  It may increase your discomfort at first, though.”

John made a non-committal hum.  It wasn’t as if Sherlock was waiting for permission.

The massage – slash – deep tissue exam wasn’t entirely pleasant, but John refused to complain.  Sherlock was trying to help; the least John could do was let him.  Sherlock might raise John’s leg perpendicular to the rest of his body, for example, and dig his fingers into a particular scar and bend his knee to feel how the muscles and tendons moved under his fingertips.  John tried to think of his anatomy dissections and wondered if Sherlock had attended anatomy lectures himself.  It seemed more than likely.

John was rather glad that those fingers sometimes caused him pain.  It was better than the fluttery feeling of arousal in his belly when Sherlock’s hands were too gentle and explored places like the uninjured inner bend of his knee or the soft skin where this thigh flared into buttock.  Sometimes those fingers just ruffled the hairs on his legs, or outlined a deep scar.  John would flush with embarrassment, or least he called it that, and will his thoughts to something less lascivious than Sherlock making those same intent observations over every inch of his body.

More than (an agonizing) half an hour later, Sherlock declared himself finished for the day.

“I believe it is the scar tissue here that is the biggest problem.”  Sherlock indicated one of the darkest scars just below John’s knee.  “It has stiffened up a tendon, though I believe the tendon is intact or at least healed.  We shall have to see if we can stretch it a bit.  Was it painful, John?”

“Some, yes,” he replied when he realized he was expected to do so.

“I’m not doing this as systematic torture.  You should have said something if it hurt too much.”

“It wasn’t too much, Sherlock.”  John laid his hand on Sherlock’s arm, not even sure if the man was still listening.  “I promise I’d tell you if it was too much.  It was nothing more than I’d feel all morning hobbling around on my own.  Besides, I have faith that this will help.”

“You do?”

“I do, Sherlock.  If my health is a puzzle for you to figure out, I imagine I’ll be an acrobat by the end of the month.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes at the hyperbole but it was clear to John that the faith and flattery eased some strain inside him.  Inside both of them, perhaps.

“Well, walk about then, and tell me if it is improved.”  Sherlock handed John his cane and moved far enough away to properly observe.  So this was why Sherlock had asked him to walk around so randomly the day before.  John slid off the bed, balancing carefully.  He took a few steps, one hand on the edge of the bed.  By the time he’d made it to the fireplace, he felt much more comfortable.

“I feel very much improved, Sherlock, nowhere near as rough as I usually do first thing.  Thank you.”

John beamed at him and Sherlock was momentarily taken aback.

“You’re welcome, John.”

A few more trips about the room and John said, “I think I’m ready to dress and join civilization.  Would you like to walk out with me around ten and perhaps discover a new restaurant for luncheon?”

“If you wish, John.  I must make a list of the unguents and salves I want to try, and we can go shopping after I finish writing up my notes on our experiment.”  Sherlock abruptly strode out the door, slamming it shut behind him.

 

Chapter 50

 

When John had been dressed, he joined Sherlock in their sitting room.  A heartier breakfast had been laid to table and John helped himself to it.  Sherlock lounged in one of the chairs at the small table, left hand hovering over his teacup and no evidence of food on the plate before him.  His attention was on a silver tray of mail to his right.  A hearty percentage of said mail had already been flicked to the floor.  Matthews stood near the door with his eyes trained studiously away, as if he desperately wanted to pick it up but had already been scolded from doing so once.

John scooped up a few stray letters from the floor after he’d set his plate down and settled himself in his chair.

“Well, you did say once that you had little interest in correspondence, Sherlock, but this is a trifle extreme, is it not?”

“Nonsense, John.  Extreme would be setting fire to the salver.  Or at least that’s what Mycroft deems extreme.”

John shot an alarmed glance at Matthews.  The servant flicked his eyes over, gave the smallest of smiles, and straightened up again.

“Perhaps I ought to deal with the mail, then, shall I?  Then you only have to view those few pieces of the utmost importance.”

“Gladly.”  Sherlock nudged the salver towards John, keeping only one small square of paper for himself.  John nodded towards Matthews, who quickly crouched by his side to collect the rest of the letters discarded on the floor.  John then tidied the pile and examined each return address before sorting the letters into one of several piles.  Notes clearly from Sherlock’s family, or which addressed Dr. and Mr. Watson-Holmes, John piled together in a “wedding salutations” stack, while others from addresses and names he did not recognize, or notes addressed to Sherlock in particular were designated into another.  A third stack emerged when he recognized the name of Edgers and Sons and he began a “bills” pile.

John took a few bites of his meal before tackling the first pile.  Each note was unfolded carefully, read, and set aside for a later reply.  John also made a mental note to start a book of addresses for the directions of each of Sherlock’s relations.  Only two of the letters had been from John’s own relation, and no one besides Harry had been in attendance at his wedding.

“Just throw those away, John.  If you get into the habit of replying to correspondence, then it shall become expected that you do so.  The volume of letters exchanged will increase exponentially.”

John agreed just a little bit, if only because he dreaded writing out the same insipid reply to each well-wisher.

“Oh, but your cousin Petrina writes.  We should have her for a visit before she leaves London.  She’s quite engaging.”

Sherlock didn’t answer; he appeared to be lost in his mind once again.  The letter he’d kept was held open by his long fingers; John took a bite of his toast and tried to see who it was from.  Lestrade, he guessed by the sprawling initial at the bottom of the page.

“What does Mr. Lestrade write this morning?  Some new evidence on the case since last night?  Or has he written to inform you of another mysterious letter arriving at Bow Street?”  They had left the man less than twelve hours ago.  Surely, unlike Sherlock, Lestrade was a man who went home and slept occasionally.

“Hmm?  No, not yet.  He writes to remind me of an execution this morning, a man named Davies we caught some months ago.  His sentence came as quite a relief to Mr. Lestrade.  The evidence against him was quite circumstantial until I noticed a new, shiny nail in one of the floorboards.  It suggested a bent nail had been recently replaced, so I had the constables tear up the floorboards in his house and dig beneath.  If the man had disposed of his bloody clothing and the murder weapon in the Thames and they’d been swept out to sea, we would never have obtained a conviction.”

“So he was hanged this morning, then?  Did you not wish to attend to see the sentence carried out?”

“Not particularly.  It is enough knowing it was done.”

“So whom did he murder?”

“Irrelevant.  The details of his sentence were related to the cannibalism.”

“Oh.”  John removed the sausage from his plate.  After a moment, he laid a napkin over it.

“Lestrade writes that the body will be subjected to dissection this afternoon.  The presiding surgeon will be Forrest Oliver.  He is not the most entertaining or dramatic of dissectionists, but he does have some interesting theories on the human brain.  It is likely he will be curious about what might turn a man to such unnaturalness.  After all, Davies was quite plump and hardly ill off enough to starve.”

Sherlock returned to thoughtfulness and John returned to a somewhat unappetizing breakfast.

“Did you wish to attend the dissection, then, Sherlock?  Or did you have other plans for the afternoon?  We ought to be here in the evening in case our resurrection man turns up, but otherwise our plans are flexible.”

“It could be useful.  Not for the dissection itself, but to view the audience.”

They agreed to go and Sherlock mentioned nothing of being banished from the theaters of St. Bartholomew’s as he had been from the Royal Society; he was clearly allowed free reign (despite Anderson’s objections) over more than just the bowels of the building.  John looked forward to Sherlock’s likely heckling of the afternoon’s lecturer with some juvenile delight.  It seemed fair to assume that he wouldn’t hold his tongue if he deemed anything the lecturer postulated was untrue; and with as brilliant as Sherlock had proven to be so far, it was probable that the lecturer would stumble on at least one topic.

They spent the morning strolling around London, John’s gloved hand curled around Sherlock’s elbow as was becoming custom.  Sherlock spent much of the time describing the differences between mud splatter from the banks of the Thames and the splash of a puddle of slush forming amongst uneven cobbles.  John laughed when he realized Sherlock had delivered a deliberately ridiculous deduction about the mud in Mayfair being of much finer grain than mud elsewhere in London and, of course, imbued with gold shavings from the wealthy inhabitants.

Sherlock smiled back, pleased.  He allowed John to examine the splashes on his boots when they sat to luncheon a couple hours later and described the area of the city where each bit of dirt originated.

“It is the smallest detail, John, that often solves a puzzle,” Sherlock lectured over their midday meal.  “The shininess of a nail head betrayed Davies.  By a man’s fingernails, his callouses, the cut and mend of his coat, one can decipher his life.  I have trained myself to notice these things as much as possible.”

John’s face glowed at Sherlock, surprising the taller man into an uncomfortable silence.  He picked at the spicy food in front of him.  John had not objected when, instead of a fine hotel restaurant, Sherlock had led them to a rather dark and smoky room inhabited only by dusky foreigners, though he couldn’t help but question whether this was even a restaurant.  Sherlock had met this with a bright smile and wink.

“There are small pockets of foreign lands within London, John, if you know where to look.”

Sherlock had ordered for both of them when a smiling gentleman stopped by their table.  John’s mouth had dropped open when Sherlock began speaking in the same nasal tongue he heard all around him.  The waiter (if that was what he was) smiled again and bowed three times before backing away.

“My goodness, Sherlock, when did you learn that language?”

“I daresay, I would never starve in Canton, but I am not fluid in all aspects of the language.”

John chuckled.  “They seem unsurprised to see you here.  Do you visit often?  I had no idea this part of the city existed.”

Sherlock allowed that he’d eaten here several times, and that the food was excellent, if unfamiliar to British palates.

Their food arrived quickly, thin soup and noodles, a few vegetables John was unfamiliar with.  It was quite delicious and he made quick work of each dish placed in front of him.  Sherlock was too distracted to eat much but he did sip down his portion of the soup and ate a few bits off John’s plate to show him the unfamiliar dishes were tasty

After John’s appetite was sated, they rose to meander in the direction of St. Bart’s Hospital.

 

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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

chapters 45-46-47

Had the world’s worst time figuring out chapter 47.  Utter nightmare.  I wrote the bit about going to the morgue, decided to have them stop off at the Fortune of War pub because it was nearby (and it’s super close, I’ve got a lovely 1818 map to refer to from here http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/1818map/1818map_linkc.htm) and also a picture reference of the place from 1910 before it was torn down http://oldebreweryrecorder.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/fortune-of-war-public-house-giltspur.html which was an awesome find, and thanks to the person who posted it!  🙂

Mostly my problem with the chapter was that I really had no idea what I wanted to come of the visit to the pub.  I wrote a few paragraphs, liked some things, disliked others, couldn’t think of a way to get things to work out without screwing with my entire plotline.  I imagined who they would meet there, threw out possibility after possibility.  Mostly I just want to post what will now be chapter 49, which has been written pretty much since I started this fic and has been put off AGES now.  The solution I came up with, finally, does preserve this chapter.  I would have hated for it to be an outtake.

Ah, outtakes.  I do have a vague plan for when I’m done to post a few outtakes in a chapter of their own, just for fun.  Shame to conceive of or write chapters that ended up being redundant or not fitting into the scheme of things properly.  So I’ll probably post them anyway.

Chapter 45

 

When John woke, the haunting strains of the violin had long since ceased to drift through his door.  He felt rested, though a glance at the clock on his mantle showed it was still early afternoon.  After he rang the bell for Matthews, he shuffled to the cold tea tray left by the fireplace.  The tea was long past being drinkable, but there was nothing wrong with the breads and sweets.

Matthews arrived promptly to help John dress, though he could have done so himself since he wasn’t planning on leaving the house.  Matthews helped him into a long pair of trousers, fresh muslin shirt, soft leather shoes, and one of the thick sweaters knitted for him by Mrs. Phillips instead of a waistcoat.  The wool felt warm and comforting.

Before Matthews swept away with the forgotten tea tray, John requested that a cold meal be served in the sitting room.  He’d gone to bed hungry, not having so much as tea the night before, and hadn’t been in the mood to request anything special from Mrs. Hudson in the night.

“And ask Mr. Holmes if he would care to join me, if he can be separated from his laboratory.”

“Mr. Holmes is currently in the sitting room, sir.  I believe he has taken over the small dining table for his experiments.”

If Matthews hadn’t said so, the smell of the sitting room would have immediately given Sherlock away.

“Feeling improved, John?”  Sherlock didn’t lift his head from the dropper and test tube in his hands.

“Much, thank you.  You know, you have a perfectly good lab downstairs, Sherlock.”

“But there’s no room for you there until I have the time to organize everything and I need for you to read while I work.”

“Anything in particular?”

De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius by Luigi Galvani.  Should be on the bottom right shelf, fourth book from the end.”  Sherlock tentatively sniffed his concoction.

“Should I open a window or shall I trust you not to poison yourself?”

“I work out all the chemical combinations on paper, first, before mixing them together.  I am not working with completely unknown chemicals.  I shall not inadvertently kill us both.”

“I hope I may trust you on that.”  John found the book in question and brought it with him to the chair by the fireplace, one facing Sherlock’s direction.  He settled himself, cane hung on the chair’s arm, bad leg elevated on a faded hassock near the fire.  “Might I ask why Galvani is on the last shelf?”

“Purchased it yesterday.”  Sherlock added a drop of something new to his test tube, observed the results, jotted down a note.

“You haven’t had time to place it properly in your organizational system?”  John gestured to the multitudes of books that had appeared on the shelving the morning before.

“It is properly placed.  I shelve chronologically.”

“Chronologically?  By publication date?”  That would make it a challenge to find anything, but it made John grin.

“By date of interest.  I wished to refresh myself on Galvani’s theories of biology and electrochemistry.  It has only become relevant recently.”

“How, precisely, is it relevant?”

“He made certain conclusions about animal electricity that Alessandro Volta disproved; however, I seem to remember something about an electrical fluid in the studies.  What if one could create this electrical fluid and inject it into a body?”

“Is that what you think this mystery liquid is?  An electrical fluid of some sort?”  John had come across some of Galvani’s experiments during his schooling, and of course the medical students found great delight in the ghoulish application of electricity to frogs and other simple creatures that populated the anatomy lab, but the full detail of his theories was unfamiliar.

“I will not guess, no, but it is one of several working theories.”

“And that means that the man who attacked you is filled with this electrical fluid instead of blood?”

“Electrical fluid, or perhaps some sort of preservative.”

“Sherlock, what are you saying?  That this man who attacked you, that this creature, was resurrected from the dead, or is an artificial construct of a man?”

“A homunculus, perhaps, named by Paracelsus, and created by someone for a purpose I cannot say.  Really, John, you do surprise me.  I had thought to have to explain a lot more of this to you.”  Sherlock turned to him, looking more than pleased.  “You are certainly not as dull as the masses.”

“It’s impossible, Sherlock!  Alchemists have been trying to create life for centuries.  None have ever been successful!”

“Not impossible, John.  When we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

“That’s crazy, Sherlock.  There is a man, a real man, killing people and leaving their bodies all over London.  A crazed, sick, evil man, but a normal man.  What you’re suggesting is the impossible notion, that which should be eliminated.”

“What we have, John, is a collection of body parts meant to be grafted onto another body.”  Sherlock jumped up and delivered a sheaf of notes he’d taken the night before while examining the heads.  “You noted the excess skin yourself.  On the heads, not only was there excess skin but there were stitch marks on both the skin and in the musculature that would support the head.  Foolish, in my opinion, to remove the head completely since the spine is such a delicate and complex part of a man, but there you have it.”

“Sherlock…”  John paged through the notes where Sherlock had carefully marked the location of each hole piercing the skin.

“I’m not saying that our scientist-cum-necromancer was completely successful.”  Sherlock returned to his seat and added two test tubes rather haphazardly into a larger flask.

“But you are saying exactly that if you think the man you saw last night is filled with electrical fluid.”

“And the result is apparently a mix of mental deficiency, loss of fine motor skills, and homicidal tendencies.”  Sherlock sniffed at his concoction again and sighed, setting it aside as a failure.  “Read aloud please.”

John opened the book and glanced down at the first page.

“It’s in Italian, Sherlock.”

“Of course it is.  With a first name like Luigi, do you expect the book to be written in German?”

John rolled his eyes.  “But I do not speak Italian.”

“You speak Latin and, most probably, at least some French.  I think you can make do with those and an enthusiastic accent.  Besides, I’m not asking you to translate.  Simply read.”

John chuckled to himself at the ridiculousness of the request, but started his awkward recitation of the syllables on the page.

By the time Matthews returned to light the lamps and remove John’s supper tray, Sherlock had become frustrated with his rack of improper formulations.  He tossed his scrupulous notes aside on the floor.  He scraped a mark on his coat, sniffing it carefully before announcing that Matthews could certainly take it to be cleaned now; there was nothing more to be done.

“Pace back and forth, just here, John.”

“Beg pardon?”  John had been sitting, bad leg on a stool and warm near the fireplace.  He’d been excused from Galvani’s writings half an hour ago and had begun to read through the pile of newspapers Sherlock had delivered.

“Why, Sherlock.”  His husband rolled his eyes, but answered.

“I need to observe something.”

When it became clear Sherlock wasn’t going to further elaborate on his demand, John heaved himself out of the chair with the aid of his cane and paced in the six foot area Sherlock indicated.  Sherlock’s eyes focused intently on him for a few minutes, but then they glazed over and he bounced out of his chair.

“Oh!” he declared suddenly.  “Oh!  If the man who dumped the body parts is a construct, then he was possibly one of the missing persons in Lestrade’s files.  Matthews!  I must dress and go to Bow Street at once!  If I can re-sort the possibilities, I might be able to identify our murderer!”

John still thought the idea of a resurrected man ridiculous, but Sherlock’s enthusiasm warmed him.  Sherlock shot up the stairs to his bedroom, Matthews following briskly but in a much less flurried manner.  Matthews clipped down the steps a few minutes later, following Sherlock’s loud, “Dress John, too!  That jumper is positively pedestrian, even for Bow Street!”

 

Chapter 46

John did not expect Lestrade to be at his desk when Sherlock burst into his small office at Bow Street, (with John following sedately behind, of course), yet the man was there, reading through stacks of papers and mussing his short-cut salt and pepper hair.

“Good evening, Mr. Lestrade,” John said as Sherlock stole the papers out of Lestrade’s hand.  Lestrade sighed resignedly and returned John’s greeting.

Lestrade’s eyes danced over the two of them: Sherlock’s muttering, highly-focused demeanor; and John’s good-natured grin as he made himself comfortable in the corner chair again.

“Yes, yes, clearly your advice worked, Lestrade.  Stop gloating and start helping,” Sherlock snapped.

“Advice?” John asked.

“Go through these,” Sherlock directed, ignoring the question and dropping a pile of papers on John’s lap.  “Sort out any that fit the description.”  John nodded and started a ‘no’ pile and a ‘maybe’ pile for Sherlock to look through later.

Lestrade raised his eyebrows at the two men.

“Sherlock thinks one of the missing persons may have been… coerced into being an associate or henchman to a greater criminal mind,” John clarified, since Sherlock didn’t seem about to explain their intrusion.

“Coerced, how?”

John shrugged helplessly.  “Killed and reanimated resulting in a highly suggestible mind.”

If Lestrade had been drinking, he would have choked on it.

“Reanimated?  You’re pulling my leg.”

“No, actually John has the right of it.  It is possible that an unknown scientific genius has made a breakthrough in the mysteries of life and death.  What his further purpose is, I do not have enough data to postulate.  Now, if we can just sort through all the files again, removing the ones which could not possibly be our killer or henchman…”

“Killer?”

“The young boy from the morgue,” John answered.  “Sherlock concluded that the man from his attack last night and the boy’s killer are one and the same.”

“And that he’s a reanimated corpse.”  Lestrade weakly attempted sarcasm failed miserably.

“Yes, Lestrade, do keep up,” Sherlock said sharply, abandoning one stack of papers for another.  Lestrade slapped his hand down atop them to keep them from spilling across his desk.

“I am not entirely convinced,” John said with an uncertain tone.

“One thing I’ve noticed about working with Holmes is that the more outlandish his theory, the more likely that he’s right.”  Lestrade did not sound too particularly excited about this particular outlandish theory.

During the ensuing silence, as Sherlock and John started glancing through the handwritten reports, Donovan rapped a meaty fist on the doorjamb.

“Oi, Lestrade, I’m supposed to tell you that a body washed up this afternoon near the King’s Arm Stairs.”

“Why are you supposed to tell me that?”

“Dimmock thinks you’d like to see the body.  Said you were poking your nose into a lot of missing persons.”  Donovan shrugged in a ‘why should I care?’ way.  “I see you’ve made up from your little tiff with the husband already, Holmes.  Can’t imagine how that happened.  Or does a little slap and tickle make it all better?”

Donovan nearly danced with glee that Sherlock flushed red and had no response for him.

“Oh ho!  You look like a fish, Holmes, with that gaping mouth.”

John was the one who stood quite suddenly in front of Donovan, who was more than a head taller than him and nearly twice as wide.

“If your messenger duty is done, Mr. Donovan, then I suggest you leave.”  John’s Captain Watson voice slashed through Donovan’s crude crowing and the beefy man blinked down at his underdog adversary.

It only took ten seconds for Donovan to decide not to take his chances with the grim-faced, militaristic man standing chest-to-chest (sort of) with him.

When Donovan left without another word, Sherlock glared at Lestrade as if he would tear the man’s tongue from his mouth.

The glare didn’t disturb Lestrade.  “Gregson from the night watch reported to the river police before he stopped by Bow Street.  Nasty little gossip,” he said.  “When would I have spoken to Donovan today?  And why would I have done, if it wasn’t necessary?  The man is an ogre.”

Sherlock sheathed his mighty glare with a bitter, “I know that,” but still the papers he sorted through experienced a small amount of his wrath.  His face remained flushed and he wouldn’t look at John until he was distracted enough by the reports to put the incident aside.

“No likely candidates,” Sherlock decided after another hour.  “This one,” he said, holding up a file on Charles Bellows, might have been a possibility if we had not identified his head in the night.”

“Well, perhaps he was missing longer.  How far back do these files go?” John asked Lestrade.

“Only three months.  If this fellow was taken longer ago than that, or was never reported missing, we wouldn’t have a file.”

“Perhaps it was a natural death, or given the stitching on the neck, a convicted criminal.  If our mystery scientist had been granted autopsy on a criminal, that would surely solve this with a simple inquiry.  I know it would be unlike the others, but if it was a first try the madman is trying to replicate, perhaps he robbed a grave or, more likely, hired someone to do it for him like any other anatomist.  We could ask around at the Fortune of War pub, see if there are any murmurings among the resurrection men.”

Both Lestrade and Sherlock looked at John, surprised.

“What?  I am a doctor.  I’m not ignorant about where my lecturers got bodies for autopsy.”

“There was no stink of the grave on the body, just that strange chemical odour,” Sherlock mused.  “Of course, he was relatively well-groomed for a walking corpse, wore well-made clothes.  If the body had been exposed to the cold weather, slowing putrefaction, and the blood quickly replaced with this remarkable fluid, then perhaps that theory should not be completely disqualified.  This will certainly open up avenues for investigation, though I had been hoping to be closing in on the culprit by now.”

“Did he just say you could be right?” asked Lestrade with a gentle smirk on his face.

Sherlock had delved deeply into his own mind and wasn’t paying attention.

“Yes, Mr. Lestrade, I do believe he did.”

“John, Lestrade!” Sherlock barked, halfway out the door.  “Are you coming to the morgue to check on the body?”

 

Chapter 47

 

The three men shared a hack again on the way to the morgue, reminding John of his recent wedding day: Lestrade pleasant and chatty; Sherlock distantly in thought; London passing outside the window, bustling with life.  John wished for a moment alone with Sherlock so they could talk about what Donovan had said.  Of course, Sherlock would likely deny all importance of the insult and his uncharacteristic reaction to it and stride away if possible.  All in all, having the conversation entirely in John’s head would be about as effective.

Instead, John merely patted Sherlock’s arm.

“What is it, John?  I’m thinking.”

“Nothing, Sherlock.”  John was glad the darkness inside the carriage hid his blush.  “Just checking to make sure you were still with us.”

“Where else would I be?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time you jumped from a moving carriage and ran down a suspect you just happened to pass by on the street,” Lestrade supplied, his grin nearly audible.

“The door to the carriage has not opened, Lestrade.  Surely even you can observe that.  Now stop interrupting my thoughts with such trifling inanities.”

The hack rolled up to the morgue entrance of Bart’s.  Sherlock hopped out with his usual energy and left John and Lestrade to bring up the rear.  John passed a coin to the driver.  He’d found his small purse filled this morning, so either Sherlock, or more likely Mycroft through the servants, must have seen fit to supply him with a bit of walking around money.

By the time Lestrade and John had arrived at the door, Sherlock was already coming back out.

“Suicide,” he said with a certain dismissal.

“Are you sure?” Lestrade asked.

John hid a smile.  It was unlikely that Lestrade doubted Sherlock’s verdict, but Sherlock did seem to gain satisfaction from listing off his deductions to an audience, for he puffed up when he began to explain.

“Young woman, maybe all of twenty.  Her dress has had panels added to the sides yet she does not currently need the full expansion.  I’d estimate she gave birth less than a month ago.  Likely she has left the infant with a sympathetic sister because the father of the babe was disinterested in making any formal arrangements or offer.  She might have ended her life sooner, but she thought that the man would change his mind upon seeing the child.  He did not.  Thus she filled her pockets with stones and either jumped off Westminster Bridge, or, given the quick current, walked into the river at some other upstream point.  No real point in dallying.  Her identity will become known shortly; she was not in the water long enough before discovery to disguise her appearance with bloating.  Not your division, Lestrade.  Dimmock was either deliberately wasting your time, or he’s too dull to see what is in front of him.  Care for a drink?”

Sherlock was already striding down the street, making quite a distance between them with those long legs of his.

“The Fortune of War is that way,” John said as he and Lestrade exchanged looks.  The revelation made them both follow Holmes with just a little bit more haste.

There was very little special about that public house on Pye Corner except that its very location so close to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital made it a convenient location for surgeons and resurrection men to meet.  John had never been there himself, though he’d spent a short time completing his surgeon’s training at Bart’s before he entered the army medical corps.  The pub and its traditions were whispered about in the hospital halls, however.  Several of the surgery lecturers were known to have a steady stream of incoming bodies for their students to observe and occasionally practice on, despite the law.

The only legally available corpses were convicts sentenced to hanging and dissection and those sentences were becoming quite rare in comparison to rising demand by medical colleges.  John considered the practice of stealing the dead from their rightful resting places despicable, but a necessary evil.  After all, one shouldn’t be cutting for the first time into a living patient.  He couldn’t avoid the practice, as it was so pervasive, but he understood it.

Sherlock paced outside the public house when they caught up to him.

“Something the matter?”

“Corbeau is working.  He won’t be helpful.”

“What did you say to him?” Lestrade asked with an eye roll.

“I needed some leverage and may have threatened to tell some of the resurrectionists exactly how much he was skimming off their profits.  It wouldn’t have been a threat at all if he hadn’t been lying to them about it.”

“Mr. Lestrade and I can go in,” John volunteered.  “What should we look for?”

Sherlock didn’t answer him, just paced back and forth along the short side of the building.

“You burned a bridge, Holmes,” Lestrade scolded.  “This is what happens when you don’t think before you speak.”

“I always think before I speak, Lestrade.”  Sherlock flung his hands out in irritation.  “The information was well worth Corbeau’s current and future hatred at the time.  Unfortunately, that situation is long past and we need his cooperation now.”

“Sherlock, just tell me what you need.”  John placed his hand on Sherlock’s arm.  Sherlock stared at it until John pulled it away.

“Ideally?  I’d ask Corbeau to send someone with experience in fulfilling special requests around my direction.  Also, if there was anyone rather new to the trade, someone unusual.  And a hot toddy would be spectacular, if I thought he wouldn’t poison me.”

“What address should I give?”  John slightly rumpled his clothing, pulling at the knot in his neck cloth to loosen it as if he’d been fighting with it all day.

“Ours would be fine.”  Sherlock gave John a rather mystified look.  “He won’t recognize the address.”

“Fine.  Coming Lestrade?”  John gave a wide smile to the other man and held open the door for him.

John and Lestrade ducked into the Fortune of War.  It was moderately busy, but there were a couple seats near the bar.  The pub landlord looked John and Lestrade over from behind the bar.  A few of the men around the room did the same before turning back to their pints.

“What can I do for you gentlemen?”  Having taken his stock of them, the landlord clearly didn’t think they were there for a drink.  Lestrade and John swaggered up to the bar, taking a couple of seats closer to the landlord’s suspicious glare.

“Just stepped out of lectures at Bart’s,” John lied smoothly, affecting an Edinburgh accent.  “Doctor Knox told me once this was a friendly place for surgeons to unwind at the end of a long day.  Worked with him at the Brussels Military Hospital last year.”  John lifted his cane to demonstrate his point.

Lestrade kept his mouth shut and his truncheon tucked carefully beneath his coat.  He had no idea what John had in mind, but Lord knows he was a patient man.

“Knox sent you by, you say?”

“Aye,” John agreed, still mysteriously Scottish.  “Watson’s the name.  Taking some lectures up at Bart’s before I head into private practice.  This bloke’s Doctor Russell.”

“Corbeau.  Couple of pints?”

John slid a generous coin across the smooth wooden bar.  “That would take the sting out of hours observing in the theater.”  Two dark glasses slid back shortly.

John gave Lestrade his bright, jovial grin at being accepted; Lestrade just raised an eyebrow in return and sipped the ale he was served.

“So what do you suppose Himself was doing here that he got in trouble with the publican?” Lestrade said conversationally when Corbeau walked away to pull a few drinks for a table in the corner.

“He wasn’t working with you?”

“He never mentioned this place.  Then again, that doesn’t mean ‘no.’  I try not to ask too much about his methods; makes him stroppy.”

John chuckled, twisting around in his seat to view more of the patrons.  He hoped he looked like he was just propping up his bad leg with the bar rail.

“Plus, more often than not, I’d prefer not to know how he gets his results or where he goes for them.”  Lestrade looked like he finally remembered the reputation of this place and glared at his ale as if it were tainted.

“It’s fine.”  John grinned again, taking a swig of his own brew.  His eyes began to lightly glance over each patron, thinking Sherlock would certainly have quite a field day deducing the occupation and status of each one.  There were a couple of tired-looking but well-dressed men who were certainly the type to be medical men from Bart’s, though John didn’t remember them from his time there.  Several men were burlier, laboring class, and they sat together at a long table with occasional companionable laughter.  A few friendly women livened up their party.  Two fairly young men, barely in University if John was any judge, sat nervously in a corner, emptying their glasses faster than was good for them.

“So how’s it going, anyway, sharing bed and board with Himself?”  Lestrade carefully avoided using the name Holmes, just in case Corbeau would happen to overhear.  “Oh, er, if that’s too personal, just tell me to shut it.  Too nosy for me own good.”

“I suppose you’re allowed to be nosy.  I’d still be in a strop myself if it weren’t for you.”

“So he did apologize?  I’ll have to ask Lord Sherrinford about having the Regent make today a national holiday.”

“He mentioned that it was, and would likely be, a rare occurrence.  He also told me you put him up to it.  Thank you for that.”

“Purely selfish motivations, I assure you.  Can’t have him sulking over you when he’s working on a messy case like this.”  Lestrade winked at John to show he wasn’t entirely serious and tossed back half of his drink.  “I’ve known him a while.  Can’t say I’ve entirely figured him out, but there’s a balance between letting him do what he wants and telling him what’s right.  You seem to be doing better than anyone expected.”

John nodded absently, still sipping his ale.

Lestrade veered off the topic and tried to come up with a more innocuous topic.  When their drinks had dwindled, Corbeau swung by and inquired if they desired another.  John accepted, with another generous coin.

Corbeau narrowed his eyes at his unfamiliar customers.

“If you’re fattening me up for the kill, gentlemen, I’d rather you dropped a sovereign on the table and had out with it.”

“With information at that premium, sir, it is a wonder you are not retired in a nice country house by now,” Lestrade muttered.

Corbeau bit the coin John passed over, examined it, and tucked it into a pocket.  He leaned against the bar on thick forearms.

“That price doesn’t include taking your insolence.  Now get on with it.”

John cast a quelling look at Lestrade and leaned in to make his inquiry more private.

“I’ve a certain expertise I’m expected to demonstrate next week.  I need a subject for my lecture, but I have a requirement that may make it a bit of a challenge.”

“At the Fortune of War, you take what’s brought in, no questions,” Corbeau answered dismissively.

“My reputation in this field would be worth the generous finder’s fee I’m offering.  Certainly there is someone you know who might be willing to do a little legwork in order to gain the loyalty of a wealthy patron.  Someone new, perhaps, willing to go some distance to secure a stable future?”

Corbeau sized John and Lestrade up again.  Lestrade passed for an average man, but John’s clothes were new and very fine, expertly attended to despite his attempts to appear slightly disheveled.  He’d so far handed over several coins with absolutely no haggling or question of price.

“Thought you were off to private practice, sir?”  Corbeau squinted his small dark eyes even further.

“One must keep infrequently used skills sharp, as well as train assistants.  I also have designs on the Royal Society.”

More of that bird-eyed gaze.  “In that case, I suppose I might know someone, at that.”

“Excellent.  I’m currently staying at Doctor Russell’s home on Baker Street.  Two-twenty-one.  Send this friend of yours around to that address.”

“Might take a couple nights.  He’s not exactly a regular.”

“The sooner, the better, Mr. Corbeau.  Any evening this week shall do fine.”

Corbeau gave them a curt nod and stalked off.  It didn’t appear that he’d gone to pour them another draft for their coin, and neither John nor Lestrade really wanted another anyway.

 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Uncategorized