Author's note: Okay, longer explanation: Most of you are probably not familiar with A.J. Raffles so I will give you a brief explanation. Doyle had a sister, right? And there was this other author, dude name E.W. Hornung, and he liked to write too, and before he met Doyle he had this cricket player character he tinkered with, and then he married Doyle's sister, and him and Doyle became great friends. Doyle encouraged Hornung to write, and so Hornung wrote an published many stories about a character named A.J. Raffles. Once the cricket player, this character, as sort of an homage and sort of a joke, was almost the inverse of Sherlock Holmes, and his friend and partner "Bunny" Howard Manders was Watson's counterpart. Many people have theorized a connection between Raffles and Holmes (after all, the 2 authors were brother in laws, so plenty of future authors jumped at the opportunity to make Raffles and Holmes brother in laws).
My theory however, is less of a "what if" theory, and more a "Wouldn't it be hilarious if…" theory. So this fic is almost pure comedy, with maybe some light romance thrown in. And it definitely has a Shakespearean comedy feel to it.
Any prolonged italics are direct quotes from Raffles: A Thief in the Night by E.W. Hornung. And while not true with Raffles, I own nothing that belongs to anyone else.
So, enjoy this first (and somewhat bland, but it'll get better) chapter!
It was a fine moonlit night when A.J Raffles, along with his dear friend Bunny Manders, decided to rob the home of one Lord Lochmaben. Having been familiar with the previous owners of the lovely estate in Palace Gardens due to his tragically cancelled engagement with their daughter, Bunny had precious knowledge of the whereabouts of a certain hidden safe, which he refused to share with Raffles unless he accompanied him in the robbery. Reluctantly, Raffles had agreed, seeing no harm in allowing Bunny to come along in this child's play of a job.
And it had been child's play, until…
"The son of the house!" whispered Raffles.
The knocking that had shocked them into action was only preceded by a rather awkward scene, where Bunny learned the truth of the robbery.
The previous owners of the estate were not previous owners at all (as Raffles had insisted upon to Bunny), and the young woman who Bunny had been engaged to was standing before them. It would be hard to say who felt more shock, Bunny or the young woman (whose name shall remain anonymous at his wish), but it would be easy to say that they both felt very much betrayed. Raffles was sorry for that.
But right now he was more concerned with escaping.
He fled to the window, attempting to drag a stunned Bunny behind him, feeling completely confident of their safety, but…
As he leaped out first a sharp cry stopped Bunny at the sill.
"Get back! Get back! We're trapped!"
Officers had surrounded the estate.
Holmes awoke with a start, feeling, for some odd reason, that he was in grave danger. He scanned his room, confusion mounting with every danger he didn't see. Then the confusion morphed into irritation.
One of those blasted feelings again. The eternal nuisance he'd had ever since he was born, often waking him up in the middle of the night or interrupting his precious thoughts. Cursing silently, he turned over and went back to sleep.
"Mycroft, I have no idea what to do. It's beyond a mere annoyance now; it's interrupting my work!" Holmes exclaimed sharply, pacing the room as if it were a prison cell.
"Calm down, Sherlock. The Stranger's Room isn't soundproof," Mycroft replied in a much lighter tone, watching his brother with amusement in his eyes. Holmes did not take this very well. He stopped, turned towards Mycroft brusquely, and closed the distance between them (he'd gotten rather far in his pacing, despite the small area of the room).
"Mycroft, you of all people should understand that these…" he searched for a word and gave up after three seconds. "…whatever they are, are not a frivolous matter! There is something happening that neither of us could understand since we were children!" he stated, quieter this time, but just as harsh.
"This bothers you a lot," It was a statement, of course. One did not have to be as perceptive as Mycroft to know that Holmes was not in the best of moods. With Holmes remaining sullenly silent, Mycroft continued, "I do understand that these feelings of yours are not the product of an idle mind, but unlike you, I have accepted that I will probably never know what they are. Admit it, Sherlock, this small matter is consuming you because it is the one mystery you are unable to solve, for lack of any tangible evidence."
Everything Mycroft said had been correct. Holmes hated when that happened.
"Well, unlike you, Mycroft, I cannot simply dismiss the matter, because I am not the witness, but the victim," he returned with a tone of finality.
"Well, did you come here expecting that I would know the answer?" Mycroft asked in his innocent manner of interrogation.
"I suppose not," Holmes replied, sighing.
"If you want advice, I say you should listen to your friend Dr. Watson and take some time to rest," Mycroft said, letting it be known that he had nothing more to say about the matter.
The idea disgusted Holmes, but he made an effort to pretend to agree and left the Diogenes Club.
That same afternoon, later on, Holmes, lounged on his chair in the sitting room, looked up from the paper to Watson, who was seated on the couch reading some silly work of fiction.
"Tell me, Watson, have you heard of 'The Amateur Cracksman'?" he asked, with a tone that clearly suggested I'm going to tell you anyway.
Deciding to give Holmes the satisfaction, Watson replied negatively.
"Why, he's a notorious thief who's been raiding London's high society for months now!" Holmes said, making it sound like no small feat.
"Really?" Watson asked, playing along despite the fact that one would have to be a hermit to know nothing of this scoundrel.
"Yes, indeed. I have been studying this rogue since the very beginning (he has a very definitive modus operandi, you know), and very recently Scotland Yard has requested my assistance in his capture," Holmes said absently, once again absorbed in the paper.
"Ah, so they have a plan, then?" Watson asked, a little surprised. Holmes smirked without looking up.
"Of course not, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It is imperative that I set the trap myself, and it shall all be said and done by tomorrow morning," Holmes explained with a tone of finality suggesting that nothing in the universe could stop him from seeing this case's conclusion.
"So soon?" Watson asked. Surely Holmes had planned further ahead than this; yet, Watson had a feeling that this time something was rushing Holmes. He usually spoke of his concluding cases with a barely contained eagerness, yet now his tone was slightly different… it was almost like anxious anticipation.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am only now waiting on a few of my Irregulars. I expect they will report back by around 10 o'clock this evening," Holmes replied, finally laying the paper down.
There was a moment of silence, and Watson began counting the seconds Holmes would let pass before revealing everything.
12, 13, 14, 15…
"You see, Watson, a few nights ago there was an attempted robbery up at the Palace Gardens," Holmes began.
"Ah yes, I believe I heard about that. If I remember correctly, the scoundrel was able to escape," Watson replied.
"Not one, my dear Watson. Despite whatever Scotland Yard believes, there were two present at that robbery," Holmes corrected him, with a familiar predatory glint in his eyes.
Watson repeated, honestly dumbfounded. "I thought the thief jumped out of the
window, subdued one officer, and fled from the rest! There was no report of
"Such is the incompetence of Scotland Yard," Holmes said derisively. "Once they saw the one thief flee, they all assumed he was the only one, so they never looked for the evidence proving that there was more than one; there were two sets of footprints, nearly imperceptible, but still present, on the grass outside the estate."
Watson took a moment to absorb this, then asked, "What does this have to do with the thief you're after? From what you've told me, it appears that the Amateur Cracksman works alone."
"Yes, he does, and I would not have connected this robbery to him had I not seen his handiwork on the safe. That is where he gives himself away; he has a very original method of safecracking. As to the second thief, he was not a thief at all, merely an accomplice whose sole purpose was to reveal the location of the safe. Now, this would automatically place him as a friend of the family, but after interviewing the young lady who had been a witness to the crime, I had turned up no suspects. However, I had the distinct feeling she was hiding something, and when I prevailed upon the head of the house, I discovered what it was; the young lady had been engaged to a young man by the name of Howard Manders, and very recently, the gentlemen cancelled the engagement due to his sudden financial misfortune. He was quite the gambler, you see, and had lost nearly all of his assets during a trip to Monte Carlo.
"So, it would appear that the Cracksman, being friendly with this Manders fellow, perhaps enough to share his precious secret, had convinced Manders to reveal the location of the safe to him. In any case, that's all in the past. As I said before, once the Irregulars return with the intelligence I requested, the trap for The Amateur Cracksman will be set," Holmes concluded dramatically.
Watson started to reply to this when a young newsboy burst through the door with a furious Mrs. Hudson at his heels. Immediately Holmes turned to him and spoke hurriedly, "What? What is it? Has something gone wrong?"
The newsboy panted for breath for a few seconds, then managed to utter, "No sir, but we was following the bloke, and his cab turned onto Baker Street, so I ran ahead to warn you. Thought you might want to take a look."
Hearing this Holmes rushed to the window, Watson and the newsboy following, and the newsboy pointed out a cab with a very large chest loaded on it and a rather small, pale-haired gentleman riding in the front.
"That's the one, sir!" he affirmed.
Holmes watched the cab as it slowly drove by, and was suddenly overcome by an odd urgency. He didn't quite understand it, but something about that chest was amiss. Within seconds he ascertained that it couldn't possibly be anything physical about it; everything about its appearance was normal.
Then what in the world could possibly trouble him?
"Are you all right, sir?" The young newsboy asked, eyeing Holmes in confusion. Holmes inwardly shook his head.
"I'm fine. Now you get back to following Manders and report back to me when you have enough information," he said. The newsboy nodded and sprinted out the room eagerly.
"What was the matter with you, Holmes?" Watson asked once he'd gone.
"It was nothing," Holmes replied, a little irritably. He sighed and sank back into the chair he'd formerly been occupying. Watson, knowing it was futile to pursue the matter any further, shrugged and went back to his reading.
A few hours later, the two Irregulars returned, both chattering excitedly over what they had learned. Once Holmes managed to calm them down, they took turns relaying what they'd overheard.
Since they'd been following Manders this morning, the events of the day had been very strange. They first followed him to a flat where he received that very large chest and loaded it onto a cab. He then went to a bank and deposited it for safekeeping, saying he was going on a holiday. From there he went to a Turkish Bath, and when he came out he was very rushed, and immediately hailed a cab and rode back to the bank. The Irregulars learned that the bank had been robbed that afternoon, and Manders was worried about the chest. It had not been disturbed, but nevertheless Manders took it to his flat with him (this was when they had spotted him from the window). The Irregulars were hiding outside listening through the door, and suddenly they heard a voice that was not Manders'.
"A man was hiding in the chest the whole time!" said the young newsboy that they'd talked to before. Watson noticed an odd look on Holmes's face as he heard this.
They then learned in utter amazement that the man in the chest was none other than the Cracksman himself! Unknown to Manders, who'd been told to watch the chest while the Cracksman went to Scotland to hide out, the Cracksman had actually hidden in the chest, and when it was taken to the bank, he clambered out and added some of the valuables in the vault to his collection, knowing that once Manders had heard of the robbery he would immediately fetch the chest and bring it to the flat.
"How ingenious!" Holmes muttered in open appreciation. "This Cracksman certainly is a clever fellow; even knows enough to keep the heist a secret from his friend; if Manders had known, he surely would have given our scoundrel away."
"Indeed!" agreed Watson.
"It gets better than that, sir!" the other Irregular, a slightly older looking ruffian, replied.
"We know where he's going to go next!" the newsboy said in obvious pride.
"Brilliant!" Holmes exclaimed.
"We heard him and Manders talking, and the Cracksman was talking about a house up on Seymour St., and how he'd heard from a good source that the occupants weren't going to be in tonight. He's bound to go there!"
"Excellent! Do you know when the occupants plan on leaving?" Holmes asked.
"I'm not sure, but I think he said they were going to the theatre, so if you leave now you would probably be able to catch them," the ruffian said.
"Did you catch the man's name, by any chance?" Holmes asked hopefully, already retrieving his coat.
"Oh yes, we did!" the newsboy said as if he'd just remembered. Holmes and Watson looked at him expectantly.
"His name is Raffles."
Minutes later, Holmes and Watson were heading to Seymour Street, Watson in a bit of a daze. He knew he'd heard that name before…
"No, it couldn't be that Raffles," he suddenly said aloud.
"Hm?" Holmes looked at him in confusion. Then he snapped to attention and said, "You mean you know this fellow?"
"Know of him," Watson replied. "But it couldn't be the same Raffles…"
"Raffles isn't exactly a commonly heard name on the streets of London," Holmes reminded him.
"Well… there's a fellow named A.J. Raffles who plays first class cricket for Middlesex. He's practically a star; I've never heard of a better player. But do you really think he could be the Cracksman?" Watson asked incredulously. Holmes shrugged.
"It had to be someone; why not a famous cricket player?" he asked. "Ah- this is the house here. I'm afraid I'll have to go alone from here on, but I appreciate your company."
"Think nothing of it," Watson replied. "Good luck, Holmes!" he said, and went on his way.
After a somewhat lengthy explanation to the head of the house, he agreed to let Holmes stay inside and keep watch while they were at the theatre. Holmes surveyed the house to get a feel for it, then seated himself in the parlor, where, he was reluctantly told, the safe was located.
Holmes wasn't quite sure how much time had passed, when suddenly his sense were called to attention. He had heard nothing, nor seen a figure move in the darkness, but he knew that Raffles was here. He crouched down silently to a place where he would not be seen, when a tall, lean figure shadowed the parlor entrance. The head swiveled, then the figure suddenly froze.
He knows I'm here? How? He can't possibly see me! Holmes thought in frustration. Ah well, it was too late for him now.
"How are you going to find the safe this time, Mr. Raffles?" Holmes asked smugly, standing up. The figure, for some odd reason, relaxed, and leaned against the doorframe.
"Are you armed, by any chance?" he asked in a light tenor, which was staggeringly alike to Holmes's own voice. "I mean, I know you aren't with others; if you were, why would you be here when you could be outside surrounding the house?" he mused, almost to himself. "But I do like to know what I'm up against. An armed man is very dangerous, especially if he's the nervous sort."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to shoot you," Holmes said icily. Raffles' nonchalance was quite irritating, even with the few words he'd said.
"Ah. So you want to take me in? I'm afraid I can't have that," Raffles replied, almost apologetically. "After all, the only reason I came here was to have a few words with you."
Raffles took Holmes's prolonged silence as confusion.
"You see, I'm a very cautious man, so I'd been watching the house some time before you and your friend arrived. It intrigued me that you had somehow learned of my plans, so I decided to go and see for myself what sort of man you were."
"Quite an odd thing to do for such a 'cautious man', if you don't mind my saying" Holmes said dryly. Raffles laughed heartily.
"Well there was more to it than that," Raffles replied. He then paused, and for the first time he seemed less than 100 confident. "I just had a feeling that it would be safe. I don't quite know why," he said. Then he shrugged it off and his voice regained its former assuredness. "But my instincts haven't failed me before!"
Holmes's silence was now longer. Raffles was a little worried at first, but continued anyways, trying to prolong the conversation that would most likely become a fight if he wasn't careful.
"Anyways, I know you can't be with the Yard; there's barely an officer there who can remember where Hyde Park is. But you're not just any old criminologist, I know that. I've had some experience with them, you know. But, from your obvious intelligence and from the sight of your friend, I would say you are that detective everyone's talking about these days. Shylock Holmes, is it?" he asked innocently.
"Sherlock," Holmes snapped in reply with all the venom of a cobra. He was quite sure that Raffles' little mistake was intentional, and was not appreciative of the reference.
"Ah, of course. Well, you already know my name, so I might as well not keep it a secret. My name is A.J. Raffles; you may have heard of me," he commented with a slight arrogance in his tone.
"As a matter of fact, I hadn't, until my friend Dr. Watson informed me. All the same, Mr. Raffles, I think we've talked enough," Holmes replied darkly.
Raffles sighed softly.
"You law enforcers are all so unforgiving. But I suppose it must be. I have one request, though- before you attempt to apprehend me," he began, highly emphasizing the word 'attempt', "Let me get one good look at you. I can't see a thing from here."
Holmes thought for a moment, then sighed and decided to indulge Raffles. He slowly moved out of the darkness, preparing himself for attack at any moment.
Raffles, still lounged against the doorframe with his arms crossed, watched with growing interest as a figure moved out from the darkness. As the light revealed more and more of this Holmes fellow, his mild interest soon rocketed to a paralyzing shock.
Holmes, just as frozen as Raffles, gaped (for probably the first time in his life) for a few moments at Raffles. Raffles, however, was the first one to move. He rushed to the nearest light and turned it on, and in the sudden light that flooded into the room, they resumed their staring, and finally risked taking small steps towards each other. And finally, Raffles stopped, and said in a voice that was now a little shaky, "Um… does this, by any chance, change anything?"
Holmes stared back at the man who might as well have been his reflection and replied, "I think maybe it does."