A Case of House and Holmes
By Michael Weyer
I don't own either character or properties so don't sue.
Frankly, I'm surprised no one's tried this approach before. I admit I'm not exactly a medical genius so forgive some mistakes I might make with exact names (then again, they weren't quite as technical in the time I'm speaking of). All comments are more than welcome, feel free to reply.
Early November in London is an interesting period. The warmth of autumn and the falling leaves gives way to the chill of winter and this one promised to be quite chilly indeed. It seemed the perfect afternoon to make my way to 221B Baker Street to see what my old friend Sherlock Holmes was up to.
The sky was darkening as I made my way to the brownstone and made me grateful I had taken my umbrella with me. Mrs. Hudson bowed her head as she opened the door following my knock. "So good to see you again, Dr. Watson. May I take your coat?"
"Thank you," I said as I handed it to her. "Is Holmes here?"
She sighed and I realized Holmes was in one of his periodic melancholy moods. Nodding in sympathy, I headed upstairs and knocked on his study door. A sharp "Enter" and I stepped in.
Holmes sat in a chair by the window, puffing on his pipe as he gazed out the window. His profile made his nose look sharper, matching the stern expression he held. He was dressed in trousers and his standard smoking jacket and I saw his violin lying at the table by his side. "Good afternoon, Holmes," I said.
"Watson," he said, his nose twitching a bit. "I trust you enjoyed the reunion of your old regiment?"
I stopped in place and shook my head. "Holmes, you're fortunate to have born in the century when you were. If you had lived in the Middle Ages, they'd have burned you at the stake for witchcraft!"
That seemed to bring a true smile to his lips as he turned to me. "I was observing you as you stepped out of the coach, my dear fellow. I noticed the way you brushed some ash from your sleeve. That told me you had been in the presence of a heavy cigar smoker. When you were within range of my nose, I could tell the rather distintictive brand, one that matches a few of your fellow former soldiers that they brought from Afghanistan. I am aware that the only time you partake in such a fanciful luxury is at your reunion."
I simply nodded. "You would think by now I would no longer be surprised by how you manage to deduce these things."
"Oh but how will I ever entertain myself?" Holmes sat back, the smile vanishing. "Well, if you came by hoping for some sort of excitement or inspiration for your next tale in The Strand, I am afraid you are in for disappointment. The last week has been sadly quiet for anything equal to my talents."
"Really?" I asked in surprise as I sat down. "Surely Lestrade has been by asking once again for aid in the Whitechapel slayings."
Holmes sniffed. "He has. And I told him again, I do not wish to waste my time on something so…unimaginative." I know that must sound callous even a few years after the mysterious "Ripper" had stopped his spree of killings. I admit I sometimes suspected Holmes did know who had killed those poor women but for some reason or another did not wish to make it public. I had tried to pry that out of him but been rebuffed and as it is easier to turn back the seasons than get Holmes to change his mind, I decided to let the matter drop.
Holmes took another drag on his pipe. "It is difficult to keep one's mind intact when one has nothing to challenge it, dear Watson. It's almost to the point where I was about to ask Mycroft if he required my aid."
I raised my eyebrows as I realized the desperation Holmes was reaching. He much preferred Mycroft come to him rather than the other way around. Like so much of Holmes, I failed to understand how this rivalry with his brother came about. But I had long found it better to not get involved in their disputes. This did mean that Holmes was in dire need of some sort of diversion and the sooner the better.
"Perhaps a vacation is in order?" I ventured.
He rolled his eyes. "So I may spread my boredom abroad? No thank you. Besides, you know I prefer to wait until the more uncomfortable time of year to travel."
I nodded in recognition of that. "Still, you should find something to…"
I was interrupted by a knock on the door as Mrs. Hudson entered. "Your pardon, Mr. Holmes," she said in a cool tone. "But there is a woman here who wishes to see you."
"A woman?" Holmes repeated, instantly straightening.
"She says she needs your help."
Holmes stroked his chin and nodded. "Show her in, please." He rose to his feet, adjusting the sash on his dark smoking jacket. "Well, Watson, it seems providence has taken pity on me."
I rose with him and turned as Mrs. Hudson entered with a woman behind her. She appeared to be in her thirties and rather attractive with a lush mane of curly black hair framing her face, which was marked by a nose sharper than most women's. She was wearing a dark blue dress with a shawl over her shoulders. She smiled nicely as she looked to us. "Mr. Holmes. And you must be Dr. Watson. I am Dr. Lisa Cuddy."
"Hmmm…" Holmes stroked his chin as he looked her over. "I admit to being impressed, madam. I was unaware America had become so forward thinking as to allow a Jewish woman from New York to attend university in Michigan to become a surgeon, albeit a novice one."
I've made it a hobby of studying the reactions people get when Holmes manages to figure out their lives and origins in only moments. Dr. Cuddy blinked, not as shocked as some but I could tell she was still thrown. "How…" she began.
"I have made a few visits to the United States," Holmes began and while he denies it, I can hear the smugness in his tone as he speaks. "As such, I know the rather distinctive accent those of New York have. Yours has a touch of the Yiddish which, combined with the distinctive pendant you wear, hint at your Jewish upbringing. Schools in the northern States are a tad more forward thinking at allowing women to excel and the mix of longer constants points to either Illinois or Michigan, but I lean to the latter due to how you seem less effected by the chill outside."
"And that I'm a surgeon?"
Holmes smiled at me. "I believe even Watson can figure that one out."
I was thrown at first at the rarity of Holmes allowing me to participate but recovered. "Your hands," I noted. "Holmes recognizes, as I do now, that you hold your fingers reflexively as a surgeon does. That your way is less pronounced shows you're still new at it."
Cuddy nodded. "Well then…I see your reputation is well earned, Mr. Holmes." As he made a gesture of humility, she went on. "That's good because I need your help with a…problem I have."
"Please, sit." Holmes motioned to a chair. Cuddy nodded as she unwrapped the shawl from around her. As she did, she revealed that the dress she was wearing was of a far daring cut than one normally sees in London. A layer of blue lace hung over her skin while there was a deep plunge to the middle of her (pardon my saying so) rather bountiful cleavage. Holmes and I exchanged a look and I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was: If this was what American women were wearing, it was well that there was an ocean between us.
"I have been working with a hospital here in London for the last year," Dr. Cuddy began. "I have been attempting to show English doctors some methods we've been developing in America. I'd like to think it has been going well but in the last few weeks, several patients have been dying."
Holmes puffed his pipe. "Hmmm…I assume you mean more than the average mortality rate of a hospital should be?"
Cuddy nodded. "Yes. There appears to be no connection between the victims. One was a 65 year old male who was suffering lung problems. Another was an 18-year old woman who had broken her leg. All were found dead in their beds and we have been unable to determine the cause."
"Hmm….poison? Signs of foul play?" Holmes asked.
Cuddy raised an eyebrow. "Pardon me, Mr. Holmes but didn't you just hear me say we have been unable to determine the cause?" Holmes frowned, not used to a woman taking such a stand against him. "As we've been unable to find out for certain if it is indeed foul play, the police are little help. So, over the objections of others, I have decided to turn to you."
"Whose objections were those?" Holmes pressed. "Your superiors?"
"On the contrary, they're most interested in solving these deaths as quickly as possible," she stated. "The objections come from our top physician who is reluctant for anyone else to intrude on what he sees as his own problem."
Holmes frowned. "Hmm…Who is this physician?"
"Dr. Gregory House."
I closed my eyes and grimaced painfully. When I opened them, I saw Holmes looking to me with a slight smile. "A friend of yours, Watson?"
I snorted. "If the man has any friends, I'd be shocked."
"I see you've met him," Cuddy dryly noted.
"You have Dr. House working for you?" I asked, trying to keep my disbelief hidden.
"I needed the best," she stated. "He certainly qualifies."
"If I may interrupt," Holmes broke in. "Who is this man?"
I sighed as I turned to him. "He's American as well, a rather brilliant doctor. However, he is also the most arrogant, insulting, unprofessional man I've ever had the misfortune of meeting in my travels." I shook my head. "I know he suffers from his ailment…"
"Ailment?" Holmes asked.
"He suffered a leg injury several years ago," Cuddy informed him. "The surgery did not go as well as it could have and caused a severe blood clot to form."
"It leaves him with a limp," I added. "Not to mention leaves him with near-constant agony which I suppose accounts for some of his behavior…"
Holmes tapped his chin as he looked upward. "I believe I remember reading of this man. Did he not just aid a member of Parliament who was suffering from a strange bout of the flu?"
Dr. Cuddy nodded. "He did. And a good job with it as well. The Queen even wanted him to come to the Palace to receive recognition for it."
I had to admit to being impressed and suspected Holmes was as well. "That must have been quite the honor."
Cuddy let out a long breath and bowed her head. "It would have been if he had attended."
"A medical emergency?" I asked, wondering what else could keep anyone from a meeting with the Queen.
Cuddy rubbed her brow. "Actually, he sent a message back to her saying, and I quote because Heaven knows I cannot make this up, 'Due to the limitations of my physical ailment and because my schedule is so much busier due to my actually doing work instead of sitting on a throne all day, it might be better for her Majesty to haul her broadside to my home instead of the other way around.'"
It's quite rare to see Sherlock Holmes at a loss for words but this certainly qualified. He actually removed the pipe and came close to gaping at the doctor. For all his faults, Holmes is a loyal subject of the Empire and why he may have some problems with authority, he holds a deep affection for Queen Victoria. Thus the very idea of someone speaking to her Majesty in such a way was as stunning to him as it was to me.
"And the man still works in London?" he finally spoke.
"The man is still free?" I demanded.
Cuddy nodded her head. "Yes he does and yes he is because he may be arrogant and he may be insulting and he may have no respect for authority but the son of a bitch is also the most brilliant doctor on either side of the Atlantic." She threw up her hands. "Time and again, he has been called on cases that have defied every other medical expert and he always finds out the problem and corrects it."
"If he is so adept, why come to me?" Holmes asked.
"For all his brilliance, Dr. House has little understanding of how people think and feel," Cuddy stated. "His viewpoint is rather cynical and he almost never bothers to find out anything about the patient's lifestyle. I believe there is more than just a disease or other ailment going around, Mr. Holmes. So I believe you are the best person to turn to for this situation."
Holmes took another puff on his pipe before nodding. "Very well. Watson and I shall accompany you at once to the hospital."
"Now?" Cuddy seemed surprised.
"No better time," Holmes stated as he threw off his jacket and reached for his suit coat. "Besides, I enjoy getting a first look at the scene of the crime."
I smiled to Dr. Cuddy and from the look she gave me, I had the oddest feeling she knew exactly how it felt being around Holmes.
As we approached our destination, my opinion of Dr. Cuddy rose significantly. The North London Hospital was one of the finest in all of London, a center for teaching new methods and techniques. For a woman, this was high reaching to able to teach British doctors new methods.
Holmes and I followed her into the building. Holmes was now clad in his standard cloak and cap but had placed his pipe in his pocket. One of the few times I have put my foot down with Holmes was in our early adventures as I had to firmly inform him that smoking in a hospital is not very beneficial to a patient's health.
"How many deaths?" Holmes was asking.
"So far, seven," Cuddy stated. "I do hope you can solve this, Dr. Holmes because the hospital's reputation…"
"Ah, Dr. Cuddy, returned from your little sojourn downtown?" A dry and sarcasm-laced voice flowed from a corridor as a man stepped out, leaning on a cane. "Or are my suspicions of your moonlighting in Whitechapel for some extra sixpence correct?"
Not giving her a chance to respond to this outrageous statement, the man turned to Holmes and looked him over. "Ah, I see. You're recruiting a new case for me. Well, a good morphine addict is always something to brighten my day so get him on the table so we can wring him out!"
And thus it was that Sherlock Holmes first met Dr. Gregory House.