Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are only on lend for this fic.
A/N: This story is a joint effort by both KCS and Protector of the Gray Fortress. It deals with the mystery surrounding Watson's brother and his watch...both of which were presented in Conan Doyle's "The Sign of Four."
"A brother noble, whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none." - William Shakespeare
"I have shot mine arrow oe'r the house, and hurt my brother." -Unknown
Chapter 1: "I Have Shot Mine Arrow"
It has not been a habit of mine, in laying before the public those Problems my friend, Sherlock Holmes, dedicated his existence to solving, to make known those particular cases which touched me in a personal nature. Even living with the world's foremost detective, one did have one's own problems occasionally.
But I have recently received a telegram from Holmes himself, suggesting that I lay the facts of this particular case before the public. And since his permission for my publications is somewhat sparsely given, I shall take this opportunity and endeavor to put the events down on paper before a contradictory wire comes my way.
It began, as I recall, the 24th of November, a very cold and wet evening in the year 1887, not long after our case concerning Jonathan Small and the Great Agra Treasure. I had good reason for remembering that case, for it was in the conclusion of it that Miss Mary Morstan dYouid me the honor to consent to become my wife.
I was returning home from my consulting room and though the evening was dreary and the rain steady…it could do nothing to dampen my ardor toward the angelic creature that currently occupied my thoughts, the one who had been so kinds as to consent to spend the rest of her life with me.
Mary, at the time of which I speak, had contracted a severe cold, and both I and her employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, had implored her to take a holiday in a less inclement area than London.
In consequence, it had been over a week since I last saw my fiancee, and already I was wistfully mooning, To quote exactly Holmes's teasing remarks, 'like an over-grown, lovesick schoolboy.' But his jesting was good-natured, for the most part. He sincerely respected Mary and I was glad of it.
My thoughts were turned blissfully in her direction, and I was busily engaged in planning all the things we should do together once she returned from her holiday.
In consequence, I did not even notice the rain drizzling down from the drab, brick buildings around me. And missed entirely, the two dark figures who slipped into step behind me, from the dim doorway I had just passed.
My first and only warning was the scrape of a boot on wet pavement. I turned and caught a glimpse of two silhouettes before I felt a sharp pain on my shoulder and was knocked to my knees onto the damp ground.
Any chance of my retaliation was eliminated due to the fact that the blow, landed on the shoulder that I had wounded during the battle of Maiwand, doubling the pain.
My attackers hesitated, as though surprised to see me go down so easily. Then the shorter of the two bent forward and reached for my black bag.
I drove my fist into his jaw and sent him wheeling backwards. I began to get to my feet, still clutching my shoulder. The blow had left me lightheaded and I knew that I was in no condition to fight off two attackers at once. If I had damaged the one badly enough I might be able to take out his partner. Or I could call for help. Surely, even at this late hour, someone would be up? I was only a block or so away from the flat Holmes and I shared.
The second attacker flew at me, holding a club, the implement that had, no doubt, first struck my shoulder. I dodged his blow, grateful now for the many practice bouts of Baritsu and boxing Holmes had made me suffer through.
I managed to land several blows on his abdomen and one on his nose. He cried out, clutching his broken bleeding face and I felt a glow of triumph that quite shut out the pain and the cold. Perhaps I would not require assistance.
I might not have, but I never got the chance to find out, for I had committed a serious error - and had forgotten my other attacker.
And I was too slow to dodge the stunning blow to my head.
He went at me for several moments while I staggered and struggled to shake off the effects. When my vision finally cleared it was only to see that his partner had recovered from his broken nose and again held the club.
My world became a whirl of fists, and leering faces, then changed to a mass of booted feet as I collapsed at last onto the ground.
I curled in on myself, trying to protect my ribs and head from the vicious kicks, my body panging sharply from the blows I had already received.
At long last it stopped, and I lay still on the pavement, wheezing painfully with every breath, only too aware of the sensation of hot blood on my cold face, and the metallic taste of it in my mouth.
A northern voice, gruff and ripe with authority, broke through the haze of pain and demanded my attention. "Where's it at, Doctor?"
I opened my left eye (I was fairly certain the right was swollen shut) and focused , with difficulty, on the bleary figures towering over me.
"Where 'ave you put it?"
His words made no sense to my pained semi-consciousness...I could not think.
"What?" I slurred.
A second voice joined the first, shaking with a nervousness which the other was entirely devoid of.
"Perhaps we shouldn't 'ave worked him so hard?...what if 'e's dyin'?"
"e's not dyin'."
Rough hands seized me by my coat front and my face was brought within inches of an unshaven countenance that reeked of foul, cheap, ale.
"Are yeh Doctor? You got lots of fight left in ya. Just like ol' Andrew. But you're smarter 'n 'e was ain't ye?"
I struggled feebly, trying vainly to turn away from the terrible face.
"You'll 'and it over…we'll be back for it."
The ruffian finally released his hold, letting my numb body hit the pavement. I groaned at the sharp pang in my head and so did not see them vanish back into the shadows.
My mind was reeling, not only from the beating I had just received, but from the name. The name I had not heard for years. The name that had belonged to my recently deceased brother.
But those thoughts were pushed to the back of my mind with the sudden flash of pain that shot through my aching body. I realized I needed help and attention, categorizing a possible concussion and broken ribs amongst my other injuries.
In my muddled, semi-conscious mind the address 221b Baker Street seemed to play like a broken phonograph record through my mind…what it was I was too delirious to remember, but I knew it meant help. Help and comfort.
I somehow staggered to my feet and set off unsteadily down the remaining few hundred yards to the house… I had to get there, I could no longer remember why, but I had to. I simply had to.