"Smuggling dog-skins?" Watson was staring. He felt entitled. As far as the eye could see in the small shack, the skins were universally of one-stone dogs who were black or mostly black, some tailless, and all double-coated. He couldn't think of a single reason why someone would want to commit a crime with the things.

"No; smugglers take a dog of the same breed that's smaller, or they starve it almost to death, and wrap contraband around it, the cover it with the false skin. Something like lace…" Lestrade frowned. "But lace smuggling isn't profitable any more. Not even the blonde lace is worth all the trouble." He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. "Hold on, now, that doesn't make a bit of sense!" He exclaimed.

Watson (so far) didn't see much sense in any of this. "What?" He demanded.

"This…these are shipperkes!" Lestrade held up the skin of the dog in question. "These are all shipperkes!"

"Er, ah…Lestrade…I don't know what that means." Watson blushed to admit it.

There were times when Lestrade was abruptly reminded that, much as Watson loved London, he was not born to it. There would always be small but significant portions of his education that were missing. Dog breeds and the cutthroat, hedonistic, utterly selfish world of dog breeders were a part of that education.

Unlike Holmes, Lestrade wasn't impatient with ignorance. "They didn't exist before 1880. They're bred in Flanders to rat-out pests on the canal boats. They're also sold for guarding boats and they travel well…" His voice trailed off. "I saw my first shipperke at a show the year before you and Holmes met up…this is strange," he reiterated. "The breed's too young to squander for their hides! What's going on here?"

"They pull these hides over the smaller dog and send it across with its goods?" Watson had caught on. He wasn't stupid. "But wouldn't the dog still look different enough to raise suspicion?"

"It's long-distance smuggling, doctor. If you can't train a dog to go across the mountain range, or something similar, you can always train them to herd a flock of sheep. If you use coloured flocks, like Shetlands or Orkneys, it'll confuse the eyes. They also picked the twilight times where it's not as easy to pick out small details."

"Somehow, the stuff of romance doesn't mention interesting little facets such as this," Watson commented.

"Never does." Lestrade sighed. "Give me a hand here; there should be some sort of clue as to what they were using the skins for…"

Watson stepped carefully to the edge of the shack, his nose wrinkling at the particular odours.

"Doesn't make sense," Lestrade was muttering. "Smuggling from the estuary is always taken to the north shore!"

"Why the north?"

"Water-smugglers obey the demands of the water. It's faster, quiet, and thus lowers the risk." Lestrade was running his fingers across the cured skins on the underside and then through the long fur with a bright interest that Holmes would have recognized. "These smuggling routes have been in service for over half a millennia."

"Do the routes never change, then?" Watson wondered.

Lestrade paused, and gave the other man a thoughtful look.

"Yes, they do." The small man mused. "They shift, adapt, and take advantage of the current situation of environment and political scheme. They'll even transfer the goods from the river to an overland passage, but that's the riskiest of all methods; it's slower, more awkward…" His voice trailed off. "We're on the wrong side for a north-bank transaction," he said softly. "What if they sending goods from over the land to the estuary?"

"You just said that was the riskiest method," Watson protested. "What would inspire them to take such a course of action?"

"What if the goods were worth the risk? They'd be--hah!" His yelp of triumph sent Watson to his side. "Webster can put that in his pipe and smoke it!" Lestrade held up a small object lodged in a cranny of hide. Watson's jaw dropped.

"Gold smugglers?!" Watson gasped.

"Not just any gold." Lestrade returned his long fingers to inspecting the thick, matted hair of the pelt. "Clogau gold, doctor. The most desired, expensive, and precious gold in Europe! This is a matter for the CID!"

"I don't follow you," Watson protested. "If the hides are used to mask gold-smuggling, and you said the goods were sandwiched between the living dog and the dead dog's pelt…how is it you found that bead sewn inside the fur?"

"The smugglers are just the delivery-agents. Looks to me they're skimming a bit off the merchandise and paying themselves an aggravation tax for their troubles." Lestrade had picked up three more small beads. He shook his head. "Virtue among thieves…This is red gold, no mistake. Welsh copper is the only cause for that colouring. This is serious, doctor! All Welsh gold is under Royal patronage!"

"Perhaps we'd best seek some assistance," Watson said cautiously.

"What do you think I've been trying to do?" Lestrade wanted to know. He rose to his feet and stuffed the small bits of evidence inside his water-logged watch, behind the case. "My revolver's useless until I can clean it out; did you bring your iron?"

"In the bottom of my medical bag," Watson breathed. He turned and hurried to barrel-table by the broken fire-pit.

The Official Story:

"Suffragists!" Holmes repeated. In another world, Lestrade would have been a bit flattered to have the Great Detective hanging off his every word. "Lestrade, you and Watson completely missed the part about the suffragists!"

"We didn't miss that part, Holmes, for heaven's sake!" Watson protested; his reporting abilities were under question. "They didn't show up until that moment! Give us a bit of credit!"

What Really Happened:

"Doctor!"

Perhaps being waterlogged in a chilly river had slowed Watson's reflexes. Or the half-flask of brandy. It was Lestrade's turn to warn his companion of danger from behind; Watson looked up just as the look of astonished horror spread over the detective's face.

Old campaigner's instincts, once won, never quite leave. Watson threw himself down just as a large wooden object whistled through the air and landed with less than grace into the firepit. Hot ash and sparks burst everywhere.

"There they are!" The tall woman in the crowd of dismayingly athletic-looking women with large tin badges on their coat-lapels pointed at the men. "You scoundrels! The Daughters of the Iceni have you now! What do you have to say for yourself?!"

It was at this precise moment that Lestrade's brain-attic regurgitated that dusty little fact he'd been rooting for, before his rude interruption:

Daughters of Iceni:

Aggressive social-works group named after Queen Boudicca's tribe.

Primary goals: Revolution against male oppressors; inflexible policy, with the "if not for, then against" attitude causing irrevocable chasm between DOI and everyone else; Prohibition and destruction of all forms of alcohol; mandating Celtic history and at least one Celtic language in public school education; extreme suffragists;, demanding trousers for women; separate female colleges; death penalty for assaulting female; intoxication; failure to respect females in general.

Analogies to Roman Empire used in said group's language when criticizing government.

"Queen Victoria" euphemism for "pawn of the oppressors". See also, King Prasutagus as Queen Victoria is generally seen as inheritor of Queen Boudicca's regime.

"Romans" code word for government authorities

Government authorities disappearing with alarming frequency in areas known to be used by DOI; DOI being used by CID as double acroynmyns for "Daughters of Iceni" as well as "Dunned On Ice."

Twelve PCs, three Inspectors, and four Pinkerton Detectives missing in the line of duty since DOI's creation two years ago (Lestrade's mind paused and re-played that portion of his mental grammophone over the "three Inspectors").

Pinkertons with Irish last names suspected to be susceptible to bribes and moved to Nova Scotia with large purses.

Twenty-four cases of conspiracy, due to assembling under the definition of "riot" passed before the courts in twenty-five months. Nineteen felony cases due to re-convening conspirist and unlawful assemblies one hour after initial reading of the Riot Act.

Definition of "riot" as hammered into the lowliest Constable on the beat:

"A tumultuous disturbance of the peace by three or more persons assembling together of their own authority with an intent mutually to assist one another against any who oppose them, in the execution of some enterprise of a private nature, and afterwards actually executing the same in a violent and turbulent manner to the terror of the people".

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS DEPARTMENT (CID) Recommendations: Treat with caution. Always call for assistance. Consider perpetrators as you would the slightly mad. Retreat if outnumbered.

All things considered, Lestrade was perfectly within his rights to choose the course of action that he did.

"Doctor Watson!" He screamed. "Run!"

The Official Report:

Holmes came as close to speechless as Lestrade had ever seen. What a pity Lestrade wasn't completely sober to fully canonize the memory. "Watson, accept my apologies." He said in a remarkably even voice. "Please continue. Suffragists were throwing cricket bats at you?"

"It was a full-frontal attack!" Lestrade exclaimed. "There were no less than thirty of them, with three bats each!"

"Well, I'm not certain we should count that as an attack, Inspector." Watson said thoughtfully. "After all, they thought we were my patient's husband and lover—it seems he's just as violent as the husband, and the ladies were banding together to rescue one of their own—"

What Really Happened:

"Daughters of Buddug!" The lead warmonger brandished one of the remaining two cricket-bats under her arm. "Forward! Eradicate the Romans! Those who dare to lay hands upon our sister must perish!"

Caught between the Thames and an army of twenty…twenty-fivethirty…Lestrade stopped counting at thirty and tucked his head in as a wave of cricket bats clogged the air. Watson yelped and put his arms over his head to protect his still-bleeding skull.

Holmes will kill me if anything happens to him. Lestrade dashed to the doctor. His natural worry for a man he genuinely liked was balanced with the cold knowledge that if Watson ever saw injury in Lestrade's presence, Holmes would find some way of making him live just long enough to regret not sacrificing himself for the doctor.

Where was he? Oh, yes. Caught between the Thames and—

"Dr. Watson, hurry!" Lestrade gasped. "We're safer back in the Thames!"

"Are you certain?!" Watson gasped.

Lestrade wordlessly smashed his fist through the air; a cricket-bat bounced off with that unique sound that human knuckles make when impacted against the flying flat surface of a slightly-used, linseed-treated Glamorgan willow-wood projectile.

"Ladies!" Watson saw the truth, but couldn't go down without a fight; he'd faced the modern version of the Golden Hoarde, after all. "We're not who you think we are!"

"You're a man, that's quite enough!" The third bat was being aimed.

Watson committed to the better part of valour. Lestrade covered the retreat. He aimed and flung; his precious notebook riffled through the air and slapped the vanguard's face. For someone who was quick enough to create harm, she was offended enough to receive it. She howled in outrage and ripped up the bat from another's grip to aim with. The Thames, black and opaque, had never looked so good. It wasn't until it was much too late that Lestrade realized they had made a fundamental mistake in calculations.

Never jump into the Thames without looking both ways first.

The Official Story:

"It was a full-frontal attack!" Lestrade exclaimed. "There were no less than thirty of them, with three bats each!"

"Well, I'm not certain we should count that as an attack, Inspector." Watson said thoughtfully. "After all, they thought we were my patient's husband and lover—it seems he's just as violent as the husband, and the ladies were banding together to rescue one of their own—"

"That's when I started to greatly worry about our survival, there, but did you have one bloody soot-tag worth of self-survival instinct? Good God, no, you were all determined to try to make peace with them!" Lestrade was shouting now, with what every Constable in A Division called "The Doom Finger" leveled on the tipsy doctor. "Make peace with violent suffragists! Are you bloody out of your sand-baked mind, Watson?! You can't take a large portion of London's population, which has been subjugated and abused for generations, allow them a bit of physical power, and not expect it to go to their heads! It takes years to iron out those tendencies! In the meantime, you stay far away!"

"Lestrade, honestly, if they'd only known we were there to help the woman…"

"Did you see them ever once stop to ask for our identification and purpose for being there?!" Lestrade roared. "Of course not! They were too busy trying to knock the eyeballs out of your sockets!" Lestrade chose that moment to yank the glove off his left hand and hold it up for inspection: The knuckles were burst and bleeding. "Does this look like an example of the gentler sex, Doctor?!"

Watson sighed, and turned back to the breathless audience. "That was when we opted for the better part of valour and jumped back into the Thames."

What Really Happened:

"Oh, my God!!"

Lestrade had less than half a second to absorb and react to Dr. Watson's exclamation. The emotional horror leached through the shock of a second dive of water that had begun as frozen snowmelt in the headwaters. When did he come back? Lestrade had time to wonder, before he was plunging underneath the surface.

Bullets peppered the air. With the steersman in the opposite direction, he no longer had to aim cross-handed while he captained the cabin. From this direction, he was much more dangerous in his efficiency.

"Half enough!" Lestrade, goaded beyond belief, managed to tread water long enough to empty his pockets of everything he could use as a missile. His badge whistled through the air; it ricocheted off the helm, causing the idiot to flinch away for the moment it took to keep from aiming a course right over Watson; the wooden cabin veered, following the pull of the slowly-rising tide, and promptly began a slow twist of the keel that its makers had not designed it for.

"Down!"

Lestrade yanked Watson under the water. As filthy as the river was, it was God's Own Wonder they could even tell up from down. Watson, poor disadvantaged sod, was used to the cleaner trout-supportive water of Scotland. He had no experience whatsoever with life among Industrial effluence.

The detective opened his eyes underwater, knowing the sting of brine and chemicals would die away...soon enough. Most forms of eye infections were treatable if reached soon enough...A familiar-shaped shadow winged through the air over the surface. It might have been greatly amusing outside this context; as it was, Lestrade grimaced (without losing the air supply in his lungs) as the cricket-bat connected with the cabin's steersman's chin in a medically significant way. He watched with a great deal of resignation as the man slumped over the side of the boat (but didn't actually fall in, worse luck).

He tugged at Watson's shoulder and the two broke surface on the other side of the wooden keel, gasping like trouts themselves.

"Hoot nae, Webster!" A strange, weirdly-accented voice clogged by equal parts beard and fossy-jaw echoed acros't the river. "I'll show ye to hedge intae the fambly business! Ye scourge one Kroger, ye scourge all a' ais!"

I should just give up and drown now, Lestrade thought. The old man—the old, drunk man, was at the helm to replace his unconscious son, and he was pulling on a fresh gin-bottle as he turned the craft around.

"Any ideas, doctor?" The detective wondered—might as well ask while they were staring incipient doom down its throat…

The Official Report:

"It was much safer," Lestrade vouchsafed. "Floating bacterial mats and all…Because the son had been knocked unconscious by a flying cricket-bat, and his father was now at the helm, and I don't think he could see his own drunken hand in front of his face!"

Watson paused. "You noticed all that? I'm impressed."

"I don't exactly pause to write it all down when it's happening, thank you, but I do try to pay attention!"

"Well, at any rate, that was about the most exciting part about our day." Watson abruptly sank down as if someone had cut the strings out of his legs. "We had to let the current take us downstream out of the range of fire, and then it was a matter of keeping warm until the slaughterhouse closed." He paused to yawn. "Anything else?"

"For myself? I'm wondering how you're going to write all this up, Watson." Holmes spoke in a strange tone indeed.

"Dashed if I know. Lestrade lost his notebook when he threw it at the suffragist riding point." Watson yawned again.

"I wouldn't worry about it. No one's going to believe this mess anyway." Lestrade was being quite reasonable.

"Very true."

What Really Happened:

"Holy T'Anthony!"

Lestrade invoked the Patron of the undersized (he had a personal identification with the saint), and yanked Watson by his collar to the opposite shore—the shore opposite the rampaging suffragists, that is. Through what felt like a half-gallon of water in his ears, the little man heard what sounded like a sailor's mash of invectives, creative opinions, promises, and downright open threats to cause permanent bodily harm (and seven generation of future birth defects) to someone who proclaimed to be loyal to his female flesh, but still committed the capital offense of public intoxication.

Mr. Kroger, senior, held an alcohol-slurred yet rather clear response to such words. Lestrade marveled he had enough blood in his body for blushing, but at least that meant he could resist incipient death by dropped body-temperatures.

"Gllkk!" Watson tried to breathe as he was towed across the broad current by his collar; Lestrade mentally apologized, but held out for a few more seconds while hauling him to the relative safety of the other side of the bank. Luckily for Watson, Lestrade had plenty of experience with strong-arming men who were much larger, stronger (and potentially) more prone to panic. More bullets struck as they went underneath the water; something heavy and wooden-ish echoed in the policeman's mind, but there was no time to pause and reflect. He grimaced and with a last spurt of energy, pulled Watson into the shore.

"What the devil!" Watson had been limited to a backwards-view of the river during his rescue. His eyes were as large as walnuts. Part in dread, Lestrade turned, gasping, to see that the cabin was lurching its way back around in a turn. The side that had been facing the (still) angry suffragists was much the worse for wear with cricket-bat scars, and…

My eyes must be going bad, Lestrade thought. Otherwise, I'd be willing to swear that—

"Inspector!" Watson gasped. "That fool managed to shoot his own boat open!"

Years later, while recounting the events of the adventure known as "The Hound of the Baskervilles", Watson would regret to the core of his soul that he hadn't noticed the look of abject terror on Lestrade's face when the pack of furious, long-toothed shipperke dogs ran off the deck of the sinking cabin right into their faces. His first indication of the little man's fear (the only fear Watson had ever seen him display) had been when the horrible smuggler's ship had disgorged its cargo into their faces. Had he thought about it, he would have pulled Holmes aside and whispered a few words of caution. As it was, he would always feel guilt for not doing so.

Lestrade, for his part, had innocently assumed that Watson had already known about his cynophobia due to his close proximity with the Great Detective; he didn't know why they thought he was worth trusting in the matters of a bloody great Devil Dog that glowed in the dark, but if they thought he was all right with the show, it was good enough for him. Afterwards, however, he did note that Watson was weirdly solicitous of his welfare.

For the present, facing down the pack of fear-fueled, slathering shipperkes, Lestrade's first reaction was to throw his arms over his face and go under the water. Watson would always regret not following suit.