And so we reach the end...
Thank you to those who have stuck with me all this way, and have left such lovely and much appreciated reviews. And one of Mrs Hudson's cakes to KCS, who spotted the reason for Holmes's singed hair. :)
The usual disclaimer: Holmes, Watson et al do not belong to me. Doctor Who elements are copyright to the BBC and the late Robert Holmes.
If you'd like to know more about the story Pyramids of Mars, check out the synopsis on Wikipedia.
THE HAND OF SETH
"It's a rum do, Doctor, and no mistake," Lestrade said the following morning when I took the remains of the scarab to Scotland Yard on Holmes's instructions. Too weak to leave his bed, he had been quite clear in his orders to me regarding the winding up of the case.
"It is indeed," I agreed, glad to be rid of the matter. I did not entirely understand what had happened the night before, but I did know that I wished to play no further part in it. The police could tie up the loose ends, with the help of the evidence Holmes had collected. It seemed that he wanted no more of it either – he had said quite definitely that he was happy to allow Lestrade to take the credit. The inspector had been surprised, but grateful.
"We found a whole trunkful of these in the house in Holborn," he said when I handed him the cigar box and he looked inside. "Unpleasant little things aren't they?"
"That is your murder weapon, Lestrade," I told him. "I hope that none of your officers have touched them."
"Indeed they have not!" The inspector grimaced in distaste and handed the box to a passing constable. He paused, then said, "Why did they really do it, do you think? All that hocus pocus? What sort of man gets it into his head that he can change the established order of things?"
"A disturbed one, " I replied, fully believing Namin to be quite mad given what I had seen. "No sane man would even attempt such a thing."
"And this voice you all claim to have heard – we'll have a job trying to explain that to a judge!"
"Did you not find any way of creating the voice? No hidden means of amplification?" Holmes had offered no explanation for the voice, and I had not asked for one. It was rare - practically unheard of - for us to find something my celebrated friend could not understand.
"Nothing. I had considered the presence of another man, behind the scenes, but we found no evidence of one. If anyone was there, they must have disappeared pretty sharpish. But we've not managed to track down any of the others, either – only Namin and his friend are down in the cells."
I frowned. There had been about eight of the cultists in the museum that I had counted, a full six more in addition to Lestrade's prisoners. I had grappled with several of them, and yet I could recall seeing only Namin and Naseem actually taken into custody. "You caught none of them?"
Lestrade shook his head. "They somehow slipped by the men I left guarding the exits and vanished into thin air! I can't understand it, but…well," he added, lowering his voice conspiratorially, "I shouldn't really be telling you this, Doctor, but between you, me and the gatepost, I've been leant on."
"Leant on?" I repeated.
"The chief constable has had a quiet word, just as someone rather highly-placed has had a quiet word with him. The particulars of the case are so…incredible that it is preferred that they don't get out."
"Someone highly-placed? In the government?" I sensed the hand of Mycroft Holmes in this. It would not look good for the government if it became known that they had been duped by a criminal claiming to be the Egyptian ambassador.
"That's not for me to say. I only mention it because…well, your writing, Doctor. They might - "
"Yes, yes, thank you for the warning, Lestrade." I had already decided that this was one case that would not see publication. I doubted if my readers would believe it.
"There was no trace of the other people at the museum, either," Lestrade said after a slightly uncomfortable pause. "That man in the scarf, and the girl."
I could guess what was coming. If Holmes had failed to track down Miss Smith and her friend , then the police were unlikely to succeed. "They have disappeared as well."
"Completely! I can tell you, Doctor, this vanishing of crucial witnesses will be the undoing of me!"
"Surely not, Lestrade. You solved the case, after all, found Lord Amsworth's murderers."
He looked a little mollified by my words, but said, "Not without Mrs Holmes. We'd all still be scratching out heads over this one without him. How is he?"
"Very ill," I said. There was no reason to deceive Lestrade. "This case has only exacerbated his condition. He will be out of action for some time." Possibly permanently, I added silently.
Lestrade raised his eyebrows. "Well, do what you can for him, Doctor. We need him barging in and telling us where we're all going wrong. But don't tell him I said that, will you?" he asked hastily.
I promised I would not. As I took my leave of him, I overheard two of the constables talking at the front desk – one of them I recognised as the poor fellow who had been left in charge of the strange blue box on the corner of Wigmore Street.
"Gone? How can it be gone? What would you use to lift something like that?" the other man wondered.
"Don't rightly know, but it's gone all the same. Up and vanished during the night," the constable said. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear someone had magicked it away!"
When I returned to Baker Street, having run a few errands and dropped in at the surgery on the way, I was surprised by Mrs Hudson informing me that Holmes had a visitor.
"Not another client, I hope," I said as she took my coat.
"I should say not, Doctor," the good woman replied, "I would never have allowed him past the front door had he been. It's a specialist, sir, from Harley Street. Name of Doctor Agar. He called two days ago while you were out."
In the confusion that had reigned over the weekend I had completely forgotten that Mycroft had asked Agar to call on Monday. I cursed inwardly, as I had been intending to be present when the doctor arrived, in case it proved necessary to persuade Holmes not to dismiss the man out of hand. It seemed, however, that my intervention had not been needed. "And Mr Holmes agreed to receive him?" I asked, a little incredulously.
"Not at first, but the doctor produced a letter from Mr Mycroft Holmes. When Mr Holmes had read it he told me to show Doctor Agar in. They've been talking for over an hour now, sir, and I was told not to disturb them on any account," Mrs Hudson said, casting me a concerned glance.
I forced myself to smile at her. "That's quite all right, Mrs Hudson. I was going up to my own room anyway. I have some work to do."
She looked relieved. "Very good, sir."
I made my way upstairs with a heavy tread. Though I naturally understood the need for confidentiality between doctor and patient, I was Holmes's physician (when allowed to be), and I felt a little put out at being kept behind the closed sitting room door. For a while I remained in my room, attempting to bring my record of the Harcourt case to some conclusion despite knowing that international implications would consign it to the tin box in the vaults of Cox and Co for many years to come. Eventually, though, my curiosity got the better of me, and I tiptoed back down to the landing to find the door still firmly shut. Beyond it I could hear Holmes's voice, strident for a moment before descending into a burst of painful coughing, and another, low and insistent, that I took to belong to Agar.
Mrs Hudson, bringing me a cup of tea, passed no comment when she found me sitting on the stairs. She merely nodded towards the door and raised her eyebrows. I shook my head in reply, and she went below once more.
At length the door opened, and I bolted back up the stairs as fast as my game leg would allow. Through the banisters I saw a tall, spare man with a neatly-trimmed moustache and sharp brown eyes emerge and head immediately for the seventeen steps that would take him to the front door. He looked precise, professional, and I hope fervently that he had managed to succeed with Holmes where I had failed.
The waiting had been interminable, but I still forced myself to give Holmes some more time before intruding upon him, not wishing to press him for details immediately. At last, however, I could wait no more, and descended to the sitting room.
I knocked upon his bedroom door. "Holmes?" I called softly. When there was a no reply, I entered the darkened room cautiously, closing the door behind me. "Holmes?"
After a pause, a weak voice said, "It's all right, Watson. I am not dead yet."
"That is only due to the merest chance. None of us should have been there last night."
Two tired grey eyes glared at me through the gloom. "I suppose you too believe me to be losing my faculties. I am fit for nothing more than retirement, for mental stagnation and a quiet, tedious occupation somewhere. I might expect such from Mycroft, but I had thought better of you, Watson."
"I think nothing of the kind, as well you know. Such words are unworthy of you, but I will allow them to pass because you are not well," I said, drawing up the chair from his dressing table and taking a seat beside the bed. He lay there, listless, as I had left him that morning. All the life appeared to have been drained from him – swaddled in blankets he seemed shrunken and peculiarly vulnerable, a state with which I would never normally have associated him. Those dark circles which had taken up residence beneath his eyes were more pronounced than before, and the hair singed by the falling torch had been cut back, giving him a rather ragged appearance that sat oddly with his sharp features. "You must realise that you cannot go on like this," I said. "Will you tell me what Agar had to say?"
I heard something that sounded like a snort, though there was little breath behind it. When he spoke it was in barely more than a whisper, but with a touch of his old waspishness. "It seems I am to be hounded out of London and away from my work. He has declared that I must have absolute rest immediately or face dire consequences."
As this was little more than I had myself been saying for the past few days, I guessed that I would not hear the full details. Even now Holmes has never divulged the content of that long conversation with Agar, but it had the desired effect: in a few short weeks the cocaine would be gone, buried on a Cornish beach, and would never be mentioned again.
"As it happens," I said, attempting to inject some cheer into my voice for his sake, "I have been offered the use of a cottage in Cornwall for a time. A friend thought me in need of a holiday."
"Holiday." Holmes still managed to invest the word with all the venom he usually reserved for it. Then he sighed, a look of dejection passing over his drawn face. "I suppose if I am to be buried somewhere the West Country will do as well as any."
"I will make the arrangements tomorrow. A bit of sea air will do us both the world of good, I'm sure."
"You always were optimistic, Watson," he said, and lapsed into silence.
When he said no more for some minutes I assumed him to have fallen asleep, and rose to leave the room. I had hardly left my chair, however, when he coughed, hard, and groaned, a grimace creasing his face and his hands convulsively gripping the blankets as he was taken by one of those infrequent spasms that currently plagued him. I crossed back to his side immediately, closing my hand over his and squeezing it reassuringly.
"It's all right, old fellow, it's all right," I said soothingly as the moment passed and he relaxed with a gasp. "It's all right, we'll get through this."
"Perhaps…" For a moment he struggled to breathe "…perhaps I should go…to Cornwall…alone…"
My grip tightened around his fingers. "I'm not leaving you, Holmes, and don't even think of asking it."
His eyes flickered open, a genuine question in them as though he were asking how I could remain so loyal when he had treated me with less than my due.
"Friendship, Holmes," I told him, though he had spoken no words.
After a moment he nodded, and his eyes closed once more. "I don't deserve you, Watson."
"That doesn't matter. Just rest now."
I sat with him until he did drift off. Two weeks later, once he was well enough to travel, we made the journey into Cornwall, and so began the dreadful business I have chronicled elsewhere under the title of The Adventure of the Devil's Foot.
On our return, to my dismay and Holmes's fury, we discovered that only one of the two men originally involved was to be prosecuted for the murder of Lord Amsworth. Namin had somehow vanished, leaving his confederate to take the full punishment of the law. Lestrade would say nothing on the matter, claiming once again that he had been 'leant on' by a higher authority.
Holmes saw even more clearly than I the influence of his brother, but when questioned Mycroft quite plainly told his younger sibling in no uncertain terms that if he did not desist in his line of enquiry, there was likely to be an official presence in Baker Street before long. Holmes retired from the fray with ill grace, forever after referring to the case as a failure and exhorting me to put all thought of ever publishing it from my mind.
The destruction of the Egyptian sculptures at the British Museum was put down to anarchists, and Bretherton, whether by his own choice or the decision of the museum's governors, returned to Italy to study his beloved Roman remains. The Harcourt family retired to their estates in the country, there to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, and, after a suitable period had elapsed, celebrate the marriage of William Ravensley (by then succeeded to his late brother's title) and Lady Amanda Barrington.
We never saw Miss Sarah Jane Smith or her strange friend again.
There was, however, a coda to the affair.
It did not come for some years, not until after Holmes had retired from practice and gone to keep bees on the Sussex Downs. One day a letter arrived from him, enclosing a cutting from a local newspaper.
It appeared that a large house belonging to an eminent professor had, quite suddenly and without warning or apparent cause, burned to the ground, destroying a valuable collection. The professor's name? Marcus Scarman, the celebrated Egyptologist we had met briefly in connection with the Hand of Seth. The man's brother, Laurence, and the local doctor had been found dead in Laurence's home at the lodge upon the estate, but of the professor there was no sign. He was wanted by the police for murder.
Holmes had circled the last paragraph for my particular attention: Scarman had had a house guest, also missing. That man's name was Ibrahim Namin.
It would appear, Holmes wrote underneath, that at last the gods have had their revenge.