Well, hello there! It seems like only recently that I began delving into the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Ah, I suppose that three months would be defined as "recently." Now I know what you veterans must be thinking: Three months is not nearly enough time to master the material! And you'd be right; it's not. I profess right here and now that I'm not so nearly as learned on the subject as many of you. However, I'm doing my best. I've been reading, researching Victorian England, and trying my very best to get into the minds of these amazing characters.
Quite simply put my friends, all I ask is a smidgen of patience. True, I'm but a Sherlockian Fledgling, but I'm hoping with some time and practice I can spread my wings a bit. This idea has been stewing since I first picked up A Study in Scarlet and I feel I can at least begin to pull it together.
So! Thank you very much in advance for those of you who choose to read on. I would be very appreciative of any constructive criticism--Lord knows I can use it.
--You Float My Boat
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, Inspector Lestrade, or any other characters mentioned within. That honor belongs to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If I own anyone at all, it will be the those you don't recognize.
Chapter I: The Butterfly Effect
There are few individuals upon God's Green Earth that can give rise to such awe as one Sherlock Holmes. In the years I have spent by his side as an advocate to his adventures, I have come across few who could match him in his seemingly singular talents.
It is with great reluctance that I finally relinquish this series of tales to the hands of my readers. For many years I have kept my notes to my file and the tales to my breast for the safety of those mentioned within. At last I believe it is safe for them to be known and of great importance for them to be told; for I feel that should I keep them to myself any longer, the many truths held within will be lost and twisted at the mercy of Time.
It was a rather unpleasant day, as I recall. Gently shifting the curtains allowed me to view the positively sullen gray sky through rain streaked window panes. I was rather glad to be in and out of the wet and cold and there was only one thing to cause me unrest. With no current case to pursue, my companion's mood was a black and foul as the weather. He had sat listlessly in his armchair for some time now, having given up scraping at his violin.
I had reason to believe that his mood would be considerably brightened. Reading the papers as of late, one could not help but notice the mysterious circumstances surrounding three local physicians. Two had been found dead in their own consulting rooms, mutilated in so ghastly a manner that the thought still churns my stomach. The other was missing, and judging from the amount of blood spattered in his rooms, he should be dead as well.
On this subject, Sherlock Holmes had strangely, despite his usual lethargy, taken to watching me carefully from his armchair when I had to leave to attend to my practice. It may just be a fancy, but I even suppose that I had caught him once or twice half-way between telling me to be careful as I went. When he did have occasion to leave our rooms with me, he would take my arm as we walked and look about in a decidedly suspicious fashion. One evening I made a point to comment on this and he pushed the notion aside with a derisive snort.
Getting back to the case, I was proven right about his uplift in mood as I spied a coach pulling up just in front of our door. I squinted to get a better look at the occupant as he all but jumped to the sidewalk, but the rain obscured my vision.
"I believe we'll have a client in a moment, Holmes," I informed my companion.
He looked up quite suddenly from the chemicals he was messing about with, a hint of pleasure in his grey eyes. A smile twitched at his lips as there came the sounds of a knock at the front door and our landlady showing someone in. Quickly throwing on his waistcoat, Holmes moved to the door and threw it open. Our soon-to-be client stood with his hand upraised, obviously just prepared to knock.
"Come in, Dr. Mayhew!" Holmes beckoned.
"Mayhew?" I echoed, getting a better look at our client. I daresay I must have looked quite shocked. "By God, it is you!"
There was no mistaking the man before me. With his dark hair, fair complexion and the most curiously deep blue eyes I'd ever seen, Charles Mayhew looked just as I'd remembered him when we'd gone to school as young boys. Dark circles hung around his eyes and he was slightly damp from the rain, but he offered me one of those bright smiles of old all the same.
"Watson, it is ever so good to see you again," he said, relief flooding his features as he shook my hand heartily. He glanced once at my companion. "I suppose it would be rather pointless to ask how you knew my name, sir, if you are as celebrated as our mutual friend makes you out to be."
I knew for a fact that Mayhew had been mentioned at least once in the papers, but how Holmes had deduced the fact that he would arrive on our doorstep was beyond me for the moment.
"Well doctor, you can judge that for yourself," Holmes said, making a beeline for his armchair. "Please, sit and tell us what it is that brings you here."
"Yes, I suppose I shall," Mayhew said, lowering himself onto the sofa.
Sitting next to him, I drew my notebook from my waistcoat pocket and opened it to a fresh page. Holmes struck up his briarwood pipe and peered at Mayhew through half-lidded eyes from behind a veil of smoke.
"You've no doubt heard of the events surrounding three of my fellow physicians," Mayhew began.
"Yes, I believe Watson read me a clip or two from the Times," Holmes replied, motioning for the other to continue.
"All three of those men were colleagues of mine. When Dr. Grisham was found dead, at first I just thought it was a terrible... terrible mishap," Mayhew began, a distant look in his eyes. "But with Harlow following afterwards and the disappearance of Matthews, my wife began to worry terribly for my safety as well. I implored her not to worry on my account, for I was sure that this strange series of events had nothing to do with me. That was until the birds began appearing at my home in Horsham."
"Exactly what do you man by that?" Holmes asked, leaning forward.
"I'll show you here," Mayhew said, uncovering a small box which he'd brought with him.
As he removed the lid, my companion and I peered inside. At the bottom lay a small bird, motionless in death. The plumage was of interest, being black around the head and the wingtips, white on the underside and a cream color on its back. Its beak was short and the entire bird would fit quite easily in the palm of one's hand. Frowning, Holmes took the box onto his lap and, using a pencil he grabbed from his desk, began turning the little fellow over, the body having long gone stiff with rigor mortis.
"And you say there were others like this one?" he asked, not looking up from his examination.
"Yes. I would not have brought it to your attention but for the fact that I know one of my colleagues to have received a bird as well," Mayhew said.
We both looked up quite suddenly. "That detail was not ever mentioned in the papers," I said with a frown.
"I don't expect it was," Mayhew answered with a wry smile. "I am the only one who knew of it. The bird was received by Matthews. However..."
He trailed off, looking troubled and uncertain. I looked upon him with some pity. His countenance was troubled and it was evident he had not been sleeping as of late. Although pale in his younger days, he seemed unnaturally so now; white as a slip of paper and clammy as though he were in a fever. The bright blue eyes were bloodshot, the eyelids drooping and sunken in. He had a tendency to start bouncing his right knee as he spoke, and he constantly folded and unfolded his hands; all signs of a sort of nervous energy. The haunted look in his eyes was uncharacteristic of the boisterous, amicable boy I had known in my youth. Rising, I poured a glass of brandy and offered it to him, which he accepted with a look of thanks.
"Please proceed, Dr. Mayhew," Holmes urged, keen grey eyes alight with interest.
"The bird that Matthews received was alive. And he only received one. I have received multiple birds, all dead," Mayhew said shortly. "I had spoken to Matthews three days before he went missing and he told me of the bird and wondered who it could have been from."
"This bird was of the same size and had the same coloration?" Holmes probed.
"Yes, it was," Mayhew answered.
"Hum! Well, from the looks of it, this little fellow is not native to this region," Holmes said, still studying the poor creature. "Watson, would you be so good as to retrieve my 'C' index from the shelf?"
"Certainly," I responded, moving to do so.
"Now would you kindly find the entry on the Chickadee and read it aloud," he asked.
I perused through the pages until I found the entry requested. There was a picture of a small bird of similar coloring next to the text.
"The Chickadee is a small, common songbird, a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. The black-capped, mountain, and Carolina chickadee habitat the Eastern Coast of the United States and some parts of Canada. The black tit, however, habitats Europe, Asia, and parts of Northern Africa. The breeding — "
"Thank you, that will be enough," Holmes said, still studying the bird. "Well, it appears that we have a Poecile atricapillus on our hands. The clack-capped chickadee. Rather odd, I would say, when the black tit is far more readily available. Tell me, Dr. Mayhew, do you know of anyone in America who could have possibly sent the bird?"
Mayhew contemplated this for a moment and then shook his head. "I wish I could say I did, Mr. Holmes. I know people in America and I've had American patients as I resided there for a time... but the same could be said for many other countries as well."
"I see," my friend muttered. "And you no doubt are in fear of your life at this point?"
Mayhew opened his mouth only to snap it shut quite tightly, his face flushing slightly. Holmes steepled his fingers over the box containing the bird, a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips.
"There's no shame in it. You've been placed in quite a difficult situation," he said calmly. "Where have you been finding the birds?"
"The first one was on my doorstep. The second was in the garden and the third was right outside my bedroom window," Mayhew responded a tad shakily.
I felt great sympathy for my old schoolmate. His nerves were quite obviously in tatters and I didn't need Holmes's methods to see that the strain was becoming difficult to bear. However, if he was anything like the young lad I remembered, then he was most likely under considerably more strain than he was letting on. His strong jaw was still held proudly aloft, even as he related the experience to us.
"Did you consult the police?" I asked.
"I put a word in with Inspector Lestrade — "
"Hmph!" Holmes huffed.
" — who informed me that I should seek your counsel immediately," Mayhew finished, quirking an eyebrow.
Holmes seemed ever-so slightly pleased by this fact. "Excellent. Has the inspector placed a sentry at your home?"
"He was in the process of doing so when I left."
"And your office?"
"This is quite the pretty little problem," Holmes admitted, his scrutinizing gaze bearing down on Mayhew. "But I sense that you are concerned for more than your own safety. Perhaps... that of your wife and four children?"
"How could you possibly know that detail?" Mayhew blurted, looking shocked.
"Your pocket watch chain," Holmes said, pointing. "I see that there is a coin attached to it. On one side the letters "S EE T" are engraved and on the other side "C" and "K." I know for a fact that your first name is Charles, therefore, it would stand to reason that the "C" would stand for you and the "K" would be for your wife. From here we can infer that the "S" is for your oldest, the "EE" is for your twins, and the "T" is for your youngest."
"Remarkable," Mayhew said suddenly. "You really are as gifted as they say, Mister Holmes."
My friend waved a hand dismissively. "Now, you are worried for your family despite your colleagues having been the only ones harmed. Correct?"
"Yes, but they were all bachelors, you see," Mayhew commented.
"Ah, yes, and so a family has yet to have been introduced to the equation," Holmes murmured, pressing a forefinger against his lips in thought.
He sat back in his armchair, head sunk upon his breast in deep thought. After a few moments of relative silence, Mayhew offered me a questioning glance. I nodded once, assuring him all was well. Not a minute later, Holmes looked up seeming as though he'd come to some sort of conclusion.
"I believe that I will need to make a trip to not only where the murders and abductions took place, but your home and practice as well, Dr. Mayhew, before I can begin to properly assess the situation," he related to us.
"Yes, of course," Mayhew said, nodding in understanding. "Shall I wait for you at my home or would you rather I accompany you?"
"Oh, I will need to question you further, so your presence would be most beneficial," Holmes informed him, striding quickly across the room and throwing the door open. Our client winced as my friend bellowed for our landlady. "Mrs. Hudson! Inform the cabby that Dr. Watson and I will be joining Dr. Mayhew!"
He paused for moment, looking thoughtful before turning to me.
"That is, of course, if you're interested in coming along," he said.
"I would be very much obliged if you would consider it," Mayhew added, a hint of hopefulness in his deep blue eyes. "I would understand should you wish to decline, but I would be more than pleased to put you both up for the night."
"Of course," I said. "I wouldn't dream of doing otherwise."
"Capital! Well, Dr. Mayhew, we shall gather a few of our things and proceed to the office of the late Dr. Grisham to begin our own investigation," Holmes declared, swiftly disappearing into his bedroom.
As I hurriedly packed some of my things into a carpet-bag, I knew little of the strange series of events that would come to affect both my friend and myself for years to come.
-hides behind her doodle pad- I know, I know, it's frightfully awful for a first chapter! I've probably gone and butchered their characters something terrible. If you have any advice, I would be glad to hear it. More glad than you know. It has been one of my major vices in the past to take offense to constructive criticism; thinking it a shot at my person. But In this genre there simply is no room for my ego (Holmes's takes up enough space as it is)! Summing things up: thank you for putting up with my incessant ramblings and for reading thus far. I hope to see you again!