Disclaimer: 'The Great Mouse Detective' belongs to Disney, 'The Basil of Baker Street Mysteries' belong to Eve Titus, Basil's first name, 'Sherringford', belongs to Irene Relda, and the two new characters to be mentioned are my own.
It was a dreary summer evening that found myself and Basil in comfortable silence at 221B Baker Street. After enjoying a rather delightful tea prepared by Mrs. Judson, Basil and I had retired to the drawing room, where Basil was now carefully attempting to repair his poor violin, which had been crushed during the Flaversham case. I watched in some quiet interest and occasional amusement at some of Basil's more fascinating facial expressions, thinking over the two cases I had already experienced with Basil - the poor, young lady mouse who had arrived shortly after the Flavershams left us found her ring within ten minutes of speaking with Basil, having placed the missing item in her pocket by accident and assuming thievery – and also considered the many more cases that were sure to come. For a moment, my mind rested on young Olivia and her smiling, innocent face, a small chuckle escaping my lips.
"Find something amusing, Doctor?" Basil asked me, annoyance evident in his voice as a large portion of the violin's bow which Basil had been rather fruitlessly attempting to reattach fell once more from it's proper position, bouncing slightly as it hit the floor. I sighed.
"No, no. I was simply thinking about that dear Flaversham girl." I replied, my mouth twitching into a slight smile at the look of bewilderment on Basil's face.
"Flaversham?" Basil said rather stupidly, blinking. After a moment, a proverbial light appeared to go on in his mind. "Ah, yes, Linda."
"Olivia." I corrected, once more fighting back a chuckle.
"Whatever." Came the typical reply. We sat once more in companiable silence until Basil threw the bits of his violin into the wastebasket next to his armchair in apparent resignation, ruffling his hair angrily.
"Drat." He said simply, after several long moments of furtive silence and many death glares cast in the general direction of the offending object. "I was very fond of that violin, you know."
"Yes, I'd noticed." I replied, staring bemusedly into the crackling embers inhabiting the small fireplace next to our chairs. I was vaguely aware of Basil's annoyed gaze still centered on his wastebasket as I stared into the fire, feeling a bit sad at the prospect of possibly never seeing that wonderful little girl again.
"Basil,'' I said suddenly, nearly surprising myself. "Why ever did you dislike Olivia so much?"
I turned to face the detective, expecting a look of annoyance or possibly the cocky smirk I'd come to think of as Basil's trademark expression. I did not, however, expect to see a fleeting moment of panic, followed by a sort of guarded indifference at my confused stare.
"Surely I didn't dislike her, Doctor." Basil said rather stiffly, a sort of grimace appearing on his countenance. "I simply have no interest in children."
"Ah. I see." I shifted rather uncomfortably, aware that I had unknowingly introduced a rather forbidden subject. "Uh… my apologies."
"No matter." Basil waved a hand in what should have been a carefree manner, had I not seen the small look of fear still evident in his eyes. Basil pulled a pocket watch from his vest, clearing his throat in a manner that signaled the end of our discussion.
"Come, old chap. I believe dinner should be nearly ready." Basil placed his watch back in his pocket and immediately strode from the room. After a moment, I stood and followed him into the small dining room, wondering what on Earth Basil could have against such innocent creatures…
I'd never expected an answer to my questions, at least, not a true answer. I hardly believe I really expected any sort of explanation at all, let alone that I would come upon the truth of the matter completely by accident. After my inquisition of Basil, our dinner had passed in a very polite but guarded manner, as if Basil expected me to inquire of him once again before the night was through. After a scarcely-touched supper, Basil hurriedly retired to his room, unusual in itself for my dear friend, who commonly took to the sitting room to experiment with chemicals or some such activity before bed, which usually ended with a large quantity of smoke inhabiting the flat by around 3 am. Afraid that I'd been too careless with my questioning of the great detective the night before, I rose early the next morning, hesitating slightly before knocking firmly at my friend's bedroom door.
"Basil?" I called softly, afraid to disturb him, but greatly fearing more damage may be done if I did not make my apologies at once. There came no reply, and, hesitantly, I pushed the door to Basil's room slightly ajar. Inside were piles of case memoirs and stacks of paper several feet high occupying every inch of the room, a quaint bed resting, clearly unslept in, at the center of it all. My heart filled with dread, I carefully closed the bedroom door, making my way into the kitchen, where I nearly collided with a harried Mrs. Judson.
"My good lady, have you seen-" The words were scarcely out of my mouth before Mrs. Judson snapped a rather vindictive reply.
"No, I haven't! And good riddance to him and his accursed ramblings!" With that, Mrs. Judson stalked from the room, slamming the door behind her hard enough to knock several pots and pans from their hooks on the wall and leaving me no closer to an explanation to my friend's strange behavior than I had been the previous night.
Careful to replace the fallen kitchenware so as not to incite further anger from our beloved, although short-tempered, landlady, I decided to go for a walk to try and clear my head. This, indeed, was turning out to be a more puzzling problem that even the Flaversham case had been.
Making my way carefully across several blocks of traffic, keeping tightly to walls and curbs to avoid unwanted attention, human, carriage or otherwise, I slowly came upon a more deserted area of town home to a large, sprawling human cemetery, next to which was a smaller, but equally beautiful, mouse replica, carefully hidden away in the center of a rather distinguished patch of rose bushes. I do not know what drew me to such a dreary place that day, but, as I wandered deeper into the Thornedrose Cemetary, as ours was known, I came upon two plots, whose owners' names struck a jolt of surprise and horror at my heart. Disbelieving, I knelt down at the base of the closest and largest headstone, a beautiful, white-marble stone adorned by an angel, my heart sinking with every word that I read.
AMELIA CATHERINE BASIL
BELOVED WIFE OF SHERRINGFORD BASIL
AND MOTHER OF CLARISSA MARIE BASIL
With a chill of dread, I turned to the headstone's neighbor, a smaller version of Amelia Basil's, though equally beautiful.
CLARISSA MARIE BASIL
BELOVED DAUGHTER OF SHERRINGFORD AND
AMELIA CATHERINE BASIL
You may never know, dear reader, how my heart raced in my chest, disbelief clutching cruelly at my mind and turning me numb with shock. I sat back on my heels, still examining the smaller of the headstones as the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit together in my mind.
"My word." I breathed softly, and, to my immense surprise, was greeted with a small chuckle from immediately behind me.
"Discovered my secret, have you, dear Doctor?" Basil's voice questioned softly of me, his voice tinged with suppressed sadness. Startled, I fell backwards onto the hard ground, twisting around to peer up at the great detective with, I'm not ashamed to say, an expression of great guilt and sympathy. Wordlessly, Basil held out a paw and helped me to my feet, staring quietly at the two graves as I attempted to dust myself off with the little bit of dignity I had left.
"My apologies, Basil, I had no idea..." I began. Basil shook his head, a sad smile pervading his features.
"No, I should think not." He said quietly, kneeling carefully down next to the graves of, what I know realized, were his wife and daughter. I watched as, slowly, Basil extracted two white roses from his jacket, carefully placing one at the base of either grave and lowering his hands once more. After a few moments of rather uncomfortable silence, in my opinion, at least, for what business did I have intruding on such a personal occasion?, Basil spoke.
"I suppose you're wondering what happened to them?" Basil inquired of me, still facing the headstones of his dearly departed and raising one hand to rest on the lettering of his wife's stone. I cleared my throat in embarrassment.
"Well, yes, I suppose; however, I hardly think it appropriate for me to-"
"Dawson?" Basil's voice cut into my rambling, a hint of sad amusement evident in his voice. He was now tracing the lettering of his daughter's headstone rather absent-mindedly. I sighed.
"Well, yes, Basil, I suppose... I am." Basil was silent for a moment, then nodded his head slowly, as if coming to a silent agreement with himself.
"Very well." Basil said, his voice having regained some strength, though still suggesting a deep regret as he stood, motioning for me to join him on a nearby bench. As we settled down onto it, Basil sighed, rubbing rather absentmindedly at his hair for several long moments before glancing at my confused and guilty countenance, earning a small chuckle from my dear friend.
"Forgive me," Basil began, settling back against the bench, " For not being frank with you last night." As he spoke, I opened my mouth to apologize furtively once more, only to be silenced by a raised, trembling paw.
"Please, Doctor, if I may." Basil gave me a questioning look, and I nodded for him to continue. Taking a deep breath, Basil launched into what I would come to respect as my dear friend's most intimate and horrific memory.
"Before I became a detective, I was a general practitioner on the outskirts of London. I had just graduated from Oxford - top of my class, I might add - and had settled into my new home when a young ladymouse happened upon my doorstep with a dreadful cold.
Having only begun my practice and still deeply in debt from my student career, I was more than willing to do whatever I could to help the poor woman, whose name I quickly learned was Amelia Harding. As we spoke of her symptoms, conversation gradually turned to music, and, to my surprise, I found myself asking her to accompany me to the opera the following evening. Imagine my delight when she agreed, and a few short months later, Amelia and I were married.
"A year later, we were blessed with a child," Here, Basil nodded to Clarissa's headstone before continuing, "By that point, my practice had begun to grow rather well, and I was no longer in debt.
As my client list grew, Amelia and I found it necessary to relocate to a new home, where we would be able to accommodate a larger number of patients without forcing them to simply 'mill about in the yard like sheep', as Amelia called it. After several weeks of searching, we found a rather suitable home at the heart of London, and by the end of the year, we were happily settled into our new home."
Basil's voice had grown stronger at this point in his narrative, his eyes shining with a deep fondness at the memory of his beloved wife and child, back when the world was still right and Basil's family was still whole.
"Clarissa was seven when everything fell apart. A terrible influenza swept through the city, malpractice by the greedy leading to a deep distrust of doctors and depleting the number of clients I held until they were virtually non-existent.
Foolishly..." Basil's eyes became unfocused, his brow furrowing, "I became desperate - with no clients, our savings were dwindling rather quickly, and, as it stood, we doubted our ability even to afford a house back in the country.
Amelia and I took a few odd jobs each to try and make ends meet, and, while making my way home one evening, I encountered a small, crippled creature who seemed to take an immediate interest in me.
Fidget, as he introduced himself - yes, Doctor, the one and the same," Basil assured me, hearing my gasp at the mention of the pathetic bat. "- was all too keen to help me find a solution to my problems, and, I, still horribly naive in the ways of the world, was more than eager to meet his friend, a certain Professor Ratigan." There was a moment of silence in which I found myself completely stunned at my friend's actions. Yes, I had wondered how Basil and Ratigan came to be such nemeses, but I wasn't sure I could take much more shock in one go. And Ratigan, that foul, loathsome villain, had he been responsible for the deaths of Basil's family? Was that was had sparked such a passion in Basil for capturing the fiend?
"At first, everything seemed as though it would work out all right. I met with Ratigan one night in a lavish restaurant, where he seemed all too happy to help me with my financial troubles. After much food and drink with my host, I strode home the happiest I had felt in months, a few hundred pounds loaned from my dear benefactor snuggled safely in my pocket.
I should have seen the folly in my actions, but, oh, Amelia's face shone when I showed her how our luck had changed.
Two weeks later, our house caught fire. Amelia, Clarissa and myself managed to escape unharmed, but our home, our belongings, every bit of money we possessed was destroyed in the blaze.
Desperation once more taking hold of me, I returned to Ratigan, hoping to buy more time to repay my loans." Basil stopped, a look of absolute disgust on his face.
"He agreed, on the condition that Amelia become his... consort." Basil spat the last word, as if the very memory of Ratigan's proposal left a bad taste in his mouth.
"I was horrified, and, naturally, I refused. Ratigan was outraged, nearly killing me then and there with his own two hands. I was badly beaten and scarcely made it back to my family alive that night. Amelia was terrified at the sight of me, but, believing this was the only repercussion we were to face from Ratigan, we slowly began piecing our lives back together.
Amelia and Clarissa had gone to stay with a friend while I searched for work. One night, about a month after my episode with Ratigan, I returned to the flat to find the door thrown open, the windows smashed, and everything inside the flat in a state of disarray. Panic and fear welled up inside me as I searched the rooms, hoping for any sign of Amelia or Clarissa."
I stared in silent horror as Basil's eyes welled up with tears as he whispered,
"I found them both."
Basil and I lapsed into silence, the weight of everything Basil had relayed to me crushing my heart with despair at what Basil had seen that night, and what I could only imagine in horrific detail.
"From that day on," Basil continued quietly, brushing tears from his eyes. "I vowed to get my revenge on Ratigan."
"But," I stuttered, feeling rather foolish, "How... how did you know it was Ratigan's doing?" Woldessly, Basil reached deep into his coat pocket and extracted a small, yellowing piece of parchment, adorned with a single, flowing 'R'.
"My God." I whispered, sinking back against the bench. My hands had become clammy and my knuckles white as I had apparently been clenching my fists rather tightly throughout Basil's narrative. I relaxed my grip a bit, my head still reeling with these new revelations. Basil suddenly turned to look at me, concern etched in his features along with a strong tinge of guilt.
"Forgive me, Doctor." Basil said as he stood, helping me to my own feet with a firm hand under my elbow. "I did not mean to shock you so."
"My dear friend, there is nothing to forgive." I said boldly. "I am the one who should be apologizing to you. I never should have pried into such personal matters of yours. It was horribly inconsiderate of me to remind you of such horrors past." I pulled a handkerchief from my coat pocket, dabbing at the sweat that had begun to accumulate on my forehead in the summer heat. Despite the weather, I still felt unnaturally chilled.
"Come, Doctor." Basil said, smiling once more as he retrieved his coat from the bench. "I believe Mrs. Judson will be expecting us."
"Yes." I agreed, vaguely aware that something else was still amiss. "Basil?"
"What exactly did you say to Mrs. Judson this morning?" I inquired, as Basil's face turned a rather amusing shade of red with embarrassment.
"Ah, she told you about that, did she?" Basil shifted rather uncomfortably.
"Oh, yes. She was in quite a state." I explained, following Basil as we made our way out of the cemetery once more. "I do hope it had nothing to do with, er..."
"My family?" Basil said quietly, giving me a kind smile. "No, though I do believe it fueled my temper rather nicely."
"Well then, what on Earth did you say to her?" Basil opened his mouth as if to explain, when the long, shrill scream of a whistle suddenly assaulted our ears from across the street, where a rather harried-looking police mouse was chasing after a young man with a large bag slung over his shoulder. At my side, Basil laughed, and, placing his customary cap on his head, took off down the street after them.
"Come, Doctor!" He cried, his voice growing fainter with every step. "The game is afoot!"