Confound it! How in the world could the alarum have spread so swiftly? I tossed the last document on the inferno and dashed for the open door, Watson panting close at my heels. The cool night air flowed over us, soothing the burning heat of the fire I had just stoked thoroughly with every shred of Milverton's filthy occupation.
But the time spent in finishing the job I had started had perhaps cost us dearly – the entire house was now blazing with light inside and out, and there was no possible way we should be able to make it out the way we came. In my times spent at this house gaining the affections of my fiancée Aggie - Agatha, I had not realised just how extensive Milverton's staff really was – men were now everywhere, running and shouting, and the entire house and grounds resembled a veritable angry overturned beehive.
I heard a shout from behind us as we dashed off the verandah, and I began to thread my way through the gardens, yard, and trees without slackening pace, heedless of branches that seemed to snake out from nowhere to slap me in the face – to be caught now would mean ruin not only of our reputations but our lives, for we should be blamed not only for the breaking and entering but also for the murder – execution, rather – of Charles Augustus Milverton. And not even Mycroft's reputation could grant a pardon for something like that.
Watson was lagging behind, due to that bad leg, and I glanced behind us to see at least one man gaining rapidly as we ran for all we were worth toward the edge of the property. Blast!
If I remembered the layout of the place correctly, there should be a wall ahead…though it was rather high in my recollection. I increased my speed, the night air rushing into my quivering lungs, and Watson pounded along behind me, though I could hear his breathing was becoming rather laboured.
Finally, I saw it – a six-foot-high stone edifice. I paused, glanced behind us – they were gaining, far too quickly. We were out of time. I should have thought this through a bit better…now it was too late for regrets or to change things.
I have remarked before on the power of the mind and how quickly a chain of deductions can be made if one's powers are fully alert and attuned to every detail. Mine was no exception here – it took the work of a fractional second to make my decision, to know what might happen and if it did, what needed to be done now to minimize damages in that case.
"Jump!" I hissed, gesturing to the wall, and Watson had no time to argue as a shrill view-halloa sounded behind us along with an order to halt where we were.
He jumped for the wall, gasping as the glass cut his hand, and as I cupped my hands round his feet to boost him over I whispered a last instruction and prayed he would obey against his ridiculously loyal instincts – no sense in both of us getting caught in this web.
"Run! Don't stop, don't wait – get out of here!"
I might be able to explain my presence without Watson here to the Yard and have them believe that he knew naught about the affair, but never in a hundred years would he be able to do the same.
But all this had only taken, as I said, the fraction of a second in my rapid mind. In the next half-second, Watson was over the wall and I heard a crashing of bushes on the other side as I leapt for the glass-strewn coping atop the stones, wincing as a shard pierced my glove and sliced my palm open.
But even for all my swiftness, it appeared I was too late. A strong hand grabbed my boot with a hoarse shout, and I kicked viciously with it and my free foot, catching whoever it was in the chin – but he did not let go, rather yanked solidly on my foot, dragging my bleeding hand further across the glass and embedding it into my palm.
I hung doggedly onto the stones at the top, but suddenly I felt a chill of horror run through me as something cracked and started to shiver – the stone was coming loose! I kicked out again, but this time someone caught my other foot and even I was no match for three men's weight on my legs, pulling me off an already crumbling wall.
We fell in a tangled heap to the ground, and I instantly plowed my fist into one man and my feet into the other. I heard a strangled whooshing noise as the air left the latter man's lungs and a yelp of surprise when the first chap's face bore the brunt of my panic, and for an instant I felt rather satisfied, striking out again at the next man I saw with a well-aimed kick as I scrambled to my feet, elbowing the still-gasping fellow in the side with a sharp jab.
But before I even reached my now-shaking knees, what appeared to be a ten-kilo weight slammed soundly into the back of my head, and the ground suddenly met my face with a sickening, agonising jolt.
I wonder if Watson got away safely, was my first thought upon hitting the packed earth and a rather disgusting mess of dead vegetation.
What am I going to say to Lestrade? was my last as whatever it was struck me once more and sent me spiraling into the deep blackness of the night.
Hopefully this will be a slightly novel take on this plot bunny. To be continued...