Creative rights to Sherlock Holmes and his universe belong to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
KS and BCB: For KCS, our cherished sister in Christ. Proverbs 17:17
Portrait, part 1
It was a picturesque view looking down on Baker Street; a snapshot of daily life and all of its small joys. Men and women were making their way to the theatre, or home from work after a long and productive day, all feeling satisfied with their work.
One particular pair of gentlemen is making their way back to their cosy rooms, looking worn. They look quite normal, though their lives are anything but. They attack life in a bold and new manner such as the world has seldom seen, defending the weak and upholding justice. Of course, this attitude occasionally results in failure. It is after one such failure that they are returning home to-day.
The more athletic-looking of the two seems to be very worried while the other, taller one seems exceedingly depressed. They both refrain from words, as none are right for the moment. But eventually, the silence is broken.
"Miserable, inexcusable failure!" ejaculated Sherlock Holmes, throwing his hat upon the table and tossing his coat to the side, sighing heavily. He and Dr. Watson had just entered the sitting-room of 221B, returning from the less than magnificent finale of a case.
"It wasn't your fault, Holmes. You could not have predicted their actions," the doctor remonstrated.
Holmes snatched up his pipe and his lone Persian slipper and fell into his chair heavily, stuffing the pipe with the strong shag tobacco.
"I should have been able to. My blindness is inexcusable. And now, a man is dead because I was so infernally slow," he said despondently.
Watson placed his hat and gloves on the sideboard and took up Holmes's discarded coat, hanging it up with his own. Holmes lit his pipe, closing his eyes and leaning back in the velvet-lined chair as he inhaled.
Watson watched the man with a concerned gaze, but spoke strongly for his friend's benefit. "He may have died anyway. You cannot possibly know."
Holmes looked grateful for the smoke, but still very unsettled. He opened his eyes and looked over at the doctor. "He would not have been in such danger if I had not thought… If I had only known those blasted brothers were aware of my plans!"
Watson walked over to the fireplace and took a cigar from the coal-scuttle, sitting across from Holmes in his own armchair. "Well," he sighed and watched the detective uncertainly, "…there are times when events move beyond our control. I cannot see that you could have done anything differently that would have changed the outcome," he said, lighting the cigar.
"We had just enough time…I could have been there—we could have been there—if I had only foreseen…"
Watson thought for a moment. "But you could not have known, Holmes. Neither you, nor I, nor Inspector Lestrade had any idea of what they were going to do. And the constable…" he paused, a sad look threatening to overtake his features, but he repressed it. "He was young and eager…he wanted to prove himself and ran head-first into danger. Any different action on your part would not have changed his." He looked at the unchanging face of his friend and realized that was not helpful. He sighed and smoked silently, thinking this would be one of those times his friend would choose to brood rather than talk. He was wrong.
"He had a family, Watson. Perhaps if we had been…" he shook his head, as if to clear a thought. "It is inexcusable."
Annoyed with the man's stubbornness, the doctor spoke more harshly than intended, "Then pray tell, what could you have done differently that would have changed the situation?"
Holmes did not reply. A few moments of silence passed, Watson staring at Holmes and Holmes staring at nothing as the two smoked.
Watson took a deep breath, "Sorry, old man…I'm just as upset as you. But I can't see that we could have done anything differently that would have changed the outcome," he sighed, "So there is no point in brooding over it."
Holmes sunk further into his chair and stared at his pipe, a melancholy look in his liquid eyes. "I have failed…" he murmured. "Perhaps I should retire from detection, if I can make a blunder such as this…"
Watson almost dropped his cigar in shock. "Holmes! Your work is your life. I cannot imagine you would even consider that!" Holmes was unresponsive, so the doctor thought for a moment. "…It…is not as if this is the first time you have fai—erred," he corrected quickly, "And really, we apprehended the one. His brother left a trail enough for even Lestrade to follow," he took a tentative puff on his cigar. "It isn't as bad as all that," he finished lamely. He didn't really believe his own words.
"If I was the ideal reasoner that your works portrayed me to be, this would not have happened," said Holmes at last, quietly. Watson put out his cigar and leaned his head upon his hand with a sigh, listening to his friend. "Young Daniels would be safely at home now, and the elder Carter would be in gaol with the younger."
"Daniels was proud of his work. As a fine a constable as the Yard could ever have asked for. If…if he could have chosen an ideal death, I believe this would have been his choice," said the doctor. "And they will catch Carter. Surely there was never a trail left by any criminal in history. Lestrade will soon have him."
Holmes scoffed sullenly. "I have no doubt that Lestrade will get his man. It will be a fine day for him."
Watson looked at Holmes worriedly. If he could not take pleasure in bashing the officials, he really was in a bad state.
Still, Watson snorted a bit. "Yes, it will…And he will be hanged for the death of Daniels. Justice will be done."
"We are fortunate that Carter was so careless. If he had not been…Heaven only knows who else might have suffered for my blunder!" His pipe went out suddenly, and he looked at it for a long moment. "Well," he said, standing to his feet wearily, "it is growing late. Mrs. Hudson will no doubt have supper up soon. Tell her I won't be dining to-night." He trudged off to his bedroom, his whole body seeming to drag with the simple action.
Watson watched the detective disappear into his room, the door closing solidly behind him. It was not unlike the man to fall into a black mood after a case, but this was far worse than any that Watson had been witness to.
True, the case had ended terribly with the death of a brilliant young policeman. Daniels had more instinct than most of the inspectors on the force, but the brash and immaturity of most men his age had been his downfall.
Perhaps that was one reason why Holmes was taking this failure so hard. Daniels may have reminded him of himself, and he had felt as a mentor to him.
But no amount of guidance or regret would alter the circumstance. As a man of logic, Sherlock Holmes should have recognized this. But he had taken the road more often travelled and chosen to shut himself up, physically and emotionally. The doctor was clearly aware of this, and it worried him. At times like this, Holmes was liable to resort to the use of his seven-per-cent solution and suffer through his self-recriminations. Watson feared that it was only a matter of time before one day Holmes went too far with his idea of "medication."
He sighed and left the cosy sitting-room to go to his own…not that it felt cosy at all. His room offered no feelings of comfort, either. A deep foreboding had settled into his mind and heart, even as he lay in bed trying to put the day's events out of his mind.
The night passed uneventfully and the sun rose once again upon London, the heart of the great British Empire. People likewise rose as they normally did to start their days, their worries on little more than what they would have for breakfast and what the weather would be like. Sherlock Holmes, however, did not rise at his usual time.
That had not surprised Watson, nor had it changed the doctor's own habits, and he sat distractedly at the small table speaking to their landlady about the morning's meal.
"Are you sure that Mr. Holmes won't be breakfasting, Doctor?" the lady asked for the third time.
Watson glanced at Holmes's closed bedroom door and sighed. "No, Mrs. Hudson, I don't think so."
Mrs. Hudson sighed resignedly. "I don't know how he stays alive, thin as he is and as little as he eats…" she said as she placed one tray on the table before Watson, but kept the other to take back to the kitchen. "Not eating supper last night, either!"
"I shall try to get him to eat later, Mrs. Hudson. Don't you worry." He offered her a reassuring smile.
She raised her eyebrows dubiously, but returned the smile. "If Mr. Holmes does want anything when he wakes, he is welcome to it, but tell him it shall be cold!"
"I shall," he answered as the lady left the room.
Watson watched as the door closed behind Mrs. Hudson, and thought how different a sound it was from the sound of Holmes's door the night before. There was so much character in that simple action that the dejection Watson had felt then was just as strong now.
He pushed his scrambled eggs around with his fork as he looked at the door of his friend. What a perfect analogy, is the room behind a closed door, for until the door is opened, the room is a mystery. Sherlock Holmes was the same. And Watson wasn't sure how to open the door.
He pushed his tray aside, having no appetite, and reached for the newspaper. Perhaps he could find something diverting to keep his mind off of recent events.
At that moment, the aforementioned closed door opened to reveal Holmes, looking tired but still more rested than he had the night before. He still wore his nightshirt, and his grey dressing-gown was on over that. He did not even look about the room but began walking over to the mantelpiece with single-minded purpose.
Watson started at the sound of the bedroom door closing. He looked up, quite surprised to see his friend awake.
"Why…Holmes?!" was all his shocked mind could come up with to say. His eyes followed the direction of Holmes's gaze to their resting place on the cocaine-bottle. Holmes shifted his stare over to Watson, as if startled out of a dream.
"Ah, Watson. Good morning," he said flatly.
"Um, good morning…" said Watson, thinking quickly. "Would you care for some breakfast?" he asked, gesturing to the table, and then realized there was only one tray. He swallowed slowly, but Holmes did not seem to notice his error.
"No, thank you. I'm not hungry," he said, continuing to look dully at Watson.
"Oh, well…" he glanced around the room quickly, his eyes finally settling upon the newspaper beside his breakfast tray. "There are some interesting advertisements in the agony column, if you would care to read?" he said with poorly suppressed optimism.
Holmes's eyes flashed to the mantel, then back to the paper on the table. He then proceeded to walk to the table, taking up the paper and falling into the chair across from Watson.
The doctor watched the detective nervously, as he had not actually read the agony column. He pushed his food around again to distract himself as he watched his friend's eyes darting over the pages. The only noise for a few moments was the sound of Watson's fork and the papers rustling. Holmes set aside the less interesting pieces of newsprint and continued to read. Watson glanced at the mantel, and then back at Holmes's bored eyes. He knew what inevitable course the morning would take if he could not find some way to distract his friend. He nervously twisted the napkin in his hands and cleared his throat.
"It looks to be a very nice day, Holmes…" he trailed off uneasily.
Holmes sighed greatly as he glanced over the agony columns. "Indeed? I hadn't observed it."
"Oh…" Watson said simply as he looked at the uninterested face of his friend, not knowing what course to take. He picked up one part of the newspaper which Holmes had discarded and glanced down at it absently. An advert about a string concert in Kensington Gardens that afternoon caught his attention. He would have ordinarily been interested, but he did not want to leave Holmes alone, and of course Holmes would not want to go…not to-day, anyway.
Holmes looked up over his paper, peering at Watson with clear, discerning eyes.
"You're worried about me."
Watson, startled out of his despairing thoughts, dropped the paper into his uneaten eggs.
"Well, yes I am," he said, looking at him openly and slightly puzzled. His eyes even suggested that he wanted Holmes to continue, and a small, tight smile flashed across the detective's lips.
"Don't be so surprised. It's simplicity itself."
Watson permitted a small laugh. "I'm sure it is."
"You asked me if I cared for breakfast when, clearly, you had told Mrs. Hudson I would not be eating and there was no breakfast for me to have," Holmes began, as if lecturing a pupil. "You then suggested that I should read the agony columns, saying they were interesting, when just as clearly you had not even touched the paper and therefore would not know. That and a few other things led me to my conclusion," he finished, his eyes lowering back to the paper. "You were not entirely wrong about the paper…however, there's nothing of lasting interest."
"Mm…" Watson bit his lip uneasily and sighed. "Correct as always, Holmes…" he said distractedly, glancing out the window for a moment at the bright sun, and then back to the paper resignedly. Again he saw the advertisement for the concert, and inspiration suddenly struck him like a ray of light.
"Holmes?" he said, looking up energetically.
"Hm?" the detective answered, not taking his eyes from the paper. Watson bit his lip again and drew a nervous breath.
"There's a concert at the park later—a string quartet from Wales. Would you care to attend?"
Holmes's grey eyes rose to meet those of his friend, studying him for a moment. One black brow climbed his forehead questioningly. "An attempt to keep me from my cocaine-bottle, I think," he said. Watson swallowed guiltily. "I do not much feel like venturing out to-day, my dear Watson. And I am afraid that I would not make for very spirited company, besides."
The doctor looked down disappointedly, frowning slightly. "Well…if that is the way you feel…" he trailed off despairingly.
Holmes set the newspaper down on the table and rose, heading for the mantel. "I'm afraid so, Watson," he said as he collected the remnants of yesterday's pipes. "I'm sure the concert will be just as good without me." He stuffed his pipe with the crude mixture that made up his first pipe of the day.
Watson stood up quickly, his chair moving noisily away from the table with the force of his motion. His jaw dropped slightly, and he found himself at a loss for words as he eyed his friend's hand resting so near the cocaine-bottle on the mantelpiece. He walked over to his armchair after a moment and sat down sulkily. "No," he said, "I don't really care to go without company…"
"Ah." Holmes clenched the stem of his pipe firmly with his teeth as he struck a match against the stone hearth. "I see," he said, lighting the pipe. Watson simply sat, staring at the wall. "Well," Holmes said as he wove out the match. He paused a moment to take a few long draws from his pipe. "It isn't likely I will be good company here, either. Unless you are willing to endure what you have called my 'black moods,' you should go."
Watson sent a flickering glance up at Holmes. "No," he mused, and then glowered at him. "No, I think I shall stay here," he said with finality, straightening up in the chair and folding his hands in his lap.
Holmes looked at Watson with a raised brow. "Just as you wish."
He settled down into his own chair and looked up distractedly at the ceiling, puffing thoughtfully at his pipe. Watson repressed a smirk, knowing he had played his hand well. They sat silently for several minutes, Holmes smoking and staring at the ceiling and Watson staring at Holmes. Finally, the detective looked at Watson critically.
"I suggest you do something better with your day than just staring at me, smirking like a cat."
Watson feigned innocence. "Whatever do you mean?"
"I know my Watson better than that…" Holmes said, looking thoughtfully at the mirror above the fireplace.
Watson blushed and glanced around the room absently, wondering what Holmes was thinking. "Perhaps," he said, looking back at Holmes. "Perhaps you do." The doctor's eyes gleamed with sudden mischief.
Holmes's brows furrowed as he looked at Watson in some confusion. "Watson, I am in no mood for your games…"
The doctor smiled and raised an eyebrow at Holmes, tilting his chin imperiously. "I'll make a deal with you, Holmes…" he said as he rose, stepping over to Holmes's chair and taking up the cigarette-case from the table next to it. "I believe…that you cannot truly know what I am thinking at all times. Spend the day at the park with me, and see if you can't interpret my thoughts in everything we do."
He took a cigarette from the case and lit it, smiling confidently.
Holmes watched Watson suspiciously, exhaling slowly. "Watson, I've told you, I'm in no mood. I'm sure you can appreciate the fact. I know you only wish to help, but…" he paused, observing the slowly fading look of confidence from his friend's face. He sighed. "Does it have to be the entire day?"
Watson drew lightly on the cigarette, his hand shaking a little from anxiety. "Only so long as it takes to walk to the park, hear the concert, and return."
Holmes sighed, holding his pipe firmly as he looked at Watson. "All right, I'll join you. Though I fear neither of us will have the most pleasant day…" he said as he stood. "You know I would much rather be here with my cocaine-bottle, but I suppose it may do me some good."
Watson raised his eyebrows, pondering his companion's pessimism. "…Get ready, then. If we don't want to be late for the concert we should leave directly."
Holmes glanced at Watson doubtfully and walked toward his bedroom. "Do you propose we take a hansom or walk?" he called from inside.
Watson pulled his gaze from the bottle that still undoubtedly beckoned his friend and took another puff of his cigarette. "The air seems well enough. A walk would do us good." He moved back toward the table, glancing at the advertisement in the paper as he pulled his watch from his pocket to check the time. He replaced the timepiece and headed for the main door. "I'll just be a moment, Holmes," he called. "I want to brush my teeth."
Holmes acknowledged from his bedroom and Watson exited the sitting-room and made for the bathroom. Moments later Holmes re-entered, finishing the knot on his necktie. He took up the cigarette case from where Watson had left it and put it into his pocket, along with another trivial item or two. He stepped over to the fireplace to wait, leaning his elbow upon the mantel. The cocaine-bottle caught his eye again, and he stared at it for a long time.
Watson returned a few minutes later, dabbing the corners of his mouth with his handkerchief. He saw the item that held Holmes's attention and stiffened.
"Are you ready?" Holmes asked, turning to face his friend.
Watson eyed him suspiciously for a moment, and then spoke in a low, hard voice. "Yes. Shall we?" he said, gesturing toward the door. Holmes frowned slightly, but crossed the room and went through the open door. Watson followed, closing the door soundly behind them.
"You had better inform our good landlady that we are going out," Holmes said, casting his gaze back up the stair. The doctor nodded his acknowledgement and called toward the kitchen.
"Mrs. Hudson? We are going out."
The lady's head appeared through the kitchen door. "Mind that you both have some supper," she said.
"We shall, thank you." Watson put on his gloves and opened the front door of the building. "After you, Holmes."
"Thank you, Watson," he said, stepping outside and starting toward Regent's Park.
Watson locked the door and hurried to catch up with his friend. "Wait, Holmes!" he said, and the detective stopped and turned back as Watson caught up. "The concert is in Kensington," he said, taking his friend's arm and steering him the other way.
"I see," said Holmes, allowing Watson to lead him along. That fact worried the doctor, and he tried to think of some way to distract him. He called his mind back to their earlier conversation.
"So…?" he said, looking at Holmes expectantly.
Holmes looked a bit puzzled for a moment, but a light soon came to his eyes. "Ah," he said as they strolled toward Oxford Street. "Well, you are not so difficult to read, my dear Watson."
"Oh?" said Watson, looking ever so slightly insulted.
Holmes inclined his head leisurely. "Just before we left the sitting-room, you thought that I was pondering taking the cocaine."
"Indeed, I almost thought you had taken it. But of course, you didn't…"
"No, indeed. That would be a little ridiculous, as I would not get to fully enjoy it while out."
Watson bristled and tried to repress the reaction of taking a tighter hold on his friend's arm, but seemingly failed as Holmes's bicep tightened beneath his grip. He ground his teeth together. "Oh, I don't know…" he narrowed his eyes, "have you ever tried it while out? You may give the public some original form of amusement if you were to do so."
Holmes frowned and looked down at Watson. "I beg your pardon?" he said a trifle hotly.
Watson slowly swallowed the lump in his throat. "Nothing…" he replied quietly, his voice slightly husky. He released Holmes's arm and increased his pace, planting his stick more firmly on the pavement with every step.
The detective studied his face curiously. "I am sorry, Watson," he said. "I know that my habit causes you much grief, and perhaps I should not speak of it in such a cavalier manner."
Watson muttered to himself, "Shouldn't do it at all…"
Holmes heard his friend's words, but said nothing in reply.
Watson frowned and sighed, looking all around them. His face cleared a bit as he observed the great amount of activity in the streets. "Can you read all of their thoughts as well? Or am I unique?" he asked, looking up at Holmes.
"Mm… All people think differently. Some of these are as easy to read as if they had signs round their necks; others I cannot discern without a few more clues. I must have enough time to watch their expressions and actions, and even then a vital clue may escape my notice."
"So all of these people…" he gestured over the streets with his stick, "Can you point out any one whom you cannot read?"
Holmes looked across the crowd, his height a positive advantage. "If given enough time I would be able to read them all, I daresay, but just in passing…" he glanced around a few moments more, an amused look coming over his face. "One that I can read is that gentleman over yonder," he gestured across the street with his stick, "he is thinking that he is late for luncheon, and is concerned what his wife will think of his appearance. An early luncheon with guests, I would imagine…"
"How can you possibly know that?!" Watson asked incredulously.
"I've been observing him as he came up the street. His pace was quick, and he cast repeated, nervous glances at his watch. You will notice that he is dressed for an event such as having guests over for luncheon, and that he has been shopping—though why he did not have the servant do it, I cannot imagine. You will further observe that he was checking himself in the store window worriedly, for he has been splattered with mud by a passing cab." Watson stared at the man in question, searching for all these indications Holmes had given him. "The ring on his finger speaks of a wife, and the otherwise immaculate dress shows that the wife cares for his wardrobe. He appears to be concerned that his wife will not be pleased with him. There are other possibilities, admittedly, but with other slight indications and the evidence we have, this one seems the most likely."
"I see…" the doctor said, wondering how Holmes could have observed and deduced so much so quickly. "You never cease to amaze me, Holmes," he smiled.
Holmes returned the gesture, though not quite so broadly. "Elementary," he said, trying not to appear as flattered as he felt. Reaching Oxford Street, they turned to the right and Holmes felt compelled to speak again. "Surely you are not always so amazed by me? Sometimes you must find me most boring."
"Not in the least!" Watson replied with sincerity. "There could not be another man in all of London with such faculties of observation and deduction as you have," he exclaimed. "You take it too lightly, Holmes. You have a unique gift that deserves admiring."
Holmes looked down at the street, blushing slightly. "Well, it is good to know that I do not weary you with my endless observations."
"I could never be bored with them. One of my greatest delights is watching you at work."
Holmes appeared to be having difficulty containing his smile, and Watson watched his friend's face for a moment. He returned his gaze to the street ahead of them, not bothering to restrain his grin, and they walked on for a while in companionable silence.
The moment of peace was broken, however, when Inspector Lestrade himself came up the street at a steady pace, so absorbed in his thoughts that he nearly bumped into the two men as they walked.
"Oh, pardon me—well, if it isn't Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson!" he said with some surprise.
Watson was slightly startled at first, but his face took on a blank expression as he saw who it was. "Hello, Inspector…" he said without enthusiasm.
"Hullo, Lestrade," greeted Holmes.
The little detective looked as if he had not rested much. Dark circles were forming under his eyes and the state of his clothes was less than perfect. Undoubtedly he had been very busy since the night before. "That was some rough business last night, eh, gentlemen?" he asked. "Poor Daniels…a fine fellow, that."
"Indeed," said Watson, glancing down at his shoes uncomfortably. He looked back up and heaved a hopeful sigh, "Any luck?"
"Mm, yes," Lestrade replied. "Don't you worry…the younger Carter's been talking, and we've just about got our hands on the elder. We'll have him. It's just a matter of time."
Watson watched Holmes uncertainly, wondering what sort of reaction he would have to this.
"Excellent, Lestrade," the detective said, a distant look coming to his grey eyes, "Do tell me if you capture him."
"Of course," said the official, "No doubt you want to be present at his hanging."
Watson observed Lestrade's obliviousness with contempt. "Shall you be getting after him, then?" he asked, just a trifle impatiently.
Lestrade did not seem to notice the harsh tone to the doctor's voice. "Yes, we're very busy—hot on his scent. If you'll excuse me, I really must be off." He nodded his farewell to the two and continued past them.
They watched him leave, and Watson turned cautiously to Holmes. "That was an uncharacteristically painless encounter."
Holmes sighed, seeming to have lost all of his energy from just moments before. "Well, I doubt Lestrade is in any mood to gloat too much. He was, after all, very near to Daniels when he was shot."
Watson rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, "I'm surprised he's in such a good mood, considering that Daniels bled to death all over him…" Watson trailed off, realizing the utter inanity of his statement.
Holmes looked at the ground. "All the more reason to get his man," he replied soberly. Watson studied Holmes's face, trying to discern his mood.
"He wouldn't even know there was a counterfeiting ring if not for your intervention," he began, choosing his words carefully. "In a matter of months, London would have been in the midst of a great economic crisis if not for you."
"Certainly not," said Holmes with a wave of his hand, "The notes they were printing were the finest I had ever seen. Lestrade wouldn't have known a Carter note from a genuine Bank of England. But…" He looked quite depressed again, and his brow furrowed deeply. "They were not the brightest of men. I do not see how they knew I was onto their trail…!"
Watson's own brows drew together in puzzlement. "Did you ever do anything or say anything that could have revealed your identity to them? Surely criminals are always suspicious of the hired help…"
Holmes's head turned to Watson quickly, looking somewhat offended. "Of course not!" he said firmly.
"I meant nothing by it Holmes," said Watson, looking slightly hurt, "But they must have discovered your game somehow."
"Two hours of make-up each morning…it certainly wasn't by recognition!"
"Hm…" the doctor pondered. "Could one of your contacts have given you away?"
Holmes stopped walking and tapped his stick thoughtfully against the street as he looked around. Watson stopped as well, curiously observing his friend as he hesitated.
"It is possible…" the detective said at last with a sigh.
Watson watched the movement of the pedestrians as he thought. "But how could they have been ready to leave so fast? Your informant said they would be in London at least another month." He took a few steps forward to gaze absently into a shop window.
"I do not know. My information could have been wrong… Obviously, it was not adequate."
"It could simply be that they became uneasy and decided to flee," he suggested, turning back to face Holmes.
"That is also possible."
"Your net was drawing tightly around them. There were few moves left they could make." Watson walked back to Holmes's side, and they continued down the street. "The variable of unpredictability is an unfortunate plague in both our professions."
"Indeed…" Holmes said, distracted.
Watson was at a loss. Holmes had seemed to be getting at least a little better, but Lestrade had come along and reminded him of his worries… He took his stick in his hand and began fiddling with the handle and swallowed nervously.
"Well," he began uneasily, "What am I thinking now, Holmes?"
Holmes looked over at Watson suddenly, remembering what he was supposed to be doing, and studied him. Watson stared back, eyebrows raised expectantly.
"I should think the same thing you have been thinking all morning," Holmes replied, his eyes running over the doctor, "Except now you worry that Lestrade's intrusion has worsened my 'condition.'"
Watson bit his lip, "Well, yes…" Suddenly, a thought came to him. "Holmes, perhaps it was one of Lestrade's men who gave us away!"
Holmes's brows drew together lightly. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"What I mean is, perhaps one of them could have been careless in his work and accidentally betrayed the fact that the house was being watched."
Holmes looked thoughtful a moment. "That is entirely possible," he said. "I should tell you Watson, that I have already considered that possibility."
"I need to inquire as to who was on duty," Holmes continued. "It is certainly possible… Though I'm not so sure Lestrade would be so careless as to choose men that were not up to such an important task."
Watson looked reluctant to speak as his thoughts grew even deeper. "It could have been Daniels," he began slowly. "He was young and inexperienced... He seemed the type to get so deeply into the game that he might have forgotten he was supposed to be a silent player. All it would have taken was a conspicuous presence to make the Carters suspicious."
"True," said Holmes. "But until we get to talk to Lestrade again, I'm afraid we cannot tell for certain."
"Of course…" Watson said glumly.
They walked silently for a while, both turning their thoughts inward, meditating on the dark cloud surrounding them. Watson watched his stick as it hit the pavement rhythmically, the pattern almost serving to pace and drive his scattered thoughts.
Holmes glanced at Watson, observing his uncharacteristically downcast face. "…Why don't you try to deduce something…from the people around us?" he ventured.
Watson's head shot up, startled out of his reverie. "Oh, um…" He looked around, and his eyes settled upon a young couple not far away. "Those two over there," he said, "they…have recently become engaged."
"Go on," Holmes encouraged.
"And," Watson continued, his confusion at the task making him suddenly nervous, "…the young man has come into a sizable amount of money within the past few days." He looked to his companion for confirmation.
Holmes's ascetic visage offered no assistance, but there was a tight smile upon his lips. "And?" he asked, "Anything else about him? What of the lady?"
The doctor looked at the couple again and shook his head, "I can see nothing more."
"Ah, my dear Watson, you can see everything, but you fail to draw conclusions from what you see," Holmes smiled, his tone notably warmer.
Watson slouched a bit, looking mildly embarrassed.
Holmes began his string of observations, "That they have recently become engaged is quite easy to see, as you no doubt deduced from the way she keeps staring at the inordinately large diamond ring on the fourth finger of her left hand. The young man, however, has not come into so much money as it may seem… He is a writer like yourself, as you can see from his right sleeve cuff and the almost permanent ink stains upon the hand. He has recently sold a story—one of a series, which seems to be doing quite well."
"Yes, you will observe the copy of The Strand under his arm with a pay stub nearly identical to the kind you receive sticking out between the pages where it surely marks his new publication. The new watch chain he is sporting, in addition to the size of his fiancée's ring speak of his great profits."
Watson thought about this a moment as he looked at the gold chain and sparkling diamond. He thought perhaps it may be time to bring up the subject of a raise in pay with his own Strand associates.
"The young woman works at a florist's shop," Sherlock Holmes continued, "and quite possibly owns it. Note her fingers and the fresh flower on both their persons, and her business-like dress and deportment. They are on an outing for the day, and he is planning on spending a lot of money on her since it is the first time they have seen each other in some weeks."
"You cannot possibly know that!" said Watson, incredulous.
"Note her complexion, then that of her suitor, and how fresh she looks. This woman has been away from our London air in the country for at least a fortnight," Holmes said with a smile. Watson looked at the woman closely. "And no doubt you see how positively amorous they are. They have been apart."
"Brilliant, Holmes…" Watson said, somewhat disbelieving. Everything confirmed his deductions…as always.
"You see now? It is really quite simple."
"I don't know about that… But there is indeed more than I observed."
"My dear fellow, some day you will have learned the trick, and then I shall really seem a most ordinary man."
Watson suppressed a smirk. "You could never be ordinary, Holmes," he said.
"Hmph," snorted Holmes, "I do believe you are implying more than just my abilities…" a small smirk touched his own lips.
"Is that a deduction or an assumption?" Watson asked playfully, raising an eyebrow.
"A little bit of a deduction, a little bit of knowing my biographer," Holmes replied as he looked about. "It really is a pleasant day…"
Watson looked at Holmes curiously. "You think so?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"The weather's fair," said Holmes matter-of-factly. "If we are to be out in it, it is best that it is tolerable, is it not?"
"Yes..." The doctor pondered this for a moment. He looked up suddenly, "So what am I thinking now?"
"You're wondering about my change in mood," Holmes replied simply with a light smile, looking down at his friend.
Watson's eyes opened a bit wider. "Why, yes... But how could you...? Never mind." He tucked his stick under his arm. "I am sure it is all ridiculously simple," he said, frowning thoughtfully.
"It is. I know you too well."
The doctor's upper lip twitched, "I suppose so." He thought for a moment, and suddenly his eyes twinkled with mischief. "So what am I thinking now?"
The great detective sighed through his nose, looking off to the side. "You're thinking about stumping me," he replied.
Watson's jaw dropped, and he was momentarily stunned to silence. "But—now how did you deduce that!?"
"You're too stubborn, my dear Watson. Petulance does not become you at all."
Watson fumed silently for a moment and quickened his pace to where it was stronger and less leisurely. Holmes matched stride easily with Watson and took his arm.
Watson looked up at Holmes for a moment, and then sighed and smiled. "Well, I can hardly expect to baffle the world's greatest detective."
Holmes smiled tightly, looking to the street again.
They finally arrived at the park, which was fresh and green after the light rain the day before, and the sun shone down upon the two men as they strolled along. There were many other people out on such a fine day as this, their minds cleansed at least for the present by the peacefulness of nature in the park. Holmes seemed to be pulling out of his black mood quite well, and Watson was silently thankful he had managed to get Holmes to accompany him, even if by unconventional methods.
Birds sang brightly in the trees above and flowers were bursting into magnificent, fragrant blooms, nearly making one forget about the sounds and smells of the city surrounding them. It is a curious thing about nature, in that it can endure unfathomable disasters and still manage to right itself and continue in precise harmony. Friendship is similar. No matter how many storms there are, the true friendships are always fresher and stronger when the clouds clear.
The immortal pair had crossed from the street through Hyde Park, and were now strolling through the beautiful Kensington Gardens. The detective continued to awe the doctor with little snippets of information about the others around them, tossing the facts out as if it was child's play.
One elderly gentleman even overheard Holmes's deduction about his being in a troublesome situation with his daughter, and became perturbed enough to charge at them with his heavy-looking stick.
The two hastily left the man to his rantings and continued beyond the Round Pond to the gazebo, where the string quartet was warming up.
Watson looked back warily, scanning the park with his eyes. "I don't see him anymore..." he said, sounding a bit relieved.
"Well, Watson, I'm sure we don't have to worry about him anymore," said Holmes offhandedly. "That cellist looks familiar...I believe I've seen him before..." Holmes was obviously interested in the concert now and had no time to think about the old man that had seemed ready to give them a sound thrashing with his walking stick.
Watson let out a nervous breath and looked at Holmes. "Oh? Recently?" he asked, approaching the folding chairs that had been set out.
"Mm, no, I think about six years ago...Possibly November," Holmes replied thoughtfully.
"Six years ago..." Watson thought. "That would have been right after we moved into Baker Street. I don't recall going to any concerts then?"
"No, I was alone."
"Oh," said Watson, looking mildly offended. "What venue?"
"Do not take it personally, Watson. I believe I was pursuing a criminal then and was there in disguise, alone," Holmes explained. "The man I was after was in the audience. But if I remember, the cellist was quite good."
"This is incredible Holmes. That you can notice a specific instrumentalist while watching a criminal and remember six years later is beyond me," Watson looked at his friend, truly impressed. "I am interested in hearing him now. Do these others look familiar?" They paused at the back of the audience.
"No, I don't think so. I thought for a moment that I knew the violist, but only for a moment," Holmes replied, fingering absently at his glove-buttons as he stood.
Watson looked back to the quartet and noticed the violist was a woman, so he turned a mischievous gaze upon his companion. "Are you certain?" he asked with a wink.
Holmes turned quickly, frowning and glaring at hearing his friend's tone. "Certainly nothing like that, Watson!" he said ardently.
Watson managed to keep a straight face, but he could not conceal the laughter in his eyes. "Really Holmes," he said sincerely, "would it be such a departure from your values to give women and the softer emotions a chance?"
"Yes, it would."
Watson laughed heartily. "Why?" he asked.
"I have no time for such things, Watson. I cannot let anything interfere with my work."
The doctor rolled his eyes, "Still falling back on that excuse?"
"It is not an excuse. It is logical reasoning."
Watson planted his stick in the ground and leaned upon it. "I will give it to you that family life and detective work—especially your work—do not go hand in hand. But still, Holmes…"
"Furthermore, women simply cannot be trusted."
"Why ever not?" Watson asked, looking surprised.
Holmes sighed, "Women are inscrutable...their slightest actions may depend on volumes, and their most extraordinary actions upon some small piece of useless gossip. They are a complete mystery, and far too senseless."
Watson smirked. "I thought you love a good mystery?" he teased.
"Not a mystery like that…" the detective replied distastefully.
Watson smiled as if he knew something Holmes did not, but Holmes seemed oblivious to Watson's grin as he observed the musicians.
The doctor frowned. "I know you're listening to me, Holmes," he said as the people began to settle into their seats.
Holmes looked over at Watson, his brows raised slightly in question, "What?"
Watson examined Holmes's cynical face and sighed, "Never mind..." he muttered, turning his attention back toward the musicians. "Oh! Holmes, look, there's that man!" He pointed forward to a grizzled person a few rows before them.
Holmes's eyes followed Watson's gaze, "So it is..."
They glanced up from their study of the man as the musicians settled in and tuned their instruments.
"We had best find seats before they are all taken..." Watson remarked, glancing at the crowd.
"Right," Holmes agreed. "Shall we?"
Part Two can be found on bcbdrums' profile!