Chapter Notes: I have had one of the most rewarding writing experiences of my life these last few days. I actually got to meet Doctor John Hamish Watson and spend some time in his presence and I must say, wow is he a neat guy! Understatement that!
One of the reasons I became a writer was moments like this when the story is flowing and you've got to write it down, it's like fishing and a Marlin grabbed the line, or a monster plot-bunny!
The idea of a Sherlock Holmes story in the Holmes world without Holmes, is not a new one, but having John Watson be the crime fighter now that was an interesting thought.
I kept reading all of these WONDERFUL stories about Holmes and Watson, with Watson being viewed from the outside, instead of the narrative voice and I was intrigued to say the least.
The first story that resulted that I wrote was, "The Breaking Strain" and I thought, well I wrote a Holmes story, that's going to be it. Suddenly I was reading "Observations on a Bosewell" and there was this sequence where Watson and Lestrade were involved in an autopsy, and they seemed to have a dialogue about collaborating before. Then I read "Observations on a Yarder" and in that story there was a clear affection between Watson and the entire staff of Scotland Yard that touched me deeply. The thought occurred, what is Watson without Holmes, as a crime fighter in his own right? Would he be average? What would his process be? How would it differ from Holmes, how would it be simular, and how would his extensive knowledge gleaned from travels for the empire, be useful?
I tried to pass the bunny on to someone more canonically competent, KCS, and I mentioned it to the great Holmes author who wrote the amazing "Observations" series, Shedoc, but the bunny would not leave me. I have a full plate with other stories, but sometimes the bunny belongs to you, so you must write!
So I embarked upon this lark, thinking I would send what I had to another writer later, then Doctor Watson did something to capture me. Something random, and unexpected and sentient.
He laughed in the middle of a serious scene.
In chapter one Lestrade was doing his best to convince the man that he could be an asset to Scotland Yard, and he ran up against that old Watson stubborn streak, he got frustrated and exasperated. I had this entire sequence planned for him to convince Watson, then the man laughed, and gave in without another word.
Since then I have not been in full control of the man, he has stubbornly decided his own fate, Lestrade has suddenly taken on a life of his own as well...I don't know when the monkeys took over the zoo but I have had a ball!
I hope you have as well.
This chapter has a bit of the Yard gang shenanigans and gives an idea at how Watson fits in.
Holmes always kept himself aloof and superior but Watson is able to become a geniune member of the group, a true co-worker.
I may visit this series again.
I might not have a choice!
WARNING! There are parts that can be a bit gruesome!
Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard
"S'not fit for neither men nor beast tonight, eh guv?" said the bobby as Lestrade disembarked at the foggy street corner just outside of White Chapel, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
It took only a glance and a groan to recognize the blond hair and earnest face of PC Tommy Parlier, and his dark haired but equally eager shadow, PC Bobby Darling.
Tommy and Bobby where notorious night shifters, while most officers strove to get off the nocturnal walk as soon as they could move up, these two consistently turned down any move to daylight. There had been speculation that it had to do with a coffee addiction. Their mind numbing, rapid-fire ways of talking would seem to bear that out.
"I says, call Chief Inspector Lestrade, Bobby, he'll sort it.
"Aye, that he did, and here you are."
"Right as rain, well it was raining, still nasty though."
"Not supposed to clear up soon, so I hear."
"This is London, it never clears, where have you bean Bobby?"
"Right here, Tommy, walking tha beat to your left, I am."
"Righto, sorry chap."
Lestrade tried to wrap his tired brain around the conversation. It was too early to deal with these two...surely. He sighed deeply, he had to ask, since they were the first officers on the scene, but he was not going to enjoy this. "So, why am I here exactly?"
"Well, we was walking tha beat, and we heard this commotion."
"Some chap was making a lot of noise he was."
"Ran over some bloke with his cart, he was having hysterics."
"Wouldn't you if you ran over some bloke?"
"Of course not, Bobby, but we're not talking about me are we?"
"Right you are."
"Well we goes to see what's tha hubbub about?"
"There's this young bloke out in the middle of the street, covered in mud, he was."
"Dressed, in all things, his Sunday best, wasn't he Bobby."
"Right you are Tommy. He just crawled out into the middle of the street, and along came a four wheel, ran him right over."
"Hence, the hysterics."
Lestrade shook the cobwebs out of his brain, felt a headache coming on. I cannot believe I am about to do this. "So why am I here, why not call the shift Inspector?"
"Well, we were told if we come across something odd, we're supposed to call Chief Inspector Lestrade, and Doctor Watson at all hours, so that's what we did."
"And they don't come odder than this one, guv!"
"We thought he was just drunk, so's we smelt him to see if there were spirits involved."
"His lips were blue, they were, and he smelt like, what would you say Bobby?"
"Death. He smelt like death."
Lestrade, curiosity was starting to rouse from its slumber. "Where is the hysterical cart man, I don't see him anywhere?"
"Doctor Watson sent him off, gave him a talking to. Calmed him right down he did."
"Didn't take long, the man just bucked up and was alright after a minute."
"Doc Watson sorted him, told him to come to the Yard later for a statement.
"Hopkins signed off on it."
"That Doctor is class, isn't he Bobby."
"Checked my hand while he was waiting, gave me a talking to 'bout keeping it clean."
"He did get a bit nutter about our coffee drinking."
"Yeah, said one pot each was not cutting back, like he told to us last time."
"It's not like we're hitting the bars, right Tommy?"
"Nothing wrong with a bit of coffee, Bobby."
Lestrade had his fill of the two, so he sent them to cordon off the street. He turned to see that Doctor Watson was examining the body; Police Surgeon Wilkins was standing nearby looking pale. The cadaver was twisted up a bit from the cart wheels, he was sprawled in the middle of the cobblestone street. Watson was talking to the dead man in low tones as he worked, Lestrade knew enough about Watson's technique to know humanizing the body helped him think.
Hopkins, who had been the Shift Inspector, was standing nearby taking notes; he looked up to see Lestrade and ambled over. He saw Lestrade was rubbing his temples wearily. "You were talking to Tommy, and Bobby?" Hopkins inquired, far too cheerfully for the early hour.
Lestrade nodded. "We need to put those boys on a coffee ration."
Hopkins smirked. "Good luck with that, they'd kill their own for a pot o' the stuff."
"What do we have so far?"
Hopkins traced his notes with his pencil as he read them off. "We have a young man, approximately twenty-two who was run over by a four wheel driven by one Hans Klutz. Doctor Watson believes he was dead before the cart found him, however. He has already diagnosed hypoxia as a contributing factor." Lestrade rolled his eyes. Hopkins had taken to Watson as he had taken to Holmes before him; the young man now read medical books and treatise on forensics, which made talking to him a chore. "Hypoxia, means?"
Hopkins glanced up, surprised. "Lack of oxygen, sir, indicated by the blue lips, the man was recently smothered."
Lestrade waved impatiently for the younger man to continue.
Hopkins shrugged. "That is all we have for now. Weak-stomach Wilkins is the Surgeon on call, he's "assisting" but we are placing bets how long it takes for him to lose last night's bread."
Lestrade looked over at the younger surgeon just behind Watson, who was getting a little greenish tint, he flipped Hopkins a pence. "Put me down for ten minutes."
Hopkins grinned, flipped his pad over a few pages and wrote the entry down. He tipped his cap and followed Lestrade over to the Doctor. He was kneeling beside the body with a pained look on his face, but was ignoring the discomfort, engrossed in the examination. He seemed oblivious to Lestrade's arrival.
"Good morning, Lestrade, you're looking tired, not sleeping well?"
Maybe not so oblivious, Lestrade thought with irritation.
Lestrade made sure he was glowering, as Watson looked up with a crooked grin apparent under his moustache. "Have a nice talk with the bobbys?" he remarked, entirely too chipper for the hour.
Lestrade resisted an urge to snarl. "Tell me about your friend, or are you acquainted enough yet?"
Watson nodded. "We have been having a chat. He has quite a story to tell, if you'd like to hear it."
Lestrade squatted down beside the doctor. "Proceed."
Watson pointed to the hands. "Our young friend here was a gardener from the tool marks on his palms, and the permanent soil under his nails and pads of his fingers. He was stricken in some manner a couple of days previous, so much that someone declared him dead."
Lestrade was interested now. "How did you determine that?"
Watson pointed up the street a few paces, there were drops of mud nearly washed away by the retreating rain drainage, and it was leading off through some wrought iron gates.
Lestrade hissed under his breath. "That is a cemetery."
Watson nodded his face somber. "He has splinters of wood under his nails, the ones that were not torn off and badly bruised knuckles. The splinters are cheap pine covered by expensive lacquer. He must have awoken, clawed his way through the cheap coffin and climbed out of his own grave and out into the road before collapsing and dying on the spot. He was deceased and cooling before the cart found him, his body was too limp when the wheels rolled him under, a live body would have tensed and caused more breakage in the extremities.
Lestrade was furious. He called to some milling PCs. "Robinson, you and Hawkins go into that cemetery; there should be a disturbed grave. Get the name off of the tombstone, be quick about it."
Lestrade glanced up to see Wilkins was really getting green. He had to smile a little to himself. It was all part of police life, you made stupid bets, and played practical jokes at crime scenes, and anything to escape the horror.
"So someone declared this young man dead, but how did they not know?"
Watson sighed. "He must have had a stroke, or some reaction, either way the embalming process should have given it away. This young man was not prepared for burial properly. The coffin is a fake, maybe the entire process was as well."
Lestrade had a cold chill. "Could this be the Barrow Brothers, they were in jail for five years for defrauding with that funeral parlour, that would be seven years ago?"
Watson turned to Hopkins. "If you don't mind Inspector, run along to 221 Baker Street, there is a file on the Barrow case; it should be filed under B on the shelf over his desk, if Holmes had not moved it. Tell Mrs. Hudson that I asked you to retrieve it, if she is adamant, inform her that I will be around for tea today to discuss it." He paused. "Actually, tell her I will be around to tea regardless."
Hopkins nodded, replaced his pencil over his ear, and strode off eagerly.
Lestrade watched him go. "Hopkins has been growing a moustache, and has taken a sudden liking to forensics and medical terms."
Watson flashed that lopsided grin. "Has he now? At least he has not grown rat-like features and taken to minding everyone's business but his own."
Lestrade grimaced. "Touché', nice to see your pawky humour is returning as well."
Watson ignored the barb as he turned back to the cadaver. "This young man is simply remarkable. He awoke in a living nightmare, suffocating in darkness, but fought his way into the air. Someone that strong would not have died easily, but what killed him I wonder?"
His gentle hands traced the twisted body; he suddenly stopped at the heel of the man's shoes. "Hold on, we have a drag mark. Here on the heel, he was dragging this leg." His hands moved over to his bag, he pulled out some scissors; he carefully, with surgical precision cut the pants leg away from the corpses' lower calf.
He pulled it loose. Wilkins began to gag at the sight; Lestrade's stomach gave a lurch as well. Watson seemed prepared; he reached inside his bag and pulled out a vial offering it to the younger man. "Here you go Wilkins, drink this bicarbonate, it will help. Take deep breaths and walk away, there's a lad."
Wilkins took the vial and walked a short distance away. Lestrade checked his watch, ten minutes just passed. He grumbled. He suddenly got suspicious. "You had that bicarbonate handy." Watson gave him a innocent smile, that somehow managed to appear sly. "I am also down in Hopkins' pad...for Wilkins not vomiting at all."
Lestrade snorted appreciatively before turning back to the body. The leg looked ghastly, there seemed to be green under the skin. "This is what killed the lad," Watson concluded. "He had gangrene in this leg, it set in earnest while he was comatose. His heart began to pump blood trying to generate oxygen and his fear forced it through the veins, you can see from the red streaks. He was poisoned by his own blood."
Lestrade shook his head. "So his fight for survival killed him?"
Watson shook his head. "I am afraid not, he was already a dead man." He pointed to the centre of green flesh. There were two tiny little marks. "I think we know why he appeared dead. A snake bit him. One that is not indigenous to the Isle. This is nerve toxin damage, very few snakes in the world could with one bite cause a gentleman to appear dead, I ran across a few breeds in the Orient, but none belong in England. I think we have a serious cover up here."
Lestrade's bloodhound instinct sensed a hunt was in the making. "So where do we start?"
Watson thought for a minute. "We will know this lad's name shortly; I am betting he worked for the zoological society, or a private concern. Either way, there are laws against having snakes this dangerous, someone is flaunting those laws, and this young man paid the price for it."
Lestrade ticked off the points in his head. "So we have a possible funeral parlour scam to uncover, and a rogue zoo keeper to look for?"
Watson struggled to his feet, the pain etched in his face showing the affect the weather was having on his war injuries. Lestrade feigned ignorance. "The person or persons concerning the snake would most likely be a herpetologist of some type, someone with very specific tastes for the exotic, but no restraints for their fellow man. They could indeed be dangerous."
Lestrade nodded, "Shall we move the body to the Yard for autopsy? I believe Wilkins can handle it from here." Watson nodded as he watched PCs Robinson and Hawkins approached. "What was the dear boy's name?" He asked with an odd intensity. Robinson and Hawkins both looked shaken, it was not an easy thing to contemplate someone buried alive. "The tombstone said Robert Jenkins, sir."
The doctor, in spite of the pain, bent down and gently closed the young man's eyes. "A pleasure to meet you Robert, I wish it were under better circumstances, you can rest now, we'll find who did you this disservice, there's a lad." He leaned on his cane and slowly stood back up. "If you would not mind me slowing you down, dear Lestrade, I should like to be in on the hunt." (5)
Lestrade nodded. He looked at the man across from him; he felt some satisfaction that Watson was filling back out somewhat, due to a conspiracy of Yarder housewives in part, but it was the life spark he saw back in the man's eyes that was most encouraging.
"I would welcome your help, indeed Doctor, shall we discuss it over breakfast?"
Watson nodded, "Lead the way."
The club was a silent opulant tomb, a repository for the old guard of the empire. The furnishings were gloriously appointed and expensively maintained, the massive trophies to past hunts silent and watching.
The nervous functionary walked into the cigar smoke haze of the study and made his way to the round table were the gentlemen played their games of chance with strategy honed by years at their craft.
Colonel Moran acted ambivilant to the room, but his yellow eyes narrowed dangerously as he saw the man approach. The news the gentleman carried was already known to him, but he tested his network of informant's periodically to make sure they were functioning.
"Yes?" he growled.
The man would have dropped to the ground prostrate if they were on foriegn soil, but alas this was England so all the man could do in polite society is bow his head in obescience.
"Colonel Ronald DeBeers was hanged this morning, sir. The case was overwhelmingly against him."
Moran gave the man an imperious look. "This is supposed to concern me?"
The man almost choked in his terror. "I felt you needed to know."
Moran waved for him to leave and watched him scurry off.
One of his compatriots folded his hand, leaned back to sip his cognac. "So we've lost control of the Glastonbury estate."
Moran nodded. "DeBeers was sloppy, he deserved his fate, I forsee no repercussions that need to be made."
The man nodded. "This Doctor Watson, if our sources are accurate, he may be a threat."
Moran waved him off. "He is my stalking horse, once I am ready for Sherlock Holmes, he will bait my trap."
The other man thought about that for a moment. "If he does become a threat?"
Moran snorted. "We will do what we have always done."
Story Notes: Thankyou all for your kind words and encouragement!
(5) Watson ready to go! Check out the picture in my profile.