Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes…That about says it all.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! And thanks to KCS for pointing out my 'miss'-take ;)
The Game is a Footprint!
Holmes had taken off quickly from Miss Rhodes' home, leaving me sprinting to catch up with him. I was clueless as to where we were headed although it was clear we would get there soon. Indeed, we hadn't travelled far when Holmes stopped in front of a small bookshop, no doubt the one in which Miss Rhodes was employed. The interior was dark and the establishment had clearly closed much earlier, but I knew if there was evidence within a simple lock would not keep out Sherlock Holmes.
Fortunately, it seemed that Holmes had already gathered what little information he needed. The shine in his eyes made it quite clear that he was hot on the trail to solving this most peculiar mystery.
"Watson, have you ever heard of the Two Penny Gang?" When I answered in the negative Holmes laughed. "I expected as much. They are a new, small criminal organization. Hardly worth investigation as they have neither the brains nor numbers to cause much trouble. Yet if I'm correct they are attempting to rise within the ranks of the criminal order."
"And a book of children's adventures will help them to do this?"
"Something within those fanciful pages holds the answer. No doubt the gang has somehow been commissioned by a more powerful agent, one unable to act on his own in this matter." He began to walk down the street, making careful note of the various shop signs. "Although the general public knows nil of them, I am somewhat more informed. Enough to know that, as this is their so-called territory, their meeting place is nearby."
Once again we were racing down the streets, although this time there was a sense of urgency that had been lacking before. The clean storefronts gave way to the more rundown and derelict buildings. Shadows began to appear in doorways and corner, wrapped heavily to protect their appendages from the cold and their identities from the police. I noticed the change in Holmes immediately. His proud back was slumped, his head down, playing the part of another man down on his luck. Not for the first time I envied his ability to blend in with his surroundings, as it left me sticking out to all the local pickpockets. Thankfully we soon entered a small tavern, one that looked only slightly more welcoming than the dark street outside.
Generally, in the course of an investigation, tracking down the criminal is as difficult as determining who they are. This was not the case. As Holmes had said earlier, the gang in question was rather new and not too bright. Whereas most thieves would hide their plunder in a hidden safe-house these ruffians were occupying an entire corner of the establishment, the book visible for all to see. Although most of the pub must have been unaware as to the significance of the novel, for those who knew of its importance it was in a precarious position. Resting on the edge of a table, surrounded by five guards who were all already inebriated in celebration of victory, the book was an easy grab for someone with the experience of Sherlock Holmes.
My friend easily approached the table unnoticed, as it sounded like the men were all arguing over some trifling matter. Pretending to take a fall, Holmes deftly grabbed the book as he regained his balance and pulled himself up. None of the brutes took notice of the incident, and soon Holmes was back by my side heading for the pub's exit.
Our escape was almost perfect, had not the leader of the Two Pennys (the same one who had earlier threatened me) noticed the absence of the anthology. The loss of his prize had instantly sobered him, and it was unfortunate that his now clear eyes managed to spy Holmes and mine retreating figures. His fellows were less quick to recover, and we managed to make it to the street before half of the younger men had managed to find a way out of their chairs.
Holmes and I flew down the streets to get away from the gang. The journey I had earlier made in jest was now reversed in a dangerous irony. We occasionally cut through small alleyways, the likes of which Holmes knew as well as the average citizen might know the train schedule. We had the advantage on our side and I knew that there was no chance of the gang chasing us all the way to Baker Street. However, we did not stop running until the front door of 221B was securely fastened.
Almost immediately Holmes set to work tearing through the book. He studied everything possible, from the pages to the type font. He continually listed the brand of paper and unique color of the cover as he searched for whatever clue the strange novel had to offer. Finally, he took to perusing every page. Unfortunately, there were too many pages for the expedience the task called for and Holmes threw the book to the floor. I recovered it and began reading myself. It was only a hundred or so pages, yet whatever was hidden had been hidden incredibly well. No passages stuck out as unusual, the prose was consistent, and I personally could note to errors that might carry a message.
"Watson, your little adventure has turned into an infuriating problem! There is no sign in the book as to an obvious plan, leading one to conclude that it is being used as a cipher. The gang most likely stole that volume simply because it seemed easier than pocketing a copy from within the store. Yet they went through great lengths to get this copy only, when Miss Rhodes indicated that it would be available at any common book shop."
As Holmes picked up the book for closer examination I began to make myself comfortable. I knew that such a mysterious problem would keep his mind occupied, and had better make myself at home with a book of my own. With surprise I rediscovered the wrapping the book had come in within my pocket, something I had forgotten about in the excitement of the night. It was when I tossed the old parchment onto the table that Holmes suddenly spoke up.
"What is that, Watson?"
"This? It's the packaging of that troublesome little book. I could hardly leave it in someone's grave."
"Bring it here." I silently handed over the thick paper, only to receive a hearty bark of laughter in response from Holmes. "Have you had this the entire time, Watson?"
"Yes. What is it, Holmes?"
There was a gleam in his eye as he held up the wrapping to the fire. "The cipher, Watson, is not in the book. It is here!"
A/N: I don't think there was or is a Two Penny Gang. If there was, this is an entirely different one.
Hope you like the cheesy plot twist!