Story Notes: So begins the end. This is not going to line up with The Empty House exactly so don't worry if some facts seem out of place. My premise is that Watson wrote his accounts in a way that praised the accomplishments of Holmes, and downplayed his own role in the investigations, so just read the story as is and don't try to worry too much about that other account.
thanks for the encouragement along the way, I hope this is everything you've hoped for a conclusion.
that being said, here we go!
Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard 5
One Last War
By now, everyone has read "The Empty House" in the Strand Magazine. In that account, we hear of the downfall of Colonel Moran, and the resurrection of one Sherlock Holmes. I, Giles Lestrade, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard was there for the events chronicled, I became privy to the actual happenings those fateful few days, and the story I have to tell, while resulting in the same outcome, was altogether different in particulars.
I made a promise that these details would never come to light, and I intend to keep that vow, however I wish to remember the truth and record it before it grows foggy in the hallways of my memory, an occurrence that is unfortunately frequent these days. Therefore, here is my tale. It is the story of how one man brought the inheritor of the title "most dangerous man in England" down to live the rest of his days in incarceration. How one individual out manoeuvred that fearsome tactical genius and took his true measure. It is the story of how the bravest and most singular person I have ever met, helped eliminate the last vestiges of that lethal cabal with no name.
In spite of what you might have heard, that person was not Sherlock Holmes.
Here is the account of Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard, who thought he was done with danger of battle, but found himself embroiled in One Last War.
Lestrade waited in the hallway outside the room.
The furnishings were opulent and tasteful as only old money can manage, but the mood was sombre and it permeated the atmosphere of the place.
He watched servants pass going about their appointed duties, all were sorrowful and the maids had red-rimmed eyes. One of the upstairs servants collapsed and was taken away for a quiet consultation by an older staff member.
This, above any remark made to him, showed him the true tragedy of Ronald Adair's murder. The assertions made to him by the deceased man's mother and sister that he was indeed a good man where to be expected, and anticipated. No matter how evil and vile a person was to the world, their family almost by reflex would remember them in the most glowing terms right after the shock of their passing. However, especially in the case of nobility, you watched the servants for their true reaction. If a Lord was as kind as his family asserted, then the servants would show signs of sorrow, if not, you rarely saw a tear.
The air of mourning that seized the lower class in this grand abode showed Lestrade far more clearly that the young man was whom his relatives had put forth.
Their shocked melancholy matched his own, which did not journey far from his heart these days.
It was not hard to feel dreary with John Patterson's murder still unsolved.
The Yard had lost their share of men in the past, but none quite as legendary as this. The only death comparable in Lestrade's experience was Sherlock Holmes. However, Holmes had always remained apart and his passing met more with a sense of helplessness than personal experience and fond memory.
Patterson had always been as steady and solid as the North Star, a help and a hand on any investigation. Giles remembered being mentored in his early days by the solemn seeming gentleman who always had a twinkle in his eye. His brand of humour took some getting used to. You never could tell when he was serious until he laughed.
That night he arrived at Patterson's home and saw the man's body under the sheet just inside his back door, he walked to the edge of the small lot and spent some time regaining composure.
It was the perfect capper to a hellish month.
He still had repercussions coming from that whole Alister Eads debacle. The Bedlow Group was at present attempting to deflect the controversy surrounding the methods of their figurehead, a defence not helped by former patients and family stepping forward with horror stories of barbaric methods, but as soon as the media storm settled, those very powerful persons would remember Lestrade. He had also watched as Harold Rollins, the former Scotland Yard photographer, and erstwhile naive protégé of Eads, barely escaped the noose, but the young man's incarceration for eight years might make him wish he had not.
Now, Lestrade had to assimilate that one of the officers who he had always attempted to emulate was a limp body under a white sheet, murdered in his own yard.
How many blows could he take? How many could he endure before ennui set in? Lestrade came perilously close to retiring that day, but he knew Patterson would not have approved.
Watson was the one that pointed out that Patterson left his pistol behind when he went to the door; sure sign of a man ready for death, but that was small consolation.
Before Patterson died of a massive chest wound, he had created the letter M on the kitchen tiles in his own blood with four intersecting strokes showing he knew his killer. Who that might be, Lestrade's guesses were many but his answers few.
Scotland Yard could not find a witness to the fatal shot, it was not the sort of neighbourhood to deny seeing such an event, and with the amount of persons in the vicinity, a gunshot should have been apparent. For once, Watson had no theories, except that the M might have stood for Moriarty, because the memos that Holmes recovered from Milverton had a similar symbol on them.
They checked, without exception, Moriarty's known gang were either dead or incarcerated.
There was a chalkboard with the facts up in the common room, but as of yet no suspects or clues had been added in spite of their efforts.
Inspector Patterson, formerly of Scotland Yard, was laid to rest on a rainy Thursday afternoon in a small churchyard beside his wife, given full Metropolitan Service honours. To date, a burial was all the Yarders were able to do for him, a fact that haunted them.
That same night that Patterson was murdered, Master Sergeant Barlow Pierce, formerly of his Majesty's Royal Marines, was killed out front of the Diogenes Club beside his partner who did not realize his partner's assassination until he saw the man dead less than a step away missing the better part of his head.
There had not been a gunshot heard at that scene either.
Now, in this Park Lane mansion, through the door behind him, lay a young man in a grisly state, found by his sister and mother, the former carted away to a sanatorium for observation, the later receiving medical attention downstairs for a poor heart.
The press had already received their "no comment" statements and were off making up the difference for the next edition. Watson had arrived nearly half an hour before, but had yet to make the stairs, seeing to Lady Maynooth's health.
"If she gets any worse, let me know immediately," remarked a familiar voice as footsteps sounded on the stairs.
Lestrade let out a sigh of relief. These last few months he had come to rely on John Watson more than he cared to admit.
He watched his friend reach the landing and orient himself.
"Does it look like Patterson, and Pierce from Diogenes?" he inquired as he approached.
Lestrade nodded as he stood and opened the door. If it were anyone else he would have warned the man about the state of the body, but Doctor Watson had seen worse without so much as a flinch.
He shut the door behind them, as much as the splintered doorjamb would allow, as Watson's eyes swept the room.
It was the upstairs sitting room, the walls lined with bookshelves fulfilling their purpose, several opulently upholstered couches and a chair with an expensive humidor and paraffin-reading lamp
The body was on the floor behind a large teak desk covered with account sheets and coins dominating the half of the room near the window. Someone had thought to cover the corpse with a sheet.
"Shot with a large calibre, soft-nose revolver bullet?" Watson inquired as he studied the bodies positioning.
"Aye," Lestrade replied, but he kept back the twist knowing that his partner would see it soon enough.
Watson turned to the now closed door, and then back to the sitting room desk in front of the open window, Lestrade could see his forehead wrinkling.
"Did someone open that window after he was found?"
Lestrade answered that with a solemn shake of his head.
Watson's eyes swept the room, "No secret passageways in or out?"
"Not according to the boy's mum, she was here when the home was constructed, the father detested such theatrics."
"So, Ronald Adair was in this room at the top of a stairwell which would have enhanced any acoustics, with servants walking to and fro just beyond, and received a bullet to the head with no one hearing the sound of a shot?" Watson concluded.
"They had to force the door to enter, John, that window has a six meter drop beneath, with no gables or trellises to speak of, a soft flowerbed underneath with no footprints marring it," Lestrade supplied.
Watson nodded. "So what we have here is a man shot with no sound, in a room locked from the inside, and the only possible direction is through the window?"
"With a bullet from a gun which does not carry over the distance necessary," Lestrade concluded.
Watson sighed, "Holmes would have danced a jig at this one."
"Undoubtedly," Lestrade agreed.
Watson knelt and gingerly pulled the sheet back. Lestrade walked to the window trying not to look, he just felt too old to deal with the sight tonight.
"So young," Watson remarked.
"The Honourable Ronald Adair the only son of the Earl of Maynooth, a high colonial official in Australia, he likes to play whist at local clubs, had just returned from The Tankerville Club earlier this evening, he had won a few pounds lately in a successful partnership with another player." Lestrade checked his notepad. "His name was Colonel Jack Moran, he will be at Scotland Yard tomorrow for questioning, the other two partners at the table I have yet to ascertain but I'm sure Moran will know their names for sure."
Watson examined the body for a few more minutes in silence. He placed the sheet back over the ravaged face. He stood wearily, placed a hand on his side with a wince.
Lestrade restrained himself from asking about it, knowing all he would get as an answer is a scowl anyway.
Watson walked over to the window, he studied, not the ground beneath but the surrounding street of Park Lane. "Ah, there you are," he remarked. He turned to Lestrade and waved him over.
Lestrade looked past him into the affluent neighbourhood. "What am I looking for?"
"There is an awning on the building three doors down across the way, it has an attached strip of cloth," Watson informed as he pointed.
"What does that have to do with the murder?" Lestrade inquired, frustration tinting his voice.
"It is a trick I learned from marksmen in an expeditionary force I was attached to in India. They fire from a higher vantage point than their target because of the effects of gravity, they study the firing sight before hand for angles and the wind, they place a strip of cloth midway to see the last second wind direction, so they'll know what effect it may have on the projectile."
"But there was fog earlier, how was it possible that they could see?" Lestrade interjected.
Watson shrugged, "Holmes could have explained the phenomenon, but further away and from a down angle fog becomes transparent, so you cannot see the person firing at you but they can see you clearly."
Lestrade shuddered at the thought. "Why do you think our killer is firing from a distance?"
"There are several reasons," Watson replied holding up fingers to illustrate, "First, the man that was killed in front of Diogenes beside his partner was in the middle of an open street, anyone that approaches the club can be seen from that vantage, it is one reason they built the club at that location. Secondly, Patterson's back lot, softened by days of rain, was unmarked by footprints, the first constable on the scene checked very closely thinking he was shot from a short distance away. I think that Patterson figured out who killed him, he was trying to tell us."
Lestrade picked up the thought. "So there was a suspect Patterson knew was an expert shot, when Patterson was hit, he realized the distance and was writing a name in his blood when death took him?"
Watson nodded his face grim in the lamp light. "An inspector to his last breath," he said.
Lestrade thought for a few minutes. "It is all plausible, but how are they connected?"
Watson looked around for a few minutes; he found what he was searching for straightway. He held up Ronald Adair's folio, flipping it open he checked through the cards, he pulled one out and showed it to Lestrade.
It had a familiar print on it that Lestrade recognized immediately.
"The Diogenese Club?"
Watson nodded. "Patterson was the man who took out Moriarty's gang. Someone attempted to kill Mycroft Holmes using amazing resources, and an elaborate scheme encompassing everyone from established gentlemen down to common thugs. My brother was involved in that scheme, and after its failure was stalked by an assassin, someone well known to Mycroft. That assassin executed Algon's mentor Augustus Mayweather, yet another member of The Diogenes Club. What if we are on the edge of a war? What if Moriarty's gang was the tip of a deadly reef, of an organization that is a lot more dangerous and far reaching?"
Lestrade followed his line of reasoning. "That would mean that there is an organization out there as connected as the Diogenes Club, and now they have declared war, and we are cleaning up the casualties."
"Patterson knew something that would lead to the identity of this man, which is why he was killed first, his death, the Diogenes guard, and now this poor young club member were killed as a message to the Diogenes and Mycroft," Watson replied rubbing his tired eyes.
"Where is Mayweather?" Lestrade asked after a few minutes of contemplative silence.
Watson pointed down the street. "He thought he could find the sniper's firing site, maybe there was a trademark left behind. Some snipers leave objects as a sort of macabre signature."
Lestrade was about to make a snarky comment about Mayweather's background knowledge of sniping when they were both startled by a boom echoing up the lane.
They stared out the window at the bright flames engulfing the third story of a building further down; it was facing the house in which they stood.
"Is that..." Lestrade began but could find no more words.
Watson looked stricken in the orange glow. He turned from the sight and fell back against the wall, then replied, "That's where we thought he might have fired from."
Lestrade placed a hand on Watson's shoulder but no words would assuage the shock and grief. "I'm...so sorry, John."
Watson slid down to the floor his hands covering his face, in the distance the clang of a fire wagon pierced the night.
After the fire was put out, there was a charred body found in that third floor, burned beyond recognition, he had several weapons on him that Mayweather was known to carry. Watson looked as ill as he did with that severe infection just a few weeks previous. It appeared as if Mayweather was not going to get the chance to repay his debt after all.
If the death of Watson's erstwhile body guard was a shock to him, the man who was at that very moment setting foot back on English soil for the first time in over two years was about to shake us all to our very core!
He stood on the gangway ignoring all the angry looks he was receiving from those who pushed on past, savouring, the polluted scent of London, the eerie fog enshrouded streets, the hustle and rhythmic sounds that fell on his ears like her heartbeat. For the first time in longer than he cared to remember, he was home.
He idly scratched the beard that he had been sporting for the last six months enjoying the thought of a nice shave; he replaced the dark lensed glasses that served to conceal his eyes from casual observation
He crossed and claimed a large trunk, the steward was complaining at the weight in terms that were turning the air blue.
Before he flagged a cab, he made his way to a newsstand and bought a copy of the Times.
Once he was ensconced the carriage and was underway, he checked the agony ads for an advertisement with a misspelling. He found one for a new hair tonik, using a cipher that only he and one other man in the world knew, he sussed out the message hidden in the type.
Before you see W
Come see me
He folded the paper and called out an address, for a local hotel he knew was discreet.
I'll talk to Mary first, tomorrow, maybe she can tell me how to approach Watson. M can wait his turn.
He placed his hands on his cane taking in the sights and sounds around him with a smile.
It's good to be home!
Chapter Notes: Trust me in this journey. Keep hold of my hand. Things will make sense as we go along so stay close.
In George McDonald's Flashman series, Moran's full name is John Sebastian 'Tiger Jack' Moran. I think it fits the image he wants for himself to be nicknamed Jack rather than Sebastian. Sebastian is his name yes, but I just think Jack is more butch so I'm going with it.
Once again some of the facts will not line up, this installment will have some things in common with Empty House but if I were to line them up then you might as well go re-read Empty House, which is Arthur Conan Doyle's most deeply flawed work with more holes than rat nibbled Swiss Cheese wheel. (Yes I know GASP sacrilege!) So I hope to head off a lot of well meaning corrections by saying here, no I am not going strictly by cannon since this is the first story in this series with cannon president, I hope you will forgive me and just read it for what it is.
I decided against screen caps this time because of the complicated plot, instead I have added the covers I created for the installments on another website so check it out.