Chapter Notes: I was discussing my character James J. Watson with an other author, because they wanted to know more about what makes the jerk tick for a possible fic. While I explained James I found myself wanting to know more myself. This story is what resulted. If nothing else Merry Christmas James Watson fans (whomever you may be!) Holmes and James together! Sorry about that... :) This takes place years after the events in Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard 3 Esau Have I Hated so you might want to go back and refresh your memory if you havent read it lately. Bart
The Case of the Prodigal Father
It was just after tea when we got back to our Baker Street lodgings that Tuesday in April. Spring had managed to drive off all the last vestiges of a ghastly winter and London was stirring about like a winter skinny bear. Holmes and I had been entrenched in an exhaustive investigation of a missing heiress and victim of blackmail for the better part of the week. We had assisted Scotland Yard in the apprehension of the blackguard behind the scheme just after noon.
"I cannot wait to get off my feet, Holmes, we have been standing the better part of twenty hours I'll wager."
Holmes glanced up at the windows that represented our rooms. "You may have a little longer wait, Watson, as it happens I believe we have a visitor awaiting us."
"Oh, bugger all," I grumbled.
"Language, Watson, this is not the Indian service," Holmes teased as we ascended the outside stairs.
I was debating the appropriate gesture with which to offer a proper rebuttal when our landlady exited at the stoop, all in a fret.
"I need to know, immediately, do I appear in my right mind?" she implored wringing her hands in a dishtowel in the manner that some do prayer cloths at mass.
"You are as sound of mind as Watson," Holmes remarked, "small consolation that, what distresses you so?"
I shot my flatmate a glare of the vilest nature that I could muster as she began to explain, but thought better of it.
"There is a young man waiting upstairs, I won't detain you further. You will see the truth of it soon enough. I'll bring up some tea and scones in a bit," she informed with a firm nod for us to go on up before heading in to her own living space leaving us no wiser.
"I wonder what has her so upset." I murmured to Holmes as we climbed to the apartment above.
"I lack sufficient clues to determine her behaviour, "Holmes replied. He turned the corner to the sitting room, and paused causing me to collide with his back.
"Holmes, why did you stop?"
Holmes, a man who is rarely ever ruffled in my experience, turned to me white as a sheet left out on the line after spring-cleaning.
"Watson, I think I know the source of Mrs. Hudson's distress."
I leaned around Holmes to see with my own eyes. There, sitting on our best davenport, somewhat ill at ease was the younger man in question, the very image of me when I returned from Afghanistan brown and limping. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it possible. He had my strong jaw and moustache, curly tousled brown hair, and bright even hazel eyes that were regarding me with a surprising resignation. He was dressed in black including his shirt under the suit coat his wide brimmed hat in his hand, shoes shined military bright.
" H-hullo," he stammered in a voice very much like my own, Scots accent thick and native.
Holmes showed his knowledge of me in those moments as I had black spots of shock crowding the edges of my vision, he grabbed my arm and helped me to a seat, my doppelganger moved swiftly to my other arm with a strong grip. "I'm sorry, but there was no better way to be making your acquaintance," he murmured in an apologetic manner as Holmes poured me a Brandy.
"Who was your mother? Am I..." I managed after taking a gulp of the offered glass. My mind swirling with the images of women of whom I was acquainted in the time before his birth. It was a surprisingly short list considering my army days.
He seemed bewildered by the question. "Abigail Swan, o' course."
It all slid into place for me, I leaned back in my chair as the images of a sweet face ringed by deep auburn ringlets came to my mind unbidden.
"Holmes, I believe this to be my nephew."
Holmes and the young man exchanged a nod before the stranger turned back to me. "My mum said that you and my father where so identical as to be mirror images, but ta see yer face..." he said trailing off.
Holmes chose a briar from the rack, packed in some odorous shag and began fouling the air, his sharp gray gaze taking in our young visitor. "You are missing part of your uniform, Reverend."
Our guest started, as one might around Holmes keen intellect for the first time.
"I keep it off when I am travelling and not on tha good Lord's mission, how did ya know?"
I rolled my eyes. Here we go.
"No one wears unrelieved black unless they are in mourning, and most wear a white shirt even then. You are showing no signs of a current bereavement, but you have attended to someone quite ill recently from the faint odours of sickness and laudanum on your coat. Yet you wear your clothing as one wears a uniform, like it is part of your very identity. Your shoes are meticulous and well maintained, but they have a bit more wear than a casual traveller would accumulate, and from the clay trapped in the seams, on roads not often paved. So I am thinking that you must be a pastor in a village, fresh out of seminary from your age, and your accent, near Newcastle?"
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a white collar, "I read of you, in Uncle John's stories, Mister Holmes, but I feel they may not have done you justice," our visitor remarked as he settled his white collar into place. "My name is Andrew Watson. I've come to ask for yer help."
"Please, go on."
Andrew studied his hands as he formulated his words.
"I know you've always been more than generous to me, Uncle John, I have tried to not be a burden to ya in the past, but I need ta find my father before the end of this week. I have no one else in which to turn. I have reason to believe that he's here in London, but that's all I know."
I leaned back in my chair, his words deeply disturbing me in a way I could not immediately express. "In what way have I been generous," I inquired.
Holmes read my expression.
"You did not know of his existence, did you, Watson?"
Andrew stared at me, his face slack with shock, as I confirmed Holmes's suspicions with a shake of my head.
The young man stood and began to apologize as he headed to the door. "I am very sorry that I have taken your time, I would have never come here had I known the truth."
I made my feet with a grunt at the sudden pain in my leg and stopped him with a hand to his chest.
"Just because I did not know of your existence, Andrew does not mean that I am not extraordinarily pleased to make your acquaintance now, take a seat and stop being daft."
There was a play of emotions on that familiar face, of a deep loneliness and a sense of abandonment that hurt my heart to see. I may not have Holmes keen intellect for physical clues, but when it comes to reading the interior of a person, I have a trained eye. I did my best to give him the validation he needed. "I'm your uncle, mind me now."
Holmes surprised me by calling, "You have yet to tell us how we can give you aid, it would be foolhardy to come all this way and not inform of us of at least that much."
Andrew meekly returned to his seat.
"It appears that we have some catching up to do. Please, tell me about yourself," I urged as I returned to my own perch.
He sighed as he leaned back. "You do know that my mum and yer brother were engaged at one time, and are aware of how that betrothal ended?"
I nodded my assent.
"The day that my mum surprised him at Cambridge and found him the arms of another, she had some news to tell him. She had determined that she was pregnant. When she realized that the engagement was over, she returned home without informing him, fully intending to raise me without his presence. She never married, and a single mum raising a child with a different name, you can imagine the stigma."
Holmes and I exchanged a grave look.
"If it wasn't for the occasional letter and money from you, Uncle John," he continued, then corrected himself his lips twisted into a bitter smile, "I mean if it wasn't for the money someone sent in your stead, then our situation would have been even more dire." His face flushed with embarrassment as he added, "My mum told me of your exploits as a soldier and then she made sure I read your adventures in The Strand. I wanted to grow up to be a doctor like you, but I had no talent for the sciences, and the army was not an option seeing as I'm an avowed pacifist. I grew up reviled for my illegitimacy, but a local parish priest was kind to me even though my mum and I were Methodists and not part of his flock. While helping him and because of his influence I realized my calling early on, and through the funding of that benefactor I thought to be you, I was able to enter The Wesleyan Seminary in Bristol."
"And you have sought me out now?" I encouraged.
He seemed to be gathering himself for the next bit. His hazel eyes found my own. "My mum is dying, the doctor told me that she has until the end of this week. She worked as a nurse to an elderly woman in Newcastle, her charge died of Typhoid Fever, and she contracted it from the same source. She has asked to see my father again before she dies."
"What makes you think that James Watson is alive, and living in London?" Holmes inquired with an idle puff.
Andrew reached into his coat and handed Holmes a letter. "She received this on her Birthday two months ago. I was visiting at the time. She never said a word, but was afflicted with melancholy for the remainder of the day." Bitterness flickered across his features as he added, "I suspected she received correspondence from Father from time to time, when news came that he was dead, she never mourned, but I underestimated their contact. At her insistence, I took this letter from her dresser drawer; she had a box full of them. I am an investigator by no means, but the post mark is clearly from London."
Holmes picked up his magnifying glass, his eye comically increased in size as he studied the envelope. "It is indeed, the postal mark is indicative of the West End, Chelsea, to be exact." He lifted the envelope to his nose, he took a long sniff, and his eyes closed in concentration. Andrew glanced at me his confusion apparent, I nodded in my most conciliatory manner as Holmes sniffed so hard, I was surprised the ink did not leave the letter and adhere to his nose. "This letter was handled numerous times, by you sir, and just before by a lady who is fond of lavender who I take to be your mother. Prior to her possession, it fell to a mail carrier. I can tell by the scent of linseed oil used to keep a mail bag supple, but before that... someone who spilled some high quality cognac on his hands just before sealing it."
Andrew's eyebrows raised in amazement. I just sighed having seen the process thousands of times in the intervening years.
Holmes opened the letter carefully, and pulled it out with forceps from his desk; he unfolded it with the barest touch of his fingertips and studied it.
"The writer was using the finest ink, but it is smudged in two places, from the size of the print I believe it to be a left-handed man, but one who was not steady when he penned this epistle, from the presence of the cognac, I can draw a conclusion as to why that was," he remarked. He lifted the letter to the light and studied it. "The Water mark is of a stationary sold at Winston & Went which has a Chelsea store, the ink is of a brand also sold in that establishment. Unfortunately, that particular company is the supplier for many of the finest Hotels in that district. So this might not be a private stock, which means that outside of the district, I can tell no more."
He studied the corners of the letter carefully in with the magnifier. "Ah, this is promising," he crowed, "it appears seems to be a tell-tale indention in the letter from something on the same writing surface. It is circular, larger than a coin with a serrated edge."
I sighed, and called out. "Could it be a poker chip?"
Holmes blinked in confusion and bent back to his examination. "By Jove, I think it may be."
He stared at me with naked consternation. "How did you determine that from across the room, Watson?" His tone was that of exasperation, rather insulting, really.
Andrew was watching my face carefully; for signs of impending argument. I gave him a small wink to let him know that things were not as serious as they appeared, then remarked, "I know my brother, Holmes, if he is staying somewhere, there will be gambling available or at the very least nearby."
Holmes leaned back blinking his eyes to ease the strain of his eyes, "I believe I know where he resided, at least when this letter was writ."
"What does it say?" I inquired, my curiosity aroused by the odd thought of my self-centred brother keeping correspondence with any one over the years. He was the last person that I would consider sentimental.
Thinking of you, Happy Birthday Agatha,
Andrew recited, his lack of inflection showing his thoughts more than a raised voice ever could. "All of the letters were just like that, unsentimental, brief, and uninformative."
I nodded. "Ham was a nickname very few people used. It is short for Hamish, which is James in Scots. He absolutely hated that name and changed it as soon as was prudent, for him to use it with your mum is telling."
His eyes met mine. "Telling of what exactly?
I shrugged, "I am not entirely sure, I will ask him when I see him. Which will be shortly, you have my word."
Andrew stood; he reached out and handed me a small letter from another pocket in his coat. "When you do see him, I would appreciate you giving my father this. My mum is the one that desires to see him. I do not. I need to start North this evening; I have left my wife to care for her in our home. We have a nurse to help and she is not in direct contact but I do not wish to leave her more than a few days."
I accepted the letter as I joined him. "You are married?"
His grin had all the shine of a newlywed recounting his love, "Just last spring before I left Seminary. Her name is Miriam."
I was about to give him my congratulations when Holmes called out. "How is the baby fairing?"
I could see from Andrew's expression the truth of the matter. "Very well, thank you, how did you determine my fatherhood?"
Holmes shrugged. "You live in a small village; you are a newlywed who has been married more than nine months, not much else to occupy your time. You are worried about your wife being with someone ill, a common concern if she is still breast-feeding. Also there is a small stain on the back of your coat, very faint just over your left shoulder where a baby might spit up as someone holds it to burp; there have been attempts to clean it so it is not apparent to most."
Andrew's cheeks were blushing from Holmes's assertions about how he spent his free time, but his eyes lit up as he produced a small but well-handled picture from his inner coat. The man certainly kept many things in his coat, reminding me of myself. Is a tendency squirrel things away like a pack rat in the blood?
He offered the picture to me. "Her name is Agatha, after my mum."
The child was so ethereal it took my breath. "She is beautiful."
He grinned as he accepted the picture back. He offered it to Holmes, but was declined graciously. "She is my light," he remarked as he put the picture away, "I hold her for morning bottle feedings, one which left its mark on my coat evidently. I thank God for her, and pray for the strength to be a good father." A glimmer of old pain twinkled in his eyes as he added, "I have not had the best example to follow."
"Even more reason for you to get back," I finished for him. "I will see that James makes it to your mum's side before this week is out if I have to tie him up and drag him behind a horse the entire way."
Andrew's gave me a glare of admonishment, but his small smile made it suspect. "I am sure that won't be necessary, Uncle John, but I appreciate the sentiment."
He held out a hand to me, but I ignored it and embraced him. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Andrew; I can't wait to meet Miriam and little Agatha."
His smile was a mixture of longing and happiness. "That...that would be wonderful," he said his voice catching in his throat for a moment. "I hope to see you in a couple of days."
He turned back to my flatmate. "Thank you for your help, Mister Holmes, you are quite remarkable, I wish you both Godspeed."
Holmes struggled not to make a usual disparaging comment about God's help not being necessary, I was very proud of his tact, not an attribute that came easily to him.
"Travel safe, Andrew, feel free to visit these rooms anytime you have need," he replied offering a hand to the young man.
The two men shook hands. After giving Holmes his card, Andrew replaced his hat and with a tip of the brim eerily reminiscent of myself, and was on his way, passing an ascending Mrs. Hudson, from the sound, to whom he gave his thanks and a blessing before he departed. She completed her journey, coming in and setting the tea tray down, giving me a pointed look.
"I knew you were a man of the world when I rented these rooms to you, Doctor Watson, but is there a matter of which I was not informed?"
Holmes puffed a cloud his eyes sparkling with amusement. "I hate to be indelicate, old chap, but that young man has a lot of your mannerisms, are you sure his mother has not gotten the twins confused?"
I gave him a scathing look for that observation. "I assure you both that I never had relations with Agatha Swan, she was my brother's fiancée and while I was acquainted with her, I would have never betrayed him so."
Mrs. Hudson looked embarrassed. "I am sorry, Doctor, but for a moment there on the stoop, I could have sworn I was seeing you on that first day, tanned and weak. The resemblance is uncanny."
I gave her a warm smile to show that I had no hard feelings to offer. "Those mannerisms are shared by James, we used to trade places, a game all twins play I'm sure, but we were particularly good at it."
Holmes was placing a scone on his plate and pouring himself some tea. "I think there are two issues at work here, Watson, and I feel we need to work on the matters separately."
He settled in stirring sugar cubes in with his spoon. "There is the issue of getting James to this dying woman's side, and also determine this benefactor. With your brother's shady dealings over the years, there may yet be an element of danger that needs to be determined."
A chill ran through my heart. "They could have invested in Andrew, hoping that his father might return someday."
Holmes nodded. "It would not be outside the realm of evil I have viewed over the years."
Mrs. Hudson was watching our discourse. "This is none of my affair; if you need anything ring the bell." She began to leave but then paused, "I hope he visits again, he is such a nice boy."
I smiled. "Yes, hard to believe he came from my brother."
"Nevertheless thou shalt not build the house; but thy son that shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house unto my name, 1 Kings 8:19," Holmes quoted.
He glanced up at our shocked faces. "It's a passage speaking of a father who is unworthy having a righteous son," He explained. When our expressions did not alter, he added, "there are many pathologies and behaviours based in religious thought, it has been advantageous to me to memorise the tomes from which it sprang," When we exchanged a dazed glance he called out rather impatiently, "Back to the issue at hand!"
That shook us from our revelry, Mrs. Hudson left with a huff.
"So you know where James was staying two months ago," I stated as I joined Holmes at the table, and poured myself a cup.
Holmes nodded dripping a bit of jam on his collar, causing me to wince. "I know where to begin, but I believe that you can run him to ground as easily as I. I would suggest borrowing your good friend, Lestrade."
I gave him an impatient look. "He has been your acquaintance longer than he has been mine."
Holmes smirked. "And yet you get invited to his home frequently, know his wife and family, and have received visits that have nothing to do with crime."
"Well if you would not insult the man, belittle his efforts and insist that he only trouble you if there is a body on the ground, he could become your friend as well," I replied in a wheedling tone.
Holmes looked confused. "Why would I wish such an alteration of our current paradigm?"
I sighed; it was like explaining a rainbow to the blind. "Never mind, just tell me where to start and I'll see if Lestrade is free."
He nodded. "While you tend to this business, I'm going to visit the Seminary."
I actually had to spit my tea back into my cup so I would not choke. "Why would you go there?" I demanded.
He looked taken aback. "Andrew's bills were paid by someone he believed to be you, that money came from somewhere and that's the beginning of the trail."
"Just give me your word that you will not disillusion anyone while you are there!"
Holmes looked appalled that I would suggest him capable of such a dastardly thing. However, under my unrelenting gaze, he acquiesced. "You have my word."
"Very well," I affirmed. "I may have the more difficult task of the two," I added.
"Why do you say that?" Holmes queried.
I sighed long and deep. "I have to inform James J. Watson that he is a grandfather."
Story Notes: The big question that may be asked, why Andrew Watson, and why make him a Wesleyan Methodist Parson?
I chose the name Andrew because his father and uncle were named for Apostles in the Bible. My favorite Apostle (like favorite dessert topping LOL!) is the brother of Peter, Andrew. The reason why is that Andrew was the encourager, he connected people then stayed in the background and was the instigator, a role my Andrew plays in this story. I made him a Methodist because of the widespread impact that particular brand of Protestantism had on rural communities of the English Isle. I chose to not make him Catholic because his Uncle came from the same background as Andrew's Mum and he was not so I went from there.
I did my best to not make Andrew Mary Sue. I think he shows abandonment issues and a struggle with forgiveness that rounds him out somewhat. I hope you agree.
Besides his father is James Watson...bitterness has got to be present! LOL!