Chapter Notes: I am glad I got this plot bunny. I am glad I have at least three reviews! I'm glad that I found a character that people both love and revile and love to hate. The glass is half full damn it! LOL!
I had to include a little of my trademark bad ass Watson in this installment. I also had to come up with a way to show James has some good in him without making him fluffy. I needed a way to get him to do the right thing without taking away his inherent jerkdom. The method I came up with is one I found personally satisfying I hope you.
So Merry Christmas to all who love a character who is an unmitigated ass!
Thanks for reading!
The Case of the Prodigal Father
The Sheep Shearer was a typical small town tavern. Old dark stained wood, floors sprinkled with sawdust, lightweight and expendable tables and chairs, this one had a full complement of clientele that is only available this far north, a group of big burly Scotsmen all in their cups.
I saw the growing danger from the door.
James was at the bar surrounded by onlookers and encouragers. In front of him was the seventh shot going down, he picked up his Guinness bottle for the chaser, but I saw him pulling one of his old tricks and I knew that the bottle was not as empty now as it was a few moments ago. The Lowlander's lament must have been every bit as harsh as Collin asserted because even with the little amount that James was absorbing he was about as drunk as I have ever seen him.
The crowd around him cheered, and moved enough that I saw another colossal Scot on the floor by James's feet passed out after five shots. There was money on the bar and James was beginning to collect it when one of the Scots slapped a hand down on his.
I saw a barmaid watching off to the side, she looked like a veteran from her growing alarm. I turned to Collin. "Do you have a gun on you?"
Collin shook his head. "Don carry one most nights but things are going googly in here, I'll be righ back."
"I'll try to mediate, but I think there's going to be violence," I informed him. He left in a rush.
I handed my hat and coat to the barmaid. "If you'd be so kind."
She nodded, "Be careful, that bunch tore up the place last month, put a local boy in the clinic, they're brawlers."
I nodded as I slipped my suspenders down off my shoulders to dangle at my waist, I had lost several buttons off my trousers when I was young before I realized the necessity of this action before fighting. I was a much younger lad then; this old man has ducked quite a few punches in all the time since. James started most of those earlier fights too; of course, he always managed to emerge unscathed while they stitched me up.
I was halfway across to the bar when James tipped things past the breaking point.
"Yer cheatin, I saw ya," the Scot insisted.
"Why do Scotsmen wear kilts?" James replied.
I hurried up but I was not going to make it in time.
"Huh?" asked the confused accuser.
James smiled in that instigative way that let me know he was more sober than he had first appeared. "They wear kilts because unfastening trousers warns the sheep of their amorous intent."
It took a few moments before the Scot realized how he had been insulted. Even so, I stepped up between him and my tottering brother just in time.
I stopped the first punch with an intercepting hand. "You don't want to do this, laddy; he's drunk, not worth the bother of beating."
I thought I had defused the situation for a moment, but I could see that I was dealing with the worst combination possible, youth, aggression, and eagerness.
"Too late," he informed me a moment before he threw another punch.
I ducked it, slipped behind and slammed his head on the bar top scattering shot glasses, His partners waded in and things went hazy for a while as they tend to do in a full blown melee.
The next assailant was tall and I ducked his wild swing and caught him in the kidney, which caused his knees to buckle I was barely clear of him when the next bloke attempted a hammer blow to my head, which grazed my ear, I made him pay for his miss with my patented right hook. He was on the floor shaking his head before he realized that he had even been hit. I heard a breaking bottle and the first bloke was back, I was about to engage him when James hit him in the back of his head with an empty tray, his eyes rolled in his head as he fell. I did not have time to show gratitude as the last two blokes grabbed my arms from behind, intending to rush me and slam me against the bar. Luckily, Holmes had shown me some of his Bartitsu moves for such an eventuality. As they tried to spin me around, I stepped behind the leading leg of the bloke on my left arm and with a sweep and a strong push, lifted him off his feet and slammed him to the ground. The bloke on my other arm came forward when his partner's push ended, I slipped behind him and with a grab of the back of his shoulders and a half side lock, twisted him in the air to land on his partner. Others were thinking about trying me when there was the explosive sound of a gun fired indoors by the front door.
Everyone startled and looked to see Collin with a smoking revolver aimed to the ceiling.
"That firs one was a blank, got five more than aren't, break it up."
I was settling my suspenders back into place when the first assailant picked himself up off the floor. "What are you, anyways?" He asked as he held a hand to his kidney, "never seen an old bloke fight like that."
I inwardly groaned at the "old bloke" comment.
"Thas my bro...ther," James informed him, before promptly passing out on the bar top.
The Scotsman gave me another once over. "Blimey but don't you two look alike!"
I had to roll my eyes at that.
Collin walked up, "That's Doctor Watson, McEwen, you guys picked on the wrong man tonight."
McEwen's eyebrow rose. "The Doctor Watson, from The Strand?"
I left them to their conversation while I tended to my inebriated brother.
I was supporting James's weight as he began sliding off his stool, trying to keep him out of the floor.
The murmur began as the news spread of who I was. I settled James onto a temporary perch. Collin stood by me looking at the boys in differing stages of getting themselves together.
"You call this mediating?"
I shrugged, accepting my coat and hat from the grateful barmaid who gave me a salacious wink.
If only I were younger.
Collin lined up the Scots, berating them for disturbing the peace then turned back to me.
"You wanna press charges, Doc?"
As an answer, I picked up James's ill-gotten winnings, offered them to the barkeeper who was just now setting his stock in order. "Guinness for the whole bar for as long as this money lasts."
I turned to the battered group. "No charges, no hard feelings."
The same Scots that had been coming for my blood were now cheering and singing my praises for thrashing them, raising their tankards in salute.
God loves the Scottish.
I turned to Collin, "help me get him to the Hotel, I think things will be peaceful until you get back."
The bar patrons lined up for their drafts slapping James and me on the back as I lugged him to his feet. Collin slipped under his other arm. The curvy tavern mistress that held my hat and coat found James's topper and placed it on his head, giving him a kiss on the cheek, which James managed to respond with a soggy leer, and we got him out of there.
It was a short walk down the sparsely populated street to our Hotel, the Roman Street Inn night clerk held the door for us.
"Got a telegram for you, Doctor Watson." He informed as we started across the small lobby.
"Pocket," I told him turning to the side, he stuffed the paper in my coat. I promised him a tip later and we started up the stairs, James was stirring enough to help a bit by then, but my back was protesting by the time we reached the landing and turned to our room door.
Collin supported my bedraggled twin while I found the key and opened the door, and turned up the gaslights, I accepted him back with a creak of my knees.
"I think I can take it from here, thank you for your help, Constable."
Collin nodded. "Ta see you take on a whole bar of Scots, I'd ave to say, my pleasure."
I gave him a glare. "You watched?"
He shrugged unrepentant. "Chester's a small village, not much happenin',"
"Why didn't you fire earlier?" I demanded.
Collin smirked. "I wanted to see ya do some damage to that lot, teach'em a lesson, but I had no idea you have such a nasty stripe. I fired that gun for their sake not yours," he said with a laugh. "Next time yer up, ya gotta show me tha last move!"
He tipped his hat, smile still plastered on his face, and left.
I sighed, lifted an addled James onto my hip, and helped him to the bed nearest, where I deposited him with one last effort. He was so intoxicated he stayed precisely where he landed.
"That 'lament's poison." James complained, his accent getting thicker as his voice slurred.
I shook my head as I closed the door.
"I think'm dyin," he concluded.
I lifted up his left foot and worked on his expensive shoe. "You are not dying," I insisted as I pulled off the other one.
"How'd ya know?" he replied as I raised him up to get his coat and hat off.
"Because I should be so lucky," I replied with a wry smile.
I placed those items to the side, and turned back to see him staring at me from a closer distance than we had been in a while.
I was struck at how we were aging in subtle, different ways, his face was so like my own, except for a little wider nose and slightly more prominent cheek bones, but he had less smile lines and his eyes were darkly ringed from too many nights engaged in other activities than sleep. His skin was smoother from staying out of the sun, but also less healthy in pallor. We were growing old, my brother and I, but it surprised me to realize that in some ways time had turned the tables giving me an easier passage in my middle years than it had James.
"I've been a shite brother to you, John, can ya forgive me?" he asked his red-rimmed eyes bright with alcohol-induced delirium.
I knew that if asked about his words when sober he would have no recollection, and this moment in time represented in no way a change in his behaviour towards me but I just accepted it for what it was. "There's nothing to forgive," I assured him as I helped him with his suspenders.
"She was th'love of me life, John, th'was ner one else," he murmured as I leaned on my shoulder while I unbuttoned his shirt.
I realized that I might not have another chance to get answers than this rare brief vulnerability so I pressed the issue. "Then why did you cheat on her, James."
He shook his head adamantly as I removed his shirt. "Din't cheat, she broke it off wit me, wanted to marry er."
"Why would she break up with you if she was pregnant with her child?" I asked leaving off preparing him for bed for the moment.
His eyes grew haunted with a pain still fresh thought over twenty years buried. "She said I corrupted er, I'd corrupt our child," he said weaving with vertigo. I reached out a steadying hand. "She tol me to stay 'way, if I luffed her ta stay away," he finished his eyes closing.
He went limp but I managed to lower him to the bed.
I removed the trousers and socks and slipped him under the covers. The strange defenceless man I was tucking into bed was unnerving me a bit to say the least. I felt as if I should check his identity when he cracked his eyes one last time and muttered, "Matress 's atrocious."
I had to smile at that. Yes, it is James Watson in that bed.
I turned down the overhead lamps.
There was a desk across the room, I crossed to it and lit the lamp, pulling out the telegram.
FOUND THE BENEFACTOR::STOP
TOO LONG FOR TELEGRAM::STOP
LETTER SENT SHOULD ARIVE TOMORROW::STOP
I stared at the cryptic message, wondering what Holmes had found out that he sent a letter.
I turned around in the chair and stared at my slumbering sibling. It was easy to forget all the bother and annoyance he had caused me over the years to see him like this. With a start, I realized that Holmes was correct in his assessment of my true feelings concerning James; the bitter truth was that I never had truly given up on him.
Maybe my longsuffering attitude with my brilliant, acerbic flatmate all these years was just an extension of the tolerance I would have shown James, if I had been permitted.
These thoughts were too heavy for my weary mind, so I turned the lamp off and turned James gently on his side to prevent asphyxiation in the night, before preparing myself for the night in the bed adjacent.
I set the alarm clock provided for seven o'clock, gave it a good wind and set it between the beds on the nightstand. I'll admit it was with an evil smile I slid it closer to his side.
The jangling of the alarm and the accompanying curses woke me that morning. I cut the alarm, my hung over brother sleepily questioned my parentage under his breath which I thought was a bit hypocritical.
"The funeral is at nine, James," I informed him as I stood and crossed to my valise and tried to decide what to wear.
I sighed wearily when I heard another snore from the cocoon James had made of his bed clothing. I was not going to force him to attend. I hope he would want to on his own but Holmes was right about it needing to be James choice.
It was eight o'clock when I left the room, cleaned up and ready. I left the alarm right near James's ear set for ten minutes. I was not going to coerce him but torturing him a bit was in my purview.
I walked through the rousing village receiving friendly greetings and strange looks. I thought that the attention could be partially my newness to town, but the fact I looked so much like a minister who was well known might have been part of the scrutiny.
I arrived at the parsonage, admitted by my solemn nephew, and enjoyed a brief breakfast with him and his wife. Little Agatha was making a mess of little pieces of jam and toast happily finding a way to decorate her high chair. She was a balm to her parents and me; it was hard to be dour in the presence of such enjoyment and vitality.
A knock came and a teenage girl came in, from the delighted squeals, she was someone well known to the toddler, she and Miriam had a short discussion from which I gathered that she was to watch the baby while her parents took care of the grim business next door.
At quarter to nine, we left to travel the short distance into the graveyard were the grave was already dug, and the coffin was being placed upon the bier.
Andrew had a paper in his pocket which he pulled out and refolded several times, notes for his most difficult sermon yet. How do you bury your mum, who has been the only parent you have ever known at such a tender age? I clasped his shoulder giving what meagre comfort that was mine, his wife held his hand while they received the well wishes of his parishioners.
Andrew observed that none of his mum's family had made the trip or visited her during her convalescence, even after all this time she was still an outcast to the deeply religious folk from whence she sprang.
"That is one of the dichotomies that convinced me to enter the ministry," He explained, "my mum was raised believing that all could be forgiven, that Christ's love was absolute, his gift eternal, and yet those who raised her abandoned her and myself in the name of that same God. It was my search to understand why that was that led me to a true understanding of God, and I wanted to teach others." His voice broke, and a tear slipped down his cheek as his wife slipped an arm around his waist giving comfort.
I looked around at the small gathering and saw how stricken and sorrowful the mourners were seeing their young pastor's plight. It was a small congregation but his devotion to their care now was reciprocated back to him and his wife. Somewhere in his mum's home land was a family that had turned their back on her and the illegitimate child within, they would never know just how wonderful a man he turned out to be all in the name of righteousness. In some ways Andrew's mum had made the same mistake with James, I wondered what kind of man he would have become if she had married him as he begged her too.
That graveyard was full of ghosts that day, not only of what was, but also of what would never be.
Andrew raised his voice asking people to gather and he began the service with a prayer.
I moved further back to the fringe, being a visitor, someone walked up and stood beside me. I cheated and opened one eye surprised to see that it was James.
"You are a right bastard, you know that?" he grumbled just loud enough for me to hear.
"Thank you, dear brother," I responded with a cheeky grin.
An elder woman nearby shushed us to silence.
"I took a better look at James and was deeply disturbed to realize that even drastically hung over, with less time to prepare, he still looked better than me. His suit was dapper and cut for his frame, his, moustache trimmed to perfection, and he had added a pair of smoke lensed glasses to protect his tired eyes from the glare. It was most disconcerting.
"That coat of yours was something people behind fashion stopped wearing five years ago," he teased just loud enough for me to hear.
I shot him a glare and focused in on my nephew's words.
I was seeing my brother's blood coming out in Andrew as he delivered his oratory. He was precise and clear, his points were logical and his bible quotations precise. He paused for effect, and sometimes for emotion as he spoke of his mum being a modern Hannah, who gave her son Samuel back to God when he was of age. He did not refer to her struggle to raise him out of wedlock, but he complimented her on her strength of will and for her determination and devotion. I have seen acts of bravery in all forms, but a young man delivering the eulogy for his only parent at a young age with such strength of conviction ranks there with any heroism I have ever witnessed.
"He is good," James muttered, "I'll give the lad that much, he is very good."
I had to shake my head at that. James complimenting some besides himself, even in an overt manner was akin to a standing ovation.
Two burly undertaker assistants lowered the coffin into the ground with rope after the service ended with a prayer. Andrew and his wife received the blessing of their congregation and friends.
We stood to the side, I acknowledged any nods sent our way while James tried to stay on his feet.
"Excuse me, Doctor Watson?"
I turned to see the morning clerk at our Hotel holding a letter. I tipped the lad very well and left James to his own devices while I walked a short distance away and read Holmes's missive.
To say it was illuminating would be understating its impact.
I saw Andrew making his way to his father so I walked back over and joined them.
"I have prayed for days about what I should say to you," Andrew began. James gathered himself visibly, squaring his shoulders to take the blow he was anticipating.
Andrew renewed his grip on his wife's hand for support; she gave him a reassuring squeeze.
"I had a conversation with my mum the night before she died. It changed a few of my misconceptions I must admit," he began, "I know that she did not catch you cheating on her, that she did tell you of my existence, and that she wanted you to stay away."
James blinked behind the glasses in surprise.
Andrew looked down to gather his strength for his next words; they came out a little shaky with emotion. "I have hated you for so many years; you were the great obstacle of my existence. The man who left mum and I defenceless in this world, and now I discover that it was a lie."
"Yer mum was not wrong," James interjected. "I wasn't the sort of man you could raise a child with; you can see the truth of her words standing in front of me in how you turned out."
He seemed to catch himself and added, "You know besides the whole penniless vicar in a backwater sheep market stop bit."
There was a moment of awkwardness as Andrew sought to determine if his father was serious, he made the correct choice as he and his wife broke out in laughter.
I joined them a second later; James cracked a smile, even though he was most likely being serious.
Andrew settled down after a minute. "I wanted to tell you that even though you were denied the chance to be my father, you are free to be a grandfather to Agatha. My home is open to you any time you choose to visit. I am a man now and can make my own choice, and I choose to know you."
He held out a hand to James, received with a tentative return from James.
"Please, come to dinner tonight, you and John," Miriam said with a smile, her husband nodded his agreement.
"We would love to," I answered for James moving up behind my brother, I placed one knuckle into his kidney region until he assented with a pained, "Sounds lovely."
They looked delighted as they turned to traipse back across the graveyard to their home.
"I would have accepted without you assaulting my person, you rugby playing ruffian!" James said with a hiss as he turned on me, his face livid.
I gave him a condescending eyebrow. "I did not hear an acceptance coming from you."
He shrugged. "Actually I thought we would dine at this local establishment tonight, the cook is Le Cordon Bleu trained, well thought of in the publications, and the wine is local and respected."
I gave him my most heated stare. "You mean to tell me that you would turn down an offer from your daughter-in-law and only son, to meet your grandchild and spend time with them over fine dining?"
He gave me his look whose being daft eye roll. "Le Cordon Bleu, John, they don't come finer. I was shocked that even one such as this is in Northumbria, much less in this backwater on the moor drain."
I pulled out Holmes's letter and began to read aloud.
I would ask how you are fairing but you are travelling with James so it is not difficult to deduce your current temperament.
Why did I choose to write you with the answer I had been seeking? Well, the circumstances of my discovery are just as vital to the ultimate answer as the revelation itself.
The Dorchester drop was in a flower shop just off the main. I staked the establishment out using four different disguises until a well-dressed man came in, he was carrying a solicitor's attaché. He took an arrangement and slipped something into his case, after he left I followed; he dumped the flowers in a rubbish bin two blocks over, and took a bus across town.
He finally disembarked at the law offices of Findley, Findley and Burke.
I waited until they left for the day and entered. I know you are not happy I did so, but they are involved in illegal activities so I felt the action justified.
I was unable to find the information after several hours, so I visited the solicitor's home.
Nathaniel Burke was understandably dismayed after I rushed his door, he was about to summon a constable but at the mention of my name his face went pale and his cooperation level increased dramatically.
We adjourned to his study to discuss the matter.
As it happens the Watson Trust is the least of the illegal activities, his firm is involved, and so at my promise of anonymity he told me the specifics.
The Watson trust was set up on behalf of another law student he was friends with at school. It was at first a relatively small amount, but then after the law student graduated it grew larger, then greater still after the entirety of the young man's inheritance was liquidated and funnelled into the account. The reason it was not on the books at the law firm was that it he handled all matters personally using his firm's resources and access to banking through Credit Suisse in Zurich.
The entire Watson fortune is still there, to this day. All payments are from the principle and doled out with the name John Watson as the signatory. The reason why this is legal, because the instigator and overseer of the enterprise is one Hamish John Watson, seeing as John is his official legal middle name all the transactions are legitimate.
One last morsel for thought, and a fact I find extraordinarily pertinent.
The only name as beneficiary is Andrew Watson, therefore since the account was from its inception designated as a trust for his son, Hamish J. Watson cannot access the money he can only monitor it, which he does through ledger pages that Burke sent him to various addresses over the years.
It appears that your brother is our Magwitch.
I am a man of reason, of intellect and pure realms of thought, but in this matter, I find I must offer you advice that is foreign to me. Trust your heart; you will know the proper dispensation.
I await your return,
I finished the letter and put it away.
James removed his glasses squinting at the brightness of the day, his eyes furious.
"So, you have discovered my darkest secret, I've done one unselfish thing in my life, what will you do now?" he stated with a challenging glare.
I felt my face form an evil smile as I hit upon a solution.
"I, dear brother, am going to black mail you."
His look of unabashed shock was my reward. "You're what?"
I laughed. "I am going to extort, extract, wrest, force, and in all matters coerce you. You are familiar with the term?"
He gave me a glare of the deepest loathing, "Of course I am, I've done it often enough myself. What are your demands?"
I held the letter up to his nose, snatching it away from his grasp at the last moment when he attempted to grab it.
"My terms are simple; you are going to be a father to Andrew, father-in-law to Miriam, and a doting loving grandfather to Agatha. You are going to visit them at least twice a year, since I am intending to stay in touch, I'll inquire after you from time to time. The first notification that they have not seen you in the space of a year, I will set down with Andrew and reveal all I know. He will know that his father never let him go, and has watched him through the money exchanges for his entire life."
James looked positively appalled. "You wouldn't!"
I stepped closer so James and I were nearly nose-to-nose. "Look into my eyes brother, you've set across from the best card players in the Isle, am I bluffing?"
He turned away in defeat. "Of course you're not; you don't know how to bluff. If you say it, you mean it. I have always hated that about you."
"Then we understand each other," I said in my brightest tone as I clapped him on the back.
"But, what does a grandfather do?" James inquired in a confused voice.
I shrugged. "I don't know from experience mind you, but I think you show up unexpectedly amidst squeals of delight and joy from your grandchildren, spoil them rotten, teach them inappropriate behaviours, then say goodbye just before they become too obnoxious, leaving them to their parents to sort."
He gave me a lopsided grin similar to my own. "I already do that with spoiled heiresses, I think we have an accord."
"We were invited to dinner," I reminded him, "not lunch, so we can still sample the French cooking."
He threw an arm around my shoulders. "What a grand idea, I'm even going to buy." He was a couple steps away before I grabbed his sleeve with a hand out and my eyes flashing warning. He turned back with a sheepish grin and handed me my purloined wallet.
"You cannot blame a bloke for trying,"
I rolled my eyes.
Even if he has a deeply buried streak of good, he is James Watson after all!
The lunch was as promised, and the time I spent in my brother's company was not all that unpleasant. I did have to aim another kick at his shins when he was nasty to the waiter about what he perceived as an over cooked flambé, but for the most part, he behaved.
I finally handed him the letter that Andrew had entrusted to my care on first meeting; it was from Agatha Swan herself. James read it, his face going completely dispassionate which told me all I needed to know about the contents. He slipped it into his inner coat pocket and we referenced it no more. I am quite sure that my brother never got over her. I am not going to make excuses for his callous disregard for women since, but it was another piece to the puzzle that James Watson represented.
I insisted he go on to Andrew's home while I packed and bought tickets for the evening train.
I sent Holmes a short telegraph to let him know of my return and of my gratitude for his help.
I set off for my nephew's parsonage carrying our bags, wondering how my brother packed so much into so little.
I was admitted by Andrew dressed in shirtsleeves, he put a finger to his lips and waved me inside. I set our bags down by the door and followed his motions to the parlour. He smiled and pointed to a rocker by the fireplace.
There, sound asleep with a little infant girl on his chest, her tiny fingers gripping his moustache, was Hamish John Watson looking more content than I can ever remember him being.
"The Lord does still move among his people," Andrew whispered his eyes sparkling with joy.
I threw an arm around my new found nephew's shoulder and nodded my agreement.
He left to help with dinner; I stayed and watched the two bonding by the fire.
Here was my prodigal brother returning home. Unlike the older brother in the parable, I have to say I did not mind in the slightest.
Story Notes: My grandmother was an unwed mother, and when she goes home even though she is in her eighties she still gets the sidelong glances and whispers. She is one of the sweetest people walking on this earth and the son she had is extremely successful and has two successful children and a beautiful wife. There are seeds of greatness in all life no matter where it begins.
I had to walk a thin line in this chapter somehow showing James as sympathetic without him losing his edge, having his own brother blackmail him into fulfilling his duties as a father so his son won't know that he was a good father after all? I thought that was twisted enough to be Jamesworthy.
Thanks for reading guys!
Especially thanks to those who click that little review button and let me know I'm not alone. snif