Whispers in the Dark
"Come now, sir, it will just be for a couple of minutes. A hot tea and some crumpets are going to do you wonders."
"I do not want tea and crumpets! Never enjoyed them much… neither did I ever enjoy Bassu's company, or his house. I get the feeling that I'm some sort of a living experiment whenever I enter that flat. No. We just go, see if he has anything new for us and then we get right back at the Yard where there is some form of normality."
"Inspector, you know that there is no way to control someone's taste in decorations."
"Which gives me no good reason to like 'em. Oh, you didn't hear me say this, but I really hope he has something for us. One spooky murder – it happens all the time. Two – very well, I can live with that. But three cases in which the murderer randomly combusts is simply too much for any police officer to bear."
"Come now, inspector, you…"
"Don't you dare, Clawes! I know very well what you are going to say but I refuse to do so!"
"Sir, now you're being paranoid."
"I am not!" Vole cried out, not caring that by doing so he had also drawn the attention of innocent by-passers. "In the past forty-eight hours I have learned that when ever I try to relax, when I think that somehow we are one step closer to solving this mess something always happens to throw us back! No, not us – but me! The superintendent is putting pressure on me because it is I who had been assigned this case!"
Detective Inspector Clawes sighed then promptly tightened his coat around him. This week certainly started nicely. First the snowstorm, then word from Constable Hayek that another murder had taken place at the fish market. Again: a girl in her mid twenties was killed, locked in an ice-room were she literally froze to death, and the murderer, burned to death in a inexplicable fire, inside the same frozen room with no signs of any combustible materials.
It was of little surprise to find that Chief Inspector Gregory Vole was a pack of high strung nerves.
"Two days, Clawes! It has been two days now since people started dying in this city and the only explanation you and Basil were able to come up with was a rare brain anomaly!"
"I need to think… Now, if I am to go look up the records for – no, I already done that. I'll talk to the witnesses again! Yes! Someone must have seen something that they forgot about… or something they are trying to hide…"
"Inspector Vole!" Clawes shouted, moving to shake his panicking superior. Vole was shaking from ear to tale, and to Clawes, he looked close to falling into cardiac arrest. "For the love of God, calm down man! You won't be doing anyone any good if you pass out. Now let's take some calming, deep breaths…"
Taking deep breaths, Vole tried to do as he was told. He knew Clawes was right. He didn't have to let the stress get to him. But then why wasn't he getting enough air? Oh, right. He wasn't breathing properly. Now, how was it again? In… out… in… out…
"Better now?" Clawes asked, making sure that the inspector wasn't faking it. The man could be terribly stubborn when he wished.
"Yes, Clawes…" Vole took another breath. "Yes, I feel better now. Thank you, lad."
"Good, because you gave me quite a scare there, inspector." Which was quite understandable. Vole was known as one of the most seasoned officers on the police force. The fact that he looked so close to a heart attack was a good reason for anyone to worry.
"Yes… Well, you'd be on the edge too if you were in my place." Vole said in his defense. "The new superintendent is simply driving me insane! You'd say that one who's just been promoted would be a bit more considerate with us, lower ones. Instead this one had made it his mission to make our lives miserable. Imagine, giving all these new assignments and these blasted inspections… And he's inspecting my department any day now … Speaking of which, you know what he did to Copper?"
"The constable in charge of the Regent Park area?"
"One and the same. Well, the superintendent inspected his patrol now a week or so ago, complimented the old man for keeping the place tidy, then almost drove Copper to suicide by listing all the wrongs in the area. The poor fellow was simply beside himself when the inspection was over. Last Friday, I learned that he was shipped off to Greengap the next day on cause of 'neglecting his duties'. Bullocks, if you ask me! Copper was the best there was. And he's not the only one. Half of our best men are now gone, all because they proved themselves to be 'inneficient'. Greengap… I don't even know where the hell that is!"
Clawes made a mental note to look that place up, some day. But right now, he needed to change the subject.
"That is very interesting, sir, but now come. All other facts aside, what you need now is a good, warm cup of Mrs. Judson's tea and some delicious crumpets." He said in voice that said he would not have it any other way. Vole didn't bother to make any complaint.
"Yes… unfortunately old Bassu will make me lose my appetite before I'll even touch the food. I can see it all now: we knock, Mrs. Judson opens, Basil jumps out of somewhere to great us, gives a half an hour lecture on the fact that we're half an hour late…"
"If I may, sir, I'm sure he'll understand. It's not like anybody knew that a snowstorm was coming."
"… and then we'll start talking about dead people. Marvelous way to begin the week, don't you agree lad?" with that, he proceeded by knocking on the door of 221B, fully prepared to face the odd routine.
Imagine his surprise when the one who opened the door for them was not Mrs. Judson, but a young little girl whom Clawes knew as Olivia Flaversham. The smile and joy on her face had faded the moment her eyes landed upon their figures.
"Mr. Basil?!" came the anxious voice of one Mrs. Judson from inside. Upon reaching the front door, she too became disappointed upon seeing the two officers.
"Something wrong, ma'am?" Clawes asked. Something was wrong.
"Oh, inspectors, do you happen to know where Mr. Basil or Dr. Dawson are right now?" she asked them hopefully. The inspectors looked one at another.
"Last I saw him he was leaving to get the doctor. You mean they didn't get back?"
Mrs. Judson was fiddling with her apron. "Well… Mr. Basil has a habit of randomly disappearing for indefinite periods of time, but the doctor simply wouldn't leave like that. Not in this weather, at least. I… think am slightly worried about them, sirs." Her anxiety told them a little bit more.
Vole found her worry laughable. "Bah! I seriously doubt it. As you pointed out yourself, they do have the habit of disappearing for indefinite periods of times. The doctor might have just forgotten to inform you of it."
Clawes frowned, but chose to say nothing.
"But inspector I… you see…" Mrs. Judson was babbling now, looking like a woman who was forced to make a real hard choice. She sighed. "Sirs, I cannot tell you my reason for believing this, but I fear that something has happened to them. I know that they wouldn't be gone for such long this time." There was such determination in her voice that nether men would dare contradict her.
"Mr. Bumbles is missing too." Olivia picked in, much to Vole's confusion. Mrs. Judson briefed him concerning yesterday's strange events.
"We waited for them to come back till it was well past midnight." Mrs. Judson had said. "We all though it was a bit odd for them to be this late, especially since Mr. Basil had left with Mr. Holmes' basset hound so it wouldn't have took them that long to get back here. But then we decided that it was time we all prepared for bed. Young Olivia is still but a child and needs her sleep, yet Mr. Flaversham and myself waited another hour or so before retiring for the night. But when we woke up this morning and found that they still weren't home and that it was a blizzard out, we were all worried. Mr. Flaversham left to look for them when the weather got better and… Oh, inspectors, I am worried for my tenants! What if something terrible happened to them? What if they were caught by that someone Basil and Inspector Clawes here were talking about yesterday?"
"Calm yourself, Mrs. Judson" cried Vole at the sight of tears. He never knew how to handle those. "Both your tenants are grown men and in good health. For what we could determine - if this is a serialkiller situation - then you have no reason to worry. Apparently the victims are all women, in their mid-twenties and have a link to bakeries and apart from the fact that Mr. Basil is living on Baker Street…"
"And has green eyes as well." Clawes interfered.
"… He is most certainly not a woman" Vole added quickly, giving Clawes a look that said 'and you're not helping'. "So you see, there is no reason to worry."
Mrs. Judson started sobbing uncontrollably. Apparently, their murder cases were going to have to wait.
A couple of minutes later, everyone was in the flat. Mrs. Judson – who after a large glass of brandy finally calmed down – was trying to prepare tea for the inspectors who were silently discussing the matter of her missing tenants in the living room. Olivia was with them, quietly seated on nearby chair and watching Vole's twisted mustache with innocent fascination.
"What do you make of this, Clawes?" Vole asked, deep in thoughts.
The younger mouse didn't respond immediately. "I don't like this one bit, inspector. Though slow, Basil was making real progress with this case and now he and the doctor simply vanished. I simply don't like it sir."
Vole quirked an eyebrow. "You believe there's a connection?"
"It would be odd for there not to be one." Just then, Mrs. Judson entered the room, tray of tea in hand. "Last I saw him; Basil said that there was something terribly wrong happening in this city. Given recent events, I am terribly inclined to believe him."
While Mrs. Judson was serving everyone with some of her tea, Vole asked her: "Mrs. Judson, I must ask you to think very carefully. Has Basil said or done anything that would give us any clue on where they would be heading?"
"Nothing… just that he was going to get the doctor. Then he bolted out of the house as he usually does whenever there's a 'game afoot' or however he calls it."
"Surely that is not all." Clawes said before Vole had the chance to say so himself. "You know him better than any of us. Think hardly, Mrs. Judson. And try and be as precise as you can be."
Frowning deeply, the landlady tried to remember what her tenant had told her the previous day. "He said… that he was to get the doctor and that he'll be back with him before nightfall… then complained about the boiler. Yes, she said something about it being too hot the previous night, because he couldn't sleep. Then he yelled at the bee…"
"The missing menace his brother sent?" Vole asked in a bored, yet slightly amused tone. He so wished he could have seen the Basil/bee interactions.
Both Mrs. Judson and Clawes gave him a look. Mrs. Judson continued. "Yes. He called the thing a menace to society, told it that it was not going to come with him and that it wouldn't have liked it ether way because there was a storm coming." Vole quickly wrote it all down in his little back notebook. He paused to read his notes. Everything looked trivial, but maybe it will make some more sense later.
"And that was the last you saw of him?"
"No. Once he was out, I went back in the kitchen and put some food and a first aid kit in a bag then hurried out to give it to him. The doctor could have been hurt or heavens know what, so I thought that it was best to be prepared. I know that the doctor would have his medical bag with him but still…"
"That was splendid thinking Mrs. Judson." Clawes said. "We all know how reckless those two can be – both together and individual – so don't try to justify yourself. I myself practically forced Basil to take that scarf with him…" Clawes got up from his seat and paced the room. "I remember he and Toby were going north… Can you remember that?"
Mrs. Judson thought for a bit. "Yes, I remember now. It seamed to me that they were heading towards Regent Park…" noticing the odd expressions on the inspector's faces, she rushed to add: "Oh, but it could be any other number of places. How silly of me to say that. They could just as well have been heading towards York –"
"Coincidence?" Clawes asked, ignoring Mrs. Judson's rant.
"Stopped believing in them a long time ago, lad." Was Vole's response, also ignoring the landlady. "But for all it's worth I fail to see the link. But we'll see about that one later, right now, we need to make a plan." He paused to think. "I could wire the Yard and call for back-up. The superintendent might kill me but somehow I don't really care about that at the moment…"
"I say we shouldn't be hasty." Interfered Clawes. "Under usual circumstances that would sound like the best sort of action, but you must agree that there is something fishy going on here. Plus, announcing to the world that Basil of Baker Street is missing is like giving the 'all clear' signal for every criminal in London. No, Vole. I say that the fewer know about this thing, the better." And with that, he continued his pacing, obviously deep in thought.
On the couch, Vole sighed. He hated it when Clawes was right. Such situations always gave him headaches. Digging into his pockets, he pulled out an envelope and from it, he took out one small tablet and swallowed it whole. The superintendent was a real jerk when he wanted to be, but at least the pills he gave him to help with the stress seemed to be doing their job.
Leaning back in his seat, he tried to clear his head by looking around the room. It was certainly as he always remembered it: books, scattered files, maps, darts hanging about in the weirdest of places, odd looking contraptions here and there, little girls that were staring at you…
The girl Clawes called Olivia Flabermoth (or was it Flawerbottom?) was looking at him… quite intently. He tried to ignore her for a bit, but it didn't really help. The look she was giving him made him feel quite uneasy. She kept staring… and staring… and staring… and Vole started to feel intimidated.
"What?" he asked, looking at the little girl straight in the eye. Her response came a little slow, but left him speechless all the same.
"You have a really large nose, sir, and a very odd mustache as well … sir."
Fortunately for Vole, Mrs. Judson (while hiding a chuckle) asked Olivia to go and fetch some more sugar for the tea. The little girl looked more then eager to be of help, and also didn't appear to notice that the sugar boll was half full. Again – fortunately for Vole.
An ordinary man's mind can only take so much pressure …
Once in the kitchen, Olivia took her time to look around the cabinets. She found some boxes of tea, flower, some coffee she mistook for cacao (much to the protest of her taste-buds) but no trace of sugar.
"Not in this one either." She said in defeat, putting another box filled with tea plants back on the shelf. "Now, if I was a box of sugar, where would I hide?" Imitating Basil in one of the detective's 'thinking moments' she tried to think things through. If it wasn't in any of the cabinets … perhaps the pantry?
"BUZZZ!!!" Fact: all thoughts of the sugar were instantly forgotten when Thinker burst threw the – thankfully, unlit – stove. Olivia needed a few moments to finally recognize the bee with all the ash that was covering it, especially when it was waving its hands around like it was fighting for its life.
"Mr. Bumbles!" she chirped happily, hugging the insect despite how dirty it was. "I was so worried for you! Where you with Basil all this time? Is he coming home soon?" Freeing itself out of the girl's tight grip, Thinker shocked the ash of itself than started gesticulating like wild. Olivia was left puzzled by its actions.
"What's wrong, Mr. Bumbles? Is there a fire?"
Thinker just stood there, hovering a few inches from the ground, in a state of pure shock. At least, it did before slapping itself across the face. After that lizard burst into its new master's room and found it to be empty, Thinker panicked, and in its panic it did what it thought was best: jump on the lizard then make for a quick get away … erm … that is, get some help.
Well, you couldn't expect it to go into battle with all those mice and rats and bats and lizards alone now … right?
But back to the point! Thinker needed to get help. Now, there was this girl, right in front of it, and apparently, she knew no sign language, which only meant … Oh, Thinker hated when she had to play charades.
"Oh! What? You're … a dog?" Brilliant … "Oh, chased! You were chased! No? Then, you ran!" … that's putting it one way … "From where? Big? A cat! No? A dog?" What was it with this girl and dogs?! "Humans? … House? … A human house? What about it?" Now for a Basil pose … "Basil? Basil is in a human house? Was Dr. Dawson there as well? Where is that? Are they in trouble? They are?! Tell me more, Mr. Bumbles!" … and what was that girl calling it 'Mr. Bumbles'? … No matter now. Now, the rat looked most recognizable … maybe the girl would know him. "RATIGAN?!" Apparently she did. "Basil is with Ratigan! Why didn't you say that in the first place?!" Thinker barely managed to shake its head in sight on exasperation when Olivia bolted from the kitchen, dragging the bee after her.
"Inspectors! Mrs. Judson!" she screamed, startling the adults. "Mr. Bumbles is back!" … well, that was not the right thing to say given the situation.
Mrs. Judson, now quite used to the insect that she along with all the adults that have come within three feet of it came to call a "menace to society" (to use Basil's choice of words), signaled the two inspectors that there was no reason to take the matter into consideration. Clawes looked a bit doubtful, but the doubt was short-lived for he instantly went back to pacing the room. Vole simply closed his eyes in hopes that it could stop his blasted migraine.
"Dear …" Mrs. Judson began, doing her best to be patient. "the inspectors are really busy at the moment. Now, I know you are glad you found that bee and …"
"I did not just find him!" Olivia interrupted, rather rudely. "He was gone but now he –"
"Olivia Flaversham!" Mrs. Judson's tone bore a discreet, yet clear warning. "As I said: the inspectors are very busy right now. So if you please, do make an effort and don't bother them right now."
The little girl sighted in defeat. Mrs. Judson was not going to listen to anything that was to involve the bee. Why, Olivia could not imagine. It's not like it wanted to break her favorite tea cups.
"This is not going to work, Mr. Bumbles …" she said, once they were back in the kitchen. "Mrs. Judson doesn't trust you … not like I do. She's not going to believe us, and without her, the inspectors won't believe us ether. The younger one looked interested, but still …" she sighted. "If only we could prove it somehow …" no sooner then when those words left her mouth the wheals of her brain began to stir. An idea had just occurred to her: a mad, foolish, risky, and terrible idea … for everyone except Olivia.
"I got it!" she cried out, startling Thinker who was sulking on the table. "We'll save Basil and Dr. Dawson ourselves! And then, they'll all know we've been telling the truth!" When she rushed out of the room, Thinker was certain that if it could, it would have been as white as a ghost by now. That was NOT what it had in mind!
For the next couple of minutes, Thinker did all it could to make Olivia reconsider her plan, but the girl just wasn't listening to it. After consulting one of Basil's maps, she just dressed in her warmest and kept stuffing all sort of things that she presumed would be useful in saving the detective and the doctor.
"You'll see, Mr. Bumbles!" she cried, picking up Basil's spare magnifying glass. "We will get to the bottom of this and then everything will be all-right! I've seen Basil do this before. I'm sure that with you on my side I can do it too. Now com, the game is afoot!"
Thinker needed to lie down for a bit … well, at least the red chair was vacant … might as well enjoy the comfort while Thinker still could actually feel – because very soon … the master was going to kill it. But first it needed to go with that child and see that she doesn't do hurt herself too soon.
"Going out for a bit, Mrs. Judson! We'll be back!"
As the front door closed, Inspector Vole dully opened his eyes and glanced around him. He thought he heard something. Looking at Clawes – who was still pacing – he decided that it was just his imagination and closed his eyes again. Slowly, he started to doze off.
Stress was definitely getting the better of him these days … and he always felt so tired …
"Blasted all …" Vole growled. Complications! Now this was not helping his aching head! "It's all right, Mrs. Judson! I'll get it." If only to scare off the unfortunate creature that chose this exact moment to knock.
He swung the door open. "Yes, what the hell do –"
"Where is my sister?" A rough, deep, abet slightly impatient - though not unkindly so – voice interrupted Vole and his predictable question. The inspector's first reaction would have been – under normal circumstances – that of pure indignation at the tone, but upon laying one's eyes on the shape of said voice's owner, Vole was no longer sure what reaction would be proper.
A tall and imposing – despite how rooming he was around the waist – mouse, which bore such striking resemblance to one Sherringford Basil of Basil Street, stood straight and proud on the doormat of 221B. Neatly dressed and holding an air of an accomplished gentleman, the stranger looked at Vole with such a critical eye that the inspector felt small and uneasy under the larger mouse's gaze. It quite reminded Vole of Basil when they first met, and the inspector swore that if this mouse was not somehow related with the detective, then we was to eat his hat. But what was that about a sister? Or did he not hear that right?
"I beg your pardon?"
The other mouse sighted. "My sister did inform me that Scotland Yard Inspectors tend to be – at times, of course – rather slow in drawing the proper conclusion; but unfortunately, I do not posses her desire for giving out free lectures. That is why I shall take my time and ask again: where is my sister?"
This guy had to be related to Basil in some way … but what was he saying about a sister? Who lived in the house? Well, there was only Basil, Dr. Dawson and Mrs. Judson, and out of the tree … Well, maybe there was a chance he had to eat his hat after all.
"I am sorry, sir" Vole said evenly, "but I believe you have the wrong house. Apart from the elderly landlady there is no woman living here."
The other raised an eyebrow. "This is not 221B Baker Street?" he asked casually. Vole shrugged.
"Er, indeed it is, sir. But all the same …"
"Is the landlady of this establishment not one Mrs. Martha Judson?" he continued evenly, though was now apparently annoyed by the inspector's babbling.
"Why yes." Something clinched in Vole's head. It sounded absurd, even to him, but … "She wouldn't happen to be the sister you asked for, could she? Because, with all do respect, I fail to see any similarities …" Vole's voice faded when the stranger's patience was beginning to wear thin. This man scared him, though he had no idea why.
"I assure you, my good sir, that I hold no connection with any woman of that name. Now, I would appreciate it if you would point me towards the general direction where I may find a young lady of 23, with tanned fur and forest-green eyes …" Butterflies have suddenly decided to start a dance in Vole's stomach; he really didn't like where this was going "… and which has taken up residence and has established her practice at 221B Baker Street since 1895."
Vole didn't like it, he really didn't like it. Too many things that … No, it was not possible. It could not be! Basil was not … Basil was rude. Basil was loud. Basil was hyperactive. Basil was impossible … HE was not …
"Vole?" he needed not turn around to know that Clawes was now in the room, clearly drawn by all the 'commotion'. At least he knew that the younger officer would surely catch him were he to pass out …
"What in heaven's name if going on …" Yes … Mrs. Judson was the only one who was missing from all this. "Who are you, sir?" Oh, she must have spotted our guest.
Said guest only turned to her and said: "Mrs. Judson, I presume. I was just asking Chief-Inspector Vole here …" said inspector did not bother to ask how the duce did this stranger know who he was "… if you happen to know of my dear sister's whereabouts."
It did not escape the men's notice that the man had evaded the landlady's question altogether. Vole turned to look at Mrs. Judson and noticed that if there wasn't fur covering her she must have turned three shades of red. Apparently, this man had answered the question, yet not in a matter most were familiar with. "Your 'dear sister's' whereabouts" she all but spat "have never mattered to you until now. Why the sudden change of heart, Mr. Myerricroft Basil?"
Vole gasped and turned to Clawes to see if what his ears heard was right or wrong. The expression displayed upon his young colleague's features indeed confirmed that his ears were – much to his dismay - catching the right sounds. But much to his confusion, he could not read surprise on the young man's face. No – there was shock, that was certain, but there was no surprise. Vole did not know exactly how one could go without the other, but there it was: an emotion whose name he could not place. Maybe … realization?
But Basil was such a common name! It could very well be any Basil! Or a sister! Yes, Basil did talk about a sister once. But then … didn't he say that she was dead? There was something wrong in this …
"I assure you, madam, that my heart remained the same." Said the man in a voice so cold Vole felt shivers go down his spine; yet those eyes of his, not quite as green and lively as the ones of the Basil he knew, bore such a great, dangerous fire within them that one would say that he was ready to leash out at anything and anyone, anytime. "But I cannot say the same about my patience. As honored as I am to know that you are aware of my name, I now request to see my sister as soon as possible. I must bring to her attention a matter of the greatest importance."
Mrs. Judson did not appear intimidated in the slightest. Instead, she simply smiled at the larger mouse. It was a devious smile, one that said that she wasn't going to go down without a fight. "Importance for whom, I ask. For you, for her, or for that blasted government you serve?" Her face darkened more and more with each word she spoke, yet the smile was still there, much to the annoyance of this Mr. Myerricroft. "No matter the answer to that, I will say that your luck has run out this time. As you can very well see, she is not here to solve your problems, just like you weren't there to solve her problems. And even if she were, then she still would have her own troubles to see to."
"Madam, I have no time for children's word games. If you please, the location of my sister would be most appreciated. Pray tell me now, or I shall leave."
"Then you do that." She growled out then, with confidence, she marched towards the front door, opened it, and waited. "Now, if you would please. You've made her life hard enough as it is now."
"Madam …" he started dangerously. The landlady didn't even let him finish.
"And be sure to not let the door hit you on the way out." And with that, she stopped all other protests.
The mouse frowned at her and gave a curt nod to the two police officers, muttering a "farewell, inspectors" before, without as much as a second glance at the landlady, turned to leave the flat.
He just reached the door when Vole felt Clawes move from his side. "Sir" Clawes had said, gaining man's attention, if only superficially so. "If I may, sir, what was this urgent matter you wished to discuss with …" he paused to lick his lips "… your sister?"
The man looked at Clawes from ears o tail, apparently trying to figure out if this person was worthy of his trust (or attention) in the matter. Much to Mrs. Judson's irritation, the man came back in, took of his hat, and took a seat on Basil's red armchair.
"I do hope you will remember, Mr. Basil …" Mrs. Judson warned "to be careful what to say. She worked too hard for you to ruin her with something as trivial as a slip of the tongue."
As if he didn't hear her, Myerricroft said: "The matter I wished to discuss with my sister, young Inspector Clawes …" Vole didn't really want to know how he knew who Clawes was ether! "… is a family matter, and by extension, a very personal matter. That is why I need your discretion in the matter – both yours and your superior's."
Everyone cast their eyes upon Vole. The inspector started to sweat.
"Erm … certainly …" he said, though he was not certain of what exactly he was agreeing on.
The man nodded, and all the others took seats around him. Mrs. Judson still did not look happy to have him in her house. "I must be sure you all understand this: what I am about to say, must never leave these walls. Do I make myself clear?" there was an unmentioned 'or else' in there as well, of that Vole was certain. But the man continued before he could give the matter much thought. "I do not doubt that some of you may be confused by my sudden appearance here. As one of you apparently knows …" Mrs. Judson grumbled. "I am a man of routine, thus I wouldn't be here unless it was a matter of utmost importance." Everyone chose to ignore the landlady's comment of 'I'm certain of that.' "It may interest you inspectors, that – if you were to hold our conversation a secret – I may hold information which may be useful in one of your current investigations."
"And which would be that?"
For a moment, Myerricroft appeared surprised at Vole's blunt question But that was before a wave of understanding seamed to was over him. "Why, the one with your dead murderers, of course. Cause of death: a fire, if I recall correctly. Am I not right inspector? And before you ask how I came to know about a top secret case of the yard, I will have you know that Internal Affairs have told me of it. Apparently, this case troubles them greatly. They are the ones who sent me to take care of this affair."
"Hump! You mean they sent you to have Sherry take care of this affair."
Myerricroft smiled, much to the inspectors' confusion. One smiles for being insulted? "My sister is actually referred to in that fashion?"
Mrs. Judson was on her feet in an instant. "Far better then that curse the poor creature has for a name. Who ever could live with a name such as 'Sherrignford'!" It too her a full moment to be fully aware of what she had said. Her first reaction was to look at the inspectors. Clawes … didn't look as bothered as she would have expected. As for Vole … she wondered if she could get away with murder with two inspectors in the house, for Vole … didn't look like he was actually there any more.
Until only a few seconds ago, he had hoped … indeed he had. Vole did hope beyond hope that he was wrong with his deductions. How much he always wished to be right in the past … now he wished he was not. He had to accept facts … for it appeared that the Basil of Baker Street, the one he knew and argues with over the cause of death of a murder victim, the one who always scolded him because he overlooked a stain of blood on a handkerchief … the one who would say "be a man, Vole" whenever the murder scene was less then pleasant … was …
"I assure you that I had no role in the choosing of names in my family. And if you ask me, her name is much more pleasant to the ear then my own." Myerricroft said. Mrs. Judson hump-ed. "But you were wrong in deducing my reason for being here. I have not come all the way to Baker Street to ask for a favor. I came to give a warning."
Everyone froze. 'Silent' was now the dominating word one would use to describe the flat, with nothing but the ticking of the clock on the mantle to disturb it, one tic per second.
"What do you mean, 'a warning'?" Mrs. Judson asked in a weak, scared voice. Her hands were shaking, her earlier fears coming back to her.
When Myerricroft spoke again, his voice was grave. "I mean to say that, given certain events, both from the present and the past, I have every reason to believe that my sister's life may be in danger."
"You mean to say …" Mrs. Judson gulped "that whoever is doing … whatever it is that they are doing in this city … is after Sherry?" Myerricroft nodded. "Oh, God!"
"'Oh, God!' indeed Mrs. Judson."
"Wait a minute!" Clawes all but shouted. "Sir, your …" he swallowed "…sister is not here. And we do not know where she is right now." Myerricroft's eyes widened. "Yes. That is why we need to know exactly what you know about this. Now is not a time for keeping family secrets. And we promise that you can rely on our confidence. Right Inspector? VOLE!"
"Oh! What … oh, yes. I promise not to speak a word." And to himself, he muttered: "Not like anyone would believe me, ether way."
Myerricroft appeared to consider this. He turned to Mrs. Judson, who looked uncertain of what to so. Eventually, she nodded, not all that confident, but at the moment, it looked like the lesser of two evils.
"So be it." He took a breath. "Now thirteen ears ago, tragedy bestowed upon our family while we still had a home in Sussex. My father and I were away because of some reason or another when a group of low-life refines attacked our house, taking everything of value. They set the entire premises on fire after they were done." He paused to draw breath. "That day, they have also taken the lives of my mother and – until I was proven wrong – younger sister. Their bodies were in a state beyond any recognition, but we knew it was them. There were little chances for it to be anyone else, after all. But, despite my grief, I noticed that there was no sign of my younger brother. Father was grieving too intensely to notice this, but I have, and I set in search of him. It was only later that I found not my brother, as I hopped, but my sister hiding behind a rock, in perfect body health. Her mind, on the other hand, was ruined. Apparently, she had seen everything: when the thieves entered, the robbery, the murder of her mother and brother. Simply put: everything. It's no surprise that at the fragile age of ten her little mind broke down."
Everyone had been listening very closely to Myerricroft's story. Mrs. Judson looked close to crying once again and the inspectors could hardly believe their ears. The elder Basil continued.
"After a few weeks, my sister began to speak again and to be more aware of the world around her. Still, she continued to poses little memories of what had happened before her brain shut down that day… which is why I am not at all proud with what I did."
Three pairs of eyes widened. "What do you mean?" asked Clawes. Myerricroft's face was grave.
"When I found her, my sister managed to tell me just one thing before her mind shut down. She said 'they killed them, both of them. They said there were the targets. When they saw me, they said I was none of their business. Said the lad was not part of the deal.' It took me quite some time to figure out what she tried to tell me. Or more exactly, to accept what she tried to tell me."
"It was not a simple robbery." Clawes said, voice filled with disbelief. "Someone planned the assassination of your family. The robbery was just for show."
"You are partially right. That was my first guess as well, but then my sister said that they saw her. Why let her go if they wanted to kill us all? Then I saw it. The targets were only my mother and sister. They had no qualms with my father and brother, nether did they with I. Taking into account all the facts, I decided that the best way to protect my sister was to make sure that she remained 'dead'. I convinced my sister to take up the name of her brother, making her believe it is her own, and molded her in such a fashion that she would think, act and all in all, be exactly like her brother."
"Wouldn't people notice the difference?" Clawes wanted to know.
"Not in the slightest. I have apparently forgotten to mention one vital detail: my brother and sister were in fact perfectly identical twins. If it were not for the change in clothes, nobody would have noticed any difference. They .." he chuckled "… had a little game in which they where to change roles: sister became brother and vice-versa. Plus, the time when my mother had to punish my brother for a broken vase and came face-to-face with two 'daughters' is one incident I shall never forget."
"One question, sir." Vole asked. "You say that now thirteen ears ago your mother was murdered and until you were proven wrong, you believed your sister was killed along with her. Now, I think I understand why you wanted to keep your sister's identity a secret but … what makes you think that – considering the fact that your sister is now known to all as 'Mr. Basil of Baker Street' – she is now in danger."
"I was planning to get to hat. You see, our family was a very peaceful one, and although my mother tended to be a little hard towards her children, she was a pleasant and even loving creature. Nobody had any reason to hate her. Also, we were not a wealthy family, nor did we have any rich relatives who could ever leave us anything. And, there were some very peculiar incidents happening in the area for a while now."
"Something that makes you believe that there was more to it then a simple quarrel between two people involved?" asked Clawes, incredulously.
"Exactly. Though at the time I thought very little of it, there was something very odd going on back then. Before my mother and sister's murder, a few girls from town started dying from various 'accidents'. There was no link between them, except for the fact that they all had green eyes. There was rumor that one of them was killed by the miller's son, but apparently the boy had died in a fire the very same night. And he was not the only one to perish in a fire that summer."
Clawes was on his feet in an instant. "I'm going to look for Basil!" he announced, and before anyone was able to beat an eyelid, he was out, leaving a sobbing Mrs. Judson and a stunned Chief Inspector Vole all alone with one eccentric member of the Basil family.
At a long last, Vole gathered enough wits as to say: "This has to be some kind of joke, is it not?"
Myerricroft did not look at him as he answered: "I would have liked it to be so, Inspector. But alas, it is not." That was what he was afraid of.
Vole knew that something bad had to happen. He just knew it! But he never would have guessed that it would be something this big …
He laughed. "Quite a way to begin the week … And to make everything all the more brilliant, I just found out that the best private detective in London – the one to whom the Yard owes much too much already … the one to whom I owe much too much already … - is a woman … and there is some sort of a 'mysterious' killer or some mastermind of some sort after hi- … her … Am I getting it right so far?" Myerricroft nodded. WONDERFUL! Count on this troublesome world to make matters even more complicated then they already where. Isn't it simply laughable?
Still, the most amusing fact remains the following: there was no other time when he when he wanted to eat his hat more then at that very second.
Moments later, a loud bark accompanied by Clawes' screams woke him from his moment of mental numbness. A Scottish mouse barged into the flat, panic clearly written on his old features. Clawes was with him, and apparently was holding someone. As Vole approached them, he noticed that there was someone else with, someone Clawes was trying to get onto the couch.
Dr. David Q. Dawson was back - cold, bruised and slightly dazed, but still alive … and pretty agitated for an old man. But when he heard exactly what the doctor was so wound up about, he was certain that retirement sounded like a very good idea.
That being said, his eyes promptly rolled up, and he fainted. There were little chances of him waking up anytime soon though … a fact that could not be said about a certain other rodent in London.
That's it for another two weeks! And a cliffhanger at such a time! My God, I really am evil! But just to make it up to you, I made this chapter extra long! (and hopefully, with a little more clues then actually meets the eye ;) ). Myerricroft finally makes an appearance (and shreds a bit more light on the subject - or does he?), Vole is being tortured (I feel really bad for him ... really I do) and Thinker is sure to face Basil's wrath at some point. As for our dear Basil ... unfortunately we're not seeing her in this one, but of next chapter - only time will tell!
For more answers and questions, we shall meet again in the next chapter!
Reviews are always welcome and greatly appreciated!