I have to admit that under normal circumstances I do not aspire to eavesdropping or spying of any sort, and in fact consider it a highly distasteful and disreputable habit. Furthermore, even if I were the type of person to indulge in such behavior, the pair seated at a table not far from me in the restaurant that morning would scarcely have attracted my attention anyway had I not, as I sat down at my own table, overheard one of them mention the name of one "Arthur Conan Doyle."
I was an avid follower of the author, had been from the beginning of his career, and was especially entranced with his Sherlock Holmes stories, so it was only natural that the name would catch my notice. It was, however, the unflattering statement around the name that kept my attention on the two men.
They were, as I had said, nothing to attract any special notice, the one perhaps rather tall and thin, almost lounging in his seat with his ankles crossed under the table, the other somewhat more strongly built and leaning slightly forward as if to compensate for his companion's leaning away, but they were, quite frankly, otherwise altogether unremarkable. They sat comfortably at their table, with the ease of old companionship, as they waited for their breakfast to arrive.
"Another story idea for your good friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, eh? And the ink on his last atrocity barely dry." The taller, thinner man was laughing, rueful amusement twinkling in his eyes. "Sherlock Holmes and the Pumpkin Pie Calamity. Really, now."
His companion merely offered him a tolerant smile. "You have to admit, they do sell." He offered easily. "And his sensational titles do attract notice."
The former scoffed. "It's an insult to both professions, and you know it." He declared with all the fervor and conviction of a man who had spent years on the same argument and has by now either given up hope of ever proving his point or simply stopped caring.
"Doyle says the general public would never understand half of the technicalities. He says you want just enough detail for the reader to grasp the immense intelligence of the character, but not enough to bog them down or overwhelm them." His companion replied amiably. It was a discussion that by this time had become more a comfortable pastime than a serious disagreement for the two men. I, on the other hand, was deeply offended by all this conversation implied.
The first man chuckled softly. "I suppose he leaves out most of your medical terminology for the same reason." He offered, and his companion nodded.
"Quite right." He affirmed pleasantly. "But I wish you wouldn't be so hard on Doyle. I rather like the old boy, you know."
"I know, I know." The former conceded, waving his hand dismissively. "He's not a bad fellow, I suppose, John, but there's just something-."
"You just take his writing personally." The other man, John informed his thin companion. "Admit it, you don't agree with his characterizations."
"I am a detecting consultant, John." The man protested. "I help solve mysteries; I don't romanticize and publish them." John merely laughed in reply as the waitress brought their order. "Thank you, Miss."
"Yes, thank you." John echoed with a smile. Charmed, the waitress curtsied to both of them before heading back towards the kitchen area. I was by now too busy eavesdropping to care that no one had come to take my order yet.
"Rest assured, John, it is not the detective's character that bothers me." The former declared. "He has his strengths, and his weaknesses, for certain. It is neither a cruel nor overly inaccurate portrayal." He held a fork between long, delicate fingers and peered at it as if to thoroughly examine it. "No, what bothers me is Watson."
"What about him?" John demanded, a trifle defensively, I fancied. I was intrigued. Was it actually possible that these fellows knew the author, that they knew Arthur Conan Doyle? Their conversation suggested as much, even hinted that this John had perhaps even had something to do with the writing of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
"Relax, John." His companion laid a reassuring hand on his arm. "I did not mean to imply there were flaws in the good Doctor. That was the last of my intentions, I assure you."
The two sat in silence for a moment, seemingly intent only upon their breakfast. Just when I was beginning to lose interest and turn my attentions to the fact that no one had even bothered to ask if I wanted coffee, John's companion continued.
"I don't believe Watson gets enough credit." The man offered at last. John raised his eyebrows, waiting patiently for him to continue. After a pause, the man did. "He plays the narrator, the observer. On occasion, the muscle. He follows the detective blindly at times, and is far too forgiving of the slights done to him by Sherlock when he's caught up in a case. He is also far too easily astounded and puzzled by Sherlock."
"And your methods never confused anyone, I suppose." John retorted somewhat huffily. His companion merely laughed.
"That is not the point, my dear fellow." John rolled his eyes.
"Then what is the point?" He demanded.
I realized John's companion was even taller and thinner than I had originally thought as he abandoned his lounging position and moved forward so that he looked John right in the eye, so close their noses were almost touching. "The point is that people too easily mistake him for a bumbler, a fool. They underestimate his intelligence, and his importance. If Sherlock once commented that he would be lost without his Boswell, if once he was terrified that the good Doctor had been mortally wounded, rather than merely grazed by a bullet, it seems that only the especially astute reader even begins to comprehend his importance both to the story and to the detective."
John didn't bother to hide the exasperated sigh. "I think I rather prefer it that way." He commented absently, as he picked at the remains of his meal. "But the Doctor does learn from Sherlock, now doesn't he?"
"I suppose." The other finally conceded. "So will this one make it?" He asked lightly, after another moment of easy silence.
John considered. "I imagine Doyle will like the idea. I mean, murder, a chase, the flat being nearly destroyed and the two walking away without more than a scratch, and then having the nerve to sit considering the case over breakfast in a restaurant."
"And I suppose it would make an even better story had Sherlock sustained a minor injury during the attack on the flat but had judged it not pressing enough to bother about until after their quarry had been apprehended." The other added dryly. John shot him a dark look, and he offered an apologetic smile in reply. I wondered just what the man was suggesting, for it seemed there was more to his words than just an idea on how to improve this story.
"Shall we have him lean heavily on the good Doctor to keep from collapsing as well?" John grumbled tiredly as he stifled a yawn. "I feel like I haven't had a decent sleep in over a week."
"That is because you haven't." His companion replied easily. "You'll feel much better after you've figured out how your case ends. At any rate, enough idle chatter. We've got work to do, and a man to find." He began to rise, and John was up and beside him in an instant.
"Sherlock-" His worry was instantly masked as he was interrupted.
"Sherlock? Like in the stories?" My own thoughts were echoed by another couple that sat at a table not too far from either mine or theirs. John and his companion turned to face the rather portly man and his pinched-faced femal companion, and John attempted an amused smile while 'Sherlock' ducked his head and uttered a soft sigh before replying.
"Yes, like the stories. Mr. Sherlock Holmes, at your service, my good sir. Allow me to present my companion, Dr. John Watson. How may we assist you?" He all said this all with a dignified bow and such an air of refinement that for a moment I was swept into the fantasy along with the couple, who stared up at the two men speechlessly.
Then he chuckled, and John groaned at the apparently very old joke, and the spell was broken. They were once again two ordinary men, in spite of the coincidence of their names. They were certainly not two fictional characters, and definitely not the infamous Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.
I really needed to get a better grip of reality. I really needed to stop letting my imagination run away with me. It was disappointing when my head came back down out of the clouds.
I allowed myself a small sigh as the two paid for their meal and left the restaurant. My eyes drifted over to their abandoned table and the remains of their meal, and my gaze was drawn to an object lying on the floor.
One of them had dropped his wallet.
I slid out of my chair, and quickly spanned the distance and knelt down to pick up the wallet. I was grateful that my table had apparently been overlooked and I had not yet ordered as I darted out of the restaurant and after the two men.
I could see them on the street, half a block ahead of me. "Sherlock!" I shouted, hoping to attract his attention as I bolted after them. If anything, they seemed to walk faster. "Hey!" I called after them. "John! Sherlock!"
They disappeared around the corner. I groaned under my breath and tried to pick up the pace. I rounded the corner myself, hoping I hadn't lost them.
I nearly shrieked as someone grabbed me and clamped a hand over my mouth. A man stepped into my view, studying me intently. It was none other than Sherlock himself.
"What do we have here, Watson?" He asked curiously, his sharp eyes betraying his attempt at maintaining a casual air.
"The girl from the restaurant." My captor replied. "The one who was so interested in our conversation."
Sherlock chuckled. "You noticed that too, eh? I told you Doyle doesn't give you enough credit." I gasped. Was he saying-? "Oh, I think you can let the young lady go now, Doctor. I doubt very much that she is involved in our current case."
John released me. "My apologies, Miss." He said with a slightly embarrassed smile. "But you gave us a bit of a fright, chasing after us like that."
I bit my lip, my mind racing, trying to come up with a possible answer to this affair more rational than the one it kept coming back to. "Sorry." I said, feeling the color rise in my cheeks. "It's just, you forgot your wallet." I held it out.
John sighed and shook his head. "Honestly, Holmes." He muttered as his companion accepted the wallet with a polite nod.
"Yes, thank you, Miss." He said. "You may have saved us some considerable trouble later."
"Or perhaps sooner." John added abruptly. "Look."
We both followed his gaze, and I was appalled to see the mayhem on the street not far from us. The remains of someone's cab lay smoldering on its side in the middle of the street, and a crowd was beginning to gather.
Sherlock took me by the arm and began to lead me away from the wreck. "We would have been in that cab." John muttered under his breath as he appeared at my other side. "It was waiting for us?"
"We're being followed." Sherlock said with a nod, more for my benefit than for John's, I realized.
"We need to get the young lady out of the line of fire, then." John said, and Sherlock agreed with another sharp nod. "If we can get to Lestrade we could have him walk her home."
"There's another problem I have with your friend Doyle. Lestrade, and Gregson, for that matter-"
"Are neither so dense nor so petty. I know, Holmes." John retorted with an exasperated sigh. "It's supposed to add conflict, and consequently interest."
"There, at the corner, Miss." Sherlock pointed out the Inspector. "Thank you for your assistance. Inspector Lestrade will be able to get you home."
"What about you two?" I asked. "What about whoever's following you?"
"We'll manage." John said gruffly.
I hesitated for only a second. "I could cause a scene." I offered. "Give you a chance to lose him."
John and Sherlock exchanged a glance. John nodded. "Be careful."
I darted towards the Inspector, screaming about two crazy men who claimed they were detectives and that I must help them escape. Not very original, I must admit, but I was hoping to clue Lestrade in before I started causing trouble.
His eyes narrowed, and he reached me quickly. "Now, what's all this, young lady?" He asked quickly, but his tone was reassuring.
"Two men!" I waved my hands wildly. "They said they were on a case. That I had to help them." More loudly, to be sure I was heard, I told him. "He said his name was Sherlock Holmes!" I declared. "And his friend was a Doctor."
As expected, this set the crowd off. A burst of laughter escaped one man; a few more were trying to stifle their own laughter. "Sherlock Holmes, you say?" One man asked. "Sounds like you've been reading to many detective stories, Missy."
"But it's true!" I declared. I grabbed the Inspector by the sleeve. "There!" I pointed at someone randomly. "That's him. He and his friend just grabbed me and said to come along, and quietly. Said they needed my help."
"Wasn't me!" The accused retorted. "You're mad, lady!"
I pointed to another. "And there's the Doctor!" They wanted me to help them find a speckled toad!" I declared wildly.
Lestrade took me gently by the arm. "Calm down, Miss." He said reassuringly. "You're safe now. Why don't you come to the station-"
"NO!" I shouted. "Arrest them! That Holmes fellow, he'll follow me! Find me! There's no escaping him!" I lunged towards the unfortunate innocent. "He knew everything about me!"
"Now, Miss." The Inspector spoke with the soothing tone one uses to address a madman. "Why don't you tell me all about it at the station, where you'll be safe?"
"I'm not crazy!" I protested hotly. "There were two men!" I was somewhat surprised by the crowd that was gathering. Apparently I was the most entertaining thing on the street today.
Lestrade laid a gentle hand on my arm, but I jerked it away. "I knew it!" I shouted. "You're working with them!" I accused, and gave him a weak shove. The crowd chortled as he stepped back and raised his hands in surrender.
"Now, look, Miss." He said a tad sharply, starting to lose his patience. He reached for me, and I screamed and pretended to stumble into him. He struggled to catch me as I seemed to fall, and I screamed again.
"No! Get your hands off of me, please! Help! Help!" I suddenly grabbed my head and screamed again for good measure, and let myself go limp in the Inspector's arms.
The crowd suddenly turned ugly. No one likes the idea of the police striking someone, especially when no on was actually in danger. Annoyance was not enough of an excuse, and I was obviously harmless. I would owe him an apology later.
"Miss!" Lestrade hissed in my ear, and I let him lift me to my feet. We were dodging through the mob now, trying to avoid being trampled. I hoped John and Sherlock had managed to get away. I hoped I wasn't going to jail for this.
"Darling!" Someone shouted and I was pulled away from the Inspector as a stranger placed his arm around my shoulders. "Come on, dear! Let's get out of here!"
It was John, I realized with a sigh of relief. We hurried to get clear of the mob, then settled down to an easier pace. "You'll be safer with us now than in this mob, I daresay. Sherlock's with the Inspector." He informed me before I could ask.
He led me down the street and around a corner. Three blocks later we reached a small apartment, and approached the door. John wasted no time in letting us in. "Doyle?" He called.
"In here, John!" A voice called back. "The other two are already here. I hate it when you two drop in like this."
"Watson, you might-" The inspector sounded worried.
"I'm fine, Lestrade." Sherlock's interruption was quieter than the other two had been. John grimaced and led the way through the sitting room.
"You were shot, back at the flat." John snapped at Sherlock.
"Stabbed." Sherlock clarified as he glared at Lestrade. "It is only a superficial wound."
"I had to practically drag you in here, Holmes." Lestrade accused. "Superficial-"
"Well, let's see it." John cut off any further complaints. This time it was John Sherlock favored with a dark look, but he didn't argue as John knelt beside him.
Instead he chose to introduce me. "Inspector, I believe you've met Miss-"
"Jenkins." I supplied.
"Yes, Jenkins." Sherlock repeated. "She has been of invaluable assistance to us today."
"We've met." Lestrade replied with a gruff nod as John added,
"Holmes dropped his wallet." Lestrade chuckled at John's description of that 'invaluable service' as Sherlock pretended not to have heard.
"I don't believe you've met Doyle here." Sherlock continued, seemingly unaware of John's attention. The man in question rolled his eyes at Sherlock but gave me a bright smile.
"Charmed, Miss." He said brightly. The author was about to say more when the door flew open and a man entered, armed with a revolver. I gasped as he quickly summed up the situation and pointed the gun directly at me.
"Drop it." He snarled at Lestrade, who had pulled his own gun. Reluctantly the inspector tossed it aside. "Come away from there, Doctor."
"I'm stitching up a wound." John replied shortly. "You can wait two seconds."
"She can't." The man snapped.
John coolly turned around to look first at me, then at the man. Then he stepped away from Sherlock, though his features were troubled. "He's lost a lot of blood." He said tersely. "If you just let me-"
"No point in patching him up just so I can shoot him." The man pointed out. "He's dead. So are you, for that matter, Doctor. And the Inspector, of course. But there's no reason the other two couldn't go free. They don't actually know anything."
I gasped and began to fall as I went limp. Doyle was closest; he moved to ease my descent to the floor. I had to give Lestrade credit. He recognized this trick, and dove for his gun. Before his hand had closed on it, however, two shots rang out. Our attacker staggered, dropped his gun, and fell. John was up and beside him in an instant.
"The shoulder, Watson?" Holmes inquired as he slipped the revolver awkwardly back into his pocket.
"I'm a doctor. I don't like killing people, Holmes." John retorted as he pocketed his own gun. "I notice you went for his hand."
"I didn't miss." Sherlock said flatly.
"But you might have, and someone might have been killed. It would have been more logical to aim for his torso." John continued. Sherlock didn't reply to that. Nor did he reply when John complained that he had probably ripped his stitches out already.
Doyle helped me up, and as Lestrade took over dealing with our attacker John came to look me over. "You're rather good at this fainting, Miss Jenkins." He commented with a smile.
I shrugged. "It worked, didn't it?"
"It certainly did." Sherlock replied as John returned to his side. "I'm fine, Watson. I haven't lost that much blood."
"Stay here." John ordered the detective. "I don't want him getting up until I'm back." He told Doyle.
"Where are you going?" Doyle asked.
"Watson is escorting the young lady back to where we found her." Sherlock replied. "I imagine it has been a somewhat trying day for her." Sherlock turned his attention back to me. "We owe you our gratitude, Miss Jenkins." He said solemnly. "Be careful on your way home."
"I'll be careful." I assured him. "You worry about yourselves."
Sherlock nodded briskly. "Pleasure to meet you, Miss Jenkins."
I smiled. "You too, Mister Homes. Dr. Watson." Neither denied it. Sherlock winked as John offered me his arm. I gratefully accepted it and let him lead me out of the house and to a cab. I was still trying to figure out what to make of all this.
"Shall I escort you back to the restaurant?" He asked politely as he helped me into the cab. I shook my head.
"I think I can make it home just fine from here." I told him. He smiled, and nodded.
"Good day to you, then, Miss Jenkins."
By the time I reached my house, I was sure I had been dreaming, or at least had misunderstood the situation. Not that I was entirely sure any of it had ever actually happened. It was all too amazing, too fantastic. Sherlock Holmes? John Watson? Inspector Lestrade? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? In less than a week I had convinced myself that it had merely been some sort of dream, and went about my business as if none of it had happened.
Three months later a package was delivered to my door. Puzzled, I unwrapped it, and was surprised to discover a small, paper bound book. The cover read, in large, black letters, Sherlock Holmes and the Ornate Candelabra Affair.
I stared for a long moment, but eventually opened the book. On the inside of the cover was inscribed a letter:
We would like once again to thank you, and to offer this small
token as a gesture of our appreciation for your invaluable assistance
in one of our more recent cases. We hope this expresses to you the
depth of our gratitude, and apologize for any liberties taken with
the character in the enclosed book.
- S.H. & J.W.
P.S. Doyle and Lestrade send their regards.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes does not belong to me.
Author's note: This is my first story for Sherlock Holmes, so please react accordingly. I do appreciate suggestions on how to do better in the future, and do have plans for at least two more stories. Anyway, let me know what you think.