Author's note: Just a bit of entertainment. Nothing really serious. Hope you like it anyway. And no, the guy telling the story doesn't really have an identity beyond that he's involved in more secret aspects of the government.
I was no longer sure I had made a wise decision in this.
I had been told the lad (not really a lad, more a man who retained some of his more boyish characteristics) was whip smart, trustworthy, and knew how to keep his mouth shut. I had been told he would certainly know a few people, and that he could get them to join in on what had to be one of the biggest operations in the country.
The first impression I received of Stanley Hopkins was not of a bright, intelligent young man.
"Eh? Huh? What?" He demanded vaguely as I finished explaining who I was, and what we were doing.
I stifled a sigh and prepared to explain it all once more. Hopkins waved me off. "No, I got that. Secret service, protecting the country, busting up the biggest smuggling ring in the country. But I thought you said I was the smartest of the lot."
"I did." I confirmed. And he laughed at me.
"Sorry." He said when he regained control of himself. "So you want my help." I nodded. "I can't really say no, can I?" He asked, half joking, but he was right.
"You will need to assemble a team of four other men you can trust with your life and will follow your leadership."
The lad stared at me for a second. "Are you serious?" He asked, I stifled another sigh and nodded.
"I have a list of recommendations out of people you have worked with in the past-"
"I know who I want."
And I had agreed. My superiors had said he was smart, that he would know what he was doing. So I agreed.
I looked as his assembled team now and a shiver ran down my spine.
Sherlock Holmes was sprawled listlessly in an armchair, smoking his pipe. Dr. John Watson was sitting in the opposite armchair, absently massaging his leg; I had seen him limping on it earlier, and his cane was certainly not for decoration.
Giles Lestrade, a small man with a twisted foot, was arguing with Tobias Gregson, an arrogant sort of fellow, about something. I was surprised the two had not killed each other yet. Even less reassuring was the fact that Holmes had greeted them with disdain, and they had simply rolled their eyes (metaphorically, anyway) and gone on about their business.
I somehow very much doubted this was going to go well.
Hopkins cleared his throat, and (wonder of wonders) Lestrade and Gregson shut up. As he explained what was going on Lestrade and Watson automatically went for their notebooks, Hopkins coughed.
"This is top secret, gentlemen." He said, and the two reluctantly returned the books to their pockets.
Gregson smirked. "Make sure you speak slowly, then, and use small words, so Lestrade here can be sure to understand."
Lestrade glared at him. "Just because-" Hopkins again cleared his throat, and Lestrade fell silent.
He continued his explanation, and stopped every once in a while to make sure everyone stayed with him. He had good leadership skills, that boy, to be able to manage this lot.
Lestrade frowned. "Hold up a second."
"Smuggling." Gregson clarified smugly.
"Oh." Lestrade reddened. "Why didn't you just say so, Hopkins?"
"Sorry." And Hopkins continued.
"Hang on." That was Watson.
"Secret service." Holmes clarified.
Lestrade glared at Hopkins. "You got us in with the Secret Service?" He demanded.
Gregson groaned. "He probably dragged us in so he has a better chance of getting out." He commented.
Lestrade considered this. "He's right there, Hopkins. You're contact probably thinks you're a loony for even knowing us, let alone choosing to work with us. And no, Mr. Holmes, I don't really want to know his real name."
Gregson looked alarmed. "Seriously, Holmes, you can keep that knowledge to yourself."
Holmes managed to look irritated. I wondered if he actually knew who I was.
Hopkins cleared his throat again and somehow managed to finish talking with no more interruptions. How, I had no idea.
Watson looked thoughtful. "So we're here to catch the smugglers who make a break for it, is that it?"
"It's a glorified brawl, is what it is." Gregson complained.
"My word," Lestrade groaned, "Hopkins always swore we were the four people he'd want to have behind him in a fight."
I was puzzled by now. "Pardon me." I said, catching their attention. Four men turned to stare at me sullenly. Hopkins merely looked worried. "What did he tell you, to get you to come?"
Lestrade shrugged then, and the other three also seemed to relinquish their irritation. "He just said he needed help." The small man said.
I stared. That was all he had said, and they had come. And when he had revealed everything, they had been mildly irritated. And when reminded of what little he had said, they had been fine again.
I was really starting to worry about this.
"Shh!" Holmes snapped, every fiber of his being alert. The contrast was so great I was sure I was looking at a completely different person.
Watson was now alert as well, he looked more the soldier and less the doctor. He was no longer limping as he and Holmes moved to stand by Hopkins.
Gregson didn't seem to change as he moved closer to Hopkins and the other two. He didn't seem to care. I realized now that he had been alert and ready from the start.
Lestrade's eyes had darkened; he moved like lightening to join the others.
It was silent. Then Lestrade spoke, his voice low and hollow. "My wife is going to kill me if I don't make it back."
"Only after she kills whoever survives to take the news back and whoever didn't make sure you made it back home." Gregson assured him, his voice barely audible.
"You'll make it back, Lestrade." Hopkins muttered. "Why do you think I chose you four?"
"We have managed to beat the odds an unbelievable number of times." Watson commented coolly.
"Do you have your revolver, Watson?" Holmes inquired. It seemed no answer was required.
They were ready.
Ten men managed to break through our part of the line. Ten men who were hard and armed and dangerous. Ten men who had murdered and stolen and committed countless other crimes and worse, had enjoyed every minute of it. Ten men who would have laughed in the face of the devil himself.
They never stood a chance.
"Alive, if possible, gentleman." Hopkins had given the order, and the five of them had launched into a fight where they were outnumbered two-to-one.
The fight lasted eight minutes. Possibly less time than that.
And suddenly Watson was checking Holmes for injuries, Lestrade was apologizing to Hopkins for killing one of them, and Gregson was trying to convince Lestrade that he had been shot and should probably sit down before he fell down.
And then Watson was tending to Lestrade, Hopkins was assuring the man that if he hadn't shot the sorry lout through the eye he would probably have succeeded in killing the good doctor.
And Holmes had pulled his pipe out and was looking bored again.
And Gregson was trying to pick a fight with Lestrade, who was trying to ignore him and pass out while Watson insisted that now was not the time to do so.
And I still wasn't exactly sure what had just happened.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes does not belong to me.