Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes, Doctor John Watson and all associated characters belong to the late, great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his estate, various studios and other companies. This pastiche is completely non-profit, and only for enjoyment and entertainment.
Warnings: Dark & Adult Themes, light bad language
Authors Notes: And that's all she wrote, folks. Wow, I had so much fun with this; and everything flowed out totally smoothly. It's always a pleasure to write something you enjoy re-reading again and again, even if it is a little narcissistic. While this chapter might not be completely true to the original plot, I just couldn't resist ending on a sweet note of bromance between the boys. I hope you enjoyed this story at least half as much as I did, and hopefully much more. Thanks and love go out to all my reviewers, you folk are the best!
Please read, delight, review.
Chapter Fourteen: Conclusion – A Study in Scarlet
Holmes and Watson exited the police station, and sat on a bench just outside for a contemplative cigarette.
"What a sordid affair," Watson summarised.
Holmes gave a disappointed snort. "Sordid and commonplace and dull. There were a few points of interest from an investigative perspective, I suppose."
"Dull? Fanatical cults, mad priests, survival against the odds, families, conspiracies, betrayal, international revenges and true love? That's not dull, Holmes. I could write a book about this, and no one would ever believe it was true," Watson retorted.
"Ha!" Holmes scorned. "Of all the emotions on earth, the one that has caused the most pain and suffering and death is the true selfishness of true love. John and Lucy Ferrier could have escaped on the first day, if John had been willing to let Lucy be taken by child services They could have escaped before the trap was shut if they had simply left when they had earned enough; you can't tell me there was anything to keep them there. They could have ridden out for Salt Lake City themselves to meet Hope, they could have agreed to the wedding and asked for it to be in winter to give themselves more time, they could have called the FBI with a tip about fanatical churches stockpiling guns – which would have got their attention, believe me - they could have reported about disappearances and stolen teenage girls when they saw it happening – good grief, they could have started a fire, or sold their lands away and left, or stampeded a herd of cattle through the town and made their escape in the confusion. What did they do?" Holmes stubbed a cigarette. "They waited and they hoped," Holmes' voice was disdainful.
"They were scared and desperate," Watson defended.
"Yes, and hasn't it occurred to you that that was the power the Elders held over that community? They couldn't have stopped anything if the people had risen against them. The Ferrier's and Hope both just followed the herd. They accepted that the Elders were all-powerful instead of thinking about what they actually were. Just another pack of greedy, selfish, deceptive men using God as an excuse to fund their lifestyle and appetites – like a thousand other charismatic cult leaders before them. If they had seen that, if they had stopped thinking with the mob, then they could have solved the problem."
"Sometimes you have to think like everyone else, Holmes," Watson pointed out. "Most people don't have the kind of genius brain that can spot and solve trouble before it even starts. All they have for protection is the herd; they have to follow along. It may not be clever, but it's safe. That's all people really want most of the time - to be safe, to be protected - and the church gave them that. So they stayed."
"Safe? Where, exactly, did their conventional thinking get them?" Holmes scorned. "A modern day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet complete with same culpable stupidity that comes when you think good intentions allow for some sort of advantage when it comes to facing problems, as if moral rightness has anything to do with triumph. Instead of getting what they wanted everyone lost and everyone is dead in the end." Holmes flicked a hand. "How futile."
Watson said nothing.
"No doubt," Holmes observed sardonically. "Your romantic nature drives you to disagree with my unsentimental assessment."
"Not at all," Watson replied. "You are correct in every sense."
"But?" Holmes led on facetiously.
"I think in an odd way your big brain has managed to completely miss the point," Watson finished slowly.
"There's a point to all this?" Holmes was dubious.
Watson looked out over the street. "Four months ago my team and I were bunkered in some rat hole in an abandoned town in the middle of God forsaken Afghanistan. We'd just finished a mission, which was finding and extracting prisoners from an enemy bunker and our only job now was getting out alive. Brian Rathomy, a comrade...a friend of mine stepped on a mine. He blew his leg to mincemeat."
Watson took a contemplative drag, the ember glowing bright in the dark night.
"Brian had a little brother in the service; a ridiculously young lad called Kyle. Part of our mission was retrieving him from capture so he's there when the mine goes off, and he's screaming and his brother is screaming and my team drags them to whatever shelter we can find. I worked through the night on that leg. Nine straight hours, two small medical packs, whatever we can scrounge from the remains and a makeshift transfusion array. Kyle's there the whole time, talking to Brian, holding his hand, helping me, giving his own blood."
Watson sat back with a sigh while Holmes listened. "Finally, at some point, the sun had risen and we're finished. Brian woke up just after because we didn't have much morphine, and couldn't put him under for long. We didn't realize there was an enemy patrol nearby who heard the mine go off hours ago," Watson tightened his grip around his cane. "We don't know they've surrounded us and called in reinforcements. We think we're in a place long abandoned. We're just waiting for Brian to wake up so I can check him and we can go."
"We're waiting and talking, and Brian wakes up. He wakes up, turns his head and looks at his brother and the next thing we know the back of Kyle's head is blown open," Watson gave a resigned, darkly ironic snort while Holmes watches. "Sniper. Brian opens his eyes and the very first thing he sees is his brother's head haloed in a red spray. We hauled Brian out on a stretcher and head for better cover and I actually have to concuss him with the butt of my gun to get him to stop screaming. The enemy comes at us from all sides; dozens of them, old guns and knives and machetes out and ready. There's bullets going all directions and we're moving from cover to cover like rats. They ambush us, start hacking into us as close range, and we're already running out of bullets; to the point where I've got my knife out. The next thing I know, one of my team steps on another mine only this one is a bounder; when it bounces up and fragments the shrapnel lodges in the back of my knee and the blast knocks me free of cover where the sniper...well." Watson gave a gallows grin. "An American Blackhawk extracted us, eventually; not before there was almost no one left," Watson's knuckles were white, even as his face remained smooth as glass. "When we got home Brian committed suicide. Nine hours of work and a crippling, and they told me not to come to the funeral." Watson turned to face Holmes, who was staring at him, grey eyes unfathomable. Watson shrugged. "It's all futile, Holmes, all of it. Everybody everywhere dies in the end. Sometimes all we've got is good memories and hope for the future, and in the meantime trusted people to rely on."
Holmes looked contemplative. "Do you feel regret?" There was not a hint of horror in his tone or expression, but Watson could tell it was there, somewhere.
"Regret that I was crippled? Every damn day. Regret that I tried to save the Rathomy's in the first place? Not a chance in hell," Watson shook his head. "Even if it was nothing but misfortune and disaster, I can't ever regret going and serving in the first place."
"Humph. Well, thank you for your starry eyed romantic assessment of the honour of death in pointless battles," Holmes replied contemptuously. "But I don't believe that three hundred million years of evolution gave us nothing but an ability to be resigned to fate. We control our own destinies, Watson. All it takes is a little observation and logic. Something which neither the Ferrier's nor Hope thought to apply. You did, because you clearly survived, but that's neither here nor there." Holmes had an odd twist to his lips. "I suppose that makes me an unfeeling narcissist."
"No," Watson smiled at the oblique compliment. "I think your confidence in the face of the unsolvable and inevitable is one of the reasons I like you. Military mindsets always have a soft spot for bloody minded stubbornness."
Holmes laughed. It was first time Watson had really heard him laugh.
"Gentlemen," Lestrade approached them, having just left the police station. "We're having Hope taken to the hospital under guard. Doctor, those medicines you got for him, will they prolong his life?"
"No," Watson negated. "Nothing can prolong it now, even a transplant probably wouldn't take. Given how advanced it must be I'm somewhat amazed he's still alive now. The medicines were to ease discomfort; palliative care only."
Lestrade sighed. "Well, the uppers will all be glad our Americans were killed by another American at least, which will give them something to tell the Consulate and get them off our backs." Lestrade shot Holmes a look. "Thank you for your assistance, Mister Holmes. Your methods once again found the truth of it. But I must say that little act about not giving us the murderers name and whatnot was going a bit too far."
"Ah, Lestrade," Holmes commiserated, delighted. "I apologise. But all the work to do your jobs for you is so dreadfully dull. I simply must take my amusements where I can," Holmes stood and gave a theatrical bow. "Goodnight, gentlemen. Watson, I'll see you on the morn, my dear fellow. And then – to Baker Street!"
"See you tomorrow Holmes." Watson called after the man's retreating back while Lestrade seethed silently next to him. "You will move your own packing boxes, right?"
Holmes gave a flourish from down the street, but Watson wasn't sure what it meant.
"I keep reminding myself that his assistance is invaluable," Lestrade muttered darkly. "I remind myself over and over and over again. Doctor, can you come in and sign a statement to the fact of Hope's state of health? We'll need it for the record. I can drive you home afterwards if you like."
They were in the car and on the way when the radio barked to life. "All cars, please be advised of a structural fire, 14 Montague Street with possible rescue required. All cars in the vicinity are requested for assistance."
Lestrade and Watson looked at each other in disbelief before Lestrade dragged the car in a squealing u-turn and headed for the scene.
It was a cataclysm. The wood was completely engulfed in flames. Fire trucks, ambulances and patrol cars littered the streets, mortared in between by onlookers viewing the spectacle. The air was alight from the glow of the inferno, flames engulfing the place outside and in, embers like fireflies dropped from the sky.
There, on a mattress under a window, was a hastily thrown conglomerate of a laptop, gas-chronometer and mass-spectrometer.
"Holmes!" Watson was out of the car and heading towards the building before he even thought about it only to be grabbed by Lestrade and dragged back.
"No, Doctor," Lestrade ordered sharply. "The place is a tinder box. There's no way in."
Watson stared at the conflagration, and felt the hollow filled with ghosts rise once more. This couldn't be happening again! He took a breath and prepared to break free of the well meaning Inspector. He didn't come this far to watch another friend die before his eyes.
"Hey!" A paramedic jogged over from seeing to a fire fighter. "If you're looking for the guy who threw that stuff out, he's out here." The medic nodded to their frantic stares. "He staggered out just after the stuff landed. We have him in the back of the ambulance on air for the smoke." He turned and led them to an open ambulance.
It was bereft of any occupant, however. A mobile oxygen humidifier with mask attached lay forlornly on one gurney to which the medic stared in surprise. "He was here just a minute ago!"
Watson and Lestrade shared a look. "I'll find him," Watson offered, grabbing the oxygen pump. "Can you get his stuff somewhere safe?"
"I'll get to it as soon as I secure the scene," Lestrade said grimly, heading for the fire chief.
Watson packed the pump under an arm and turned down the street. There was a great thumping and crashing behind him from the building falling in at last, in a sparking shower of hot colours. The street was a choking fog bank of black smoke.
It didn't take long for him to spot the weaving, coughing figure moving down the street, clutching a violin. "Holmes!" Watson forced his legs to move. "Holmes, wait!"
"Ah, Watson," Holmes waved, nearly falling over as he started coughing again. "Once again I was correct. The vile woman upped her schedule."
"Good for you, you great fool," Watson admonished as he forced Holmes back against a street light and down to the pavement, tugging the violin loose and placing beside them gently. "Why on earth did you wander off? You need medical attention." He slapped the humidifier on Holmes' nose and mouth and then checked a pulse and took stock of the taller man's general state.
The detective was soot smeared and slightly singed, but there were no burns that Watson could see, and no sign of injury or concussion. His eyes were teary and irritated, and he coughed spasmodically.
Holmes removed the mask. "I certainly wasn't going to stay there. I wouldn't put it past that ogress to try and finish the job." He broke off, coughing harshly.
Watson replaced the mask. "Holmes, you are an affront to common sense." He declared, checking the other man's red eyes.
"Are you sure about that?" Holmes parried hoarsely, taking off the mask. "After all, true common sense is so very rare. I constantly find myself to be the only man I've met who consistently applies such a thing."
Watson shoved the mask back on. "You're certainly an efficient man, Holmes. You're a Great Detective and a Great Idiot all rolled into one," Watson accused exasperatingly. "No other friend of mine has gotten into this much trouble over only four days. Or gotten me into it either!"
Holmes huffed. "You count me as a friend? Are you sure your discharge wasn't psychological?"
"Holmes," Watson slapped the mask back on again. "I was just about to walk into a building burning like a furnace for you. Don't you dare say that doesn't make us friends. Come on, we have to get you to a hospital."
Holmes gave him a long, surprised stare before he choked and spluttered for a moment. "Oh no, absolutely not," he declared mulishly. "I despise the medical profession and all it's practitioners – with one notable exception, of course. I'll not waste my time while intellectual dunderheads talk around me and lecture me on rational behaviour, as if they'd know anything about it." Holmes dismissed them. "I was not in the building more than a minute, and got the stuff out before the fire and most of the smoke had reached my end of the building. My exposure was minimal at best, which is no doubt supported by my general health now."
"Holmes, even a mild case of smoke inhalation requires you to see a doctor," Watson argued.
"Newsflash, my good man, I am seeing a doctor," Holmes retorted before dissolving into coughs. He took another hit from the mask. "You can see to my care at Baker Street if you are really compelled to."
"We're not going to Baker Street, Holmes, we're going to the hospital!" Watson stated through gritted teeth.
Holmes shot him an irritated look. "We're going to Baker Street," Holmes insisted stubbornly. "Or I will tell our new landlady that you are into BDSM and need a cupboard for your whips and chains." Was all he managed before Watson snapped the mask back on.
Watson spluttered into the air while Holmes spluttered into the mask. "You wouldn't!" But Watson could see by the steely glint in those grey eyes that Holmes would, cheerfully. Besides, Holmes had been right; his exposure seemed very light and his breathing was already improving. If his health was worse than that then Watson would have dragged him to the hospital, reputation be damned. But Holmes did seem to be recovering quickly and without any complications.
A car pulled up beside them, haloing them in the headlights. "Doctor, will he live?" Lestrade called as he exited.
Holmes gave him a wave. "Ah, Lestrade. Well, I did warn you about Mrs Dudley's plans. Even when you are warned well in advance of a crime, you fail to stop it. You, sir, are a tribute to bad investigators anywhere. I hope you've at least managed to find her and arr-"
Watson gagged Holmes with the mask, pressing it firmly.
Lestrade glared. "I rephrase my question; is he going to live long enough for me to kill him myself?"
Watson heard Holmes mumble 'the violent designs upon my person never cease' under the mask and ignored him. "Unfortunately, yes. Can you drive us to Baker Street?"
Lestrade eyed Holmes coughing form. "Not a hospital?"
Watson disregarded the aura of triumph Holmes exuded, even coughing like an old car. "The smoke inhalation isn't serious and if he coughs up his own lungs because he didn't want to go then it's his own damn fault. I respect my fellow physicians, Inspector. I wouldn't want to inflict Holmes on them unless it was absolutely necessary."
Holmes glared at him while Lestrade snickered. "Right enough, Doctor."
They made an interesting picture, standing on the stoop of 221B. Watson, dishevelled and leaning heavily on his cane while supporting Holmes with his other shoulder – the taller man dusted with soot and red eyed and panting.
"Mrs Hudson," Watson gamely tried to sound normal. "My apologies for the late hour."
Watson could almost see the thought in her head. I've made a huge mistake with these two. But Mrs Hudson would honour the signed contract, and directed them upstairs before heading to her own apartments, muttering under her breath.
"You've really got to work on the impressions you make on people," Watson muttered as they navigated the seventeen steps.
"Why on earth would I want to do that?" Holmes retorted. "Besides, nothing can detract from the triumph of the day. The case was solved, the murderer found, and tomorrow Scotland Yard will take credit for the whole ghastly thing."
"You don't mind that?" Watson asked.
"Hardly," Holmes replied. "This was a simple, straightforward affair, not the kind of thing that would enhance my reputation any."
"Straightforward? Not likely," Watson protested. "How on earth did you find Jefferson Hope, anyway?"
"It was the taxi," Holmes explained. "There were two instances of a taxi appearing the night of the murder. A taxi that drove the killer and victim to Lauriston Gardens, as well as a taxi that the murderer was stuffed into by Rance after he returned for the ring. However, there were only tyre tracks belonging to one taxi in that street – the small, older model on one spare tyre. It was the same taxi both times; so either the driver was the killer's accomplice or the killer himself. And judging by the footprints on the puddle bed, the back door was opened by someone who had exited the driver's door, and then supported the victim up the lane. It was the murderer himself who drove Drebber there, and then drove back after the missing ring. Rance shoved him into the taxi idling in the street, and didn't think to turn his head half an inch to see if there was a driver there. The murderer was, therefore, employed as a taxi driver which, given his foreign status and the distinctive vehicle, made him easy enough to trace. When my Irregulars found him and he walked into my former rooms fitting the description perfectly, well I knew I had the man.
"I confirmed with my sources in America that Drebber had been embroiled in several religious scandals in his cult church regarding the abuse and death of women, which gave us the revenge motive tied with a woman's wedding ring. Since we knew it had happened a long time ago, I asked for information stretching back at least three decades; there were many likely candidates but only one involved with the imprisonment of a man, which would explain the time that had elapsed before revenge was sought. That man was Jefferson Hope. What confirmed the theory was the fact that Jefferson Hope had been released recently, had vanished from parole check ins and was nowhere to be found. Both Drebber and Strangerson had lodged reports with local police about being shot at and attacked from afar, and they suspected one Jefferson Hope was the culprit. The police, however, weren't able to find Hope, which is not surprising. The man was quick witted and knew how to stay ahead of pursuers."
They had paused on the upper landing while Watson fumbled for his key. "That's amazing. The way you lined it up and took apart the tangle. You should get credit for it, Holmes. You should write all this down somewhere." He got the door open, finally.
"Our Study in Scarlet came to a resounding success indeed," Holmes agreed. "But with Hope soon dead I doubt very much whether the true facts will ever be known. Scotland Yard can have all the credit they like, as long as they pay my consulting fees. What was it the roman miser said about the consciousness of success?"
"Ah, yes. Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudoIpse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca." Watson recalled smoothly.
"'I don't care how much people laugh at me, so long as I am paid.' And believe me, my friend, the Yarders are fully and ruefully aware that I and my brilliant consulting brain are by no means cheaply bought." Holmes laughed, and Watson laughed with him as they entered the flat.
Mister Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson closed the door behind them, the new tenants of 221B, Baker Street.