Okay, this is my first serious attempt at a fan fiction of any kind. I'm still very new to this, so if anybody feels I'm getting off track, by all means feel free to poke me with a cattle prod and get me back in line. I, and the characters, will thank you for it. Reviews and constructive criticism are almost as welcome as dark chocolate. Flames, however, will just be used to make myself highly caffeinated tea, which inevitably results in more poorly-written material for you to read.
The first two chapters are mostly for expositional purposes, so expect things to be a little slow at the start. In fact, I'll be honest, I don't care for the pace of the first chapter at all, but the action picks up soon thereafter. I promise. I also promise that this will not be a romance of any kind whatsoever. Just so we're clear on that point. I should also make it clear that I haven't read any of the stories for quite a while and I've only seen the movie three times so please, to quote Holmes, be gentle with me.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a copy of the soundtrack. And, apparently, Anne Satterfield, her cat, and the soon-to-be-mentioned Pinkertons.
Sherlock Holmes had not had a case since early March. It was now late June, and Dr. John Watson had good reason to be concerned for his friend. It was only a matter of time before the boredom drove Holmes to do something drastic. The last time he'd gone this long without a case, Watson had come home one evening to find the curtains on fire and Mrs. Hudson in near hysterics. Holmes still swore it was an accident, but the doctor couldn't help but think otherwise.
An unearthly screech interrupted his musings, causing Watson to glance over the edge of his newspaper at Holmes. The detective was lounging on his tiger skin with his violin in one hand, a bow in the other, a pile of papers in front of him, and a disgusted look on his face.
"This is maddening," he muttered, tossing the bow aside. "Absolutely maddening."
"I must agree the tedium is quite dreary."
"That is not what I find maddening, Watson. It's these American correspondents of mine," he fumed. He gestured to the stack of papers that lay before him. "Look at this. Twenty-two different contacts and not one of them can find a single reference to an Anne Satterfield in the Territory of Wyoming. One of them sent me something on an Opal Satterfield in Rapp's Barren, Arkansas, for Heaven's sake! Watson, do you realize the vast difference, not to mention distance, between Wyoming and Arkansas? Good grief, the town isn't even on a map! It's absolutely useless. To say nothing of infuriating."
"You are so desperate for something to occupy your time that you're doing background checks on Mrs. Hudson's other tenants?"
"I think it's a healthy practice. You must admit, the girl's behavior is quite puzzling."
Watson couldn't argue with that. Since the day she'd moved in almost three weeks ago, Anne Satterfield had been an enigma. At the end of May, the girl had shown up out of the blue looking for a room to rent. She said she'd been told she could get a room for a reasonable rate there at Baker Street, and Mrs. Hudson had been more than happy to show her the spare room on the third floor. After a brief discussion, the girl paid the landlady in advance and moved in that evening with nothing more than the clothes on her back, a battered old carpet bag, an even more battered-looking leather satchel, a small guitar, and a large black tomcat.
The doctor knew it was her behavior that intrigued Holmes the most. She never joined the rest of the household at meals, her room was always locked, and she left the house every morning at nine, taking either the guitar or a sketchbook along and not returning until just before sunset. On more than one occasion, Holmes had caught her peering through the curtains when she came back, as if checking to make sure she hadn't been followed. When he'd asked if that was what she was doing, she'd quickly and vehemently denied the accusation before hurrying upstairs and locking herself in her room for the evening.
Downstairs, the clock began to chime nine. Watson heard a door on the third floor creak open, and then the soft patter of footfalls on the steps.
"There she goes," he said. "Just like clockwork."
"I've half a mind to confront her," Holmes muttered.
"You've already tried that, remember?"
Indeed he did. On the girl's third day, her cat had "escaped" and invaded Holmes' room downstairs. Watson suspected that his friend had let the animal loose on purpose while the girl was out simply so he'd have a reason to question her. When she'd come to collect the feline, Holmes began interviewing her like he would any other suspect. Watson had privately decided that someone in her family was a lawyer, because the girl had countered Holmes' cross-examination with questions of her own. She was obviously no stranger to being interrogated. The only information gleaned out of the whole fiasco was that her name was Anne Satterfield, she was from the Territory of Wyoming, her mother had been half-Cherokee, and the cat's name was Edgar. The cat himself had ended the conversation by leaping from the mantle, clawing Holmes on the back of the leg, and running upstairs with his mistress right behind him. The detective had been forced to admit defeat for the evening and allow to Watson tend to the bloody wound.
The next morning, Holmes had sent communications to his contacts in the States, asking them to find any information they could on Anne Satterfield. Two weeks later, the correspondences came pouring in, and none of them had anything that could shed some light on the matter. The whole affair was enough to drive a mind like Holmes' to distraction.
Holmes and Watson both looked up as Constable Clarke entered the room.
"Ah, Clarkie! What news from the Yard? Has Lestrade arrested the wrong man again?"
The side of the constable's mouth twitched, evidently trying to suppress the humorous memory.
"No, sir. He requests that you come with me and meet with him immediately."
"On what matter?"
"Burglary and murder, sir."
That was all Holmes needed to hear. He set the violin aside and leaped up, grabbing his coat and hat. Watson tossed his paper on the table. The Anne Satterfield Problem would have to wait. The game was afoot.
The murder was fairly straight-forward, as far as anyone could tell. Straight-forward, Holmes conceded, with one exception. The victim, a male in his early forties, had a spade painted on his forehead with black ink. The symbol was not unlike those found on playing cards. He bent down to examine the body more closely.
"What're the facts, Lestrade?"
"His wife found him like this just two hours ago. She claims she heard nothing, and that the staff didn't either."
"Cause of death?"
"The throat was slit, apparently."
"And what was stolen?"
"A small emerald ring and several pieces of silverware, according to the wife."
"Get a description of the missing items," Holmes ordered as he daubed his index finger in the ink on the man's forehead. He rubbed the ink between his finger and thumb for a moment before dabbing it to his tongue, tasting it. He stood up, wiping his hands on his trousers. "Was there anything else of interest?"
"According to his wife, he received something by post two days ago."
"Did she know what it was?"
"A playing card, sir. An ace of spades playing card."
"Where is the card now?"
"The wife said he thought it was a joke. Said he threw it in the fireplace right after he got it."
"Some joke," Holmes murmured, glancing down at the spade painted on the man's brow. "Any enemies? Rivals? Spurned lovers out for revenge?"
"None that we've found."
"Hmm. Thank you, Lestrade, that'll be all."
Holmes turned and left the room, leaving the police to do their "work." Watson stepped out of a parlor on the first floor and met him at the foot of the stairs.
"I don't think we'll be getting anything more out of the wife at the moment," he said, motioning to a sobbing woman in the other room. "She's practically in hysterics."
"What did you learn?"
"Just about anything you could ever possibly want to know about her family, but absolutely no reason as to why someone would want her husband dead."
"I should interview her myself."
"I wouldn't recommend it," the doctor warned. "Not at the moment, anyway. I know how well you deal with overly-emotional women."
"I don't know what you mean by that, Watson. Do I not treat women with the utmost respect and courtesy?"
"Only when the opposite party isn't in hysterics. Then you leave me to deal with them."
"And you always handle such situations so splendidly. I don't know how you do it."
The two men stood in the foyer for a moment with Holmes watching the parlor uncertainly. The woman was still sobbing uncontrollably. A maid was trying, without much success, to soothe her with a cup of tea.
"I believe I'll give her a day or two," Holmes remarked. "I will have to interview her eventually," he continued, stepping outside. "There is always a chance she neglected to mention some bit of information. Distraught wives have a tendency to do that when they find their husbands dead in the library."
"Do you think she might 'neglect to mention' something on purpose?"
"It's certainly a possibility," Holmes admitted, "and such things have happened before, but we have very little data to form such a theory on. She and the rest of the household should not be above suspicion. What intrigues me is how the murderer got inside. There was no sign of forced entry, no footprints in the back garden, and no one claims to have heard anything unusual. Whoever this person is, he's obviously been in the house before."
"What gives you that idea?" Watson inquired, sidestepping a group of children running towards the commotion at the end of the block.
"He knew exactly what to look for and where to look for it without disturbing the household. A random burglar off the street would not have known where to find a single emerald ring and a drawer of silverware without running the risk of waking someone. This man is a professional, Watson. I think this case will prove to be most challenging."
The words still hung in Watson's ears that evening as he sat in the dining room with a cup of tea and a book. Ordinarily, he would have had the tea in his room, but Holmes had "borrowed" the kettle the moment they'd returned that afternoon. Knowing full well what his friend was liable to do with it, Watson had decided against stealing it back from him, and had opted to use Mrs. Hudson's instead. In hindsight, it was probably a wise choice.
Holmes was upstairs plucking away on that blasted violin of his and Mrs. Hudson had already retired for the night, so Watson was surprised to hear a voice coming from the drawing room.
"Come here, Edgar, come on. Here, kitty."
Of course. He'd forgotten momentarily about the new tenant. Curious as to what she could possibly be doing at such an hour, Watson left the dining room to investigate.
He found Anne Satterfield standing at the far end of the room with her back to the door. She was straining to reach Edgar the cat, who had crawled up on top of a curio cabinet and was now sitting gleefully out of his owner's reach.
"Come here, Edgar, please?" She begged. "If you scare Mrs. Hudson like you did this morning, she'll skin you and evict me."
"So that's what the screaming was all about."
Anne let out a squeal and spun around.
"Yes. Yes, it was," she stuttered, trying to regain her composure. "He, uh, he crawled into a cupboard this morning and Mrs. Hudson didn't know. I'm trying to keep the incident from repeating."
She turned back to the cabinet and tried to grab Edgar again. Watson could have sworn the cat was smirking as her fingers missed by several inches.
"Here," he said, crossing the room. "Let me." He ran his hand under the cat and lifted him from the cabinet. Edgar growled, but offered no further protest as he was passed back to Anne.
"Thank you, sir."
"It's no trouble." He studied her a bit. "Forgive me for sounding forward, but why did you leave America?"
Anne shrugged, stroking her cat.
"A change of scenery, I guess. I got tired of being in the same place, being around the same people."
"You couldn't have simply moved to another part of your own country?"
"Americans are Americans, no matter where you put them. I wanted to see how the rest of the world lives."
"And have you found the rest of the world to your liking?"
"More or less," she answered, still stroking the cat. She glanced up at the ceiling as the plaintive sounds of an out-of-tune violin filled the house. She sighed. "He's gonna do that all night, isn't he?"
Watson nodded an affirmative.
"Most likely. He considers it intellectually stimulating. It enables him to think. I suppose I should just apologize for him now, because I know he'll never do it."
"No, that's all right. I've heard worse. Far worse." She looked for a moment like she was going to elaborate, but instead she walked away and said, "Goodnight, sir," as she left the room.
Watson remained in the drawing room for a few minutes. He stood at the window, watching the flickering glow of the gas lamps through the wispy fog that had set in, and allowed his mind to wander. He'd always found that to be more effective than listening to his friend's drug-induced ramblings of musical theories.
Not that there will be many of those for a while, Watson reminded himself. Holmes finally had a new case; one that was far more interesting than a new tenant and was sure to keep him occupied for some time. It was, he had to admit, one of the more mystifying cases he'd been dragged along in to. The brutality of the murder seemed to suggest revenge, yet the wife had insisted her husband had no enemies. Then there was the nature of how the murderer got inside. That was another puzzle entirely.
The doctor found that it was a bit too much for his tired brain to fathom. He returned to his room to get some rest and fell asleep to the sound of a mournful violin solo coming from one level of the house, and the soft strumming of a guitar playing "Amazing Grace" from another.