An entry for Holmestice, for Sherlockiangirl.
It had been the sort of day that Lestrade was more than happy to see end, and he gave a profound sigh of relief as prepared for bed. It had begun with overly brewed tea and boots that had not entirely dried from yesterday's downpour. Before noon he found he had inherited an investigation involving the nephew of Lord Causey, half a dozen masterful counterfeiters, and a collection of half-completed but expertly made counterfeit pound notes. If he could solve it, it would be quite the feather in his cap but if he failed . . . the less said about that, the better. Upon returning home, he discovered that damp had gotten into the coal, causing it to smolder sullenly all evening. By this uncertain light Lestrade totaled and re-totaled the figures of his household finances. It was slow going in the dimness. With his mind as muddled as it was, he came up with a different number each time. Finally, he gave up in despair nearly an hour after he usually turned in. Leaving the sitting room fire to do what it would, he retired to his bedroom.
His revolver went on the little bed table to await its cleaning in the morning. His jacket went up by the fire to air out over white cedar chips, and his boots rested nearby. Lestrade had his shirt halfway unbuttoned when he froze, nerves tingling.
Just what it was that alerted him, he couldn't say, but he knew – he knew – there was someone else in his rooms. It was not his landlady; she had a tread like an elephant and anyway, if she had wanted something of him she would have made herself known right away.
Lestrade strained his ears. There. It was the faintest creaking of floorboards in the main room, slow and rhythmic, as if someone was trying to walk stealthily. If he had already gone to bed the sound would have been lost in the shifting of the blankets and the squeaks of the joints. Whether or not that was significant he didn't know. Had the intruder waited until he supposed the inspector would be asleep, or was it a coincidence?
Thank goodness he had not yet unloaded the gun for the night! Lestrade took it up and slid his bare feet along the floor, trying to prevent any footfalls from alerting the intruder to his presence. The doorknob to his bedroom tried to rattle as he turned it; long experience had taught him how to prevent that.
The intruder was on the floor, clad in raggedy clothes and smelling strongly of the streets, crawling along in the dying firelight like an overgrown beetle. Lestrade inched forward. He trained the revolver squarely on the stranger's head. "Stand up or I will shoot," he growled softly.
The intruder stood instantly. He also seized Lestrade's wrist and yanked him to the floor. "Get down," hissed the irritated voice of Sherlock Holmes.
Lestrade was hard-pressed to keep from shooting him anyway. Of course, nothing could be gained by that, he reminded himself. There would be an investigation, and possibly a trial, and even if he didn't kill the man he would probably take such offense that he might never again offer his considerable intelligence for the Yard's use. And then there would be an irate Dr. Watson and to contend with. No, no, better to deal with the situation practically.
"Mr. Holmes, is there a reason you are creeping about my rooms in the middle of the night uninvited?" He was rather proud of how reasonable his tone sounded, at least to his own ears.
Holmes was less appreciative. "Of course there's a reason," came the brusque, nearly inaudible, response. "And kindly speak more softly."
"Because I would prefer that the gang who were following me not come in, and I trust you would prefer it too."
Lestrade thought he could feel a molar crack under the strain of gritting his teeth. "I would prefer it. I would also have preferred you not leading them to my home in the first place."
"I had little choice in the matter." Was it his imagination or did Holmes sound defensive? "There were too many for me to take on without Watson and my nearest bolt-hole was too far to reach without another altercation. Incidentally, Lestrade, it does the Yard no credit when one of their inspectors has a front door that can be picked in under ten seconds."
"Take it up with my landlady," he muttered. Then a thought struck him. "Where is Dr. Watson?"
"On holiday," replied Holmes briefly. Suddenly he held up a hand and cocked his head.
Lestrade strained his ears. He too could hear the sounds of men – at least two, likely more if Holmes had been unable to fight them all off – making their way not so stealthily through the door the consulting detective had left unlocked. He glanced at his revolver and wondered if six bullets would be enough or laughably paltry.
"Let us preserve the element of surprise while we have it. Come on," Holmes whispered and dragged him towards the back stairway to the garret. Lestrade thought he understood until he saw the consulting detective headed towards the little closet created under the space below the stairs.
"We can't hide there," Lestrade hissed back. Neither of them were very bulky men but he could hardly see both of them fitting into that tight space. Not without going mad from claustrophobia, anyway.
"We have no choice. They will search your rooms but should overlook this, at first." Somehow Holmes knew the trick of getting the door to open without the hinges sticking or giving ear-splitting shrieks, and disappeared inside.
Lestrade remained firmly outside. "Are you positive we can't drive them off without resorting to this?"
"For pity's sake, Lestrade, get in here!" and with that, the Yarder found himself crushed up between a knotty pine door and an angular human body, both equally uncomfortable to lean against. And, in the case of the human, unpleasantly odiferous. Lestrade knew Holmes was a formidable actor but, with his nose pressed against a jacket reeking of stale sweat, gin, and heaven only knew what else, he privately opined that Holmes could take things a bit too far.
The door of the little closet prevented Lestrade from hearing anyone coming up the stairs but he could hear perfectly plainly when the floorboards of the main room creaked under the weight of what sounded like half a dozen men. As an inspector, Lestrade had dealt with more burglaries and theft than he cared to remember, but never before had he been personally acquainted with the feelings of rage and violation that came with having strangers tramp about in his own home. Silently he revised his decision of not shooting Holmes when he had the chance.
The footsteps thumped about for a while. There were low, guttural mutterings and a shout that was hastily cut off. Then the footsteps headed towards the bedroom.
Suddenly Holmes shoved him even more firmly against the door. "Get out, now!" he hissed impatiently. Lestrade fumbled for the doorknob. It rattled obstinately in his hand. Perspiration beaded on his brow as he contemplated ending his days trapped in this tiny hell-hole with Sherlock Holmes. Then, just as he was thanking providence that his revolver had plenty of bullets, the knob turned and they both tumbled out like spilled beans.
Holmes recovered his feet first, of course, and had the bedroom door firmly shut behind the intruders before any of them could react. When they did react, it was with shouts and curses and enough violence to rattle the door on its hinges. Lestrade offered a chair to wedge under the knob but he was declined.
"Listen up, you lot!" Holmes bellowed, imitating perfectly the strident tones of a burly peeler on the beat. The sounds from within the room decreased. "You have just invaded the home of an official of Scotland Yard. You now have two choices. You can either exit through the window and perhaps escape, or you can surrender yourselves into our custody. You have one minute to decide."
There were occasions when Lestrade was convinced the mind of Sherlock Holmes had finally lost its tenuous grip on sanity. This was merely the most recent of them. He could only hope – and a dwindling hope it was – that Mr. Holmes would once again prove him wrong.
"Thirty seconds, gentlemen, and may I remind you we are armed?"
From behind the bedroom door came the sounds of peeved men in heavy boots. Hope, much like the damp coal fire, flickered and threatened to go out.
Holmes padded over to the fireplace and drew out the poker like a scimitar. "I suppose you'd better open the door, Inspector." At Lestrade's incredulous look, he shrugged. "You must admit, the odds are far better now than they were when I was being chased."
Better for him, perhaps, having halved the work. That still left three men for Lestrade to take on by himself. If they got out of this alive, which was looking less and less likely, he was going to a little talk with Mr. Sherlock Holmes about bringing unwarranted trouble upon the heads of his colleagues.
Lestrade sighed, cocked his revolver, and grimly flung open the door.
A chill, stinking London wind wafted through the open window. That, and some deep, new scuffs on the floor were all that remained of the thugs.
"Excellent?" repeated Lestrade. Privately, he agreed that it was excellent they wouldn't have to risk life and limb to bring the criminals to justice, but to just let them escape? No, not excellent in the least.
"To be sure." Holmes tossed the poker onto Lestrade's bed, where it left black smudges on the bedclothes, and poked his head out the window. "Have you all of them, Youghal?"
The reedy voice of Sergeant Youghal drifted up from the street. "Yes, sir, thanks to you. Sorry for the imposition, Inspector," he added to Lestrade, who had joined Holmes at the window, "this was a sudden sort of operation and we didn't expect them to follow Mr. Holmes into the building."
He waved the apology aside in favor of seeing answers. "Mr. Holmes, would you mind explaining what the devil is going on?"
"Certainly," replied he, sounding surprised Lestrade hadn't been able to follow the series of events. "The sergeant and company have just taken into custody the band of counterfeiters who, left to their own devices, would have wrecked havoc on England's economy with their flawless forgeries."
"You don't mean to say that those men are the counterfeiters I spent all day chasing!" Lestrade cried. A sick sort of coldness gripped him that had nothing to do with the weather.
Holmes had the decency to look chagrinned. "I do beg your pardon. I had no idea the case had been reassigned to you. If I had known – "
Lestrade could not, just then, stomach the thought of what might have been. Better to get all the bad news out of the way first. "Is Lord Causay's nephew among them?"
Youghal shook his head. "No, sir, but Lord Causay himself is. Looks like he was using his nephew to cover up his own doings."
Somehow that came as no surprise, not today. "All right, Youghal," he replied tightly. "Carry on."
Meanwhile, Holmes was straightening his tattered costume. "Thank you for your assistance, Lestrade. I trust you shall have a far less eventful night once I depart. "
"Oh, no doubt of that," he agreed whole-heartedly.
"I wouldn't worry, Lestrade," Holmes offered kindly, shutting the window. "You played a part in the arrest too and I shall be happy to see to it that you receive your due credit."
Which would mean come morning everyone on the Force would know that Lestrade had had the counterfeiters in his home and not recognized them for what they were, but also that he had permitted them to leave via the window. "That's . . . really not necessary, Mr. Holmes."
"Nonsense!" Holmes clapped him the shoulder and smiled. "Leave everything to me, Inspector."
There would be no choice, of course. There never was with Sherlock Holmes, once the man set him mind to something. Lestrade managed a weak smile, thanked him, saw him to the door, and once again returned to his bedroom. He made a heroic attempt to ignore the soot on the sheets, the marks on the floor, and the jimmied lock on the front door. And if there were any screams of frustration, they were well and truly muffled by his pillow.