A/N: This story can stand alone, but it is part of a collaborative 5+1 called "Banned from the kitchen" listing the reasons that various people are banned from Mrs. Hudson's kitchen. The list is:
1. Consulting Detectives
2. Retired Army Surgeons
3. Scotland Yard Inspectors
4. Baker Street Irregulars
+1: Consulting detectives (who failed to observe their first warning)
It can be found on livejournal here:
http : / / community . livejournal . com / watsons_woes / 407044 . html
So without further ado, the +1. :-)
Second Time Pays for All
"I have come to a decision."
Holmes and I had been sitting in armchairs across from the fire for about two hours in companionable silence, I reading my paper, and he deep in meditation.
"What's that, old man?"
"I am venturing once more into the lion's den."
"What are you talking about, Holmes."
"I should say, the lioness's den. I am going to the kitchen."
"Holmes, you know Mrs. Hudson was quite clear about that- 'Dire consequences,' she said; and while I am not as astute an observer as you, I would hazard a guess, judging by her tone of voice and expression that she was in deadly earnest."
"I agree. And that is why you will be coming as my lookout."
"The deuce I will! She warned me as well as you. I enjoy my regular, well-cooked meals, even if you do not." I had willingly followed my friend into danger in the past, and I would do so again. But I did have my limits.
"I recently procured a dangerous compound which I will bake into scones and biscuits. A dangerous murderer invented this compound, and to track him, I must be able to identify the contaminated baked goods by the scent."
"Absolutely not. That does not fall into the category of 'putting out a threatening chimney fire,' 'rescuing an injured, threatened, or dying landlady,' or 'complying with a direct and express request from the landlady.'"
"Ah! But that is where you are wrong, Watson. This criminal is crafty, and his wares are ubiquitous. His compound could be in any foodstuffs, and if I do not apprehend him, Mrs. Hudson is as likely to buy and consume contaminated food as any other worthy landlady in London. She is undoubtedly threatened."
I knew that this argument was dubious at best…and common sense suggested that this was not what Mrs. Hudson meant when she said "threatened." I even had a niggling suspicion that Holmes could conduct this experiment with his Bunsen burner, if he put his mind to it. But such was the confidence and charisma of my friend that I began to waver. And his quick eye did not miss anything.
"My dear Watson, surely you would not allow me to venture this alone? I know I have said it only once, and I ought to say it more often, but it is, nonetheless, true: I am lost without my Boswell."
Holmes might not get my limits, but he had my weaknesses well in hand. What could I say to such a plea?
"Very well. I will be your lookout, Holmes. But let the record show that I do it under protest."
"It is fortunate, then, that you keep the record." Holmes rubbed his hands together and chuckled as he picked up a packet of the poison, and led the way down to our landlady's forbidden realm. Already I was beginning to wish that I had not given in to my vanity.
I have spoken of Sherlock Holmes's catlike love of personal cleanliness. In the kitchen it was non-existent. Why a man who could measure and pour chemicals with scientific precision should be unable to measure flour and sugar with the same precision is a mystery to me. But we were not in the kitchen for more than five minutes before every available surface seemed to be coated in powder of one kind or another.
"I hope you know, Holmes, that I have no intention of cleaning up after you."
"Wouldn't dream of asking you, old chap."
I did not grace this absurd falsehood with an answer.
"Furthermore, I have no intention of actually doing anything. I am here to keep watch for Mrs. Hudson's return, and no more."
An hour and a half later the tantalizing smell of baked goods had filled the kitchen. Shame that they were all poisoned. I folded up my paper. "I'm going up to get a book, Holmes. I will be back in a few minutes."
Holmes grunted and did not look up from where he was adding his compound to a cup of flour—dangerously close to the flour barrel, I thought.
"You are being careful with that, Holmes, are you not?"
"Of course I am."
I sighed and walked upstairs. I was staring at my bookcase, weighing the respective merits of Great Expectations and The Moonstone, lost in memories of the first time I read each, when a sudden screech reached my ears. I ran down one flight of stairs, to hear our usually kindly landlady yelling at Holmes in an impressively loud voice.
"MR. HOLMES! YOU WILL BE CLEANING EVERY LAST INCH OF THIS KITCHEN AND REPLACING MY SUPPLY OF FLOUR, AND SUGAR, AND CINNAMON, AND SALT, AND EVERYTHING ELSE THAT MIGHT POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN AFFECTED!"
I could only thank heaven that I had been in our rooms at the time of Mrs. Hudson's return, as I picked up my hat and cane, and beat a hasty retreat to my club.
When I returned to the flat after tea time, I found Holmes in a dark mood, smoking and glaring at the fire as if it had personally offended him. Under normal circumstances I would avoid him as much as possible until the cloud had passed, but I could not resist asking:
"What happened, Holmes?"
He muttered something under his breath. I only caught two words—"coward" and "watching."
"Be fair, Holmes. The one minute warning I might have given would not have saved you."
"It might have stopped me from scattering poison all over Mrs. Hudson's baking ingredients!"
"Mrs. Hudson happened upon me just as I was measuring some of the compound from the packet, and her shout startled me so that the powder flew into the air, and into the flour bin, the sugar container, and several other open containers of spices that I had yet to return to the pantry."
I could only stare.
"I have re-stocked her pantry at great cost to myself, all because you could not be bothered to keep watch."
"Holmes, I will not stoop to answer that unfair accusation. Furthermore, I am not one to say 'I told you so.'"
"One of your most admirable qualities."
"So I will merely observe that this has been the domestic equivalent of a Norbury."
Holmes just sniffed and re-lit his pipe.