This is an experiment with ideas for a future Sherlockian novel, To Take Up the Pen, starring Watson, Holmes, Lestrade, and Mary. The summary from my blog is as follows: "Watson wrote all two dozen installments of Adventures and Memoirs in the three years he thought his best friend dead. What was going through his mind as he wrote them? What was happening in his life as he wrote them? And what was really going through Holmes's mind as he read them?"
This is my very first story in which Inspector Lestrade is a main character, so please be kind! I'm just beginning to get to know him.
Lastly, this scene, the book idea behind it, and still another book idea (see A/N below) are all inspired by Aragonite's words at the beginning of her A Sword for the Defense: "And I submit to you-the fiction out there that deals with the allegedly glamorous life Sherlock Holmes led while he was avoiding Moran can be measured in hectacres. But there is not a single piece I can find that deals with those three years for Watson and Scotland Yard." Whether she intended it or not, it was a call to action for me, and I'm answering it to the best of my abilities!
© 2011 by Aleine Skyfire.
All rights reserved.
==Unraveling the Truth==
Lestrade's eyes roamed briefly around the room until he spotted his man, and he strode decisively to the table. "Good afternoon, Dr. Watson," he greeted.
The younger man looked up from his ever-present notebook and smiled. "Afternoon, Lestrade. Have a chair."
"Thank you. Good of you to treat me out."
The Doctor wave a careless hand, and Lestrade had to restrain himself from startling—the gesture was very much like Mr. Holmes. "Not at all," said Watson. "I shouldn't want Arthur to distract us at home. Mark my words, he would do it, and we should be powerless to resist his charms."
Lestrade smiled. "No doubt. It's a fine little lad you have there, John."
"Thank you," Watson smiled. "Now, would you rather we wait until the food is served, or would you like to start now?"
"Oh, now is fine."
"Very well." The Doctor looked at the Yarder expectantly.
"To begin with, congratulations on the publication of 'The Resident Patient.' (1) Lanner was pleased to see himself in the Strand."
Watson smiled puckishly. "That's rather a change, is it not?"
"Well, Mr. Holmes didn't strip him down piecemeal."
Watson chuckled. "Indeed. He reserved that honor most often for you, my good man."
Lestrade snorted. "Dubious honor, that. Hasn't helped my reputation t'all."
The Inspector could tell that the Doctor was suppressing a smile. "Dreadfully sorry about that, Lestrade."
"Go on and laugh," Lestrade sighed. "Heaven knows you took the brunt of it, and with the patience of a saint, I might add."
Watson colored slightly. "I think my patience could hardly be termed saintly…"
"Considering that one time you and the Irregulars were chasing Mr. Holmes pell-mell through the city, I suppose not always," Lestrade quipped, mouth twitching and eyes dancing. (2)
Watson smiled and shook his head. "That was quite uncalled for, truly. Certainly, Holmes did not deserve the indignity of being pursued relentlessly whilst deprived of his suit coat."
Lestrade laughed outright. "I never had seen him before in his shirtsleeves, and I never did have that unique privilege again. What a sight he was!"
Watson grinned briefly, just as a waiter approached to take their orders. Once he had gone, the army veteran leaned forward, arms against the table and hands folded. Lestrade was struck once again in the differences between the Doctor and the late amateur detective: one was intense in his empathy and forward in his curiosity, and the other had been all cool reserve, even despite a curiosity a thousand times stronger than that of any other man on earth. "Now, Lestrade, I believe you have questions for me."
"About 'The Final Problem,' yes."
The Doctor nodded slowly. "Pray, begin," he said quietly.
Lestrade leaned forward, himself. "I could not help but notice a few inconsistencies in the proof version you circulated around the Yard." Watson stiffened but remained silent. "The one that left the greatest impression on me was the telegram regarding the mass arrest." He looked the Doctor in the eye. "It didn't happen that way, and well you know it."
Silence hung between them for several moments. At last, Watson said quietly, "There is a good reason for it."
"I never believed otherwise."
Watson cocked an eyebrow but did not challenge the statement. "We know that more than just Moriarty slipped through the net, and we know that Holmes and I fled London to divide the Professor's attention. If the remnant of Moriarty's empire learns that we know they are still at large, they will lie low—be careful in their movements. It will be difficult to finish the job. However, if they believe that we think we caught them all in the arrest, they shall be much freer in their movements."
"And make it that much easier on us to finish what we started," Lestrade finished, leaning back a bit and eyeing the man before him with fresh respect. "Dr. Watson, you underrate your own cleverness terribly in your stories."
Watson shook his head. "It needs not a genius to construct such a plan."
The Inspector decided to let the subject pass in favor of another question. "The Swiss youth. Now, either you lied to me about the lad's identity, or you lied in the record. Now which is it?"
The younger man smiled humorlessly. "The latter. He and I want to keep the truth a secret, as a protection. He is just beginning his own family now, you know."
Lestrade blinked. "I didn't know that. Well, that is his privilege, certainly…" He frowned. "Doctor, why couldn't you have changed my identity like that?"
A laugh burst out of Watson before he could stop himself, and Lestrade could not help but grin. Such laughs were still rare from the man. "My apologies, my dear Inspector: I'm afraid it's a bit late for that. I have only 'The Greek Interpreter,' 'The Naval Treaty,' and 'The Final Problem' left, and you appear in none of them."
"Thank heaven for small favors," Lestrade said dryly. "And you won't write any more beyond those three?"
Watson looked down, and Lestrade realized he had made a misstep. "I did write up the Baskerville case—" the Doctor took no notice of the Inspector's involuntary shudder—"but I am unsure of publishing it."
There was something in the other man's hazel eyes… "When did you write it?" Lestrade asked quietly.
The hazel eyes flicked up momentarily before returning their attention to the table between the two men—a mere table, but the distance between them felt much greater. "Spring of '91," Watson replied—very, very softly. "I… had wanted to consult Holmes on it when he returned from France, to see if he would care to supplement this particular account." (3)
But when he returned, it was only to whisk you away on a flight that would end in his death. Lestrade did not say it aloud; there was no need to do so. He cleared his throat and said, "There were, hum, twin problems, really, that I found with your journey on the Continent." Watson glanced up wearily. Lestrade ignored the look and went on. "The first was the phrase 'a charming week'"—he looked Watson in the eye again—"and we both know bloody well that it was nothing of the sort. The second was the bit about you seeing a black figure making its way in the same direction as Mr. Holmes when you'd left him on that false note."
Lestrade folded his arms and glared at the younger man. "You're a soldier, man. You wouldn't think a run for your life 'a charming week' no matter how pretty the scenery. And you most certainly would not have continued back to that hotel if you'd seen a suspicious character going in the same direction of the man whose life was more endangered than yours."
Watson eyed him coolly. "You must be quite certain to have dared to say that."
Lestrade lifted his chin. "I am certain, indeed. It didn't happen, Watson—why the devil did you write it?"
The expression of utter anguish in the Doctor's face took Lestrade back to May 7th, 1891, the day that Watson had returned from Switzerland. Without Sherlock Holmes. "It's called a foreshadowing: letting the audience guess that something is about to happen."
The Inspector did not back down. "It made you look like a fool."
"And I deserve it!" Watson hissed, hazel eyes flashing dangerously. "I deserve to be thought a fool for being taken in by that note, for leaving Holmes's side for one moment! If I had not done so, he would still be alive!"
"You don't know that," Lestrade fired back.
"It would have been two against one! The odds would have been with us!"
"He could have had an accomplice with him—probably did! That colonel that was his right-hand man—I'd bet you anything he was there with his bloody master!"
Watson seemed to collapse in on himself. "Even were it the truth, it would not exonerate me."
Lestrade's dark eyes narrowed. "Are you going to spend the rest of your life atoning for a sin you allegedly committed?"
The younger man's eyes were hollow. "If need be."
Lestrade sighed, knowing better than to press the matter further just yet. John Hamish Watson, M.D., was the most stubborn man Lestrade had ever known, and in his line of work—not to mention having also known the great Sherlock Holmes—that was saying quite a bit. Deciding to employ the better part of valor, he said, "One more question, if I may?"
He hoped his tone and expression carried what he could not voice—that this question would not be so painful to answer.
Watson understood, and sighed deeply. "Very well."
Lestrade nodded sharply. "In the beginning of the story, you say that you've never heard of Moriarty, but that is patently untrue. MacDonald commented on it himself. You first heard of Moriarty late '87, six years ago." (4) He cocked an eyebrow, inviting enlightenment.
"Well. That was to protect myself and my family," Watson admitted quietly. "Thanks to Holmes, I know a good deal about the Professor and his gang—you know that well." Lestrade nodded again. "I do not wish to make myself or my family targets by allowing the gang to learn the extent of my knowledge."
Lestrade nodded once more. "Sound reasoning."
"Thank you," said the Doctor, with just a hint of dryness.
Their food arrived, and the two men settled into a companionable silence. It was not the same close friendship that Lestrade shared with Bradstreet; neither was it the similar—if not possibly more intense—relationship Watson had had with Holmes. Nor should it be. There were close friendships, and there were friendships closer still. Lestrade knew which of the two he shared with Watson, and he was content with it.
As they were finishing their meal, Watson's wandering gaze returned to Lestrade, and the firm mouth smiled a bit lopsidedly. "That was the end of my interrogation, was it not?"
Lestrade chuckled. "That was the end. Although, I do wonder—"
The Yarder laughed at Doctor's comically woebegone expression. "You've been publishing these stories once a month, so that schedule lands 'The Final Problem' in December?"
Lestrade blinked. "Quite a story for the Strand's Christmas edition."
"Mmm." Closing his eyes, Watson rubbed at his temples, eliciting a frown from Lestrade. The Doctor seemed to be reverting to his haggard appearance in May '91—he was working himself too hard.
"Do take care of yourself, there's a good chap? I doubt very much that your wife wants a half-dead husband on her hands."
Eyes still closed, Watson smirked a trifle wearily. "Your tact leaves something to be desired, Inspector."
"As does your self-preservation," Lestrade shot back.
Watson opened his eyes and offered the Yarder a small smile. "Very well, Doctor Lestrade, I accept your prognosis."
(1) "The Resident Patient" (Inspector Lanner is the story's Yarder) is the ninth installment of the original Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and was first published in the Strand magazine in August 1893—placing this scene in mid to late August.
(2) At the Mercy of the Mind, "36. Danger."
(3) Sherlockians debate whether or not The Hound of the Baskervilles took place before or after the Great Hiatus. Doyle began publishing HOUN in 1901 as a serial in the Strand—two years before he "resurrected" Holmes in "The Empty House." Certainly, HOUN was originally pre-Hiatus, and this story follows that assumption (placing the date in '87, a year before Watson met Mary Morstan). Also, before Holmes turned up in Watson's house in April 24th, 1891, Watson had not seen Holmes yet that year, the detective having been away in France. The next day, they left together for the Continent.
(4) The opening chapters of The Valley of Fear (1915) ret-cons both "The Final Problem" (1893) and "The Empty House" (1903)—in the short stories, Watson has no knowledge first of Professor Moriarty, then of Colonel Moran. In the novel, set in several years before FINA, Watson knows of both men, thanks to Holmes (so does at least Inspector Alec MacDonald, the Yarder in VALL). A convenient (and realistic) explanation to the plot-holes in the two short stories is that Watson was covering up a lot of facts.
HA! For once, I have footnotes! Sorry about the abrupt ending—I tried and tried and tried and slept on it and tried some more… and I just couldn't make it any better. Btw, Watson is likely exhausted if he's taking Lestrade's rebuke so easily. Also, I never figured out where to specify, but they're eating at a restaurant, and it is none other than Simpson's—originally, there was this angsty part when Watson is remembering all the times he came here with Holmes, but I lost it. Along with some really great lines. =(
Anyway, this little scene attempts to work out some of the plot-holes in FINA and EMPT—hope you like! As for the identity of the Swiss youth, well… if you've read the "Future Sherlockian Novels" post on my blog (www dot studysherlockiana dot blogspot dot com), you might figure out who he is. Nothing more will I say on the subject, save to say that all shall be revealed in yet another future novel (somewhat of a companion to To Take Up the Pen) entitled An Irregular Point of View.
Also, I've received Aragonite's permission to use her name "Geoffrey" for Lestrade in my published works—about which I am inordinately excited. I've heard several names for Lestrade—including the most popular, Giles, thanks to the BBC—but Geoffrey is the best. =D Plus, naming Watson and Mary's son after Mary's father is also Aragonite's idea. If you've never read her Sword for the Defense series, go do so! Right now! It is so completely epic, it will blow you away.
EDIT: I fixed the link here for my blog— dreadfully sorry about that, peeps!
Please review—I really want to know what you think! (As long as you're nice. ;D)