Holmes was waiting at the bottom of the stairs in his housecoat and slippers. He was awake and alert and ready for a fight, Watson thought. A second later it occurred to him that perhaps his shouting had alarmed Holmes.
It took very little time for Watson to explain who the woman Scotland Yard had described in the letter was, and he was gratified to find that Holmes, once the doctor had finished, agreed.
"What do we do now?" Watson asked. "Go to the Yard? Go to Lestrade?"
Holmes considered the matter. "Lestrade will be at home and, in his current condition, of little use to us." He said quickly. "If Scotland Yard is being watched, and I think it likely, given recent events, that it is, a visit in the dead of night would arouse suspicion. We would be headed straight into danger."
Danger had never stopped either man from pursuing a case.
"Lestrade believes this woman is dangerous enough that he felt he had to warn you to be careful." Watson could not recall Lestrade ever doing so before.
"Dangerous enough to incapacitate Lestrade." Holmes murmured, as if to himself. "She could have killed him, and he knows it." He shook his head. "He also knows it would be the two of us against her."
"And still he warned against going after her ourselves." Watson wondered if Lestrade had overestimated this woman, just a little.
"We will go see Gregson." Holmes decided, and Watson frowned.
"Gregson does not know that Lestrade involved us." He pointed out. "He wanted us left out of it."
Holmes almost laughed. "If Gregson truly believes that Lestrade 'left us out of it', as you say, when Lestrade knew we could help, then he is a fool. Come, Watson!"
"Tobias," Gregson grunted, and would have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but his wife poked him forcefully in the ribs with a finger that was far sharper and bonier than it looked.
"Tobias!" She hissed at her husband, and he forced himself to open his eyes.
"What?" He growled. Had he been more awake, he would never have gotten away with growling at his wife. The woman would not stand for such a thing.
"There's someone at the door." She declared, then sighed. "Now I know how Elisabeth feels."
Gregson let the realization that his wife had at some point started spending time with Lestrade's wife elude him as he got out of bed. He was not yet awake enough to process more than one thing at a time.
He stumbled across the room and fumbled with the door knob, yawning as he continued down the hall and down the stairs. By the time he got to the door, he was somewhat awake.
He was not prepared to see Sherlock Holmes or John Watson standing on his front step. "Come in," he grunted anyway, stepping backward to let them inside.
He woke up a little more then, enough for alarm to register. "Are you all right? Did something happen?" He demanded. He received an odd look from Watson for his trouble.
"We're fine, Inspector." Holmes said, and Gregson woke up even more.
It was enough.
"I'll kill him!" He fumed. "That stubborn, stupid, half-crippled, rat-faced, son of a French-" He cut himself off abruptly, aware that Watson was staring at him in astonishment while Holmes had fixed him with a look that let him know exactly how stupid he was for expecting Lestrade to go along with him on this particular decision.
He forced himself to calm down. "You found her?" He asked.
"Recognized her." Holmes corrected. "We've seen her before."
"Spoken with her, in fact." Watson added.
"Do you know who she is? Do you know where she is?" Gregson asked, pushing aside the last of his irritation. What was done was done; he would deal with Lestrade later.
Holmes nodded. "She is staying in a hotel here in London." He said. "She gave me the address herself."
"Right," Gregson was fully alert now, his mind working quickly. "Then we can get her tonight; find out who else is involved. Evans and Morton are both on duty tonight, and Jones can get there quickly enough. Thank you, gentlemen." He said dismissively.
Holmes and Watson exchanged a glance. Gregson saw it and interpreted it correctly. "No." He said. "I will not have you two any more involved than you already are. It's bad enough that you came here-"
"If we hadn't, you would still be trying to find her." Holmes pointed out reasonably.
Gregson scowled. "I won't risk something happening to you." He snapped. "Lestrade, Bradstreet, they're policeman. It's all part of the job. You two-"
"I work with Scotland Yard just like you, Gregson." Watson interrupted.
"You work with dead bodies." Gregson said bluntly. "You aren't paid to risk life and limb, and so you won't, not on my watch."
Holmes' eyes narrowed, but he remained silent. There was something in Gregson's voice that said his mind was made up. This conversation was finished.
"Thank you both." Gregson said after a moment's silence. "Now go home."
Holmes sighed and headed for the door. Watson followed.
A woman stood out in the street. Holmes turned and started to call out, and she raised a finger to her lips in warning. Watson placed a hand on Holmes' shoulder, the hair prickling on the back of his neck.
She was here, and she was not the least bit afraid.
She motioned for the two of them to come closer. Holmes did not call out, but he remained where he was, challenging her. Watson followed Holmes' lead and also stayed where he was.
She took a step closer, close enough for them to see the smile. A chill ran down Watson's spine as she extended her hand; a pistol was held steadily in her grip, and it was aimed toward the Doctor.
"What the devil-?" Holmes had not closed the front door completely, and Gregson had emerged from it. The woman's expression never changed, but her aim switched from Watson to the Inspector immediately.
He froze at the top step, and waited. "Miss Gibson," He greeted her coolly, as collected as if she did not actually have a gun pointed at him. He looked far more alert than he had inside a few minutes ago, however.
The smile disappeared. It was replaced by a sneer. 'You didn't figure that out on your own." The woman accused angrily. "He told you." She all but snarled, nodding toward Holmes.
Gregson shrugged. He did not point out that Watson was actually the one who had identified her. "Holmes, Lestrade, it doesn't really matter who figured it out, as long as you are stopped." He said easily.
"And who will get the credit for it?" She demanded hotly. "You?"
Gregson made a show of considering her question. "I am currently assigned to the case." He offered.
"And so you take advantage of his desire to see justice done, and take all the credit, and use the case that he solved to advance your own career!" The woman was furious; her hand was starting to shake.
Gregson simply shrugged. "It wouldn't be the first time." He admitted. "It won't be the last." He offered her a smile that did not reach his eyes. "And it wouldn't be just Holmes. I've taken a lot of credit that wasn't mine to claim. Is that what all this has been about?" He demanded, suddenly angry. "The fact that people don't always get the appreciation they deserve for their work? That's why you did all this?"
"I gave you a chance to prove yourselves!" The woman shouted. "To prove that you could manage without crawling to him and begging him for help! You couldn't even stop me! Can you solve a single case without his help?"
Watson's mind was reeling as he tried to understand what reason this woman was offering as an excuse for the things she had done.
He started as Gregson laughed. "So you are a lunatic." He said, a taunting smile playing about his lips. "You read his stories and got it into your head that every bit of them was true. And you decided that Scotland Yard was full of incompetent police men who couldn't solve a case without the help of one Sherlock Holmes."
The woman blinked. She looked uncertainly from Gregson to Holmes and back to Gregson. Gregson laughed again. "It burned you up that he solved all those cases and we took all the credit." He guessed. "So you decided to teach us a lesson. Did you kill all those people?" He asked conversationally.
She was confused now; she had not been expecting to be laughed at. She gripped the gun with both hands now, tightly. Her knuckles were beginning to turn white. "They lived on the streets." She spoke slowly. "They were half starved and ill, most of them. They were easy enough. Nobody even missed them.
Gregson stared at her. "Did you think he would thank you for killing them?" He demanded, all amusement gone. He shook his head. "You must be mad."
She shook her head, violently, and raised the gun that had begun to lower as Gregson spoke. Her hands were trembling as she took aim at the Inspector.
"You want a confession?" He demanded, angry again. "Fine. I took credit that did not belong to me for solving cases. I have neglected to mention that many of my cases have in reality been solved by Sherlock Holmes, a few by Inspectors Bradstreet, Jones, and Hopkins, a couple by various Constables whose names I didn't even bother to remember, but mostly by Lestrade. Is that what you wanted?"
"If you're trying to humiliate him," someone drawled as two shadows stepped out of the nearby alley, "we already knew that he was ambitious. And anyway, Gregson was born without a conscience."
Bradstreet stepped into the light, hands in his pockets, Jones silent and menacing behind him. "Maybe you should put the gun down." He suggested as the woman spun around to stare at the two men. "Jones is hoping for a reason. He doesn't care if you're a woman or not."
Jones muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath that Bradstreet ignored. "Game's up." He said cheerfully. "Sure, we cheated." He added with a shrug. "Unfortunately for you, it doesn't really matter. Put the gun down."
She hesitated, and every man tensed as she turned to look at Holmes. "I did it for you." She said, holding out the gun to him. "They don't appreciate you."
Holmes stepped forward and wordlessly took the gun from her. Jones started forward, but Bradstreet laid a restraining hand on his shoulder. Jones leveled a glare at him, but did not pull away.
Gregson stepped forward to arrest the woman.
"Your lunatic." Lestrade commented.
Gregson nodded distractedly. "Obsessed with Watson's stories. Obsessed with Holmes. She felt we had wronged him and should be held to account for it."
"Some way to go about it." Lestrade scowled. "Killing innocent people for our sins."
Gregson shrugged. "Lunatic." He offered. He turned and fixed Lestrade with a look. "I seem to remember deciding to keep Holmes and Watson out of the line of fire." He said.
"You decided." Lestrade reminded him unnecessarily.
"I don't know why I was surprised." Gregson admitted. "I should be angry." Catching Lestrade's raised eyebrow, he amended his statement. "Angrier. I don't suppose there's any point in telling you how I feel about you ignoring my decisions when that worked so well last time."
Lestrade shrugged. They could have the entire argument over again, or they could just accept that it was a difference that would never be resolved.
The two sat in silence for several seconds, Lestrade staring into the fire, Gregson studying the smaller, dark haired man.
Lestrade looked tired, and it was not simply his injury or this particular nightmare of a case. Gregson left the observation unsaid, however.
"Have you seen the papers lately?" He asked instead.
Lestrade turned to fix Gregson with that dark gaze of his. "No," He said slowly. He waited, though Gregson was sure the man already knew what he was going to say.
"They wrote up the case." He said. Lestrade blinked.
"The Gibson case?" Lestrade asked. Gregson nodded. "You solved the case, of course." He predicted.
Gregson considered the fire before them. "Saved it, actually. In spite of your bumbling around and nearly getting yourself killed by your own incompetence."
"Good for you." Lestrade retorted, but he had not taken offence. He sighed. "It's a little late for me to start worrying about my career." He pointed out. Lestrade would never make it beyond his current ranking at the Yard.
"Does it bother you?" Gregson asked, not bothering to wonder why he cared. There was really no point in trying to make sense of their relationship.
Lestrade shook his head. "It doesn't matter." He said, offering the answer he usually gave. Surprisingly, he added, "I can't imagine being anywhere else."
"You could have been Superintendent." Gregson pointed out. Lestrade should have been Superintendent. He would have been the best choice for the position, really, had it not been for the taint on his records.
Lestrade almost smiled. "I'd rather it be Hopkins." He admitted. "I never got into the job for the promotions."
Gregson considered that piece of information. It did not surprise him in the least. "He does an acceptable job, I suppose." He ventured.
"Better than you would." Lestrade threw at him. Gregson did not disagree.