Crypt Keepers

Warnings: Accidentally desecrated bodies and a lot of bones. Also, crushed leg and possible concussion. Some violence.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes. I did not invent him or Watson or the rest of those wonderful characters as brought to us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I do enjoy taking them out to play.

Prompt: watsons_woes, challenge 22 Turn Left Challenge, on live journal

Now Beta'd by the ever amazing and very helpful med_cat. All remaining errors are entirely my own, of course.

I took a left turn at "The Adventure of The Shoscombe Old Place." Not a very popular short story, but one I always thought had a certain potential for hurt. Unfulfilled as ACD left that for us. He gave us a midnight venture into a decrepit crypt with our two heroes and the opportunity to get caught by the notoriously ill tempered owner and nothing bad happened. I want to correct that.

You can find the original "Shoscombe Old Place" online if you need a brief refresher on what ACD wrote for us. If you don't want to read it, I did pretty much sum up the tale in the course of this story, skipping a lot of details and dialogue along the way. Also, I had to borrow a few lines of dialogue from ACD. They happen right before the left turn.

I can't do these short. But that's okay. I needed a good Watson whump, and this seemed not the usual course for it. I thought I'd try it. The boys though, they weren't feeling overly emotional. It seems to have worked out well enough despite that.

There are some cases in which my friend Sherlock Holmes is truly justified in his complaints about my romanticizing his work. Often such is simply my interpretation of events as compared to his, my view seems always of a rosy color with unnecessary details and his is always purely factual. Such a style, while immensely accurate, does not sell. On other occasions I have been guilty of sending to publication some scribblings that are not entirely true. There are stories that are not fit for the gentle public's consumption due to being entirely too gruesome, messy, or personal in reality.

I have just sent one such story through publication with an entirely sterilized account of the facts that truly played out one night for Sherlock Holmes and myself. I find myself with the desire to pen what really happened, if only to keep for my own records. For "The Adventure of the Shoscombe Old Place" became both messy and personal while we were down in that crypt, and I find Sir Robert Norberton got off entirely too lightly.

However, I am getting ahead of myself.

The story which the public will find in the Strand in the coming weeks is accurate - to a point. Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself were certainly contacted by Mr. John Mason regarding the very strange goings-on at Shoscombe Old Place. I must, if only in my own journaling, admit that I am delighted post-case to have never had any money riding on the Shoscombe Prince. It would have felt like hollow winnings had I made any profit on his race. I was, however, most pleased that on this rare occasion I could provide knowledge to Holmes concerning the topic at hand. I was, and still am perhaps, too intimately acquainted with the races.

Mr. Mason was very concerned about the goings-on with his employer and the estate. For good reason, with Sir Robert behaving as though he'd gone mad, his sister, the Lady Beatrice, having entirely changed her habits in a week, and the discovery of the charred bone. I cannot say if it is my many years of working with Holmes which caused me most concern about the bone fragment of human femur or my medical background, but the resultant worrisome conclusion was the same. Something disreputable had happened at Shoscombe Old Place and by the Master's continued interest in the crypt on the property, something terrible was perhaps still going on.

I was not surprised when Holmes chose to take the case at the time. In hindsight, the basics of what occurred, if not all of the details in whole clarity, had already been apparent to my friend before we left Baker Street. After Holmes laid out the conclusion, I could see now that it should have been obvious to me as well. Such is why I spent my career diagnosing the illness of the human body instead of deducing the illnesses of the human condition. All the same, he must have been curious as to the details as he shipped us to Berkshire with no qualms and an armload of fishing equipment. I found the small inn, "The Green Dragon", to be most pleasant and was quite taken with her honest owner, Mr. Josiah Barnes.

It would ultimately turn out to be a good thing that we had befriended the man, under guise of innocent fishermen though it was.

Through the use of Lady Beatrice's dog, now in the owner ship of Mr. Barnes, Holmes proved the ruse going on behind the daily carriage rides. It was a man's voice that emerged from the hunched form of the supposedly sick older woman. We also did manage in that day to work in some fishing time, despite the supposedly missing spoon-bait. This was one of two occasions on which I have had the opportunity to fish with my friend. The first was an adventure of its own and best reserved for another story.

Having noted that the Lady Beatrice was not the individual traveling in the carriage, Holmes set plans into action for us to meet Mr. Mason and explore what was happening in the crypt. The old mausoleum had to be connected with the case in some logical way and Holmes had to see for himself where that connection was. In reminiscing, I can honestly say that trekking across the darkened lawn of the Shoscombe old Place with barely a sliver of moonlight on a mission into an old family crypt sent chills up my spine. Having the trainer, Mr. Mason, inform us that that Sir Robert was due back of this evening made foreboding curl in my stomach.

Unfortunately, there were no logic based facts to square with what my instincts were obviously trying to tell me. I knew that Holmes would have scoffed at my superstitious concerns, and because of that did not bother to bring the matter to his attention. Even now, I think perhaps it would not have helped even had I done so.

The old church that stood over the crypt had, even in the dark, a decided lean and a large gaping hole where a porch would have been. It was through this that Mr. Mason lead us, stumbling over loose masonry, and over to a corner of the building where the stairs lead down to the crypt. The stairs were steep and crumbling at a concerning rate, but the old oak door at the bottom still seemed solid enough. Standing the door open sent a wave of foul smelling air full of old death and decaying stonework up into the stairwell. Mr. Mason then struck a match and held it aloft in the inky blackness, providing our first look into the crypt.

The walls were rough-hewn and ancient. They had the look of age where time had not been kind to their crumbling faces. There were the coffins as well. Literally piles of them, with some made of stone, and others of lead, stacked right up to the black shadows of the arched roof on one side of the room. Holmes lit his lantern and its yellow light was reflected back to us from the coffin nameplates. It was a dismal sight which combined with the smell one cannot escape from in such an old and damp crypt, the overall sensation was melancholy indeed.

Mr. Mason set about to show us the bones in the corner which had drawn his concern to the crypt originally, only to discover they were already quite gone. Holmes had chuckled at this, noting that he had expected as much. He then dismissed our host. Without so much as a question, he handed his lantern to me and I followed him about our gloomy surroundings for the better part of an hour as he deliberately studied every corner, nook, and cranny.

Our rotation finally brought us back 'round to the door to the stairs. Beside this and tucked behind where the door opened into the crypt, was a coffin leaned at an awkward angle against the wall. I saw even in that sharp angles that lantern light against pitch darkness is want to throw, the hawk-like features of my friend light into a grim smile. He reached into his jacket and retrieved a small jemmy and set to work levering the lid open. I held the lantern aloft for him and watched with bated breath as old hinges squealed and an inch or more of space was granted to Holmes's probing fingers.

At which point we were suddenly and rudely interrupted.

Our heads both jerked up at the sound of firm, steady footsteps crossing the chapel above us. I hardly had time to exchange a glance with Holmes before a light was shining down the stairs just barely proceeding the man who held the lantern. The man was massive, his shoulders nearly taking up the entirety of the breadth of space in the Gothic arched door frame. He carried himself with the ferocity of a jungle tiger defending his territory. His heavy mustache twitched in an angry snarl and his eyes glared all about the tomb, finally landing upon the two of us.

The heavy stable lantern he held in one hand and the large cudgel he held in the other became all the more intimidating as he started in on us. "Who the devil are you?" he thundered. "And what are you doing upon my property?"

Then, as Holmes and I returned no answer he took a couple of steps forward and raised the heavy stick which he carried. "Do you hear me?" he cried. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

His cudgel quivered in the air. I widened my stance and gripped our own lantern like a weapon. It looked to me as though a fight was soon to be upon us. This man's size and not inconsiderable reputation for temper were not in our favor, though numbers were.

However Holmes and I were not quite on the same thought line in this instance. Instead of positioning himself for a fighting stance, my friend pulled himself to full height and stepped forward to meet Sir Roberts. "I also have a question to ask you, Sir Robert," he said in a stern tone. "Who is this? And what is it doing here?"

Holmes turned then and threw the lid of the coffin open the rest of the way with a horrible tearing and wrenching sound. Within was not a corpse twenty or more years gone with decay as the last burial in this crypt suggested. The body was shrouded, but the witch-like features of the face with its sagging, decaying skin and open glazed eyes were not. By state of decay and general aroma I would say she had not been here much longer than a week. Though with the general cool humidity of the crypt and the questionable lighting of lantern wicks it would be hard to say for certain.

Sir Robert's eyes opened wide over his suddenly pale cheeks as he staggered backwards against the door frame. "How came you to know of this?" he cried. And then, with whole return of his evil manner: "It does not matter. I do not care who you are or what your intentions are, Sir. This will be the last anyone will know of this entire business!"

For those readers of my scribblings in the Strand, there will be a neat and tidy ending to this affair. Sir Robert will ultimately behave as a gentlemen instead of a cur. Also I credit Holmes in the story that will be published. The results of that tale are exactly as Holmes supposed they would be, parts in his own words. What truly happened was one of those rare moments where what Holmes assumed would happen quite went the other way.

I had made the mistake of relaxing my stance slightly, following Holmes's lead. I assumed the baronet would stand down and talk things through. It was not to be. The large man brought his cudgel up into Holmes's belly before my friend could react to the quick change in attitude. I dropped our lantern in a hurry, looking to either catch my friend or punch Sir Robert, though I cannot say which.

Meanwhile, in the sort of comedy of errors one hopes to only see in a play, Holmes righted himself and pushed forward as though to attack our aggressor. Sir Roberts barely side-stepped and ducked my friend's arms, bringing his own massive right shoulder up into Holmes's sternum, picking him up and driving him into the tomb in a bull rush. Caught as I was behind, I had no chance to stop the giant of a man as he already had his momentum. With a whoosh of exhaled air and body meeting body, Sir Robert slammed us both hard into the tower of caskets opposite the door.

I was aware for a moment only of Holmes bony back pressed squarely into my ribs and hard ridged coffins at my back before the pressure was briefly let off. Holmes and I held our dazed position slouched against that stack of caskets for an instant too long as the horse owner took a few steps back and proceeded to slam us both against the pile again. It was as though in his anger he had entirely forgotten his cudgel. We suffered this indignity three times, both Holmes and I gasping for air. Sir Robert readied for a fourth slam, my friend found his wits before me and reached back to squeeze my wrist briefly before bellowing, "Dive left, Watson!"

My old soldier's instincts held true and I obeyed the order before I could even think it through. I hit the floor hard beside the veritable mountain of coffins and could see that Holmes had thrown himself to the right. The baronet slammed his shoulder and head with a massive boom of sound into the pile. Our aggressor staggered backwards, himself dazed by the hit and I had the pleasure of seeing Holmes's quick thinking come to fruition. The pleasure was short-lived, even as Sir Roberts staggered back to the door, the entire stack of coffins, from perhaps the third up, which had taken all of this abuse gave a terrible groan. I looked up to see in the dim lantern light that the pile was tipping over and was scrambling as fast as I could even before Holmes yelled, "Move, Watson! Move now!"

The pile came down with a mighty crash of old stone and lead and scattered bones as some of these broke wide open. One of the scattered casket lids slid nearly to the door, shattering our lantern in its path leaving only the glow of the stable lantern held in the slack grasp of Sir Robert. I had no need of the light however, as I could perfectly well feel the weight of several thousand pounds of old caskets come crashing down onto my right leg before I could get entirely out of the way. I do not recall it clearly, but I do believe I gave vent to a howl of pain as I felt everything from just above my right knee and down crushed beneath a heavy lead coffin.

I was only peripherally aware, as the dust and debris settled from the avalanche of the dead, of Sir Robert, gripping his lantern hard and turning from the crypt. He slammed the door behind him leaving us in complete darkness.

I was more concerned at that moment with moving the caskets off of my person. There are moments of fear and pain that reduce us all to animals in behavior. While being shot had not been one of them for me, being caught like a bear in a trap in the depths of a crypt with old bones and funeral shrouds scattered about me was. And like that bear, my first concern was freeing myself. In a matter of minutes, my reasoning reasserted itself enough for me to try and manage my escape rationally. Which was fortunate, as I know that I was not far off from attempting to chew through my own leg to be free of that mess.

What was less fortunate with the return of reasoning, was the imminent return of my medical knowledge. Usually this is beneficial knowledge, but not when I could hazard a fairly good guess of what I was facing. This would not be a simple broken leg when I was freed, because it had to be a when not an if. This was a crushed leg. In the case of a major crush injury, there is often serious damage below the skin, including tissues, muscles and bones. A crush injury will often cut off the flow of blood in the damaged appendage, leading to serious muscle and tissue damage, as well as numbness and possible paralysis. This knowledge my medical background helpfully provided to my panicked and pained person.

A hysterical little bubble of laughter tried to work its way up my throat as I thought that numbness might be a blessing. I quelled the urge as fast as it came. After having spent myself searching so frantically for a way to push the coffins off me, using my miraculously free left leg at an awkward angle to push and my arms as well, I slouched backward against the floor taking ragged breaths and pondering the situation.

I am ashamed of myself to say that it took me that long to realize how utterly silent the rest of the crypt was, my own hitched breathing aside. "Holmes?"

There was no response to my query and I struggled back to sitting position to renew my efforts on moving the coffins for a new reason. Never mind myself. It hardly mattered if Holmes were in a worse position. What if the pile had landed on his core, or on his head? It was possible his brains were already scattered all about the mildewed floor, or he was drowning on his own blood even as I sat there feeling sorry for myself. "Holmes, please. You must answer me!"

My own voice echoed about me for far too long before disappearing up into the arched ceiling. It was a matter of heightened sense of hearing with being rendered blind by darkness that allowed me to hear a faint groan over my own panting breaths as I continued my struggle. "Holmes," I queried again, "Are you injured, old man?"

My response was another groan and a less than masterly, "If you count a goose egg on the head as an injury, Watson. Otherwise I am well enough."

There was a stretch or relative silence between us, I unable to fully control my ragged breathing, and Holmes unable to stop the occasional low moan. I worried for concussion, of course, but it would be near impossible to tell one way or another in the dark. "Whatever you do," I instructed with a doctor's authority and a friend's concern, "Don't fall asleep."

"As much as you find the portraits in my bedroom disturbing, Watson, this is even more so. I had not planned on it."

I huffed a soft bit of laughter at this bit of Holmesian humor and slouched nearly against my will to lay back down on the floor. I brushed a phlange away from my right hand and tried not to wonder where the rest of the bony hand that finger belonged to was currently residing. It was better than considering the sharp agony of my pinned leg.

I heard it loudly through the crypt as Holmes shuffled himself to an upright position. The various debris rattling as he kicked it out of his path and the sound of his coat sleeves sliding along a wall. I assumed it was a wall. As much as my friend had nocturnal habits, I did not imagine he could see in here any better than I could. It stood to reason he would use the wall to guide him.

"Sir Roberts has left us," I noted for want of more helpful news, "He took the lamp and closed the door."

"Well spotted, Doctor. Did you see that happen or make that leap of logic on your own? The real question is, did he lock the door as well, or just assume us dead from the tumble?"

My friend's tongue was as sharp as ever, but years of living with him had given me a fairly thick hide to the vitriol he is prone to passing off as sarcasm. I would give him a pass anyway, knowing he likely had a terrible headache at the least, likely bruised ribs from Sir Roberts shoulder as well. I also knew he expected no answer to this last even as I heard him jangle the old doorknob.

"Locked. While I have not my picks I do still have this spoon-bait on me. It should do."

"I thought you said we had left without that accursed bait?"

I could fairly feel Holmes's baleful look even as I repressed a shudder of pain from my leg. "Yes, and you also believed me when I offered to take that noisy little spaniel for an innocuous walk of my own accord. You always have the spoon-bait amongst your tackle, the only way it could be missing is if someone relieved it from your possession. Namely me. Now come over here and help me hold this blasted old knob and tumbler system still, would you?"

I sucked in a ragged breath and held it for a long moment before breathing out, "Holmes..."

"I know full well you're not afraid of the dark. And certainly we can't desecrate these old bones anymore than they have been. Just use a wall as a guide and kick the detritus out of the way, old man."

With a guilty heart, I struggled back upright and gave a few weak pushes against the coffin still pinning me, as though something had changed in the few minutes of banter with my flatmate, the detective. "Holmes, I cannot."

The detective heaved a mighty sigh even as he very deliberately rattled the door as he went back to working on the lock on his own. "You've picked a terrible moment to go superstitious on me, Doctor."

"Its not that, I..."

"The ghosts have long removed themselves from this tomb and the dried up old bones they once inhabited."

"Holmes, really..."

"Or maybe you think being buried here with them would be some sort of fitting memorial for disturbing them so."

With a growl I slammed my fist into the lead coffin which trapped me, sending a shiver through the beast and right back down into my leg. "I AM PINNED!"

This sufficiently captured his attention. "You're what?"

"My right leg is caught beneath one of these accursed lead coffins. I cannot move it. Or possibly them, I can't reach far enough to tell you properly."

There was an abrupt scrambling and the sounds of a man on his hands and knees sweeping bones and stone out of his way as he made his was unerringly toward me. "How high up are you pinned?"

"It has me just above the knee."

"And your left leg?"

"At an awkward angle for the moment, but otherwise unscathed."

At this point my friend had reached me, and in the darkness his own skeletal fingers danced from where they collided with my shoulder down to where sarcophagus met thigh. From there I felt him work up the coffin to take the measure of the problem. "Are you bleeding?"

"Not openly, I don't believe. But I cannot vouch for subcutaneous damage."

"That's not terribly helpful, Doctor," I could hear the scowl in my friend's tone, due to the situation or my own responses, would be hard to disentangle.

All though it really wasn't funny and wasn't meant that way, I huffed another laugh at this. He choose that moment to slide his fingers beneath the coffin on either side of my leg and with the power that wiry frame hides so well gave a mighty heave. I could do nothing for the agonized moan that tore past my lips or the way I slid bonelessly back to the floor, breath heaving from my lungs.

Holmes continued on, and from the screeching of metal on metal it sounded as though he were forced to move several coffins at once in order to achieve this escape. There was a long moment where, even above my agonized breathing, I could hear him straining beneath the weight of what he was lifting while the pile itself no longer seemed to be moving.

"Watson, old chap," he hissed between his teeth, "Can you pull yourself free from there?"

I thought, with a morbid sort of humor, that if my arms did not feel like jelly perhaps I could. Here I was, surrounded by old bones, and I could not but find those living ones still inhabiting my body. Everything, all sensation and all the world revolved around my right leg just then. And to work the strength to move any of my other three limbs took a Herculean effort on my part. However, it had to be done though. Holmes was himself pulling off a task Hercules would be impressed by and I if did not wish to meet Charon and Hades in the coming hours, I would have to do as he asked.

Pressing my left heel to the floor and bracing with both hands, I heaved my entire body backwards. At which point I'm very afraid that I fainted, as I do not recall what Holmes would later describe as a resounding crash of his losing his grip on the coffins and letting them fall. Nor do I recall his borrowing a selection of funeral shrouds and two femurs to bind and attempt to stabilize my leg. This, I think, was for the best, as the sheer agony of having the town doctor reset those bones later was excruciating and my resulting curses were not fit to be placed in print.

As it was, I awoke with a low groan. Having the coffin gone from me did not mean that I was free of the agony. I do not know how long he was at my side, or if he deposited himself there at my waking, but I found Holmes with one hand pressed to my sternum to discourage sitting up and the other gently squeezing my right shoulder. "Lie still for a moment, old man. You've had a rough go of it. You have been unconscious for approximately ten minutes. I believe I have stabilized your leg and I have also picked the lock. Remind me to buy you a new spoon-bait, by-the-by. For now, are you quite ready for a change of venue?"

"More than ready."

"Then come, let me support you, let us wend these stairs and back out to the yard."

Neither of these prospects were terribly appealing at the moment. Either getting up or trying to make it up those stairs. And there was another problem. "And should Sir Robert return?"

"He will not have the best of me twice, Watson. This I can and will promise you. Now then, dallying is not getting you proper medical attention. Up you come."

At which pronouncement the comforting hand on my shoulder shifted to a grip of steel on my forearm as Holmes hauled me unceremoniously to my feet. Rather, foot, as the right one was likely mangled horribly and I felt some trepidation at seeing it in a few hours when the light of day was upon us. I listed to the right nearly as soon as I was up and my friend just as quickly adjusted his stance to slide my right arm over his left shoulder and curl his left arm about my waist.

"That's it, old boy. Take your time and make a crutch of me. I am at your disposal."

Every step was a hop for me, and each a burning agony as I unwilling jarred the right leg with each landing. Holmes was patient and supportive. Motivating in his fashion, not with words, but with actions. I did not, and still do not, hold it against the man that he drove me all the way up those stairs with out a break. Like a horse on it last legs, should he have allowed me to stop I may very well have not been able to continue moving again. We staggered like a three legged monster out of the gaping church porch and onto the lawn, Holmes breathing nearly as hard as I, before he leaned us both back against the church for a break. Sitting would have been nice, if truly a bad idea in the long run. Just standing still was a sweet blessing to me just then.

Feeling a throbbing and pounding of crushed bone and muscle tissue combined with what was already becoming impressive swelling, I had a very real fear that I knew needed to be given voice. "Holmes," I panted, "Should my leg need to be amputated,"

I was resolutely interrupted then. "It shall not need amputation, old chap."

"None the less," I continued doggedly, "Should it be so, I will at the very least need to find new lodgings. Ground floor. I don't know what use there is in my field for a one legged doctor, but it can be sorted. I think you should consider finding another companion for your cases if it should come to that. Possibly for the lodgings as well, even though I know you can afford those now. I just know you forget to eat on occasion and having someone more than just Mrs. Hudson around to remind you would be beneficial, I think."

With a growl, Holmes pulled us both upright from the wall and began hobbling me across the lawn. "You will be getting medical attention this night. The physician is reputable by my questioning, his care for the lady Beatrice astounding as is his care for little boys broken legs from working stable horses. You will not need an amputation!"

Had I not been panting so hard from pain and exhaustion, I would have asked him if he were comforting me or himself. As it was, I was rendered quite speechless from our pace and Holmes carried on on his own. "Even so. Even so, should it occur, my friend, I would retire. Keep bees somewhere in the country. Purchase a home with a ground level bedroom or three and invite yourself and our estimable landlady to join me. You are my companion in adventures, Watson. I'll not have another."

This warmed and encouraged me considerably, for though I would be saddened to see this great man retire from the craft he himself had invented, to know he would do so for my benefit alone was overwhelming.

Not far from the estate boundaries we were met not by Sir Robert, but by Mr. Mason, who told us that the master of the house had locked himself in his room without a word and that Mr. Mason himself had been quite concerned when we had yet to return. "I knew the two of you could not have needed to be in the crypt nigh on two and a half hours. It was not until now that I could finish Sir Robert's orders and I came searching this way as soon as I could. I can't imagine what happened to the two of you! Lend me an arm, Doctor, let me support your weight as well. We can find you a room at the estate."

"No, Mr. Mason, we will be returning to The Green Dragon and the rooms we have rented there. It was your Sir Robert who is the cause of all this, I'll not have Watson staying in his house. If you would be so kind as to hook up a carriage, it would be appreciated. Also, send word for the local doctor to meet us at the inn."

So it was that I earned the respite of a carriage ride back to the inn, despite the jolt that every jarring bump sent through me, it was a vast improvement to walking. I was soon safely tucked into my bed at The Green Dragon with Doctor Helmholtz doing what he could for me. We agreed that the situation would be touch and go for a while, as with severe crush wounds infections often set in due to abrasions and my temperature was already rising with the morning sun. My memory was fuzzy for a few days after this, as despite the morphine Dr. Helmholtz was readily providing, waking in that time was typically a painful experience. The infection caused a fever high enough to keep me quite senseless but for the pain for three days. At which point, quite impressively, my fever broke and the infection began to fade on its own.

Our host, Mr. Barnes, was a most agreeable fellow, who after hearing the tale of what we really did and what brought us to Berkshire, was kind enough not to tell us 'I told you so' about crossing Sir Robert. Instead, he provided us with water, bed sheets, and other sickbed amenities we needed as well as very appealing meals.

When it became clear that I was no longer in any imminent danger of high fever, or dying of infection, or, by the very healthy look of the skin around my leg, amputation, Holmes arranged a meeting with the local constabulary at Shoscombe Old Place with Sir Robert Norberton. The results of that were much as I have explained in the story in the Strand.

Holmes returned of the evening, in a foul temper, and dropped himself into the chair at my bedside, which he had sat for many hours in the days preceding , and puffed for several minutes on his pipe as though he were playing the role of a steam engine. "Tell me of the outcome, Holmes," I encouraged after the silence had stretched too long for my liking. I was quite bored by my
bedridden state and was interested to hear the details of what this adventure had wrought.

"I think I should take up fishing. It would frustrate me less."

"You would get bored. What of this conclusion?"

"Lady Beatrice died of natural causes, namely the dropsy from which she had suffered for so many years. Sir Robert had not the funds to cover this two weeks before his big race on which rides all of his future income. He sought to hide her body. They removed the body in the coffin and burned the bones in the furnace. The maid went out in the carriage rides with her husband, an actor, dressed as lady Beatrice. The dog grew to be a problem while they held her body in the pump house, which is what prompted them to move the Lady Beatrice's body."

Holmes stopped here, puffing on his pipe. I prodded him to continue. "Sir Robert will be charged then? Hiding a corpse and attacking us?"

At this my friend mercilessly bit his pipe stem. "He will not be charged. The constable has chosen to go light on him and the creditors have sworn to hold at bay until the race is done. As for us. The constable has said he will not bring charges of trespassing against us if we will not bring charges of bodily harm against Sir Robert."

"You are joking," I gasped.

"I am not. When ever it is your write of this adventure in your own time, Watson, do change the outcome."

I had to agree, as this was most unsatisfactory. I leaned back against the pillows I was propped up with and smiled crookedly at my friend. "I thought you wanted me to show your failures."

"My failures I do not mind. The utter failure of the law should be held back, I think, lest it sink all hope in all mankind as to what our civilized culture actually does for us."

"Perhaps I will change a few facets at the end for the reading public. In the mean time, I shall be needing a stronger walking stick when we return to London, and you did promise me a new spoon-bait for the one you destroyed."

"You would remember that, of all things."