Dedicated to the lovely Lady Kyree, of whom I collaborated with to bring this story to you. Thank you so much! It's been great working with you, and I hope to continue doing so.
. . .
"Now at this point you may be asking yourselves: how on earth did he deduce that? Simple really, laughingly so; I made my way back to the Yard and requested to see Reordan's machine. Near the part that was stolen was a bit of thread that could have only come from Handson's and Hamson's Fine Suits; they, after all, are the only ones to use a combination of cotton and wool in their threading. I stopped by yesterday and persuaded the desk minder to allow me a look at the addresses of their customers to whom they ship their hand-tailored suits. I found the most remote, located on the eastern coast north of Ipswich. So, then, I—"
"Quiet Watson," Holmes responded quietly, though his face remained lit up with excitement as he told the tale of his brilliance. "I called upon the Irregulars (a group of the most wonderful homeless children, Ms. Morstan) and they did their usual searching about until they found a rather peculiar map from—"
"Holmes!" Watson interrupted rather sternly, not looking quite as amused as his fiancé. The couple stood at the door of 221B Baker in their full winter dress, along with their packed suitcases. A cab was already waiting for them outside, but a certain detective clearly wasn't about to let them leave him so easily. "We understand that you're a showoff and enjoy making others look like idiots, but you do realize the train is leaving the station in less than an hour?"
Mary (whose arm was wrapped around the doctor's) gently put a hand to his chest, a small smile twitching at her lips. "Oh, come now John, you're much too mean to him! I think this is all rather fascinating, actually, Mr. Holmes."
"Why thank you, dear," Holmes replied with a surprised smile. He gestured to the lady, grinning at Watson. "You know, it's quite nice to know that someone around here appreciates my talents." He then kissed her hand, a grin still plastered on his face.
Mary blushed with a light laugh and delighted smile. Watson, however, sighed in exasperation and fixed his friend one of those 'you aren't coming with us, old boy' looks. Holmes ignored this entirely; after all, he surely had the doctor right where he wanted him. With Mary right there, how could he refuse? He couldn't, and that was the plan.
"Well you see, having formed this important lead and the location of this facility," he began, tilting his head slightly to the left and narrowing his eyes at a point past Watson's head, "I was hoping to go and take a look at it."
"Sounds very interesting," Mary said, glancing up at her husband to be, her interest honestly piqued.
Holmes watched his friend visibly suppress a groan as he no doubt realized the detective was not planning on giving up. Watson puffed up his cheeks with air and looked to the ceiling, letting out the breath when he returned his warning gaze to Holmes. Holmes retaliated with a pleading, wide-eyed stare. Their exchanged looks conveyed their silent conversation.
Holmes, no means NO.
But Watson, how dull and mundane a trip to visit her parents must be when I'm going off to uncover such a mystery-
Abruptly ending the brief silent exchange, the doctor gave him a forcedly cheery grin as he put on his top hat, clearly ready to make his escape out the front door. "I'm glad you'll have something to entertain yourself with. You must tell me how it goes once we return on Sunday."
Holmes' face fell slightly, hiding his hurt by quickly shifting his gaze to the patterned rug beneath them. He cleared his throat loudly and raised his brows. "Hmm… yes, I shall. Don't worry."
"Perhaps you could tell us all about it over dinner?" the soon-to-be Mrs. Watson added kindly, somewhat oblivious to the situation between the two men as she looked to the cab outside distractedly. "I'm sure John will add the adventure to his novels."
A thick silence passed before Holmes answered. "Oh, um… yes. That would be…" he looked up, shifting on the balls of his feet, "That would be quite nice. I look forward to it." Desperate now, he attempted to shoot another look in his best friend's direction.
Watson, thoroughly missing this, finally turned to the door. Holmes watched in utter defeat as he opened it with his leather gloved hand and welcomed in the freezing January wind. Mission has failed. The Doctor has been lost. "Mind that you don't forget your revolver this time, or the bullets," Watson added as an afterthought, glancing over his shoulder as he let Mary exit in front of him. He lowered his voice as he turned back to face his friend, "I don't want to hear about or see any terrible injuries when I get back."
"That was a one-time blunder, Mother Hen; don't fret. My suit case is already packed with three, all loaded." Lies.
"Goodbye, Mr. Holmes!" Mary called from outside, bringing her hand out of her muffler to wave her goodbye.
The detective gave her a wave of farewell in response, though once she turned to board the cab, his hand dropped immediately. He turned again to Watson, attempting to trap him with another pleading stare.
Watson rolled his eyes again. "That look doesn't work on me, you know." However, his expression softened slightly. "It's only two days, you realize."
Holmes sniffed, now rather put-out as he realized the doctor was not budging. "Yes, well, do enjoy your time away from me," he replied in a detached tone, not quite realizing he'd said that aloud until several seconds afterwards.
"Holmes," Watson sighed heavily, a trace of guilt in his expression. Holmes simply chose to cross his arms in the most nonchalant manner he could attempt. "Look at you; you're acting like a child."
"That's exactly the response of a five year old!"
"And how would you know that, hmm?" the detective asked, lifting his head.
"Because—No, I'm not going to argue with you about that." Watson glanced anxiously back at the cab parked in front of the flat. When he returned to speak once again, his face had softened, lips suddenly thinning in slight worry as he looked at his friend. "Just… just be careful, alright? I won't be here to back you up—"
"There were extra seats available. It can be arranged, you know—"
"It can't," Watson stressed, giving his friend a hopeless look when Holmes looked like a wounded dog. "I'm simply asking that you mind yourself. Please, be careful. He's Moriarty for goodness' sake! You'll get the information you need from that place and then you'll leave."
"There's a gun in your suitcase if you need it," Holmes responded quietly.
Watson gave a brief nod, picking up his suitcase in one hand. He locked eyes with his best friend for a moment as he took a step out the door. "I'll see you in less than two days."
Holmes returned his nod, stiffly. "Mm. Right."
After pausing while closing the door to half-heartedly attempt a last smile at Holmes, the doctor fully turned to make his leave. And with that, John Watson was gone.
. . .
It's the Doctor's own loss, truly, Holmes grumbled to himself, walking briskly through the half-foot of snow as he consulted his map. The light flakes brushed up around his ankles, dampening about two inches off the hem of his trousers. He it paid no mind, though, far too distracted by his disgruntled train of rambling thoughts, It won't be long before I lose the man completely to the prison-like confinements of dreadful married life…pah! The poor fellow though; I did try to warn him- but then, truly, it is his own fault for deciding not to listen… He sniffed, adjusting the scarf around his neck as he walked. It's still quite a shame… love, as far as I've witnessed, apparently does strange things to people. Ah, no matter.
He suddenly came to a halt with a flurry of white dust around his ankles, flicking the map down. Stuffing it into his coat pocket, he keenly eyed the residence before him in search of any blokes guarding the area. Reaching the place had only taken several hours after his regrettable failed attempt at winning over his Boswell, leaving him to now stand alone (much thanks to Watson) in front of his desired location.
Sitting on top of the white blanketed hill was a large stone estate, its black shingled roof covered lightly in snow as well. From where Holmes stood, the place looked to be uninhabited and near deserted, though he knew this to be quite false. All of the windows were either black with darkness, or covered by curtains to prevent anyone from looking inside. Dying ivy had steadily progressed to cover almost one entire wall of the large building, and the gardens looked as if they hadn't been tended to in years. This was probably because the operator of the structure had his hands full with more pressing matters; such as wreaking havoc on the world. One would think this desire would be very time consuming, to say the least.
Quite a lot of space to hide whatever he's working on, Holmes observed, peaking a brow in interest. He looked over his shoulder at the small village behind him with a small frown. Despite his dismal attitude towards Watson at the moment, he couldn't help but to feel a pang of loneliness without the good doctor trailing behind him. At least when he was accompanied, Holmes would have someone to bounce ideas off of… or to impress.
Earlier that day, the fact hadn't been quite as heavy upon his thoughts; the very moment Watson had stepped onto the carriage that would lead him away to what was quite obviously a horrifically boring trip, Holmes had sprinted up the staircase, apologizing distractedly after nearly running poor Mrs. Hudson over. He'd quickly thrown on a disguise, his disappointment with Watson's refusal to come along temporarily erased by a burst of vigor and excitement over his case.
After sticking a long, dark beard on his face and throwing on additional layers of mismatched clothing, along with stealing one of Watson's hats as a small payback, he'd stampeded back down the staircase, apologizing in the same distracted manner as he nearly ran into his "nanny" by the doorway (who, other than asking in bafflement why he couldn't just walk anywhere like a normal human being, seemed rather unfazed by his lunatic behavior). Ignoring the landlady as she warned him "If you're headed off someplace far keep in mind you haven't eaten a thing since yesterday, Mr. Holmes!" he'd rushed out the door. He'd had a train to catch, after all! So perhaps he hadn't had the time to give the doctor too much thought.
What he'd been attempting to tell Watson was that he'd found a lead on the whereabouts of the one and only Professor James Moriarty—a simple one, but a lead nonetheless. Certainly Holmes already knew of the university the professor taught at, but he more specifically wanted the location of one of the man's more private quarters. There, he was sure to find plenty of valuable information on the criminal lord, and likely would have less prying eyes to watch him as he uncovered it. And really, who in their right mind would hide their plans where dozens of school boys had a chance of discovering them?
It was the thick of the evening now; freezing, harsh and bitter, just as every February was. Holmes pulled his coat closer and tightened his scarf as he watched a small white flurry twirl in the air towards the ground, I had rather hoped it would wait to snow until I was done… Why must the bloody stuff be so cold?
After picking the surprisingly none too troublesome lock, he kicked open the gates surrounding the residence with ease. As he began to slush through the thickening ice, Holmes instantly caught sight of a variety of trails of footsteps in the snow. He paused thoughtfully and followed the trails with his gaze; the tracks lead around the house. Stiffening slightly, he adjusted his hat and narrowed his eyes, quickly scanning the sides of the building.
Well, what do you know? His sharp eye had spotted the quickest and smallest of movements near a corner of the house. There were not only people here… but there were people watching him. Several people actually. Now this certainly was a change in outcomes—one of which would make the entire process much more difficult.
Of course he hadn't thought the place would be free of security, oh no— he knew very well how to sneak into buildings and make his leave, unseen and unheard. But what he had not been expecting was men who were already expecting him. The detective furrowed his brows, the thought that Moriarty had set up this little situation whizzing through his brain as he headed right back out the gate. Had the Professor actually given him the lead?
While Watson probably would've sighed with frustration at the obstacle, Holmes didn't mind so much at all. In fact, he was itching for this sort of challenge; something to give his mind work. He'd been practically craving a problem to solve. It had been an entire month of so since he'd had an actually interesting case, after all- far too long.
Holmes could see little in the darkness but he was certain he'd been seen by whoever was here, though maybe in his guise they would believe he was merely a beggar searching for shelter. Hoping they weren't the brightest of creatures, that was, along with the proper bit of acting on Holmes' part. With Moriarty it was hard to tell; when you had an entire criminal underworld at your command, the men you could hire had varying degrees of intelligence.
Nonetheless, he'd need to leave for now and plan this out a bit more than he'd thought—getting caught without anyone aware of his disappearance would be a messy predicament he preferred not to get into. Messy, dangerous, and all together something he didn't wish to experience. And, even though this was clearly a set-up, he still wanted to search the surrounding village while he was here—after waiting in the shadows for whatever cronies were here to leave, anyway.
But… how could Moriarty have possibly planned on Holmes locating this place? Did he already know the way the detective worked that incredibly well, this early in the game? If so, Holmes had greatly underestimated his opponent—a mistake he could not afford to make in any game. His slight annoyance was nearly pushed aside by his awe and respect.
Perhaps it would be best to contact Watson, just in case something goes… amiss, he determined, turning back to where his footprints had come from. He slipped out of the property as discreetly as possible and made his way down the snow dusted cobblestone, almost immediately spotting a telegraph office. He glanced through one of its windows quickly; the moonlight illuminated an empty room. Perfect.
He slipped in easily enough through a window and quickly started his telegram to Watson, meaning to inform him that he'd arrived at the estate but that things were going to take a bit longer than expected, along with telling him his exact location. Not wishing to alarm his friend quite yet, though, he planned to include the fact that he hadn't met any trouble yet, and would conclude by wishing him a 'delightful time with Mary'.
Holmes wasn't nearly half finished with his message when his ear picked up the slightest creaking of floorboards near the entrance. He froze and began to reach for the revolver he'd loaded in his breast pocket—before he could even move to draw it, however, something thick and metallic collided with his skull.
Instantly, the small man was knocked down to the ground by the sheer force of the rod, his vision becoming dotted with flying black flecks. His hand flew up to clutch the spot where the unforgiving blow had landed, only to have it flare up in pain. The room dangerously spun itself all the way around before tilting backwards.
A gruff voice briefly cut through his whirling thoughts, somehow halting the room from revolving around him. "The Professor said you might'a been dressed up as som'one else when you tried to weasel 'yer way into his place. Think you're a clever li'l devil, don't ya'? This here is our Sherlock 'olmes, boys… get 'im."
Four normal-sized men entered his vision as they walked slowly into the small, square open floor of the telegram office. Holmes quickly noted that none of them seemed to be carrying weapons to attack with, though the furthest to the right had a knife concealed in his belt and the rest had revolvers in their pockets. The one taller chap who had hit him over the head obviously was armed with a lead pipe, indicating he was considerably strong and muscular. The detective immediately labeled him as the largest threat.
Definitely not good. Well I have faced similar odds before—what difference will one more man make?
Holmes, still clutching the now bleeding wound to his head, used the foot of his other palm and his heels to push himself back into the wooden wall. Once his back made contact with the rough surface, he tore off his face bear seeing as his cover was clearly blown (the bloody thing was itchy, anyhow). Then, as quickly as he could muster, he pushed himself to stand. He blinked away the fuzzy stars threatening to swarm his vision with a small grunt.
Right, well, time to start working out how to take down five blokes, he thought calmly as his mind began to start up, eyeing each man. Avoid the big one until the end; save the best for last, of course. The other four look to be less experienced, so I should be able to take them down as long as they don't begin shooting—well before I can, at least.
"Now gentlemen," Holmes started conversationally, raising his open hands in surrender. He took his time speaking, hoping to stall long enough for his temple to stop throbbing, "May I guess you've been sent by Moriarty?"
He curiously looked to each one of their faces, which were busy sending looks to their companions. "I'll take that as a yes."
The bloke on the left, closest to Holmes, rolled his eyes. Only seconds afterwards he threw a sharp punch to the detective's gut.
Holmes dodged the fast attack with equal speed, grabbing the man's wrist and yanking him forwards with a strong grip. As the man tumbled forwards in surprise at the sudden move, Holmes delivered a quick kick to his shin. The Professors man doubled over, and Holmes released the man's arm to whack him on the head, knocking him out cold.
"Now, is that a fine enough example for the lot of you?" Holmes asked casually, turning to the small collection just as the man fell limp on to the floor.
Apparently, it wasn't, for the three other gents stormed forwards, eagerness to take down the smaller man quite evident in their eyes. The man to his left- a lean fellow with a hawk-like nose- grabbed and locked his arm despite the swift punch he received to the jaw, while the one closest to Holmes' right went for his other arm after being elbowed sharply in the stomach. The other one to the right, wearing a bowler hat, immediately unsheathed his pocket knife after both of his wings were clipped.
Holmes struggled valiantly as the tall man watched on with clear amusement on his features. Both of his other opponents locking him had a rather good grip on each of his limbs, their hands surprisingly strong. The detective, however, outnumbered as he was, wasn't about to let this happen to him so easily- he made sure to make his captors jobs' quite difficult.
'Bowler-hat-pocket-knife' came forwards, pointing the blade at Holmes' throat with a warning stare. "Now if you'll come quietly, Mr. 'olmes, that would be quite appreciated," he smiled, revealing many a missing tooth. The teeth that he did have were either cracked or crooked. "Just stay still for a bit like a good man, hmm?"
The detective cocked his head slightly, pretending to seriously contemplate this, before jumping back and sending a kick harshly to the fellow's ribcage. The man jerked his knife arm down quickly as he flew back with a grunt, and the knife slit across Holmes' thigh. Holmes stumbled back quickly, holding back a hiss, only to bump into the tallest man. He twisted to turn to the man gripping his left arm, using his heel to dig into his gut. The man let go with a pained gasp, but not before yanking and twisting Holmes' arm at a dangerous angle. Grimacing, Holmes quickly after used his free elbow to try to dig into the side of the man clutching his right arm.
This bloke seemed to see the attack coming, for he stepped out of the way accordingly. The detective temporarily lost his balance and felt gravity begin to pull at his body. However, he managed to push himself back upright by using the wall, just in time to dodge another blow to his shoulder.
He'd nearly forgotten about 'lean hawk-nose man' who'd held his left arm, until he was reminded of his presence when the man's bony fist collided with a spot between Holmes' shoulder blades with full force. The detective fell forwards and caught himself from falling flat on his face with his palms, stiffening in slight shock as the wind was knocked out of him. He tumbled over quickly to avoid any further blows from behind, but as he did he was met with a knee to the jaw. The blow shoved him backwards to be sprawled on his back on the ground.
A heavy, slush-covered boot crashed into his ribs with a sickening crack. Holmes bit his lip as to not cry out as it lifted to land a second time, twisting into him and further crushing his ribs, then again to drill into his stomach. Gasping in an attempt to draw in air, he replied with a forceful kick to the side of 'lean hawk-nose's' other knee, causing the man to howl in pain and curse loudly. Holmes finished him off by grabbing the boot still planted on him and yanking it with all of his strength, sending the man to fall backwards and hit his head on the edge of a table with a crack, rendering him unconscious.
Holmes pushed himself back to his feet quickly as he could manage, his features contorted with pain as he clutched his ribs. He spun around to face the man who had previously held down his right arm and blocked a punch meant to hit him square in the face. To return the favor, he backhanded the furious man's cheek before delivering a jab to his diaphragm. The gent obviously suffered greatly from the blow, but still continued to deliver another hit in the direction of Holmes' hip of which the smaller man dodged. Though he was injured, he was holding his own fairly well considering the odds, he thought to himself.
It was then he allowed himself an incredibly stupid thought to cross his mind; maybe one man doesn't make quite the difference. This one second wasted easily could've prevented him from not seeing the tall man with the small lead pipe approaching in the window.
Perhaps he could've stopped it from colliding with his head once again with a deafeningly loud sound. He didn't feel it when he fell to his knees and toppled over, and he didn't see the satisfied smirk that the tall man sent down at him- darkness was quick to fully overtake him and sweep him away.
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