The Adventure of the Bearded Man
A Sherlock Holmes Story
Disclaimer: Public Domain or no, I still make no claims on owning these boys. Just taking them out to play for a while. I'll return them in one piece – mostly.
Summary: An unlikely case of undergarment thievery leads Holmes and Watson to Cornwall. In this quiet little ocean side town an injured Watson is privy to his own personal haunting, or is that a hallucination?
Prompt: watsons_woes challenge 018: Halloween/supernatural/ghost/haunting etc.
Fair warning: no beta and not Brit-picked. All historical and locational inaccuracies, grammatical flubs, and spelling pitfalls are entirely my own.
A/N: Right. Its a good job this prompt didn't have a word limit or I might have been in trouble. Oh well. So... here's my attempt at a ghost story, such as it is. And something of a case fic I suppose. Though, not a well done one. I suddenly have A LOT of respect for all fan authors out there who have written case fics for Sherlock Holmes. Its hard!
It was early evening of a lovely midsummer's day of the year 1890. I had spent my day with a light patient load at my practice and found myself in high spirits as I enjoyed a pleasant dinner with my wife. It had been a fair few weeks in London which seemed to apply to both the weather and the populace. My patients were for the most part reduced to hypochondriacs and the occasional broken limb from over-exuberant youth enjoying the weather.
Of my friend Sherlock Holmes I had heard very little since the beginning of the summer. That the man was duly occupied with interests in his career I was certain. I had payed a few visits to Baker Street as I was able and had only found Holmes at home on one of these occasions. That his professional interests were fairly tame concerning action I could only assume as he had not called upon my person as a comrade and biographer in sometime.
Thus I took it as something of a delightful surprise when the maid brought in a telegram from aforementioned friend near the end of our dinner. Holmes was, as always, most succinct in his wishes.
Require your presence at Baker Street at 2:00 on the 'morrow.
Mary, bless her, must have been aware of whom the correspondence was from by my own interested reaction. She hid a smile and arched an eyebrow in my direction. "Mr. Holmes is it?"
"Indeed. He requests my presence tomorrow afternoon."
My wife's smile bloomed fully across her countenance. "Then surely you must go to him, my darling John."
The following afternoon found me closing my practice early and setting out for my old rooms at Baker Street. I arrived on the doorstep some fifteen minutes ahead of the designated meeting time and was ushered into the apartments by Mrs. Hudson. The dear woman positively gushed over the exchange of pleasantries with myself and I fear I did little better in hiding my pleasure in conversing again with her as well. All the same, I was quickly shooed toward the stairs and a waiting consulting detective with the promise of cool lemonade to be brought up for the occasion.
Climbing the stairs, I let myself in the sitting room and found Holmes in some deep contemplation. He sat deep in the chair we had, perhaps unconsciously, designated as his by the fire with long fingers steepled before him. It was some minutes before he blinked out of his reverie and belated returned my greeting.
"Ah, good old reliable Watson! It is a joy to see you old man. Of course I have called you over with something interesting in mind."
I smiled at this, arching an eyebrow at the detective. "I had hoped as much Holmes, for your asking me to bring a notebook."
"We may indeed be in luck today, Watson. I think we may be privy to a case of sufficient interest and a touch of the unreal to be worthy of your romanticized writings."
I neatly ignored the usual insult on my scribblings in favor of interest for this case which had brought such a spark of life to my friend's sharp gray eyes. 'What case is this?"
Holmes offered a fleeting smile to me at this. He did enjoy holding all the facts and presenting them at his leisure if only to expound upon the drama. "Have you read anything of this so-called 'Garment Grabber?'"
"Very little. I find the entire doings distasteful. To go about snatching woman's underclothing is nothing but the act of a pervert."
Holmes tilted his head slightly to the side as though contemplating this. "Very possibly that is all it is. And possibly not. In any case, it seems he is in the process of expanding his hunting territory, as it were. Ah, but that is the bell heralding our client, Watson! He shall explain the matter further."
The card that was brought up bore the unfortunate name of Sydney Scaffold and the card's owner was not inspiring himself. He was a young man of no more than twenty and five with smallish eyes, fleshy cheeks, and an upturned nose. The entire impression was that a large and bipedal piglet had walked into the sitting room with us. Mr. Scaffold, upon my offering him my seat by the fireplace, eyed the chair and politely declined in favor of the settee. Given the gentleman's girth, it was an understandable decision.
"I trust you had an uninteresting trip over here from Camberwell this afternoon, Mr. Scaffold? It is unfortunate that you had to walk some distance before finding an available cab however."
"Oh yes," our portly client bemoaned, "it was quite tiresome, I feel the strain already in my calves. But my word, Mr. Holmes, how could you have known?"
Holmes gestured vaguely at Mr. Scaffold's trouser cuffs from his chair. "The mud on your trousers and the distinctly fresh scuffing on your shoe tell a tale of their own, sir. Let us be down to business. Your mother has been robbed, has she not?"
Mr. Sidney Scaffold snorted in surprise, leaning forward on the settee with amazed eyes set on my friend. "Oh Mr. Holmes, you are like a magician ,you are! I know I wrote nothing of the sort and yet you have hit the point of my problem."
Our client shifted himself on his seat and took a nervous breath. "It is something of a delicate matter, you understand? The thief slipped into our house two days ago while I took Mother to the opera. He stole into her room and took some personal possessions. It is a very good thing Mother wore her best jewelry that evening, for the thief did take everything else. But that is not what upsets Mother most and not why I have come seeking your services.
"You see, he, ah. Well. This thief has stolen my mother's unmentionables!"
I find even now as I look back on my notes from that day that I cannot help but smile at the young man's outrage. I also see the untidy scribble at the end of one word that took up two lines before I contained my shock and amusement long enough to continue taking notes. I could not help but say, "I understand how that could be most disturbing, but can she not buy new?"
"She cannot," Mr. Scaffold fairly wailed, "for the French tailor who designed those undergarments for mother is not only no longer in business, but no longer alive! Mother refuses to wear undergarments of any other tailor and certainly none of London. I shudder to think what will become of the undergarments she currently wears if they never have chance to be changed out and washed after this event!
"You understand then, Mr. Holmes, why I find myself in desperate need of your services for what would otherwise be so trivial a thing. Will you take my case?"
"Well Mr. Scaffold. It would seem that you have come to the receiving end of the attentions of a serial garment snatcher. As such, this case may yet prove interesting. I will take it. Pray tell me of your mother's undergarments in detail."
At this request I'm not all together sure who blushed harder, myself or our pig-nosed client. Holmes had the grace to glare disdainfully at both of us. "To find these garments I must know of what they are made and what they look like."
Mr. Scaffold stuttered and obliged Holmes of his request and filled in numerous details of the state of the home both before and after the robbery. Holmes promised the young man he would come out to their house the following day and follow up on a number of clues himself. I ushered our client out at the conclusion and closing the door I turned a questioning eye on my friend. "You do not wish me to join you in visiting Mrs. Scaffold's house?"
"It will be dull, Watson. I shall fill you in on relevant details for your notes when I am finished. I shall need to do more research. Not to fear, however, for I will need my Boswell for the conclusion of this case, I'm sure. For now, it looks as though the estimable Mrs. Hudson is bringing us lemonade and your favorite choice of afternoon snack. Let us not insult her by talking through it."
To Be Continued