December 9: "Ten Word Challenge: White, Toxic, Crisis, Hood, Fall, Cripple, Steadfast, Lurking, Beacon, Brawn, Dismiss" (from Lemon Zinger)

A/N: This was both easier and harder than I thought it would be.

It was late in the afternoon when the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes and his steadfast biographer, Dr. Watson, were visited in their rooms at Baker Street by the strangest twosome they had seen in a long while. The first man was short, and obviously crippled, while his companion was tall and brawny. The second man was lurking behind the first, and both their faces were almost completely covered by dark colored hoods. Most of their other clothing was white, save their boots, which were light brown.

As they entered the sitting room, the shorter man tripped and nearly fell, but the other man caught his arm and saved him from discovering just how solid the floor was in a very inconvenient, not to mention painful, way.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," said Watson, holding out his hand to shake theirs. They either could not see it through their hoods, or were simply too rude to take notice. Watson dropped his hand. "Please, sit down." They did so, and then the shorter man began to tell them their story.

"We are in the midst of a crisis as the world has never known," he said. His voice was hoarse and rather squeaky. Watson grabbed a pen and journal at random prepared to take notes.

"The facts, please," said Holmes impatiently.

"Very well," said the man, a little disgruntled by the interruption. "My friend and I-" he gestured at the other man "-manage a company dealing with extremely toxic chemicals. We recently discovered - just last week, in fact - that some of these chemicals are being smuggled out of the building, and possibly out of the country."

"Can you tell us about the nature of these chemicals?" asked Holmes.

"No. I am sorry, but this information is heavily guarded and we not allowed to speak of it."

"I see. And your names?"

"We cannot give you our names either. We are to remain anonymous."

Holmes gave a curt nod. "Go on."

"We have interrogated all of the workers, but all seem loyal enough, and all have been working for us over five years. We are at a loss as to what to do. If you will only help us, we will repay you handsomely!" The little man was practically begging now.

Holmes waved away the offer. "I do not desire your money. However, I will want to be repaid for any expenses I may incur while solving your case."

The man nodded earnestly. "Whatever you say, sir."

"Now, when did you first discover that your chemicals were being stolen?" asked Holmes.

"Five days ago, now... so Thursday."

"And what steps did you take?"

"We interrogated all of the men in our employment, and checked their police records," said the man.

"Is is possible that one or more of them are going by false names?"

The man thought for a moment. "Yes, I suppose they could be, and I would never know the difference. Now that you say that, there are several men in my employ that look remarkably like those famous smugglers that just got out of jail back in July of... is it six years ago now?"

"Johnston, Barker, and Mason?" asked Holmes, now looking more interested.

"Yes, precisely! It is just possible that they are in fact the same men!" He jumped to his feet and shook Holmes's hand. "Mr. Holmes, you are a beacon in the darkness of crime in this great city! I cannot possibly thank you enough!"

Holmes smiled slightly, but said nothing.

The tall man, who had remained silent through the entire affair now spoke. His voice was deep and gravelly and he had a slight Irish accent. "Thank you kindly, sir," he said, also rising to shake Holmes's hand. "We shall find out whether or not these men are indeed the famous smugglers, and inform you about any fresh developments."

Holmes nodded, and dismissed the men from the room.

A/N: The short guy doesn't seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. A few smugglers get out of jail, and then not long afterwards, you hire three men that look "remarkably like" them?

Random side note: I Googled "English last names" to help come up with the names of the smugglers. I found a list of names and their meanings, and out of curiosity, clicked on "Holmes". It apparently means an island, or someone who lived/lives on an island. I thought that was pretty cool (plus I have an obsession with names), and I didn't know if anyone else knew that, so I put it here :)

And "Watson" has to do with "leader of the army" or just "army".