Bats in the Belfry
Based on the creations of ACD and Hades Lord of the Dead's December Calendar Challenge of Awesomeness:
From SheWhoScrawls: Bats in the Belfry
Earth 2: 192X
It was our last case and it wasn't even in our country. My long friendship with Sherlock Holmes had survived his disappearance at Reichenbach Fall, it had survived his drug addiction and intervention, it had survived my marriages, it had survived his appendix operation, it had even survived the Great War that had claimed so many of our nation's youth. The one thing it didn't look like it was going to survive was the vacation of two old codgers to the United States.
Since his official retirement back in '03, my friend had been plagued with numerous requests to come out of retirement, and for the most part he resisted. He was now a consulting detective who consulted only from his armchair and was now a simple beekeeper in Sussex who studied chemistry when the whim struck him. Alas, the Great War changed all that, and he moved back to London in order to break the German codes and provide counter intelligence. Then in the following decade we made the mistake of using our own names while on holiday in America.
After the war ended I retired from medicine and at my friend Doyle's urging, took up the pen again to transcribe those few cases left that could be released to the general public. This had the expected result of making Sherlock Holmes a household name again. We anticipated that in England, but we did not expect his fame to be so great in America.
We had been contacted by a boy whose parents had been brutally murdered, right before his eyes while leaving the theatre. It had started out as a routine robbery in an alley, but when the hooligan assaulted the wife by ripping the necklace from her throat, the husband intervened, and before it was over the criminal's pistol had claimed two lives and left the child an orphan. The boy had inherited a vast fortune, and when he heard that Sherlock Holmes was visiting his fair city he dispatched his personal valet to find us and offer us a sum that even Holmes could not refuse.
The problem was, we were too old. Don't misunderstand me, Father Time had been kind to us. Either one of us could be mistaken for a man ten or twenty years our junior, but he had not forgotten us. The chase up the stairs of the abandoned bell tower was all it took remind me of my age and all of the wounds my decrepit body had taken both before and after I met my friend in 1881.
The bell tower was a stone bat-filled relic that would have been an excellent place to film a movie about the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was large, dark, and at the top was the bell and a walkway circling the wide pit where the bell rope extended. And the drop to the bottom floor was lethal.
Worse yet, our impetuous young client had learned enough of my friend's methods to find his parent's murder just before us and was now his hostage. The murderer, a petty criminal by the name of Joseph Chill, was silhouetted against the railing, holding his pistol at the ten-year-old's head, making threats and daring me to come all the way up the stairs and step into the moonlight.
I was lying on the stairs unable to do more than sneak a peek at our quarry. Exhausted from my exertions, my hand was shaking too much to even bother pointing my pistol at him. I could not hit the hull of a battleship at that moment, let alone a man-sized figure that was holding a little boy in front of him. I had lost Holmes on the stairs and was worried that the strain had been too much for him. Both of us were far too old to take the law into our own hands as we had in our youth. We had been foolish.
Suddenly, Holmes appeared out of the darkness near our quarry and his young hostage. Tall and gaunt, the passage of time combined with the shadows from the moonlight made my friend's features frighteningly hideous at that very moment. With an animal hiss, he spread his arms out wide opening his inverness cloak and released a flock of bats at Chill and the boy!
As the shrieking, flapping creatures swarmed around them, Chill screamed and released his hostage, clutching at his face and firing in the air to drive them off. Holmes seized the boy's hand and pulled him to the floor right as the gunman fell through the opening to the fatal drop below. Holmes and the boy crouched on the floor with the cloak over them until the bats had flown away. I crawled painfully up to the tower floor to rest on a level surface.
The boy looked over the side at the corpse of his parents' killer. "He's dead," he chirped.
"A fitting end for his kind," Holmes muttered.
The sound of footsteps brought our attention back to the stairs. It was Pennyworth, the boy's valet, a young man in his twenties who hailed from the same nation as Holmes and myself. "I say, Master Bruce, are you all right? Doctor Watson! Did you fall down and hurt yourself? Let me help you up!"
"I'm fine," I assured him. "Nothing a good rest or a comfortable chair can't fix. To be honest, I need a breather before we go back down those stairs again," I laughed bitterly.
"Mister Holmes!" the boy gasped. "How did you know your ploy would work? How did you know he was scared of bats?"
"My long experience with these sorts of men has convinced me that criminals of his type are basically a superstitious and cowardly lot," my friend explained. "They believe in rabbits' feet and see any symbol of the supernatural as some sort of omen. This old tower is full of bats and I just improvised with what was available."
"We can't thank you enough Mister Holmes," Pennyworth declared. "Master Bruce, now that your parents' murderer has received his comeuppance perhaps now you can put this awful tragedy behind you and begin the healing process."
"It's not enough Alfred," the boy sighed. "I still hate him and I want to make him pay. I want get all of the criminals in Gotham City for what he did to my parents."
"Egad!" I ejaculated in horror. "Do you tell me you want to devote your life to murdering criminals?"
"No," our young client shook his head. "Death's too good for them! It was over too quick! I want to scare the bejeezus out him, beat him up, and throw him in jail where he'll rot for the rest of his life for what he did to mom and dad! He can't get out of it that easy, it's not fair!"
"Take it from me Mister Wayne," Holmes told him. "You have your whole life before you. Devoting one's life to fighting crime can be a lonely business."
"Mister Holmes, teach me," the boy ordered.
"My apologies Mister Wayne, teach you what?"
"How to be a detective, how to fight," the boy clarified. "How to study the criminal mind and look for clues so that I can find murderers and put them behind bars. Teach me not to be weak and stupid like I was when I got myself captured. I don't care if it takes me ten years; I want to be the next Sherlock Holmes!"
"Mister Wayne, I'm not as young as I used to be and I'm not going to spend my final years teaching an angry boy how to catch criminals," my friend snorted.
"Alfred, my checkbook," the boy snapped his fingers.
"Very good Master Bruce," said the valet as he responded as quickly and efficiently as any batman did for his officer.
After Pennyworth handed his young master his checkbook and pen the boy wrote a check, tore it out and handed it to Holmes. "Not even for… this much Mister Holmes?"
My friend's eyes widened when he saw the amount on the check. "I'll need lodgings for myself and my friend too," he finally said. "I want my bees brought over from Sussex and I'll want a chemistry lab on the premises and if you want me coach you in unarmed combat you'll need a gymnasium. I should warn you Mister Wayne, that if for one moment I don't think you're serious the deal is off and Watson and I will be going back to England."
"I'm more serious than I ever was in my life," the boy declared.
"Goodness me," Pennyworth sighed. "When we get back I'll have to get some rooms ready."
And that was why Holmes and I moved to Gotham City. Alas, young Mister Wayne's Christmases are somber affairs but the boy seems to like Halloween like nobody's business.