The Adventure Of
Shoscambe Old Place
L. W. BROOK
Copyright © 2016 AMSER STUDIOS
All rights reserved.
Original Sherlock Holmes Stories By:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This work is a part of AMSER STUDIOS and falls within the “Experimental Collection”.
The Adventure Of Shoscambe Old Place
A sleek, black, government official hovercraft pulls over to the side of the road. It slows to a stop and hovers just above street level. There’s a quiet humm emitting from this new technology, but otherwise it blends right in with the night. The building it sits before is a closed tavern.
The drinking hole has been shut down as a crime scene. The lights are off and doors sealed by police official circuit boards placed over the lock screens.
“The Hudson Tavern” Is what the street post illuminated sign names this place.
The streets are dark aside from a handful of assorted columns with solar powered lanterns at their heads. They illuminate large circles at their bases and leave the rest to shadows.
It’s After World London, but these streets are bare aside from the single hovercraft now parked outside the complex of Baker Street.
In the distance there are horns, frustrated beeping.
This isn’t the only road that’s been sectioned off.
The hovercraft’s back door pops open. Mycroft Holmes steps out, a sneer of distaste pulling at his upper lip. He drags out a black walking stick from the vehicle and taps it against the ground. When the door closes itself back up, Mycroft adjusts his red silk tie and finest custom jacket.
His hand hovers over one of the buttons resting at his belly and he exhales. It’s a dull, strenuous activity, coming to his sister, is.
But it has to be done.
“Could you not point that thing at me?” Dr. Watson asks. His tone is of frustration, for Hope’s playing with another strange apparatus she’s pulled out of thin air. He doesn’t know where they’re coming from, but he does know they’re dangerous.
Her latest toy of interest appears to be an old fashioned dart blower. End pressed to her lips, she stares at Dr. Watson.
She’s draped across a couch at the back corner of the room where a curtain usually hides her from the rest of the flat. Beside her, within the neatly organized bookshelves, are historical artifacts that have been carefully reproduced to showcase the After World’s ever-growing knowledge of Old World history.
From the dining room table, Dr. Watson stares back at Hope from over a clear glass tablet. There’s little more than a handful of lines on the screen.
Dr. John Hamish Watson, A Blog
PERSONAL LOG: 10-12-2414
I don’t know how to start this. Lalala I’m going to die young.
Hope is an ass.
Clear blue eyes hold bold, bluish gray from across the room.
With a drop of her chest, Hope sends the dart flying through the air and into the wall at Dr. Watson’s left. They don’t break eye contact.
“Are you finished?” He asks with a lift of his brow and idle twist of his right hand.
In a dramatic, fluid motion, Hope drops the dart blower and lolls her head limply against the cushions. “I’m bored.”
“Yeah?” Dr. Watson huffs. “Well if I don’t write a sufficient ‘blog’ I might die, so-” He shrugs. “We all have our problems.”
Dr. Watson highlights what he’s written so far and, with another sigh, deletes it. Again, he’s faced with a blank page.
Hope’s head snaps upright, and Dr. Watson stills.
“Moriarty?” He asks, his voice low, tense.
Eyes glued to the door beside Dr. Watson, Hope whispers, “Worse.”
What must have been a second bang sounds and for a second, Dr. Watson considers making a dart for his bedroom, for his gun. He licks his lips and glaces at his open doorway, but the assailant has already climbed the stairs. So instead he looks the other way, toward the dart in the wall.
He jumps to pull it from the wall and wield it in defense. His heart is throbbing within his chest, beating so loud he fears their infiltrator may very well hear it.
Two taps sound on the door and, swiftly, Hope glides over to unlock it.
In the doorway, staring down at Hope’s eye level, stands a man in a posh suit, pocket square, and tie. A hat tips upon his head and fashion savvy cane holds firm within his right fist, the opposite side of which he favors.
Cold, ice blue holds dark, unlit eyes.
“Leave.” Is the single word Hope offers this man.
Dr. Watson’s body slacks with both relief and, dare he confess, disappointment. “Who are you?” He asks with a sluggish point of his dart holding hand.
Mycroft’s face twists with disapproval. “How dim must one be to not deduce our relation at first glance?” His voice is shallow. It holds a sense of void, open ended airiness to it.
“Leave.” She repeats in the exact same tone as before.
Dr. Watson humphs at the insult, then tosses the dart onto the table and crosses his arms. “How should I have known Hope has a brother?” He snuffs. “It’s not like she’s ever mentioned you.”
Mycroft tugs on a wry smile. “Give the boy a gold star.”
Dr. Watson opens his mouth to defend himself, but Hope beats him to the punch.
“I’m not going.”
Dr. Watson purses his lips upon the realization of family tension and takes a seat at the table. Idly, he scrolls down the blank page of his blog.
“Where?” Mycroft challenges.
“Your apparel screams upper class banquet. The cane suggests inevitable movement. I presume you’re expecting a light walk. Much more than that and you’d fake your own death, but the fact that you are going means it’s important. You have an obligation to attend. So, the nearby venue change and co-worker attendants make a wedding the most favorable of prospects.” Hope deduces with a straight face.
Dr. Watson, on the other hand, holds a perplexed draw of his brows at the blank screen he’s pretending to be preoccupied with.
Mycroft smirks, then adjusts the antique resting upon his head. “Consider this a social visit.” His hand drops to his side. “As it happens, your residence is on the way to the venue.” Dark eyes peer into the flat and take a quick look around the neatly organized space. “I see you’ve gotten bored.”
“Blame Watson.” Hope suggests. “He’s still stuck on ‘Doctor Watson’s Blog’, so cases have been thin now that we’re banned from Scotland Yard.”
“It’s harder than it looks.” Dr. Watson mumbles with a shift in his dining chair. He’s trying to scroll back up to the top of the document, but it’s become a time consuming activity.
Dr. Watson looks up at the sound of Hope’s brother’s voice being directed toward him. They meet eyes, and for a moment Dr. Watson is almost inclined to believe the man has no soul. Then he remembers seeing a similar look in Hope’s own gaze upon their first meeting and thinks better of it.
Not all is how it first appears to be.
“Doctor John Hamish Watson wrote his ‘blog’ in first person point of view. Perhaps it would spark inspiration to actually read some of the classics.” Mycroft scrutinizes.
Hope, too, looks over her shoulder at the doctor as he growls back down at the screen. “I’m writing mine in third person… It’s easier.”
The brother snorts through another smile of disapproval and suggests, “Why not write it in second? That’ll ensure no one reads it.”
Ignoring Dr. Watson’s death glare, Mycroft brushes passed Hope and takes an analyzing spin until he’s faced with the light eyes of his sister. She stares up at him from under perfectly kempt brows.
“Why else are you here, Mycroft?” Hope asks coolly.
Her flatmate smirks down at his blank screen.
Mycroft quirks a brow.
“You tell me.”
For a moment, no one talks, leaving the open space unusually tight with discomfort until Dr. Watson clears his throat and points at his screen.
Both members of the Holmes family look to the middle aged man as he fiddles with his tablet’s screen.
“I’ll, uhh…” Again, his throat clears and he pulls a tight shrug. “I’ll call the first log, ‘A Study In Scarlet’. Keep it simple.” He shrugs again.
Mycroft sucks in a deep intake of air and rolls his eyes through a slow motion that lands on his pocket sized University assignment. “How original.” Is what sounds through his exhale.
Promptly, Dr. Watson grabs the dart off the table and makes a stabbing motion at the air between himself and the pristine bastard’s back.
He manages to repeat the motion a total of three times before Mycroft turns to see what Hope is staring at. What he finds is Dr. Watson brushing at his nose.
“Hope, dearest,” Mycroft begins, his voice as deep and forced as always, “leave this imbecile behind, won’t you? I’m sure you could trade him in for something more…” He stops to roll his hand through the air. “Profitable? Intelligent? Less likely to be your cause of death?”
Hope smirks. “And if that doesn’t work?”
She ignores Dr. Watson’s annoyed glance to instead hold eyes with her brother.
He snorts an impressed little noise and reaches into his inside pocket. He pulls out an unmarked envelope that Hope snatches and immediately tears in two before tossing on the table at her brother’s back.
Mycroft smiles and nods to the ground.
“As I expected. Too stubborn to run.”
Dr. Watson lifts a brow at the torn pieces of envelope and untraceable, government-only air tickets his roommate has so carelessly disposed of.
Mycroft straightens his spine to stare down his rather pointed nose at his adopted sibling and tips his hat to hide part of his face. “Enjoy the drought.” He steps passed his sister and her line of sight drops to the floor. At her back, he turns just outside the doorway to point at the old doctor at the table. “That’s, of course, a metaphor, Doctor.” He explains, his tone nothing short of patronizing. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the filters have stopped wor-”
“Yes, yes. One case at a time, you-” Dr. Watson’s face twists at his now titled log post. “Arrogant sod.” He finishes under his breath.
With a wry huff of laughter and another glance at Hope’s back, Mycroft trots down the steps of 221B and out the broken pad locked entrance.
After hearing the front door close off the apartment from the outside world, Dr. Watson shakes his head through an exaggerated exhale and tuts, “Strange man.” He huffs a laugh and pulls an amused smile at Hope. “He makes you look personable.”
Hope manually closes the door and stills at the locking click.
“Hmmph.” Dr. Watson puffs against a closed, downward drawn mouth. He’s staring at the screen of his tablet, which has lit up with an elegant gold, white, and navy blue colored invite that could be described as nothing short of professional.
Without turning, Hope asks, “Moriarty?”
Dr. Watson clears his throat. “No, umm…” His brows twist at the names displayed across his screen. “Do you know a Sir Robert or Lady Beatrice?”
The ex-forensic analyst turns, a dark look in her eye. “Funeral?”
“Wedding, actually.” The doctor corrects. “Shoscambe Old Place? Looks like- outdoor wedding with a ballroom reception? Very high end.”
“Moriarty.” Hope mutters with a stalk up to her personal library. She pulls out an old book and for the briefest of moments basks in the aroma of aged pages.
“No.” Dr. Watson again corrects. “A bloke named Mycroft sent the invite.” His brows furrow. “That’s your brother, isn’t it?”
Hope stalks up to the table whilst flipping through the pages of an old book. “He does love to be dramatic…” She mumbles with a heavy slam of the book down before the doctor.
The chapter it’s been set to reads:
The Adventure Of Shoscambe Old Place
“Read up. If there’s even the slightest chance we can stop whatever is about to happen, we’ll both need to study the inspiration of the criminal at large.”
Dr. Watson sets his tablet aside to instead pull the old book closer to himself. He lifts a delicate page and intakes the scent that can only emit from an old book.
A smile pulls at the corners of the man’s lips.
“I haven’t read one of these since I was a boy.” He confesses.
Hope picks up the man’s tablet and begins to fuss with what appear to be “restricted” settings.
Uncomfortably, Dr. Watson looks away from the crime at hand to instead skim the first page of the classic.
“It’s old text…” He mutters. “Hmmph.” His body jolts on a smile. “I feel like I’ve traveled back in time…”
He flips a worn page just as Hope sets his personal device back down on the table.
Dr. Watson breaks away from the old book long enough to mutter, “Problem?”
Hope lifts her right hand to draw steadily across her bottom lip. Her eyes tell him she’s far gone.
Caught up in a case he hasn’t even read up on, yet.
He bites his own lip and continues reading. His lips murmur the words, but they’re quiet and hard to hear.
“The invite says it came from Mycroft’s office… But I couldn’t access his confirmation page…” She says out loud.
Dr. Watson does a slow, wide eyed dart of a look up at the young woman. “Sorry, why does that matter?”
Hope’s hands drop to her sides. “Could be nothing.” She faces Dr. Watson. “Could be everything. Only way to be sure my brother sent that invite is to ask him.”
The doctor makes a shooing gesture up at Hope. “So- phone him, won't you?”
“No need.” With a tap of her finger against Dr. Watson’s tablet she confirms their attendance. “I have no doubt we’ll be seeing him, shortly.”
Dr. Watson’s eyes drift to the “Thank You” on screen, then to the book he’s holding. “Something tells me you brother isn’t the only one in your family who likes to be dramatic.”
Hope frowns at the accusation, then darts a look to the door mere seconds before there’s a knock.
Dr. Watson shoots his head up, then darts an owlish look to Hope. She holds his gaze without emotion.
“Holmes? Watson?” A tired old voice squeaks from behind the locked door.
“Mrs. Hudson.” Dr. Watson whispers in recognition. “She’s here to collect for damages!” He mouths with a point at the new windows he and Hope had promised to pay for.
In sign language, Hope responds, “I don’t have money.”
Almost angrily, Dr. Watson signs, “Well, neither do I!”
Another gentle set of knocks at the door has both liabilities shooting looks at the exit.
Mrs. Hudson’s quiet little greeting is met with still silence.
“I-I just wanted to thank you for the other day! That young detective of Scotland Yard said you called in the tip about loose floorboards? Where they found the weapons? I-… I hear one of them matched a bullet at a recent crime scene! My husband should be pinned with murder, if all goes well!”
Dr. Watson and Hope share a look.
“Smugglers.” She signs and Dr. Watson nods at the clarification.
“Oh, you must think me so cruel, but… I am in your debt!”
Without missing a beat, Dr. Watson signs, “As we are you.”
Keeping their mouths shut tight, the flat drowns in silence.
“…I’ll come back later…”
Footsteps tap against solid steps as Mrs. Hudson descends the stairs. What should be a quiet noise, however, rings out in the cozy flat.
When a door opens and the landlady takes her leave, the flat continues it’s silence in fear of her return.
Dr. Watson moves his pointer finger over the smooth surface of the ink printed page until he finishes the last line and it stills.
The story has ended.
Blue, cloud filtered light funnels in to illuminate the pages and below the doctor’s shoulder. He blinks, twice, then turns to catch a look at his right. Beside him Hope maps out the path the cab driver has taken them. So far, all seems to be in order despite the slow moving traffic.
“So…” Dr. Watson pauses to think over his words before he speaks them. “Sir Robert and Lady Beatrice are siblings?” He asks through a tight, confused expression. “Aren’t they the happy couple?”
“No blood relation.” Hope mutters against the window. “No relation at all, really.” She adds with a clear blue glance at the doctor. “In real life, this is a political engagement. Lady Beatrice represents France in the After World conferences. She has no power, but… her tying the knot with Sir Robert of the English house is as for show as her occupation.”
Dr. Watson closes the old book in his lap, then pulls uncomfortably at his crisp white collar. He bites his lip and tries another look to Hope. “Does this have to do with our current water situation?”
The old, vintage hotel screams upper class from the pull in, vine covered canopy driveway to the castle-like structure of the hotel, itself.
Windows stretch tall with clear pieces of glass welded together to create orderly geometric designs that replicate along red carpet covered halls and walls of light stone.
Chandeliers hang from the ceilings to illuminate the already naturally lit space.
Box gardens of lavender, lilac, lilies, bluebells, and sunflowers that range from bright yellow to dark burgundy hang from the exteriors of these intricately pieced together windows.
The same flowers, as well as many more, line the brick path gardens of this private piece of land. At it’s center there sits a small memorial one must first cross a miniature bridge and creek to reach.
People gather around the back gardens or lounge in the lobby in wait for the wedding to start.
The garden has been set up to be the perfect venue for class and politics. Men and women who clearly receive a lower paycheck than most guests at the hotel set up cameras beside the rows of white chairs that have been decorated with yellow fabric that wraps around their backs and ties to a small assortment of sunflowers and bluebells.
The chairs stop several feet from the small creek where the bridge has been decorated in a similar manner for the bride and groom to stand and be admired as they share their vows.
A fat old man pulls a potent cigar out of his mouth. He licks dry, chapped pink lips and gestures to the venue he’s been eyeing from beside the canopied memorial of those lost during the battle of Shoscambe.
“Seems a sad excuse for marriage, don’t you think?” The old man remarks to the much thinner and younger companion at his side.
The younger man pulls absently at the petals of a fresh sunflower he’s so clearly plucked from the gardens. He shrugs, then looks over at the venue with light green eyes that are near replicas of the older man’s. “Oh, I don’t know…” Tanned skin folds into a sun forced squint. “I’ve always thought marriage was a game overplayed.”
The old man grins and pops the cool end of his cigar back into his mouth for a breath. He coughs on his inhale and pulls the object of leisure out of his mouth for a breathy wheeze. He coughs into his large, pudgy hand. It sends microscopic droplets of spit out onto his bejeweled cuffs.
“Father.” The son twirls the stem of the mutilated flower between his thumb and forefinger. “I hear Sherlock Holmes has sent in an RSVP.”
The old man stops his wheezing long enough to pull the decorative handkerchief out of his chest pocket and wipe at his mouth. “Sherlock Holmes?” He folds the material and wipes at the left corner of his mouth. “Is that the little boy Mycroft and his family took in for that- that 'big brother' program, or whatever they call it?”
“Girl, actually.” The young man corrects with a flick of his flower at the ground. His custom crafted boot kicks out to smear the plant across the bricks. “It’s been some time since I’ve seen her.”
The old man huffs out a laugh and his son drops any previous trace of a smile. “Henry, is that the little girl who made a fool of you at my sister’s funeral?” He laughs in recollection.
Henry darts a venomous look at his father as the old man shakily guides his cigar back to his mouth. His nose twitches at the memory. “She was brilliant. I must confess I underestimated her ability.”
The white headed man’s gut shakes through the laughter. “‘I’ll give you whatever you want if you can tell me the cause of death by the ceremony’s end.’” He grasps his chest to try and contain himself, but it does little to ease his new found hysteria. “She didn’t even have to look at the corpse!” He wheezes.
“She died at home, in the comfort of her own bed, locked away from the public. Incurable disease. Contagious, no doubt. It was a long time coming.”
Henry and his father still at the sound of another voice. Behind them, within the shaded memorial, sits up Mycroft from one of the benches.
“I remember your aunt’s funeral well. It was on the same day as our uncle’s.” Mycroft stands and, cane in hand, straightens out his jacket and top hat. He looks over his shoulder at the two gentleman beside the steps. “You challenged my sister after she pointed out your tell tale signs of drug abuse. She was in school to become a forensic analyst, so you thought you could crush her aspirations by giving her an impossible puzzle.”
Mycroft smiles at the befuddled men and walks out to the memorial’s aisle. “Little did you know the numerous nurses in attendance as well as your own confidence let tell her house bound illness.” A thin, sleek cane taps against the wood panels beneath Mycroft’s feet as he takes a forward step. “Your endless wealth implies it was incurable while the-” Mycroft lifts an exaggerated brow as he awkwardly grabs for the railing. “lighter skin around the hands, noses, and mouths of these nurses could only mean her illness lasted for some time and required extra measures only taken by those fearing they may catch whatever ails their client.”
Mycroft steps down to the ground level and takes several steps from the two other men before turning to face them. “Nearly half of the attendants at your aunt’s funeral were medical professionals while your family so clearly works in politics… That alone could have told a child she died at home due to a considerably slowed illness that eventually broke down the public figure’s mind and body. Seeing as how you were satisfied by such an elementary answer, my sister had no reason to investigate the woman’s remains.” His brows twist with another thought. “Although, it was Stephan’s Disease, wasn’t it? Say two years of digression before the pills stopped working and the disease took full effect?”
Henry gives Mycroft a peculiar look over. “You looked it up?”
“No.” Mycroft smirks. “Given the timing and progression of research your family anonymously funded… It could only be.”
Henry and his father watch in awe as Mycroft turns his back and walks on. He’s tapping at the ground with each step, but it’s for show. Anyone can see there’s not a movement out of his control.
A cab pulls from traffic to instead reach the roundabout driveway of it’s destination.
Vines cling to the wooden canopy that boards up the ceiling above and instead illuminates the front entrance by yellow lights.
Much like the chandeliers and lanterns inside.
A slender young man jogs up to the cabby to get the door for, “Miss Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I presume?” he reads from the tablet he’s tucked closely against his chest.
He hovers beside an automatic door as he watches Hope climb out of the back seat, followed by Dr. Watson on the other side.
All three are dressed as though they were attending an Old World ball instead of a modern wedding.
“Hope.” The young woman corrects with a pull at her heavy white gloves. She wears practically the same exact outfit as her companion, who limps up beside her and props out an elbow.
“You ready?” Dr. Watson asks with a tuck of his old book under his other arm.
Lightly, Hope grabs at the fabric just above the doctor’s elbow and eyes the opened entrance of this castle-like hotel.
“Have to be.” She confirms with a forward step.
“Umm- excuse me, Miss Holmes-” The flustered young man calls while jogging up behind the two new guests. “My name is Marvin.” He moves up ahead and turns so that he can extend his hand out to the lady. She glances at the bare skin. It's rough, calloused, and lined with thin cuts. She looks away, out passed the beautiful stone fountain of angels at the lobby's crowded center, and to the open doors at it's back.
Marvin tries a forced smile and continues, “I'm, uhh- I'm the wedding planner? For the wedding?”
Hope guides Dr. Watson out the crowded exit to the back gardens and the older man practically drops his jaw. “Well done, old boy!” He cheers at the gorgeous venue that’s been half filled. “This place looks marvelous!”
“Yes, I know.” Marvin bites through a smile.
Hope and Dr. Watson stop their advancement at the foot of the aisle and Marvin steps up to finally stand before them. With a tight smile, he hands both attendants small, rectangular business cards that match the garden-esk theme of this wedding.
Dr. Watson purses his lips and flips the plastic. It reads:
Hope, on the other hand, sniffs twice at the bendable plastic before stuffing it in her pocket and walking off.
Dr. Watson tries a sniff at the material, too, before he gives it and the wedding planner a peculiar look.
Marvin mimics the look. “You’ll be seated in the second row… take any seat…” His eyes scan up and down the doctor, whom of which does the same. “This number is also for your table… place cards will tell you where to sit once we reach the East tower’s ballroom for the reception…”
“If there is a reception.” Dr. Watson says with a point of his place card before stuffing it into his book as though it were a bookmark.
Marvin watches the careless disregard of his time for the millionth time that afternoon. “Yes, well…” His strange hazel eyes hold tightly on Dr. Watson. “There better be.”
The wedding planner turns to walk away, but Dr. Watson catches him by the arm. “Marvin-”
Marvin sighs. “Yes, sir?”
Dr. Watson leans in as though about to share a secret. He licks his lips. It’s a nervous motion, same with the dart of eyes that follows.
Quietly, he whispers, “I’ll be needing the bride’s spaniel.”
“That boy is completely unreasonable.” Dr. Watson mutters. He’s seated beside Hope at the far end of the row furthest from the ceremony.
At the bridge stands a picture perfect bride with her groom to be. They hold hands as a priest talks about the powerful bond of love. Ladies in blue ballgowns stand beside the beautiful Lady Beatrice. They hold yellow and blue bouquets in their hands.
The grooms men stand in a similar fashion with warm smiles across their faces and blue pocket squares brightening the dark coal color of their tailed coats and knee high boots that cut off to showcase white pantaloons.
Yellow, loosely hanging bow ties wrap around their necks, much like the groom’s. Patiently, they stand with their gloved hands folded before themselves as they listen to the old man speak.
What catches the eye most of all, however, is most certainly the bride. She wears a white, luminous ball gown with a diamond dazzled bodes that only makes the yellow strands of her wedding veil tucked hair pop in comparison. Her red lips pull back for a giddy laugh that resonates through the crowd.
“Can’t hear a bloody thing from back here.” Dr. Watson mutters. His arms have crossed for a look of defiance he sends the wedding planner’s way. The man is holding a prize winning show dog, a gown wearing spaniel, in his arms at the front of the ceremony.
“Now how are we supposed to prove Lady Beatrice is actually a man?” Dr. Watson says with a gesture toward the dog.
The middle aged war vet frowns at the odd looks he gets from several of the neighboring attendants. He ignores them, as well as the ceremony, to instead fiddle with his book, again.
None of this was making any sense.
It wasn’t in the story.
Beside him, Hope stares intently up at the second row, where they were originally assigned. Mycroft and Henry sit beside one another, poised yet distant as they wait for the ceremony to end.
It was obvious the second row was only meant for the profound guests, the ones who needed to be impressed.
So, who had wanted to impress her?
The swirling reds and oranges of the sun setting outside the ballroom shy in comparison to the ceiling of yellow lights over head.
The large, open dance hall has been divided by tables of guests around the edges and the bridal party dancing at the center to some choreographed piece Dr. Watson has never heard before.
Perhaps it’s original, perhaps it’s traditional, he doesn’t know, nor does he care.
Hope ditched him early on, leaving him to fend for himself at this table of misfits in the back corner.
No one’s spoken a word to him since the ceremony. Too posh, too perfect for the likes of him, he supposes.
The wall of windows at his side are closed and incapable of opening, but he swears he can feel a draft.
Dr. Watson huffs over the rim of his champagne glass and takes a sip. He’s nearly out, again.
With a hiss, he sets the tall glass down upon the cover of his useless Sherlock Holmes book and leans back in his chair.
So much for a night of murder mystery.
This is all just silly dress up and giddy dancing. He isn’t needed here.
The exit at the doctor’s back glides open with a simple swoosh. At the subtle noise, Dr. Watson drops his head back to watch as Gregson and Lestrade walk into the ballroom.
They look like time travelers stepping into the 14th Century, Watson muses.
Dr. Watson points out a finger at the two gentlemen. “You look ridiculous coming in here dressed like that.” He giggles through his drunken stupor.
Gregson promptly ducks down to the empty seat Hope was meant to be seated at and Lestrade follows with a kneel that soaks his pants. “Eh-” Is the gross little noise Lestrade makes. The floor is wet with champagne and air rank with it’s overwhelming scent.
“Where’s Holmes?” Gregson asks. “Isn’t she supposed to be with you?”
Dr. Watson snorts out an unattractive noise just as the room bursts into applause for the bridal party. Swiftly, he pulls his champagne glass into his hand and gives it a little raise. “Well, that’s really a glass half full half empty sort of question, isn’t it?”
Gregson stares widely at the tipsy idiot smirking back at him. His eyes dart to Lestrade, then to the glass. “It’s empty.”
Dr. Watson snorts another laugh, then tries a drink from his empty glass. Frowning, he looks down at it. “Oh. Suppose it is.” He slurs.
The doctor bites at his lip and sluggishly reaches across Gregson to replace Hope’s glass with his.
“She won’t mind.” He mutters before taking a sip.
“John.” Lestrade reaches up to shake Dr. Watson’s shoulder. Unintentionally, the jolt causes the doctor to drop his stolen champagne down onto his lap.
“Ah.” He pulls at the wet material. “This is a rental.”
Gregson snaps repeatedly in Dr. Watson’s face, disorienting the man. “Get a hold of yourself.” He hisses over the sound of the small orchestra.
The conductor focuses solely on the flutes. It creates a loud harmonic humm that fills the room, inviting people to stand and dance.
Women pull at their heels and their men, forcing them up onto the dance floor for the next number while the single try their luck at inviting partners to join them.
There’s excitement that drifts through the air now that the floor is open.
“Watson.” Gregson snaps again in the doctor’s face. “Where’s Holmes?” He repeats.
Dr. Watson lets out a calming breath, then leans forward, over the table, to pinch at the bridge of his nose in a fight to compose himself. He can feel a headache fighting back. “I… I don’t know.” He shrugs.
Gregson stands and pulls at Lestrade’s arm to do the same. “Well you better find out. Split up.” Gregson barks at the two men.
The other occupants of the table, the ones who didn’t stand to dance, try very poorly to pretend they’re not interested in the new arrivals.
Lestrade reaches for a rub and pat at Dr. Watson’s shoulder. Leaning in, he whispers, “We got a call from Miss Hope at least twenty minutes ago. She said it was an emergency but without proper evidence of a crime we couldn’t get the pass to drive along the roads they’re using for water transport. We’ve been stuck weaving around traffic and if you haven’t seen her…” Lestrade bites his lip and looks around the crowded ballroom. “It’s possible she’s in trouble.”
Dr. Watson stands abruptly from his seat and very nearly keels over. His head is pounding despite only having a drink or three.
Gray/blue eyes land on the two empty glasses of champagne and still. At an exhale, they close and he tries another steadying breath.
“You okay?” Lestrade asks.
Dr. Watson blinks the blur out of his eyes and nods. “I think that old fool Gregson may be right… We have to find Hope.” His hand comes out to push Lestrade’s helping hands away from him. “Discreetly.”
Dr. Watson does recognize this one.
It’s too bad he has two left feet and a missing flatmate or he might have asked one of these lovely ladies to dance.
Ball gowns twirl and sparkle in the antique glow of the ballroom as Dr. Watson tries to work his way around the tables in search for Hope.
He hadn’t seen her since halfway through the ceremony when she abruptly took her leave.
He freezes mid-limp and reaches for his head. There’s a consistent pounding that breaks his concentration every chance it gets.
A little boy dressed as one of the waitstaff offers a fizzing glass of water the doctor knows better than to drink. “Oh, not for me, thanks.” He says with a polite wave of his hand at the kid.
“It’ll help.” The boy insists.
Dr. Watson frowns down at the little boy. No. Young man. No. His eyes squint to compensate for the blurry vision. “Hope?” He has to ask.
“Obviously.” Hope confirms. Her gloved hand forces the glass of water into his.
Befuddled, Dr. Watson ignores the beverage to instead point out, “You’ve changed your clothes!”
Hope makes no verbal comment and instead adjusts the black tie around her neck. She was in a hurry and left it crooked.
A vest clings to the young woman’s body and white vintage button up. That and the tie allow her to easily bled with the waitstaff.
Dr. Watson cringes at another wave of pain and takes a drink of the water Hope has given him. After mere seconds he feels the pounding in his skull subside.
“Where have you been?” Dr. Watson asks before taking another sip of the fizzy water. After swallowing, he clears his throat and mentions, “Lestrade and Gregson are here. They say you phoned them? Something about an emergency?”
“Yes, I know. I saw them come in.”
“Hmmph. Of course you did.” Dr. Watson sets his glass down in front of an empty seat. “I think someone might have tried to poison you. Got me, instead.” Dr. Watson huffs through a sadistic smile and rub at his face.
“Not me, you.” Hope grabs the glass from the table and throws it down at her feet. The cup shatters at impact and sends little pieces of glass and an illegal makeshift antidote across the carpet.
The party, aside from Dr. Watson, continues on as if they hadn’t a clue what just happened.
“The ‘poison’ was in the bottle used to give you your second refill.” Hope explains.
“My-?” Dr. Watson stares owlishly at his much shorter companion. “The waitstaff is trying to poison me?”
“No.” Hope breathes. She’s staring out through the crowd. At whom, Dr. Watson can’t tell. “It would seem the wedding planner has it out for you. He mixed prescription medication in with your last bottle of champagne.”
Dr. Watson’s brows twist at the thought. “That cock!”
“It’s not lethal.” Hope assures.
The song ends, and this time it’s the violins that set the tune for the next song. Some couples sit while others stand to join in with the dancing.
Hope turns to face Dr. Watson and forces on a tight smile. “Do you mind?”
The doctor gives a pained little look and squeezes out, “Ohh…”
Without waiting for the excuse that was sure to follow, Hope leads the man out to the center of the ballroom and takes his waist.
The music picks up and with ease Hope guides the doctor toward the back of the floor where the bride and groom have taken to dancing. “Hope, what’s going on?” Dr. Watson whispers so as to not let anyone else overhear his inquiry.
Focused, is the look Hope is sending the bride and groom’s way.
There’s a dip in the music and Dr. Watson falls back on cue. His body almost shrugs into the movement, as though giving in to the part of the more submissive role.
Hand in hand, Hope pulls Dr. Watson back up to a vertical stance. “I noticed it when we first arrived.” Hope begins to explain.
Hope pulls Dr. Watson through the hotel’s entrance by the bend of his arm.
Marvin, the wedding planner, follows quickly behind them until finally managing to hand each of them their placement cards.
“It was the hands.” Hope explains. “He wasn’t wearing gloves. Someone so meticulous about the details of the wedding not wearing gloves? In the age he’s been so dead set on recreating, gloves were a standard for any formal event. He had them. He just wasn’t wearing them.”
Dr. Watson twirls, then falls back into Hope’s leading arms. “Okay.” He says to express she has yet to lose him.
“I learned why when he handed us our placement cards. They smelt of petrol, which rubbed off on his hands, which soaked through the fabric of his gloves when he was handling the fuel.”
“Curious, isn’t it? So naturally, I had to investigate further.”
Marvin stands at the end of a row of bridesmaids. His body bounces as if to keep the show dog in his arms from making a fuss.
Bright sunlight from up above causes Hope to narrow her eyes at the man while Dr. Watson rambles on beside her.
Something about the bride being a man?
She wasn’t really listening, so it was hard to say.
A device vibrates in the wedding planner’s jacket pocket. It causes a jump to his stance and nervous glance at his jacket. Without a word, he hands the dog off to a less than pleased bridesmaid and stalks off.
Hope slides between her and her neighbor’s seats. The old man is napping through the ceremony, so he doesn’t notice when Hope grabs his top hat and slides it upon her head.
“It wasn’t just what was missing from the man’s hands that struck my interest. It was the thorn pricks and callouses, as well. I’ve never known a career wedding planner, as his business card suggests, to have such rough hands.”
Hope ducks into the open lobby and presses herself against the wall. Through an adjacent door, Marvin walks in and looks around the nearly vacant space.
Cautiously, he pulls out his glass mobile and examines the screen.
Hope makes haste to peel off her jacket and discard it behind the indoor shrubbery. Then she undoes her top button and pulls roughly at her tucked in shirt.
The two waitstaff members standing at the doorway with trays of white wine give the woman an odd look, but dare not mention their curiosities.
Hope snatches two glasses of white wine from the gentlemen at the door and tries a forced smile before turning abruptly toward Marvin.
The wedding planner pockets his phone, then rubs his sweaty palms on his pants.
“Unusual behavior for a professional of any sort.”
Marvin brushes the sleeve of his jacket over his sweaty forehead to try and disperse the nerves.
“Oh, it's a beautiful day for a~ wedding~” Hope slurs in a heavy French accent as she takes an abrupt turn that causes her to run straight into Marvin. “'ey!” She barks with a spill and a drop of one of the wine glasses.
Marvin’s arms shoot up and he stumbles back into a wall.
His teeth grit, but Hope beats him to the punch. Head down, she snarls, “Look what you do! Mon chere wait for no man! I come back to get wine, I lose glass, you think she cares?” She growls.
Marvin collects himself before trying, “My apologie-”
“Mmph!” Is the sharp noise that cuts the wedding planner off.
Marvin watches what could either be a small man or woman extend a pointer finger to silence him while they down the second glass of wine.
“Ah.” Hope hisses just before smashing the second glass down on the floor.
Marvin jumps at the shards of glass and then again when Hope snaps her fingers. After a beat, the two members of waitstaff carrying beverages extend their trays out to her. She grabs two more.
“Merci.” Is all she humms before walking out the door, toward the ceremony.
At the doorway, Marvin straightens himself out and mutters, “The French.” with a roll of his eyes. The waitstaff share a smile before walking back to their designated locations.
Meanwhile, Hope walks up to Dr. Watson and hands him the two glasses of white wine. “On ze house.” She says from a kneel beside his seat.
“Oh!” Dr. Watson gives a pleased chuckle as he accepts the beverages. “Don’t mind if I do.” He snorts and turns to hand one to Hope only to find she’s missing. “Oh, umm-” He turns back to the waiter to try and give one of the drinks back, but it seems he’s vanished, as well.
Not seeing any better options, Dr. Watson sets one glass on Hope’s chair and takes a leisure sip from the other.
“That was you?” Dr. Watson asks from their present situation.
“Oui.” Hope confirms with another glance at the bride and groom she’s done her best to stay beside.
Top hat still in place, Hope ducks back into the main lobby and then into a staff closet. From there she tosses her hat up onto one of the uniform stacked shelves and pulls out the phone she swiped from Marvin.
It’s a burner.
The only messages he’s received are from a private number, untraceable.
Shoscambe Old Place
Ask for Rylie
Out by 6
“Straight forward text. Without an encryption I could then confirm my theory. Marvin isn’t the master mind, nor is he a professional gun for hire. He’s a pawn and he’s new to the game.”
The door to the closet Hope ducked in opens without forewarning. She has barely enough time to tuck the phone back into her pocket before she’s face to face with a grumpy old man in a red stained vest.
“What are you doing in here?”
“Changing.” Hope is quick to save. She reaches for a plastic wrapped vest, followed by an old fashioned tie the man opposite her is wearing. “Bloody alcoholics get you, too?” Her accent has turned rather urban.
The man scoffs and reaches for an extra vest. “Seem to be getting everyone. Not sure we have enough uniforms to spare, deary. Might end up wearing your stains through the night.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Dr. Watson interrupts. “Out by six. What does that mean?”
The tempo of the music slows, making it much easier to dance beside the newly weds.
“In order to explain, I have to tell the story.”
Dr. Watson sways like a blade of grass. It’s obnoxious compared to the other subtle dancers. “Sorry, sorry,” he twirls. “continue.”
Hope pops out of the staff closet dressed head to toe like the waiters. Unfortunately, Mycroft, one of the last people to leave the ceremony, sees straight through it.
Hope sends her brother an unimpressed look when he smirks down at her.
A crowd of guests work their way to the elevators for the reception while some hang back for a smoke or a chat. It leaves the back of the hall spacious, but the elbow room does little to ease Hope’s sudden claustrophobia.
“Pleased to see you’re enjoying yourself.” Mycroft says with a tap of his walking stick at every step.
“Pleased to see your excuses are running dry.” Hope retorts with a scan of the crowd.
Marvin must have gotten too far of a head start. She can’t see him or the bridal party through these cheerful alcoholics.
“Last thing I need is my face on every screen in London for leaving a union of the countries before the cutting of the cake.” Mycroft says with an air of loathing for tradition. He wants nothing more than to up and leave.
“Shoscambe Old Place…” He breathes. “Perhaps I should start hosting our family dinners at places like ‘The Greek Interpreter’ or perhaps the ‘Diogenes Club’. You might accidentally accept an invitation or two.”
There’s a shimmering layer of perspiration at the brother’s brow and temple. It creates a light glisten against his paling skin.
“Overwhelmed?” Hope inquires as though she hadn’t heard her brother’s previous rantings of contained frustration.
Without skipping a beat, Mycroft assures, “Not nearly.”
Despite his words, Mycroft favors his left leg considerably once he’s stopped moving.
Refusing to wait for the elevators, Hope pivots around her brother and leaves him behind to instead take the stairs.
“Tell that dog of yours to stop sniffing up the bride’s skirt, won’t you?” He asks at her retreat. She doesn’t slow or acknowledge him. “It’s my name on the line!” He calls just as the door to the stair well closes.
Mycroft sighs at his sister’s disregard for his official status and rubs at his temple. When he lowers his hand he finds his glove damp with sweat.
Hiding his concern, Mycroft closes his fist and straightens his posture. He can hold out a little longer.
It’s two floors to the third level where Hope then has to pass another corridor to make it to the correct tower.
Then it’s just fourteen more flights of stairs and she’s reached the readied reception.
A ballroom, of course.
Gold polished chandeliers reflect the natural light outside the left wall of windows where sunlight dives in.
Uncoordinated melodies drift from the small orchestra practicing their instruments in the ballroom’s front corner. One by one the professionals dive into the chaotic tune until the main entrance to the ballroom pushes itself open.
Marvin, along with a handful of waiters, walks in through the door and to the center of the ballroom. He’s talking the whole way and taking long, fast strides that make it hard for the others to keep up.
“Start everyone off with water, then champagne when the bridal party takes their seats. They want to get the toasts over with.” Marvin recites with a quick glance down at his tablet.
His finger taps at the screen, then drags the page down. There’s minimal movement in his peripheral vision, so he looks up and feels more than a little frustrated to find the waitstaff still gathered around him like a group of incompetent toddlers.
“Spread out!” He barks in frustration when the waitstaff doesn’t read his mind.
Marvin again slides his finger down the screen of his cheat sheet. Abruptly, he turns to face the two men guarding the doors. He points at them, then looks back down at the tablet. “No photographers. Don’t let them in. You understand?”
The two heavier set men nod and Marvin runs a hand through his hair. Steadily, he takes in a breath, then releases it.
Hope peers at the man from behind a pillar. She’s waiting for him to compose himself, to make his next move.
Then in steps the first group of guests and Hope has no choice but to walk in with them. She’s careful to hide behind several of the larger men until she gets close enough to nudge Marvin and slide his phone back into his pocket.
“Seats, ladies and gentleman! Keep the path clear for the bridal party! Names and numbers are at each table!” Marvin announces with a clap of his hands and then several wide, open armed gestures.
In passing, Hope notices the ungodly scent of petrol has been replaced by the scent of disinfectant hand soap. Cherry blossom. It’s the same scent used in the woman’s restroom and likely the men’s, as well.
“Rid himself of the evidence, did he?” Dr. Watson cuts in from the presently occupied ballroom.
The music has shifted again to a louder, more upbeat piece. It focuses harshly on the trumpets and their ability to produce loud bursts of music.
Happy, loud, upbeat, impossible to keep stationed beside the newly weds.
“Or, more likely, he had to take a piss.” Hope notes. Her head tips further and further back in an attempt to look between the chaos of dancers, but it’s to no avail.
The couple is lost within the crowd.
“Not to worry, though. There are still traces of it on his business cards, phone, and really any surface the man came into contact with.” Hope mutters with a forceful pull at Dr. Watson’s waist in an attempt to reach the center of the ballroom and find the bride and groom. “Including Lady Beatrice’s spaniel, of course.”
Dr. Watson lifts a brow and pulls a frown. “My, that’s all circumstantial, isn’t it?”
Hope spins to get a 360 angle of the room. At what had been her back, she finds Sir Robert and Lady Beatrice in a similar position.
“Without a crime, it’s not even that.” Detective Gregson interrupts. One hand extends while the musicians end the piece to begin another, more classical tune.
He’s standing there, a smile across his mustached face.
“Do you mind?” Gregson asks with a tight smile sent Dr. Watson’s way.
“Dr. Watson.” Hope calls and the doctor looks down to the young lady dressed as a boy servant.
Stiffly, Dr. Watson bows and moves to the side of the room Lady Beatrice and Sir Robert are dancing on.
Gregson pulls at the lapel of his cheap suit and steps up to grab Hope’s hand and waist. As far apart as they can manage, the two begin their stumbling fight for control.
“You sounded quite worried on the phone.” Gregson says loud enough to be heard over the music.
Marvin walks into the bustling kitchen quarters, passed the dish washing station, and into the secluded, doorless wine cellar at the back.
For a brief moment he checks his phone, but there are no missed messages so he pockets it.
With each passing minute his calling draws nearer.
Hope stops at the entrance of the wine cellar and pulls out her own mobile device to pretend she, too, is checking messages.
There’s a rattle that catches Hope’s ear.
With caution, she tilts her head forward and to the side so that she can catch glimpse of what it is Marvin is toying with.
What she finds are prescription drugs in a florescent pink container.
Marvin pops out two pills and tosses them in his mouth. He humms in distaste after swallowing and makes a grab for a bottle of champagne.
The fizzy liquid bursts at the open and sends bubbly out across the cellar’s otherwise clean matted floors.
Hope looks back at her phone in disinterest just as another member of the waitstaff walks her way.
The young man has a persistent stride, but the way his eyes wander tell Hope all she needs to know.
Casually, she slings her thumb up to point in the cellar and she whispers, “Boss is drinkin’ free booze.”
The young man smiles a charming little thanks and walks passed her, into the cellar. “Sir.” He calls and Marvin stirs at the intrusion.
“God, what is it?” Marvin hisses.
Hope can hear the rattle of him picking up his medication from off the shelf.
“A man at table thirteen is causing a scene. He wants more champagne.”
“Older? Walks with a limp?”
Marvin snorts and again there’s a rattle.
Hope looks into the cellar as best she can without being spotted and catches sight of the wedding planner popping prescription pills into the bottle of champagne he’s holding. At contact, they break apart and dissolve into the liquid.
“All his.” Marvin snarls with a pass of the bottle to the wary young waiter. “Don’t look so alarmed, it’s for migraines.”
It’s brief, but before popping on the lid and pocketing the bottle, Hope manages to read the partial name Thomas K printed across the label.
Hope launches herself from the wall she’s been standing against and makes like a mouse through the busy traffic of the sweat lodge dare called a kitchen. Once she hits the hall, she dials Lestrade’s number and raises the device to her ear.
There’s static on the other line, as though from a bad signal, followed by hushed bickering.
“It’s Miss Hope. No, I got it, I got it. Hello-?”
“Lestrade. Old Shoscambe Place, now. It’s an emerge-”
“Why on Earth are you dressed as the waitstaff, Sherlock?” Henry Schneider, of the Schneider family estate and fortune, wonders aloud as he walks out of the men’s washroom and into the level’s main hall.
Hope analyzes the young man for a brief second, then gets her attention drawn to the male waiter exiting the kitchen. She turns her back on the low life politician to catch up to the waiter, but stills at the sensation of a warm, recently wet hand on the sleeve of her upper arm.
“Hold on, now. Don’t be so rude.” He huffs in offense.
Hope watches the waiter disappear through the ballroom doors, then gives another fast look over Henry.
“I’m not for hire.” She turns to walk away, but Henry follows, his hand still connected with her arm.
His grip tightens until she’s forced to grit a look at him.
He’s smiling, but the look in his muted green eyes lack a certain… characteristic in making his emotions genuine.
Hope uses her other hand to pry his off of her and she takes a step back.
But not before grabbing the illegal stress relief in the man’s inside pocket.
“I hack my private record at least three times a week. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice the numerous occasions in which you’ve tried to file complaints against myself and my methods?”
Henry glides a wet tongue across his bottom lip until it hits the left corner of his mouth. Then he bites down on the muscle in silent thought.
“Well.” He shrugs. “Homeland security is my family’s business… And your methods, effective as they may be, were and still are illegal, Miss Holmes.”
There’s a beat of contemplative silence before Hope decides to ask, “So you’re not interested in finding the man or woman who’s recently taken to stealing from your family?”
Henry barks out a laugh that sends his whole body leaning forward. Airily, he gets out, “That. That right there. How do you do that?” He lets out a low chuckle and shakes it out at the ground. “Amazing. I don’t suppose you hacked my bank log to figure that out, did you?”
Hope takes a subtle, almost unnoticeable step back, toward the open ballroom doors where people are coming to life through music. “Stress. Your problems are written across your face in times of trouble. Well… your face and waist line, that is. Your suit is too big. You’ve lost your appetite and luxury of visiting a tailor. Given this is an important public event my own brother dares not leave before the press have gone home, you must not have the funds to spend on proper attire.”
Henry steps slowly after Hope’s retreat.
“Your political standpoint took a minor hit when it came to the water filter issue, but you’ve mended that. This wedding is proof. So, it’s either a debt, a gambling issue which, if the money were in your name specifically I may have given more thought, or… You’ve got yourself a new age thief on your hands. Enough to notice, but not enough to set off a public stir. You’re keeping it quiet for a reason.”
Henry nods his approval of Hope’s deductions and offers, “It’s a member of the Schneider household. No one else could have access to the temporary account we’ve been using until the new bank has properly risen. They’ve been discreet about it, little portions at a time, but… My father and I fear if the siblings catch wind that we’re on to them, they may wipe the accounts and disappear.”
The hall, except for the two of them, is empty. Their voices drown in the instruments of the musicians, but still-
“Is this really the time and place?” Hope says with another backward step.
Henry bites his lip and reaches into his back pocket. Between two fingers, he extends a small sheet of bendable plastic with his contact information printed across it. “If you’re half as smart as I fear you are, you’ll help me.”
“You’re not my priority, Henry.”
Hope doesn’t reach for the new age “business card”. Instead, she pivots a turn and walks swiftly into the ballroom, leaving the politician to bend the plastic in his fist.
Most remain seated at their tables as they watch the married couple take their first dance, but some do stand to document the moment with videos and photography now that the press have been excluded from the remainder of the event.
Hope brushes passed these people and, as inconspicuously as she can manage, works her way to the back. Toward Dr. Watson.
The champagne sipping Dr. Watson.
“I feel like a king!” Dr. Watson giggles to the waiter standing beside him. The poor young man looks nothing if not apologetic as he stands there, a large, half empty bottle of champagne in his hands.
Hope snatches a half eaten plate of steak from a man who appears far more interested in the single woman at his right and pushes forward.
Dr. Watson leans back in his chair. It’s a tipsy movement and for a brief second the waiter fears the wealthy bastard is going to fall onto his back. A wide, childish grin stretches across the doctor’s lips as he lifts his glass for another round.
The waiter obliges.
“The hospitality here really is exquisite.” The doctor slurs.
Hope slams into the waiter with as much force as she can manage. The momentum of her body weight sends the bottle of champagne flying out of the waiter’s weak grasp and down across the ballroom’s floor.
The members of the table, including Dr. Watson, bark out in surprise and ogle the mess splashed across the floor. It was mere luck the bottle, itself, hadn’t shattered on impact.
“Coming through.” Hope mumbles in belated warning as she swiftly exits through the back door.
“So… Identity fraud.” Gregson summarizes, unimpressed. “You brought me down here to pick a man up on identity fraud? Holmes,” Gregson’s teeth grit. He releases his hold on Hope. “that’s not my jurisdiction.”
“Well, tonight it is. I’m short on evidence, but I assure you, if you don’t take action now, there will be death on your hands.” Hope insists. There’s a light, a fire at the base of her monotone voice and unblinking gaze. “I’ve given you enough to at least take the wedding planner in for questioning, haven’t I? Identity fraud is a jump, but if that’s not the case he’s in possession of illegal drugs.”
Gregson tilts his head up so that he can literally look down his nose at the ex-forensic analyst. “Speaking of identity fraud…” His hands shoot out to grab Hope’s hand and waist as though he were catching a snake by the base of it’s head.
He’s in complete control as he pulls her back into the rhythm. “I’ve been looking into your records.” His grin is akin to that of a Cheshire cat’s. It’s a toothy smirk broad enough to fill nightmares.
He’s got her. He’s certain he’s caught his prey.
Hope allows herself to be taken into the man’s arms. She’s not guiding any of their movements, but the look in her eye speaks the truth.
She’s in full control.
“As I, yours.”
“Good with computers.”
“Funny how your digital footprint dates back twenty-four years while-” His breath hitches, as if surprised. “Your paper trail only goes back eight.” Gregson’s brows twist and lips curl. “Found that out just before you called, actually. London has no record of a William Sherlock Holmes Scott ever having been born.”
Hope’s expression remains passive as she takes a spin.
His suspect once again captured in his arms, Gregson continues, “That’s the same year you met the Holmes family, isn’t it?” He asks with an air of innocence. “The same year you signed up for the big brother program? The same year Mycroft signed up? Well,” he laughs. “that’s quite the coincidence, isn’t it?”
Hope’s gaze is passive, filtered.
She’s not all there.
“William Sherlock Holmes Scott.” Mycroft, at the prime of his college years, muses with a look over his sheet of approval. It’s got all of Sherlock’s personal information on it.
No educational background.
The young man looks up from the paper and lifts a brow. “Just who gave you that name?” His breath fogs in the chilly Christmas air.
Snow blankets the private street, lampposts, roof, and windowsills of the Holmes Family estate.
He’s standing outside in the cold, his nose, cheeks, and ears flushed a bright red. A cane props him up with the hand that’s not holding the paper Sherlock has just given him.
Dark eyes stare curiously down at the young girl. She’s dressed in a black oversized sweater, hat, and paper thin jeans rubbed a pale blue.
She stares blankly up at the older boy, the boy who’s supposed to invite her inside for a warm Christmas meal in exchange for extra credit.
Pale blue eyes lack any and all emotion as she mutters out, in a weak voice, “I assure you, it wasn’t my idea.”
The girl is scrawny. Just skin and bones stuffed loosely into someone’s old hand outs.
Her hands remain stuffed in her jean pockets for a casual teenage stance as snow flakes flutter down around them.
The inside of the mansion is lit a warm yellow. The color bounces off of the nearby snow, giving the night a subtle, comfortable glow.
Mycroft shifts his balance on the cleared steps up to his front door. He sniffs through a runny nose and sighs. “Says here you’re uneducated.”
He’s looking at the young girl, summing her up. All he’s got on is a button up shirt, slacks, and dress shoes, but he refuses to simply invite a stranger into his home before he’s got a proper handle on who she is.
It doesn’t help that she seems to have all the time in the world.
Blankly, she’s stares at the young man.
She doesn’t feel the need to address such an obvious fact.
A breeze blows through combed dark brown and Mycroft shudders. Although it does the same thing to Sherlock’s awkwardly cropped, tangled mess of dark hair, she pretends she can’t feel it.
If he didn’t know any better, Mycroft might think she were inhuman. But no, the girl has long since passed the first stage of hypothermia.
“My name is Mycroft.” He says with a rather charming smile. “But you already know that. In fact, you know everything about me.”
Sherlock’s breathing stutters. She blinks rapidly for a thought, then shuffles a step back.
The young man snorts. “You’re not very good at first impressions, are you, Sherlock?”
The girl looks back, out at the long stretch of open road, then back up at Mycroft. “Sherlock.” She mutters. “Pleased to meet your acquaintance.”
Mycroft nods his approval and folds the paper in his left hand. “What do you know…” He breathes. “there may just be hope for you, after all.”
Hope stares at the grainy material of Gregson’s suit lapel, lost in a memory.
The music has come to a finale, but still her grip remains loose around the detective’s hand and waist.
“Holmes?” Gregson whispers.
“Miss Hope!” Lestrade calls while making a dash for the center of the ballroom where Hope and Gregson are awkwardly at a stand still.
“Miss Hope!” He pants again, this time at her side.
She blinks back to the moment and detaches herself from Gregson with one simple drop of limbs. “Marvin?” She asks with a darted look to the wedding planner in question. He’s carrying two glasses of wine toward the happy couple Dr. Watson is guarding.
“Who?” Lestrade’s features twist, then he shakes the thought away. “It’s your brother.” He clarifies. “He took a nasty fall near the restrooms. Says he’s leaving.”
“Oh.” Her gaze drops. “Mycroft has minor paralysis in his right leg due to a spinal injury he pertained as a child, I’ve deduced. He can hide it well, but only for so long.”
Lestrade opens his mouth to comment, but the audible gasps at his back take precedence.
Marvin struggles to push himself from the groom, who seems to have taken a tumble with his wedding planner. Deep red wine stains both men’s suits, but particularly the groom’s.
“Ah, damn!” Marvin hisses after slicing his hand on a broken shard of glass. He points a blood dripped finger at Dr. Watson, who looks about as surprised as the rest of the room’s occupants. “You tripped me!”
Dr. Watson straitens at the accusation. “I did no such thing!”
The wedding planner snarls a look of pure malice at the ex-army doctor, then attends to his client, the groom. “I’m sorry, sir.” He looks to the shocked bride and raises a bloodied hand to try and calm her. Instead, she gasps and covers her cherry red lips with a manicured hand. “I’ll clean him up and bring him right back, I promise.”
Marvin pulls at Sir Robert’s arm and the groom follows willingly.
“Lestrade.” Hope calls.
Lestrade’s lips purse with a forward, curious bend of his waist.
“Arrest the wedding planner. He’s in the possession of prescriptions drugs made out to another name.” She drones with a blank look at the approaching doctor.
“On it!” Lestrade chirps. He sprints for the door and drops his cuffs in the process. It’s an embarrassing display to watch him double back for them, but he does make it out the door in one piece.
Dr. Watson walks through the whispers and up to Hope and the detective.
“Feel better?” Hope inquires.
“I didn’t push him.” Dr. Watson mutters, his sights to the ground.
With a resounding thud, the open doors to the ballroom swing shut and click with a lock.
Those nearest the doors scream before running to try and pull them open or bypass the “error” screen frozen across the lock pads.
Hope doesn’t need to look at a clock to know the evening’s reached it’s high point of six.
A few men try banging on the doors, but they’re locked tight and no doubt reinforced with steal. With only one wall of windows at Hope’s back and no means of escape, the room of politicians begins to feel very… tight.
“Calm down, ladies and gentlemen!” Gregson shouts over the growing commotion. He pulls out his badge and lifts it high in the air. “Scotland Yard, here. Please remain calm!” He turns in a slow circle so that everyone can see his badge. “I’m sure this is just a glitch and the hotel is working to fix it as we speak. There is no need to panic!”
A crash of shattering glass brings about another wave of worry.
Gregson turns just in time to see Hope frisbee another plate through the top of a floor to ceiling, no doubt very expensive, window. Dr. Watson rushes over to a table, picks up a plate, and follows suit.
“What. Are you doing!?” Gregson screams at the two idiots breaking windows.
“No idea!” Dr. Watson confesses before sending another plate through a closed window.
“Higher.” Is the only word of instruction Hope offers.
It’s not until the sprinklers overhead go off that people fall out of their state of shock and start screaming.
People duck under tables and/or collapse, clutching their eyes.
Gregson, too, feels a sense of panic as he lifts his jacket over his head and looks around. The ground is slick from what most definitely is not water.
In fact, whatever it is smells unnervingly like petrol.
Lestrade jogs out of the ballroom and pivots left, following the blood trail that’s been left behind the wedding planner. He slows to a fast walk and spins his trusty pair of cuffs around his pointer finger. They manage to spiral full circle twice before flying off of his index and down onto the floor.
He bends to pick them up, then collapses onto the floor with a scream. His hands shoot to his right ear, where he hears an obnoxious ringing.
Lestrade’s jaw drops and vision blurs.
A trail of blood drips from his burst eardrum and out across his hands, but the ringing doesn’t settle. Instead, it engulfs him, blocking out any other noise.
He falls back, tears in his eyes and vocal chords spasming.
Then, it’s silent.
He can’t hear a single thing.
His head lolls back and forth, as though he were swimming through the disorientation.
Lestrade bats his eyes, slow and steady.
It feels as though everything’s slowed.
As though everything’s gone quiet, like one of those historic black and white movies.
Blood drips down the young man’s ear, jaw, and neck to create small, growing pools beside his head.
Dr. Watson heaves another plate at the top of the window. It breaks the glass on contact and sends shards scattering down to the levels below.
Petrol threatens to blind him, so he raises his hand to cover as much of his eyes as it can and grabs the next thing he can reach on the corner table.
The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.
Without a second thought on the matter, he chucks the book at the broken window.
Beside him, Hope stills.
Her hair clings to the sides of her face and forehead, but he can tell she’s staring at him.
People have taken to hiding under white, petrol tainted table clothes, but still they scream. Several remain by the doors, their efforts to open the locked devices as fruitless as ever.
Dr. Watson gestures out at the window and shouts, “I think we can both agree it’s been bloody useless!”
There’s a glare from the ceiling.
The lights connected to it burn to unthinkable measures, threatening to either blind or burst.
Their time is up.
“Down!” Hope shouts.
Without question, Dr. Watson drops.
Mycroft limps his way to the East tower’s back exit. The sky has darkened to a vibrant purple that sits atop of the city’s skyline.
He relies heavily on the cane up until a member of the hotel’s staff approaches from the outside after having approved his private vehicle. The gentleman smiles and Mycroft stiffens.
His sweaty palms and brow bring a sickly glow to his visible features while his stiff, forced movements give tell his handicap.
The staff member opens the door and with an idle wave of his cane bearing hand, Mycoft Holmes shuffles through.
The driver of his government official craft walks around the vehicle to pop open his door and stand beside it. Patiently, the man waits for Mycroft to descend the stairs, but it is taking a good deal of time.
Mycroft gets down all of three stairs before he notices the broken plates crashing down into the shrubbery beside the back exit. He stills and watches as shattered glass and flying plates crash down in front of him.
His driver ducks as a plate frisbies through the air and cracks against the hovercraft’s bullet proof window. It’s a close call, but the driver is unscathed.
When more plates continue their descent, the driver sprints around the vehicle and drops.
Mycroft stares blankly at the display of yet another one of his hovercrafts turned to ruin, then pulls out his mobile to dial a number.
“What in the-” The hotel staff shouts after having caught glimpse of shattered pieces of window and dirty dishes.
“Emergency fire and rescue. What’s your emergency?” A voice on the end of the line chirps.
An old book, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, the cover reads, falls just at the bottom of the stairs. It’s quite the distance, but Mycroft makes out the title with ease.
“Hurry.” He drones.
The lights in the chandelier exceed maximum voltage and all at once burst into an overpowered electrical fire that promptly eats the ceiling and upper walls.
What would have been a flash fire hot enough to consume the entire room breaks for the path of least resistance, the broken windows.
The fire and charcoal colored smoke remains largely upon the ceiling and walls. Small sections of burning metal, glass, and plaster fall to the ballroom below, but they’re weak and grow weaker through the fall.
Small, open flames bite at the ground, but the real danger is the deficient supply of oxygen and mutating chemicals that float through the air.
An explosion ignites as the heat reaches the makeshift supply of petrol in the ceiling. People scream and panic at the sight of burning metal pipes crashing down from the ceiling and igniting more flames.
But still, the heat rises and ventilates through the broken windows.
Hope army crawls over to the table Dr. Watson has ducked beneath. Like most, she’s drenched in petrol.
“Comfortable?” Dr. Watson huffs through a smile.
Hope lowers her head to peer out at the rapidly spreading flames. “We stopped the flash fire, but we’re still going to either burn or suffocate.” She explains.
Dr. Watson runs a hand through his hair, then examines his fingers. “Petrol?” He inquires.
“Diluted.” Hope adds. “By the assorted levels of potency I’d suggest Marvin only replaced one of the three water tanks. His manners, actions…” Hope darts a look around the wedding guests and particularly the bridal party. Panic. Legitimate panic. Not a single one of them meant to take part in this. “He lacks experience, composure.” She catches sight of Gregson trying to help pry open the door, then looks back to the strangely relaxed doctor at her side. “This is his first attempt at mass genocide.”
Dr. Watson grins. “Hopefully it’ll give the poor sod the night terrors.”
A soldier. Relaxed. Trained.
He expects and accepts death.
Has for some time now, apparently.
Hope nods in idle agreement with Dr. Watson’s foul wishes, then examines the exits from afar.
The lock pads remain frozen in error. They spark, threatening to catch fire, but the victims are refusing to give up on them.
With this heat and water mixed petrol soaking into the devices, it would be impossible to disarm the emergency lock down they’ve been thrown into.
Their side of the door is too far gone.
A shriek of bending metal rings out above the screams, but Hope doesn’t turn her head.
She knows the ceiling is collapsing.
A high pitched ringing is what Lestrade hears when he awakens.
Lestrade shoots upright and snags the cuffs beside him. He hears a faint drag of metal, but it fades in and out in volume.
The material is cool against the sweaty palms of his hands. It bites at his skin. This helps to kick start his transition into reality.
Droplets of wet blood trail down the hall in the direction he had been running when-
Lestrade looks abruptly to his right at the presence of movement. Three men are standing in front of the ballroom doors. Two are attempting to pull them apart from their centers while one, a technician, fusses with the wires inside the lock pad.
The junior detective stiffly pushes himself to stand and pockets his handcuffs to instead help with the door issue.
As he draws nearer, he can start to smell the gut wrenching aroma of smoke and petrol.
His head is spinning when he takes a sprint for the other men, but he refuses to slow.
“What’s the problem?” He slurs.
He can barely hear himself.
Lestrade winces and pulls out his badge after receiving little more than skeptic looks from the men. “Scotland Yard. What’s happened?”
The technician’s mouth is moving a mile a minute, but all Lestrade can make out are the words: Error, lock, and fire.
Lestrade drops to a kneel at the confirmation of his deepest fear and shoves the technician out of the way. The men startle and/or yelp at the detective’s aggressive charge, but silence when he pulls a gun from his jacket’s inside holster.
The lock pad’s face has been detached to instead reveal the wires and circuit boards within.
Lestrade sticks his left hand into the deep compartment until he’s felt a thick, cubic notch toward the back.
His face is flushed and ears burning.
The ringing sounds as though it’s getting louder.
Lestrade sticks his other hand into the rather small compartment, gun included.
“No, no, no!” The technician protests. “That’s not going to fix it!” He tries, but the words fall on deaf ears.
Lestrade pops two caps into the emergency mainframe located at the back of the lock pad, then holsters his gun and makes a grab for the doors.
After a beat, the two members of wait staff jump to help out.
From the inside, men and women are clawing and pulling at the doors. When they finally start to pry apart, the wedding guests gasp for air and stumble over one another in an attempt to escape the burning ballroom.
“How did you know to do that!?” The technician shouts, but Lestrade can’t hear him.
He can’t hear anything, in fact.
Lestrade grabs at his ears and stumbles back into the wall. The loosely hanging face of the lock pad digs into his back, but he can’t control his legs anymore.
They give out on him and he collapses to a seated position against the wall.
Red and blue sirens create one of the most painful headaches Lestrade has every experienced. He rubs at his temple with the tips of his fingers in an attempt to soothe the ache, but everything hurts.
He, like many others, has a soothing navy blue blanket draped around his shoulders.
Most are crying, but he can’t seem to bring forth the tears.
The back exit to the East Tower is crawling with trashed gowns, survivors, police, medical examiners, and, behind the police tape, press.
He refuses to look at them, but he knows at least a few have got their bulky cameras pointed in his direction.
Gregson walks up behind his partner and casually takes a seat on the side Lestrade can still hear out of. His jacket is off, but one can still smell the foul stench of petrol on his shirt and slacks.
“Miss Holmes seems to think you got too close to Sir Robert and Thomas when they set off some…” Gregson shrugs and flaps his hand at the air. “Magnetic manipulator, or… I don’t know, but it’s what screwed with the computer system and, well… You were right in the cross fire, so it screwed with your radio implant, as well.”
He looks to his partner, but Lestrade doesn’t look back. Instead, he focuses on his blood dried hands.
“Thomas has been caught and taken in for questioning, but we can’t seem to find Sir Robert.” Gregson says with a casual look around the site.
White smoke drifts from the dark, upper floor of the tower. The fire’s been put out, but the heat is still intense.
“Holmes’ theory is that Thomas K. Lupas is an undiscovered actor hired to start a war with France, thus forcing our allies to choose between us and them, since, well…” He takes a deep breath. “We’re currently incapable of taking care of ourselves what with this water dilemma and what not.”
“Seems plausible.” Lestrade mumbles to his hands.
“But why hire an actor?” Gregson asks the sky. His hands shoot out to grab angrily at the air. “Why not hire a professional?”
Lestrade gives a child-like shrug. “Maybe none of the professionals willing to start a war with France were capable of passing as a wedding planner.”
Gregson groans and rubs at his face. “Thomas Lupas claims he was being threatened, but there’s something off about him, about this crime. It was too well managed, don’t you think? It shouldn’t have fallen so flat.”
“Are you saying you’re still convinced Miss Hope is the homicidal psychopath you’re looking for?” Lestrade asks through a dull laugh.
Gregson takes a second to look out at the chaos around them before responding, “I don’t know… But she’s definitely hiding something, I can feel it.”
The junior detective glances at his senior partner, then nods in agreement. “Yeah.” He mumbles. “But aren’t we all?”
“As you may recall, merely a week prior one Sebastian Moran was taken into the custody of the authorities on account of false identity, illegal weaponry, and, my personal favorite,” Hope pivots on her heel to give Dr. Watson a dramatic lift of her brow. “suspected murder.”
Dr. Watson moves his folded fingers away from his mouth long enough to muse, “You’re really making a show of this, aren’t you?”
The young woman paces before the dining table Dr. Watson and cooling take out are sitting at. Both residents of 221B have changed and showered, Hope into a gray long sleeved shirt and plaid print bottoms and Dr. Watson into a just as colorless tee and sweats.
“The crime scene was cleared the night prior. All that remained were the bountiful piles of evidence left sitting before our noses.” She continues, as if uninterrupted.
Police tape webs the open doorway of a second level city apartment.
The extra measures hadn’t been necessary, but the men and women under Scotland Yard were anything but forgiving when it came to the death of General Greers.
The studio apartment is plain, empty. It bares only the essentials. A bed, a half empty closet of clothes, a display case of antique weapons, and a meagerly stocked kitchenette are just that.
An automatic window furthest to the right opens with a swift and soundless glide.
From the dusk covered fire escape, Hope climbs into the building and pockets her miniature super magnet used to unlock low level measures of security like standard doors and windows.
It works rather well, so long as the home’s security isn’t equipped to set off an alarm at it’s use.
Hope stands to her full height and scans the apartment at eye level. Her movements are slow, controlled.
She’s covered in black from head to tow, hat and boots included.
The light funneling in from the apartment’s hall works well enough, but it’s dim and difficult to make out the details in the room.
Hope pulls out her mobile and with the touch of her finger, a white orb of light shines around the hand held object.
There are footprints everywhere, of all sizes and shapes.
Safe to assume nothing is in it’s proper place…
The intruder walks quietly up to a display case of old artifacts.
An arrow, a double barreled rifle, a blow dart-
Hope picks up the wooden blow dart with a latex covered hand and gives it a once over. It’s a strange little contraption with a bright feather sticking out of it’s tubular body.
Void of a conscience, Hope pockets the device along with the set of five darts Sebastian won’t be needing, anymore.
She looks away, as if to move on, but another device catches her eye.
A contractible pistol.
“I get it.” Dr. Watson cuts in. “You’re a thief and a break in artist. Very impressive. Now to the point, please. Our supper is about past due.”
Hope stares back at Dr. Watson, an unreadable expression across her face.
Looking away, she continues…
“I then moved on to check his closet.”
Hope moves on the balls of her feet toward the uncovered closet. She bypasses the clothes on display to instead stop at a hamper of dirty laundry.
Reaching in, she shines her flash light down into the bin and starts analyzing the clothes.
Most are soiled with brick dust of a vibrant red color or mud of a similar shade. Construction excess. Irrelevant.
Hope stills for a brief moment, then pulls out an old, dust covered jacket.
“Dust. White in color and not at all near the shade of red brick dust he would have acquired at the construction site.” Hope explains.
“An old jacket? A keepsake he decided it was high time to wash!” Dr. Watson pipes in. He’s moved to the edge of his chair in wait for Hope’s follow up.
The forensic analyst pulls out a dining chair and takes a seat. Leaning forward, she explains, “The jacket’s been well worn. I tested the elements of the dust on Moran’s jacket when I got back-”
“And?” Dr. Watson prompts despite cutting her story short.
Hope pauses, blinks, and continues. “And it’s brick dust.” She shifts. “But not the kind used at his construction site, this is old. Really old. Authentic Old World brick.”
Dr. Watson leans back in his chair, the excitement from before seemingly faded by this new development. “Well that’s not much to go on, is it?”
Hope smiles, legitimately. “There were no contaminants.” Her brow quirks. “No evidence of the brick having been touched in any way by the effects of the great nuclear war.”
Dr. Watson sits upright. “It’s from a survivor’s hideaway.”
“Although the New World was in play across the ocean, the rest of us had to survive in other ways. Many boarded up sections of underground subways, as you may recall from history class.” Hope educates.
“Well, that’s brilliant!”
Hope pinches a smile. “So… while we were scurrying about Old Shoscambe Place, Jefferson Hope’s missing children were found by a group of less than privileged old friends of mine. Down in the incomplete construction subway below Next Chapter Boulevard, to be exact.”
Dr. Watson leans back in his dining chair, a grin spread wide across his face. “You have old friends?”
What had been a ghost of a smile pulling at Hope’s lips sours down to a frown. “Really?” Her arms fold above her chest. “That’s your focal point of the story?”
“Sorry, I mean-” Dr. Watson gives a breathy laugh. “You really found them?”
Hope nods and makes a grab for the containers of noodles Dr. Watson has been eyeing for the last half hour. “Including the surgeon.” She adds.
Dr. Watson slides the lid off of his take out container and flips it on it’s back. Steam drifts through the air, warming the underbelly of the doctor’s chin. “The one who cut off the engineer’s thumb?” He asks.
Hope does a similar preparation with her own tub of noodles.
“Yes. Although we don’t have enough to charge him for it. Not unless Gregson can convince either him or Moran to testify against the other.”
“Hmmph.” Dr. Watson muffles through a pleased bob of his head after taking his first bite of supper. After he swallows, he hits at his chest and readies his plastic fork for another bite. Idly, he huffs, “With any luck, one of them will turn on the big man, himself. Then this will all be behind us.”
Hope stops twirling her fork and glances up at the doctor at her side. The older man’s scarfing down noodles like he hasn’t just eaten a five course meal.
Quietly, she looks back to her noodles and agrees, “That would be something.”
TO BE CONTINUED
I would like to thank you for your support! I do hope you liked the novelette and ask that you please leave me a review on Amazon/Goodreads/Ect. It would be most appreciated, if you could.
If you’re looking to continue the series, just look for the novelette, “HOPE: THE WOMAN, PART ONE”
Other works you might find interest in are my Apocolyptic/Mad-Scientist/Sci-Fi “NEW WORLD” series, UNBELIEVE, or the Fantasy/Mystery/Crime novelette series, ASSEMBLY OF PLANETS. If either of those sound like your kind of thing, please take a look!
Thank you again, and have a lovely rest of your day!
-Legend W. Brook
Hope and Dr. Watson have been drawn into a game of murder and mystery. They've long since realized the inspiration of the master mind behind these murders comes from the old Sherlock Holmes novels, but they're twisted, unpredictable. This master mind has created something entirely new and no doubt devastating to the alliance between France and England. So when Hope and Watson are invited to a wedding of the countries, they have no doubt Moriarty is scheming something foul.