MyFanfiction: Sherlock Holmes


–The Clover Pin–

In the many years I spent in the presence of Sherlock Holmes, I never seemed to manage the correct divination for the quick pace of his many moods. I could sense them tolerably well, and could foresee him having a bad day or a good day by the simple way of his manner when sitting down in his favourite chair, by which pipe he chose to smoke, by which leg he crossed over the other. But I could never be positive of my observations until he decidedly ignored my presence, or raised his eyes to mine for but a momentary glance, before having one of those unfathomable smiles place itself on his lips.

His mind was forever consigned to labour, and thus much I had come to learn of him: he only ever reproached this fact when it seemed there was nothing but idleness for it to partake in. To function, he needed stokes for the fire. Whenever his thoughts seemed doomed to fade, the smoke of their imminent scattering rose in his eyes and made them look darker than the grey which ordinarily coloured them. It was then he often turned to the only abomination of his character, and the only thing which ever he did that actually caused me true harm. His addiction to the drug he claimed relieved his senses was, and is to this day, the greatest regret I carry for not having successfully cured him of.

He was my friend, and in more ways than one, my mentor, shedding a new light on the world for every moment I passed in the nearness of his person; this enigma never to be solved. To me, Sherlock Holmes stood as the greatest mystery of them all. Even now I am sometimes perplexed as to his character, but that is also one of his greatest attributes. A true puzzle waits for all time to be fully unravelled. It enlightens our lives with the eagerness of questioning, and the stillness of waiting.

Chapter One

I was seated in one of the chairs by the hearth, which was residence for a merrily crackling fire, spreading warmth and light in the otherwise gloomily shadowed sitting-room. Sherlock Holmes was in the chair opposite mine, his long legs pulled up in front of him, a blanket over his shoulders and his eyes staring at the dancing flames of the fireplace. They seemed set on seeing something entirely different, and though I had barely uttered a word since supper, and Holmes an even scarcer amount, I knew he did not wish me to retire.

I returned my gaze to the pages I held in my hand; the book consisting of a thin collection of short stories by one Conrad Downs. He had a most excellent grasp of the art of reiteration, and I was hoping to learn a thing or two from him. Thus an hour had passed, and thus I expected another one would, in the same quiet, when Holmes moved his head and gazed at me. I finished the sentence I had been reading and looked up at him. I must have appeared wondering, for he said:

“I find it quite curious how times are set to change, and yet always stay the same.”

I blinked, unsure of how he wished me to respond. He seemed satisfied with the lowering of the book onto my lap, turning his eyes back where they had been before and pulling the blanket tighter around him.

“There has been the power of observation in men before me, and there will be in the men to come after. There will be crime and punishment, and those steps which are taken in between, as always there have been.”

“I would suppose so,” I granted.

“Ah,” he nodded, turning his head to me once more. “Yes,” he said in his slow manner, a flicker of amusement in his gaze before it was gone and he rose in one languid movement, leaving the blanket behind and stalking up to the desk where he placed himself on the chair before it.

I found myself involuntarily gritting my teeth as I observed the drawer by which he so directly had situated himself. He reached for a piece of paper and a pen.

“This cannot be ailing you, dear fellow,” I tried, as he proceeded to put the pen to the paper.

“To what are you referring?” he wondered.

“I am referring to that of which you just now spoke,” I replied, rising to my feet and putting the book down on the armrest of the couch as I approached him. “How times seem to run into one another. The legacies we leave behind having been the legacies we ourselves once inherited.”

“My dear Watson!” he said, turning on the chair so as to observe me with the perpetually disconcerted expression he wore whenever I said something which misrepresented him. “I said I found it curious, not ominous in any way. Did I not?”

“Why…” I began, reflecting upon the disheartened look with which he had delivered his musings, but deciding to let the man speak for himself. “Yes,” I finished, seeing how he smiled briefly in quick triumph before spinning back around to face his sheet and ink.

“We shan’t live forever, my good man,” he stated.

“It should be quite impossible,” I agreed.

“What comfort should we then not derive from the knowledge of other men being born to follow in our footsteps?”

“But…”

“There,” he interrupted me, punctuating whatever he had been transferring onto the white before him with great care and then standing up, folding the paper between his graceful fingers before handing it to me.

“What is this?” I asked.

“It is a note for Mrs Hudson. Would you mind slipping it under her door before you retire for the evening? I would be much obliged.”

“Of course, Holmes. I shall see you to-morrow, then.”

He gave a nod, walking back to the fireplace and reaching for one of his most beloved pipes.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I concluded he had no intention of turning to the needle for any sort of companionship. I could leave him in peace, and find some peace for myself in the meantime.

Just as I turned to walk up to the door there was a loud crash right behind me. Both I and Holmes ducked, but he was quicker than I in then moving across the floor toward the sound of the disturbance. One of the window panes of the middle window had been inconsiderably smashed. It placed his brow in deep furrows, not from wonder, but aggravation. He turned his head and scoured the floor, moving forward in a dash and picking something up. I had just straightened myself up, having observed his pattern of movement and now coming to join at his side.

It was a rock. He was unwinding the piece of paper which clung to it, rolling it out between nimble fingertips and holding it up so that he could read it.

“Well?” I asked.

“‘St Paul’s’,” he murmured. “‘Ten o’clock.’ What time is it now?”

I glanced at the clock I kept in my waistcoat.

“Close to nine.”

“Excellent,” he said, turning his eyes in mine. “If it is not too much of an indisposition, I should like you to accompany me.”

“I would be indisposed if I did not,” I assured with a slight smile.

I knew perfectly the reason why he would want me there, and without further ado I went upstairs to fetch my pistol and ready it for the excursion.

¤

I had often wondered why he, being of gentle birth, had not acquired the taste to wield a firearm. He seemed to, on most occasions, leave that aspect of our partnership to me. I felt no reservations against him using my hand, instead of his own, to protect him; and refrained from ever broaching the subject in soft fear of him turning me away from his adventures for good. The question in itself would be host to such bad taste and showcase of such low use of brainpower that it would certainly have him raise more eyebrow than one, and he would not stand for any of it being near him. This would not only deprive me, but also you, of the fantastical tales of this formidable man, and so I would not make mention of it even to secure my own breath from forever leaving my body.

The evening was damp when we stepped out into Baker Street, but the fog had not yet laid its felted appearance upon the cobbles and the sight was clear. It was refreshing to be outside, and we started our quite extensive walk in silence.

Holmes seemed divulged in a world where question marks were obliterated by his sharp eye and keen intellect. He always disappeared into a state of true purpose and unyielding determination whenever a new case was at hand. His gaze was affixed ahead, a strange and powerful light shining behind it. His dark coat and top hat worked as though designed for him alone, and his posture was self-assured in the least self-aware of ways. His set jaw, his steady walk, his clean observance of everything and nothing were parts of the things I admired greatly about him. Even when stooped in his darkest moods he had an air about him which spoke of one thing and one thing only – control. It was what made the strongest man cower in his vicinity, and what made him seem as the only real presence in whatever space he occupied.

“Have you any idea what we go to meet?” I asked.

He gave me a look as though I was quite the petulant child set on never taking in the words of his teacher, and for a moment I felt much like the cowering crook. But then the corner of his mouth bent in a smile, his eyes once more directed ahead as he replied:

“The note was written by a woman of considerable birth, the penmanship would have been quite tolerable had it not been written in haste. The piece of paper had been ripped from the page of a newspaper, which tells us what?”

I tried to find the correct answer quickly, my mind running over the possibilities.

“She is a journalist,” I offered.

“My good man,” he said. “That is infernally incorrect.”

“Pray tell me how to correct it,” he urged him.

“The lady had read today’s paper and in it she had seen something which made her feel it necessary to contact me immediately, in the cloak of night, and not in person,” he said.

“But how can you know it was not she who directed the path of the stone through your window?” I inquired.

“Ah-hah!” he said, his mirth now coming out in full volume. He brought the piece of paper out and showed one of its corners to me. I have to admit to its scuffed appearance telling me nothing of the origin of his train of thought. “It has been hosted in a slingshot,” he disclosed. “One belonging to a boy, Watson, and not a lady.”

I gave him as impertinent a look as I could muster at his latter remark, one which he duly ignored, and watched him pocket the note once more, the dome of St Paul’s coming into view and he slowed his step, as did I.

“Why did you wish me to bring my pistol, if you knew we are but to meet a lady in distress?” I asked.

“She had a good reason not to rush to my door,” he replied quietly. “We may have brought whatever it is she fears, upon her.”

I glanced back at from whence we had come, but the street lay in deserted stillness. The greatest lesson I had learned thus far from my dependable friend was, however, never to trust my eyes. Had we been followed, there was no way of knowing until the very pivotal moment arrived.

“Come,” Holmes said, leading the way across the street and then the square, which in turn took us to the front door of the large cathedral.

Holmes reached out a hand for the door, when there was a hushed whisper to our left.

“Mr Holmes, sir,” it sounded. “Please, sir, would you come this way?”

Holmes exchanged a look with me before we both left the front step, walking down the rest to the corner of the building, which seemed to be speaking to us. Huddled behind it, but rising slightly to greet us, was a small boy of no more than six years of age. He was dressed in clothes of finer quality, his face was clean and his hair cropped short. Its red colour was not hidden even in the dark which surrounded us and it did not take a lot to guess the Irish blood flowing through his veins. His face was calm, but his hands jittery and his feet seemed eager to lead us further on our way.

“We must be quiet, sir. You too, sir,” he said, first to Holmes and then to me. “If you please, sir.”

He brought his hand into Holmes’ and proceeded pulling him with him alongside the great building. I observed the stern face of Holmes and had to keep down a chuckle. He was a friend of any child, but the touch seemed to render him quite perplexed as to what he should do with it, thus it was kept as it was and the boy was allowed to guide him with ease.

But a few minutes later we landed upon the stoop of a modest townhouse. Its gardens were well-kept, but the grandeur one is used to see in the homes of London had been left out of this particular structure. It had washed windows and a prettily laid roof, but nothing out of the ordinary to announce itself to passers by. The boy pushed open the waist-high gate and let go of Holmes’ hand for running ahead on the footpath leading up to the front door. It opened the second he reached it and a pale face looked out at us. It was all that the building was not, displaying a beauty most splendid, albeit weary.

“Thank you, Matthew,” its owner said with a small smile to the boy. “Thilda will put you to bed.”

“But I so wished to…!” he began, stopping at the slight shake of the lady’s head. “Oh, alright,” he muttered in clear disappointment.

Looking up at us, as we had come to a stop behind him, he gave us a smile each and walked in through the door, which the lady now opened to a wider gap in order to allow us entrance. Holmes removed his hat the moment he stepped over the threshold, I mimicked his movement. He looked around with his normal astuteness, finally allowing his eyes to settle on the young woman, who had closed the door and stood in mute wait. At capturing his gaze she said:

“Please, won’t you let me take your hat? Caroline, my maid, has the evening to herself.”

She added the last bit of information as though excusing herself, but she did it with such grace that neither of us was apt to question her in any way. The only sign of Holmes having any sort of thought on the matter was his right eyebrow rising, though it was undoubtedly not detected by our hostess. He did as she asked, removing his hat and handing it and his cane to her waiting hands. She asked me to show her the same courtesy. After having put our belongings in the hall closet she then proceeded to walk past us, inviting us to follow her into the drawing-room.

The soft lights of the few lamps lit therein gave her face a certain lustre, her large blue eyes seemed unearthly in their depths and her soft brow smoothed itself as she sunk down into an armchair, having bid us both to sit. Her dark hair was piled high on her head and her mouth wore a faint residue of artificial colour, though the rest of her face showed none. She had a fine waist and the green dress covering her slight frame was of the latest fashion, though not the most exclusive.

“I cannot apologise enough for the manner by which I have procured your coming here to-night,” she finally spoke.

Holmes had seated himself with both arms splayed either way on the back-rest of the couch, one leg brought to drape itself over the armrest while his face was turned toward the fine display of photographs standing on a side table. Now he smiled briefly.

“In lieu of the fact that whatever matter brought you to such an act is what secured my coming here to-night, all else is irrelevant. You have yet to give me your name.”

The lady nodded.

“Miss Amelia Livingston.”

I noted the barely present shift in Holmes’ eyes, his watchful gaze growing ever more intimate as it rested upon Miss Livingston’s face. She did not look away, but there was an equal cause of effect as she said:

“Of course, that is not my real name.”

“Of course it is nothing of the sort,” Holmes agreed, still waiting for her to elaborate.

I looked from one to the other, jotting down words in the little notebook I had retrieved, something which the lady seemed either not to be aware of, or care about, until this very moment. She turned her eyes on me.

“Sir,” she said.

“Doctor,” Holmes corrected, her face turning questioning. “This is my good friend and colleague Doctor Watson.”

“Certainly,” she said. “I beg your pardon,” she added with her eyes once more in mine.

“Not at all, I’m sure,” I replied, whereupon I received another of her small smiles.

“If you do not mind, Doctor, I would prefer it if my name did not figure in this particular part of your story.”

“You know I am in the habit of producing such work?” I asked.

“I am quite aware, as one of them led me to seek Mr Holmes’ help. I am sorry I had not taken due note of your title, but I did quite like your words,” she said, making me feel rather at ease with the whole matter.

“I thank you,” I said earnestly, seeing Holmes rolling his eyes and deciding it was his turn to be ignored. “I shall create a pseudonym for you, rest assured,” I added. “And will deter from writing anything down which might vex you.”

“Then it is I who give thanks,” she replied with a little bow of the head, which was most charming indeed.

Her back straightened and her hands placed themselves on her lap as she looked from me, to Holmes.

“My name,” she finally began her story, “is Amélie Woodsworth.”

I recognised the name instantly, the family Woodsworth being linked to the higher ranks of the royal court by blood; but I also knew the name from a far back memory I could not entirely place. It had nothing to do with a former case, of that I was certain; I never forgot something as personal as that.

Holmes was, however, not at all surprised, and seemed quite satisfied with continuing his listening. I was already intrigued as it was, but the question of what a noble woman was doing in such circumstances as these, living quite alone with a child, piqued my interest and I prayed, I am not ashamed to say it, that Holmes would allow her to proceed uninterrupted. I could not help but smile to myself at this quite blasphemous thought, and the one of what reaction would have been bestowed upon me, had he heard it.

“I grew up not far from London, on the countryside. I had a happy childhood, sheltered and nourished, every fancy was mine. All the things a young girl was supposed to learn, I learned with ease and through joy, for I loved pleasing my parents.” She saw the slight smile playing on Holmes’ lips, and smiled as well. “It’s quite true,” she assured. “My mother is French. She met my father when she was not yet eighteen, visiting England on vacation with her family, and fell instantly in love. The name I carry was my great-grandmother’s, on her side of the family, and I’ve treasured it.”

“Until,” Holmes interjected, “you were forced to change it.”

She looked down at her hands, hesitating.

“I apologise, I haven’t offered you anything to drink. Mr Holmes?” He shook his head, and when she turned her eyes on me, I did the same. She looked for a second imploring, but then she clearly grasped hold of herself. “This business is quite tender,” she said silently. “You must forgive it for not coming out quite as effortlessly as I would like it to.”

“We are in no hurry, eh, Watson?” Holmes said, in no manner acknowledging me, though he used my name so freely, a characteristic of his which passed perfectly forgiven by me.

“Quite right,” I agreed.

She was grateful, but it took her another minute to collect her thoughts.

“I met a man – on my twentieth birthday – who was everything I had ever hoped for and who said I was everything he could ever need. He courted me, and though I knew it to be against my parents will, I let him. For nearly a year he stayed close, taking every opportunity which presented itself to meet me. I fell in love, quite deeply so, and I knew it to be the same for him, and… Though we were not married…”

She trailed off, and by the light blush and the aversion of her eyes I could deduce the ending of the sentence quite perfectly for myself. Holmes was eyeing her unperturbed.

“You then found out you were with child,” he said.

She nodded, looking up at both of us once again.

“I was going to tell Ian. The only one who knew of the situation was my maid. It was she who made the remark, ascertaining my knowledge of what I was suffering, for I thought I was ill. I had managed to keep the morning sickness from my parents since I, at first, believed it to have something to do with… with the act itself.”

She flushed again, and I felt pity for her.

“But you did not get to tell Ian,” Holmes pushed her on.

“No,” she said, her eyes filling with a shimmering layer of tears. “A terrible crime made it impossible.” Her hands were wrought together in her lap, most distraught. “A stable boy was found murdered in the woods of our property. Ian had come that afternoon to speak privately with my father, asking for my hand in marriage. I had not known he had planned to do so, or I would have insisted on speaking with him first, so that we could have faced my parents together. As it happened, my father refused him. Ian was not good enough for me; though being a gentleman, he was not rich, and I already had many suitors who were in much better situations. Ian spoke with me very briefly, telling me of the result and assuring me he would not give up. I did not get a chance to speak with him privately, and when I pleaded with my father, telling him of my love, he was shocked and outraged that he had known nothing of it. My wishes were disregarded in the matter, and though I love my father, and he always has been kind in every other regard, for this I cannot forgive him.”

She stopped, her breath quivering with emotion.

As soon as she began telling of the death of the stable boy I had remembered reading of it many years ago. It had not been as exploited by the papers as some murders were, perhaps due to its swift conclusion.

“Ian was apprehended the next morning by the police,” Miss Amélie said, as though finishing my thought for me, “for there had been a witness who placed him on the grounds at the time of the murder.”

“Which occurred later that same evening,” Holmes said. She nodded. “Did Mr Cavanaugh return to see you?”

She stared at Holmes, quite speechless until she said:

“How did you know his last name?”

“It was not until you spoke yours that I began to put the pieces together,” he replied with a small smile. “But pray, answer my question.”

“No, he did not come to see me. Or, if he did, I knew not of it. I was not well.”

“I see,” he said, sympathy seeping into his features.

“The police said the crime to be a vengeful act against our family.”

“Witness, motive, and yet he did not hang,” Holmes remarked.

“No,” she said. “He did not. His family paid for the very best solicitors to fight for their son’s life, and they won. I am thankful for that. But he has been in prison for…”

“Seven years, yes,” Holmes filled in, rising to his feet with something not very far from a jump and walking up to the tray holding a collection of crystal carafes. “Now, let me narrate the events which followed his inclosing. You realised, quite shortly thereafter, that you were pregnant. You knew there could only be one father, and seeing no other salvation, you confessed to your parents.”

“Yes,” she agreed.

“And did they suggest you give away the baby?”

“No,” she shook her head. “I don’t believe they even thought it. And had they made such a suggestion, I would not have conceded. I wanted that child more than anything.”

“And so they sent you here, under the condition that you changed your name and withdrew from society.”

“I didn’t mind,” she said.

“I know you did not,” Holmes replied with a slight smile, replacing the top of the carafe he had been pouring from, bringing the small glass of brandy to Miss Woodsworth, handing it to her and going down on one knee next to her chair, gazing up at her.

She brought the liquid to her lips and drank a mouthful before she turned her eyes in Holmes’. She did not seem bemused by his close proximity, but rather comforted; as though she had been afraid of our branding her with the scarlet letter.

“Did you try to get hold of Mr Cavanaugh?”

“I sent him a note,” she answered. “He wrote me back, a very short reply, saying he was ashamed of what he had brought upon me and that he didn’t wish for his child to see him in that wretched place. He begged me to forget him.”

“You could not,” Holmes said, voice soft.

“No,” she answered him. “I could not.”

“But,” I said, putting my pen down, “why did you send for us?”

“Ah,” Holmes said with a look at me, rising with ease and standing to look down at the lady. “A few weeks back I read that Ian Cavanaugh had been released from prison. There was also related the gruesome business which had put him there. His involvement was never fully proved, was it, Miss Woodsworth?”

“No, but circumstances were what brought him inside those four walls, and I believe, had he not known me, he would never have happened upon them.”

“You cannot blame yourself for what transgressed,” I ventured to comfort.

“But I do,” she said. “And this is why I ask your involvement now.”

“To reopen the case?” I queried.

“No, Watson,” Holmes replied, the slight impatience in his tone unmistaken.

Moving across the room he snatched a newspaper from its resting place on a spindly table, unfolding the front page of it with the flick of one wrist, quite near the tip of my nose, and then placing it before me.

I furrowed my brow as I read the heading of one of the articles. Soon enough I noted the torn corner on the upper right-hand side of the page. Holmes tapped the article I had just skimmed with one finger, turning back to Miss Woodsworth with the most regal of airs, the sincerity of his posture telling me that he now considered us inexorably involved in this case.

“There has been another murder,” he spoke and the lady closed her eyes.

“Frederick Harrington,” I read, frowning. “The witness,” I then added as I placed the name, Holmes showing his approval with a nod.

“It was not Ian who committed these crimes,” the lady said, voice now steady as she met Holmes’ gaze; which was literally blazing with the prospect of a challenge.

“But you fear this is not what the police will think,” I said.

“When do the police ever think?” Holmes remarked with marked punctuation before turning his attentions back to the lady. “Have you been visited by Mr Cavanaugh since his release?” She shook her head. “Have you received any form of communication from him?” She shook her head again. “Answer me now,” Holmes said, his voice quite urgent, “are you sure you believe in his innocence?”

“I am convinced of it,” she replied.

“Then we shall start from there,” Holmes stated, heading for the door of the room. “Come along, Watson, no time to dawdle.”

I collected my pen and notebook, giving Miss Woodsworth a rather apologetic smile as she had risen to walk us out.

_________________________________________________________

Finish this story here.

With regards!

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~ by mescribe on August 29, 2010.

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