Sherlock Holmes: The Confidant 4
I stowed my pistol away in my breast pocket with shivering hands and we set off to this mysterious meeting point. The hansom saw us to the other side of London where a row of old houses had fallen to disuse. Mr. Elicott and I snuck up the path to one in particular and he let himself inside without a knock.
The wood of the floor was grayed with dust, except where the comings and goings of recent footprints disrupted it. Linens draped all the furniture. The house had been vacant for some time.
“Why this place?” I asked aloud.
“It is private and abandoned,” Mr. Elicott answered. “Perfect for dealings of a duplicitous nature.”
“Many of the houses along this road are of similar standing, and some are more easily accessed, closer to the road. Yet this was chosen.”
“Picked at random, perhaps.”
I chuckled. “If Mr. Holmes were here, he would say something to the effect of, ‘Details are only considered random when the inquirer is too indolent to suss out the meaning.’”
“Then you do not think it was random?”
“Holmes would not, therefore I will not. Though I must admit I haven’t the foggiest as to the reason behind it.”
Mr. Elicott stepped farther into the foyer. “What is it you wish to see, Dr. Watson? Anything to help in your investigation.”
“Where is the steel product usually dropped, when you come to collect it?”
He approached a set of steps leading to the second level, but merely patted on the railing rather than climbing. “The beams lay across the stairs here. The note with the emblem of the perpetrator, redbird, priest, or the like, is always balanced on the end of the banister.”
“That seems logical. Keeps the goods out of the footpath of the entryway and gives easy leverage to lift them. Do you haul them out by yourself? It must be rather heavy.”
“Indeed it is, but I refuse to bring anyone else into this, so I endure.”
“You carry them out the front? No one has ever seen or suspected you?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“How do your confidants bring them inside without notice?”
“I have never been brave enough to spy. I leave and when I return, the steel is here.”
I heaved a sigh. “Mr. Holmes would station us outside to watch.”
“Therefore that’s what we will do?” Mr. Elicott asked.
“I believe that’s where more answers will lie. We need them to have cause to bring the steel. If they truly are watching us, then leaving another letter reimplementing the operation should do the trick. Then we can wait and see who comes.”
“If we see the fiends, will we confront them?”
“I would like to see their numbers and their statures before making that assessment.”
Mr. Elicott retrieved a fountain pen and paper from within his jacket and constructed a message detailing his cooperation in light of the circumstances.
“Is there anything else before we post ourselves on the path out front, then?”
With one last glance around, I emulated Holmes movements but made little of the information I gathered. “I believe I have seen all there is to see.”
We stepped out and rounded the corner of the house for cover. My fingers gravitated toward the pistol at my breast constantly though there was no sign of trouble for some time. Hours passed and weariness took my limbs. Mr. Elicott’s head bobbed and his eyes fluttered as well. I knew if Holmes were here, no drowsiness or loss of attention would plague him. The case took precedence over rest.
Once evening finally fell and darkness stole the rustic colors of autumn, a clunk of a shutting door sounded from the front of the house, though we saw no one approach. I rubbed at my eyes and readied my pistol. Mr. Elicott stretched over me to sneak a better view. To our befuddlement, the culprit of the closing door was walking away from the house, making his exit, though we never noticed him enter. The fellow was lanky with slumped shoulders, his strides comically long to the point that he seemed off-balance by nature.
“He must have came through the back, as you suggested before,” Mr. Elicott said.
“We should have split up to cover both,” I kicked myself. “Too late now.”
“Should we pursue?” he asked.
“It is only one man and I am armed. Perhaps I can correct my bungle. I will go after him and you can keep watch here. He may not be the only man coming tonight.”
With this, I broadened my shoulders and started off, though my steady jog had me breathless in moments. He remained at a walk with his enormous strides and I struggled to overtake him at my quickest. Mr. Elicott’s meeting place disappeared behind us as he zigzagged us through the streets of London.
Soon I had to brave confronting him for fear of losing him. “Stop!” I shouted down the way.
The stranger whirled around in astonishment and irritation, though I could only discern the flare of his brow from a distance. The man suddenly transformed, straightening into proper posture, clasping his hands behind him, and resting his chin to his chest. Even with the disguise, his identity became instantly clear to me.
Holmes’ voice piped up with a certain edge to it. “You certainly have made a mess of things, haven’t you, Watson?”
“Holmes!” I exclaimed as I caught up to him at last. “You are alright! You had me dreadfully worried.”
“I appreciate the sentiment and in this case I was counting on it.”
“You needed me to come, then?”
“I apologize for the theatrics, but you know that I always fancy a touch of the dramatic. My work calls for it most of the time, anyhow. And I imagine that quite a bit of it will now be taking place at our mystery house as we speak. I wish I had more time to explain. Your patience with me is impressive, Watson, and I would ask you to keep hold of it for only a short time longer. We must return to the house at once.”
Holmes flew faster than before and I had no hope of keeping pace. I paused for a breath on the steps once I arrived, yet I heard a quarrel inside that forced me to abandon my rest. Gun at the ready, I pushed inside to find Holmes in the foyer, standing bravely between a hot-tempered Mr. Elicott and a small, frail woman.
“You may lower your weapon, Watson. There is no need for that here,” Holmes said.
“Pardon the intrusion, then. I mistook the situation. May I ask who this is?” I looked to the woman as I pocketed my pistol.
“That,” Mr. Elicott interjected, “is my wife.”
To be concluded in Sherlock Holmes: The Confidant 5...
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber