Inspector Lestrade mopped nervous beads of sweat from his forehead, and waited until the constable sitting before him had spooled a new sheet of paper into his typewriter.
"Ready?" he said, though he wasn't at all ready himself. He'd always prided himself on his facility with the English language, but this particular report was going to stretch him to the limit.
"Ready, sir," said the constable, fingers poised over the typewriter keys.
Lestrade cleared his throat.
On the 20th of August nineteen hundred and five, at ten minutes past nine in the evening, the London Metropolitan Police Telephone Exchange received a communication from Mrs M. Waters of 224a Baker Street. She wished to inform us of a crime to which she had been witness, namely a violent altercation between two men silhouetted in the upper-right-hand window of the building situated directly opposite, to whit, 221b Baker Street.
Lestrade paused. He'd been having a quiet smoke in his office and thinking about going home for the night when that young upstart Hopkins had poked his head around the door and told him about Mrs M. Waters' telephone call, and did Lestrade think it warranted a whole squadron of constables? Lestrade thought Holmes could certainly look after himself, and wouldn't appreciate Scotland Yard butting its nose in. On the other hand, he didn't want Hopkins calling round to Baker Street by himself just now, not when they were both hot on the heels of the Belgravia Burglar, and Holmes might let slip something that would give Hopkins the edge.
"Let's telephone first," he'd said.
Holmes and Watson had installed the telephone last summer, to Lestrade's delight. No more traipsing round to Mr Holmes only to discover that he was out. Not that it had been much use the previous evening, however, he thought, taking up the report again.
After having ascertained the impossibility of contacting Mr Holmes by means of the telephone, I then proceeded in the direction of 221b Baker Street, accompanied by Detective Inspector S Hopkins. Upon arriving at the premises, I entered into communication with the landlady, Mrs H. Hudson, and enquired as to any recent disturbances in the house. Mrs Hudson suffers from slight deafness in both ears, and was unable to be of assistance in our enquiries.
However, at the moment of our arrival on the premises, Mrs Hudson happened to be receiving a visit from Mrs L. Spooner, of 219a Baker Street, who wished to inform the proper authorities that approximately twenty minutes ago she had heard, begin citation, the most horrible noises, end citation, these consisting mainly of, begin citation, peculiar bumps and thuds, end citation.
That was the point at which Lestrade had understood just what Mrs Waters had seen silhouetted in the upstairs window.
He'd known Holmes for over twenty years now, and the Doctor almost as long. He'd had plenty of time to observe them together over the years, and he'd put two and two together quite a while ago now. He'd always suspected Mr Holmes was what you might call a confirmed bachelor, in any case, and ever since his dramatic return from the dead, it had seemed likely to Lestrade that Dr Watson wouldn't ever be marrying again either.
He'd never so much as breathed a word of his suspicions to another soul, though, until yesterday. In the Baker Street parlour yesterday evening, behind Mrs Spooner's back, he'd met Mrs Hudson's eye and knew that she was thinking just the same thing he was: that Hopkins and Mrs Spooner simply had to be distracted. Lestrade could feel himself going red now just thinking about it. It was one thing for him to be in the know about Mr Holmes and the Doctor. But to be exchanging conspiratorial glances with respectable widows -- He shuddered.
The constable was still waiting patiently for him to continue dictating. He cleared his throat again.
At Inspector Hopkins' insistence, we obtained the key to the upstairs set of rooms -- "No, scratch that."
"Sir?" said the constable.
"Scratch that bit about Inspector Hopkins' insistence. Let me see... Inspector Hopkins expressed his concern about the gravity and urgency of the situation, and we obtained the key to the set of rooms on the upper floors of the premises. Myself, Inspector Hopkins and Mrs Hudson proceeded upstairs. Mrs Hudson was overcome by a dizzy spell on the upper landing, and Inspector Hopkins was obliged to return with her to her rooms. However, due to the unfortunate presence of Mrs Spooner -- " He stopped and cleared his throat. "That is to say, due to the fortunate presence of Mrs Spooner, Inspector Hopkins was able to return to provide me assistance as I entered the scene of the reported disturbance.
The inhabitants of the premises, to whit Mr S Holmes and Dr JH Watson, were located in the room situated immediately off the living room, namely the former's bedroom. Our arrival occasioned them some surprise. It transpired that they had been engaged in a little amicable wrestling, an activity designed to keep them fit to face the physical element occasionally present in Mr S Holmes' professional affairs. This had necessitated the removal of their outer layers of clothing, given the elevated August temperatures of the day.
Lestrade closed his eyes. Engraven in his memory was the image of Holmes standing in the bedroom doorway, the haughty eyebrow he was raising at Lestrade and Hopkins quite at odds with his rumpled shirt and dishevelled hair.
"Where has Mrs Hudson got to?" he'd said, as though he were discussing the weather.
"Came over funny on the stairs," said Hopkins, before Lestrade could open his mouth.
"And you're here instead of rendering her assistance?" said Holmes, sounding cooler and more condemning than any man had a right to when he was flushed red and in a shirt that was buttoned up wrong.
"Left her with the other lady," said Hopkins, going as red as Holmes was and Lestrade felt.
At that moment, Lestrade was wishing Mrs Waters, Mrs Spooner and ever other busybody in Baker Street to hell. He couldn't quite remember how they'd finally managed to get away from there, but it had involved a lot of apologies for disturbing Mr Holmes unnecessarily, and several instances of Lestrade having to step on Hopkins' toes. Holmes had been at his coolest and driest; unfortunately it hadn't quite felt like the right moment to ask for his help in the matter of the Belgravia Burglar.
"I'll write the report, Hopkins," Lestrade had said firmly, after they'd taken their leave of Mrs Hudson, now quite recovered. He would rather not have written one at all, but that stickler Hopkins was sure to insist on one, and it would have been far too dangerous to let him write it.
Lestrade opened his eyes just then, and found the constable staring at him curiously, his fingers still poised over the typewriter.
He cleared his throat, wondering how long he'd been sitting there lost in thought, and quickly finished up the report.
"Having ascertained the absence of any criminal activity or immediate danger to public order, Inspector Hopkins and I left the premises and resumed the normal course of our duties. Right, get that typed up in triplicate, Constable, and I'll sign it before I leave tonight."
Lestrade pulled out his handkerchief again and wiped his forehead. How anyone could consider rolling about in the sheets in this heat was beyond him.
Well, at least it was now finished. Hopkins had been placated and Holmes' reputation was intact for the moment.
"Very commendable report, Lestrade," a voice said from behind, making him jump.
It was Hopkins, leaning in the doorway to the adjoining office.
"All just a mountain made out of a molehill, eh?" he said. "Funny to think it all turned out to be a spot of gentlemanly sport." He paused. "I'm quite fond of amateur wrestling myself, you know. Mr Holmes is going to give me lessons. With Dr Watson's assistance."
He gave Lestrade a guileless smile and walked out.
Lestrade stared after him, struck dumb. Visions of Hopkins rolling around Holmes' bedroom with Dr Watson were quickly replaced by even more horrible visions of Hopkin's meteoric rise to Commissioner of the Met with Holmes' assistance.
"Now, just wait a minute -- " he began, but Hopkins was long gone.
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