There was a time, God help me, when Tobias Gregson and G Lestrade of Scotland Yard, would spend hours vying for my attention, spreading their tailfeathers before me like a pair of petulant peacocks. Back then I thought they were merely trying to impress upon me their lack of need for an amateur consultant (no matter how desperate their pleas for my intervention.) But it was pointed out to me -- by Watson, who is cleverer than he lets on -- that my intervention was, in those early days, frequently unnecessary. Gregson would waste his shillings to get confirmation of a theory he’d already outlined, and Lestrade was coming to Baker Street to boast as often as he was coming to employ my services. That all changed, of course, shortly after the Brixton Road affair. But Watson saw enough of them then to understand the situation, and had his own reasons for correctly ascribing the genuine motivations which brought both Inspectors to my door. Not that he said anything to me, of course, not then...
My constitution was still frailer than I liked that first spring in Baker Street, enough so that many of the activities of life remained to me only as wistful memories. Long walks in the park, horseback riding, swimming; these pleasures, and many more among the simple joys of a healthy body, were beyond me. By March, however, I had regained enough strength to take at least an academic interest in certain forms of exercise, and it was from that comfortably remote plane that I watched as Inspector Gregson and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard competed for the attention of both their superiors and Mister Sherlock Holmes.
I could hardly blame them. Holmes was, and is, a striking man, and in those early days, when the resilience of youth countered the effects of tobacco, cocaine, and self-neglect, there were moments at which he could be said to be quite beautiful -- particularly at those times there when enthusiasm or triumph flushed his thin, pale face with color and filled his grey eyes with light. I had noted it the moment we met, when he was all aglow over his chemical discoveries, although my need for cheaper quarters had translated the observation into simple relief that my potential fellow lodger would not be a trial to look upon.
Naturally, I was not the only one looking.
In my account of “A Study in Scarlet” I have recorded how Holmes flung himself into his investigations of the corpse, but, in deference to convention, I omitted how avidly he was observed in turn by the two official detectives upon the scene. As my fellow lodger bent down to the body, and certain portions of his anatomy gained prominence, a wash of pink rose over Gregson’s features and Lestrade’s tongue darted out for a moment to wet his lips. I, of course, having been graced by Nature with an appreciation of the human form in all its infinite variety, had had better opportunities to study the line of Holmes’s trousers given our shared quarters. I preferred the view unobstructed by coattails, else I might have been watching Holmes instead of the Scotland Yard men myself. But I was curious as to what the two professionals -- who clearly had their own skills and theories, and who also clearly shared a certain amount of disdain for the youngster they had called in, for all that they called him “sir” -- saw in Sherlock Holmes. Now I knew.
I took some amusement from my observation, but I was unprepared for the wave of jealousy which roiled my gut when Holmes praised Lestrade for his discovery of the word “Rache” written upon the wall. It was at that moment that I realized that I was as mesmerised by Sherlock Holmes as either of the two detectives, and my first consolation was that Holmes was so absorbed in the mystery before him that he seemed utterly oblivious to the ulterior fascinations of his audience. Had he known, I do not think he would have burst the soap bubble of Lestrade’s pride so quickly. Nor, do I think, would he have granted the three of us a twenty minute encore performance of his earlier contortions as he examined the murder room in obsessive detail. Gregson and Lestrade might have been used to this performance, but they watched in appreciative silence as my friend flung himself from one corner to the other and even lay down on the floor to investigate a point of interest with his glass.
My second consolation came in the cab, after Holmes had delivered his description of the murdere to the two disbelieving professionals. Whilst we were on our way to visit the constable who had discovered the body, Holmes praised my summary of the difficulties in the case. Gratified beyond good sense, I found myself puffing up quite as much as Lestrade had done, and in a manner in which I had not been capable since the fateful battle of Maiwand. I spent the interview with John Rance in nearly as much discomfort as that unhappy policeman (although for a different cause), and was quick to excuse myself from accompanying Holmes for the rest of the day. I needed the privacy of our rooms. Once there, I dealt with the consequences of my realisations and then settled myself down to plan. Whilst neither Lestrade nor Gregson appeared to be having any success in their race to attract the notice of Sherlock Holmes, I did not doubt that it was a race worth entering. Besides, I thought to myself as I dropped into sleep, I had the inside track, and I meant to keep it.
Of course I remember that first time -- clear as daylight. It wasn’t as if Sherlock Holmes was in the habit of turning up at crime scenes with another man in tow. For that matter, back then I’d have given no better than even odds whether Sherlock Holmes would turn up at all, no matter how nicely he’d been asked. I was so relieved to see him coming up the path at Lauriston Gardens that I didn’t think to object to having another civilian poking his nose into my murder investigation. Not that Holmes’s companion carried himself like a civilian. Back like a ramrod, head held at regulation height -- he’d been marched about, no question, though not for so many years he’d forgotten what his pockets were for. Too thin for his clothes, I remember thinking, as though he’d been ill. Still, this new chap didn’t turn green at the sight of the body, which is more than could be said for most constables when they’re new to the force, and he didn’t get in the way of the investigation. And I had other things to think about just then, with Sherlock Holmes flitting about in search of clues and pontificating at the lot of us.
It wasn’t until Holmes had swanned off with his unexpected friend at his heels that I even found out the fellow’s name. It turned out that Lestrade had met the man already. “Watson,” he told me with the smugness of superior knowledge. “First name John. Medical doctor on convalescent leave after Maiwand. He’s been sharing lodgings with Sherlock Holmes ever since he made the move to Baker Street.”
“Sharing lodgings?” I echoed, though it made me sound a right idiot. I’d have done better to latch onto that mention of Maiwand. But I couldn’t help but wonder if the stranger had been sharing anything else with Sherlock Holmes, no matter how much I meant to keep that thought under my hat. I covered my gaffe as best I could. “I’m surprised to hear it. If those Baker Street rooms are anything like as full of papers as that wretched hovel Holmes rented on Montague Street it’s a wonder an Army man would consent to stay.”
“Mr. Holmes is a reformed character, apparently,” Lestrade assured me grandly, rocking back and forth on his heels as he scored his points. “I paid him more than one call over that forgery business, and if he’s been accumulating newsprint, he’s kept the bulk of it out of the sitting room. For now.” My infuriating colleague wrapped up the wedding ring he’d been quick to snatch up before anyone else had a chance into his handkerchief and put it into his pocket. “Mind you, I don’t think it’s out of affection. Those Baker Street rooms are a mark above what Sherlock Holmes could afford on his own. Unless you’ve been paying him more than I have for his services?”
That was a dig I would have done best to ignore, but I couldn’t help but growl, “I solve my cases with my head, not my pocketbook,” at Lestrade as I made for the door. I was not going to ask Lestrade what services he had purchased from Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It was torment enough to find myself imagining Holmes willing to accept payment for the services I most wanted him to render.
I decided then and there that I would have to see Holmes’s new lodgings for myself and take the opportunity to observe this Doctor Watson more closely. Luckily, Holmes, in his fascination with the American connection, had failed to note that Drebber had been in London long enough to purchase a hat. With any luck, the hatter would know just where that hat had been delivered. An investigation into the murdered man’s most recent accommodations and acquaintances was sure to yield a goodly crop of clues.
Enough, I was certain, to impress even Sherlock Holmes.
Anyone with two eyes in his head could see that Sherlock Holmes and Tobias Gregson made a pretty pair. Tall and pale and clever, both of them, though the one was fair and the other dark. Day and night, I’d think to myself, whenever I saw them together, straw and raven locks near touching over some clew. Many’s the time I’ve caught myself looking at the two of them and calculating how little distance stood between and whether or not I’d fit. And then I’d give myself a shake and look harder, for any sign at all that their proximity wasn’t due just to the fact that Gregson was trying to get closer to our favorite amateur. Because if any one man was going to get close to Sherlock Holmes, I intended for it to be me.
Of course, that was before Dr. Watson came along.
Honest truth, my first hope when I met the doctor wasn’t all that far from Gregson’s first reaction -- that Sherlock Holmes had taken on a fellow lodger for the sake of having his conveniences convenient, as it were -- because a man has a better chance of warming himself when the fellow he’s after isn’t an icicle. But during my visits Baker Street I hadn’t seen any sign that he and the doctor shared anything more than a teapot. Buttons always done clear up to the neck, both of them, no matter what hour of the day, and the jumbleshop furniture never pushed askew. No lingering glances, neither, at least none I ever saw except once from the Doctor, and that was curiosity, not lust, or I’m a Dutchman. Mr. Holmes always shooed the man out of the room whenever I’d come to call, and Dr. Watson, he always went without argument. Just that one look, once, towards the end of February, and I promise you that Mr. Holmes didn’t look back. I was as surprised as Gregson when they turned up as a pair at Lauriston Gardens come March. But the doctor, he effaced himself so thoroughly that I soon stopped considering him. Sherlock Holmes was there, after all, and shining the way he does when he’s being clever, and who notices a candle when the sun is in the room?
I was right pleased when I came across that writing on the wall, and a nice bit of praise I got from Mr. Holmes for it, before he waved his better education under my nose. Not that Gregson had any German either. He does like a soliloquy, does Sherlock Holmes, and he’s got the voice to deliver one, and while his parting shot did save a good bit of time in not hunting for a lady named Rachel, how he thought we’d have any more luck in hunting out the precise tall man with a florid face and long fingernails who had done the murder in all of London I don’t know.
Mind you, if he would have happened to mention that his tall, redfaced man was a cabman, that would have narrowed the search a good bit. But that isn’t like Sherlock Holmes and never has been. Likes his secrets, he does. Which, as you may expect, was no great grief to me, seeing as how I was still hoping that there was one secret he might have a mind to let me in on. But even then I knew that the best way to pry a piece of thinking from between Mr. Holmes’s teeth was to give him a bit of something new to chew. I made up my mind to track down Stangerson, seeing as most men aren’t murdered by strangers. If he was our murderer, all very fine and well, and if he wasn’t, well, then he’d no doubt have a better chance of naming Drebber’s enemies than any other man in England.
Still, as I said, I’ve eyes in my head, and I saw the way that Mr. Holmes reached out to take Dr. Watson’s elbow and steady him as they reached the kerb, and it near took my breath away. A dead man, and a mystery, and Sherlock Holmes still had a thought to spare for the doctor? He didn’t let go, neither, and they walked off arm in arm.
Having Watson accompany me on a case was refreshing in a way I had not anticipated. Unlike the officials of Scotland Yard, his appreciation of my efforts was untainted by that faint air of amused tolerance which colored my conversations with Gregson or Lestrade. I was disappointed by his inability to go to the concert with me, but as his health had been improving steadily throughout our acquaintance, I saw no reason why his stamina might not someday soon withstand more sustained efforts. But I did feel a shade of trepidation when I returned home and noted the spots of feverish color still high over his cheekbones. There was no denying that my peculiar profession was likely to attract increasingly odd visitors to our shared rooms as the weather improved, and if this first venture were to prove too much for his health I would shortly find myself in need of a different fellow lodger.
But although Watson admitted that the murder scene had soured his dreams, he brightened when he discovered that I had made use of his name in the advertisement I had set to lure a murderer to our door. Indeed, he was all attention, and set about preparing his revolver in case of need with such an air of satisfaction that I felt my qualms fade away. Something of my concern remained however -- a vague sense that I had gained more than I had suspected that day in the chemical laboratory at Bart's, or had risked more than I knew.
I daren’t risk my fellow lodger’s health again that day, and did no more than bid him wait up for me when I set out after the “old woman” who came in answer to my advertisement. He did, too, and despite my failure to bring my quarry to heel, I felt quite triumphant as I recounted the chase to the doctor. He patted my shoulder in consolation when I sent him off to bed, and wished me better luck next morning.
I sat up late, coaxing gypsy ballads out of my violin and ruminating on the mysteries of human touch.
Military life, even of a medical sort, does teach a man patience and the need for planning when undertaking a long campaign. And mine would be a long campaign, I knew, even then, for Sherlock Holmes had taken to a pinnacle the dubious art of ignoring anything which did not pertain to his interests. There was a very good chance that the man, despite his age, was something of an innocent. I had observed the phenomenon before, particularly in the case of an otherwise brilliant schoolmate who had been genuinely bewildered at being punished for absentmindedly easing an erection in the library whilst studying for an examination during our senior year. “But it was distracting me, John. Worse than a fleabite,” he’d protested later, when I was providing him with salve for his wounded pride. “All I was doing was making it go away.”
The memory of Tom’s blushes when I explained, in far blunter terms than our pious housemaster had done, just why his actions were considered more heinous than scratching a fleabite, brightened my ablutions the next morning. He’d had far more occasions to blush that year, for he set about correcting his lack of knowledge with the diligence of a true scholar. Indeed, his enthusiasm for the subject had left me fond memories of the school gymnasium, the library, the pantry, and even the choir loft. I had little doubt that Sherlock Holmes, properly reminded of the necessary concepts, would be even more creative.
But that would have to wait until I had a better reason for breakfasting at noon than recurrent insomnia.
My fellow lodger, not too surprisingly given the violin concert he had treated the house to until all hours, was also late to the table, although he had been up long enough to go down to the corner and collect copies of all the morning editions for us to read over our sausages and eggs. He’d recruited a passel of street urchins at some point as well, and they came rattling up our stairs as we were lingering over our coffee. No sooner had they been dismissed to their mysterious work than Holmes spotted Inspector Gregson coming up the street.
Holmes, of course, ascribed Gregson’s high good humor to the Inspector’s efforts on the case. I agreed, but thought my own conclusions about where Gregson’s interests lay was supported by the fresh polish on his boots and the thoroughness of his toilette. A man does not take the time to hunt down and purchase a boutonniere in early March when he is going to visit a rival! I had to admire Gregson’s persistence, though, particularly once Holmes's fear that Gregson had pipped him was assuaged. If all of the man's advances towards my fellow lodger had met with such amused disdain it was a wonder that he was still trying.
A busy afternoon and evening, and a busy morning too, and it wasn’t until noon next day that I had a chance to go to Baker Street and pay a visit on Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I thought I had the case wrapped up, although it proved I’d been a bit hasty. That’s neither here nor there, though, since the main reason I’d gone to visit was to see what I could see.
Lestrade was right. Baker Street was a good long step up from Montague Street, for all that it was a long hike from the Museum and Bart's, where I knew Holmes spent most of his free time. There hadn’t been a maid to answer the front door, before, nor a landlady willing to enquire if a visitor might like a fresh pot of tea brought upstairs. It was almost a relief to find that the sitting room on the first floor was furnished with bits of this and that, or I’d have set the rent for the rooms well beyond an honest detective’s purse. Oh, the place was comfortable enough, to be sure, and nothing in it had been allowed to become shabby. But the curtains had been mended, and the woodwork bore nicks beneath the polish. And no two pieces matched -- not even the chairs at the table near the window.
Doctor Watson and Mr. Holmes had just risen from a meal when I arrived, for their plates were still upon the table. Breakfast, I judged, from the empty toast rack and the scent of shaving soap still fresh on the two lodgers. Holmes was dressed in his usual suit of black, but Dr. Watson was still in his dressing gown – a silken peacock blue that brought out the color of his eyes. He exchanged it for his suit jacket, heavy brown wool like his trousers, whilst Holmes provided me with a drink and a cigar (which must have been the doctor’s, judging by its quality) and settled me in a chair by the fire and invited me to regale them with my story. My attention was on the doctor, else I might have taken better note of the way that Mr. Holmes had seemed to expand into affability when I announced my conclusions. It was always his way, and I'll tell you that when one of us did manage to solve our cases before him he'd a pout that would do a three-year-old child proud. Very pretty it was, too, and always made me want to kiss it better.
But as I've said, I was watching the doctor, and he was watching Sherlock Holmes. There was a light in Dr. Watson's eye as he studied his fellow lodger that made me want to draw his attention away somehow. Because there was no denying that Mr. Holmes was preening. He kept glancing over to see how the Doctor was taking things, and hardly seemed to care a lick about all the work I'd done in uncovering the history of Enoch Drebber's last night on Earth.
There's nothing like a good joke to catch a man's attention, and I thought of a good one then. Lestrade had taken a different angle on the case than I, and given my premature confidence in my success, I slapped my thigh and shared the joke, laughing, until the doctor's eyes were fixed on me. It was Dr. Watson, not Sherlock Holmes, who asked me about my clue, and it was to him that I found myself explaining all I'd said and done. Oh, I kept half an eye on Holmes – that was only natural – but I found myself wanting to get a smile out of Watson.
I got no more than nods, however, and was content with them, for the Doctor has the gift of listening with all his attention, only glancing over now and then when Holmes would make an interjection. He likes to think he's teaching us our jobs, does Mr. Sherlock Holmes, but I was in no mood to mind it. I had my man locked safe away, and thought me to have finally impressed the amateur with the plain truth that there were things I could be teaching him.
So I thought, and that I had one up on Lestrade as well, but then that very man turned up at Baker Street and the news he brought threw all my notions awry.
Bless me if I can tell you why I turned my steps toward Baker Street after the morning I'd had. A pub would have done me better, you would think, and so would I, most days, but the murder of Joseph Stangerson shook me right out of thinking anything except to wonder how many more bodies would be strewn across London before this murderer was through. I'd half a mind to put a notice in the papers, warning every American visitor to our shores against him.
But so public a step required more evidence of a pattern than a poisoning and a stabbing – I'd no desire to have my name attached to cries of unnecessary hysteria – and so it was to Baker Street I went.
Tobias Gregson was there before me, ensconced in a chair by the fire with an air of self-congratulation, a cigar in one hand and a glass of whisky in the other. I wasn't glad to see him, nor Doctor Watson neither, for I wished to consult Sherlock Holmes in private. But what I had to say wouldn't stay between my teeth, no matter the audience.
Gregson jumped to his feet at my news and spilled his drink, dismay all over his face, and Sherlock Holmes pursed his lips and drew down his brow as if already adding the death of Stangerson to his collection of data. But I saw Dr. Watson go a shade paler, and as I found myself a chair and invited myself into their council of war, he pushed himself upright and went to pour a finger of whisky into a glass. I thought he might be bracing himself, but no, the glass was for me, and glad I was to have it while I recounted my discoveries of the morning.
When Holmes leapt upon the question of the pills I had found in room, it was mere chance that I had them in my pocket. Properly, I should have turned them in to the nearest police station, along with the rest of Stangerson's possessions. But he lit up so bright at the mention of them it never occurred to me not to hand them over. You'll say as it's a damned fool thing to do, encouraging Sherlock Holmes when he's in high good humor, but I did it as much for the look on his face as to find an answer to the mystery. After the morning I’d had, I needed a bit of something else to think on, and watching Mr. Holmes expand and wave his arms about always guarantees the topic. It was all I could do to assume an expression of impatient tolerance as he arranged his demonstration with the dog.
Dr. Watson, who didn't have any superiors to answer to if he was outsmarted by a youngster, didn't bother to mask his interest. When he brought up the ancient terrier in his arms and settled it on a cushion on the floor, he was all but kneeling at Mr. Holmes's feet like a supplicant appealing to a prelate for absolution, or a rentboy engaged in the sort of activities that would require the same. He got an eyeful too, and Holmes was too busy mixing up his concoctions and hinting at his conclusions to notice.
When the first dose failed to kill the dog, Holmes fretted a bit and ran his fingers through his hair, which cheered Gregson and I considerably. There's nothing like a hint of dissolution to make a man like Mr. Holmes more human and attainable. But when the second dose worked, and Mr. Holmes began to glory in his own cleverness, well, then I didn't know whether to kill him or kiss him.
Tobias Gregson (as I found out afterwards) had an innocent man sitting in jail, so I think his vote might have been for the former, because he piped up and told Mr. Holmes to stop shilly-shallying and tell us who the murderer was. But Sherlock Holmes, with a fresh audience to perform for, had committed himself to finishing the job without a proper hint to those of us whose job it was to see the murderer brought to heel. I'll give the doctor credit, for he was as anxious to have justice done as any of us and said so, which had more influence on Sherlock Holmes than any pretty speech that Gregson or I might make.
He very nearly capitulated. In fact, he as much as said as he would be willing to take the blame for another murder, rather than give us the name of the man we sought, and for all that two inspectors of Scotland Yard were in the room, it was the doctor he was looking at all the time he spoke.
Gregson flushed up like a girl whose beau is courting another, and I saw green myself. That's not the way our work with Mr. Holmes had gone before, when a half-crown added to the fee might be all he was after. We might still have begun negotiations, except that no sooner had Mr. Holmes declared himself than his plans came to fruition. First thing we all know, he's got a pair of darbies on a cabman that's come up to help him with some baggage and announcing to all the world that he's got the murderer. Next moment the cabman is trying to go out the window, and there was nothing for it but to drag him back inside. And didn't that start a fine row-de-dow!
Jefferson Hope – for that was the cabman's name – fought like a demon. He had long legs, and wasn't shy about using them, nor his fists, and only Sherlock Holmes among us had the length of arm to deal blows back within his guard. That might be why Hope used his bound arms first to knock Mr. Holmes away before elbowing me in the head and driving a boot into Gregson's middle. Holmes fell back, but might have recovered if it weren't for tripping over the dead dog and landing with a clatter among the fire irons.
As if that were his cue, Dr. Watson let out a growl and came at Hope low, like a rugby player taking out an opponent. He couldn't take Hope down without knocking Gregson and I off our feet as well, but he seemed to think the gain worth the cost.
I was already half-hard from watching Mr. Holmes waving his elegant hands around as he pontificated, and I soon grew harder in all that tangle of legs. And arms. I will say this for a prolonged wrestling match – it does give a man opportunities to put his hands where they might never wander elsewise, and who am I to pass up an opportunity?
Mind you, it wasn't always easy to tell just whose anatomy I was feeling. Some of it I didn’t sort until after the battle. Mr. Holmes, as I've always thought, was long and lean, and just a bit excited from the fray, and was carrying the family jewels in a purse of ordinary proportions. The doctor, well, his bag was bigger than most, and the rest was broad and blunt and a bit more than a mouthful as he stiffened. But it was Tobias Gregson's attributes which gave me a surprise.
It happened like this. We'd been shaken off of Jefferson Hope for the third time and he was trying to get up again and had got as far as hands and knees, so I threw myself over his legs and left Sherlock Holmes to try to capture his head. No sooner had I landed than Gregson threw his weight on top of mine. Well, I'll tell you, I'd wondered about Tobias before then, but only in the way that I did about any man who I think might be willing to take the back stairs. I sure wasn't expecting the great truncheon that was poking me a bare few inches from where it might have done some good!
Well, that was the end of any chance I might be able to stay discreet myself, for I hadn't gone from half mast to full flags flying that quick since I was a youngster. It was very nearly painful, but it hurt Gregson more than me, for the distraction let Jefferson Hope hurl us off again and when we closed with him again, the felon brought up one of his long legs and gave Gregson a knee in the crotch.
Gregson fell back, gasping and clutching at what I had only just discovered might prove his best quality, and I gave up any thought of subduing Hope kindly. I went straight for his neckerchief, twisting it until he couldn't breathe, and might have gone on twisting if Dr. Watson hadn't caught me by the hands and roared into my ears that Mr. Holmes had tied a towel around the prisoner's feet and we had him safely trapped now.
Watson gives himself little credit in his account of the aftermath of our battle with Jefferson Hope. The plain truth is that he was the first of us to reach his feet. I was nursing a twisted knee and Inspector Gregson was doubled up over a bad blow. Lestrade, having subdued Jefferson Hope, sat on the rug with his head in his hands, recovering his composure. But Watson pulled himself up by means of a chair and set about checking on each of the combatants. He even straightened up the body of Mrs. Hudson’s little dog and wrapped it in its blanket (which, given the state of our window and our sitting room, probably saved us from ignominious eviction.) By then, of course, we’d caught our breaths and our prisoner had gone from rage to a preternatural calm. I was paying most of my attention to him, of course, since it had occurred to me that he must have recognised the address from my advertisement about the ring, but I did notice the unusual solicitousness which Lestrade displayed as he and Watson got Gregson back to his feet.
Winning a fight, I’ve found, has a salutary effect, at least for me, especially a scrum like that one had been, but cleaning up the damage soon exhausted my valetudinarian resources. Gregson had been excited, I'd noticed during the fray, but an unfortunate blow had left him quite unenthusiastic, and he was limping as we made our way down the stairs. Inspector Lestrade, on the other hand, was still finding discreet ways to block the evidence of his distended anatomy right up until the moment we made our way down to the cab and he took up the reins. Come to think of it, he probably volunteered to drive because it would be cooler up there. Or cooling.
If Sherlock Holmes had found the battle stimulating, it showed mostly in the shine in his eyes and the bounce in his step. He ushered Jefferson Hope into the cab almost gently, and then turned to assist Inspector Gregson and myself as well, as if his success would not be complete without an audience to approve it.
I can't say as I approved of the gesture when Sherlock Holmes loosed Jefferson Hope's feet again, knowing from experience how hard the man's knees were. I stayed well away, as long as I could, but there isn't much room in a growler, and I was more than glad to be sat alongside the prisoner and let Sherlock Holmes take the seat opposite.
We soon found out why Jefferson Hope was willing to be taken, though, or Doctor Watson did. The man was dying. He wanted to tell his story. Why he couldn't have just turned himself in without trying to leave me singing soprano in the choir, I don't know. I let Lestrade explain the charges to the duty inspector, and take the notes too. He didn't fuss about doing all the work, and much to my surprise, he made sure to write in my name on the charge papers. On another day he'd have left it to me to ensure that I was mentioned, but on another day, I'd have done the same to him.
Without anything to do with my hands as Jefferson Hope told his tale, I spent my time watching Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. The doctor is a fine, considerate man, and listened to the story with his full attention. When the prisoner asked for water, he shook his head to signal me to keep my seat and went to the pitcher and glass himself. Sherlock Holmes had his long legs stretched out in front of him and was leaning back like a boy in school. He was bored with the love story, I think, but he watched his captive with a proprietary air, only glancing now and then to Watson, as if to see how his fellow lodger was taking his success.
It was not the look of a lover. But it might become one, in time. Lestrade saw it too, and for a moment our eyes met. He flushed and looked back to his notebook, his shoulders tucking up closer to his ears.
It seemed a long time before Jefferson Hope finished his tale, and longer still because I had to go back and clean up the bit of shorthand which I’d got wrong after seeing the look in Tobias Gregson’s eyes. And that was after seeing the way that Sherlock Holmes was playing up to Dr. Watson. Oh, don’t mistake me. It wasn’t that our favorite amateur was batting his eyelashes or flirting his tail. I don’t think he even realized yet that he was paying any one man in the room more mind than the rest. But it was clear enough to me, and to Tobias too. And from the way that Dr. Watson smiled after Hope was led off to the cells and Mr. Holmes began to prattle about going off to Simpson’s for a well-deserved meal, I suspect it was clear to the doctor as well.
We saw the happy couple off, and then I waited while Tobias saw to the release of Arthur Charpentier. I had an offer I wanted to make, but I settled for asking him if he wished to go down to the pub with me. “We deserve a drink,” I told him. “And a bite to eat, before we settle down to our reports.”
He studied me for a long moment, calculating, for it was a suggestion I’d never made to him in his fifteen years at the Yard, but then he nodded. “It has been a day,” he agreed.
We found a quiet corner of the Crown and Truncheon and settled down to our beer and stew in an amiable silence. But after a time, Tobias began to chuckle. “Did you see the look in his eyes?” he asked, and I didn’t have any need to ask who was meant.
I snorted into my beer. “Like a sailor in sight of a new port of call,” I agreed. “All ready to put on his best suit of clothes for going ashore.”
“And the doctor all ready to greet him when he reaches land,” Gregson said, with a wry twist to his lips. “If I’d have thought that it took telling Sherlock Holmes that he’s a clever man to turn his head I’d have done it long ago.”
“Me too,” I said, “though it would have been like taking coals to Newcastle. Mr. Holmes tells you he’s clever ten times a day.”
Tobias grinned. “Not clever enough,” he said. I raised an eyebrow at him and he grinned all the more. “How long do you think it will be before he realizes just how he feels about Dr. Watson?”
“Oh, about long enough for the doctor to recover his strength and decide to pin him to the wall,” I answered, grinning back.
Tobias cocked his head at me, thoughtfully. “And you’d know about that would you?” he asked.
“I have a certain expertise,” I admitted. “Though it’s not the sort you’d have to pay for. More of an amateur expertise, if you will.”
Tobias nodded slowly and then raised his glass to me. “Here’s to expertise, then,” he proposed. “And to amateurs, and mysteries solved! It’s a red letter day!”
“A red letter day indeed!” I said, raising my glass in return. “We’ve both managed to deduce something before Mr. Sherlock Holmes!”