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The Greek Decanter

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Sherlock and John were nestled, side by side, in a box of crumpled newspaper.

“We’re headed somewhere special, Sherlock.”

“Excellent deduction, John.”

John was a small blue Watson teapot. Sherlock had been a tall, elegant, milky white Holmes teapot—or coffeepot, it’s all fine—but he had suffered a nasty fall, a shattering, and a re-assembly, and was now being used by Mrs. Hudson as a vase.

“It’s puzzling, though,” said Sherlock. “According to my infallible sense of direction, we are headed to the WI. What WI event could possibly warrant the amount of time that Mrs. Hudson spent on her appearance?”

“And ours,” added John, eyeing his brand new cosy with no little pride. “But are you sure about the WI?”

“That would be the ‘infallible” in the ‘infallible sense of direction, John.’”

“Because based on what I overheard Mrs. Hudson say on the telephone, I could have sworn that we were going to a pub.”

I didn’t overhear her! When did you overhear her?”

“When you were preening in front of the toaster after your polishing.”

Sherlock harrumphed. “What did she say?”

“Something about the ‘Dogs and Bees.’ But I didn’t hear her very well, I guess it could have been ‘doxologies’ or ‘Donald’s knees’ or—“

“Diogenes,” said Sherlock.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Perhaps not to you. Remember when I said that I had twenty-seven sisters.”

“Yeah, and nineteen brothers. You said it was a large batch.”

“One of the nineteen is my twin brother.”

“Twin?!” exclaimed John. “You’ve never mentioned a twin. That makes it a secret twin and you said—“

“It is never secret twins as far as crime-committing is concerned, John, but in terms of crime-solving…”

“So he’s also one of the Detective line. Does he share your peculiar faculty for deduction?”

“Yes, he not only shares it, he possesses it in a larger degree than I do.”

“You’re lying. No one’s smarter than you.”

“You flatter me, John, but I am speaking in earnest. His powers of observation and deduction are superior to mine.”

“Then why hasn’t anyone heard of him? Anyone meaning me.”

“He is well known in his own cupboard, the cupboard of Mister Diogenes, the oddest of its kind in London. If the art of being a Detective began and ended in reasoning from a trivet, my brother would be the greatest Detective of all time. But he has no ambition and no energy. He never even takes steps to verify his own solutions to problems.”

“He’s a teapot, though.”

“No, he’s a coffeepot, the coffeepot of one of the most important men in the nation. Mister Diogenes would say that he occupies a minor position in the British government, but in reality he is the British government. A kingmaker, as they say. Mycroft would say that he occupies a minor position in the Diogenes cupboard, but as Mister Diogenes drinks coffee day and night, he is much more than that. He serves the coffee that serves the man that makes the kings. He follows Mister Diogenes, wheeled on a cart from table to study and back throughout the day. He is privy to the most sensitive of documents and conversations, yet he uses his knowledge and influence only on rare occasion and for his own passive amusement, no more. He is, in a word, lazy.”

“Interesting. You said the cupboard was odd.”

“Yes, it is a collection of the rarest, oddest pieces imaginable, pieces that abhor the company of their fellow serviceware. It is a silent cupboard. Any chatterbox is launched onto the floor, and the loyal Bungo is dispatched to bury the offender in the garden.”

“Bungo?”

“Border Collie.”

“Well, this Mycroft Holmes sounds fascinating, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever meet him.”

“On the contrary, I am certain that an introduction is imminent.”

There was a bright light and a rustling and two very familiar hands reaching for Sherlock.

“Sherlock!”

“Mycroft.”

“Good Lord. I’d heard, of course, about that nasty business with the Moriarty and that you’d had your pieces put back together again, so to speak, by Mister Doyle. Oh, he does fine work, doesn’t he? You’ll last, why, at least another century or more, I’d say, if you keep yourself out of hot water, which of course now, you must! Ha, ha! Yes, yes. Good to see you.”

John was lifted from the box and set on the table beside Sherlock.

“Mycroft, this is John. John, this is my twin brother, Mycroft.”

John stared.

Twin? How on earth could they be twins?

 

Though Mycroft was the same elegant, milky white colour as Sherlock, he was the roundest and stoutest coffeepot that John had ever seen, the absolute opposite of Sherlock’s long, lean form.

As usual, Sherlock discerned John’s thoughts. “Mycroft is the elder of the two of us by seven minutes. He was poured first into the mould, so to speak, and the remainder of the material was used for me, thus, the disparity in shape.”

“Ah yes, Doctor Watson,” percolated Mycroft. “An Army Doctor, of course. Did Sherlock think you were a Country Doctor at first? Yes, yes. The slight lack of symmetry in the curve of the lid should have told him that was completely impossible, but eh, there’s always something with young Sherlock. Speaking of deductions, Sherlock, the Manor House case? I expected to get word from you our usual way, Mungo via Bungo, dog park, etcetera, about that. Thought you might be a little bit out of your depth with that one.”

“No, I solved it.”

“It was Adams, the butler, of course.”

“Yes, it was Adams.”

“I was sure of it from the first. That unfortunate butter dish, the temperature that day, unexpectedly high, even for the season, the depth to which the parsley sank, well, it could be no one else, could it?” He sighed. “My apologies, Doctor, I spend most of my days in silence so these rare occasions of conviviality bring out the spoutwagger in me. And utterly exhaust me.” He yawned.

“What does bring you here, Mycroft?” asked Sherlock.

“The late Mrs. Diogenes, God rest her soul, was a very practical woman, a devotee of the Society of Saint Cloacina. In her will, she left the Women’s Institute a brand new septic system, and they’ve decided to hold a tea in her memory. Naturally, Mister Diogenes had to attend. And since Mrs. Hudson is the only one amongst the regulars to own a Holmes—and one from the same batch, no less—“

“Here I am,” said Sherlock. “And at the guest of honour table.”

“And here’s Doctor Watson,” said Mycroft. “By your side. Where you go, he goes. He may be the making of you, Sherlock. Or make you worse than ever. Ha, ha! Well, we best settle in, gentle-pots. I believe we have a long afternoon of speeches ahead of us.”

And so it was, speech after speech, until even the pompom dahlias in Sherlock began to wilt.

John didn’t realise that he had dozed until he woke to a loud, bubbling, caffeinated snore.

Mycroft snorted, looked about him with some alarm, then spotting Sherlock, said, “Perhaps, my dear brother, I should tell you and Doctor Watson of a recent adventure of mine, though you’ll scarcely believe it given the amount of vigour and loquacity and bloody leadership I demonstrated, but I swear on our mother’s bone-ash, it is the truth.”

“Let’s hear it,” cried John. To John’s surprise, Sherlock, too, grunted enthusiastically, evidence that he was desperately in need of a distraction, after having already deduced everyone on the premises, twice, and finally conceding the high probability of no mysteries, such as salt packets maliciously exchanged for sugar packets, in the offing.

Mycroft cleared his spout and began.

“Well, the problem arrived in the form of Melas. He is a glass decanter that the late Mrs. Diogenes purchased while on a tour of the Peloponnesus. He wasn’t used much, but with his Mediterranean style was an attractive contrast to the other, more domestic-looking offerings on the drinks trolley. I did not know him well. We keep ourselves to ourselves in the Diogenes household.”

The last statement Mycroft address to John, who nodded.

Mycroft continued. “One evening, the drinks cart was rolled into the study, and Melas was positively rattling. He broke the rule of silence and blurted out that he was full of poison.”

“Poison!” exclaimed John. Even Sherlock sat up a little straighter at the word.

“Yes, well, you can understand that I had to summon up some energy—Sherlock has all the energy of the family, I’m afraid, Doctor Watson—and ask him to explain himself. He said that at the dinner party the previous evening, Mister Diogenes had been gifted with a bottle of ouzo from a pair of gentlemen by the names of Latimer and Kemp. The guests who desired it had enjoyed glasses poured directly from the bottle, then at the end of the evening, the remainder was poured into Melas, naturally, he being a Greek decanter.”

“Melas said that Mister Latimer himself had done the transfer and that with a very deft sleight of hand, had added the contents of a thin vial to the ouzo. He said he was sure that it was poison. He was frightened. How could he be party to, how could he translate, such evil?”

“I had to think and think quickly for I knew that Mister Diogenes was planning to do business with Misters Latimer and Kemp that very evening. He would no doubt offer a drink from Melas to the gentlemen and, as was his custom, have one himself. I recognised their scheme at once and realised that I had not only to save Mister Diogenes but to alert him to the villainy of his guests.”

“So what did you do?” asked John.

“I took charge is what I did. I let my coffee go cold and bitter just when I knew the maids were at their busiest and would be tardy in answering Mister Diogenes’ request to bring more. I knew he would go in search of it himself.”

“Then I went to work. I sent a saucer spinning down to the rug just below the drinks trolley. I asked the ice hammer to tap out a code to bring Bungo to the scene. Then, I called for everyone but Melas to hold on tight, and with an energy Sherlock would scarce conceive possible, I used my heft and Bungo’s strength, to crash my cart into the drinks trolley.”

“Melas wobbled after the second hit—thankfully he was on the edge for presentation’s sake—and then tipped. His stopper dropped to the floor and a fair amount of the ouzo spilled into the saucer and sloshed onto the rug.”

“We waited and then just as Mister Diogenes returned, Bungo lapped at the liquid. Then he yipped manically; spun in a circle; snapped, snarled, and spit; and fell in a dead heap at his master feet.”

“Mister Diogenes is not a stupid man. He called for someone to ring for a vet, then took samples of what was in the saucer and in decanter. He had his assistant phone Latimer and cancel the appointment with the excuse of sudden illness, which I’m sure reassured Latimer that his plan was working ahead of schedule.”

“And was it poison?” asked John.

“Oh, yes. Arsenic, as it turns out. The king of poisons for a kingmaker. Not very original, I’m afraid. Mister Diogenes saw to the villains.”

“Ah, the double murder in Budapest,” said Sherlock. “I read about it. Hungarian police baffled.”

“Yes, yes. That was unfortunate, no?” said Mycroft dryly.

“No,” replied Sherlock, just as dryly.

John chuckled. Now he saw the resemblance.

“Well, all’s well that ends well,” said Mycroft. “Melas was, quite frankly, too shaken by the whole affair to hold anything stronger than water anymore. He’s taken a page from your book, Sherlock, and doing very well with exotic flower arrangements in the conservatory.”

“Wait a minute,” said John. “All’s not well for poor Bungo.”

“No, John,” said Sherlock. “Mister Diogenes does not look like a man who’s buried his wife and his dog. It was an act, wasn’t it?”

Mycroft laughed. “Yes, yes. The stage lost a fine actor when Bungo decided to become only one man’s best friend. Everybody always loves the bit with the dog.”

And with that, there was a round of applause and murmuring and the squeaking of chairs being pushed back from tables.

Mycroft turned to John. “It’s been a pleasure, Doctor Watson. Sherlock.”

“I don’t suppose we’ll see you again,” said John.

“Oh, no? I don’t know about that,” said Mycroft. “While I was recounting my story, I couldn’t help but notice that Mister Diogenes actually chuckled. That man hasn’t laughed since we won the war.”

“Which war?” asked John.

“Oh, you don’t need to know about that,” answered Mycroft cryptically. “The point is I think he’s a bit smitten with your Mrs. Hudson.”

“Really, I didn’t—“ began John.

“Good-bye!” cried Mycroft as he was lifted off the table. “Oh, blessed silence and repose! Here I come!”

After he was gone, John sighed. “Extraordinary. There are two of you. But, you know, Sherlock for all Mycroft’s superior powers, I prefer my Holmes with a bit of vigour.”

For a moment, Sherlock’s porcelain flushed. Then he regained his composure and said,

“So you see, John, the moral of the story is two-fold: it is both training as well as ancestry that play a role in the gift of deduction, and art in the porcelain is liable to take the strangest forms.”