Friday, February 12, 2010

The Depressed Detective

Title: The Depressed Detective
Author: Ranger

He'd done it again. Thirty eight bullet holes marked the sitting room wall paper. With a disarming lack of ingenuity he'd tried to hide it from me by hanging a picture that covered approximately nine of the charred craters. I took the picture down and discovered he'd shot them in the pattern of a patriotic and copperplate VR.
I sighed and put my bag down on the corner of my desk, then placed the picture in the centre of his. 
No answer. I went to the door of his room. He was lying on his bed, apparently asleep. 
"Holmes, I wish you wouldn't do that. The decorators think I'm mad." 
One eyelid lifted fractionally. "I pay for the damage." 
"Strangely enough, you're never in when the decorators re paper the wall. And get up. You were out of bed when I left."  
It had taken energetic threats to achieve that much. Holmes was unemployed and we were on the third day: he was being Depressed. Usually by day five we were reaching the Life Is Unbearable stage. Without a case on hand, it took me time, arguments and hard work to prise him out of bed in the mornings. 
"I would have stayed up if you'd stayed here." He said sulkily as I went into the sitting room, stripping off my damp overcoat. 
"I have to work." 
"You don't have to work." Holmes retorted, emerging crossly from his room. 
"I like working then." I said mildly. "Keeps my hand in." 
"I don't know how you can be so cheerful when you've been dealing with children and mere coughs and colds all morning. Doctor." He curled up in his armchair, tucking his feet under him like a cat, all angles and bones. "I see Mrs Fairfax's delightful youngest has bitten you yet again. And you walked through the delights of Islington." 
I smiled as I put my coat away and unpacked my case, listening to him in one of his favourite pastimes- deducing his way through my day. It was a ritual as old as our relationship. He didn't look at me as I moved around him, but he leaned back against me when I bent to kiss the top of his dark head. 
I sat down at his desk and sorted through the top drawer while he talked, until I found his box of pistol cartridges. Those I confiscated. I also had a quick look through for the green Moroccan case, the old box that contained his hypodermic and any bottles of cocaine he'd managed to sneak past me into the house. That was his usual dramatic gesture to me that Life Was Unbearable. He knew I'd half murder him if I caught him with the stuff: sometimes I suspected that was most of the reason he still risked it. Consciously he might not want a spanking, but subconsciously I thought he knew he was out of control and needed to know I could still keep him safe.  Although he knows perfectly well that if I catch him with any, his life ceases to be worth living. I would have been surprised to find any in such an obvious place. I know his repertoire of hiding places on the very rare occasions he risks bringing it home, but it does him no harm to be reminded that I check. 
I saw his face as I got up and reached for my notes. 
"Watson…" he said beseechingly. 
I sighed, not unsympathetic, but Tim Anstruther was due home on Friday and would want detailed and up to date records on his patients. 
"Holmes, I've got to do my notes. It'll take an hour at the most-" 
"Can't you do them later? What's an hour or two?" 
"Why?" I said patiently. "What do you want to do? Go out?" 
He pulled a face. He was allergic to fresh air. I only ever put myself through the trauma of dragging him out for a walk when our housekeeper's nerves were seriously frayed. And in this mood he was unpredictable. The last time we went out under the promise of going 'somewhere' he took me for an uncomfortable hour at the National Gallery, where he clearly and articulately insulted the portraits, one after another. 
"Holmes. It's just an hour of paperwork. Once it's done, I'm all yours, I promise." 
Judging by his heavy sigh and the flick of his heavy, dark hair, I was an unreasonable, cruel and ill tempered brute. With the nerves of long practice, I turned my back on him, took out a pen and began to fill in patient records. 
 Holmes, even on a good day, is almost as jealous of pieces of paper as he is of any man I don't take an instant dislike to. He loathes me working. 
For about the first five minutes he was quiet behind me and I began to nourish a hope that he would read- or write- or perform one of his complicated scientific experiments, the vast structure of equipment for which was precariously balanced on a table by the door. But I know my boy. I was filling in the notes for Mrs Fairfax's detestable, sharp toothed five year old when I became aware of the tuneless whistling behind me, quiet but persistent. I sighed. And tried to ignore it. I re dipped my pen and went on with the records. Holmes moved on to tapping. From the sound, it was most likely his fingernails rapping out a tattoo in time to his whistling. I laid down my pen, trying to be patient. I understood how miserable he was and how much he hated boredom, but… 
The whistling broke off. I turned around to look at him. 
"Do you think you could possibly be quiet? Just for an hour, that's all I ask. You've got those monographs you promised you'd read and correct for the University-" 
His long nose wrinkled at the thought. His beautiful, dark eyes were tragic. I leaned over, pulled the monographs out from underneath the junk on his desk and passed them over. 
"Just an hour." 
"Anyone would think I interfered with your demanding and overwhelming work load!" Holmes untwisted his long frame from the chair and retired to his room in high dudgeon, carefully leaving the monographs behind. 
"If you go back to bed…" I threatened without turning. His bedroom door slammed. 
Well, Holmes sulking tended to be quieter than Holmes actually trying to be quiet. 
I went back to work. It was all of five minutes before I sniffed suspiciously. And turned. Blue smoke was curling out from underneath Holmes' door. The tobacco was something foul he'd discovered on the docks a few months ago. Within five minutes of his lighting the pipe, the room disappeared in a fog and all sentient life evacuated the building. 
I gathered up my files, opened all the windows, closed the sitting room door quietly behind me and hid upstairs. 
Holmes rarely comes upstairs unless he wants to drag me out of bed at three am to go chasing felons. As a rule we share his room. Mostly because we try to keep up appearances for Mrs Hudson, and partly because for all that he is a detective and can track delinquents through the littered streets of London, he is incapable of sneaking downstairs with anything like discretion. Or of getting up to be in the right bed at breakfast time. I nearly jumped out of my skin when he burst through the door ten minutes later, oblivious to the idea of knocking. 
"Watson! Where the devil is my hat?" 
"You're the detective." I said wearily. 
I knew the tone. If I didn't go and look now, he'd take hours to calm down. He was incapable of finding anything that actually belonged to him. I drew a deep breath. 
"Twenty minutes more Holmes. Please." 
He glared at me from the doorway and disappeared. A minute later, the familiar sounds of a heated altercation between him and Mrs Hudson floated up the stairs. 
"If you kept your room in any sort of order, Mr Holmes-" 
"I do not remember asking you to interfere, I merely said-" 
"Your hat is underneath the pile of newspapers at the foot of your bed, as I found when I tried to dust this morning." 
"I did not ask you to dust anywhere!" 
I put my fingers in my ears and tried to remember exactly what I'd prescribed for the last of Anstruther's patients and in what amount. Doors slammed downstairs. There was a crash as something was banged down, then my heart sank as I heard the plunk of strings being tuned. The violin. Holmes' ultimate weapon. 
He can play to concert standard when he so wishes. He prefers caterwauling. Weird screeching sounds are guaranteed to make me communicate with him if only to break all the fingers in his bow hand. There was a loud squeal from the strings, then he began a high, maniac scale so fast I couldn't tell whether it was meant to sound like that or if he was deliberately playing sharp. The scale ran upwards for ten to fifteen seconds, stopped dead, then began again, still louder. Downstairs, Mrs Hudson shut the door to her kitchen and her own ground floor rooms with a resounding bang. It is said that a gentleman keeps his temper with fools and animals, but Holmes can exasperate beyond all good manners. I slammed down my pen and went downstairs. 
He was standing at the open window to play, putting us in serious danger of a police summons for public nuisance. I put the sash down with a little more force than strictly necessary. 
"Holmes, stop it!" 
The scale ran again, still faster. I took the violin out of his hands, my temper snapped. 
"Holmes! SIT down! There! Now!" 
He knows that tone and that chair. I waited, pointing with the violin until he moved, slowly and sullenly to his own armchair and flopped down. 
"I have had quite enough of this!" I said sharply. "You seem determined to spend the day being as difficult as you can possibly manage!" 
He glared at me. I waited, glaring straight back. His eyes began to drop, he grimaced and I got that twisted, sideways look that means he's heard me and wishes he hadn't. 
"I am going upstairs to get my notes and I'm going to finish them." I told him. "And you are going to sit there without making one sound. Is that perfectly clear?" 
Holmes looked at me from under his lashes. I ignored him, laid his violin down and went to collect my notes. 
He knows when enough is enough. I worked in peaceful, blissful silence for the next half hour, wondering why I hadn't resorted to this before. Except I understood how miserable he was, and how much he wanted my company, although nothing would have dragged such a confession out of him. I had half a glimpse of him in the glass of the window from where I was sitting, and I could see him curled up. His long legs tucked against the arm of the chair, his dark head bowed, his long fingers fiddling with the tassel of the chair cushion, his mobile mouth closed and subdued. I softened as I watched him. Years ago, that look used to intrigue and worry me. In those days I didn't understand it.  I could laugh now, when I think of myself fifteen years ago- young, impressionable and half crazed with unrequited love for a man I was obsessed with. The despairing young Watson who hung on his every word and gesture and glance he spared me. 
I'd had to change, not him. In those four years when I thought he was dead, I was forced to stand on my own feet. He'd returned home to a man with a career of his own- and a brief, disastrous marriage behind him- far from the uncertain boy he'd left behind. Oh he had loved me in those days. There was a romance and passion in those years when we were both young that I remembered even through the bitter-sweetness of our many arguments, slights and misunderstandings. But I was not strong enough then and he knew it.
I laid down my pen, closed my files and turned my chair to face him. 
"Very well, I've finished. What did you want to do?" 
"What is there to do?" Holmes looked mournfully at the windows which were streaming with rain. "London is dead. There is no interesting or inspiring felon left anywhere with one solitary spark of ingenuity." 
"Nonsense, you've been unemployed barely seventy two hours. And you needed the rest." 
"There's nothing whatsoever to do!" 
"Catalogue that avalanche of papers littering your room." I suggested. "Come for a walk. Read the papers. Read a book. Do those monographs." 
He glowered at me. I got up from my chair and went to rescue his violin, still laid out on his desk. The Stradivarius is his pride and joy and I handled it with the same love he did, although for different reasons. 
"Why don't we go down to Covent Garden and see what's playing at the Opera house?" 
"I've heard you play Puccini before now." 
I laid the violin down in it's case and slackened the bow, raising the inset box to replace it. It was then I found the single, small bottle of clear liquid tucked into the velvet lining. 
I turned on Holmes and saw the colour drain out of his face. 
"WHAT is this?" 
"You should know, you carry it in your own bag, doctor." Holmes retorted. It was a last ditch defense and he knew it. 
"It's in this house! And hidden!" I drowned out his tantrum before it could start. "Do you remember anything at all of what that addiction was like, Holmes? Do you? The finest mind in England, whimpering like a child for the self indulgence of narcotic! Do you remember at all what we went through!" 
"I didn't use it!" 
"You have it hidden from me! Its very presence leads you to lie and deceive, there is NO excuse that you can make, Holmes!" 
I stalked across to the window, opened the sash and smashed the bottle sharply on the windowsill. Glass fragments fell to the street below. It was an over dramatic gesture but it relieved my feelings fractionally. I pointed at the stairs. 
"My room." 
"Now, Holmes!" 
Hell hath no fury like John scorned. 
Short tempered he may be, irrascible even, but there is the odd occasion when I am vividly reminded that he was a rugby blue at Cambridge. I withdrew from the scene with all appropriate dignity, allowing him the proper space to recover his customary good nature. His prejudices are unfortunate. He bears an irrational dislike of guns, of cocaine and of bad manners, which I have come to accept as a part of his somewhat eccentric charm. 
His room tells a thousand secrets, which he is of course endearingly oblivious to. The very neatness speaks of his army career. The freshly brushed jacket over the chair speaks of his devout belief in one of his favourite maxims: manners maketh man. A book-marked copy of young Kipling's 'Tales from the hills' lay beside the bed. It might as easily have been 'Alice through the looking glass' or some complex pathological text. 
I paced, thoughtfully allowing John the time to repent of his hasty words and his rare display of temper. The thought of my dignified John actually dropping broken glass onto the street below made my lips twitch, but when he entered the room I showed him a face of calm understanding. John took off his grey jacket and placed it over the bedpost, then began with clinical efficiency to roll up his shirtsleeves. His eyes are a most unusual shade of blue, the exact colour of which I have never been able to replicate in chemical form. 
"Come here Holmes." 
I have some little boxing expertise, which in such situations has always proved most useful. Unfortunately, John shares precisely the same expertise and possesses considerably more muscle. To placate him I entered his orbit and he took prompt hold of my ear, drawing me with him toward the bed. I would have moved in that direction had he simply asked, and I informed him as such, but he took little notice. He seated himself on the end of the bed and Looked at me, entirely devoid of the twinkle that usually lights his eyes. 
"You KNOW what I think of those drugs." 
"It's entirely circumstantial evidence that you found it-" 
"Be quiet!" John ordered in a voice, which unfortunately I recognised. There is little point in reasoning with him once he reaches this point of outrage. 
"My dear fellow," I said placatingly, "I apologise for any distress this may have caused you-" 
"One more word, Holmes," John said with an entirely different glint in his eye, "And you will not enjoy the consequences." 
Having considered the options, I held my tongue. John reached over to the dressing table and appropriated a class two offensive weapon. 
It was a clothes brush. Holmes wriggled like a schoolboy. 
When he resorts to using my Christian name, he is either deeply moved or knows he is about to be. This man could debate with Lucifer himself and win, but there are times that actions speak louder than words. I took him once more by the ear and drew him down over my lap. For all his length there is nothing of him. I drew his jacket back, exasperated by the very reminder that years of cocaine and bad nerves had killed his appetite until it was a continual battle to get him to eat regularly. Holmes twisted a little, never one to abandon a strategy until all hope was lost. 
"According to English law, a man can be tried only once for the same offense." 
"According to Dickens," I informed him grimly, "The law is an ass. And as you have so frequently told me, you are not a policeman!" 
The clothes brush was heavy in my hand and struck his taut trouser seat with a satisfying impact that relieved my temper fractionally. 
"You know precisely what I think about your narcotics," 
"Watson!" Holmes protested, jumping. I took little heed. 
"And further you remember what I told you I would do should I catch you using the wretched stuff again!" 
"You did not find me using it!" 
"No, I found you concealing it!" I cracked the brush's wooden back several times more across his now twisting gluteus maximus. "So allow me to refresh your memory." 
"Watson be reasonable!" 
I declined to be reasonable. Holmes jerked and expostulated indignantly at each impact of the brush. He was out of breath and scarlet in the face when I allowed him to stand. He placed both hands behind him and gave me one of his most ferocious scowls. 
"As a doctor you have shamefully little concern for causing injury." 
"I am not nearly finished yet." I informed him, laying the brush aside. Holmes' eyes widened in alarm. I pulled him closer by the waistband of his trousers and began to unbutton them. Holmes paled rapidly. 
"Watson. John, no-" 
I peeled his jacket off, pulled his braces off his shoulders and his trousers fell to his knees. He flushed darkly. Oddly enough this is a more severe punishment to him than any other. He has the vanity and the dignity of a cat, and this is more than he can bear. Heartlessly, I drew his underwear down after his trousers and once more took him back across my knee, lifting the tail of his shirt. He was already very red and he was quivering as much from the humiliation of his position as from the smart. I held his slight hips firmly and applied my palm to his backside. 
"That substance is NEVER to enter this house, and certainly never to enter your veins, do you understand me? You don't need it, you will NOT use it, we are NEVER going through the consequences of your addiction again! If I have to search this house and you every day, I will keep that filth away from you!" 
"Ow- John please-" 
"You are an intelligent man, it shouldn't be too hard for you to make the connection. I will not allow you to use any drug." I paused, punctuating each word with a still-harder slap to his now scarlet buttocks. "Not cocaine, not laudanum, not opium, not anything else you can think of or name! Is that clear!" 
"Yes!" Holmes gripped my knee, sounding far more plaintive now than protesting. "John I promise-" 
"You had better keep to your word Holmes." I said grimly. He relaxed a little as he realised I had finished. I helped him to his feet and he hastily and stiffly re ordered his clothing. He was pale now and his eyes were a little reddened but it was the look he gave me that told me I had reached him. Pure little boy plaintiveness as only Holmes can reproduce; a look that could break hearts. I hardened mine and pointed to the door. 
"Watson-" Holmes pleaded. I picked up my jacket and sat down at the desk to retrieve my book. I was truly angry with him and being ignored is the one thing he truly cannot bear. After a minute he went out and uncharacteristically, closed the door softly behind him. 
I read for the rest of the afternoon, losing myself in the heat and dust of India and forgetting the threat of the cocaine and my sulking boy below. It was dark when I heard the first soft coughs of a bow against violin strings and lifted my head, bracing myself. 
The gentle, flowing strains of the Lieder drifted up the stairs, carrying it's own unique invitation. It was a piece of music that inevitably moved me to tears. A piece he only ever played for me. 
He'd won. 
I laid down my book, blew out my lamp and went down the dark stairs to my friend.
~The End~
Copyright Ranger 2010


Anonymous said...

I think I have read most of your stories but this is really taking it up a notch. Fabulous Gabby

Anonymous said...

This story was wonderful. Loved it!

Completely Sherlocked said...

With this story you painted the most beautiful picture of their friendship and warmth towards each other. I didn't want it to end, I could read about these two for hours on end. More, please! :)

Ranger said...

Thank you! You may want to try My Dearest Holmes by Rohase Piercy, which definitely inspired this.

vivi said...

Hi Ranger,

I enjoyed this story very much, and would like to translate it into Chinese and post it on a Sherlock fanfic website. Would you kindly authorize me to do that? I will send you the link to the translation work after I am done.


Anonymous said...

Loved this. Have you seen the BBC's "Sherlock" miniseries? Its briliant. Right up your alley too, as Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock as the brattiest of brats who ever bratted. lol

jen vieira pinto said...

What a wonderful story. I really loved it and I think it would make a great series as Holmes was quite the character.

Thanks. ^_^

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