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The Adventure of the Dutch Diamonds
Part II

The dogcart delivered us from Baker Street and into Bloomsbury, as London around us began to wind down for the evening. The paper boys and street hawkers packed their day’s wares away and the gas lamps on each street corner winked to life while a menagerie of lighted windows cast their vibrancy upon the street below. As we travelled, Holmes worked to coax more details from Lestrade.

“The victim’s name is Underhill, Frederick Underhill. He was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of London, lived in University housing on Gower Street for most of his adult life. He’s a widower of some ten years, and a man of most regular habits, this according to the neighbour that found him. She had not seen him for two days, and went so far to check up on him at his office. When he was there neither, she returned and let herself in with a spare key provided by his secretary, to find him in his sorry state, dashed by chandelier,” Lestrade explained.

I rubbed the top of my head and tried not to think about the glass and metal of a chandelier shattering across it, tearing into my flesh. I had seen horrible things done to men’s heads and faces while on campaign, marred by shrapnel or worse, but here the juxtaposition of gore and domesticity created a pit in my stomach. I consoled myself with the thought that It was surely a rarer event than even being struck by lightning, to travel beneath such an ornament in the moment it should break.

“Had this neighbour anything further to say about the premises? Strange noises coming from Underhill’s domicile? Leaks in her own establishment, perhaps?” Holmes asked as the dogcart came to a halt.

This time Lestrade detected the jab, “I was most thorough in my investigation of the premises, Holmes. This wetness exists all about the victim. His clothes are far from soaked, but…” Lestrade struggled, “you will see these mysterious wet markings for yourself on our arrival, and you will conclude they are as queer as I say.” He threw open the cart’s door and gestured to our destination. Gower Street’s apartments were a dark stack of brick opposite to the University’s sweeping campus and flourishing grounds, nestling in the shade of the great institution. The apartments had surely housed many luminaries and brilliant students across its time, yet they seemed to me a dull, black mark on a street of innovation.

“But not so mysterious that the officer in charge finds it worthy of any examination? Indeed, who is this inspector you allude to?” Holmes teased. Before Lestrade could answer, 185 Gower Street’s warped, green door swung open, and a dark haired policeman of sallow complexion emerged, joining the handful of officers that provided perimeter guard outside. I recognized him from his height, two heads shorter than Lestrade, and the thickly soled boots he wore to attempt to compensate for the difference: he was Inspector Gregson. Holmes smiled devilishly the moment he too recognized him.

“Lestrade, you have buried the lede,” Holmes said, emerging from the dogcart and marching towards Inspector Gregson. Lestrade and Gregson’s rivalry was often a treat to Holmes. He loved nothing more than to toss them scraps and watch them snarl and wrestle like wolves for it, at least when their fighting did not run rampant over Holmes’s crime scene.

“Lestrade, you bungler,” Gregson groaned as we all approached the home, “you really went to the trouble of bringing Mr. Holmes around? It is hardly a matter worthy of his attention.”

“You mean worthy of yours,” Lestrade countered, “you are just trying to avoid the paperwork and cut out for the evening, without conducting the comprehensive examination the professor deserves.”

“Gentlemen, let us remain civil,” I pleaded, ”we shall simply take a brief look around to attempt to determine which theory, accident or no, is better supported by the facts. Let us spare our vitriol for the criminal.”

“If indeed there is one,” Gregson snorted. “The victim’s name was--”

Holmes waved him off, “Lestrade has already furnished us with the most basic elements of the case. If you would be so kind as to show us inside?”

Gregson compressed his already small features with a scowl, and led us past the front door and inside. The door whined as it opened, and Holmes stopped at it momentarily, trying it at its hinge and then gazing pointedly up and down the road.

“Holmes, please, we really must get a move on. My men have been run ragged this week…” Gregson said, as Holmes evidently busied himself with trivialities.

“Gower Street is University housing. Why then should the door be in such a state of disrepair?” Holmes said.

I exchanged a glance with each inspector, who in turn looked between Holmes and I for some answer. “I do not follow your line of inquiry,” I said.

“London University employs its own small staff of carpenters, contractors, and assorted tradesmen for the maintenance of its grounds and its dormitory facilities. It is the preference of these men to complete as many tasks and updates in a single area as possible before moving onto the next, to increase their efficiency. For instance, many tradesmen will update the entryways of several homes at once, even an entire neighbourhood. Yet this door,” Holmes rapped his knuckles upon it, “is the most warped and damaged on the street.”

A look at the door opposite of 185 Gower’s confirmed it, finding the other door bright green and lacquered and anything but the sickly, off-angled slab that hung from 185’s hinges. The pattern repeated at other entryways outside, and turning back inward, we found the interior doors to be of similar specification.

“I allow it is odd, but I struggle to find it ‘suggestive’, as you so often say.” Lestrade said.

“Its relevance shall be borne out by the rest of the facts. At present, it is only another data point. Pray, let us continue.” Holmes said.

We were brought from the foyer into Professor Underhill’s main room, populated by another handful of uniforms. It was a circular, carpeted space that fed the apartments various other rooms on three sides. The room was dominated by a straight staircase that connected to the second floor, and ran down with dark crimson stains in a bloody well where the wood frame met soaked carpet. A man lay on the stair, spread as though he were starfish, with the remnants of a chandelier wrapped about his head as though a crude headdress. Nausea rose in my stomach and I swallowed it down, looking from the corpse to my dear friend.

Holmes gave the body a once over, and then turned to other areas of the house. He gestured at it, clearly having already derived what he required from it, to find his attention being rapidly pulled by the rest of the home.

“Watson, if you would be so good as to examine this individual?”

“We've already had a doctor ‘round, Mr. Holmes,” Gregson said, “a doctor from the University by the name of Zachariah Pendleton. By his judgement there was nothing unusual. He said Underhill has been dead for almost two days.”

“All the same, I would appreciate it if my companion could make such a determination for himself.” Holmes did not turn to address Gregson, instead stooping in the leftmost room and sticking two fingers into the ashes of the home’s inactive fireplace. I knew no further instruction would come from him as he immersed himself in the home and its features, questing for those which did not agree with the evident reality.

“Give the doctor some room,” Lestrade ordered, ushering all other officers beside himself and Gregson from the immediate vicinity.

Any disgust I may have felt melted away as I approached the body, the inner physician enabling me to look past the gore and viscera and make objective judgement on the corpse. The Dutch chandeliers' crystal petals had exploded over the body’s head and upon the ground, destroying his skull and the case of the brain within, leaving the broken chain to dangle above. Shards of shattered crystal remained hidden in the thick carpeting and poking from the harsh pink of Underhill’s exposed grey matter, winking in the flickering gaslight like diamonds.

Professor Underhill’s muscles had relaxed before we arrived, leaving the corpse’s midriff soiled in its own foul-smelling fluids, while its wrists and ankles lay upon damp patches of unknown origin. I laid my hands on the body, finding firstly that it had been thoroughly taken by the chill of death, the temperature of a man who had indeed been deceased for at least thirty six hours. Gently, I tried the left arm to test for the characteristic stiffness of rigour mortis, to find the limb quite pliable, having fully undergone secondary flaccidity, further supporting the notion that the corpse had been left for so long. Yet, as I tried the limb and felt those rare notes of stiffness that remained, I could not help but note just how cold the man was. I placed my hand upon his forehead and frowned deeply.

“Inspector Gregson? I can construct how your man arrived at his judgement,” I said.

“Excellent! You see, Sherlock?” Gregson smiled, “Scotland Yard gets it done.”

“However, I must advise there are several curious factors. Firstly, I must inform you that the algor mortis is the most useful factor to any physician in determining time of death, as the body’s temperature decreases at a consistent rate post mortem. But this body is quite frigid.”

“Of course he is. The man has been dead for over a day and a half.”

“It appeared that way to me on the onset. Professor Underhill is actually a few degrees colder than his surroundings. The body does not drop through the whole of the temperature scale on death, but rather approaches equilibrium with its surroundings. In fact, even if a body has been made cold, as is the case in many of Scotland Yard’s morgue facilities, when left out in the warmth it shall once again return to that equilibrium. But this body, despite the supposed time of death, somehow exists below that equilibrium. Someone has kept the body cold, and kept it in this fashion recently. The unnatural cold even makes the time of death uncertain, as the body is known to stiffen over the course of a dozen hours and unstiffen again after approximately two dozen. Based on the stiffness of Underhill’s musculature alone, while it is conceivable he passed thirty six hours ago, it is just as arguable that it was as recent as one hour ago. A further factor of concern is the stench, or lack thereof. A body left to decay produces gases and chemicals of a distinctive olfactory quality. It is not unheard of for amateur physicians to mistake the odour of post mortem excretions for that of decay. My experience informs me this stench is not that particular rancidity of death, and forces me to conclude that the Professor’s passing was much more recent than your investigator indicated.”

“I must concur with Watson,” Sherlock said. He wiped ash from his fingers with his handkerchief, and returned from the home’s other rooms to stand beside me. “It is typical of me to give into the urges of the dramatist within and forestall any communication of my conclusions until our cases have reached their total end, such that I may lay out the facts and their most interesting facets in their entirety. However, in this case, I must assure you gentlemen that there was no accident.”

“I assure you, Mister Holmes, that an accident is most plausible. The Professor has an ice box and a wet bar in the lounge. He could easily have been enjoying a cold drink that dropped his body’s temperature, perhaps even after death,” Gregson suggested.

“He would need to have enjoyed a massive quantity of drink to drop his temperature beyond his body’s natural heat,” Holmes said, allowing Gregson to continue to dig.

“Exactly. The man was so falling-down drunk, he disturbed the chandelier’s chain as he stumbled his way up the stairs,” Gregson declared.

“Gregson, you will join me in observing the position of Professor Underhill. You will perceive that his dashed head lays precisely below the broken chain of the chandelier. Inference? Underhill was already laying upon the ground. If he was standing, ascending or descending these stairs, you should expect the professor to stumble forward or backward as the deadly implement struck him and he fell to the floor, and thus break alignment with the chain,” Holmes said, maintaining his patience and kindness.

Gregson grinned like a cat that had caught its prize. “You only lend more credence to my theory, Mister Holmes. He could’ve easily been making a drunken crawl up his bedroom.” Now, my friend could not help but smile.

“I have, from time to time, enjoyed my drink to an excess, Inspector. But never have I crawled up the stairs on my back.”

The simplicity of it was striking. These facts considered, it was clear to me that foul play was a certainty. Even if the man was on the floor of his own volition, surely the chandelier’s chain would not snap at this precise unlikely moment. Gregson was stock still, but his understated eyes bugged from his head.

“Indeed,” he growled, “I shall inform the men of this discrepancy.” He left the room, excusing himself further embarrassment.

“Then it’s murder,” I said. “But how should the murderer have come to destroy the chandelier chain at the right time? Indeed, how could he keep Profesor Underhill in place as he loosed the ornament? There are no obvious signs of restraint upon his wrists or legs, nor a sign of a boot planted to his chest to keep him down. It truly is as if he lay there of his own free will.”

“It is on that point Watson, I intend to conduct my own researches. It is our duty as detectives to act upon evidence and not upon conjecture. Yet, as I total the possibilities in my mind and discount those conventional notions not supported by the facts here stated, and at the terminus of my reasoning I am met with an outre result. In this enterprise, I believe the criminal has achieved his results through sophisticated application of ice.”

Lestrade snorted, incredulous. “Are you implying that the perpetrator somehow sculpted restraints out of ice, and relied upon them to melt before the body was discovered? I grant you, it would go some way to explain the temperature of the body, and even the unique water stains about his extremities, but… It is far fetched, to say the least. Who has ever heard of such a thing?”

“I have encountered such a criminal before, if you would indulge my memory. During my travels abroad, I was engaged in a case in which it appeared that a Mister Akiyoshi Fujie had been murdered. In actual fact, the unfortunate fellow had committed suicide in an attempt to cast suspicion upon his manager. By utilising a pointed icicle as the instrument of his demise, the man had effectively engineered a disappearing murder weapon. He was given away by the great effort he had undertaken to ensure the weapon melted before he was discovered, most tellingly, the presence of a recently active fireplace in a blessedly warm August. What is of great concern here is the lack of such aides. The discovery of this crime was inevitable by the inquiry of Professor Underhill’s neighbours or colleagues, and the criminal has deployed no special strategies to hide his method, yett still effectively hidden it remains. I dare say we are dealing with something of a genius, as acquainted with the minute timings and properties of his frozen medium as a symphony violinist is with his catgut strings.”

“Is such a thing truly practical?” Lestrade asked. “Snapping off a thick icicle is one matter, but to bring such a quantity of carefully sculpted ice into the home?” Lestrade shook his head. “It is preposterous. I tell you, we have a Harrison ice machine at the Yard, and it is large enough to fill a room, and scarcely precise enough to even begin to perform an operation like this. He would have had to make and preserve each implement by hand, in the heat of summer, no less.”

“The science of refrigeration advances most rapidly. Many firms, both locally and abroad, are working to bring ice makers to the home. Who is to say that an enterprising scientist might not be ahead of the curve? It would not surprise me to learn the University might possess a similar device, likely of an improved specification than the one taxpayer funds provide to the police, which could be used to manufacture such equipment. Indeed, the criminal may be using an even more advanced means. But I shall refrain from speculation until I collect more data,” Holmes said. My friend turned to me and clapped his hand on my shoulder.

“Yet of foremost concern at present is the lateness of the hour. I am aware friend Watson has a pressing engagement on the morrow,” Holmes said. I checked the hour on Professor Underhill’s grandfather clock to find it as late as Holmes said. In just twelve hours, I would play host to a half dozen Gothamites. The anxiety of missing the brunch or failing to prepare for it were subsumed by my investigator’s resolve.

“I thank you for your consideration, but you will find me as available to you as ever. In a case as cold and mysterious as this, I should be thrilled to join you in the endeavour,” I said.

“It joys me to hear it, Watson! However, it is my suspicion Gower Street will not be home to much more suggestive information on this night. While further evidence in the home is possible, I should count us fortunate to have found what little we have. A criminal of this most extreme precision will not have left many more mistakes for us to pick up upon, if any at all. No, I believe your energies will be better spent with Mary and preparations for your guests, as the constabulary and I follow up what leading threads may remain in the home. I shall remain here and verify that nothing escapes our notice.”

I begrudgingly bid Inspector Lestrade farewell and trudged back out into the fading lights of drowsing London, through Gower Street’s creaking door. Holmes followed beside me, seeing me off to my dogcart home.

“In your estimation, Watson,” Holmes asked, eyes settling on me, “how would you rate the performance of the police’s chosen medical examiner?”

“You have known me to avoid criticism of the police, but he failed to denote the corpse's temperature, and made a gross over estimation of time of death. I may only characterise his conclusions as slipshod,” I answered carefully.

“I must agree,” Holmes said, satisfied, hailing a ride, “I recall Gregson provided us with his name, a Doctor Zachariah Pendleton. Does it stand out to your mind in any fashion?”

“Pendleton…” The name was distantly familiar to me. As a dogcart pulled around the corner and came to a stop from Holmes’ request, the memory came in a flash. “Yes! Pendleton! He has composed some few monographs on the treatment of chronic pain and disease. In fact, I recall Pendleton as being attached to the University’s Chemistry department, just as Underhill was…”

“Pendleton sounds to be a witness most worthy of interview, though we must not be hasty in following this course. We must establish a motive and thus a definitive direction for our investigations, such that we may approach Pendleton with superior information. At this juncture, the man could as easily be a potential victim as the killer himself. To narrow this field of possibility, I must entreat you to join me here at Gower Street tomorrow evening, at this hour,” Holmes said, a twinkle in his eye, as he helped me into the waiting cart, “our course must be to inquire into the life and researches of Professor Frederick Underhill, starting with his University offices.”

“If that is your judgement Holmes, then of course. I shall set out from home as soon as my guests allow,” I said. Holmes closed the door between us. The dogcart’s driver stirred the horses to action, and Holmes had one more thing to say through the cart’s window.

“And Watson?”

“Yes Holmes?”

“Don’t forget your gun.”

The Adventure of the Dutch Diamonds
Part I

I called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, in the summer of 1890, to find him ensconced upon 221B’s chaise lounge, wreathed in the smoke that emanated from his pipe. His long fingers probed the toe of his Persian slipper for another pinch of tobacco to fill his bowl. I counted myself lucky at least that Holmes had chosen tobacco as his poison of the day, as opposed to the cocaine solution he was known to select in the blackest depths of his boredom. It was habits like these, among his other Bohemian qualities, that rendered him quite undesirable as a roommate for most men, thus why Baker Street had remained with a sole tenant in the year since I was wed to Mary.

“Watson! This is a surprise!” He said.

“Oh, don’t get up, Holmes,” I said, placing my hat upon the rack, and righting the newspaper I carried in my arm, “I come with something of a surprise myself.”

“Do not trouble yourself, dear fellow,” said my friend, “I intuit the nature of the surprise you purport to bring.”

“Yet you still say I surprise you? I shall count that as a victory, against one so observant as Sherlock Holmes.” My friend laughed and waved me to sit in the leather armchair opposite him.

“Only with your appearance here at Baker Street, Watson. I should have thought you engaged in mingling with Mary’s visiting relations. Though I suspect now that Mary indulges in the feminine kinship of her dear cousins, and has left you to your own devices?”

Though Holmes’ observational trickery was far from new to me, it astounded me as ever. My mouth sat agape. “How could you possibly derive such facts? I have never informed you about Mary’s relations, much less their plans for travel. Even if I had, surely the assumption would be that I am off to visit them as well?”

“You are aware of my methods, Watson. As ever, it was through simple observation. I see your tie’s knot tends to the right, indicating you have done it yourself on this occasion. As well, I see the tie has returned to its state of military tightness, as opposed to Mary’s marginally more breathable loops. On the subject of your dress, I observe your pocket square is pressed and folded in the military style, whereas your wife would have applied a more decorative flourish. Finally, I see that you have breakfasted alone, for a sparse sprinkling of crumbs still exists in your moustache. Mary would have certainly detected these and dispensed with them before seeing you out the door.”

“It is a wonder I can make it out at all without her!” I brushed my moustache self consciously.

“As to Mary's relations, it is not as impressive as it may appear… I have already read the society pages I see you carry in your underarm.”

Holmes continued, “I recalled the details of our investigation into the activities of Bartholomew Sholto. In specific, that your late father in law, Captain Morstan, has a widow, a Mrs. Rebecca Morstan, who returned to America upon his death. Her maiden name, so dutifully recorded in your notes, was Kane. I see therefore in these pages that a Katherine and Bette Kane have recently arrived in London, a pair of an approximately similar age to your Mary, from the same city Mrs. Morstan was said to retire. It was a rather simple inference from there.”

“A marvellous deduction,” I declared.

“An elementary one,” Holmes said, “but perhaps an instructive example for your writings.”

“It was a stumbling point on my part, to think you unaware of the movements of prestigious Gothamites,” I admitted. “I should think one such as yourself to be professionally invested in the goings-on of the so-called ‘Capital of Crime.’”

“It is, in fact, a point of some irritation. The appearance of society figures such as these in London are wont to drown out such features as I search for in the various rags about town. The spaces of gossip publication typically reserved for those most scintillating crimes on which I thrive is often replaced with information on the comings and goings of such individuals,” Holmes said, “as well, I allow that the innumerable crimes reported out of Gotham City are not themselves without their interesting points, but what reports of them reach across the Atlantic are given to the most extreme kind of sensationalism.”

I had known Holmes to allow certain gaps in his knowledge, but this seemed a most curious one to me. Surely, one would reason, a consulting detective of Holmes’ calibre would derive great analytical experience from the kinds of bizarre tales to originate in Gotham, but Holmes was known to eschew that knowledge not essential in his business as a London detective. In the past he has claimed no knowledge of the Earth’s orbit about the sun, and in fact, had claimed the reverse, and though I suppose he was pulling my leg, it does not fail to illustrate the theme of Holmes’ focus on specific, esoteric interests.

“A handful of crimes do manage to stand out. There was the Nashton case from last year, a criminal that baffled American law enforcement with a series of logical problems and deadly riddles. Yet for the most part, the news is too full of tales of huge bats, undead men, and all manner of esoterica. Nothing to take too seriously,” Holmes assured me.

“I have known Mary to believe some of it. Perhaps on the morrow I can solicit the opinions of her cousins and their guests?” I offered. Mary’s relations had in fact arrived with an entourage. The morning’s edition enumerated that, aside from the Kanes, London would play host to Mary’s other cousin, a Mr. Bruce Wayne, as well as a number of family friends, Misters Cobblepot, Dent, and Bennett. A number of other Gothamites had arrived alongside them (the evident recipients of the same group travel sweepstakes that allowed the Kanes opportunity to attend), though those named were the only ones I planned to host for brunch the following morning. We had only learned of their arrival ourselves the previous evening, scarcely in advance of the news, and had been kindly pressed into the arrangement at cousin Bette’s request, though Mary was not displeased with the arrangement.

Holmes only offered a shrug, and said “ as much as I appreciate the offer, such anecdotal evidence would hardly lend credence to these stories. At any rate, it shall have little bearing on our daily concerns… Or those of the familiar man approaching our doorstep.”

Holmes had rightly identified the peak of a custodian’s helmet, bobbing up Baker Street’s stairs and appearing through Holmes’ windows. Holmes was up and across the room to the door instantly, leaving his still smouldering pipe askew on his lounger. I pushed myself up from my seat, ignoring the dull, cold throb of pain from the old war wound on my leg, and hobbled to collect the pipe before its burning ashes set the good landlady’s furniture alight, as Holmes allowed our guest to enter before they had occasion to knock.

“Inspector Lestrade! To what do we owe your most singular presence?” Holmes asked. Lestrade trod in on muddy boots, having failed to clean them on the stoop. He was a thin gentleman with a weasel-like face, complete with a most animal tenacity in his approach to policework. Holmes counted him as one of Scotland Yard’s best, though to Holmes’ word, finding a good policeman in London was like finding a good surgeon in a ragged school.

“I perceive you are in something of a rush, Inspector.” I observed, in my own small deduction.

“Furthermore, I perceive you to have come from Northern London. Bloomsbury, if I do not miss my guess,” Sherlock began, about to launch into the chain of reasoning from which he derived his conclusion, when he was cut off by Lestrade.

“If you shall let me get a word in edgewise, I would be appreciative!” Lestrade’s typically jocular manner was gone from him, and his hand remained upon the door’s handle.

“I apologise for the outburst gentlemen, but we must hurry. A body has turned up, indeed in Bloomsbury, and the inspector in charge of the case has identified it as an accident. The chain of an old chandelier broke suddenly and crashed down upon the victim's head. A miserable circumstance, but one hard to attribute to anything but that, happenstance. In truth, I have trouble arguing with his reasoning, and yet it does not sit right with me. The attending officer is closing up the crime scene shortly, so I rushed to collect your opinion.”

“Why should the crime scene be not shuttered? What about the poor fellow’s demise stands out to your intuition?’” Holmes pressed. I could see that Lestrade’s statement had already stirred the voracious detective within. He leaned forward with a keen ear, hands clasped. Lestrade's cheeks reddened, and he rubbed his hand over his forehead, finding the will to articulate the source of his doubt with appropriate brevity. He appeared almost embarrassed.

“To put it to you simply Mister Holmes, I feel the crime scene is too… Wet, in a word.”

“Too wet? In England?” I chuckled at the notion. “I should hardly think such a thing possible. After all, we have had that most tumultuous thunderstorm just yesterday evening…”

“Yet, the most illuminatory member of Scotland Yard still sees fit to bring it to our attention. Surely he would have already checked the establishment for leaks or any obvious cause,” Holmes began. I almost chastised him for what I thought an opaque jape, but the backhanded remark seemed lost on Lestrade. Holmes digressed, “my dear Lestrade… If it was any of your esteemed colleagues in Baker Street today, or indeed, was the colour of today’s humour anything but the dullest shade of boredom, I might deny your request for the sparsity of details you provide, but you have proven yourself over the years to be intermittently capable of identifying those cases which appeal to my sensibilities. If it would please friend Watson to join us in this endeavour, then I would be most happy to join you.” Holmes said, his eyes questing for some answer from me.

It had been nearly a year since Holmes and I had been engaged together on a case, the most recent being the matter of the ghastly Hound of the Baskervilles in the fall of last year. At the time, aside from my work on my medical practice, my schedule was largely occupied in transforming that self same adventure into a novel, as I had already done for two of our previous adventures to some success.

“A new case would most certainly help with my writing process, so long as I am returned to my Mary at a reasonable hour. I must get some small rest if I am to be a good host for tomorrow's brunch,” I said.

“You shall have time to prepare a magnificent, slow cooked roast. I do suspect this will be naught but a trifle,” Holmes said breezily, already tying his boots.

“Come along, gentlemen, I’ve a dogcart waiting to take us to the scene.” Lestrade said. He held open our mahogany door.

Coat and hat in hand, my companion and I crossed the threshold of our rooms at Baker Street, and out into our first warm night in a brand new world.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in...

John H. Watson | Sherlock Holmes
Consulting Detective | Scotland Yard
Multiverse 221B | Inquire about Collaboration

W H A T I F...?
W H A T I F...?
What if Sherlock Holmes met the Batman of the 1800s?

Dear Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,

It is my sincerest hope this letter finds you well. I write you now to congratulate you on the success of your most recent novel, The Maracot Deep. Once again sir, you have proven yourself a masterful storyteller. Your prose remains as illuminatory as ever, with your particular attention to the vast seas and the handcrafted details with which you suffuse your Atlantean culture. I am reminded as ever, of how I could not have picked a more exemplary editor or agent for my Sherlock Holmes stories.

It is on the subject of Holmes I write as well. As you know from our correspondence on ‘His Last Bow’, rheumatism has crept upon me in my old age. As a consequence of this affliction, I have been forced to give up the pen, spare the occasional correspondence, though once Holmes passed on I found little reason to continue, even with such trifling writings. I had few to correspond with, spare yourself, though I know you to be embroiled in the dramas and grand motions of the ever shifting literary world, leaving you little time to respond to one who has not been in that world in decades. Instead, I cherished what time I had left with my Mary, she as gray and wrinkled as I, yet as radiant as the day we met. I thank you for your letter of condolence for her loss from last year, though I failed to reply to it. You may have thought my response lost in the throes of my grief, but on the contrary, it has remained upon the top of my mind.

Each time I take up my pen in these gnarled knuckles to begin my epistle, even as pain flares through my fingers, I am drawn back to my halcyon adventuring days with Holmes, and the plethora of stories I submitted to your humble office -- but most of all, I remembered those stories which I did not submit. Despite the breadth of my oeuvre, there are those cases which I or Holmes had deemed unfit for public consumption.

As you know, Holmes and I often altered or omitted details in our submissions, as to better protect and preserve the privacy and dignity of affected parties. You will recall, for instance, the legendary scandal centered around the photographs in possession of one Irene Adler, in reality photographs of His Majesty Edward VII, late of Great Britain, whom we disguised as the king of the fictitious nation of Bohemia. Nevertheless, there are still stories which we elected not to submit even in modified form, deeming them unsuitable for mass publication.

The reasons for such omissions are as multitudinous as they are varied. In many instances, this was owed less to our discretion and more to the singular natures of the cases, which we deemed to be of a quality so implausible or, indeed, even absurd, as to defy reason and beggar belief. These events, queer as though they may appear, are nonetheless as real as Holmes’s battles with the infamous Dr. Moriarty, and had an equally profound impact upon my late companion’s career.

Despite the profundity of these cases, and the soundness of my past motivations to conceal them, as I advance in age, one collection of such cases lays restless in the belfry of my mind, and inspires my fingers to burn not with the pain of my condition, but with the blazing desire to record it for posterity, and, indeed, perhaps share it with the world.

As fantastical as the cases herein may be, at their heart lies an ultimately flawed, vulnerable man, as human as Holmes or I, whom is just as deserving of our discretion and respect, if not more so, than any individual I have protected within my prose.

You may recall hearing news of the ‘Bat of Gotham’, an anonymous vigilante and detective whose powers rivaled or even exceeded those of Holmes. Indeed, you may even recall his brief appearance in London, much noted in many major publications. Though these events were seemingly unrelated to the exploits of my friend and I, this was yet another clever omission. For in reality we had undertaken a collaboration with the so-called ‘Batman’, and forged an enduring secret partnership.

We would encounter the Bat many times hence, and over the course of our campaign, we came to know his innermost secrets. Included amongst these secrets, and indeed amongst fantastical details of the enclosed cases, is the true identity of the Bat, which Holmes, Mary, and I finally uncovered during our extended stay in Gotham some years ago.

Thus, attached to this letter you shall find a new Sherlock Holmes manuscript, entitled ‘The Shadow of the Bat’. Given the sensitivity of the details contained within this report, it is not to be published until the year of our Lord 1939, or after my passing, whichever should come first.

The tale begins, as ever, in 221B Baker Street, on a cool summer’s evening in the year of 1890…

-John H. Watson M.D., July 1929

P L O T ( S ) & G O A L ( S )
P L O T ( S ) & G O A L ( S )
I have been reading a lot of Holmes lately. Over the last year or two I’ve been through the originals twice and several series of pastiches. Comic book fan that I am, I wondered if the Great Detective had ever crossed over with Batman, only to find only two such official instances. One features Holmes as a decrepit, impossibly old man, essentially saving the day at the end of one of Batman’s cases. The other is an episode of Batman the Brave and the Bold in a tale with elements of time travel. I want to tell a story that is slightly more grounded than either of these tales (no magic anti-aging honey and no time travel), but also one thats able to take more time to get more out of the premise. In the comic Holmes is only there for a few pages, and in the show, only a single episode. I think told in this fashion, I can plumb greater depths of both characters, holding them up as mirrors to one another. Batman is nominally an update of Holmes, so I think it will be very instructive to measure those ways they do and don’t match up. As well, I hope to have Holmes encounter a handful of other curious comic characters, each made Victorian in their own ways.

I've been working on one idea for this for some time, and I have been awaiting a commission on it before it goes up. But as I've waited and lurked in this thread, its dawned on me that as much as I like the character and the idea, it doesn't necessarily jibe with the particular concept of a Secret Invasion or with the multiverse stuff this game uniquely allows. It is a what if, but not one super tailored to either of those premises. That said, I think my best course is to stow said idea for another game down the road that it would hopefully fit better in.

So, in lieu of that concept, I searched my heart of hearts for what I most wanted to do within the scope of an infinite multiverse, comparing against the possibilities already suggested in this thread...

And guess what?

It's another fucking Batman. Enjoy!

HOLMES & WATSON aka Sherlock Holmes & John Watson S T A T U S
As portrayed by DocTachyon

In Ju-V 10 mos ago Forum: Advanced Roleplay

Adam was no stranger to long rides. One of his earliest memories was getting packed into the family van for the seven hour drive north near Reno to see their cousins in the Pyramid Lake rez. But this was different -- getting jostled through a Megabus terminal at midnight by a huge white guy called ‘Agent Oliver’. There was none of Autine’s baked trout to look forward to either, only a long damn sentence.

It was ten hours on the bus, pressed into the window seat by Agent Oliver’s bulk. A few hours in, Adam dug out a quarter from the well between the seat and the off-color felt interior lining. In his palm, its edges curled together and up into the aluminum coating of a chocolate kiss. Oliver’s meaty paw crushed Adam’s wrist and the man reminded him that cash was not allowed on this trip. The chocolate fell out of Adam’s hand and into the grime filled depths beneath the seats. It bounced off Adam’s red drawstring bag, slumped in the footwell.

Aegis had packed it for him. They caught him on a hot streak at The Flamingo’s hold ‘em tables, and since then he’d been in a holding cell somewhere in downtown Vegas until Oliver came to collect him for the ride, so he hadn’t arranged his own bag. It was mostly essentials: clothes, toothbrush, and deodorant, plus a few packs of cards Adam had left out on his desk. Nothing special, but it didn’t bother him. Possessions came and went too easily for him to get attached. Between his ability and the pawn shop a mile down the road, with a little research, Adam could have whatever he wanted and then sell it off as soon as he tired of it. The only things that really mattered were his leather bound ledger, and the matte blue duffle bag that contained his collected winnings. Both were certainly under lock and key in an Aegis vault, protected by a dozen guys like Oliver.

The rest of the ride proved uneventful. Any questions Adam had for Agent Oliver were met with blunt grunts and eventually threats of more violence from those huge hands. He wondered if every staffer at Aegis would be the same kind of angry meathead. Adam had dealt with the type before, but always in situations where he literally had an ace up his sleeve. It was easy enough to push their buttons and goad them into a big, stupid move. Then all Adam had to do was let the aces fly and send them home with nothing for all their piss and vinegar. But on this bus, Oliver was in charge. He could’ve broken Adam’s wrist, even the whole arm if he wanted to, and all Adam could do was whine about it.

The agent managing the next stop had a sunnier disposition and went by Jones. He was slim, tall, and wore sunglasses under the covered bus platform. Oliver planted Adam at a gray bench with separators socketed every two feet to prevent the homeless from sleeping on it, then sauntered off to discuss the transfer with Jones. There were six guards in a loose semi circle around the stop, uniformed in traditional prison guard garb, complete with dress shirt, tie, and a polished belt full of instruments of abuse. Oliver and Jones were dressed in suits. What separated the ‘agents’ from the ‘guards’? They didn’t seem as experienced. Half of them stared off, bored, into the California heat haze. Then there was a paycheck difference, certainly. Out behind the stop, before the grassy hill rolled up into the rest of LAX, a half dozen cars sat parked on the green. Five were pre-2010 sedans, and one was a brand new Cadillac, as black as Jones’ suit.

Oliver excused himself to the air conditioning of Jones’ Cadillac, and Adam rose from his seat to speak to the agent. Jones was more forthcoming than Oliver, but all he had to offer was a regurgitated version of the center’s virtual orientation video. Jones talked up the amenities and gave him a big smile, but Adam couldn’t tell if Jones’ eyes were looking straight back at him through the sunglasses.

By the time he’d finished with Jones, others had arrived. All seemed exhausted from travel, especially the Hawaiian with hair as long as Adam’s. He carried a huge board, now leaning against the side of the bus stop. Then there was a girl with big hair and a silver pendant who seemed almost pleased to be there, which Adam found disquieting. The last was a blonde, sitting two spaces apart from the others, shrunken into herself. None seemed in a talkative mood, least of all the blonde, who fixed him with a death glare when he walked towards one of the remaining seats. He chose to lean against the bus stop by the Hawaiian’s board instead.

Adam was the last one on the next bus that pulled up. He passed the disapproving blonde from the stop and slotted himself somewhere further back, sliding up to the window and peering out. Jones’ Cadillac was still on, but its engine lay silent, even as the bus lurched forward and peeled away. Oliver would not follow. It took another mile for Adam to believe it and lean back into his seat. His wrist still ached. It wasn’t broken, but a dark bruise was beginning to form. He rested it in his lap and peeked out at the other passengers to distract himself from the feeling.

It was all guards, in terms of Aegis personnel. They didn’t warrant full out agents anymore? Packing more and more metahumans into a bus certainly doesn’t make them less dangerous. Maybe the agents were just the away team. With the jaws of the beast closing around the kids, they were free to leave and grab the next group of hard luck meta brats. Speaking of metas, minus Adam’s fellow LAX transfers, the rest of their number were a boyband reject, a conked out redhead, an excitable asian in green, a brit deep in a book, a blonde in a striped number, and a boy with a shock of white in his hair. Most of them seemed absorbed with their own troubles, especially the boy with the unusually colored hair who stared off into his own little universe. In all Adam’s experience with that pensive sort, especially those sat beside him at blackjack, was that they came in two types. Worriers worked themselves into knots and would waste all their energy away into nothing well before the source of their worry would arrive. Planners thought a little more practically, reviewing their strategies and refreshing the ‘count’ in their minds, and saving their energy when they could do nothing. Which would these kids prove to be?

The next kid to board was an average sort in a hoodie, bopping along to his dated music player. Adam had never thought to obtain an older device. His parents always had such things around when they were alive, but they were some of the many possessions that ended up sold off once they passed. Their taste in music remained in Adam, but their choice of device did not, especially when the latest versions were so easily within his reach.

They were quickly joined by more, a shorter African American boy and a man made out of granite kitchen countertop. From a distance it looked painted on. Then the boy walked closer and Adam could hear the grinding of the stone, and feel the rumble and shift of his weight through the bus frame. The boy was literally and figuratively stone faced. It had to be rough to live with. He certainly couldn’t get around Vegas, too many elevators and moving walkways that would break down under his weight. Adam was glad his power didn’t physically manifest, it was hard enough to sneak around underage as it was, nevermind if he had to hide he was a full ton of stone brick on two legs.

Adam couldn’t bring himself to feel bad for the next passenger, a brunette white girl with huge white wings tucked behind her back. He’d seen too many girls dressed just like it on the strip to truly care. Enough cosplay conventions had come through town where ignorant tourists wore huge, audacious outfits with body mods like those wings and clogged the streets and the Vegas monorail. Maybe things would be different if she could really fly with them, but for all Adam knew, the physics were all wrong. Perhaps she couldn’t fly at all. Would that be a fate worse than rocky skin? To be trapped with a permanent pair of cosplay wings?

He hadn’t time to answer the questions before another stop introduced more passengers. Before long, the bus would be a full house. They were joined by a short girl in a hoodie and a taller girl in audacious red lipstick. There was some commotion with the hoodie girl, who practically jumped into her seat and fussed with a pair of gloves, but Adam was too far to see the inciting incident.

They had to be close now, as passengers were arriving faster by the minute. Two more joined, both perhaps the most haggard he’d seen so far. The girl seemed tired and almost sickly, but the boy looked rough. Adam could make out ugly stick n’ poke tats and the guy passed. Had he done time before? His gaze was jaded enough to fit. Yet there was a jitter and a panic to his motions as he tried and failed to settle in his seat. Maybe he was new to this.

The last addition Adam did not see until it confidently waddled past him on its way to the back of the bus. An otter. Adam blinked twice. He had officially been up too long. He wanted to curl up in one of his mom’s handmade blankets and stop hallucinating semi-aquatic mammals. Before his eyes, it produced an iPod and a full box of cigarettes, complete with lighter. The creature sat on its own, so it couldn’t be anyone’s pet… Could it be another student? Or worse, an agent? It’d be a clever angle. Infiltrate the prisoners with a unsuspecting ‘animal’ that’s actually a meta already under the center’s employ. The otter would be one to watch… Assuming it continued to be an otter once he got some sleep, anyhow.

Soon they disembarked and were sorted onto different ferry passages. Adam went on the second journey aboard the Warden Johnston, along with the remaining kids and guard complement. In all the sixty-six feet of the vessel, Adam was closest to the strung out boy from the bus. He now had the same glazed over, deep-thought expression worn by the boy with a streak in his hair, but with a harder edge to it. His hands twitched with what Adam could only read as anticipation. There was another one to watch.

After the teens were relieved of their things, even Adam’s, it didn’t take long for that poor kid to explode. When they disembarked from the Johnston onto the sun baked concrete of Alcatraz Island proper, Virgil Rowell came out for a speech. Adam had heard of Rowell, but he’d only heard of him from the Center’s official press. From Rowell’s suit and Adam’s previous experience, Adam expected Rowell to have the hard edges of an agent about him, but he spoke with an even-toned kindness Adam had only ever heard from four adults in his life, all of whom had a hand in raising him. If it was a performance, it blew Agent Jones’ clean out of the water. But Rockface Balboa and the rockabilly blonde weren’t buying it. As they spoke up and Rowell took a moment to choose his words, the strung out kid chose his moment.

He dashed and tore a feather from the winged girl, whipping it around in his hand and brandishing it as if it was a wicked knife. The guards acted as ferociously as Oliver had handling Adam, multiple taser lines converged from across the main body of guard and one hit home, planting itself deep in the burnout’s skin and sending him spasming to the ground. One of the girls vanished with a yelp, too fast for Adam to tell who it was. The guards didn’t seem to care who, either, as they blasted the crowds with pepper spray.

Adam was far enough from the action that he only got trace amounts of it, acrid burning against his eyes. He rubbed them furiously and stepped away, almost bowling over another inmate. It was just the same as with Oliver on the bus -- angry bastards in absolute control. What could Adam do? He was half blind, half asleep, and dead out of anything remotely useful in his pockets.

”HOLD!” Rowell’s voice broke the clamor before it could erupt into an all out melee. In his clearing vision, Adam saw that the ‘average’ boy in the hoodie had performed an olympic dash and was now poised to all but bisect the pepper spraying guard. If Rowell had acted a moment later there would have been blood, the guard’s or the kid’s Adam wasn’t sure.

Rowell launched into another speech, but Adam was done listening to him. You don’t manhandle a group of kids out to a maximum security prison and just expect them to play nice about it. Why? Just because you said please? Rowell stopped the guard and that was for sure, but it didn’t erase or even really rectify what had happened. Didn’t fix Adam’s wrist, still as sore as when Oliver squeezed it, now a lovely shade of purple. And it certainly didn’t fix what each and every other kid must have gone through on their own busses, or the cavalcade of abuses that had to be contained inside.

Signing up for this, Adam had determined it was the better option than Juvie. They had him on multiple counts of underage gambling, possession of multiple false identifications, and there was a cabal of casinos competing to see who would fire off the largest lawsuit. The decision seemed simple: be trained in the formal use of his powers at a ‘secure facility’, or spend a long sentence being treated as a dog of the state. It wasn’t hard. Now, with pepper spray tears running uncontrollably down his cheeks, he wasn’t so sure.
In Ju-V 10 mos ago Forum: Advanced Roleplay

"Double down."

▼ A P P E A R A N C E:

"Show me your cards."
◼ HEIGHT | 5’ 6”

◼ WEIGHT | 146 lbs

◼ BUILD | Lean

◼ HAIR COLOUR | Black.

◼ EYE COLOUR | Black.

◼ 'VOICE' TEXT COLOUR | #eab676


Adam has an athlete’s body, geared mostly towards stamina and brief bursts of strength. His training was imperfect since the departure of his brother, but he’s maintained some physique. Adam prefers to dress quite plain, with unbranded tees and jeans to blend into the average. Sometimes he’ll add a cowboy hat to the ensemble, a perfect addition for playing the drunk college kid on a hotstreak.

▼ B I O G R A P H Y:

"The die is cast!"
Adam was born in Nevada at his parents home on the outskirts of Las Vegas. He lived a relatively ordinary childhood, playing cards almost every night with his family and always gathering with the local Paiute tribe and dancing every year at the Pow Wow. Still, his childhood felt defined by the kitschy lights of the city, always winking at him from his bedroom window, beckoning and beautiful.

His older brother, Curt, left for the Marines when Adam was just six, looking to see the world on the government's dime and get out from under the overwhelming presence of the city. Adam’s parents homeschooled him, as they had his brother, to insulate him from the city as he grew older, to connect him with his tribe instead of vapid glitz and glamor.

The city Adam’s parents tried to protect him from took their lives in a car accident when Adam was eleven, when he was at home under the supervision of tribal councilman Darren Anderson. Anderson would take charge of the boy, raising him alongside Curt when he returned from the marines. His parents deaths were always explained to Adam as a true accident, completely random chance, the kind of fate that could have befallen anyone. It’s here he took to gambling, starting with small change with his brother. He tried to cope with that chance and put it in perspective. The odds that he or his brother would die like that too were one in a billion. More likely he could win a hundred hands in a row a hundred times.

Once he was thirteen Adam’s powers began to develop, as small change in his hands transformed into candies and trinkets. To protect the burgeoning metahuman, Curt gave him rudimentary training in martial arts, with slightly more extensive courses in a handful of weapons. As they fought and bonded, Curt told him stories of his service and of history, Iraq and Little Crow, Uganda and Crazy Horse, and more besides. After months of training, Curt began to slow down. He schooled Adam with Anderson, worked the Paiute smoke shop, and trained after hours, but something else was taking it out of him, the light Adam used to see in his eyes. By the time Adam was fourteen, and before he had any chance or inkling to investigate, Curt was gone. The last time Adam saw him was through his second story window, climbing into the side of a blue panel van and peeling away into the night.

By now, Adam was old enough to sneak into the casinos. As long as he made his fake perfect and got his disguise right, he could pick the laziest guard and slip inside. He spent the next three years honing his craft, robbing the casinos blind by counting cards at blackjack and changing small change to high cards in poker. He could create casino chips himself with his ability, so his only weak point was cashing out. He’d been caught more than once, but he would simply dash with as many of his chips as he could carry and return in various disguises with smaller increments of tokens.

His strategy worked without major incident until he was seventeen. A handful of Aegis agents caught wind of a metahuman in the area and joined casino security on their rotation. Two of them caught him red handed at the blackjack table, trying to sneak in a generated ace of spades. He’s now been relocated to Aegis for ‘rehabilitation'.

▼ M O T I V A T I O N / O B J E C T I V E:

"The house has gone bust."
Long term, Adam’s motivations are stone simple: cold hard cash. His home tribe exists on a thumbnail of land in southern Nevada, and he intends to buy back as much as he can. He intends to earn it all his way -- counting cards in high stakes matches across the country. At some level, he hopes finding his fortune will let him find Curt and fish him out of whatever hellhole he stumbled into. On the other hand, Adam is afraid he’ll find a corpse.

He figures his enrollment at the Aegis Centre was a mistake. Ideally, he’d never have been caught at all. Still, going down for swindling the casinos had always been a possibility. Better he end up here than a standard juvie joint. Maybe he’ll learn enough to never get caught again.

▼ A B I L I T I E S / S K I L L S:

"I’m playing with a stacked deck."
◼ Instant Market | Using this ability, Adam can transform money into objects based on their value in real world economies.

◼ Gambler | Adam’s been gambling since he was old enough to hold cards, and has been gambling in casinos since he looked old enough to sneak in. He’s an expert card counter with an inscrutable poker face, and he’s had to bluff or fast talk his way out of situations more times than he can count.

◼ Disguise | Adam’s had to master disguise to continue entering casinos with his face on the ‘No Entry’ board. Coupled with his ability, Adam can generate new outfits and fake identification on the fly.

◼ Melee Weapons | Adam has limited formal martial arts experience, mostly with the knife, the axe, and the spear. Years have passed since his lessons, but tilting at shadows in the desert has kept his skills sharp enough to defend himself.

◼ Bankroll | Due to the nature of his power, Adam necessarily has to act within his budget. If he doesn’t have the cash to make a transaction happen, he simply cannot use his ability.

◼ See It To Believe It | Adam needs to be personally aware of any deals he tries to take advantage of with his power, whether it be seeing a posted price or hearing an ad on the radio.

◼ Mark Up | Instead of a conventional energy toll, repeated use of Adam’s power instead results in a mark up on all his purchases. Before long he’s forced to pay double, triple, and beyond for whatever he tries to conjure.

◼ Double Down | When possible, Adam will push his luck for a greater reward. The most he’s ever made has come from doubling down. Even in non-gambling situations, Adam figures he and his abilities are so versatile that they can get him out of anything.

▼ N O T E S:

Darren Anderson | Chairman of the Vegas Paiute tribal council.

Curtis Locklear | Adam’s older brother. Currently missing, possibly deceased.

TBD | Test

TBD | Test

◼ Las Vegas, Nevada | Home of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe.

◼ Ledger | A pocket size leatherbound volume in which Adam keeps track of his expenditures. In total, he has 50,000 dollars to his name.

◼ One Dollar Motorcycle | A deal from Curt, one dollar for his motorcycle, as soon as he was old enough to ride it. In theory, if Curt is still alive out there and intends to honor it, his power could produce it. Adam hasn’t found the heart to try it.
In Ju-V 10 mos ago Forum: Advanced Roleplay
Been intending to apply for this, but this week has turned out a lot busier than it looked on paper. I've got Magic tonight , but in the interim, he's my WIP! Keep my seat warm.

edit: done!

Done! With a few hours to spare!
In Ju-V 11 mos ago Forum: Advanced Roleplay
Been intending to apply for this, but this week has turned out a lot busier than it looked on paper. I've got Magic tonight , but in the interim, he's my WIP! Keep my seat warm.

edit: done!

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