Part Ten – The End
As we walked to the stools again, Sherlock picked up another blade and held it to the flames. Cleaning the air of the cold-blooded-scoundrel’s aroma with the stench of rotting flesh as he watched the flames, he took his time reaching for his cleaning rag and setting to work on another blade.
“I cannot now entirely see the steps of you reasoning,” I remarked, “As I know you to be the best judge, I would not question you in front of the guilty. Kindly explain sir.”
The steam again rose to cover his face. As the steam cleared he began, “Of course it is obvious from the first that this Master Hosmer Angel must have some strong object for his curious conduct,” Sherlock said as he tempered the steel.
“Very likely not,” agreed Sherlock, “the young Mistress was very decidedly carried away, and having quite made up her mind that her Master was away on patrols, just more frequently than before, the suspicion of treachery never for an instant entered her mind. She was flattered by the gentleman’s attentions, and the effect was increased by the loudly expressed admiration from the Mother.”
Sherlock breathed in the smoke and then watched the vapors make circles in the air currents, “Then Mr. Angel began to call, for it was obvious that the matter should be pushed as far as if would go, if a real effect were to be produced.”
He began to list things by pointing his cigarette hand at the individual fingers of the other.
“There were meetings, and an engagement,” he paused at that finger, “which I do not think the Mother realized the implications of such a step,” then continued on with his explanations, “to secure the Mistress’s affections from turning toward anyone else. But the deception could not be kept up forever. These prolonged patrols were rather cumbrous. The thing to do was clearly to bring the business to an end in such a dramatic manner that it would leave a permanent impression upon the young Mistress’s mind, and prevent her from looking upon any other suitor or leaving the clan for sometime. Hence the vows of fidelity and also the allusions to a possibility of something ‘happening’ on the very morning of the wedding.
Obviously the concern of the whole outweighed any individuals but she said her worry aloud, “It was the time that Master Windibank happened to cross by our meeting place. He glanced in our direction as he passed. At that moment I was worried that he would see Fleet and most likely murder the swift lad, but he kept on his way. It was Fleet that surprised me. The boy could not speak for a few minutes, and he was as pale as a dying man. I told him to sit directly and handed him my personal flask.”
Sherlock and I were intrigued by such a reaction, from both Runner and Master, though we did our best to hide the strangeness of the encounter.
“He could not even remember the rest of the message Hosmer sent to me after that episode. I comforted him and gave him a can of beans and a slice of salted ham, and insisted that he eat a larger portion than usual before he handed it off to the other orphans.”
She had a small pleading look, almost muffled by her warrior instincts, at this Sherlock placed his hand in the air, “Mistress Sutherland, I shall look for the boy without another payment, he is a source I must question, I will inform him of your concern when I find him. Though I am sure he was just put on a different route.”
The insides had been stripped out and the watch was more like a charm box in which this angel resided. A mesh covering kept the object from falling out of its casing, from how it was all designed; both Sherlock and I could see that the entire contraption was made thusly with great care.
“He made this after the Gathering, and gave it to me at the ruins,” she said, “but that was only after he made sure that we had found haven again when he sent a runner.”
She then took back her trinket and placed it in her boot, as Sherlock asked, “I suppose that Master Windibank was cross and beat the foundlings two days later?”
Mistress Sutherland gave a small shake of her head, which surprised us both. She then said, “He was very good about it. I remember that he waved off Mother’s apologies and said there was no use denying anything a Mistress, for she will have her way.”
Sherlock gave her a curious look when he asked, “When did you meet Master Angel at the ruins?”
“Your Master?” Sherlock interjected calmly, “Your second Master, surely, since the clan name is different from your own Mistress.”
Taking no offense to the observation, she agreed, “Yes, my second Master. I call him my Master, though it sounds bizarre too. He is only five years and two months older than myself, and not even trained properly,” she added with in a slightly softer tone the last, were anyone to hear an admission of clan secrets.
“Your Mother is alive and unstricken then?”
Mistress Sutherland again agreed to the conclusion, “Mother is indeed much alive. I wasn’t pleased when she cast us into another clan so soon after my Master’s death. To a Master only self-named and lacking much clan credence.”
What could be considered an emotional reaction the memory showed her love for the lost master as well as the frustration with the new one, “Master was guardian of Tottenham Court, and trained by Shaolin monks that had ventured here to aid London when the plague was first reported,” which was but a repeat in our country’s history. The monks themselves had visited our shores every time our country had been in need. Through the Dark Ages as well as the reign of Robin Hood, the monks came to our aide as though they owed us a debt yet to be repaid for a favor that had long been forgotten in our history.
“Where do you suppose that Master learned those skills?” I asked Sherlock as a method of observation he usually appreciated.
“I have seen those talent before,” he said in response, “here she comes in person to answer our possible theories.”
I was slightly shocked at his mention of the Master’s sex, as women ranked in such high esteem and skills were still rare. Shortly after the slayer entered the building, there was a tap at the door Bitr, or the ‘Boy in Thick Rags,’ for that would be his name if we ever to call him by one, had exhausted skin entered to announce the woman’s name as Mistress Mary Sutherland. We readjusted the drapes and waited for the woman to slither into the room. She kept her back to the wall, eyeing the furniture and the general direction of our presence, as we had announced our whereabouts in the dimly lit room.
Her eyes were momentarily attracted to the weapons still uncleaned and lying on the floor. Like any decent Englishmen we had stopped everything but conversation for tea. As the weapons were near the fireplace she chose the bench close to the door. Nothing was present to interfere with the instincts should she wish to leave. Holmes sat immediately in front of her as she stood waiting for his acceptance of the spot. He welcomed her with the acute awareness to the etiquette of today. Keeping some of the courtesy he had possessed before the dismal misfortune that befell England. They then took on their customary roles of holding each other’s gaze.
After composing myself, I asked for further information, “Why were you even in that section?”
He looked guilty when I asked the expected, though he answered me anyway, “I had heard Irene was supposedly there, so of course I went to investigate.”
I nodded, as I had suspected that being a possible scenario, I was obligated to add, “Was she there?”
He started answering rather quickly, “Of course she wasn’t there. The proof was in the fact that the Holland street tribe had about twenty full bodied diseased on their doorstep.” He didn’t even need to mention how that was proof, because Irene was a woman that would be enjoying the slaughter. If she had been there, she would have been in the melee, possibly cackling. Women seemed to have acquired said trait rather quickly, something about the rush of cutting through a crowd. My educated guess was that they were not accustomed to hold their composer as men did, as they were fairly new to the battlefields.
He sighed, “I relieved the store of the demanding crowd, hungry for brains,” at this point he shrugged, “and they rewarded me.” He titled his chin towards me tea cup, as a question of great import crossed his lips, “Would you like another cup dear fellow?”
Sherlock’s soft reflective voice, for that moment of emotion, was then set aside as he stated the conclusion to his argument. “The only abnormal moment after the death of the man, was undoubtedly the returning breath. The wife most likely considered it a miracle up until he began to eat her face. A daughter did hear her mother’s explicative cries, and discovered the grotesque scene you did not bother to read through.”
He stood then, brandishing the newly honed blade in such a way that it would be but a pen pointed at a student of his past. He then checked the edge, looking down the end like any man would a site on a riffle. Nodding perfunctorily at his work, like a general to a cadet’s salute, he sheathed the blade. Walking across the room to a cabinet, that was recently nailed to the wall, so as to prevent from any of the guests from using the wood for fire; he pulled out the key that unlocked it. This key was at the end of a ring that was placed on a chain. The links were pristine, obviously because Sherlock himself cared for the treasure, a sentimentality that belonged only to Irene or his mother. As his mother was long past dead and not returning, I can only assume it was a gift from her. It looked similar to that of a pocket watch chain, now fashioned into a necklace. I did not bother to watch him further as I smoked my cigarette, as I was so familiar with the scene. Thusly, when the cabinet closed and his steps indented the floor with his slight build, walking towards me. I was only forced to attend him when he handed me a pristine bohemian tea cup and saucer.
“You will admit that those details are not likely to occur within the imagination of the average storyteller?” He questioned. I was in such shock of the small cup that I did not touch it, nor did I answer his question.
Holmes, who had been sitting on his stool, wiping down the blade, placed the weapon aside, looking more directly at me as he registered the newer form of debate unfolding. Placing his hands under his chin and resting his elbows on the frayed blue denim jeans that covered his bony knees, he leaned forward.
“A certain selection of discretion must be used in producing a realistic effect,” he said. His gaze then moved to another blade in need of his administrations. “More stress is laid, perhaps, upon the survival of the living, than upon the details, which to an observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter.”
He stood with the newly cleaned knife and placed it in the sheath that hung on the back of his wooden chair. Holmes’ back was to me as he took another piece of wood, which at one point could have been a comprising part of a bed frame, and put it into the fire. He reached to the floor and picked up another blade that glistened with coagulated blood and brain matter. The remains, that were no more than an hour old, sizzled and popped like any meat would on an open flame. The smell that had been off putting to the both of us, when we first began the sanitizing process, now held significant meaning to us, telling us that one more of the unnatural public was no longer haunting Baker Street.
He said, rather sullenly, “Depend upon it my friend; there is nothing as unnatural as the commonplace.” I took this to be an admission that the life we lead now a days would indeed be unnatural to the years before that first up-spring of the dead.
Welcome to a new blog! This blog is my spring and summer serial project. The inspiration was, of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. I picked the “The Case of Identity” as my first victim to zombie-fy because it seemed right to have the first story be about a missing person. The full length of the project ended up being twenty-seven beautiful pages of a zombie-ridden London encompassing and effecting the pleasant conversation of Sherlock and Dr. Watson.
The setting is simple, as we never really leave the sitting room of Sherlock Holmes’ apartment at 221B Baker Street. The year is 2025, so as to keep the original story and this one entirely separate. Society has been transformed as the only way to really survive a plague is in small communities, which are called clans. A little expected, but the anthropologist in me kept to the patterns society tends to lean towards in a catastrophic setting. The disease originated in the city, and it spread quickly through the countryside. Similar to the Black Plague, which decimated the European population in 1348-1350, the infection is growing and there is no cure and no stopping it until every living person is undead. There is caste system which, gives roles to the characters’ based on their talents and education. This will be explained further in later posts, as the story is long enough to break up. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments as the story progresses. Here are the first paragraphs, of Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Identity, and Zombies.