The Holmes of the Yard
AN: Some Lestrade praise. Give the man a break. The architecture of the Yard is straight from the BBC film "The Case of the Silk Stocking", which is the Curtis Green Building on Victoria Embankment (the predecessor to the current shoebox). PCs Parlier and Darling are courtesy of Bartimus Crotchety, of FFN.
It was in September of the year 1884, just before our most fateful meeting with the only Ceridwen Llewellyn that I had the unusual pleasure to learn more about my most singular fellow-lodger within a few hours than I had been able to tease out of him in five years of acquaintance. As so often, it would begin with a case, although, it was, at the time, the end of a small string of cases mostly brought to us by private instances. While it was not raining at the moment, the air held an unpleasant gloom, the sky overcast in dark grey. In short, it was criminal weather.
While I pondered this, my friend was staring out of the window. "Anything interesting in the post, Watson? Any clients worthy of our attention?" he asked; the airy voice betrayed that his thoughts had taken flight into the city.
I checked the assorted letters, and found that most in the meagre stack were addressed to myself for once, with the exception of two. "Unless you fancy attending Lord Graham's ball this year, I am afraid there is only one to capture your attention; it is a note from the Yard."
Upon taking it, Holmes had a fairly strange reaction, even by his standards: He froze, right when his eyes fell upon the formal cursives that had been used to write our address. Shaking himself, he flipped the letter around so that it showed the seal of the Yard in blue wax, as if to reassure himself that it was indeed by our professional counterparts. "Why are you calling upon me?" he murmured, breaking the seal.
Admittedly, while most of the Yarders had a fairly clear hand – a result of countless reports transcribed from Pitman shorthand (which in most looked as atrocious as my own medical hand) before typing – formal cursive was the sign of higher education normally not found amongst those of the Yard. Even the current Whitehall Chief Superintendent, Kendrick R. Collins, by all means a respectable man who, despite rather humble origins had the air of nobility, did not have the training that gave way for such a hand, making the letter a curiosity at the least. "Holmes?"
He shook his head, and handed me the letter with an expression that was both a smirk and a scowl. "It looks like Lestrade and his partner know how to bait yours truly."
The note was short and to the point. Mr. Holmes, we might have a case that should give you enough pause to investigate. As we are currently rather swamped with the aftermath of the botched Belgravia Heist, we would appreciate the insight as not to waste any time on it. G. Lestrade. "I have never known Lestrade to be that enigmatic."
"He is not. It is his partner that is." Holmes reached for his coat and top hat. "Notice also that, apart from the signature, the entire letter is written by a differing hand."
"I did, and it puzzles me. Who in the Yard is trained in formal cursive?" asked I, also slipping into my coat and hat.
"Only one of them," he muttered, leading us out to hail a cab. "Against him, I must seem quite normal."
He lifted an eyebrow. "What else but eccentric would you call it to have the son of a gentleman join the Metropolitan Police Service?"
The thought was strange in itself. "Scandalous? Strange? Determined?" I could imagine that many a young man, no matter his station, would consider the idea of joining the Yarders, as opposed to the military… only to be discouraged by the ironclad rule of having to run patrol as a bluebottle for at least a year, if not longer. It was likely a humiliating notion for most young gentlemen these days, more so than basic army training, as it was very public. "It takes a great deal of resolve to stand the humility of the initial years before one may sign up for the Crime Investigation Department."
While we seated ourselves in the next cab, Holmes sighed. "Resolve? Or maybe a momentary bout of madness? – Scotland Yard, an extra shilling if you hurry."
"Who is it, Holmes? I have heard you mention Lestrade's partner quite a few times, usually in frustration, but I have never met the man. I usually see him with Bradstreet. Who is Morton's partner by form."
"'Tis best you meet him. Lestrade might call upon me quite regularly, but frankly, more often than not he simply does it to confirm a lead he already has," he admitted somewhat reluctantly. "His partner however has little need of my services, unless you consider lessening his workload a proper reason to consult me."
"Why would he do that? I never thought a Yarder to be lazy…" I frowned.
"Lazy? Hardly." Holmes shook his head. "Overworked? Most certainly."
New Scotland Yard was its usual bustle of activity, currently a bit frantic due to the full moon having passed and the present crime weather. Still utterly confused, I followed Holmes up the stairs to the offices of the CID, but instead of entering Lestrade's office on the left, he knocked on the door on the right, straight across the corridor. The windowed doors and walls were, untypical for the time of the day, covered up with the Roman Shades the higher-ranking Yarders were fond of, indicating that the owner did not want to be disturbed unless summoned. Surely enough, a warm but tired voice called us to enter. Holmes did so first, and so my view of the occupant was obscured as he spoke, "You really did not waste any time to come. Have a seat, gentlemen."
"You took great pains to hide why we are supposed to be here, Sheridan," my friend answered. "You know all too well I cannot stand a mystery."
"Which is why I had Lestrade sign it, Sherlock." The casual use of my friend's christian name had me look up and abandon my current wrestling with my muffler, and the man I saw seated behind the extensive desk was doubly reason to give me pause. A regal, controlled air about him, he was, apart from the light blue eyes and the nose, which was less pointed, the splitting image of Holmes. What also set him apart was the warmth he exuded, so unlike my secretive friend. He immediately noticed my trouble, and in turn, he sprung to his feet and divested me of the offending piece of clothing, placing it on a free space on the desk. "Are you alright?"
"I am quite fine, thank you, Inspector…" I realised then I had not read the man's name at the door, and stopped.
Letting me go, the police inspector whirled to my friend, a dangerously annoyed expression darkening his face. "Sherlock? Have you not told him anything about yourself? Where are your manners?"
"You know my sentiments on such trivialities–"
"Trivial. Trivial." While he was not raising his voice, the strange policeman might as well have been shouting as my old colonel had been wont to do, for the acid in the syllables would have burnt through porcelain. "He lives with the man for five years and calls his own family trivial. Mother would be turning over in her grave if she knew what has become of you." Shaking himself, he let out a calming breath, and went to the door. "Cooper? Get me a pot of tea, and better before the Super arrives!"
Closing the door again, he was around his desk in a few fluid strides, and faced us openly, but before he could continue his berating of my friend, the door opened up again, revealing our old friend Lestrade. "Holmes, I have the material on Ashton, but you are not going to like it. – Oh, hello Mr. Holmes, Doctor Watson," the short inspector greeted us, almost dismissively.
The man that was Inspector Holmes, according to Lestrade, simply made a face. "I already am not liking it, Lestrade, given the face you made when you came in, and the fact you need to re-button your shirt; you only make dressing mistakes if you have to switch shirts in the restroom, which means the shirt you came in earlier is ruined or at the least unpresentable." This was startlingly similar to my friend's methods, but unlike him, it was delivered in a friendly, teasing tone, and explained thoroughly.
"Ruined. That's the second this month, Holmes."
"Blood or ripped?"
"Both. Did I mention I hate interrogating butchers?"
Inspector Holmes pinched the bridge of his aquiline nose before perusing the file Lestrade had given him, and then made several noises that sounded suspiciously like suppressed swearing. "I'm sorry Lestrade. Why in the world did I have to be right about both?"
"Because it's you and not All-Hasty Gregson."
"Don't get me started on the Viking," he warned darkly, but with a smile that betrayed easy camaraderie. "It just was too neat to be right. And send me the bill, it was my dunce idea to go into West End."
Lestrade shook his head. "You go on like this and you will have replaced my entire wardrobe come December."
"If that means you have less trouble with your wife, I will," he countered.
The argument was obviously an old ritual, as Lestrade simply shook his head, and sighed. "I already bought a new one, so next time." Reaching behind him, he snatched a pot of tea out of Constable Cooper's hands and placed it on the desk. "Thank you Cooper. Well, I better get started on that other lead we have. Certainly looks much better now that the obvious has been ruled out."
"You do that. I see to it that our case load is minimised. If you need anything…"
"Same to you, Holmes. Mr. Holmes, Doctor." He was gone.
"Tea anyone?" Searching through his desk, Inspector Holmes came up with a set of seemingly mismatched teacups, although, by shape they were exactly the same, making me believe they were from one of these serial sets one could buy on Oxford Street these days.
"Please," said I, feeling a need to calm my confusion.
Finally, after we all were served tea, the inspector took a deep gulp and sighed contently. "Much better. Before we continue into the eternal war on crime: You have a last chance to remedy your rather offensive lapse in manners, Sherlock."
"But this is completely beyond the necessities of my work–" I had a distinct notion that my friend was being childish, and that this particular inspector had the talent of reducing him to this without even trying.
"Sherlock Michael Holmes, either you introduce us now, or next time one of the senior Yarders calls upon you, I will have you waiting downstairs in the Constabulary Ready Room… with Constables Darling and Parlier prattling about," he warned sternly.
I suppressed a wince. The prospect of having to sit in the station with the two notorious night shift coffee addicts, who could distract anyone and anything living to the point of despair, as opposed to being allowed to move about the Yard with the same impunity as its occupants was not pleasant, even to me, and it had an immediate effect on my slouching friend: He mirrored the older man's ramrod straight posture, and stated formally, "Watson, may I introduce, Detective Inspector of Police, Lord Sheridan Martin Holmes, Tenth Baron Strensall in the Peerage of England. Sheridan, Major Doctor John Hamish Watson, late of Her Majesty's Northumberland Fusiliers, and my fellow-lodger." The dark stare did not vanish, and so my friend elaborated, "Sheridan and I are brothers," finally dissolving the inspector's scowl into the original warm, pleasant air he had invited us in with earlier.
Sheridan Holmes offered me a hand, which I shook. "It is a great pleasure to finally meet you, Doctor. Most here at the Yard have only the highest of words for you, and I know that living with my youngest brother can be extremely trying."
This was certainly surprising. With the way Sherlock Holmes had avoided the subject of family, indeed, his entire background, as well as his aversion to women and his disinclination to form new friendships which were both typical of his unemotional character, I had come to believe that he was an orphan with no direct relatives living, but here I was confronted with evidence to the contrary. It also explained why Holmes had called the idea of a gentleman joining the Yard a possible bout of madness. The other Holmes seemed to be at the least ten years my senior, which meant that my fellow-lodger had been but a boy when the young heir had donned the blue uniform, likely after finishing college. It must have left quite the impression… I wonder if his reaction to the methods of the Yard actually stems from this strange life choice and not the lack of speed. "I am not that easily discouraged, milord."
"Inspector will do just fine, Doctor, even though the inheritance helps with high society," he answered. "I am not as easily deflected as the others by others of the Peerage and landed gentry. And it speaks for you to be able to take him in stride."
"Thank you inspector."
"Drink your tea, Sherlock. Consider the wait the replacement for the standing in a corner you would have had in school," Sheridan stated calmly. "Be glad the Guardian of your class was not too fond of caning and paddling, your attitude is deplorable these days."
Tense, my friend did just that, and so I turned my attention towards the files stacked on the desk. "You do seem to have an awful lot of work," I commented.
"Oh this?" He waved a dismissive hand before sighing. "This is nothing. It just looks so much since the stack on the right is the Belgravia heist. That much documentation is to be expected when a group tries to rob a nobleman's house, rather unprofessionally I must say, and upon discovery leaves three dead bodies behind. Lord I wish they could at least use a blackjack instead of a knife. It is just…" Here, his expression turned somewhat sad. "Such a waste."
I nodded. "It always is. So what do you have for us?"
He reached for the stack that was on his left, and pulled out three case files. "Here Sherlock. Not the most difficult, but bizarre enough to hold your interest to the end of the week."
The somewhat petulant expression faded as Sherlock took the cases from his brother. "By your description, you could easily solve these yourself, even with Lestrade in the–"
"Speak of my partner that negatively or dismissively again, and I make sure the next constable picking you up is in the same vein as Darling and Parlier." Sheridan was glaring, the eyes resembling ice chips, and I was sure the temperature had dropped. "You don't know the man, do you? People don't make Inspector in here by being doltish, an idiot or, as your friend once transcribed for the entire city to read, totally devoid of reason, and no, I have not been solving all of his cases before you were old enough to do so. As always, all you do is observe, and thus you do not see. He may not be the fastest, on that we both are able to agree, but I'll be bloody damned to the ninth hell if I let you accuse the most thorough and tenacious of us all as being useless."
"I…" Even with the accusations, to see Sherlock that speechless was already worth the summons.
"You should be glad that the time spent as a constable made us all have a thick skin. I'd like to see you survive the years I had on the beat, but then again, you managed to squander your entire allowance for six months in six weeks, forcing me to pay your rent, so I would not be too hopeful," Sheridan hissed, grabbing a file from the Heist stack.
"That was over ten years ago. Are you still holding me responsible for my former lack of sense for necessity?"
While the air around him was still burning coldly with his anger, his entire demeanour had reverted to professional pleasantry. "I am just pointing out that for all your talent, you are sorely lacking in judgment at times, especially money and people, completely unlike yours truly," he answered, adding notes to his case board. "I think I have let you get away with too much in school. Simply put, think twice before you insult Lestrade, and then again of me if it is really worth it. – Ashton was not, so that leaves Burton…"
While my friend was the one bewildered for once, I recognised the attitude Lord Holmes had considering his partner all too well, being identical to that of soldiers whose regimental comrades had been insulted by an outsider, and I surmised that Yarders were not too different from that, especially if it came to one's partner-in-crime-fighting. Given Lord Holmes's origin in the nobility, it was also not unlikely he had been subject to much distrust and hazing from many, with likely only Lestrade in between him and ambitious types such as the younger Gregson in the beginning. At this thought, I had an immediate insight why Lestrade and Sheridan called the man Viking behind his back (and likely to his face when angry enough), and I had to stifle a chuckle. No-one likes a glory hound, someone who wants it all for himself and plunders other people's cases just because they're slow, or rather, thorough.
For a while, the only sounds in the room were the flipped pages of the case files Sherlock was reading, and Sheridan's muttering on the various aspects of the heist case. Finally, the older Holmes sat down again, poured himself some tea, and sighed. "Much better. I expect this case to be done and over with by Sunday. Well, unless Lestrade's inquiry shows a different outcome than what I have deduced. You seem to have a question, doctor."
Until today, I do not know what bedevilled me to ask more about my friend's background, but to me, the atmosphere in the room was too surreal on that day. "I am still surprised, Inspector. Holmes never made any allusions to family, much less to any siblings or his background."
"This makes me wonder if you are more ashamed of my life choices than Father was, Sherlock."
"I am not. You are the best of the professionals, but therein lies your limitation."
Sheridan simply lifted an eyebrow. "As lies yours in not being able to arrest anyone. Anything less and you would be reduced to a vigilante. But enough of this. What do you wish to know, doctor?"
"I do not wish to pry…"
"Nonsense. I never tire of speaking of family, even when they in themselves tire me with their antics." He smiled. "I suppose I should start with myself. I am the eldest of five if one counts our dear sister, and Sherlock here is eleven years my junior."
"Why did you join the police?"
"Call it an allusion to our roots, a romantic notion of a determined but restless youth. Our ancestors were country squires, attendants to the Duke of York during the Wars of the Roses, that is, until they decided to side with Henry Tudor. Henry decided to thank them by a grant of land, and his daughter Elizabeth with the title of baron of the same land, the village of Strensall, north of York. But, what is a squire, by definition? Why surely, a young noble who subjects himself to service to another and the public in order to reach a knighthood." His smile turned ironic as he pulled out a riot truncheon with the rank markings of a full inspector. "Most well-to-do families these days send their sons to the military for the same, but I am afraid I am a bit too city-bound for that. However, our father had envisioned my life taking a very different road. He had wanted me to be a judge since I expressed my dislike of managing the lands, but for this, I am too impatient and adventurous, so studying law was not on my list. When I finished college, I chose to leave the estate in the hands of my next sibling, Sherringford. He is a most capable custodian."
"What did you study if I may ask?"
"Nearly the same as Sherlock. I hold a master in chemistry and in physics," he claimed casually. "And an unofficial one in sobriety."
"Not a friend of fraternities?"
"President and founder of the Non-Society for College Sobriety, Cambridge," Sheridan answered, and at my incredulous stare, he grinned. "Look it up, we do exist. Most of us are members of Trinity College who disliked the drinking contests and the boating season but were too social to not attend a party or two. Why Non-Society? Well, the fraternities are officially called societies, given the odd sorority or two. But back to this," he pointed at the truncheon on the desk, "I thirsted for justice, but I did not want to be a barrister or a judge. I wanted to prove myself like a medieval squire did to earn his knighthood, but the military was not what I sought. What was left? I had been fascinated with this place, Scotland Yard, and particularly the CID's new ways of thinking, that crime fighting was not just accusation and punishment since boyhood. I confess I collected an inordinate amount of newspaper clippings and other materials pertaining the men who were to be my predecessors during my school years. Disregarding all social considerations, I went and applied for the profession of a constable. If you check the archive of The Sun for the Tenth of June, 1865, you shall find I managed to cause a minor shock for London when the tabloids found me on the beat, following the one and only then-still-Constable Lestrade around Whitehall and Kensington. According to Sherringford, our father nearly had a heart attack when he read the drivel."
At his description, I imagined my own father in the late Lord Holmes's place, and could not help the chuckle that escaped this time. My choice of joining the army had already caused minor outrage, therefore, a commoner's profession was certain to cause a scandal. "You certainly know how to shock someone."
"And how to make weird bets," Sherlock added, abandoning his former pose of reading. "He bet with Father that he would be perfectly capable of surviving for a year on his constable's salary and an allowance of one pound and six shillings a month. It would teach all of us to never underestimate his willpower, for he managed to do more than that, nearly never touching the allowance in the end."
"Why the allowance at all?" I wondered idly, recognising it as being not much more than my army pension.
"At the time, my skill in the kitchen was nonexistent, warranting a housekeeper. Lestrade and Bradstreet eventually took pity on me and taught me all the things I never had to learn as the next Baron Strensall, namely, keeping a basic household," he admitted. "Terribly naïve of me, but such is the life of those who attend boarding school and college with all its amenities for the affluent and the gifted."
"I still believe that a different school than St. Andrews would have worked for us just fine," Sherlock argued, in a way that made it clear he did not realise he was leaking more personal details. Sheridan surely has an interesting effect on him, I thought.
"With the way you are, you of all people should be glad Father took the Duchess of Dover's recommendation. In any other public school, they would have beaten the spirit out of you, Sherlock," Sheridan stated seriously.
St. Andrews… now that was a familiar name. "You went to that Liverpudlian school that has no classes but courses and age groups?"
"We all did. Yours truly, Sherringford, Marie, Mycroft, Sherlock. All alumni of Her Grace's school for the ambitious, unique and gifted," he answered. "I was Young Master of my flat. He on the other hand regularly got ordered to stand in the corner because he couldn't stop making deductions at inopportune times."
"Four siblings?" That Holmes had such a large family was just a little on the phantastic side, but I could imagine him stepping on everyone's toes like that, annoying the devil out of his College master and his Guardian, the St. Andrews equivalent of a form master.
"Quite. And since our father passed away ten years ago, I had to manage the madness that is our family. It is very telling when the one who makes the least trouble is the sister who is the middle child," he shot Sherlock a pointed look, "and the youngest is the one you always wonder if he is going to get himself killed tomorrow while he avoids you like the plague." He reached into his desk and handed me a framed photograph that showed all five Holmes siblings with presumably Sheridan's wife and Marie Holmes's husband, giving undeniable proof to his claim; the one with the least resemblance was a large, corpulent man that reminded me of a bear in bearing. Given the arrangement of the picture, with Sheridan on one side and Sherlock on the other end, he had to be Mycroft, Sherlock's immediate senior.
"You keep pestering me about women!" the younger protested, interrupting my inspection of the picture.
"I have a good reason to," Sheridan gave back. "Since I failed to produce an heir, Sherringford is a confirmed bachelor, thus even less likely to have children than you, and Mycroft just doesn't have the energy to have them, it's either you or Cousin Barton, and you know what he would do with the estate."
Conceding the point silently, my friend looked away; obviously, whoever Barton was, he was not a person one would wish to inherit a title of peerage with its attached estate and assets. "You do not have children?"
"I have three daughters," he answered with a proud but somewhat burdened smile, steepling his fingers in a way that made his wedding band and signet obvious. "But the title is inherited through heirs male of the body and the line, which makes my situation difficult. Erin… cannot have any children any longer, it is too dangerous."
I immediately caught his notion. "Another child could kill her?"
"Erin is not frail by any means, but there were… complications last time…" He shook his head and turned to Sherlock. "I have given you more than enough freedom to do this yourself, and I am sick of your baseless arguments that place your logic supreme, since I do the same work while being married, and I do not need to partake in a filthy habit when I have nothing to do, as there is plenty to fill my life."
Sherlock was still not meeting Sheridan's eyes. "What are you aiming for then, brother?"
Sheridan Holmes sighed. "I am perfectly aware that your tastes would not allow the average woman to enter your life, so I limited the available to choices to the extraordinary, which still are plenty." He paused for a moment. "Either you meet them and settle this within a year, or I'll stop to name you as unavailable. I assure you, I get a lot of requests concerning you, and I am tired of both your deflections and said requests." Shaking his head, he picked up his fountain pen and began to write up case notes on a pad, in the same sharp, flowing cursives as the note from this morning, at a speed I found astonishing for this. Finally, he looked up again, and faced his brother. "You insist you are fine brother, but I cannot help but see where this may end, if I may remind you. Nonetheless… while my outrage at your lack of social grace might be there, Lestrade and I have not called you here so I can berate you on keeping your friend in the dark about your origins, but rather for these cases that are most obstructive in a swift wrap up of the Belgravia Heist. I take I was right in that they would catch your fancy?"
"As always. May I assume that one of the typists downstairs will be able to copy the relevant case notes for us?" Still looking a bit rattled at the social ultimatum, something that left me in little doubt of Lord Holmes's control of the family, my friend chose to focus on the offered work.
"Unless you wish to deal with Cooper's shorthand, yes," the professional answered before glaring again. "Don't even think about the file at the bottom. From the last time you handled such a case, I know you will not be able to stomach it, or keep your calm about it at the least."
The stack with the smaller cases had varying markings in coloured crayon, likely to distinguish between the type of case, and at its bottom was a file marked with a curious green and black pattern of angled stripes on its border, which Sherlock had been glancing at several times. The folders had been stacked alternatingly upright and horizontally, allowing easy access to each. The colouring reminded me of something, but I could not recall it. "Why, what kind of case is it?"
I must admit that even years after meeting the man, I could not explain the effect Sheridan Holmes had on his surrounding atmosphere. In an instant, it was thick with his intensity, making it clear that this man was the definitive of the Yard. "I believe you accompanied Sherlock on this one. Do you recognise the name The Tankerville?"
At the very same moment as he named the sinister gentlemen's club we had to deal with last month, Sherlock froze, the face going pale, and I could not blame him. While my nerves had been forged by the horrors of Maiwand, and those of the Yarders, including Sheridan, by their life on the streets of London, Holmes had only gradually adapted to his chosen profession, and the confrontation with the perversions of the members of the Tankerville had rattled him badly. "A child molester?" I asked in disgust, remembering the other case all too well. The whole scheme would probably have gone on for longer, had they not made the children addicted to the point they had been willing to kill for the source of the drug: a poisoned pudding.
"We do have the fiend in custody already," Sheridan stated grimly. "But it is the interviewing of his victims I do not wish on you, Sherlock, given that the last time, you didn't even last four hours."
Holmes shook his stupor off and nodded slowly. "I see your point. We all have types of cases we do not deal well with. Do you need any other assistance?"
"There's an arrest I have to do by the end of the day if you wish to accompany me, given that you likely have already figured out who robbed the Hargreaves."
"I have, and I can even get your evidence. Mr. Zeisig of Bond Street shows to be a bit too confident about his deception."
"Then I shall obtain the warrant for his lodgings. I think that will be all for now." He turned to me, getting to his feet, and shook my hand. "Doctor Watson, it was a pleasure. If you ever feel like escaping his miser for a while, feel free to pay us a visit. I live at 231 Baker Street."
"I shall see you later about the cases then," my friend nodded and frowned. "And I will drop off the present for Elizabeth that I was unable to deliver." Given their peculiar relationship, I sensed that Elizabeth was one of Sheridan's daughters, and likely Holmes's godchild.
"At least this he remembers… Until then. Sherlock."
With this, we took our leave from Detective Inspector Lord Sheridan Holmes, and made way for the constabulary downstairs to have the case files copied. While we waited, the strange encounter with this warmer, more social version of my friend lingered in my mind. "Holmes… what kind of cases does your brother dislike?"
"Like any good professional, he dislikes anything that involves children," he replied after a while. "But if you look for his personal spectre, as the child molester is to me, it is people dying alone, with nobody caring." He shot me a thin smile. "In a way, you and he are very much alike, compassionate to a fault. When he was still a Detective Sergeant, he once had to investigate the death of a lonesome elderly gentleman, who had been robbed of his collection and murdered. The case in itself was simple to a fault, but it rattled him badly, as he failed to track down anyone who would care about his death: No children, no family, no friends. I am told he was in fact so shaken by it that he spent three days staring down at his final report, until the Superintendent ordered him to put on his dress blues and attend the man's funeral. In the end, only a handful of Yarders attended. He hates it if nobody cares."
"And why is he so overworked, as you implied before?"
Holmes shot me a look that made it clear he thought it obvious, nonetheless, he humoured me. "As the current Baron Strensall, he is the only inspector not intimidated by others of high society, and his superiors have no qualms assigning him to any case involving such. He shields the entire Yard from interference by lobbyists through his sheer existence. As a consequence, he tends to have more work than he can handle, even with Lestrade's help." He frowned a little before sighing. "I am blind after all. He has rightfully accused me of not seeing but merely observing again, and yes, he uses the words in a different manner than myself. To see is insight, and to observe is to watch from outside, which, while useful, admittedly does give little idea of motive."
To have someone surpass my friend's skills in observation, particularly in, what Sheridan called being a judge of people, was rare. "So what is it you oversaw in his eyes? If I understand it correctly, your brother has a better sense of people's motivations and character."
"Quite correct, and it is about method. Think. We usually have the luxury of solving one case at a time, no matter how long or short," he explained. "Now remember my brother's desk. Remember the usual state of the desks of all Yarders."
I had to suppress a smile, for they reminded my of my own consulting room at my practice, full of the files of my never-ending stream of patients, and I said as much. "It's like my own work, an eternal task of justice."
"Quite. So how does Lestrade fit in? If I understand the implication correctly, my brother, who happens to be my superior in matters of personal insight as he so casually demonstrated, performs a division of labour to tackle his high case load, pitting Lestrade's tenacity against any lead he finds…"
"And thus allowing them to close more cases at the same time," I finished the trail of thought. "Brilliant."
"All too fitting." Holmes sighed.
"Sir?" Constable Cooper came upon us, holding a thick file in his hands, stopping me from asking why. "Your transcripts sir."
"Thank you Constable." Getting up, he turned to leave, the case files under his arm. "Come now Watson. If my brother thinks I am so idle he may pester me about my private life, we may as well do him the favour and keep him out of working overtime." Outside, he hailed a cab.
"Why is it fitting for your brother to chase criminals in such a peculiar manner? Or any manner, for the matter?" I finally asked.
Here, Sherlock Holmes smiled. "Do you have any idea what the name Sheridan means?"
"Hardly. It sounds like a surname, frankly," I replied.
"It was. It is Old Gaelic, and frankly, there could not be a better name for a Yarder. It hails from Sirideán."
"And Sirideán is what?" I wondered as we entered the cab.
AN: Thoughts please?