[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: The Unexpected Visitor
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] rachelindeed
Author: [livejournal.com profile] inamac
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Watson, Mycroft
Warnings: None
Word Count: 1400
Summary: Mycroft Holmes visits Doctor Watson with a request and an impossible task.
AN: My recipient asked for 'a series of moments in which Mycroft absolutely and indignantly refuses to do things', and also pointed me at 'The Reigate Squires'. This is the (I hope happy) result.



The Unexpected Visitor

Today the names of the Netherlands Sumatra Company and of Theodore Maupertuis are notorious, but in the early 80s they were familiar only to a select few in the realms of Government and high finance. Neither were worlds in which my friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, habitually moved, so it was with considerable surprise that I learned of his involvement in what was to be revealed as the most audacious swindle of our age, on a warm March day in 1887. The means by which I received that intelligence were equally surprising.

Some of February's chill still lingered but the brisk March winds had the effect of dispersing the smogs which are a feature of London admired by artists and visitors but bring far too many patients to my door seeking relief for the many illnesses that bad air engenders and for which there is no cure I can offer save advice to remove to the country. The seasonal improvement had the happy effect of reducing my list, for it had been a busy winter and I had scarcely had time to call upon Holmes or to accompany him on his investigations.

I was considering repairing the omission when the decision was taken from me. I had seen only two patients that morning and was busy preparing their accounts when the clatter of hooves and creak of harness drew me to the window. London's hansom's and growlers are so common as to pass unnoticed amid the usual street hubbub, but this was a gentleman's carriage with two smart Yorkshire Greys between the shafts and a portly coachman on the box, muffled against the sharp wind in good quality tweed and a thick black cloak with touches of red at the shoulders.

The equipage drew to a halt at my door and the coachman lumbered from his seat and tossed a coin to one of the street boys who ran across to hold the horses. I had expected him to open the carriage door to allow the occupant to descend but, having assured the reliability of the boy (I could not, at that distance, hear his words, but the tone and accompanying gestures were unmistakable), he turned and made his way to my door.

Intrigued, wondering whether I was being summoned to the bedside of some ailing rich gentleman, I went to answer the ring myself. I opened the door just as the coachman was divesting himself of his muffler, to reveal a face that I recognised as that of Holmes' brother, Mycroft.

"Ah, Doctor Watson. I'm pleased to find you here. I have a favour to ask. Your office this way, is it?"

Without waiting for reply he passed along the hall and into the room he had correctly identified as my office. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. Holmes had given me to understand that his brother rarely left the purviews of his home, his office and his club. He had only once ventured as far as Baker Street. I wondered what had brought him to Kensington. Perhaps he wished to consult me about his health, though he certainly seemed hale. I followed in some confusion.

He had divested himself of the cloak and was settling himself into my own chair when I arrived in his wake. "Mr Holmes," I said, "This is a surprise. Have you need of my professional services?"

"Pish, Doctor," he exclaimed. "That assumed naiveté of yours may pander to my brother's vanity but I credit you with more intelligence. You have deduced that I am here to consult you on matters far more important than my health. What do you know about the Netherlands-Sumatra Company?"

"Only what has been in the financial papers," I said. "I had been considering making a small investment, but..."

"But you have not? I would advise against it." He extracted a small tortoiseshell box from his pocket and took a pinch of snuff, plying a silk handkerchief in its wake. "My brother was not so cautious and I fear that he has fallen prey to the schemes of the most dangerous man in Europe."

"Moriarty!" I exclaimed, conscious of a small thrill of excitement. Holmes had spoken often of the man and I knew that he had long desired to lock horns with him.

Mycroft gave a snort of annoyance. "Otto Von Bismarck," he said, firmly. "And in this case his agent, a man who calls himself Baron Maupertuis, though there is no record of the title in Debrett. But I suspect that Sherlock is pursuing him under the misapprehension that he is this figment of his imagination 'Moriarty', so in that respect you are correct. The fact is that in blundering about Europe on his wild goose chase he may well upset some rather delicate international matters of State. I have come to request your assistance in bringing his to his senses."

My instinct, of course, was to start packing at once, but caution prevailed. "If matters of state are involved surely you yourself should go. Indeed, you would have far more influence with your brother than I."

He drew himself up indignantly. "Sherlock has undoubtedly told you that I do not travel abroad. It would be impossible."

"He has mentioned that you do not take exercise," I agreed, "but self evidently you do. Your carriage-" I gestured to the window where the equipage could be seen waiting in the street.

He gave a snort which might have been the snuff , indignation, or amusement. "Driving is hardly exercise," said he. "Sherlock and I grew up with horses, and I learned to drive at my governess' knee. Literally, in fact, since her little tub-cart was my transport about the park from the age of three."

That certainly explained his corpulence. "Your brother says that you never leave your rooms."

This retort was certainly more amused. "Well, Sherlock does not know all my habits, but he is partly correct. Like a snail I carry my home with me. You would find my carriage equipped with all the necessary home comforts, for those occasions when I must go abroad."

"Then can you not follow him in your carriage?" I confess I was teasing him, but I did not expect quite the level of indignant protest I received.

"Absolutely not! Pall Mall to Kensington is an entirely different matter from London to the continent, and a sea voyage is out of the question. Really, Doctor, have you no understanding of the implications of my... my..." He coughed and spluttered and I became really alarmed by the level of his distress.

"Calm yourself, Mr Holmes. This agitation does no good to your health. Might I prescribe something?" I half rose, making for my small dispensary, but he waved me to submission, drawing another small box from the many pockets of his tweed jacket. I recognised the distinctive blue label of the eminent Harley Street physician Sir Percival Spratt. He drew out two tablets and swallowed them without asking for water.

"You see?" he said when he had recovered his power of speech, "I am well provided for in the matter of medication. But I should not have called on you if there had been any possibility of pursuing my brother myself. Besides, he can be extremely stubborn when he is on the trail of a villain that he sees as untouchable by the law and the authorities – among which he numbers myself. No, it is you who must pursue him and persuade him to give up this case. I shall, naturally, provide you with all the necessary information and funds for the undertaking."

I made a last attempt at protest but, as he had observed, the improved weather meant that I had very little to occupy me, and I had intended to call on Holmes in any case.

Two hours later I found myself settled into a first class carriage of the Continental Express with my doctor's bag, a small valise of essentials, and a packet of letters giving me entree to the salons and government offices of three countries.

I settled back into the buttoned upholstery of the compartment with a rueful sigh. Well, a short holiday on the continent in the company of my friend would be a welcome break from the tedium of a London practice. Though I had no confidence that my presence and protestations would divert Sherlock Holmes from his quarry any more than they had diverted Mycroft.

~~~000~~~

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