[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: The Scotland Yard Stalker
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] kerravonsen
Author: [livejournal.com profile] winryweiss
Rating: PG
Characters: Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Stanley Hopkins, Inspector MacKenzie, Inspector G. Lestrade.
Warnings: post-hiatus timeline, case-fic, crossover with Raffles (very, very feeble one).
Summary: A mysterious stranger follows several members of Scotland Yard.
Word Count: 2491
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and everyone from this charming gaslight universe created by Arthur Conan Doyle are in the public domain. Inspector MacKenzie was created by Ernest William Hornung, and is now also in the public domain
Notes: With hearty thanks to [livejournal.com profile] gardnerhill for her help and proofreading. She was patient enough to race against the clock with me, so all my gratitude belongs to her.


The Scotland Yard Stalker


As a lifelong friend of Sherlock Holmes I had the privilege of witnessing the changes in his relationship with various members of Scotland Yard.

I have to admit that Holmes’ unusual personality and sometimes rather uncommon attitudes have set an ostensibly unbreakable barrier between him and others. Especially at the beginning of his co-operation with official forces, he was often seen as no more than an eccentric busybody.

But over the years the relationship grew from grudging admiration on inspectors’ side and reluctant admittance of usefulness on Holmes’, to firm partnership. And despite the fact that Holmes would have never admitted it, he formed a close friendship with certain individuals from the force.

Therefore it was not unusual for various constables or inspectors of our acquaintance to stop at our place any time of day, or night for that matter.

Mrs. Hudson long ago abandoned all attempts of beating a proper sense of time into us. Instead she was always well stocked on various sorts of biscuit to offer with tea or coffee, or even something stronger as circumstances dictated, whilst she kept company with those who required Holmes’ advice while he was otherwise occupied.



One early March evening in 1896, after I finally convinced Holmes to accompany me to a theatre play I longed to see for quite a long time, we returned to our flat only to find Inspector Stanley Hopkins in Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen engaged in friendly conversation about his sister’s children.

“Good evening, Mr. Holmes, Doctor,” stated Hopkins apologetically immediately upon noticing us. “I apologise for –”

“Oh no, no, no need.” Holmes glanced over him. “Now, up with you to our sitting room, so Mrs. Hudson shall have her deserved rest.”

She smiled softly and gave Holmes a tray with tea pot, looking at my friend meaningfully.

“We shan’t be long,” Holmes assured her, yet we all knew how rarely we managed to keep such promises.



Holmes lit his pipe and settled into his armchair. “So, what has happened?”

Hopkins nervously shifted on our settee. “It’s kind of silly, Mr. Holmes …”

“No need to be shy, Inspector,” I assured him.

Holmes nodded in agreement.

“Well, a fortnight ago I was called to Abbey Wood. A body was found in an alleyway, dressed only in an overcoat.”

“Man or woman?” Holmes asked, not even lifting his eyebrow over the scandalizing condition of that unfortunate soul.

“A man. Shall I enlighten you with what I found out?”

“Please, do be so kind,” Holmes beckoned Hopkins graciously with his pipe.

“The victim’s name was Harold Evans, 43 years of age, bachelor, with an insalubrious fondness for pretty girls.”

“What was the cause of death?” I asked.

“He was strangled.”

“Was the overcoat his?” asked Holmes suddenly, changing the topic completely to my bewilderment.

“No,” smiled Hopkins.

“Was it, by any chance, a woman’s overcoat?”

Hopkins nodded.

“How did you – oh.” I started to ask, but then I realised that there is hardly any other reason for a man to venture outside dressed in such a peculiar fashion, than when he was leaving his lover in haste.

Holmes smiled contentedly. “Killed by some relative of a woman he was … wooing, I take it.”

“Exactly, Mr. Holmes.”

“Hum.” Holmes pensively drew on his pipe. “But, pray tell me, since you have already determined, and no doubt even arrested the culprit, what is there that sent you out to our humble home at this time of night?”

Hopkins’ good humour dissipated and he fiddled with his teacup. “Well, ever since, I … I am being followed.”

“Oh?” Holmes straightened in his armchair.

“Every time I’m send to investigate, somewhere in the crowd is a man, quite ordinary-looking. I first noticed him during the incident I told you about, for his clothes were superior to that area’s standard.”

“Are you sure it is the same person?”

“Absolutely, Mr. Holmes.”

“It might have been mere coincidence,” I intervened, though I did not exactly believe in that.

“Initially I thought that as well. But then,” Hopkins sipped his tea, bracing himself, “I couldn’t shake off the feeling that someone is following me.”

Holmes nodded. Though he was well-known for scowling at unexplainable, he never downgraded the instincts of seasoned policeman.

“So I led that … shadow of mine into an empty alleyway with the intention of confronting him.”

“Hopkins!” I cried in alarm.

“That might have been quite disastrous,” Holmes admonished him gently.

“Yes, it might,” Hopkins shrugged his shoulders. “Nevertheless, it proved my point. As soon as he realised that I was determined to meet him face to face, he ran. I tried to follow him, but he shook me off in the Underground.”

“When was that?”

“Yesterday.”

“And since?”

“Not a sign of him.”

“Curious,” Holmes tapped his lips with the stem of his pipe.

“Rather unsettling,” I corrected my friend, out of a long-lasting habit.

Holmes sighed. “Yes, of course. Unsettling.” He frowned. “I’m afraid that there is nothing we can do at this moment. But,” he raised his forefinger, looking gravely at Hopkins, “I want you to stay on the alert, Hopkins, and to send for us the very second you notice that man again.”

“You can be sure of that, Mr. Holmes.”



The very next day a request for Holmes’ consultation came from Inspector Gregson.

My friend seemed hesitant to leave, so I offered to stay at home, mainly due to the eventuality of Hopkins’ call to arms. Though I have to admit that the sudden weather change, which always disagreed with my injury, played its part in this decision of mine.

I used the free time to search through Holmes’ indexes and reports of Hopkins’ cases in an attempt to pinpoint all the possible persons who might be the mysterious shadow of our good Inspector.



Nothing of interest happened during the course of two following weeks.

Holmes was submerged, unfortunately for the state of our sitting room, in various papers and documents, trying to help Gregson with his case of insurance fraud.

Also, Hopkin’s pursuer apparently abandoned his peculiar pastime.

Or so we thought.



Later on that month, Inspector MacKenzie summoned us to Royal Arcade , and since he rarely asks unless truly desperate, we wasted no time and promptly went to his aid.

“Ah, Mr. Holmes!” MacKenzie rumbled with his characteristically thick Scottish accent and forced a smile on his face upon seeing my friend. “I’m glad you came so quickly.”

“What can I do for you, Inspector?”

“Come.” MacKenzie led us into one of the jeweller’s shops. “There’s been a burglary last night. Thieves must’ve come in through main entrance, but there’s no traces of forced entry.”

“And what is missing?” I asked while Holmes examined the door.

“The safe’s empty as a tomb. According to owner, there should’ve been jewels worth thousands of pounds.”

“That is a pretty neat sum.” Holmes hummed in approval.

“Aye.” grimaced MacKenzie.

“Is there any other possible way for culprits to enter?” I surveyed the windows, but none were damaged.

“Nay.”

“Then they must have had a copy of the key,” stated Holmes.

MacKenzie nodded gravely. “Exactly as I’ve thought.”

“Any suspects?” I asked the Inspector.

“Eh,” MacKenzie scratched his head. “My usual suspect’s away at Chichester at some fancy event, though this is exactly his style.”

Holmes lips quirked in suppressed smile.

“Anyway, the owner, Mr. Harris, has no reason to rob his own store as his business is successful. His shop assistants,” MacKenzie pointed to two young men currently interviewed by another constable, “have got absolutely no access to the key. On the other hand, his son, Clarence, well ...”

It was clear from MacKenzie’s face, who he considered the culprit.

“Does Mr. Clarence also work in here?”

“Aye. Unless he’s gambling his father’s money away at bridge.”

Holmes smiled smugly.

“Well then,” I said, “it seems that there is not a mystery in this theft, only a lack of evidence.”

“Oh, no, my dear Watson, you are wrong. There indeed is a mystery.”

I looked at my friend in confusion.

“What is troubling you, Inspector, so that you asked for my help in such a peculiar way?”

“I’d love to see a person who’d be able to outwit you, Mr. Holmes,” snorted MacKenzie, hiding his embarrassment behind a mask of nonchalance.



“It’s exactly the same!” Holmes threw his overcoat in the vague direction of our hat stand and disappeared out of my sight with an angry slam of his bedroom door.

With a sigh, and silent prayers for Mrs. Hudson’s patience, I bent to pick up his overcoat and hang it alongside mine, and then cautiously followed him into his room, mentally preparing myself to face my friend at his most foul mood.

Holmes sat at his bed with crossed legs, a thinking pose he had picked up during his travels in the Orient, ignoring his surroundings entirely.

“Holmes?” I called to him hesitantly. “Is there something I can do?”

He looked at me thoughtfully. “MacKenzie has the very same experience as Hopkins. The. Very. Same. A mysterious stranger, absolutely common-looking man, started to appear on his crime scenes, started following him, even to his home. And when our good Inspector confronts him, he takes to his heels!”

“Could it be someone who holds a grudge against them? Perhaps somebody they arrested long time ago?”

“Hopkins and MacKenzie never worked together. Not even when Hopkins was still a constable.”

“Then …” I shuffled my weight from my bad leg. “Could it be two unrelated incidents?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Holmes motioned me to sit down. “Your leg is troubling you,” he stated gently.

I heeded his advice and sat next to him, stretching my leg gingerly. “Well, next time, it would be decent of you if you take note of it before you drag me all the way from Paddington station, not even bothering to say a single word.”

Holmes had the decency to look abashed.

“What will we do, Holmes?”

He sighed. “We can only wait. And that worries me.”



We were able to find out that at least four other members of the Yard had somewhat similar experience – the earliest incident, a mere reappearance of the mysterious man at crime scenes, dating back to the previous autumn.

“It escalates, Watson.” Holmes said to me, and I could clearly see that this discovery unsettled him.

We launched ourselves into investigation of our pursuer’s possible identity, but as time brought no further development, Holmes’ mood quickly deteriorated.

None of the cases he was meanwhile engaged in helped to brighten his frame of mind, and he solved them mechanically and without his usual zeal.



The conclusion of these odd incidents came rather unexpectedly with the beginning of May.

We had been taking a stroll along the Embankment , waiting for Inspector Lestrade with the intention of inviting him to dinner. Such meetings, not triggered by work, became our habit of sorts shortly after Holmes’ return.

Yet, this time Lestrade seemed ill at ease.

“Are you well, Lestrade?” I could not help but asked.

“Oh no, nothing is wrong with me, Doctor,” Lestrade smiled benevolently at me. “I am as fit as a fiddle. But … Holmes, do you see that man over there? The one in the beige overcoat.”

Holmes inconspicuously looked at the person Lestrade indicated. “My dear Inspector,” he stated in grave tone of voice, “pray forgive me if I am wrong, but have you not of late experienced an unexplainable feeling that someone is following you?”

Lestrade gave Holmes a look which clearly said All right, how did you do it this time?

Holmes didn’t even smile. “I’m afraid that our dinner is to be postponed. Inspector, that man must be arrested.”

Lestrade merely sighed. “You are lucky that I always have my handcuffs on me.”

“And how do you propose to carry it out?” I asked. “We could hardly encircle him here, in the middle of the Embankment.”

Lestrade clearly considered such a possibility as not so bad.

“No,” sighed Holmes, vindicating my fears. “That man has run away from every previous encounter, he would no doubt attempt to escape as soon as he realised that we are trying to catch him.” He turned to Lestrade. “Could you lure him to somewhere more suitable? One of the nearby alleyways might prove to be the right choice.”

“You want me to be a decoy?” asked Lestrade in disbelief, and yet somewhat amused.

“Oh, I am sure you will acquit yourself well,” Holmes nearly grinned.

Lestrade snorted and with a mumbled “don’t you dare let him run,” walked away from us.

We ostensibly went in the opposite direction, but Holmes promptly turned us back, and thus we started to pursue the pursuer.

Lestrade led us through several crowded streets until he turned into a narrow, practically vacated alleyway. He walked almost to the end of it without looking left or right and then stopped to gaze at his watch.

“All right,” he stated firmly, turning at his shadow. “What do you want from me?”

Upon being directly approached, our pursuer tried to flee, but Holmes and I blocked his way. He attempted to push his way through us, and his struggling became more frantic as Lestrade joined the scuffle. Between the three of us we managed to handcuff him. He didn’t put up any further resistance afterwards.



Little is left to be said.

In the end, our mysterious pursuer proved to be a member of a prominent family, a feeble-minded kind soul, apparently fascinated by police work. His family wished desperately to hush up that fact, as well as all incidents he was involved in. And since no one came to harm, they were merely reprimanded and advised to keep a more watchful eye on him in the future.

“Still, why did he follow all those members of the Yard?” I contemplated aloud, in the comfort of our sitting room.

“There are several possibilities to explain his behaviour,” stated Holmes matter-of-factly while he prepared his violin. “And yet I doubt that we will ever discover his exact motivation.”

“Perhaps it was an idée-fixe?” I said in my most innocent tone of voice.

Holmes theatrically rolled his eyes. “Please, Watson.”

I laughed silently.

Holmes sighed, a fond smile playing on his lips. “Would you care for some Bach?”





Notes:
- The term stalker in the meaning of obsessive harasser started to be used from early 1990’s.
- Inspector MacKenzie’s favourite pastime is trying to prove that all jewellery robberies were perpetrated by certain Arthur J. Raffles, a famous cricket player and amateur cracksman. These characters came from stories by Ernest William Hornung, Doyle’s brother-in-law. In my headcanon Holmes and Raffles share the same Universe.
- One of the most famous British shopping arcades - The Royal Arcade - was constructed in 1879 and connects Old Bond Street with Albemarle Street.
- Victoria Embankment is a part of the Thames Embankment, a road and river-walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London. The Scotland Yard used to be located there, in Norman Shaw Buildings.
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