Drunk in Charge
I think that, for many
men, there is one man, above all others, whom they look to for their
life. One man, above all others, whom they hold in the
highest esteem and who has the greatest influence upon
them; a paragon to emulate, an idol to admire, a
teacher to heed, and a leader to follow. One man,
above all others, who commands both their obedience
and their devotion.
For myself, Lieutenant Colonel William Hartnell was
such a man; at least, for that starry-eyed youth, the
Army Surgeon in Afghanistan, he had been so. It was
therefore with something of a sense of shock that I
read his name upon the crisp card Holmes presented me
with early one November afternoon, when I had inquired
whom it was who was apparently requiring to be seen
with such urgency.
"You know him?" Holmes was quick to ask; the
recognition must have been clear for all to see in my
face, let alone one as keen as he.
"Not well," I was equally quick to answer, feeling an
unaccountable and unaccustomed warmth flood my face.
"He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the regiment when I
was stationed in Afghanistan. I had little to do with
him myself, but he was by all accounts a most
honourable gentleman and an exceptional leader of men.
He was credited with turning our fortunes around after
Maiwand. I am not surprised that he has made
Brigadier." I had thought I was speaking casually, but
I was now acutely aware that I was on the receiving
end of one of Holmes' more penetrating gazes, and I
liked it not at all. I felt as though he could already
discern all my quiet, hidden thoughts, that I had
followed Hartnell's career with keen interest, and
knew perfectly well that he had been promoted to his current position
last month, and all the details of
his prodigious awards, accolades and citations for
"Well then," Holmes commented, with his familiar air
of mild derision, "Let us see what this 'exceptional
leader of men' could possibly require my services
I thought my heart should stop in its accustomed
course when the Brigadier walked through the door.
Tall and straight-shouldered, with an impeccable
military bearing, his handsome face had acquired
maturity without, it seemed to my jaded eyes, age; his
leonine hair had lost none of its' glossy hue, his
burnished moustache none of its' forceful masculinity.
I swallowed hard. He was magnificent, and, it was
swiftly apparent, in a magnificent ill temper.
Holmes," he said without preamble, shaking my
friend's hand firmly, "I require your assistance with
a problem of the utmost urgency and delicacy."
"Please! Sit!" Holmes waved him to a chair, and, in
passing, at me, "You know, I believe, my friend and
colleague, Dr Watson?" Hartnell politely took my
proffered hand, turning those steely blue eyes on me.
It was clear that he did not recognise me, but then, I
had not expected him to.
"Afghanistan, the Berkshires," I murmured,
"Of course," he said warmly, smiling, "I'm glad to see
you in better shape than after Maiwand," and I felt
instantly appeased at his remembrance. We all sat –
with great relief in my case – and conversation paused
whilst Mrs Hudson entered with the tea service. The
Brigadier waited with carefully schooled patience. I
am not a timorous soul, and am seldom discomfited by
the mere presence of a forceful personality these days
(and certainly, living with Holmes renders one rather
immune to such intimidation) and, now my initial shock
had passed, I was able to relax more. Holmes,
naturally, was utterly unconcerned, but then, he
always is. I think that he, of all men, amidst his
other unique characteristics, has never had one to
look up to as I had to Hartnell; no Solomon to guide
him, nor Arthur to follow, but then, quite probably
none have ever proved themselves a worthy match for
him. I cannot, at least, imagine so. They made quite a
picture, seated opposite; the heroic, charismatic
soldier, and the intellectual, aloof, masterless
"Now Brigadier, what seems to be the problem?" Holmes
inquired smoothly, almost unctuously, after Mrs Hudson
had departed, sounding absurdly like a doctor asking
after one of his more petulant patient's latest
ailment. "Our regimental sword has been stolen!" Hartnell
explained hotly. "It is outrageous!"
"Please, from the beginning," Holmes prompted him.
Hartnell's moustache bristled as he reigned in his
"Very well. Of the men under my command, the King's
Infantry has a regimental sword which I am custodien
of, a superb piece of craftmanship presented by her
Majesty the Queen herself in recognition of our
services in India. It is kept always in a secure room
at my headquarters, with the Colours, you understand,
except on those occasions when it is brought out for
ceremonial purposes, when I carry it myself and none
other touches it. Two nights ago was one such
commemorative occasion, the founding of the division,
and the officers and myself dined out afterwards at
the Pierre Savot Restaurant nearby. At the end of the evening, I walked
back and placed the sword in its
"What time was this?" Holmes interrupted. I had the
distinct impression that the Brigadier was none too
impressed with being interrupted by a mere civilian
(and one still in his dressing gown at noon, to boot).
"At approximately 11:45pm" he replied, stiffly. A
trace of a smile passed across Holmes' features. He
was listening now, as was often his wont, with his
eyes closed and his hands steepled before him.
Hartnell hesitated, such that I felt compelled to give
him a reassuring nod to continue his tale.
"I had no reason to believe that the sword was
anywhere other than where I had left it, and neither I
nor any of my staff have much occasion to enter the
room, so it was only this morning – at 7:40am –
discovered its' absence. It could only have been
stolen!" Holmes smiled thinly.
"Indeed. You have ascertained, I take it, that nobody
who has legitimate access to the rooms has it?"
is beyond suspicion," the Brigadier retorted
brusquely, "And the only other who has a key is my
batman, who has served with me for five years and is
as honourable man as any on this Earth. It was been
stolen, I tell you."
"It seems a strange venture for a thief," Holmes
mused, and, opening his eyes, looked directly at
Hartnell, as if expecting that man to add something
further to his account (though I for the life of me
could not hazard a guess as to what), but he merely
looked steadily back at Holmes, as few men manage to
"I suppose....you have not informed the police?"
Holmes asked at last.
"Disgraceful though the matter is, I have done so, and
can only hope for their discretion. As for their
competence, I fear otherwise. They have found nothing--not the
slightest trace of an intruder or any other
clue. So I come to you, in the hopes that you may find
something that they have overlooked. There is to be a
ceremony at the palace at 3pm this coming Friday, at
which I must wear the sword."
"And if you do not?"
"Then Sir," Brigadier Hartnell returned, rising
(Holmes did not), "We must both admit defeat, and
that, I fancy, is something neither of us would
lightly do. Good day, gentleman." I hastened to show
him to the door for Holmes, as was typical when a new
problem had been brought to his attention, had already
forgotten about its' unfortunate owner.
"Well, what do you think then, Holmes?" I asked him
when I came back, trying to sound hearty.
"Yes, well, I think my time might be more profitably
employed than in the pursuit of lost trinkets and
imperilled martial dignity across London. However, as
I am not at present occupied....I may as well look
into the affair and see what our doughty Constabulary
has doubtless overlooked. I daresay the Brigadier was
right on that point". I considered saying that he was
right on another point, concerning defeat and the
admission thereof, but thought the better of it.
Holmes disappeared into his room only to poke his head
round the door seconds later, in the manner of one who
has just remembered something, and called out, "Come
Watson! Howe Barracks, and let us see if we cannot
extricate your dashing Brigadier from his difficulty.
Ha!" So laughing he disappeared again and I ran for my
Holmes' teasing of myself and my – by turns –
gallant, heroic, patriotic, etcetera ad infinitum
Brigadier continued unabated throughout that first leg
of our investigation, and I think I can firmly say
that for the first time whilst actively engaged in
assisting Holmes on a case, I was heartily sick of his
He scoured the headquarters and found nothing, which
disappointed me, and seemed, to my mind, to bring us
to a standstill already.
"We have done the official police an injustice,
Watson," was all Holmes had to say on the matter, but
he seemed neither surprised nor inconvenienced by
this. Dauntless, he interrogated all the staff, and
the batman, then traced his way all around the place
and out to the restaurant where the officers had dined
that night. Then he returned to the barracks again and
had a lengthy questioning of the kitchen boy as to the
state of the Brigadier's boots, which seemed to me,
even knowing his methods as I did, to be the crowning
point of today's fruitless endeavour.
The Brigadier, meanwhile, had returned from wherever
his duties had taken him and offered us a both a
drink. Holmes refused, but I gratefully accepted, and
we spent a most pleasant half-hour in conversation and
an appreciation of the fine scale model of Waterloo in
his office. It was easy to simply like him, now,
though the admiration was still there, of course.
Holmes interrupted after a while and proceeded to be
rude to the both of us, before dragging me outside
again to assist in a cold and tedious examination of
the layout of the nearby streets. I was sore-footed,
hungry and ill-tempered by this time, and so I
declared my intentions to return to Baker Street and
fortify myself for my evening surgery.
"Never mind, Watson," Holmes said, "I'm sure the Brigadier's honour
will survive the lack of its'
champion for a few hours." It was really too much, and
I'm sure I don't know what it was about my manner that
had provoked this unprecedented level of gibing humour
on his part. Yet still I held my tongue and didn't
berate him for his baiting of me, for fear that he
might take the opportunity to confront me about the
Brigadier. I had evidently been more obvious about my
feelings for the man than I thought. Holmes has always
said I wore my heart upon my sleeve.
"Where do you think the sword is?" I asked instead.
"Now?" Holmes retorted, "Well, theoretically it could be anywhere,
though I fancy it has not strayed far.
This is the work of an opportunist, not a professional
"How do you know that?"
"Steal the sword and leave the silver? Really, Watson,
do wake up."
"But what opportunity?" I was baffled. Holmes favoured
me with an unforgiving stare.
"The opportunity presented by another man's mistake,
"I wish you would stop speaking in riddles," I
"And I wish that you would take my lesson about
observing, and not merely seeing, a little more to
heart. However, in this case, it is clear that your
vision is...blinkered." With that last, cutting,
remark, he strode off and was rapidly lost in the
I daresay that I cut a forlorn and desultory figure as
I made my way back to the comforts of Baker Street.
Holmes is wont to tease, and apt to be merciless in
his criticism, but rarely had any words of his stung
quite so much as these had, and, if I were honest with
myself (which unfortunately I usually am), it was because too many of
them had hit home.
Holmes' mockery of what was obvious to him as my
schoolboy devotion to my former Colonel was certainly
justified, if unkind. My cheeks warmed despite the
chill air as I thought of just how much he may have
deduced. It is never wise to underestimate Holmes in
that regard. He may even have seen the newspaper
clippings that I had hoarded, and the one faded
photograph I have in my desk drawer...
I am sure that I
am not the only man who has fallen into a youthful
infatuation with another and it was doubtless for the
best that Hartnell had been both quite out of my
social circle and utterly oblivious to the secret
fantasies that his naive young Army surgeon dreamt up
in his billet at night. Indeed, he had been quite
barely aware of my existence at all...but there had
been that time he had come in to see his wounded men
and talked to me, concerned and friendly and charming
all at the same time, his own uniform in bloody
tatters, his fine skin soot-stained, but cheerful and
assured yet, by God, the only man who was in that
There had been the time he had made
sure that I was sent on home from the field hospital
after my injury. It was as harmless and passing as
most of these idle fancies are, and, if Holmes had
guessed it, I only hoped he realised that too. Not
that I had much concern if he had drawn a less savoury
conclusion. Holmes, whilst passionate in his pursuit
of truth and justice, has scant regard for either the
letter of the law or human notions of morality, and I
feared no exposure by him. I hoped he would tire of
his sport soon.
It was late, when Holmes' quick tread sounding upon
the stair woke me from my inadvertent post-supper
snooze. By this time my ill humour had evaporated, and
I was only anxious that Holmes should have met with
success and recovered the sword, and inquired as such
of him. He made no reply but came to stand in front of
me. Anger and sadness warred briefly across his sharp
features, before his usual cool detachment returned,
and only the burning of his eyes, boring into me,
betrayed the depths of his passion.
"I really cannot see why you attach such importance to
a matter that is, on the scale of human doing in this
city, monumentally trivial," he said at last. "Not to
mention entirely without interest, merit or novelty to
commend it. I fancy the sordid little affair of the
Brigadier's sword shall not make it into your accounts
of our adventures, Watson." He threw his coat on the
floor moodily and leaned against the fireplace, turned
away from me. The light from the fire highlighted on
the unrelieved planes of his face, profiled, was
unearthly, compelling...but then, I had always been
compelled by that ferocious intelligence, that lively
visage, more fool me. He really was in a damnably odd
mood, even by his standards, and I still could not
fathom what had birthed it.
"It beggars belief," he exclaimed suddenly, striking
his fist against the mantelpiece, "How people of
otherwise good sense can elevate in status one who is
so obviously as flawed – if not more so – than they
themselves are. I do not think I can stomach another
sycophantic word concerning our brave Brigadier." A
conclusion of my own suddenly dawned upon me.
"Holmes, really," I said, as mildly as possible, "You
sound almost jealous. Why should you envy this good
man his well-earned reputation?"
"Jealous! Jealous indeed!" He spun round to face me,
clearly furious, his jaw working, then once more
masterfully pulled his emotions back under control,
sending a shiver down my spine. I was almost sorry.
Holmes, when he comes alive, is an intoxicating sight.
It's a shame he only does so when he's on the trail of
a case, and there's more than one reason I let him
drag me out at all hours and in all unfavourable
weathers, that is for certain. I stopped that errant
thought before it could stray too far.
"No," he said
quietly, then laughed. "Perhaps", he continued, a
little sadly, "I am merely angry that you – you, of
all people Watson! – should have given your loyalty to
a man unworthy of it, one who does not even notice
it!" I think I was actually touched, then, though
really, it was a damnable way to show one's
appreciation of a fellow. "Brigadier Hartnell should
not have command of a devotion as stirling as yours,
certainly not anymore. Rare though such a man would
be, there is surely another of greater merit than
that." He stopped abruptly then, and turned to go.
After all these years with him, it was too much.
"I long since found such a man," I whispered, more to
the fire than to him, "But he does not notice it
either." I should not have said it, by God I should
not have, but I could not have stopped myself. Holmes
froze, motionless as the hare who catches scent of the
hound. I wondered if I might yet extricate us from the
embarrassing situation somehow. He turned and looked
at me again. There was no fathoming those stormy grey
eyes and fine-boned features when he chose
inscrutability. He stood over me, far too close for
comfort, all dark shades and shadowed cheekbones, the
brightest thing in the room.
"Yes, he does," he murmured at last. My heart lurched,
and my face burned. So, he had noticed, of course.
Noticed and chosen to ignore it, until I stupidly
forced it to his attention – expecting what? If I had
been his friend, if not his confidante before, he
would surely keep me at a greater distance now, if not
find some excuse to be rid of me altogether. "He had
thought, perhaps," Holmes continued softly, leaning so
close now that I could become drunk on his cologne,
"Not to ask for a greater, or a
different...devotion...than that which he was freely
given, as he had never been given before, and
unexpectedly had found...that he most earnestly
required." How carefully our sentences danced about
each other even as our heads inclined closer. I
decided to step into the abyss.
"He should have known," I said, for more steadily than
I felt, able at last to meet his eyes, like two
smouldering coals, "That he could claim all of it, any
time that he wished." Holmes smiled faintly then, and
lifted my chin with his hand. I think that was the
first time I had seen a real tenderness in his
features. Abruptly, then, his irrepressible mischief
"Brigadier Hartnell," he enunciated crisply, slowly,
and with relish, "Is a very foolish man." So saying he
pulled me hard to him and leaned into me for an
endless kiss. No chaste sweethearts' kiss that; my
mouth trembled open under the probing insistence of
his tongue; commanding, urgent and domineering as the
man himself. My knees were dissolving even with my
vanishing resolve as his long-fingered hands were
roving across my back and shoulders, pressing me
closer against him.
I felt a steady hardness pressing too, against my
thigh, nudging me fully from groin to knee, and broke
off with a startled yelp, gasping for air. From
beneath Holmes' jacket protruded the leather-sheathed
length of fine tempered steel.
"Holmes really!" I exclaimed, absolutely astonished.
He roared with laughter, throwing his head back, then
looking back at me, his eyes glittering in merriment
at his game. Oh, he was mightily pleased with his
joke, and I could not help but laugh too as he
unbuckled the sword and unsheathed it with a flourish.
"Where..!" I gasped,
"Where on earth did you find it?"
"Ah now there's a lurid tale," he replied, still
mirthful, "Which I shall tell you," he declared,
twirling the blade so that it sang in the air,
"Later." So saying he levelled it at my chest and
marched me backwards at swordpoint, laughing, into his
room, then kicked the door shut behind us. Thus done,
he threw the sword down and advanced upon me once
more. Never before have I known Holmes want to delay his exposition of
a case once all the facts are before
him, from which I could only form my own humble
deduction that he was more intent on me, and it warmed
me from head to toe.
He was content for a moment to
kiss me in the privacy of his room, pressing me to him
once more and taking advantage of his greater height
to swoop down upon me and claim my mouth, and I dared
what I had so often longed to do; to trace the fine cheekbones with my
fingertips, to run my hands through
his coal-black hair and disarrange it from its' usual
immaculate state, to feel the lean muscle beneath the
constricting clothing. I wished to savour every moment
of it, but Holmes was as intent on his pursuit as ever
he is upon the scent of a case, and I, as usual, found
myself running to keep up.
My waistcoat was being undone by nimble fingers and I
was pushed steadily backwards until the back of my
knees hit the edge of his bed and I was toppled back
upon it. He actually pounced on me, and lay there atop
me, holding my hands above my head, simply looking at
me. He was still smiling, a hungry look upon his face
that neither I, nor, I think, anyone, had ever seen
"Holmes, I.." I began, thinking with a sudden sober
chill of the perils of pursuing this, the trouble I
could bring down upon him, who claimed my heart
absolutely. He drew back a moment, his smile fading.
"You do not, after all, want this, now it comes to
it?" he asked softly, releasing my hands, "Or just not
now?" His smile had gone, his face turned cold, and I
desperately seized his face in my hands as though I
could press the warmth back into it.
"Of course I want it – you!" I protested, endeavouring
to inject all the fervour of my feelings into my
voice, "I love you!" That had slipped out without my
censoring it, and I feared it was a mistake. I knew
how uncomfortable he was with other people's more open
displays of emotion, and it made him scornful in
hiding his own. I wanted to tell him that he did not
have to say it back, but instead I answered his
question and told him of my fears. He waved them
aside, as though all the law and opinion of England
mattered not a jot to him, which, being Holmes (God
love him) it did not.
"If it has never been suspected before, it never will
be now," he declared with his ordinary, supreme
confidence, "Nor are we so foolish as to be
incautious. I know how to cover my tracks!" He was
smiling again, and I took this for permission for
another kiss, this time pulling him down to me. It was
the only time that night that I took control and kept
it. With his greater, wiry strength, he held me down
again, seeming to seek to keep me exactly where he
could be sure of me, and divested me of my shirt and
vest, stealing nips and kisses down my neck and chest,
leaving jolting tingles in their wake, whilst I
struggled to make him let me reciprocate. He, however,
was having none of it. His hands unerringly found and
pulled down my trousers, insinuated into my
undergarments, and before I could utter a word he had
firmly grasped my over-ready cock in his hand – I
certainly uttered a word then, a blasphemous one and
loud, and he covered my mouth with his other hand a
"Let me," he said, with a sudden deep intensity, his
face hovering above mine. "Let me". I could only nod,
and stared back at him as he loosened his tight grasp
of me only sufficient to slide his hand along my
length, slow at first then quickening, pulling on me
almost painfully, whilst my breath went ragged and my
heart galloped along in time. I clung to him, trying
to pull him closer to me, but he was as unbending as
iron in my grasp, his left arm pressing me down into
the pillows, and so, craving a greater closeness, I
arched up to him, stifling my moans in his shoulder.
"Look at me," he said, with that same incredible
intensity, "Look at me." Helpless to disobey, I did.
He pushed me down again, his face brought close to
mine, touching my lips with his but never lingering,
unrelenting in his forceful stroking, and gazing
fiercely at my face. I understood, I think, that
deep-seated need of his to see, to have the proof of
everything before him, to know that I would hide
nothing from him, that I would surrender myself
utterly to his care. I could not believe, somehow,
that he did not recoil from the force of my own
passion; flooding out, it seemed to me, from I to him.
He watched my every expression, his own unwavering,
though I could feel his breath hot and fast on my
face, see the faintest sheen of perspiration
shimmering on his forehead. I thought I should burn
and drown in the distilled inferno of his eyes, still
boring into me as my own face contorted in its familiar rictus as I
cried out and finally spilled
myself over us both.
He lay above me a moment more, watching me, whilst I
could only lie there and recover my breath, and try
and re-focus on a world still wheeling in celestial
grandeur about me; a glorious world, in that moment.
Then he let go and moved aside to get up, so that I
grasped and stayed him.
"Holmes," I begged, tugging at his shirt sleeve, "Let
me. Please." I pulled him back, slowly yielding, to
me. "Let me."
He did let me kiss him then, as he had kissed me, let me
undress him and reverently press my
face against him everywhere I could, but his
expression was still guarded. He finally relaxed a
little when I gently dared to latch on to a nipple on
that gloriously smooth chest, teasing it with my
teeth, and his muscles rippled like the flanks of a
racehorse beneath my touch, his nostrils flaring. He
twisted into my joyous embrace with a deep exhalation,
and I almost fumbled in my haste to catch his
attention and keep it lest he change his mind. I was
trembling a little as I finally got his trousers down
and his cock seemed almost to spring of its own accord
into my palm, smooth and hot and expressing its
animal desire as its owner refused to. I still could
not quite believe he would permit it, howsoever much
he desired it. I thought to do as he had for me, at
first, but at my first sliding touch on his flesh he
bucked and stopped me, pulling himself back to sit up
in the bed. I reached for his shoulders anxiously.
"I - " he whispered, and swallowed uncomfortably,
looking away, "I think I had rather not lie down like
"Then don't," I told him, rubbing his beautiful torso
with my hands, soothing him, turning his face back to
me. He smiled again, just a little. I had an idea
then, and kissed my way down that smooth skin to his
lap, whilst he shuddered beneath me, until I dared to
bestow a light kiss on the very tip of his manhood,
pointing up at me, then swirled my tongue around the
head, delighted at the sharp hiss of breath that
whistled through his teeth. Emboldened, I grasped his
hips and took him further into my mouth, lavishing him
all around, and his hands came to rest lightly on my
head as I slowly sucked at him, revelling in the taste
of him. He said nothing, but his involuntary starts
and occasional escaped moan told me that I was doing
aright, and, as I sucked him harder and made the
lightest trace down his length with my teeth, his
fingers curled unceasingly through my hair, until,
with a guttural start, he seized me in a powerful grip
and crushed my head against his belly as he spent
himself in jerking spasms and I took it all. He held me
pinioned there even as I regretfully released him
and kissed where he would let me reach, then slowly,
as he regained himself, he let me go.
I gently pulled myself back up and held him close,
though I was not sure that he wanted me to. He lay
there quietly, but made no move to free himself from my tight hold of
him. After a while he settled his
head back on my shoulder and squeezed my hand, just
once, as his eyes langorously closed. A tight ball of
happiness swelled in my chest so that I felt it could
burst at the slightest touch. I could only hope he
would want to pursue this relationship, and not return
to his characteristic aloofness tomorrow. I thought,
from that squeeze, that he would not, and he did not
pull away from me as we lay there, draped together,
our stickened skin cooling and drying in the cold air
of the room. The fire had long since gone out, and I
thought about persuading him under the covers, if I
could find some energy from somewhere to move. From
where I lay, listening to his slow breathing, my gaze
drifted to an object on the floor, shining in the
"I say, Holmes," I wondered suddenly, and his eyes snapped
open, "Where was the Brigadier's sword?" He
laughed, a rich, easy sound I rejoiced to hear.
"My dear Watson," he said fondly, "I really cannot
get another man's equipment off your mind, can I? As
the Brigadier himself said, he had no reason to suppose that it was
anywhere other than where he had
left it, which was rolled carelessly under a whore's
bed in Green Street."
"Good God!" I exclaimed fervently, slightly appalled,
"But how did you..?"
"Even a cursory
consideration of the kitchen boy's
account as to the state of the Brigadier's boots
yesterday morning revealed a different story than the
one he told. I disguised myself as a common labourer
and made enquiries in the vicinity of the restaurant.
It was a simple matter to retrace his steps from there
to where – in a drunken state and parted from his
fellow officers – he made a minor detour to the less
savoury side of his barracks, and, in his inebriated
condition, did not notice that he left 'Big Betty's'
bed without it. Even when he found it gone he did not
remember where he had left it. At best, he may have
considered that he had lost it on the way back from
the restaurant. Inevitably, he recalled it all too
clearly when he returned here after consulting me and
walked through the area again, but by then he had
already involved both the police and myself. So he
stole back there – fortuitously observed by me – to
try and persuade the handsomely endowed Miss Betty to
give it back to him. She, of course, denied all
knowledge of it, and sent him on his way with a flea
in his ear. He could hardly call in the police to get
them to talk to her. He may have eventually come clean
to me – I fancy that was what all that jollying of you
was about, feeling us out – but I doubt it. Such men
hate to lose face.
"The charming Miss Betty, meanwhile, was far more
forthcoming to my labourer persona than to the
"Holmes you didn't!" I blurted. He slapped me
playfully on the shoulder.
"Really, Watson!" he declared melodramatically, "I
frankly despair of you ever developing the most basic
of deductive faculties!" I slapped him back for that.
It was good to jest, to lighten the seriousness of the
mood, without detracting from its' meaning in any way.
"Miss Betty, our opportunist that I hypothesised to
you from the start of this case, gained a sovereign
from me for the information that she had taken the
sword to the local pawnbrokers. I called there in my
own person and the worthy gentleman was most anxious
to return it once he learnt it was stolen. Naturally I
recompensed him for his trouble – " I could not
"Holmes! You didn't! – Ow!" I got a look for that
which told me clearly I would pay for it later. I
certainly hoped so.
"The Brigadier, I think, can reimburse me for mine;
that is, if I return the sword to him. I have a mind
to add it to my Museum, to teach him a lesson, and," a
sidelong glance at me, "As a memento."
"Holmes, you really should return it," I was compelled
"Hmm, well, I suppose the Brigadier is a bachelor and
may spend his pennies where he will, though I'm sure
that's not what her Majesty had in mind when she
awarded him his handsome salary." He looked at my – I
hope – stern look.
"Oh all right, Watson! One cannot help the Brigadier
being merely a mortal and flawed man with quite
frankly dubious taste, I suppose." His voice softened
and he continued in a low tone, turning to look at me.
"Even great men, even paragons of virtue, are not
without human weakness. The tragedy is that they are
supposed by everyone to be so, and thus suffer the
more for trying to live up to this fantasy of their
own selves. I think the Brigadier would endure the
lofty position his compatriots have elevated him to
with far greater ease, if he had a stronger support to
lean on, and be ready to catch him, lest he fall." He
held me close to him then. It was more than enough,
that tacit admission, than any direct declaration he
could have made, and I felt my eyes mist over.
"Besides," Holmes said suddenly, wickedly, pulling
back to gaze at me with a most lascivious expression
upon his face, "It would only be sporting. I have,
after all, acquired the better of his weapons." So
saying he rolled back over again, and I, naturally,