Character(s): Holmes, Watson
Summary: spacemutineer and methylviolet10b's 60 for 60 challenge: Week 1: The Abbey Grange
Word Count: 60; 908
Notes: I wanted to expand upon this idea just a bit. I'm not sure the longer piece is any more effective than the shorter one, but I figured I'd add it anyhow.
Artistic Mercy: 60 for 60
It was not his best ending, Watson knew: trite, sentimental, mawkish-- the most exact manifestation of every criticism Holmes had ever levelled at his writing. But if this story were to hold a true mirror up to life, he knew that the glass would crack as surely as Lady Brackenstall's heart had done when Captain Croker's sentence had been pronounced.
Silence hung over the rooms of 221B Baker Street—not companionably, filled comfortably with the rustling of newspapers, clinks of teacups, the scratching of a pen on paper, but stiflingly. The occupants of the sitting room were engaged in no activity that might have produced noises of habitation; they sat motionless in front of the fire, which crackled in an obscene parody of domestic comfort. So deeply absorbed were they in their reflections that the ring at the front door made no impression on them, and the housekeeper had to pound twice before one of the sitters opened the door to their guest.
“Ah!” he exclaimed in relief, shedding his outer layers. “Mr Holmes, Dr Watson—I thought I might take the liberty of stopping by. I hope you’ve been keeping up with things in Marsham?”
Watson nodded. “We’ve been following it quite closely. Holmes was particularly struck that his hint was heeded so effectively.”
“Well, it’s gratifying to have pleased a mind such as his, I’m sure. Bless you, Mr Holmes! I hope this weather will break soon too. Anyhow once it came clear that the goal was not burglary, the rest was simple. It’s a sordid tale all round, I’m sure, but familiar enough: hopeless lover, jealous husband, rage, blows, death. Given the lady’s background it was simple enough to imagine who the lover could have been . . .”
Watson broke in. “Yes, Hopkins. We read your statements.”
“ . . . Tracking him down, though—that was a different matter. Do you know how many different ports there are to watch? I managed to narrow it down to about ten that I thought would actually be used, and in the end I was there myself when he finally landed in Birkenhead, and on the very first day, too! I guess he thought a year’s absence would suffice to put me off, but then I’ve worked with the best, haven’t I, Mr Holmes? You’ve got to admire that sort of loyalty, but he did kill a man, and he must pay for it.”
Holmes finally spoke. “And he will pay—the highest price anyone can pay for anything. I got a wire from his solicitor this morning. No doubt you will read about the sentencing in this evening’s papers, Hopkins, and I congratulate you for the successful prosecution of your case, but I regret that I cannot rejoice in its outcome. Please excuse us, Inspector; the weather has not been agreeing with my health, and the doctor has writing to do.”
There was a flurry of apologies, handshakes, and in a moment the room’s silence had returned, but it did not last long.
“Really,” remarked Watson, “you acted rather badly to Stanley Hopkins just now.”
“I can’t see that.”
“This case represents a significant triumph for his career, and he wanted to thank you for your help in it.”
“I wish I’d never had anything to do with it. The man can follow up a hint as well as any trained monkey, but he has no judgment.”
“Of course he has; you’ve commented on it favourably enough before now.”
“I was wrong.”
“Holmes, the difference is not sense and folly, but public and private. The man’s job is to find the criminal and bring him to justice, not dispense it according to his own opinions. Would you have him betray his service in this one case? Would you trust the entire British courtroom to the private judgment of whichever inspector happens to have charge of an investigation?”
“I am in no humour to debate legal philosophy with you. The fact remains that as fine a specimen of manhood as I have ever seen will hang because of Hopkins, and I did not want him here rejoicing in it.”
There was a pause. A log cracked in half in the fireplace; sparks glowed briefly and then winked out again.
Watson said, “In any case, I have no writing to do.”
Another pause, and then Holmes mused, “That sets you apart from every other chronicler of this affair. At this moment, I imagine a good dozen court reporters are preparing stories to send to the papers for printing this evening. Perhaps the typesetters have already begun to lay out the print. But no matter what side of the business they tell, each piece will be designed to tug emotions from the most hard-hearted of readers, even as yours would. Lady Brackenstall’s sobs as the sentence was pronounced; Sir Eustace’s dear old nana, and her relief as justice is served; old Mr Fraser’s shame; poor Susan Croker—who will support her, now that her brother is to die? Because that is how they will all end; Croker will die.”
“Would you have them write anything different? The newspapers are bound to describe what happened—”
“—or something reasonably close to it.”
“Yes. They are not free to do anything else.”
Holmes did not respond, and silence descended once more upon the rooms. Presently Watson moved to his desk and began to compose his account of the affair. It was not his best ending, he knew: trite, sentimental, mawkish-- the most exact manifestation of every criticism Holmes had ever levelled at his writing. But if this story were to hold a true mirror up to life, he knew that the glass would crack as surely as his own heart had done when Captain Croker's sentence had been pronounced.