Dying to the Light
A Sherlock Holmes Story
By John Pirillo
Its tracks were as plain to see as if one had held a lantern up to a wall streaked with mud all over it. He could smell it as well. It stank of death and dying. Of fear and horror. Of an ending to what might have been longer, but now would never be.
He touched very carefully the beginning of a spot on the rug, then traced it with his carefully manicured nail until it stopped about eight feet above the floorboards, the beautiful tapestry of the wall paper, the molded window frame, the silver backed glass, the embroidered flags that countered each side of the window, and resting just below the ceiling, where the reddish ooze had begun to drip.
"Definitely here." He told his companion.
The man stood in the shadows of the bedroom, examining the body that they had discovered only minutes ago, purely thanks to the very excellent nostrils of Count Dracula.
Sherlock hammered his chin with his right index fingernail over and over as he pondered the juxtaposition of the dead woman and the spots of blood on the pink carpet beside the bed, and the spots on the floor beside the ornately designed window where Count Dracula had seen and smelled the initial impurities of death and blood from outside.
"Perhaps." Sherlock said, not so sure himself.
He raised his eyes from the pallid figure on the bed, whose throat had been torn open by brute force, allowing a secondary flow of blood to light up the pure white silk sheets it lay upon. Her eyes stared up at him, as if accusing him of not being there sooner, as if saying, why you allowed this. That look always haunted him, though he never spoke of it. Perhaps that was why the original allure of the opiates had been so strong in him at one time. Over the years he had diminished that, suppressing that futile urge and replacing it instead with a sharp insight honed by clinical knowledge and experience.
Forensics was still a new science in Queen Mary's Victorian England, but one that was gaining more and more proponents, thanks to his and Watson's work. His and that of the Baker Street Team, that is.
"I'm afraid we shall have to call off the opera tonight." Sherlock finally said.
Count Dracula said nothing. What was there to say? He was a patient man when it came to facts, and the facts were obvious. Someone or something with very sharp teeth and an enormous amount of strength had destroyed this person.
Personally, he found no attraction to these men who deigned to dress like the opposite sex, and pretend to be women, but he also had no particular distaste for them either. People had choices they had to live or die by. This one had chosen to live under a different sky, and their sky had collapsed and fallen upon them for whatever the reason. Perhaps lust, perhaps the thrill of dangerous liaisons, who could tell? Surely not Dame Evans who lay on her regal throne of a bed, her...or rather his...life stricken from him in one horrid, vampiric moment.
"Watson, come here, we need you!" Sherlock remarked loudly.
They both heard a thumping from overhead, as if a horrible monster were awoken from its repose and was storming for the exit to attend to the intruders below who had disturbed it. The noise grew louder and louder, and Count Dracula tensed, not sure if he was hearing Watson, or something worse.
Then Watson rushed into the room, but without a sound.
Count Dracula, without speaking a word, flung himself out the right half of the window, which lay open and soared upwards like a swift, dark arrow.
"I say, Sherlock, whatever got into him?"
"Anything?" Sherlock demanded, not commenting on Watson's remark.
"The body definitely perished here in this room, and I cannot for the world of me decide how the blood could possibly have flowed upwards into the room above. It's just an attic, devoid of windows, chimney or any exit but that which I entered and left but moments ago."
Sherlock went to the open portion of the double glassed window and gazed at the lawn below. They were two stories up. The attic on the third. He turned slightly to peer at the gabled roof. Searching for the minutest traces of clues that could be there, but found nothing.
"It would seem our murderer either had wings, or another method of entering and exiting this home." Sherlock decided.
Watson gently shut the eyes of Dame Evans, shuddering, not because of what she was, but what she might have been... a soul with great potential. Dame Evans had been on the brink of a great discovery, one that could have revolutionized the tech industry that had been blossoming under Tesla and Edison.
"Always." Sherlock joined in, sighing.
He steepled his fingers beneath his chin, then sighed again and headed for the exit. "We must let the Inspector attend to this now; we have done all we can."
"He's going to be disappointed we waited so long to contact him."
Sherlock gave Watson an amused smile. "Usually, it is he who wakes us. Turnabout is only fair, wouldn't you say, Watson?"
Inspector Bloodstone exited the Constabulary Wagon alongside Constable Evans, cursing lightly and rubbing his bloodshot eyes, until he spotted Sherlock and Watson waiting for him at the doorway of the three story mansion that had once been the home of Dame Evans.
Several older men of a colorful nature stood around them, chattering obsessively, wiping at their eyes.
"Oh great!" He muttered, cursing the hour and the time of this death.
"Why is it always at night this happens, Constable Evans?"
Constable Evans gave his father an amused look. He said nothing. He knew better. He rubbed his own eyes, which had barely closed yet, and smiled. Tomorrow should test them both. But tomorrow was tomorrow. Almost as if reading his mind, Sherlock looked over and locked onto his eyes for a moment, his hawk like stare unnerving to most, but to Constable Evans only a sigh of the certainty of the man's giant intellect.
"Where?" Inspector Bloodstone demanded.
"Watson, please do the honors."
Watson nodded and headed inside, followed by the Inspector.
Constable Evans gave the three men about Sherlock a penetrating stare.
The tallest of the three, dressed in all yellow, and with long hair that was braided like a pirates, painted nails and red lipstick, stepped forward and extended his hand. "I am Harold Pinter. A friend of the late Dame Evans."
The second man snickered. "And lover."
"Please." Sherlock demanded. Both men shut up and stood back. The third watched silently, no words upon his lips.
Sherlock gestured to Constable Evans. "Let's take a walk."
Sherlock didn't answer. Instead he stepped down from the high porch, which was laden with ornamental flowers and guardian angels, and led Constable Evans about the mansion, his eyes tracing something along their path only he could see. Finally, he stopped.
When he did a dark form descended from above and lit beside them.
Count Dracula eyed the startled Constable, who was reaching for his weapon. "My apologies, Constable, I had forgotten you are a bit nervous about us."
Constable Evans eyes narrowed. "The woman I loved was drained dry of her life by one such as you." He accused.
"Not one like I, but one whose thirst went above and beyond the mortal boundaries of dignity. I apologize once more for your loss and offer my condolences."
He gave a regal bow, his eyes filled with true apology and a touch of sadness. He felt that way because he never drank human blood, nor ever would. But there were rogues in his life stream, who might and did.
Constable Evans looked to Sherlock. "So why are we here?"
"Did you notice anything special about any of the men on the porch?"
"Three men of a different taste."
Constable Evans raised an eyebrow.
Sherlock pointed to the roof. "Our friend here, Count Dracula, found a forced entrance upon the roof."
Constable Evans gave Sherlock a puzzled look. "But why would they enter that way? Why go to all that effort?"
"Why indeed?" Sherlock asked.
He plucked from his cloak something heavy and handed it to the Constable. "When I give the word you are to stab that immediately into the heart of the man I urge you to. You must not hesitate or he will flee."
"Because the Count would give himself away and because I have another mission. Will you do so, or not?"
"What of Watson?"
"Again. Another mission."
Constable Evans sighed and hefted the small, but quite heavy silver knife.
Count Dracula shuddered at its shape and its deadliness. One of the few things a mortal man could use upon him with success.
"Follow me." Sherlock said. "Count."
The Count flew upwards, vanishing into the shadows of the roof.
Sherlock led Constable Evans to the porch where the three men still stood. He stepped up the steps, followed by Constable Evans, whose right hand was out of sight in the pocket of his trousers.
"I know who murdered Dame Evans."
The two men beside Harold Pinter both headed down the steps, one to the right and one to the left. "We'll see you later, Harold." One said. "Later!" Said the other.
But as they strode onto the pavement of the sidewalk Watson stepped into view from the right and Inspector Bloodstone from the left.
"What's the meaning of this?" Harold Pinter demanded, his eyes blazing with anger. "Just because we are different is no reason to treat us so unmanly!"
"Now!" Sherlock hammered Constable Evans with his voice.
Constable Evans pulled out his silver knife and plunged it into the heart of Harold Pinter.
The two men on the sidewalk tried to rush back to help him, but were blocked by Watson and Inspector Bloodstone.
Harold Pinter screamed like a banshee, his voice so horrible that the air was shattered by the terror and anger of it.
He grabbed for Constable Evans.
Sherlock immediately threw a rope of silver about his hands, and then pulled him face down onto the flat of the porch.
Count Dracula descended from above and stood on Harold's back. "Do not move if you value your life, scourge of the night!"
"I shall kill you all!" Harold cried out, frothing blood from his mouth.
From inside the home a horrible cry broke forth, then a second and a third. A horrible sound like a monster descending from inside erupted, and then Dame Evans stepped forth from inside, his body no longer resembling that of a mortally wounded human, but instead something worse. Something from a nightmare.
"Where is he?" He demanded.
Sherlock very calmly blocked the path of Dame Evans.
The monster ground its enormous teeth in his face a moment, then his horrid shape began to dissolve into that they had seen laying upon the bed. He broke into tears and wept like a woman. Sherlock did a very peculiar thing for him, and put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her.
Harold Pinter and the other two men were led into the back of the Constabulary Wagon, all three chained in silver. Several Constables herded them inside, and then climbed in to guard them.
Inspector Bloodstone eyed Sherlock. "How did you know it was them?"
Sherlock smiled. "A little birdy told me."
Watson laughed. "Inspector, all three men had bird droppings on their shoes. The only way they could have gotten that..."
"Was from the rooftop." Count Dracula added with a smirk. "This is why I flew there."
Sherlock nodded. "You see, these three men are part of a variety of vampires that can only extend their family by ingesting the blood of one such as Dame Evans, a man deluded into thinking he was different from humanity, because of his sexual preferences."
"And he wasn't."
"Isn't, my dear Inspector. You see each of us has the same Divine Spark and Dame Evans' only problem was his overwhelming desire to belong somewhere he was loved, even if it meant dying to our world to joint theirs."
Dame Evans stood on the porch watching the door of the Wagon closed. "But what now? Constable Evans demanded. "He is one of them. Just look at him. More alone than ever before."
"Yes. But now, he knows them for what they are. For their intent was not to convert him to their cause, but to take his life. Had you not stabbed Harold in the heart as you did, the unholy bond they had forged upon him would never have been broken, and he would've awoken..."
"As an Undead Monster." Count Dracula said, shivering with the idea. "Such monsters are the slaves of men like these. Preying upon the innocent."
"And helping them to accumulate wealth." Watson added.
"Yes, Watson. Even monsters have sometimes...peculiar mortal needs."
They all turned to look as the Constable Wagon drove off.
Behind them Dame Evans wept softly.
Sherlock sad sadly. "What is sad is that he thought he was being born anew, but in fact he was dying to the Light. Better to learn how to love ourselves as God created us"
He smiled at Watson. "We must rejoice in what we have, not curse that which we do not."
"I could use a raspberry scone right about now." Watson muttered with a yawn.
Everyone broke into laughter. It had been a long night.
The Scoundrel of Hyde Street
A John Watson Story
By John Pirillo
Bitter and a bit worn down from his tour of duty in the Chinas, John was more than happy to shed his skin of soldiery and settle down into a more sedate life, but little did he know that it would almost immediately erupt into something much less than sedate, and much more than happy. His first night home, he found a one nighter on Hyde Street. Had he been in a better space, perhaps he would have chosen more wisely for his overnight stay, but being newly discharged from the war, and disembarked from a very long voyage across the seas, his only thought was of getting a good night's rest on something that didn't move up and down and right and left.
He felt his shirt pocket to make sure his needle and thread were there. His good luck during the war. Once they had spared him a gunshot to his heart. Smiling, he let go, assured they were there, and headed for the flats he had heard about.
So when he stashed his gear in the corner of the room near the door. It was a small flat. Barely room enough for a stove, a fireplace and a single bed; he was more than ready to collapse on the rather old sheets and worn feather quilt that adorned it. He wasn't used to even that high a quality during his war duties, spending most of his sleeping time huddled in dirt ditches, avoiding being sniped, or bitten...worse yet...by the Ching Ha Wolves...shape shifters that the Chinese used to do their dirty work...much like the marines of Her Majesty.
Their official name was Canis lupus chance, canis lupsu laniger...the Tibetan Wolf. The reason they came off with the other more strange name was that Ching Ha, the leader of the shape shifters, and a power sorceror of the Dark Arts, had a great love for wolves, and his team in honor of him...he died from a stray silver bullet fired by a soldier...named themselves after him, but keeping the name of wolves for themselves.
Except that these soldiers had huge jaws armed with jagged teeth and feet and hands loaded with overly sharp, pointed claws. He sweats even thinking of those nightmare beasts. Part of the reason for the war in the first place was that the Duke of the Germanies had been assassinated by such a beast and that had precipitated the Europes into war with the Orient. A war that neither side could win, but both desperately sought to.
That war had gone on for almost two decades. Costing the lives of countless thousands of young men on both sides. Most had died from gunshot, or explosions, but many had also died of arcane means...black magic, spells of obliteration, translation and death.
John was sick of the whole gamut...whether it was rifles, knives or hand guns. He swore he would never carry a gun again or knife, but as soon as he disembarked he was met by a young man who wanted to tend to his war wound. He was a volunteer of Her Majesty, seeking to make a name for himself. His name was Langdon. His end goal was to teach classes, but for now, tending to the war wounded was his mainstay and his livelihood.
As John sat at the booth set aside for such as him, Langdon very cheerily tended to his wound. "I suppose this is going to be a bother to you most of the rest of your life."
"I hope not."
He smiled at John. "I as well. But..."
John nodded. "You like what you do, don't you?"
"I love it."
He said that as he pulled a knife out to extract a fragment of a silver bullet from John that had lodged near his main artery. "Nasty little bugger this."
"I know. The blasted thing keeps wriggling to get away from me."
"Don't let it wriggle into my artery!" John warned.
Langdon jerked the wriggling bullet piece into the air, where it made a sizzling sound and a soft sigh, then went limp. "Gotcha!"
John laughed. "You sound like a foot ball Captain winning the goal."
Langdon smiled, and then gave John a solemn look. "Every life I save is a goal much more rewarding than any sports goal I could ever achieve."
Finished, he put his gear away and spoke to an Orderly outside the booth. "Next."
He rose and offered his hand. "Please keep in contact. You seem the sort to always have a next thing you're up to."
John rose and offered his good hand. "I should hope so. And now that I've seen a knife used so skillfully and in such a tender way, I am coaxed to reconsider my vow to never touch a weapon again."
Langdon smiled warmly. "Not all weapons are of mass destruction."
John and he shook hands a long time, and then exchanged addresses. "Mine will be good only for a few days." John warned.
"Then please keep me advised of any changes."
"You as well." John returned.
The two shook hands again and John wandered off, feeling a bit dazed by the experience, but with a warm glow in his heart. It was the first time in a long time that he had some hope of a more normal life once more.
Doctor Watson? He asked himself with a sudden amount of consideration. His heart felt this kind of fuzzy glow for a moment, and then he shook his head. "I'm fooling myself. How could I ever afford such an occupation on my pension?"
So here he was on Hyde Street in a poor flat, wondering what his next big move would be as he cast himself in exhaustion onto the bed. He propped his feet up on a pillow, then crossed his hands over his chest. "Perhaps I'll think about it more on the morrow, when my head is clearer."
Then he was out like a light.
The first moment he was aware something was wrong, was when he heard the scream of a woman. It was utterly, utterly horrible. He felt as if someone were tearing a hole in his heart and eating the rest.
He shrugged off the stupor of sleep and reached for his pistol, which of course was no longer there, having left it at the disembarkment, not wanting anything more to do with violence of any nature.
Not deterred, he swept off the bed, slid back into his boots, then dashed out the front door, down the hallway as doors began to fling open, then down the three flights of stairs to the street. He flung open the front door and leaped the three steps to the pavement, then tried to orientate on where the sound had come from.
It was still pitch black outside. No moon and a thick soupy fog was eating at his feet and causing strange shadows to move about as if alive and ready to snap at him. He ignored him. After his years of avoiding the sorcerous kind of fogs, this kind was nothing to him. He shrugged his shirt tighter about him, then on a new scream dashed across the street towards an alley.
He raced into it and was struck down by someone dashing forth from it. For a brief moment he saw a fiendish face, with glowing red eyes, and then the man or creature ran from sight, vanishing into the mounting fog.
He regained his footage and moved into the alley as carefully as he could, fearing there might be more of the strange fellows, but instead he saw a lone woman lying on the stinking alley cobblestones. Her throat had been slit, but she was still alive. He didn't know what to do when he saw the horror of it, but did what he could, remembering the triage of the trenches.
He dropped beside her and pressed his hands to the wound. Her eyes fluttered open and she started to scream, but then saw the look in his eyes. She became calm. Her eyes began to flutter shut.
"Don't go to sleep; you won't waken." He warned her.
But her eyes continued to flutter, growing heavier. He knew she was about to die, and then he remembered the spool of thread and needle he always kept in his right shirt pocket. Something you always had to carry out on the battlefield, or else go naked when your clothing fell off. He kept his left hand depressed on the cut of her throat, then hurriedly pulled out the needle and thread. The needle was always threaded, so he pulled it free and did the only sane thing he could think of. He began darning her throat back together, starting with the vein he saw had been cut. It was a delicate operation, but his hand was steady. He was known to have the steadiest hand in the service with a rifle or gun, and they had been right.
His prowess on the field paid off at that moment and he managed to sew the vein shut, but without cramping it, and then began sewing the skin of the throat together. As he did so he felt people gathering about him.
A Constable came close and dropped to a knee beside him. He was a muscular young man with an earnest face. "I'm Constable Bloodstone; may I help in any way?"
"I'm not a doctor, she needs one at once!"
Constable Bloodstone rose to his feet and blew his whistle. Moments later the sound of a Constable Wagon sounded and its blue flaring lights cut through the fog of the alleyway and entered, forcing the other spectators to disperse to make room.
John helped Bloodstone lift the fallen woman up and set her into the back of the wagon, as people reached out and patted him on his back. "Well done. Good for you. Great job. She'd be dead without you. Bloody hell, nothing is safe anymore."
He smiled inwardly, but the plight of the young woman was more important to him. He jumped into the back of the wagon and Bloodstone joined him as it drove off.
They were both tense with concern as the wagon bounced and swerved.
It stopped at Hyde and Mary Hospital and they got out and as emergency attendants rushed forward with a gurney, they lifted the young woman and placed her on the gurney.
Later Bloodstone and John sat on a bench near the emergency room, as doctors raced in and out, attempting to save her life. One stopped and peered at them. An older gentleman. He came over and introduced himself. "Doctor Charles Owens." He looked at John. "You must be the warrior everyone is talking about."
"I'm not warrior." John said humbly. "Just a man looking for a job. John Watson."
The Doctor nodded. He offered his hand. "I saw the work you did on her throat, and more importantly closing off the artery. She would be more than likely dead now without that fine surgery."
"I am no surgeon."
The Doctor was silent a long time, and then smiled. "Would you like to be?"
John felt his heart racing. He felt the momentum of this moment and the power of the emotions sweeping through him. He had saved a life, not taken one. He had saved a human life. He had felt better during that time of work than all the years of blasting holes in men's chests and blowing them up.
He rose and took the Doctor's hand. "My name is John Watson. I would be proud to be a surgeon. But right now I would just like a job?"
The Doctor smiled, and then looked over at Constable Bloodstone. "I'm sure the Constable here could show you to our employment office?"
Constable Bloodstone rose. "It would be my honor, sir."
The Doctor gave an apologetic smile, then turned to leave, then looked back. "Doctor Watson, I rather fancy that name."
With that certain statement he fled back into the emergency room to help complete the saving of a young woman's life.
Constable Bloodstone looked at John. "She's the first one that's been saved from that monster of Hyde Street."
John's eyes narrowed with anger. "If I have my way, she shall not be the last."
Constable Bloodstone laughed. "Doctor, calm down, the war is over."
John sighed, and then rubbed his weary eyes. "Some wars never end. Now...about that employment office?"
"This way." Constable Bloodstone offered and he and John walked towards the future.