Case of the Missing Death
"A Sherlock Holmes Story"
By John Pirillo
James examined the piece of rock he held in his rather large hand, as Sherlock and Watson watched from the side. Watson was radiating a kind of warmth towards James, while Sherlock had a restrained feeling to him, as if measuring the man in some way. James totally ignored both of them as he examined the rock.
"First, it is obviously not from the coal mine whatsoever. I can see from the mica striations and the lack of carbonized particles that it had been placed there, and not found there. There are no known striations of mica to be found in good British coal mines."
"Or bad." Joked Watson, who laughed at his own humor.
Sherlock gave his partner a patient look, then examined James again, his face inscrutable.
"And second, Moriarity?" Sherlock inquired his face still unblemished by emotion.
"Second, had it been the instrument of the miner's death, there should be some indication of fresh breakage."
"Indeed." Holmes said.
"And call me James. Please."
Sherlock's face lost its rigidness. "So sorry, James. I keep seeing the other Moriarity when I look at you and not yourself. It's hard sometimes to forget the difference."
James had entered this current world through an interdimensional portal where Moriarity had turned out completely different from the evil and vile one Sherlock had faced on his world and Watson in this one. Both men had to make tremendous adjustments in their thinking to accept this eager young man, who's every thought, word and action spoke of an immensely kind heart as well as a great intellect.
"Understandable and I forgive you." James Moriarity replied, a broad smile on his face, which he turned to beam on Watson as well.
"But James." Watson demanded. "You haven't finished yet. What is third? You never stop without at least three conjectures or explanations."
"You've been reading too many stories about me." James laughed.
Watson laughed even harder, because he was the one who wrote them about his friend and one time regular companion in sleuthing. "So right you are and writing them as well."
Sherlock cleared his throat.
"Right." James said. "Third, see this."
He held the rock closer for the two men to see a spot near his right thumb. Look closely near my right thumb. You will see a cavity there, will you not?"
"Yes. I do." Watson exclaimed. "See here, James, that wasn't there before!"
"Exactly." James said, his smile reappearing as Sherlock gave him a demanding look. "For it was not there when you first brought it to my attention. Nor shortly thereafter. It has only appeared within the last day."
"I say, isn't that rather...uh...ummm...impossible?" Watson asked, his face showing his mind struggling to deal with something impossible in front of his eyes.
Sherlock took the stone and examined the hole a moment, took out his spyglass and examined it even closer. His right eyebrow arched at what he saw. He said nothing, but handed the stone back to James, who gave Sherlock a searching glance.
"What did you see, Holmes?"
"I'd rather not speculate."
"Then I shall." James went on, happy for the chance to reveal some of his skills to Sherlock, whom he was getting to know better and better since they had begun teaming up on various assignments for the good Queen Mary. Sherlock had been reluctant at first, but upon learning of how James had saved her life more than once, and Watsons, he had reluctantly let go of any resistance he had initially felt towards the man who resembled his worst nightmare, and made it his purpose and yes, his duty to assist Watson in learning how to cope with loving two different men at the same time.
He knew it had to be hard for both of them, as he had been out of Watson's life for quite a long time, and even if he wasn't the original Sherlock, it didn't matter, the feelings were just as strong for him as for Watson, the Watson he loved now quite deeply and the one he had lost what seemed to him at moments of melancholy not that long ago. Some day he might relive that horrible moment of his life, but for now he was content to let the past remain in the past.
"Go on." Sherlock encouraged James with a wave of his hand.
"I believe we are dealing with an atmospheric device."
"I beg your pardon." Watson blurted out. "An atmospheric what?"
"I believe he's intimating that this stone he holds is some kind of vessel, Watson."
"Vessel! As in something to drink out of?"
"No, my dear Watson, something to live in."
Watson gasped and sputtered a moment, striving to grasp what had just been said. Finally, he picked up his black bag, which he always carried with him, no matter where he went and headed for the entrance of the mine, ignoring the piercing glances that both James and Sherlock gave him as he departed.
James carefully placed the stone in a cloth bag, which he put on his vest pocket, then turned to Sherlock. "You concur?"
"What would you suggest our next step be?"
"Discover what killed the miner."
James eyebrows scrunched together in thought. "You believe the two are related, do you not?"
"Excellent deduction, James."
"I say, we appear to be on agreement once again."
Sherlock gave James the hint of a smile. "So it would seem."
And without further word he followed after Watson.
James remained behind and turned to examine the mine floor once more, to see if he had missed something. He was about to give up, when the Tesla lamp in his free hand caught something sparkly a bit further down the shaft. He went that way, stopped and held the light closer to the source of the glow. It was quite small, but gave off a very, very intense glow. He touched it, and then recoiled in pain.
"Drat it all, James, it's hotter than a furnace fire."
He examined his finger and it was quickly reddening and puffing up into a boil. "It burned me!"
Undaunted, he looked about until he found a miner's lantern, unlit and hanging on a nearby wall. He hurried over, unscrewed the glass from the base, set the glass down, emptied the base of all fluids, carefully wiped it, and then drew several handfuls of dirt into the opening. Satisfied, he took the glass, and then used it to scoop up the glowing sliver that had burned him. He held the glowing object before his eyes and smiled. "What do we have here, hey?"
Inspector Bloodstone arrived a bit late at 221B, but didn't hesitate to knock anyway. Constable Evans was to his right, a comfortable look on his face. He punched him on his right arm. "Look sharp, lad, you might be my son, but you're still a Constable and I won't have you looking like one of those clowns from Piccadilly."
"Yes, father..." On the Inspector's glare. "Uh...Inspector."
The door opened and Mrs. Hudson stood there, beaming at the two of them. "Oh, it's so good to see the two of you again."
"And you, dear Mrs. Hudson." Constable Evans returned, ignoring his father's glare afterwards.
Inspector Bloodstone coughed.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Inspector. Go right on up, they're waiting for you."
She stopped Constable Evans before he could follow. "I have need of a strong hand."
"At your service, Madam." Constable Evans said, checking with his father who had stopped several steps above them. He nodded and Constable Evans followed Mrs. Hudson inside. She shut the door and went into the small kitchen that was her domain. Neither Sherlock nor Watson was allowed to be in there without her escort. She pointed to four large trays. One was filled to overflowing with tiny sandwiches of meat and lettuce, while the next was filled with scones, the third with a coffee pot and a tea pot and the last with silverware and napkins.
"So it is your belief." Inspector Bloodstone commented, after sipping from his tea cup the delicious coffee that Mrs. Hudson had brewed. "It is your belief that this case is solved and need press no further then?"
Both James and Sherlock nodded their heads.
The Inspector broke into laughter, which caused Constable Evans, who had never heard him laugh during business, to choke on his sandwich. Watson pounded his back and offered him a drink to help him out.
"Yes. Thank you, Doctor." Constable Evans said finally, after a worried look from his father and a concerned look from Mrs. Hudson, who feared she had done something wrong with the preparation of her food.
Constable Evans smiled at her. "It wasn't the food, Mrs. Hudson, I assure you. It is of the finest quality I could ever eat."
On his father's glare. "My mother's fare being no exclusion from that..."
On further glare from his father. "Oh, drat it all. Inspector, I'm going downstairs to check on our wagon to make sure everything's ready for when we leave."
The Inspector nodded and Constable Evans left the sitting room, with both James and Sherlock exchanging very subtle smiles.
Watson went to the various tesla lamps about the room and began turning them off.
"I say, is there something wrong, Watson?" The Inspector asked in alarm, rising as if a battle were about to commence.
"Not at all, Inspector." James finally said, reaching for a metal box that had been seated in a silver bowl of water up to that point on the fireplace mantle. He pulled it down and set it on the table as Watson turned off the last light.
He opened the lid.
The Inspector and Mrs. Hudson gasped in surprise.
Seated atop the stone retrieved from the mine was a very hotly glowing piece of substance. The very one that James had found and burned his finger upon.
"What in God's name is that thing?" The Inspector demanded, utterly confused by what he was seeing.
Watson snorted. "Inspector, it's elementary really."
James and Sherlock both gave Watson a surprised look.
He smiled and took a seat near the object. He took a cigar from his vest and touched its tip to the object. The tip caught on fire immediately. "It's a very advanced form of heat." Watson declared happily, satisfied with his deduction.
He took a puff on his cigar, and then smiled even wider. "And it is also a weapon."
James smiled and nodded.
Sherlock gave his friend an appreciative glance.
The Inspector, still wheeling in circles inside his mind as to how this could have anything to do with the case, suddenly woke up to a thought of urgent nature. "The dead miner. He had no obvious wound to cause his death."
"But one." James said. He looked to Sherlock, who retrieved a sketch he had made of the dead miner's head.
James poked the center of the miner's forehead. "This was where the forensic pathologist discovered the entry. After dissection of his skull, it was noted that his entire brain had been cooked."
Sherlock nodded. "Also that there had been an opposite exit from the skull with a similar marking on the back of his head."
The Inspector got it. "So the weapon that was used penetrated his forehead and exited the rear of his skull. But what kind of weapon could possibly do that?" Then his eyes caught the glow of Watson's cigar and that of the object lying upon the dirt inside the box in the silver container of water. "My God! Do you know what you're saying?"
"Yes. We do." James spoke up. "That our miner, curious as to the nature of this..." He very carefully raised the stone so that it was level before the Inspector's eyes. "And as you and I are now, raised the stone to this level to look at it more closely, especially once he'd noted the appearance of gold on the stone."
"Which it was not." The Inspector pointed out.
"Just so." Sherlock agreed.
Watson butted in again. "The beings living in the stone..."
The Inspector began making choking sounds of his own. Mrs. Hudson hurriedly refilled his tea cup and he downed it in a gulp and cleared his throat. He stared at Watson as if he'd gone mad. "Beings living..."
"Inside that stone." Watson reiterated.
The Inspector looked to James, who nodded and to Sherlock who blinked his eyes.
"Insane." Doctor Watson agreed heartily, a smile warming his generous face. "And why I had to leave at first when I realized the import of what had truly happened."
James eyed Watson. "But why did you leave it to me to discover the true reason?"
"James, you and I both know I'm not good when it comes to such details, but I have had more than enough proper preparation of my powers of deduction from this good fellow seated next to me."
"Why thank you, Watson."
"I was referring to the Inspector."
Everyone roared with laughter, except the Inspector, who was the butt of the joke, but finally he relaxed and spread his hands in his lap. Accepting the truth of his eyes and the explanations.
"But what of the beings who fired this..." He pointed at the glowing object.
"Gone." James said.
"The hole in the stone had to have been their escape hatch." Watson pointed out.
"We returned the next morning and examined every possible path from where the stone had lain and discovered nothing more. They had left." Sherlock added.
"Left you say." The Inspector gasped in horror. "You mean they're still loose on our world."
"Yes." James agreed. "And I imagine feeling quite lost in a world that is so, so much larger than our own."
"What if they use that dread weapon again?" The Inspector asked. "How shall we stop them?"
No one answered him. No one at all.