The Geldings Residence sat alone in a street of mainly shop keepers, a lone and ancient structure that had been inherited from generations of Geldings, starting from the days of King Cornish to the current Queen Mary of Scots. Not a lovely place. But a forbidding one, it sprung from the street like a malignant tumor against all the more brightly lit and clean businesses that hugged its right and left sides, and faced it from the Manly Park opposite it.
It had always been a queer neighborhood. Rumors of vampires, werewolves, changelings, black magic and dark sorcerers had abounded there from the times of King Cornish. Some even rumored it to be back from the times of King Arthur, when he and Merlin established their brief empire of Light and the round table of equality run by the most educated and noble Knights of the times.
Therefore it came as no surprise that one day the ancient structure should catch on fire and immediately burn to the ground, impacting business on both sides as firemen from the length and breadth of London strove to put out the scorching flames before all the good nearby businesses were leveled to the ground as well. The fire burned so hot that the firemen were forced to stand at least a hundred feet away to blast their water upon it.
McBride and McBride, fabled inventors of the Golden Ruby, a special hand watch that could accurately keep track of time no matter what time zone, were very bitter that Monday morning, as they rushed to their place of business to see it in flames as well as the dark and malignant mansion nearby.
"Serves them right!" Father McBride told his twenty year old partner and son, Fable McBride, a good lad with blonde hair and stark blue eyes that looked into your very soul. Or at least that's what people told him. Often. And repeatedly.
Fable shook his head, tossing his mane of shoulder length locks and curls about his broad shoulders. "We can rebuild."
His father sighed. "Yes. But will I still be alive to see the business thrive once more?"
His son was silent.
"Excuse me, kind sir." Watson asked from two gentlemen away. "Am I right to assume that you two are related to the fire here this morning?"
"Not related, but victimized." Father McBride corrected.
Watson stepped around the two gawkers of the crowd that had been building to watch the death and destruction of the old mansion, and took his hat off. "I'm deeply sorry for your loss. You are then Father McBride?"
"How would you know that, sir?"
Watson indicated the briefcase in Father McBride's hands, and the label upon it.
"Oh. Yes. Rather silly of me to question you on that, wasn't it? How can I help you then?"
"My friend and I..." He indicated Sherlock Holmes who stood closer to the fire, his eyes on something only he was aware of. "Mister Holmes..."
"Not the...Mister Holmes!" Fable exclaimed, reaching out his hand to take Watson's. "I read your articles in the London Blast every day. Fascinating. Brilliant. You are admired by every school child and young woman and man in the Greater Britains."
Watson flushed with embarrassment at the comment and looked away to hide his red face. "I've been told that you two knew the deceased."
Father McBride gave Watson another look of astonishment. "But how could you know..."
Fable nudged him. "No one could have survived that fire, Father."
"Right. Yes. So sorry. I'm just testy because of the damage to our reputation."
Watson turned to look at him again, his embarrassment under control once more. "Before we were summoned here by Inspector Bloodstone, he mentioned that you two had been having some...uh...difficulties with the Elder Gelding?"
"Yes. The man kept an inordinate number of bats in his basement, and they would fly out at night and attack our dear Nellie."
Fable jumped in. "A sheep dog. My father got him as a gift from me Mummy."
Father McBride corrected him. "Your mother!"
"Yes. That's right, Me...My Mother."
Watson almost laughed, but restrained himself at this minor infraction on the father's part against his son. It wasn't uncommon for the richer gentry to be very precise about their language as a way of showing off their wealth and considerations.
"I see." Watson spoke finally.
"Can you tell me how your dog fares now, Mister McBride?" Sherlock said as he stepped between the father and son to look into his face.
Sherlock waited, saying nothing.
"She is quite happy." Father McBride answered a bit too quickly.
Sherlock's eyes narrowed.
Inspector Bloodstone, his short red hair flaring a bit from rushing to the crime scene, or perhaps not a crime scene. That was yet to be determined. He came up and nodded to the father and son. "You remember our earlier conversation?"
"Yes." Father McBride responded. "You had two gentlemen looking into the bats issue to see if a mutually agreeable solution could be found."
"It would appear a solution has been found, though not beneficial to either your, the Geldings, or the other business scored by this unfortunate incident."
Sherlock spoke again, more slowly. "Did you have any relationship with the Goodfellows, who owned the other shop?"
"We spoke sometimes when passing." Father McBride answered politely.
Fable jumped in. "Merilee Goodfellow and I are dating."
His father glared at him. "A bad relationship it is too."
"You do not approve of the daughter?" Sherlock inquired.
"No, I think she is fine, but the father is a dark sort, and I'm afraid his nature rubs off on his daughter as well, though why my son can't see that, I don't know."
"I see. Then you won't mind us speaking to them about this incident?"
"Why should I mind? It's a free London."
Sherlock nodded, then as the last of the flames were smothered by water and began settling down; he proceeded with Inspector Bloodstone to the ruins to inspect them. On the way he stopped to look back at Father McBride, who was watching him closely, but quickly looked away when seen doing so.
Watson took out a small notebook, with hurried notes in it. "How long have you known the Geldings?"
"Never. Never saw them. Never spoke to them, except through a Legal Counsel who applied the letter of law upon them for the bats."
"And Nellie, your sheepdog. Have you made a claim for her death?"
Father McBride blanched the color of a ghost. "How in the devil did you know that, sir?"
Sherlock and Inspector Bloodstone stooped in the smoking rubble and dug something up with their hands, then slowly lifted it into view. They came waking back towards Watson and the McBride's.
They set the object down on the cobblestone street in front of the pair.
Sherlock eyed the father. "You said your sheep dog was fine, am I correct?"
Inspector Bloodstone dropped back to the left on Sherlock's slight eye movement and kept an intent stance as Sherlock continued.
"Please examine the tags on this dog's neck."
"My God! The poor creature. Caught in that horrible place!" Father McBride gasped, then dropped to a knee and examined the tags. His face drained of all color as he slowly rose.
"Inspector." Sherlock spoke.
Inspector Bloodstone pulled out a pair of handcuffs from his jacket pocket and approached the father.
Fable tried to stop him.
"Son. Will you interfere with the arrest of a man for the murder of an entire family?"
Fable began to shake with fear and anxiety and dropped back, making short intakes of air, sounding like he might be ready to faint.
Sherlock nodded to Watson who attended to Fable, leading him towards a nearby constable wagon.
"Mister McBride, you are under arrest for the murder of Elmer, Aimee and Louis Gelding."
Father McBride put his hands out and they were handcuffed.
He looked back at Sherlock before he was led away.
"How could you know I set the fire?"
Sherlock raised a fingertip with a white substance on it. "Phosphor."
"Your firm is well known for using phosphor in large quantities to apply the extreme heat needed for your construction of the most excellent time pieces you manufacture."
"Everyone knows that." Father McBride protested.
"This dog did not die of the fire." Sherlock noted.
"No, it died from a severe beating. Its skull was split in three different places."
Sherlock walked closer to Father McBride.
"Mister Gelding caught you beating your beloved dog to death and threatened to expose you to the world as a man who hurts innocent creatures, thus tarnishing your reputation and that of your shop."
Fable, who had been struggling with the indictment of his father, spoke up, his voice weak and trembling. "Father. You told me that Mister Gelding killed the dog."
The Inspector gave the son a look of surprise.
Sherlock turned to the Inspector. "I think that you will find that it was the father, who ordered the burning of the mansion, but it was his son who delivered the deadly white phosphorous through the basement windows, knowing full well how deadly and highly inflammable it was."
The Inspector scowled at the son, who know hid his face in his hands and began to weep.
The Inspector nodded to a nearby constable who took the son in tow. They marched the McBrides off to the constable wagon.
Watson sighed. "So many lives ruined over an animal."
Sherlock turned to Watson. "Which animal do you refer to, Watson? The dog or the father?" Without another word he stuck his hands behind his back and strode off, leaving a shocked Watson behind him.