The fog curled up from the open drains blanketing the wet cobblestone streets. It wrapped around the doors and flowed into the dark courses of the alleys making its wandering way up the steps to knock unheard at the door of Number 221B Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes paced back and forth in his upstairs apartment unaware of the time. He was thinking and wandering down the narrow lanes of logic looking for the open door to lead him to the clue that would solve his latest crime.
For weeks a murderer had haunted the hovels of London slashing his female victims in a horribly precise fashion. He had left messages for the police taunting them, and greatest manhunt in the history of London had found no killer. Scotland Yard had been to see Holmes early and persistently, yet he had come up empty-handed. Had he not seen Moriarty perish with his own eyes, he would have sworn this must be his handiwork.
The room was draped in tobacco smoke and Holmes’ pipe had grown hot from the ceaseless flames. He began to perspire and shake; the old irritation was upon him. He had put off his enemy and seductive friend as long as he could. If Watson had been there, Watson would have protested, but he wasn’t there, and Holmes reached into the drawer and withdrew the case that held the needle with the opium derivative. He flinched as the needle pierced his skin, and then his mind darkened and wandered. …
Earlier that day…
The rain, ceaseless this time of year, rattled the panes in Holmes’ apartment. As usual, Holmes sat in his easy chair smoking his pipe and reading one of the many newspapers he subscribed to. Dr. Watson, his faithful colleague, was also busy cleaning his surgical tools. “I must be getting forgetful,” Watson spoke to himself more than to Holmes, “to have left these things in such poor condition.”
“That’s not like you,” Holmes muttered through clenched teeth holding his pipe and then commented, “Perhaps you’re getting on in years my friend.”
“Hump!” Watson retorted. “Really Holmes, your absence of tact speaks nothing for you.”
“Say what, Watson?” Holmes asked looking over his paper. “I wasn’t really paying attention until I caught the tone of voice. What have I done now to perturb your finer sensitivities?”
Watson, knowing the argument was pointless now that Holmes had engaged his full attention, rolled his eyes and quietly turned back to the work of cleaning his tools.
“You really ought to reprimand your nurse. He should have cleaned those tools instead of your having to attend it.”
“I thought he had, or that I had. At any rate, I’m taking care of it now. Blood comes off steel rather nicely. Although I am a little bewildered as to…”
The clear ring of the bell interrupted Watson and declared a visitor. “A client!” Watson cried. “Once again they have made their way to your aerie.”
Holmes chuckled. “I may resemble a hawk with this nose, but really Watson, Detective Lestrade is most likely here to report on the serial killer.
“Holmes! He hasn’t even made it across the threshold! How can you know?”
Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper, rapped on the door and entered at Holmes reply. Following her, just as Holmes had presumed, was Detective Lestrade.
Watson shook his head astonished. “You never cease to amaze me, Holmes.” Watson, however, was quickly silenced from his revelry by Holmes’ countenance. “Lestrade, you come with a warrant?”
Detective Lestrade was shaken. “How could you know?”
“Actually, I’m a little slow on this one. I saw you in the reflection of the panes across the street and still see your escorts waiting on the steps. Not to mention that you have your hands in your pockets, and the slight bulge of the official envelope, slightly bigger than most, is evident in your coat pocket. Also, as you ascended the steps, I heard the slight jingle of the chains you use to cuff, but don’t regularly carry. Therefore, Lestrade, I assume, and it really doesn’t take quite a leap to think, you have come to serve a warrant.”
“As usual you are right, much to my sorrow. I am sorry, yet relieved in a very mixed way.”
“Excuse me?” Watson queried.
“Dr. Watson, in the name of her Majesty Queen Victoria…”
Holmes woke from his nightmare of terrible memories and stared blankly around him. Somehow, he had managed to find his bed and the light from a rare bright day poured through the crack in his curtains. He was about to sit up when he realized not all was right. He bolted from the bed, twisting as he did, throwing the covers back from his body. A loud clamor of metal meeting metal broke the morning stillness. A surgeon’s tray had been placed at the foot of his bed, on his blankets. The tools scattered across the room were encrusted with blood.
“No!” he cried and looked. The bell chimed again. “Who now!”
Detective Lestrade was again standing in his quarters. Holmes sat in his chair and the detective began, “We need your help, Holmes. It’s quite beyond us now.”
“What do you mean Lestrade?
“He’s gone! Watson has escaped! And another murder occurred last night!”
“I knew that much, at least,” Holmes muttered angrily.
“I knew another murder had taken place.”
I’m past being amazed sir, but if you could tell me how you…”
“I would be happy to. Follow me.” Holmes led the way to his bedroom “See, look. On the floor.”
“By Jove… the murder weapons! Surely! But how could they have gotten here?”
“I don’t know. I awoke this morning with the tray sitting on my bed.”
“You slept through the visit, sir?” Lestrade asked puzzled.
“Apparently Detective, I did. And as much as I despise the assumption this leads to…only Dr. Watson has a key. But come tell me how did he break out?”
“Well, we’re really not sure, sir. We checked his cell this morning, and it was empty.”
Holmes began to laugh. …
“I don’t understand the humor, sir?”
“Was the cell locked when you checked it?”
“As I understand, it was sir.”
Holmes continued, “And then when the warden saw that the good doctor was missing, he opened the cell door and checked to be sure. Finding the cell was indeed empty, I assume the warden then ran toward the security desk crying out the discovery and leaving the door open.”
“Yes, that’s exactly right,” Lestrade said, surprised.
“Leaving the good doctor to drop down from his spread-eagle perch across the ceiling and able to walk out of your prison undisturbed,” Holmes finished.
Couldn’t be sir. How would he know? How could he hold that acrobatic position?”
“He did it because I taught him how to do it. He was trained well, don’t you think?”
“Humph!” was the detective’s only reply.
“But now we must follow him, and to do that we must answer the question: Where is he and why has he gone there? If we answer the latter, we shall discover the former…
John Watson kept to the shadows using the methods learned from Holmes over the years to blend in and go unnoticed. He was headed to a friend’s house, a retired detective, Alphonse Boutillion. Once he found the alley leading to the old man’s home, he quickly slipped up the walk and rapped the ancient knocker. Relief spread over him when he heard the steps of someone coming down the hall.
A hoarse voice whispered, “Is that, you my friend, Dr. Watson?”
Watson shook his head. “I will never get used to detectives,” he murmured, then answered louder, “Yes, Alphonse, please let me in.”
“Gladly, I have been expecting you.”
The door creaked open, and Dr. Watson quickly entered. “How did you know to expect me?”
“I have detected things so long, I no longer remember how I know. I just knew you were coming when I heard you had escaped. Actually, I knew you must come here. Holmes would have been duty-bound to return you to the police, and only I have the ability to set you free. But come quickly, for Holmes will soon be here.”
“Because this is the only place you could have come and expected any measure of help, and since I expected you to come here, so must Holmes.”
“But first we must make a short trip.” The old detective wrapped himself in a threadbare overcoat and led Watson back down the street. They entered an empty flat opposite the detective’s apartment and sat in the dark staring at the old man’s door.
“They will be here soon, discover you are not here and leave. Then my apartment will be the safest place to hide in London.” Boutillion stated.
The clatter of a fast-moving surrey rewarded the Frenchmen’s patience.
“See they are here already.”
Watson watched as three Bobbies and the tweed-jacketed figure with whom he was so familiar knocked on the door, waited, and then used a special key to enter. He and Detective Boutillion waited, and soon the police appeared at the door and left with Holmes. As they once again climbed into their carriage, Watson saw Holmes looking back, and finally, almost imperceptibly to all save those who knew him well, focused on the house and the very same darkened window from which Watson and Boutillion watched. With a slight smile, Holmes nodded, and then the carriage left with him in it.
“He knew you were here.” The detective wheezed.
“Yes, he as much as shouted it.”
“But we are safe. He may visit us in an hour or two, but I believe we are safe for a season.” Boutillion said as he led Watson down the stairs and back out into the street.
After settling into the Frenchman’s oddly familiar den, Watson again began to wonder what it was about detectives. Every detective with whom he was familiar owned the same type apartment with the same style of furniture. I’m surprised, Watson thought that he doesn’t bring out a pipe. As if hearing his request, Boutillion replied, “Would you like to smoke Dr. Watson?”
Watson’s mouth dropped, but he quickly recovered his dignity as Boutillion brought out two Cuban cigars. “Don’t mind if I do,” he answered. “Now what do you need to know about my situation?”
“Actually, I may be able to tell you more than you can tell me, Dr. Watson. I have developed a profile of your killer, and I believe I know who – or perhaps what would be a better description – the killer is.”
The door to Boutillion’s den suddenly swung open, and Holmes, smiling, walked in as if invited. “You might want to wait for a minute until I have a chance to put my coat away before you start your tale,” Detective Boutillion, Holmes said. “And don’t worry Watson. I am not here to arrest you. On the contrary, I’m going to need your help.”
“Holmes! How did you get in without my notice!?” Boutillion exploded.
Holmes laughed. “I knew you were expecting me, but I assumed you would not expect me so soon. Shortly after we had driven out of sight, I stopped the carriage, sent it on, and doubled back. I watched as you and Watson left your perch and returned home. After a decent interval, I slipped the lock on your basement coal door and walked up the steps, waiting for the right moment to make my entrance.”
“You always make it sound so simple,” Watson laughed, “you are the master, and for me to assume I could ever serve as a substitute…” Watson continued.
“Was a very good assumption. For you are as brilliant as I, just not as criminally inclined to breaking and entering,” Holmes grinned.
Detective Boutillion laughed and said, “Very well, very well. And now the tale must be told…”
“I hesitate to share this with you, for if I were in your shoes and not intimately acquainted with the history of this case, I would swear it was the ramblings of an old fool. But I do know the history and am constrained to give you the facts as I have unearthed them. This is not speculation or exaggeration. If anything, it is an understatement. I have a predilection for integrity…and anyway… I am stalling. Hear me out, especially you Holmes, before you label me mentally disturbed,” Detective Alphonse Boutillion begged through his heavy, rough French accent.
“I cannot imagine anything you might say that would cause me to doubt your mental abilities. Your reputation precedes you, and my own case histories contain enough bizarre events to provide a precedent for anything you could say,” Holmes responded respectfully.
“And I am credulous enough to be open to anything Detective Boutillion; not to mention the fact that if you have evidence to prove my innocence, I am impatiently waiting to receive it,” Watson added.
“Evidence possibly, innocence debatable.”
“What?!” Watson cried taken back.
“It will all be clear in a moment Dr. Watson, and then you may judge for yourself. Now as I was trying to say, and forgive me for my long way around the beginning, what I am telling you began many, many years ago, even before recorded time. I hesitate even now; it is so fantastic, bordering on superstition, yet the truth. Therefore, I will skip the story and make the judgment: We are dealing with a demon, a supernatural entity that is pure evil that kills for the pleasure of the victim’s agony and feeds on his or her overwhelming fear. It first occupies the bodies of men and women and then takes over to perform its monstrous acts.”
“I cannot justify that Detective,” Holmes said sternly. “I have studied the nature of evil for decades, having been involved in hundreds of cases, and not yet have I seen evidence of disembodied spirits overpowering the minds of men.”
“Do you think I came by these conclusions without the greatest of thought and study?” Boutillion replied. “No, I angrily denied the possibility of such a thing. Like you, I am committed to integrity and the truth, not given to finding superstitious answers in apparently unexplainable events. But also like you, I am guided by the maximum that when everything else has been ruled out, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be true!”
“Humph,” Homes grunted unpersuaded. “I am open to your evidence Detective, pure scientific evidence. I will be persuaded by what has persuaded you. If it is accurate.”
“I have no problem with that,” Boutillion countered. “I will relate to you what I did not believe until I had no choice but to believe it. And understand that I have not taken the implication any further than how it applies to this case.”
Dr. Watson frowned and cocked a puzzled brow. “He is talking about religion,” Holmes answered Watson’s look.
“Not religion Holmes, not religion,” Boutillion replied. “Religion is simply the means by which man tries to relate to God, but it has nothing to do with the truth of His existence. I am talking about the fact of one not being able to exist without the other. If there is a Devil, there is God.”
“Neither of which is available for questioning,” Holmes smirked. “And getting back to the pressing question of the moment. Dr. Watson has been accused of a horrible murder, and I am now an accomplice to his escape. So, that being said, what do you suggest we do Detective?”
Alphonse Boutillion scratched his beard and slowly responded, “You made an interesting observation just now, Holmes. I have not been able to get away from the idea, and thus have a suggestion.” Boutillion offered, “You said the mighty ones were not available to interview. That may not be entirely accurate.” Dr. Watson’s eyes grew large and Holmes’s narrowed as Boutillion continued. “I was educated by the Jesuits, a very devout and disciplined sect of men whose whole vocation is prayer. This education formed the foundation of who I am, and I remember well how the Jesuits talked to and heard from God on a regular basis. Many people benefited and still do benefit from their prayers. I still know where an old member of their order lives and would like for us to talk with him.”
Holmes answered quickly, “You have offered no proof of the evidence that has convinced you, and you assume on me, Detective, to follow a notion of yours without effective cause.”
“Holmes,” Dr. Watson countered, “I have more to lose than anyone, and I see no reason not to follow Detective Boutillion’s whim, as you call it if that is what he sees fit to do. Unless you have a better idea, then that is what I intend to do,” he continued resolutely.
“I know I ask a lot of you Holmes, but you asked to see my evidence, and if you want to see it, then you will have to allow me the opportunity to show you,” Boutillion added.
“I am at your service Detective Boutillion but only until the evidence is provided for evaluation after that, I cannot say,” Holmes said.
“That is all any man might ask,” Boutillion continued and then added, “Now let us begin the journey for, as I hear on good authority, the game is afoot!”
The surrey lurched to a halt and the three men climbed out. “We are here,” Boutillion declared. The ancient doors of an old monastery stood before them. After ringing the bell to announce their arrival, they soon heard the echo of footsteps on the hardwood floor that led to the door. As the bolted lock clicked, the door swung open on its antique hinges, and a pleasant-faced, elderly man welcomed them. “May I help you, gentlemen?”
“Yes,” Boutillion answered quickly. “We need to see Monsignor Henri. I believe he has something for us.”
“If you will come with me, I will announce your arrival.” The doorkeeper led them to a sitting room and then left them to locate the Monsignor.
A few minutes later the man returned escorting an aged monk on his arm. “Ah, Detective Boutillion, I have been expecting you. It has been a long time.”
Watson whispered, “Did you forewarn him of our coming?”
Boutillion shook his head. “No,” he smiled. Homes face was expressionless.
“Let us go someplace warmer and more comfortable. My office is this way.” The men followed the old monk down the hallway and into his office. “Please be seated and welcome. It isn’t hard for me to guess the reason you are here, but to be honest, I have been expecting you for some time.”
“Why is that Monsignor Henri?” Holmes asked.
“You came here hoping to hear a word from The Almighty. Did you not expect an answer? And if He can give an answer, can He not also notify me of the ones who seek it?”
Holmes remained expressionless, but his raised eyebrow spoke volumes to Watson who read his friend like an old familiar book. Watson laughed aloud but quickly quieted as Holmes looked his way with the same pointed brow.
“You laugh Dr. Watson?” questioned the ancient monk.
Dr. Watson continued to chuckle and started to answer then stopped stunned. “How do you know my name?”
Holmes interrupted sternly, “Watson, he knows the newspapers and is acquainted with Detective Boutillion; how else?”
This time it was Monsignor Henri’s turn to smile. “We don’t keep up with the papers here Mr. Holmes. But we can go into more detail later. I know many things because that is one of my gifts, Dr. Watson. But minor things like that is not the purpose of your visit. You are here to find direction, and I have a little for you. I believe the Lord would say to you ‘Prepare the way of the Lord or prepare the way for something else.’ Your adversary hides in dark places and moves from them as the light exposes him. Embrace the light, Mr. Holmes, or embrace the darkness. The choice is yours.”
“Very insightful,” Holmes answered sarcastically. “I’m sure your advice will greatly hasten the capture of the criminal.”
“Not so quick Holmes. I have a vague recollection of some phrase I heard in my childhood.”
“And what is that Watson?’
“He that he who has ears to hear, let him hear,” Watson answered quietly.
“Humph!” Holmes replied without his usual composure. “And now that we have had our indistinct and directionless word from The Almighty, perhaps we can go?”
“I’m not sure we are through Holmes,” Detective Boutillion cut short Holmes’ question.
“When you come looking for direction, you should be careful to take all you find Detective Holmes. Boutillion is right; there is more, but if you are not careful to heed what I have already told you, which is the most important, what I am about to add will be of little help.”
Holmes sat on the edge of his chair and said, “I am listening, Monsignor.”
“You must set a trap for your adversary, Mr. Holmes. You know what he is after and what he wants. Create a stage, and he will walk upon it.”
Holmes sat back in the overstuffed chair and lit his pipe, his face pensive as he gazed inwardly, suddenly oblivious to all but the idea that had been cast before him.
“There is not much supernatural to that idea,” Watson volunteered.
“That depends on your idea of the supernatural Dr. Watson. If you see it only as the spectacular or the magical, you will miss the subtleness that camouflages most of it,” answered the Monsignor.
Watson looked puzzled as Monsignor Henri continued, “The Lord doesn’t often overwhelm. He desires to be sought and speaks to those who want to hear enough to listen. When he does overwhelm, it is a dangerous thing, for it foreshadows awesome responsibility, but even then, great revelations are usually reserved for those who have already been listening.”
“I see,” Holmes answered quietly, surprising the others. Watson had assumed Holmes had been lost in thought and not paying any attention to the priest. Monsignor Henri looked steadily at Holmes and said, “Perhaps you do, Mr. Holmes, perhaps you do.”
Detective Boutillion interrupted, “But how do trap a spirit who could be listening at any moment or have a network of spies that infiltrates those who hunt him? How do we trap an entity like that?”
“The enemy isn’t here now Detective Boutillion, and even if he were, he would be blind and deaf in this atmosphere. The Darkness cannot endure the Light. And right now, we are surrounded by Light.”
At that moment a sense of scales falling from their eyes came upon the seated men. The world went from being a dull, dark daguerreotype to a fantastically painted portrait of color. The air in the room became heavy and condensed. Watson cried out, “I can hardly breathe!” His words spoken not in panic but wonder. Boutillion eyes grew wide and tears began to flow down his cheeks. Holmes’ mouth dropped open and a look of supreme satisfaction came upon his features. The only person not totally overcome was Monsignor Henri who obviously was enjoying the experience, but whose face also showed a concern seemingly out of place. Slowly the light faded, and the common dreary sieve of life resumed its dark filter.
“Mon Deiu and my Lord,” gasped Detective Boutillion. “Thank You! Thank You!” he repeated at a loss for words.
Monsieur Henri replied, “That was a door, gentleman, and it opened only a crack. Had it opened any wider, we would have died.”
“Impressive!’ Holmes whispered passionately, taking Watson by surprise.
“Arguments are lost to experiences.” Holmes smiled and continued, “I am not sure what I just experienced, but I am sure I experienced it. I now find myself a great deal more open to your suggestions, Monsignor Henri. I do, however, have one question. Prior to our glimpse into glory, you mentioned a great responsibility usually accompanies a great revelation. Then as we were introduced to the door, your countenance did not fully accommodate the experience. What do you know that you are not telling us?”
“You have an unusual gift, Mr. Holmes. Most people in a similar situation would have been so overwhelmed the Light, they would have been blind to their surroundings, but you have noticed because it is not only a gift of the earth but a gift of heaven, which you have cultivated. So, Mr. Holmes, at that moment, I was concerned that the weight of burden you are about to bear would prove too great for you.”
“The burden-bearer often does not have a choice of burdens, Monsignor Henri, just a choice of help. But back to our original quest. How shall we trap this murderer?”
Monsignor Henri stroked his chin and then whispered, “Perhaps we don’t have to trap him Mr. Holmes; perhaps what we have to do is herd him.”
“That assumes a knowledge of his whereabouts and a goal for the herding, Monsignor.” Detective Boutillion answered and then continued, “I suspect you mean to herd this evil one by using the same method you revealed to us to tonight?”
“That is close, Detective, but not quite what I propose, and I believe I am hearing the Spirit confirm, is that we move the field of dominion that we have just experienced toward the center of the city. It can be opened at the four corners of the cities limits and then gradually moved toward the center of the city driving the evil before it. The evil will move away from the dominion fields instinctively until it is surrounded, exposed, and bound. My associates are able to invite the presence of the Lord, and then like Joshua before Jericho, we will surround and conquer.”
“Interesting, Monsignor Henri, but let me ask some questions first.”
“Will there be any gaps in the fields?”
“Only if there are gaps in the men. The ability to cast the field is determined by the faithfulness of the people involved. An old proverb says if we submit to God and resist the devil…”
“He will flee from you,” Holmes continued.
Watson raised an eyebrow, and Holmes answered, “My grandfather was the rector of a small parish for years. I learned the scriptures at his knees.”
Watson smiled and shook his head, always amazed at his friend’s ability to confound him.
“But that is the work of the morning. Mr. Holmes, Darkness is the domain of the Evil One, so we work in the day for our protection as much as its irritation. We start in the morning. I will send out word tonight, and we will be joined by other teams and start at exactly 9:00 on the morrow. My associates will take you to your rooms, and I pray you sleep well.”
On the way to their accommodations, Boutillion and Watson queried Holmes on his change of heart gently mocking him on his about-face and wanting to hear some type of explanation.
“Holmes when we walked in this place you were skeptical and sarcastic and now you are leading the pack. What was so persuasive?” Watson challenged while sneaking a conspiratorial wink at Boutillion.
Holmes turned and smiled quizzically looking innocently at them both and answered, “Why, it is simple adherence to things that I have always held.”
“Oh really?’ Boutillion challenged, “That doesn’t seem to agree with your premise when we first knocked on these doors.”
“On the contrary, my friend, it is in perfect agreement. Like you shared before, and is an adage of mine as well: “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’” What I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears and touched with my hands, I believe.”
Watson and Boutillion smiled, shook their heads, and returned to their rooms.
Watson did not sleep well that night. He tossed in the bed of the spartan room the monks had provided, and when finally he did fall asleep, he dreamt of murder and bloodshed, and his own hands and equipment dripping with the blood of an innocent. His restlessness was halted by a loud knock on the door. “Watson! Watson!” Holmes bellowed. “Get up and get dressed! There’s a problem.”
The urgency in Holmes’ voice added energy to Watson’s movements, and soon he was walking down the hall toward the whisper of a muted conversation and the faint sound of women sobbing. When he arrived at the end of the hall he noticed Monsignor Henri had his arm around a grieving servant woman. Holmes and Detective Boutillion were standing at the door of the monastery staring down at the body of a female servant lying in the doorway.
“Look at her face,” Boutillion was saying softly, “She is at peace. I have looked at many murdered souls and have never seen this.”
Monsignor Henri overheard the detectives whispering and interjected, “That is because she won.”
“Pardon?” Holmes asked, taken aback.
“Her attacker met more than he expected.”
Holmes bent down to observe the body more closely.
“But there are no signs of violence or blood other than hers,” Boutillion countered.
“Look again,” Holmes replied validating Monsignor’s statements with evidence. “Here is the weapon.” He pointed to a knife with a blackened handle and a scorched blade. As he gently rolled the body of the woman, he noticed a charred spot on the brick of the steps. “What is this?”
“It appears the beast got his tail burnt!”
“But with what? Where did the fire come from?” Boutillion continued to ask.
“From the girl,” Monsignor Henri answered solemnly. “She carried the fire within her, and the murderer made the mistake of piercing it.”
“A lot of good it did her,” Watson scolded.
Monsignor Henri answered, “Do not be so quick to assume, Dr. Watson. Have you so soon forgotten what it was like to open the celestial gate just a splinter? Would you have even known you had died if you had walked through it completely? Look again upon her face. Doesn’t it bear out what I am suggesting?”
Watson sighed wearily and shook his head, “I suppose it does. I am just over my head here. I have never dealt with the supernatural before, and it is beyond me.”
Holmes stroked his chin and quietly added. “We have dealt with it before Watson. We have just not recognized it until this moment. Now we will never cease to note it no matter what we are doing.”
“The coroner will be here shortly, and we have a trap to lay. Monsignor, may we retire to your living room and continue our plans?”
“Indeed, Mr. Holmes, surely.”
Once they had re-established themselves in the Monsignor’s parlor, he spoke. “Most of the plans we laid last night are close to implementation, Mr. Holmes. The men and women that are able to chase the beast have been contacted and are, even as we speak, in the process of surrounding the city. We will walk down every street, every section, every narrow alley, and through every neighborhood quietly and discreetly. The only ones aware of our presence will be those helping us hunt or those being hunted.”
“So, you don’t think the individual populace will be affected?” Holmes asked.
“I am sure they will feel something, but it will be determined by the degree of which side of the hunt they most support.”
Watson raised his eyebrows in acknowledgment and asked, “When do we begin?”
Monsignor looked at his pocket watch and answered, “Actually, it has already begun. We will meet the walkers at the crossroads of Euston Road and Park and all of us converge at Hyde Park. Shall we be going?”
Watson shivered as he walked alongside Holmes and Monsignor Henri, Detective Boutillion brought up the rear. They passed a few blocks and arrived at Euston Road. From there they turned and began to walk toward the center of the city. Monsignor’s priests had gathered quietly along all the streets leading out of London in groups of threes and fours. They carried small banners with them and moved toward the inner city, some praying quietly aloud, others singing softly, some reading the ancient text of scripture. As they moved into a neighborhood or crossed a street, a faint smell of roses would precede them often carried on a gentle breeze. Two flower sellers, wrinkled and wizened by years of eking out a living on the streets of the city, felt the breeze. As they breathed the fragrance of the roses one gasped, “Do you smell that? It is like the scent of my grandfather’s garden where I used to play when I was a little girl.”
“Gad!” the other replied. “It must have been a trash heap then! Smells like rubbish burning if you ask me.”
“You can’t mean that?” the first responded. “It is the scent of something precious and favored!”
“Awk! What kind of talk is that? You best have your nose checked. That smell wreaks!”
By then the entourage had passed, and the flower ladies shook their heads trying to clear their senses. The one who smelled rubbish went quickly back to work, but the other stood lost in childhood memories, her cheeks streaming with tears that washed away old grime.
The holy army continued to move forward accompanied by an odd uneasiness. As they passed, dogs would begin to bark furiously, some bristling with anger and running toward them only to back up and run away yelping as they drew close. Other dogs would whimper and wag their tails moving toward them in a submissive and delighted fashion as though drawing near an ancient master. Trash cans rattled; windows cracked; drunks fell through creaking doors only to scurry away from them. Some people walked by oblivious, but most reacted subtly. As the priests walked across an intersecting street, they heard a sudden angry snort of a cab horse. They jumped from the street just in time to miss being trampled by the horse and crushed by the driverless cab. The cab struck a light pole and broke into a hundred pieces. The horse lay in the street with a broken leg, groaning until a merciful bobby came and ended its suffering. Watson looked at Holmes and said, “It appears we are stirring something up.”
Holmes reacted fiercely, “We are driving it! We are driving it! Let’s continue!” As the detectives, Watson, and the team of priests drew closer to the center of the city, they noticed people on the sidewalks rushing in the opposite direction, away from the center of the city. When questioned one answered, “I don’t know. I just felt a need to move out, and I am!”
The team began to feel a resistance in the air, almost like they were walking through mud. Their energy levels began to drain, and they strove to push forward one step after the other. “My God, man!” Boutillion whispered. “We are pushing against a current! The resistance is tangible. Is all of this coming from that beast we are herding?”
Monsignor Henri thought a moment and answered. “I do not think so, Detective Boutillion. I believe we are driving many wolves forward.”
“This is not something you expected?” Holmes questioned.
“You are right, Mr. Holmes, but the One who gave us the plan did. He knows it will be all right. Watch and see.”
As the team slowly and almost painfully converged on the great Hyde Park, they began to meet other teams of prayerful walkers, forming a giant net-like circle, and still, they moved forward. Pressing in as they moved forward, Holmes noticed that many of the priests and holy women that accompanied them carried ram’s horns of assorted sizes and shapes. As Holmes observed one of the priests, he noted that the horn the priest carried was about three feet long and curled twice, wrapping around his sleeve as he carried it. A four-inch-wide gold band circled around the middle the horn, and a white, ivory-looking band circled around its end. Holmes watched as the priest raised the horn to his lips and blew out a long, low, loud note and held it. As the sound of the horn resonated, other horns joined the chorus, each with its own tone. Some were low and strong, others high and shrill, each adding to the strange harmony that echoed against the tall buildings surrounding the park. As they blew, a strong wind began to accompany them and swiftly reached gale force, circling through the trees, ripping and tearing off limbs. The wind became a whirlwind; the sky darkened and grew quickly black as rolling clouds raced across the sky. Watson and Boutillion had the sense they were no longer in London but between London and somewhere else. Their feet never left the cobblestoned city, but their spirits were keenly aware that they were standing in the “in between.” Lightning struck several times, and the whirlwind screamed. The circle of priests stopped, and everyone stared expectantly toward the center of the howling storm. They could see dark figures caught in the winds, tumbling around the center of the tornado. Faces tormented and raging were caught in its terrible grasp and pressed against its sides by a paralyzing centrifugal force. The whirlwind stretched from heaven to the street, and gradually it lessened in size, growing smaller and smaller, until, with a sudden crack, it was gone. The sky cleared, and the wind stilled. Holmes looked around observing that most of the priests who had formed the circle were quite stunned. Some knelt, others collapsed with fatigue.
Boutillion shouted, “Look!” and Watson and Holmes and Monsignor Henri turned to the focus of his cry. He was pointing to a park bench on which a single figure rested. The man seated on the bench wore a bowler and a white beard. He was old and very sober. He carried a cane and covered himself with a dark overcoat. Holmes watched as Monsignor Henri walked closer. The others followed, ringed by the priests. The old man pretended to not notice until all drew close, and then he looked from Holmes to Watson to Boutillion and then, at last, to Monsignor Henri.
“Impressive, but temporary.” The old man said to them at last. “You fight a losing battle. Your life so short, your suffering so continuous, your end so uncertain, your victories so few. And to what end? Humanity has become what it desired, knowing good from evil, and of course desiring the latter. Which is exactly what I originally offered your first parents, but for this outrage today you must pay!” The old man’s voice grew louder, and his vehemence tangible. “I will bleed England’s next generation dry, and then again the next, and then I will unleash on the earth the fires of hell itself. And to what end? Will you mount up to the heavens? Will you ascend to the throne? Never!”
Monsignor interrupted the lecture. “You are so right, sir. Our battles always end with our deaths. Our lives are full of suffering, our victories few. Every generation does pass, and hell is always threatening. But as to the throne, what do the children of the gracious, loving King do at his throne? They do mount up sir; they sit on their father’s lap and from Him, they learn to rule. Our future is revealed even today by His glory that has driven you from this field. We have no doubt you will return, but sir, you must remember this: The King will never leave!” The old man’s lip curled into a snarl. Growling, he slammed his cane upon the ground and with a flash of light was gone.
Monsignor Henri turned to the others and said, “It is time to go home, lick our wounds, and prepare to fight again.” Watson nodded quietly as did Boutillion. The surrounding priests began to move away in small groups whispering, barely able to comprehend what they had just witnessed. Sherlock Holmes stood still, staring at the park bench.
“Case closed?” Watson asked.
“I don’t know. And now I will never know. We will catch the criminals and occasionally the mastermind of a criminal ring. But close the case? Hardly.”
“It is a matter of jurisdiction, Mr. Holmes,” Detective Boutillion interjected. “We have our responsibility; to assume more leads only to frustration. A higher court rules here. Today we were officers of that court. It was an honor I can never forget. But is the case closed even on our level?”
“There is no criminal arrested, no warrant issued. Will the crimes even stop?” Holmes continued.
Monsignor Henri, who had listened quietly, answered. “For now, they will. But not forever or even for very long. They city will breathe a sigh of relief until foolish, depraved men invite the hordes back of their own accord.”
Sherlock grimaced at that and then nodded at Watson. They called for a cab and soon found themselves back in their Baker Street apartment. When they arrived, Watson excused himself to visit some patients he had postponed while the investigation was at its height, and he the prime suspect. Holmes had previously cleared Watson of all suspicion, and he now was free to come and go.
As Watson left, he noticed Holmes staring into space, surrounded by a dense fog of pipe smoke. “Are you alright Holmes?” he asked quietly.
Holmes sighed but didn’t answer. Watson repeated the question. “Are you alright Holmes?”
“I do not know Watson. I do not know. We never came up with a suspect, nor even cleared you completely of guilt. Was there a human host, or even several hosts involved in the murders? Or was it solely a beast from the darkness? I don’t know. Will it stop? I don’t know, and am I alright? I don’t know. Does that help any?”
“As much as anything can, I suppose. I must go, but I will call again tomorrow.”
Holmes nodded, and Watson left, walked down the stairs and out the front door. Holmes continued to stare numbly until moved by his old compulsion to enter the bedroom, open the drawer, and pull out the needle. He rolled up his sleeve, took the derivative from the vial into the needle, and inserted it into his arm. As he did, his eyes caught his reflection in the mirror. Staring back at him was the smirking face of the old man.