An Unconventional Holmes
Missing boys, an imposter husband, and a bizarre vampyre murder.Sherlock Holmes ventures into the realm of the unnatural in these three cases: the disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars, the true identity of a Great War veteran, and a vampyre’s grisly death. Crossing into the worlds of the Grimm Brothers and Bram Stoker, he seeks the clues needed to unravel the mysteries confronting him. Can Holmes’ conventional methods still function in the unconventional world?""[Dr. Sherwood-Fabre] knows her Holmes characterization and her stories do not disappoint."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING IRREGULARS
(Based on the Grimm Brothers’ Tale of the Children of Hameln)
The knock came as Holmes and I sat down for breakfast. Sherlock paused, his fork and knife suspended above his plate, ready to attack the kipper lying there. “Come in, Wiggins.”
A lad of about sixteen stepped into the room and peered at my flatmate. “How’d ya’ know it was me?”
“Quite obvious, really.” Holmes chewed a bite of fish. “No one had knocked on the front door, and your steps were too light for a man and too quick for a lady. Therefore, Mrs. Hudson had let in a boy through the back entry. I suppose it could’ve been another of the Irregulars, but given you are their leader, logically, it would be you.”
Wiggins’ mouth formed an o. “Laws. That’s a ‘nificent piece of thinkin’.”
“What I am unable to ‘think’ out, however, is the purpose of your visit.”
The young man sobered immediately at this pronouncement, his lower lip trembling. “It’s me mates. They’re gone.”
Sherlock’s next forkful froze halfway to his mouth. A piece of kipper swung from the tines. “Gone? How?”
“I dunno, ‘xactly. The six of us went to sleep, and when I woke up, they was gone.”
He shook his head. “Yesterday mornin’. I spent all day searchin’ for them. Walked all over town, whistlin’ our call to come together. Nuthin’.” His eyes glistened. “Somethin’ bad’s happened to ‘em. It’s like the earth swallowed ‘em.”
A stone formed in the pit of my stomach at the news of the Irregulars’ disappearance. London in 1895 had a variety of ways of “swallowing” people, and it was quite possible that was what happened to the boys. Even Holmes might have trouble locating them. Sherlock, however, expressed no such doubts.
“Unless the laws of physics somehow shifted yesterday, they are somewhere,” Holmes said. He dropped his fork and kipper onto his plate and raised his gaze to the boy. “As you can see, gravity has not been altered. Since physical laws are operating as they should, the same most definitely applies to the Irregulars.”
He turned to me as he pushed himself away from the table. “Watson, shall we begin the investigation?”
THE ADVENTURE OF THE COUNTERFEIT SQUIRE
(Based on the Grimm Brothers’ Tale of Rumpelstiltskin)
A scream alerted me to the intruder’s presence. I caught up to and passed the swarm of bees heading in the cry’s direction, only to stop when I reached the woman to wave her backwards.
Between pants from the exertion, I shouted at her. “Get behind that rock wall.”
She turned and rushed around to the road side of vine-covered enclosure. The honeysuckle and peppermint covering its stones deterred the insects from crossing over into the lane.
No longer sensing her presence, they returned to the hives I’d been tending and freed me to meet my unexpected visitor at my cottage’s border.
I quickly understood the bees’ interest. Her jasmine scent penetrated my hat’s protective veil, overpowering that of the smoke drifting from the cannister in my left hand. She wore one of those straight, loose garments that had come into fashion with the end of the Great War. Forest green. And a large-brimmed straw hat with a velvet ribbon. She raised her head slightly to peer at me from under its shadow.
“Sorry about that,” I said, lifting my veil to get a better look at her. “I’m—”
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” she said, holding out her hand. “Mrs. Heather Miller. I need you to find my husband.”
I studied her for a moment. Her face presented a tension, a marked anxiety telling me this was no ordinary missing person case. All that aside...
“I’m retired,” I said “There were more than one hundred and sixty thousand soldiers missing at the end of the war. The army would be a better place to start.”
“How did you know my husband was in the war?”
“The poppy pin you’re wearing.”
Her lips, painted the same color as the small brooch fixed above her right breast, formed an o. “What if I were to tell you the army won’t help me because they believe he has come home?”
As if having developed a will of their own, my eyebrows rose, then dropped into a v. My interest piqued, I decided no harm existed in hearing her out.
“Why don’t you explain your problem over a cup of tea?”
I gestured to my home, and a smile flitted across those poppy lips. We both knew she’d played out her bait and lured me in.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE TAINTED BLOOD
The epidemic arrived from the Continent in 1889, and a year later, our world had shifted on its axis, plunging survivors into a nocturnal, feral existence. Had it not been for a peculiar turn of events one spring evening in 1891, that world might have consumed both Holmes and myself.
We were both involved in the change from the beginning, although we didn’t recognize it at first. As a medical doctor, I was called in to treat a number of extreme anemia cases, which all led to general organ failure and death. While I responded to medical emergencies, Holmes assisted in the investigation of a series of quite gruesome murders involving ripped throats, but a complete lack of blood in the victim or the surrounding scene.
And no one was immune from infection or attack.
I sent Mary to the country early on to avoid the illness’s rapid spread. Two weeks after seeing her off, I received a chatty letter from her, giving no hint of illness, and a telegram an hour later informing me of her death from rapid-onset anemia. At the time, I considered my inability to protect her my greatest failure.
Of course, events soon overwhelmed the medical and law enforcement communities, and many fell victim to the infection themselves. When Inspector Lestrade called on us a few weeks after Mary’s demise and provided a full explanation of the disease, we were forced to make a decision—survival or death. A year later, I wondered if we had made the appropriate choice.
The name dredged up images of an all-consuming and soul-less thirst, but the true transformation was to society itself. At the beginning of the epidemic, an ample supply of humans existed. Over time, however, the scales tipped and alternative sources developed as the human population faded from this earth. Animals were no longer kept for their meat—only for their blood.
My friend foresaw the inevitable near-extinction of all mammals and had cleverly captured his own stock of rats to maintain his and my existence. But survival is not always living.
The night in question began as it had since our transformation: my friend checking on our stock, ensuring proper food and water, and then selecting some for their contribution to our nightly ration of blood. That night, I stared into the cup’s thick, scarlet content and exhaled through tight lips. After feasting on a few of my patients and fellow physicians, I had to say rat blood was a poor substitute. One could compare it to a glass of water instead of an aged Madeira wine. Both quenched one’s thirst, but true pleasure was in the second.
All the same, after raising it in a short salute and draining the glass, I forced down the urge to lick the thin layer of corpuscles still clinging to its slick inside. While the amount was enough to maintain, the lust for more never left.
Holmes pulled my attention from the little pool at the bottom of my glass when he placed his own upon the mantel of the long-cold fireplace and sighed.
“I’m not certain I’ll be much longer in this world.”
“I’ll admit this is hardly a feast,” I said, “but quite enough to sustain us.”
“I’m not referring to our meal—or whatever one calls what we just consumed. I’m discussing remaining on this planet.”
Liese Sherwood-Fabre has won awards for her thrillers, romance, and literary short stories, and NYT bestselling author Steve Berry describes her writing as "gimmick-free, old-fashioned storytelling."In the second grade, she knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally's ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live internationally for more than fifteen years. She draws upon these experiences to endow her characters with deep conflicts and emotions.