YOU NEEDED ME
Watson had always believed himself to be a fair man; a good man; a man who played by the rules and then came the day he returned to Baker Street to find Holmes was missing.
A first time story.
Written: November 2013. Word count: 4,590.
I had always believed myself to be a good man; a fair man; a man who played by the rules. Had I, like my dear Holmes, had been a boxing man, I would have said I played by the Queensbury Rules. I was a doctor thus I respected life; I believed I would never deliberately set out to hurt, maim or take the life of another fellow human being. In some ways maybe I was a righteous man; I truly believed I could be no other kind of man; it was who I was. I was bound by my code as a doctor as well as a gentleman. I could do no harm; I would never wish to do harm; I followed the rules - and nothing could happen to make me change the way I was; to make me become a different man.
And then came the day when everything changed; when I realised I could break the rules; I could be less than honourable; I could set out to harm someone, I could even, if I had to, take a life. The day came when right and wrong became blurred for me. The day came which changed my life for ever. The day came when I was given something I hadn't even realised I had been looking for, hoping for, wishing for.
It was a bright, cold February morning and I had no plans to venture out from our rooms in Baker Street. I intended to spend the morning at least in our sitting room where a fire blazed, reading the paper, smoking my pipe, drinking coffee and conversing from time to time with Holmes. However, a telephone call from an old acquaintance - George Featherington - of mine put paid to my plans.
At the time I did not have a practice; I merely acted as Holmes's biographer and assisted him in solving his cases. My not having a practice had been Holmes's suggestion, not mine. His rationale had been that my patients took me away from Baker Street often at times when he needed me by his side to assist him. He, Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective in all of London, in all of Britain, maybe in the entire world, whose brain was bigger than mine, who could deduce things I, even after the years I had spent by his side, still could not work out, had told me he needed me.
I had been deeply gratified and touched by his words, of course I had been. I knew my presence had indeed been beneficial at times, and I felt I did offer something more than merely someone for him to tell his deductions to; I was more than a mere biographer. However, until he said what he had said I had never felt my presence to be of any substantial benefit. Nonetheless, it appeared I had been in error; I was needed; Holmes needed me.
I had not been willing to give up my practice completely. I enjoyed being a doctor and it had taken me some time to build it up; I believed I would miss being a doctor if I ceased to practise at all. Before I parted company with my practice completely, I wanted, I needed, to ensure myself that I could make a life for myself that didn't involve medicine. I had a younger friend, Jonathan Nesbitt, who was a fairly newly qualified doctor and who had just completely a year in a country practice, but was wishing to return to London to be nearer to his elderly mother.
Thus, I made him an offer I knew he would not refuse. For a year he would run my practice as if it was his. At the end of that time if I knew I could give up medicine, he would buy my practice from me. I knew he would not be able to afford to do so immediately, thus, he would pay me a certain amount each month until the day came when the practice would become his. Of course he did not refuse, what sane man would? After all, even if I found at the end of the year I could not give up medicine totally, then he would have a year's experience in a fairly busy London practice to add to his experience in a country practice and would find it relatively easy to find another position - or I might keep him on to assist me.
Featherington was a man some three decades older than me and he didn't trust anyone younger than I to treat him. Indeed, apart from me, he did not actually trust anyone of my own age, but I had saved his son's life in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, and as such he came to trust me. Of course when he rang to say he needed my services as a doctor as an old war wound of his own had flared up and the pain was so great he had not slept for three nights, I could not, of course, refuse to go to him. Nor did I wish to; he was a close acquaintance of mine as well as being my patient.
Thus, I left Holmes reading the papers and smoking a cigarette whilst a cup of coffee grew cold in front of him and hurried out into the bitterly cold February morning to attend to the man who had asked for my help. Holmes had been so engrossed in whatever he was reading that I wasn't all together certain he was aware I had left our rooms. Thus, before I went out into the street to hail a cab, I told Mrs. Hudson I was going out and asked her, should he ask, to tell Holmes I would be back before lunch - or if I realised I wouldn't be, I would ring to let them know.
As it turned out, I didn't get back to Baker Street for lunch. After I had examined Featherington thoroughly, it turned out he also had a very nasty cough which had gone down to his chest and he was struggling to get his breath, as well as suffering severe pain from his leg, and prescribed some strong powders and given him advice as to what he might do to help his cough and chest, he insisted I stay for lunch.
I accepted his invitation and asked if I might use his phone. He said I might and I rang Holmes to tell him I would not be home for lunch. I learnt that indeed it had been a good half an hour after I had gone before he had realised I had left. He had looked up from the paper to ask me a question and had been surprised to find I wasn't there. I assured him I would be home by mid-afternoon and reminded him he should have lunch himself - he does tend to forget such irrelevant things when he is engrossed in something.
Featherington and I enjoyed a good lunch; he has an excellent cook, which was accompanied by a bottle of fine wine. Against my advice he insisted on smoking an after lunch cigar with me, and by the time I had reiterated my advice for his chest it was nearer to four than to three and the evening was beginning to close in.
I took a cab back to Baker Street and was somewhat alarmed to find Mrs. Hudson waiting for me on the front step. "Oh, Dr. Watson, sir," she said, catching my arm. "I'm so glad you're home."
"What is the matter, Mrs. Hudson? Are you unwell?"
She shook her head. "No, sir. It's Mr. Holmes."
"What about him? Well, come along, my good woman, tell me?"
"He's been . . . He's been taken, sir."
"Taken? What are talking about?"
"Three men came here about an hour ago and asked to see Mr. Holmes. I didn't like the looks of them, sir, and I told Mr. Holmes I didn't. I told him he should wait for you to come home before he saw them. But you know what Mr. Holmes is like."
I nodded. "Yes, Mrs. Hudson, I do."
"Well, after they'd been up there for about ten minutes I heard a lot of noise. I was scared, Doctor, but I went up to see if anything was wrong. Mr. Holmes came out of your rooms; two men were holding him, the other was close behind him and he told me he had to go with the men. He told me not to worry, sir. He told me to tell you he had to go out."
"Did he say anything else? Did he maybe give you a clue to where he was being taken? Was he injured? Well, come along, Mrs. Hudson, answer me." Even as I spoke sharply to her, raising my voice as I had never done before, I silently chastised myself and reminded myself I should not talk to her in the way I was doing. It wasn't right; it wasn't proper; it wasn't something I had ever believed I would do.
Clearly my tone had offended her as she draw herself up to her full height and met my gaze. When she spoke her tone was rather cold. "No, Doctor. He didn't say anything else."
"I apologise, Mrs. Hudson," I made myself say; I was sorry, but I didn't really want to waste time, time that could be spent trying to work out to where Holmes had been taken. "It's just that I am concerned about Mr. Holmes."
She nodded and the rather hurt look which had appeared on her face faded. "I know that, sir. But I assure you, if I knew anything I would tell you."
"I know you would, Mrs. Hudson."
"He had been hurt, sir. Mr. Holmes, that is. He had a cut over his eye, his lip was bleeding and he was limping."
I made myself breathe steadily, least Mrs. Hudson believe me to be angry with her again. However, as I stood there trying to decide what I would do next, my thoughts as to what I would do to the men who had taken Holmes, were not the thoughts a doctor should have. They were not the thoughts I believed I would ever have.
"What are you going to do, Dr. Watson?"
"What? I don't know exactly, Mrs. Hudson. However, the first thing I shall do is to up to our rooms, it is possible Mr. Holmes managed to leave some kind of message that will allow me to know to where he had been taken." I nodded to her before I hurried away up the stairs and into our rooms.
I stood in the doorway of the sitting room staring for a moment at the mess - Holmes had clearly put up a fight, but even with his boxing skills, three against one was only ever going to end one way.
I started to put the room back as it should be righting chairs and tables; picking up papers, newspapers, books and everything else that was strewn across the room. As I worked I paid particular attention to whether Holmes had somehow managed to leave me a message or even a hint as to where he was being taken.
However, as I put the final book back on the bookcase before dropping down onto my heels to carefully pick up the pieces of a broken cup, I had to acknowledge the fact that either he had not been able to leave me a message or I had simply failed to understand it. Knowing Holmes as I did I decided it was the former; he simply hadn't been able to leave me a message. Maybe there had been no message to leave; the men who had taken him probably didn't say to where they were going.
I stood in the once again tidy room uncertain as to what I could, what I should, do next. I had to find Holmes and rescue him, of course I did. However, given I had no idea who had abducted him or where he was, I wasn't in a position to begin to search for him. Going out into the cold streets and just walking aimlessly around would not help anyone.
Then I had a thought. I hurried down the stairs and into Mrs. Hudson's kitchen. "Mrs. Hudson!"
She started slightly and turned around. "Yes, Dr. Watson?"
"The men who abducted Mr. Holmes, did they leave in a cab?"
"I didn't see, sir. You see they ordered me to wait at the top of the stairs for five minutes after they'd gone and not to follow them. I wouldn't have done as they told me to, but Mr. Holmes insisted I obey them. I'm sorry, sir."
I put my hand on her shoulder for a moment. "It's all right, Mrs. Hudson, you did the right thing." Clearly Holmes had feared they might harm Mrs. Hudson, hence his instructions that she did as they had told her to do. "I believe they must have taken a cab, they could hardly drag Holmes through the streets, could they?" I wasn't really speaking to Mrs. Hudson, I was merely thinking aloud.
However, she answered me. "No, sir, they couldn't. Someone would have seen them."
I nodded at her and turned on my heel. "I'm going out for a while, Mrs. Hudson."
"Where are you going, sir?"
"To find Mr. Holmes."
"But, sir, you -"
I heard her call after me as I hurried up the stairs and grabbed my overcoat and hat from the sofa where I had left them. I went back down the stairs and out into the bitterly cold street. I needed the Baker Street Irregulars, they would be able to track down the cab driver who had taken Holmes and the other three men to wherever Holmes now was - or at least had been.
I stood in the rapidly darkening street and wondered if finding one or more of the boys who worked for Holmes from time to time would be any easier than tracking down Holmes. Luck, however, seemed to be on my side for once as seemingly out of nowhere Wiggins appeared.
I called to him and he came over to me. "I need your help, Wiggins," I said, putting my hand into my pocket and pulling out two shillings, rather than the usual one Holmes paid them.
"Where's Mr. Holmes?"
"That is what I need you to find out." I quickly told him what little I knew and promised him two guineas (again I was doubling the amount Holmes paid them for a vital clue, but I didn't care; I would happily pay ten times the amount, more if needs be to find Holmes) if he and the rest of his group could find me the cab driver who had taken Holmes and the three men.
"We'll find him, Doctor," he said as he ran off.
Holmes put a lot of faith in his boys and I had no other option but to do the same. I returned to our rooms, knowing there was nothing I could but to wait. I asked Mrs. Hudson to make a pot of tea and then let it grow cold as I paced around the sitting room, smoking one cigarette after another as I stared down into the by now dark street hoping to catch sight of Wiggins.
Two hours went by before a cab pulled up outside and as I squinted down into the darkness I believed I could make out a group of several boys. I grabbed my overcoat, stick and revolver and hurried down the stairs and out into the now freezing street.
Apart from giving them an acknowledging nod, I ignored Wiggins and his boys for a moment and spoke directly to the cab driver. "Did you take four gentlemen from here earlier this afternoon?"
"Yeah, he did," Wiggins said.
The cab driver stared at me. "Who wants to know?"
"Dr. Watson," I said. "Dr. John Watson."
"You're the bloke who helps Mr. Holmes, ain't you?"
I nodded. "Yes."
"Yeah. I took Mr. Holmes and three other blokes from here. Didn't like the look of them."
I pulled out a guinea and handed it to him. "Where did you take them?"
"House in Vicarage Gardens."
"Take me there."
"I'm going with you," Wiggins said, and before I could say anything he had climbed into the cab. "Rest of you go home; I'll find you later."
The boys dispersed and I got into the cab with Wiggins. "I think I should go on my own," I said. Wiggins just stared at me, so I sighed and tapped on the roof of the cab with my stick.
"Wait for us," I said to the cab driver, as Wiggins and I got out of the cab. I had instructed him to stop at the end of the street and tell me which house he had taken Holmes to.
For a moment I thought he might refuse, but he nodded. "Right gov." I imagined he was remembering the guinea I had given him.
Wiggins's eyes adjusted to the lack of any form of lighting far more quickly than mine did and it was he who led the way to the house. It looked just the same as any other house in the street, except not a single light was showing. Was Holmes still inside? Was I about to walk into a trap? If he was inside was he alive?
Well, I wouldn't find answers to my questions by standing outside, I had to go in. I bent down and said quietly to Wiggins. "Now I want you to stand outside and keep watch and if I haven't come out in twenty minutes, I want you to go to Scotland Yard and ask for Inspector Lestrade and tell him what happened and bring him here." I handed him another shilling. "Will you do that, Wiggins?"
He nodded. "How you going to get in?" I stood for a moment; how indeed. Wiggins sighed and pushed past me. A few seconds later he said, "There you go."
I didn't even hesitate, even though I could now add breaking and entering to things I had at one point believed I would never do. Technically of course I had not done the breaking, but I doubted such technicalities mattered to the police.
With my stick held firmly in my left hand and my revolver in my right, I made my way slowly and quietly through the darkened house. One by one I checked the downstairs rooms - all were empty not only of people but also of furniture. I closed the door on the final empty, silent, dust scented room and moved towards the stairs and taking care not to make any noise began to climb them.
I reached the landing and stood for a moment; I thought I heard something - a clock ticking; it was coming from the room on the left. I swallowed hard, gripped my stick even tighter and slowly opened the door. My eyes had adjusted quite well to the dark and I was able to make out the fact that this room wasn't empty. I could see a table and there was something on top of it. Quickly I put my revolver back into my overcoat pocket and struck a match.
I cried out in horror as I saw what was on the table - or rather who. Strapped to the table, bound at the wrists and ankles as well as at the waist and neck was Holmes. His eyes were closed; I hurried nearer to the table, striking another match as the one I held burnt down to my fingers and quickly put my hand on his heart. I breathed a sigh of relief to find it still beat, even if not as it should.
I could still hear the ticking and looked around me. Before I located the clock my gaze fell on a gas lamp and I hurried over to it, hoping it would light; I was willing to risk it being seen in the street. It took me two attempts but finally it lit and I turned back to Holmes.
This time I cried out even louder as I not only saw the clock, but I also saw, positioned over Holmes, a sword, the tip situated right over Holmes's heart. It was rigged up to some complicated mechanism, which one single look told me I could not dissemble. In turn that was rigged to the clock and I knew that when a certain time was reached it would trigger the mechanism and release the sword and Holmes would die.
I turned my attention to the bindings holding his hands and feet and began to try to undo them. However, try as I might I simply could not manage. I didn't know how much time I had left, but some instinct told me it wasn't long. My only alternative was to move the table, but it was affixed to the floor.
Nonetheless, that had to be my only option. Of course moving it might damage Holmes more as a quick examination of him had showed me he had been badly beaten, his pulse was erratic and his breathing not good. Jolting him, as I would do given there was only one way I could move the table, might cause more harm to him - but surely less harm than a sword plunging into his heart.
I gave consideration to calling for Wiggins, but decided that would waste precious seconds. Thus I went as far away from the table as I could get, gathered up all of my strength and ran towards the table, hitting it with my hands and pushing it as I tried to keep my momentum going. I do not know from where the strength came, but as I hit the table, I felt and heard one of the legs come loose from the fastening and the table moved a little.
Once, twice more I repeated my endeavours and two more legs came free and again the table moved. I was about to repeat my actions for a fourth and hopefully final time when the clock struck and I glanced up to see the mechanism begin to work.
"No!" I cried, as I grabbed the table and pulled it around on the single fastening; pulling Holmes from under the sword. The table itself was heavier than anything I had encountered and again I knew not from where I found the strength; I would not have had it under normal circumstances. However, to my relief I found it and a second later the sword plunged downwards its razor sharp tip hitting the floor which it pierced and stood swaying slightly.
Perspiration poured down my face and my heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, my war wound screamed its objection and every part of my body cried out for me to stop and rest. I wiped my forehead with my handkerchief, checked once again that Holmes was still breathing and was about to go out onto the landing and call for Wiggins, I knew I would never free Holmes on my own not now the immediate danger has passed, when I heard running feet on the stairs.
Wiggins pounded up the stairs and into the room. "They're coming," he cried. "Two of them. Big blokes."
"Two, you're sure?"
I didn't hesitate. "Wait here," I ordered, as I pulled out my revolver and hurried out onto the landing. I had the element of surprise and four shots later two bodies lay at the bottom of stairs. Carefully, the gun still held firmly in my hand, I made my way down the stairs and put my hand on their hearts. They were, as I had already been quite certain, dead.
I had not aimed to simply maim. I had aimed to kill. I had taken two lives. I, a doctor, a man who saves lives had taken the lives of two men and had the third man been with them I would have taken his as well. I played by the rules; I always had played by the rules; I was a moral man; a good man; an honest man; a compassionate man; a man who respected life and I had taken two lives.
I stood for a moment and waited for the feelings of disgust of shame of self-loathing of guilt to wash through me. They did not. I waited for nausea to rise in me of for my limbs to begin to shake. Nothing happened. I had killed two men and all I felt was relief and the knowledge that I would, if the circumstances were the same, do it again. I had taken two lives, but in doing so I had saved three.
SOME TIME LATER
Bathed and with his wounds stitched and dressed, Holmes lay in his bed looking up at me. Despite the ferocity with which he had been beaten, I had been relieved to discover none of his injuries were that serious, certainly none of them were life threatening.
I had told him what I had done and he had told me who had abducted him and why. Lestrade had been called and I admitted killing the two men and had offered to go to the Yard with him. However, after hearing the whole story he accepted it as self-defence and said I could wait until the morrow to make a statement and that he wouldn't be arresting me and charging me with murder.
Holmes lifted his hand and held it out to me. I took it and carefully squeezed it between both of mine. "You did all of that?" he said, his voice was somewhat hoarse.
I nodded. "Yes, Holmes. You needed me."
He was silent for several seconds as he went on gazing up at me. Then he extracted his hand from mine, moved a little and turned back the covers. "Come and lie down with me."
I was stunned but not too stunned to realise I wanted to do as he bid me do. I removed my boots and carefully, taking care not to jolt him, got onto the bed and lay down next to him. He turned on his side, wincing just a little, took my hand and pulled it to his mouth and kissed it. I bit my lip to prevent myself from crying aloud as a feeling I never believed I would feel again raced through my body, and I knew what I had known for some time but had never dared to admit it.
He kissed my hand again and said quietly, "I shall always need you, my dear Watson."
In that moment everything changed - or maybe nothing changed. Had we always been heading towards this point? I wasn't certain; I wasn't certain what would happen now whether we would do anything beyond this; whether I even wanted to do anything beyond this. Maybe this would be enough; maybe it wouldn't; only time would tell.
There were only two things I knew for certain. One: I would never leave Holmes's side - at least not by choice. Two: once I had seen Lestrade and made my statement, I would go to my practice and offer to sell it to Nesbitt.
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