Chapter Thirty-One of "Things that go bump in the Night," a new Sherlock Holmes Baker Street Adventure novel is now posted.
"Things that go bump in the Night"
by John Pirillo
Chapter Thirty One
"Holmes. Sherlock Holmes."
The Lord Chamberlain, an older man approaching his seventies, was half bowed from severe arthritis in his lower back, causing him intermittent pain throughout the day as he had to get up and down frequently because of the constant books he had to handle for the Queen. The Lord Steward was seated in the back of their office, scribbling in a rather large accounting book, continuing his duties of keeping household finances in check and accountable not only to the Queen, but to the Board of Redcloth, which oversaw the management of treasury, the disbursement of funds by the Treasurer and Comptroller.
Tiny red stars adorned the shoulders of both gentlemen, signifying their office, as well as their status within the Queen's household. All within the office of the Board of Redcloth wore such stars, but their had green emeralds in their center, indicating lower status.
The Lord Chamberlain and Lord Steward, being the highest ranking members of Her Majesty's court wore red stars with beautiful gold diamonds in their center. Symbols of wealth and power.
The Lord Steward looked up from his accounting.
"Oh Holmes. So glad you could come so quickly."
The Lord Chamberlain gave Holmes a frown, but said nothing. He never had liked the detective and never made any effort to hide that from Queen or Holmes.
Watson noticed it though and he was deeply offended, for both he and Sherlock had saved the man's life more than once, as well as helped him hide some of his offtask behaviors that might have influenced the Queen's government and her influence.
The Lord Chamberlain turned to the Lord Steward. "I will be attending to the Queen if you need me."
The other nodded, waving his pen as if dismissing him. Obviously, he was the more powerful of the two, even though the Lord Chamberlain preferred to think of himself as the power behind the throne, in reality he was merely a symbol maintained because of the ties between his family and that of the Queen. They had supported her during her overthrow of King Henry the Tyrant, and had thrived since by her courtesy and discretion, despite some rather large indiscretions by the Lord Chamberlain and his more recent kin.
Watson thought over those facts as he was motioned to sit near a warmth hearth where large logs were snapping and crackling as the fires ate at their edges and cores. He glanced at the ornate craftsmanship of the grate protecting the room from cinders and sparks. A series of mytholoical beasts ran up and down the grill bars and were capped by dragons...the symbol of power for the Queen, who claimed her heritage ran back to the time of King Arthur and Merlin.
And probably did as she was the only one who could still remove the Sword from the Stone that Merlin had re-embedded Excalbur within before he went into seclusion once more in his Crystal Caves.
Holmes remained standing. He was trying to work out a cramp in his left leg that had happened during their recent excursion into the mystery they were trying to solve.
The Lord Steward put his pen back into its gilded inkwell, then wiped his hands delicately on a clean napkin set aside for such smearing as occured, slid his paperwork and books to the left, then leaned forward, cupping his chin in the palm of his hands. A curious site for someone so dignified looking, but he had a reputation for being simple in his approach to life and had accrued many friends in the House of the Lords over time by his generous and playful nature.
"Inspector Blackstone has given me a detailed report of your recent mission as you told it to him."
"Then you know what we know." Holmes replied, a look of expectancy on his face which put a lie to his words.
The Lord Steward smiled, then pulled back. He clapped his hands.
A Royal Guardsmen, wearing the royal reds, entered with a tray of steaming coffee and silver cups. He set them down on the table, then exited.
The Lord Steward looked up.
Holmes sat down and nodded.
Watson nodded as well.
"I shall endeavor to enlighten you as to what I find might be of further interest to the two of you gentlemen." The Lord Steward said as he poured a cup for each.
"I assume you still like sugar and creme, Doctor."
"Black." Holmes added.
"But of course." The Lord Steward said with a smile, handing over the cup with just black coffee to Holmes.
Holmes took a sip. He nodded. Perfect temperature.
The Lord Steward grew the hint of a smile. "One perk of our station is that we get the best coffee, though sometimes we have to war against a nation to get a fresh supply."
"A joke, of course." Watson said with a grin, sipping at his coffee as well.
"Not really." The Lord Stewards replied.
"Aren't you having any coffee?" Watson asked.
The Lord Steward replied by cupping his hands beneath his chin again. "Got to keep the mind sharp. I don't handle coffee very well this time of night."
Holmes finished his coffee as Watson nursed his, his eyes thoughtful. Something was in the air, but he couldn't figure out what.
"Rather unusual for you and the Chamberlain to both be up at this hour." Holmes mused.
"I want to show the two of you something that the Queen has made me newly aware of. Hopefully, this will be of some assistance to you in your hunt for the mastermind of the terrors unleashed on our fair city."
"Indeed." Holmes agreed.
Watson finished his coffee hurriedly and stood to join Holmes as the Lord Steward rose and Holmes as well.
The Lord Steward went towards the back wall and pressed a palm against the chin of a picture of Queen Mary of Scots. "Rather lovely woman, don't you think?" He asked with amusement.
Watson was about to reply when the picture made a grinding sound and the entire back wall began to slide upwards, revealing a broad staircase that spiraled downwards. On Watson's shocked look he smiled. "Really, you didn't know about this secret passageway?"
Holmes said nothing, but Watson shook his head.
The Lord Steward went to the steps and began descending. They followed.
As they did automatic Tesla lights began to light up, brightening their descent.
"Tesla installed these this last Hallow's Eve for the Queen after she stumbled and fell making her way down the night before."
Watson caught up. "That would explain why she never stood during the ceremonies that night. She usually does and joins in the festivities."
Holmes nodded. "She pulled the ligaments on the menascus as well as tibia I assume."
Watson looked at Holmes. "How could you possibly know that without examining her?"
"For one." Holmes said as they passed a chamber with guards at attention, who saluted the Lord Steward as he passed. "When she sat down she favored her left side. When she stood to leave, she favored her right and leaned a bit backwards, indicating some kind of damage to those areas. It's typical physical compensation for such things."
Watson shook his head. "You've been reading my medical books again, haven't you?"
"It helps pass the night when I can't sleep." Holmes agreed.
"Ah, here we are." The Lord Steward said, stopping before a landing where a single large door with a golden series of bolts kept it shut.
He went to the bolts and began sliding them open. Upon the opening of the last one, he stood back and the door opened outwards.
As it did the inner room it up brightly, revealing something totally unexpected by Holmes and Watson.
Watson was the first to speak. "Bloody Hell!"
Holmes said nothing. What he saw was something unspeakable and should never have a word uttered about it. The hairs on the back of his neck began to slowly rise as he absorbed the terror of what all three men stared at.