The Consulting Detective Trilogy Part I: University
"Good heavens, it is hours past curfew. I shall be fined at the very least, probably gated."
"Is your landlady a strict one at keeping your times?"
"Oh, she's a motherly sort and seeing this is my first offense I can probably talk her in to putting me down as returning before twelve, if not before ten. It's the proctors I'm concerned about."
"I've heard they go to bed at midnight."
"I don't believe it."
"Stay here tonight then and square it with your landlady in the morning," Sherlock said. "You can have the sofa. We have an extra blanket. Jonathan will get it for you."
Victor Trevor agreed. He helped Sherlock hobble back to his bed and then he curled up on the sofa in the sitting room. In the morning Jonathan provided both young men with coffee before Trevor scurried off.
One evening Sherlock set them aside when someone knocked
at his door.
"Come in, Mycroft," Sherlock called.
Mycroft entered carrying a wooden box with marble squares
inlaid in the top.
"Would you care for a game?" Mycroft asked.
"You mean: would I care to be beaten?"
"Come now, Sherlock, it has been years since we last played.
Surely your analytic and strategic powers have improved since
"I would hope so. Well, let's set it up," Sherlock said walking
over and sitting in one of the chairs by the small table.
Mycroft set the box on the table and claimed one of the other
chairs. The brothers slid out drawers on either side of the box. They
extracted the chess pieces from the drawers and began setting
them on the board on the top of the box.
"A courier came from London for you last night with a pouch of
files," Sherlock observed as he set pieces on the board.
"Yes. He was sent by my superiors," Mycroft said.
"Is anyone actually your superior, Mycroft?"
"Anyone I have met? No."
"You sent him off again this morning?"
"Yes, with my response," Mycroft said moving his pawn.
The initial plays went swiftly.
"It seems a bit odd that they would have a man travel for the
better part of two days to obtain your response," Sherlock said.
"They value my analysis of the data."
"They must. No one currently in London could do as well?"
"No," Mycroft replied, moving his knight.
"Why didn't they just send a telegram recalling you to London?"
Sherlock said shifting a bishop.
"I explained the circumstances before I left," Mycroft said, as if
his explanation were the final word.
"You are not just a clerk, are you?" Sherlock asked.
"You aren't going to tell me what you really do, are you?"
"I'll figure it out some day," Sherlock said as he studied Mycroft's
"I'm sure you will."
"You are trying to distract me with your queen," Sherlock said.
"Queens are useful for things like that," Mycroft responded.
Sherlock stared at Mycroft trying to plumb the import of that
cryptic remark. Was Mycroft merely talking about chess? Sherlock's
thoughts were broken by another knock at the bedroom door.
Sherrinford entered and pulled up another chair.
"I hope I am not interrupting your game."
"What is troubling you, Sherrinford?" Sherlock asked.
"A disagreement with Father?" Mycroft asked, moving his
Sherrinford shook his head. He had forgotten how well his
brothers could read him. They had delved right to the heart of the
matter even though they had barely glanced up from their chess
"Not precisely. I haven't confronted him about it. Under the
circumstances it doesn't seem appropriate."
"Out with it," Sherlock said as he took Mycroft's final rook.
"I believe that Father no longer trusts me," Sherrinford said.
"Has he said anything to that effect?" Mycroft asked.
"Based on my experience," Sherlock said somewhat bitterly,
"I think if Father did not trust you he would make it abundantly
"I believe Sherlock is correct," Mycroft agreed.
"He seems to want to manage the estate entirely by himself
now," Sherrinford said. "I know that the harvest this year was less
than we had hoped—"
"And you should also know that the harvest yield is affected
by many variables over which you have no control, such as the
weather," Mycroft interrupted.
"Well, yes, but there have been other incidents over the years
that I think have made him doubt my judgment."
"Oh, come now, I think you are being hard on yourself,"
Sherlock said getting up from his chair and hunting for his pipe.
"I am sure that if there had been any mismanagement of the
estate we would have heard of it," Mycroft added.
"I think there must be some other explanation," Sherlock said
as he struck a vesta and held it to the bowl of his pipe.
"Perhaps he is trying to relieve some of the strain on you while
your family is convalescing," Mycroft suggested.
"He may be looking for ways to keep himself busy," Sherlock
said. "He may find the mourning period excessively tedious."
"Do you intend to finish this game?" Mycroft asked Sherlock.
"Yes," Sherlock said and sat back down to stare at the board.
"Or perhaps Father is trying to prove that he is still useful,"
Mycroft said casually moving a piece after Sherlock finally played.
"He has trained you in the running of the estate. You have two sons.
The succession is assured. I have my own career and he has little
hand now in Sherlock's education. You know that he was never a
terribly social person. It was Mother who impressed upon him the
importance of maintaining their social circle, and etiquette now
says that is improper. So what is there left for him to do?"
"And perhaps he is somewhat motivated by guilt for spending
so little time with his own family," Sherlock said moving a bishop.
"He was younger than you are, Sherrinford, when his brother
died and he inherited the estate," Mycroft said. "Mother's death
may have reminded him of the early days of his marriage and how
much he gave up. Perhaps he now sees his younger self in you and
realizes that there is no need for you to make the same sacrifice."
"I hadn't considered any of that," Sherrinford said thoughtfully.
"Tend to your family," Mycroft suggested. "Let him take back
the reins for now. They will be yours in time regardless."
"Yes. I will do that," Sherrinford said. "Thank you. Thank you
both for coming. I don't know if Father appreciates it, but it has
been a great comfort to me."
"Checkmate," Mycroft said.
"Bah. Someday I shall beat you at chess, Mycroft," Sherlock
"Perhaps, my dear boy, perhaps!" Mycroft responded with
chuckle. "But tonight I shall take my win and retire. I shall see you
both in the morning."
George Rowland of Trinity College came in just then carrying two wooden sticks and two bowls or baskets of leather.
"Ever played singlestick, Holmes?" Rowland asked.
"No. I've heard of it. The play is much like the sabre, correct?"
"Yes. It was originally a training sword for the sabre. Some follow the same rules as sabre fencing, but many use broader rules allowing the use of the point as well as a cutting touch. Thigh and mask hits are allowed."
"May I?" Sherlock Holmes asked holding out his hands. Rowland handed him one of the sticks. Sherlock hefted the single stick. It was about an inch in diameter and a yard long.
"Ash?" he asked.
"Yes, and the baskets are buffalo hide," Rowland said.
"I did some training with a sabre a number of years ago. This is much lighter than a fencing sabre," Sherlock said.
Rowland offered one of the baskets. Holmes transferred the stick to his left hand, placed the basket over his right hand and stuck the end of the stick through the hole in the basket so he could grasp it from the inside.
"Want to give it a try?" Rowland said.
"I want to see this," Drake said. He knew the fresher Rowland was obsessed with swordplay and had voiced his frustration with being unable to best Holmes.
Three drubbings later Drake laughed from the side-lines as Rowland conceded.
"It was a clever idea, Rowland, bringing in a weapon that Holmes had probably never used before. But I don't think the weapon matters. Holmes could probably thrash any of us with a teaspoon."
Siger Holmes pulled himself up to his full height and turned back to face Sherlock eye-to-eye. In height and breadth he dwarfed his son. But Sherlock's steel grey eyes met Siger's blue-grey ones steadily: two strong wills locked in silent combat. Siger Holmes knew that this person before him was neither the obedient child, the rebellious youth, nor the shattered young man of only two years before. Yet he was the sum of all of them, and something more.