THE STORY OF THE FOURTH IRREGULAR

by Bowen

Chapter Thirteen: Uh Oh

Martin Fenwick ran along the hall mumbling to himself. Master was not going to like this at all!

At least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Master had been in that room ‘interrogating’ the dead detective. And if Fenwick hadn’t been passing and decided to check the upper floor surveillance cameras then they would have had no warning at all!

He had been about to sound the alarm when he had turned around and the fat man had not been visible on the computer screen any more.

At first, he thought he had been seeing things, but had deciding to check anyway, swerving the camera to get a view of the whole room, he saw nothing but the open trapdoor to their headquarters!

Panicking, Fenwick had changed views again, this time to the inside of the Yardie’s police cruiser. It had been a stroke of genius on his Master's part to implant that camera in her steering controls.

Sure enough only the three little brats, the droid, and the Yardie were there, all giggling about something he couldn’t hear. He cursed the fact that the cameras didn’t have audio, the reason being that they would have been too large to go unnoticed by the cruiser’s occupants.

Fenwick had been sure they had not been discovered when that Yardie and her little group left. Oh, why had he not noticed that only five out of six had departed?

Rounding another corner, he stopped at a door just opposite from the one Holmes had been escorted out of. Fenwick had to suppress a grin at the thought of the condition his master’s rival had been left in, but his pleasure was short-lived as his fear returned full blast.

After knocking a few times, he heard the gruff yet cultured voice that could only belong to his master say, "Enter." Fenwick walked through the door as if he were walking towards his doom, and, as he reminded himself, he probably was.

"What is it, Fenwick? As you may not have noticed with your limited intelligence, I am rather busy at the moment."

Moriarty had a smug smile on his face, the kind only the pure satisfaction of slowly destroying one's greatest enemy could produce,

"Deed you finish with zee detective, Master?"

"Yes. I may have him in for another ‘session’ tomorrow. He is holding up better then most would, under the circumstances, although I would expect nothing less from the great Sherlock Holmes."

He said the name of his adversary in a tone full of hatred and disgust.

"Master, we must sound zee alert."

The satisfied grin slid off Moriarty’s face like melted wax.

"And why would I want to do that, Fenwick?" His tone was dangerously soft, a sign of impending doom for his lackey.

"Well, Master. I was looking through camera feeds when I found that that fat detective ‘ad not left with zee Yardie and ‘er leetle brats."

Fenwick’s expression was one of utmost fear.

"And what are you suggesting?"

"Well, I found heem; he was locked in the storeroom where we have our entrance."

"And?" You could tell that he already comprehended what had happened.

"Well, Master, I looked back and 'ee was gone. Zee trap door was open."

"AND!" Moriarty yelled.

Fenwick began to speak very quickly

"Well, Master, I checked zee camera in the yardie’s cruiser and 'ee was not there! They were all laughing about something; I think they must have locked him in zat room as a joke."

By this time Moriarty looked about ready to throw his personal slave against the wall, as he had had his cronies do with Holmes a few minutes before.

"Sound the alert. Find him, Fenwick, if you value your miserable life. Find him. I shall not allow my plan to be ruined by your incompetence!"

"Oui, Master."

"The Yardie had better not come back to get him or else...."

He didn’t need to finish. Fenwick was out the door like a shot, yelling at the guards flanking every second doorway to follow him.

The Master was angry, and if Fenwick didn’t find the fat detective soon, it was going to be him in that room, not Holmes.


Chapter Fourteen: ** **** **** Moriarty!

Rowland hugged her knees close to her body. She was sailing on a wave of dizziness and was becoming rather seasick. The salt tears flowing down her face only helped to complete the illusion that she was somewhere on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

As she leaned against the wall of her prison, she tried with all her might to hold them back. She knew her captors must be watching her somehow, and she did not want to give whoever they were the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

Reaching her hand up the back of her shirt, she felt the eight long bumpy scars reaching from her neck down like some evil infection, a mutilation of the otherwise soft flesh of her back.

She couldn’t help it. Bringing her hand back, she screamed into her knees, muffling the sound in the hope that the camera she knew was there, forever watching her every move, wouldn’t pick it up. Why were they doing this to her? They had already taken everything away from her and locked her in this hellhole.

Now they had taken Holmes away! And she would probably never see him again! As if all this weren’t bad enough, that ugly guard was in all likelihood beating him up at this very moment, beating up a defenseless blind man!

Why were they doing this to her friend? She knew that criminals hated him, but what was the object in locking him in here and then taking him away? Why didn’t they just kill him and get it over with?

She wanted to slap herself. How could she even think of such a thing? Holmes was probably dead by now, anyway, and she shouldn’t be wishing more harm on him then he had already endured.

The thought was too much and she burst into the tears that she had been denying herself since she had first been imprisoned here, tears that only the thought that Holmes was near had saved her from.

She was just about to start pulling her hair out in her anger when she heard the door open. By now she had excepted the fact that she was next and that the guard was coming back to end it all. At this point she almost didn’t mind, anything would be better then waiting in this metal freezer wondering if her friend was still alive. She got to her feet, ready to be led away to her death.

However, to her complete astonishment and horror, the guard was dragging an almost unrecognizable Sherlock Holmes into the room. Throwing his charge to the floor with a grunt, he departed.

Holmes landed with a muffled groan, his knees hitting the hard metal as he collapsed, face first, on the ground.

Rowland, who was on the other side of the room, didn’t reach him in time to save him the extra pain of the impact. She ran to him (this was no time for crawling), and pulling him up against the wall, managed to get him into a sitting position without hurting him too much.

She cursed those jerks for not letting her keep her coat, as it was there was nothing she could do to make her friend more comfortable.

It was at that point that she realized she was getting tears all over Holmes’s shirt. Not that it mattered. It was hard to tell he was even wearing one from all the blood and dirt coating it. She felt, however, that she should be more careful not to get him wet.

She was glad she had him sitting, because at that moment he began to cough up blood and had be been lying down he would have choked.

He had another gash on his head, a black eye, another bruise starting on his chin, a cut lip, and a sprained wrist. He also looked like he had some broken ribs and lord knows what other injuries.

The only thing that gave her hope was the fact that he didn’t seem to have any ionizer wounds. At least, she thought, they had spared him that.

She might still be a child but she had seen her fair share of blood in her life on the streets, and was not easily affected by it.

But this was different. This was beyond bloody; this was barbaric and inhumane, not to mention cowardly. She shivered at the thought of Holmes being assaulted by that thug who had brought him back, with no way to defend himself.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a small sound, something like a muffled groan, coming from the battered detective in the corner.

"Is that you, Rowland?" She could see that talking was painful for him; his words came out in short gasps between each loud and shaky breath.

In a worried frenzy, she took up his left hand (the one with the working wrist), trying to sign as fast as she could without hurting him.

"YES"

"Are we... are we in the same cell as before?"

"YES" She made a sound somewhere between a whimper and a sob.

"What is wrong? Are you hurt?" As he said this, Holmes tensed up, as if he thought she might be, and was anxious for her safety. His tone was one of concern as well. She knew that tone; it was the same one Peter used to use when he would ask her how she was doing.

"NO U R" She was beginning to let her anger and worry show in her quick jerky finger movements.

Holmes seemed to calm down after that.

"Yes....listen I need.....I need to tell....you something"

"NOT NOW" pause "U SHOULD TRY TO GET SOME REST".

"No... I... I know who is holding us here."

Rowland was genuinely startled. "WHO"

"Mor.....Moriarty." Had Holmes been able to see, or indeed simply been a more emotional being, he would have jumped at the look of surprise and shock that lay across his companion's features.

"I THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD"

"That is a long... story."

"U CAN TELL ME WHEN U R FEELING BETTER" Nothing, not even the identity of her captor, was more important to her then Holmes’s survival right now. She was not going to lose him, not like she had lost Peter when she had been forced to say goodbye to him forever on the eve of her ‘disappearance’.

She couldn’t help but think that through all that she had lost through this ordeal, she had at least gained one very special thing -- the friendship of this extraordinary individual.

"No." He gripped her hand tightly. "Now... he... knows who you are... he..." Holmes took a deep and painful looking gasp before continuing.

"He is going... to... to use you to black... mail your parents."

Rowland was now more frantic then ever.

"HOW DO U KNOW"

"I surmised... and later... he..........told me."

"WHEN HE BEAT U UP"

"No... well... no, not as such."

"WHAT DOES THAT MEAN"

He didn’t answer.

"HOLMES"

"He just... told... me of his plans... he had the guard that we... have become acquainted with... and several others...... do the work."

Rowland became silent. Holmes was about to ask if she was all right when he heard a ripping sound.

"What... was that?" he questioned, squinting into the surrounding darkness.

"HOLD STILL"

Before he could ask what she intended to do he felt a piece of rough cloth be pressed against his head, and almost yelled from the sudden pain.

"What.....what are you doing.......Rowland? What d.....did you...just rip?"

"MY SHIRT SLEEVE" She had decided to take out her mounting fury at her captor on her clothing, as it would serve a purpose and help Holmes.

"Why... did you do that..... you can... not possi..... bly be overheated." He joked, and then quickly regretted it as he became doubled over in another bloody coughing fit.

"WE NEED TO STOP THE BLEEDING"

It took Holmes a moment to reply as he was still coughing. Once he got his breathing back under control he was able to respond.

"I must agree........with ..........you there.....however" Another gasp. "It would be.....yet another....advantage for................Moriarty........ he could.........separate us.....and then......it would be exceedingly boring in here.............indeed"

"TO HELL WITH MORIARTY" Rowland could see that her friend was rather shocked by her sudden outburst of rude language; however, she ignored his openmouthed expression, and continued to wrap his head in the ripped sleeve as best she could.

Suddenly a huge wave of pounding feet was to be heard in the hall, along with a high pitched cry of "Come weez me! Zees way!" in a French accent.

Rowland could tell from the look on her companion's face that he recognized the voice.

"WHO IS IT"

"Moriarty’s henchman...........Martin.....Fenwick."

"I THINK SOMETHING IS WRONG"

"I would have to.........agree with you."

"WHAT DO U THINK IT IS"

"I have no idea."

"MAYBE YOUR YARDIE HAS FOUND U"

"Us," he insisted, ignoring the ‘your’. ".......And...that could.........very well be ....but........somehow....it seems unlikely."

"WHERE DO U THI-" Her question was cut short by the sound of metal against metal. Someone was trying to open the door to their prison without a key.


Chapter Fifteen: Oh, The Turning Tables

Watson smirked as the cruiser landed. It had taken precisely 2 hours, 26 minutes, and 14 milliseconds for Inspector Lestrade to drive her police cruiser all the way back to the outskirts of new London,

He had been careful to wait until they had done all the searching they could that day, before he had locked Inspector Stayword in that little storeroom. He didn’t want his revenge to inhibit their investigation in any way.

Watson was not spiteful by nature, but that man’s complete disregard for Holmes's safety or welfare had been too much for his sensibilities.

He could tell that Lestrade was also having her fair share of frustration; no one could look on the sweaty pompous features of Inspector John Stayword without feeling somewhat infuriated.

The five of them got out of the cruiser and stretching their legs, alighted to the dusty ground just outside warehouse number forty- seven.

They didn’t have to start from scratch again, because Watson had miraculously remembered where he had ‘last seen’ the inspector and they had been able to fly directly down to this wreck of a building.

It was pitch black outside now, and it was as well that Watson had sensors that were not affected by light differences, because otherwise they would have been in deep zed,

Watson led the way inside, followed by a train of still giggling and beeping Irregulars. Tired as they all were, just the thought of Inspector Stayword’s reaction to being locked in an old building for two hours was enough to start them all snickering again.

"I do believe that I saw him around here somewhere," the compudroid stated, with a look of mock anxiety on his synthetic face.

"It's okay, Watson, take your time. We're already late back anyway." Lestrade didn’t seem that bothered about their time at all.

"Ah yes, now I remember! It was in this store closet; he must have locked himself in."

"Ya, he does tend to do that sort of thing. But I wonder how he managed it when the lock was on the out side?" Inspector Lestrade wondered, with a twinkle in those brown eyes of hers, as she pounded on the door.

"Inspector Stayword, are you in there?"

No answer.

She tried again with the same result. By now even Watson was looking puzzled.

"Perhaps he has fallen asleep."

"Are you sure he’s in there?"

"Yes, quite sure." His countenance was no longer one of jest.

"Stand back, I’m going to break down the door."

"No, really, Inspector, allow me." Watson offered, taking out his spare ionizer and blasting the lock of the outer side of the storeroom. By now, even the Irregulars, who had ceased to giggle (or beep), were looking concerned -- not for Stayword’s safety but for the reputation of their friend.

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ WHAPPPPPPPPP

With one final blast from the ionizer, the toasted door fell open, and had Stayword been inside he would no doubt have been flattened -- an added bonus which would have saved him the cost of a proper fitness program but not very good for the case record.

However to the great bewilderment of all five of his would-be rescuers, Stayword was not there, Watson bent down to scan the corridor leading up to the store closet, and found only the DNA from when he had led the inspector up to his temporary jail -- nothing which might have indicated his method of escape.

"Wait here," Lestrade told the irregulars in a tone that meant "I mean it." Wiggins gripped Deirdre’s hand in his own and put his other one on Tennyson’s head, scruffing up the blonde hair that protruded from under his hearing aids, then stated with a reassuring smile, "Hey, you never know, maybe he got out of there somehow and found something. Maybe he has a clue about where to find Mr. Holmes." He didn’t sound very assured, but as the oldest of the group, he felt it was his duty to comfort his friends.

Lestrade and Watson crept inside, where the former suddenly fell though the floor with a scream, landing awkwardly on her bottom on the icy floor of the level underneath the one Watson and Co. were situated on. The latter looked down concernedly at his partner through the hole.

"OW! Where the zed did that come from?"

"I think we now know how Inspector Stayword vacated this room."

"I’d have to agree, but how did he fit down that hole?"

"To be precise, it appears to be a trapdoor of some sort."

"Thanks, I really needed to know that!"

"You're most welcome, Inspector."

"ARGH!"

Deirdre peeped her head around the doorframe, and stepping across, asked, "Are you guys all right? I ‘erd a scream."

Inspector Lestrade answered huffily, "Ya, I’m fine. I just fell through the floor."

"What did you say yo-"

At that precise moment a clomping could be heard very close to where Lestrade was sitting in a heap. "Come weez me! Zees way!"

The other Irregulars ran, or floated, into the room, Wiggins in the lead. "Is it just me, or was that Fenwick?"

"Beep beep whir."

"Ya, that was Fenwick, all right. I think we should all take a little detour down here," Lestrade yelled up as she slowly got to her feet. "From the sound of things I think our ugly friend might have found Stayword, or at least knows that he’s down here. I got to hand it to you, Watson; you sure know the right moment for a practical joke."

Had Watson been able to see her properly, looking down from the upper level, he would have seen a look of pure determination and hope written across her features -- very similar to that of everyone else, including his own.

They had found Fenwick, and chances were that where Fenwick was Moriarty was also to be found. And where Moriarty was, well, chances were they would have found Holmes and be on their way out of here by this time tomorrow, which by now wasn’t very far away.

And with that happy thought Deirdre, Wiggins and Tennyson all slipped through the trapdoor to join Inspector Lestrade. However, once down, they had to wait for Watson to blast it to a bigger size with his ever useful ionizer so he could fit through without dismantling himself,

Lestrade had been going to insist that ‘the kids’ stay behind, but she knew that this was different, this was personal.

So with all five together again, they started carefully down the brightly lit tunnel towards the sound of Fenwick’s terrified shrieks.


Chapter Sixteen: Fighting Freedom

Stayword slipped around another corner and launched himself behind yet another power conduit. He had seen that guard deposit Holmes in the room closest to him, and he needed to find something to wedge the door open with. Chances were there was no way he could do it with his bare hands.

He could still hear that high pitched crashing noise. He had long ago come to realize that it must be the sound of a generator of some sort, no doubt the one that that woman inspector had made the starting point of... he forced out the thought... their investigation.

Of course, that was only as far as searching the warehouses went. As far as he was concerned the rest of the credit belonged to him.

Stayword felt around behind him until he found a loose piece of metal on the far side of the conduit facing the wall. It was at falling-off point, so it was not a difficult to pull off.

He peeked around the other side of his hiding place and as no one was there, he began to creep out.

At which point he promptly resumed hiding, as a group of guards came swarming around a corner, led by a very ugly little man with the kind of face that could give one nightmares.

The ugly creature was screeching at the top of his lungs in what could only be a French accent for the group to follow him, and this Stayword realized must be the reason that he had encountered no other guards but the one he had seen half-forcing half-carrying Holmes along.

They had all been rounded up to engage in a search for someone, probably him. He gulped.

Once they had passed, he again slipped out from his hiding place and made his way around one more corner -- where he found the room he knew must hold the prisoner, as it had a high security lock on the only door leading into it.

Although luckily for him the door itself was of weak material and could easily be pried open with the piece of metal he had in his hand, he did not really know what he was going to do once he got Holmes out.

All that was important to him right now was showing that woman that he, Stayword, was the greater inspector, and making it clear that he had closed the case, not her.

If the detective could walk, then fine, if not, well... then it was just as well for him to try to find a way to signal Lestrade, and if he couldn’t do that he would just have to come back for Holmes later when he had had a chance to get reinforcements. After all, what could he do? Risk his own safety for that of some battered blind idiot?

He slipped the metal into the slit between door and wall and pushed with all his might. Nothing happened. He tried again and again until finally the door gave way, and he fell on his face inside a dimly lit room very similar to that of his own more temporary imprisonment.

Hauling himself to his feet, he heard noises, and a shaky yet dignified voice said, "It’s all right.......tell me.....what he looks.....looks like."

Stayword looked up expecting to find Holmes (that voice could belong to no one but him) delirious and talking to himself, but instead to his astonishment he found him talking to a young girl, rather dirty, with long black hair and even darker eyes, that seemed to glow with suspicion as she looked at Stayword.

Stayword watched as she took up Holmes' hand and began to run her finger across it. He was silent for a moment, yet his eyes seemed to glow with comprehension and understanding.

"Yes....yes.....I see....."

Stayword stared at them with a puzzled expression. The man had gone insane! Didn’t he understand that they had to get out of here quickly? He was about to interrupt the ‘conversation’ when the detective began to talk to him.

"She wants.......to know who you are.....as do I."

"I am Inspector John Stayword of British Intelligence, Mr. Holmes. And who is she?"

You could tell the girl was unimpressed with his harsh accent and pompous manner.

"Her name is Rowland.........and she is a..........a prisoner here as well."

"All right, come on then."

Holmes shook his head. He seemed to be using the sounds to pinpoint his ‘rescuer’s’ location. "I am afraid that as...............you have no doubt noticed.......a........apart from being blind..........I am also.........also unable to walk."

The girl took up his hand again.

"No, I am afraid that would not work................Fenwick is on the alert and I would only............... slow you down."

Stayword was losing his rather limited patience. "Come on, let's go. We haven’t much time."

"Go with the inspector, Rowland. I will be all right."

More signing.

"No..........When you return to New London.......ask for...... ask for Inspector Elizabeth Lestrade.........she will know where........to find me.......just tell her what you know, she will.........will understand."

They could hear Fenwick and Co. returning.

Stayword was at the end of his tolerance and, grabbing the girl by her shoulder, forced her along in front of him. She tried to get free; but he was not only bigger then she was, his mass was also greater, and so to Rowland’s utter woe he was able to maintain his grip.

He dragged her down the hall until she began to scream -- not words, she didn’t seem able to speak -- just sounds and indistinct moans.

Stayword stuffed his hand over her mouth (at which point she began to try to bite him) and pulled her into a room, where he thought that high-pitched sound would be loud enough to drown her out.

Walking backwards with her in front of him so she wouldn’t try to trip him again, he promptly bashed into something soft, and heard an "OOF" as that something was knocked backward.

It was quickly followed by a familiar, and as far as Stayword was concerned, loathed voice. "I’ve got you, Inspector!"


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