THE STORY OF THE FOURTH IRREGULAR

By Bowen

Chapter Twenty-One: Guns Aren’t Toys

It was a stalemate; neither group had the advantage over the other. Lestrade was running out of options and she was running out of time. They had already used up an hour, and Holmes was not getting any better.

The three Irregulars had bunched up in the corner around the newest addition to the group. In their company, Rowland seemed to calm down a little as she signed to Tennyson, asking him questions about his computer and so on.

Wiggins was sitting right beside her, and every now and then she would turn and look up at him as though she wanted to ask him something but wouldn’t. After a while he gave her an encouraging nudge and she signed the question to him.

At which point the first laughter they had heard in two hours erupted from the tiny knot of children. Apparently Rowland had wanted to know if his hair grew or not. Even the hardened Yardie couldn’t help but smile.

Nevertheless, through it all, she could always see Rowland’s eyes, which that pained look never seemed to entirely leave, dart back to her dying friend who was lying in the corner on the cold floor, as if she were afraid that he would give up if she looked away for too long.

Occasionally she would also glance over at Stayword, and in those few seconds that her eyes would linger on him, that look of pure hate would return.

Lestrade could almost feel the time passing. Every second seemed to slip away through her fingers. She turned around again to check on the kids.

They had all taken rather a liking to their silent acquaintance. Rowland seemed to know who they all were before they told her; obviously she and Holmes had done more than talk about Moriarty while locked up together.

When she looked up, she was surprised to see only Wiggins, Deidre and Tennyson together; Rowland was gone. Lestrade nearly had a heart attack when she turned around and found herself face to face with her. Rowland grabbed her sleeve and made a sign like a sideways ‘L’.

"Sorry, my gun isn’t a toy."

Rowland shook her head, and made the sign again, this time pointing it toward the siege on the other side of there rather volatile fort, and then pointed to herself. It took a minute, but Lestrade figured out what Rowland was trying to suggest.

"You want to pretend to give yourself up? As a distraction?"

She nodded her head

"I don’t think so. You could get killed, and I would shoot myself before I’d trust Moriarty."

The girl started to mouthe very slowly, and after a few tries Lestrade managed to decipher yet another sentence.

"You're right, we don’t have much time, or any other plan. But Holmes wouldn’t want you to do it." Usually Lestrade wouldn’t even consider using a kid’s idea, yet this was not a ‘usual’ circumstance to be in even for her.

Rowland just stared.

A plan began to formulate in Lestrade’s mind. She smiled. "Maybe we could do it, but how about with a twist?"


Chapter Twenty Two: A Plan In Action

Moriarty was getting impatient. Tapping his foot, he continued to glare at Fenwick who now had a black eye. He was about to open his mouth to direct an unnecessarily rude comment at his slave when a familiar voice was heard.

"Okay, Moriarty, you win. Here’s the girl."

"I knew you would see the situation in the proper light sooner or later, Inspector."

Rowland was pushed out into the light of the hall as she left the cover of the generator. She had her hand behind her back as she walked up to Moriarty, looking right at that ugly goateed face of his with a confidence and hate which the master criminal could not help but find unnerving.

With a cautious and hungry look in his eyes, he grabbed her by the arm, intending to remove whatever it was she held in her hand -- just as an ionizer was pressed to the small of his back.

He watched as she used her free hand to sign something to him very very slowly. There could be no mistaking her meaning.

"DONT MOVE"

Lestrade poked her head out and when she saw that everything had gone as planned, began to shout commands.

"Okay, everybody out unless you want our little friend to blow your boss to smithereens," she threatened the guards. Moriarty opened his mouth to attempt to gain control of the situation.

"My dear Lestrade-"

"MOVE NOW!"

"I really don’t think that you can blow up a building when you have your only ionizer aimed at me by an overconfident child." "Ah but we don’t, you want to stand up for a minute, Wiggins?" Slowly and carefully Wiggins got to his feet. In his hand he held Watson’s ionizer, which was aimed directly at the open top panel of the generator, the most sensitive part of the whole machine.

Lestrade was really enjoying the look on Moriarty’s face, but she could not afford to dawdle. Watson’s ionizer only had one shot left, possibly two, and her own was starting to feel drained.

Plus they had Holmes to think about. In fact that was the precise reason that Wiggins was ‘threatening’ the generator.

Watson was the only person who could carry the detective for a long period of time (even though he was far from heavy as some people go), and they needed their friend to stick to that task. They had to move as fast as they could.

"Get in line, and no funny business. Fenwick in the front, and Moriarty, you can stay in the back with your charming young friend." The guards, at their employer’s nod, all got in line, Fenwick in front and Moriarty in the back. Rowland still had Lestrade’s ionizer aimed directly at his back. They had given it to her because the Yardie could at least defend herself with martial arts. Whereas if the kid was going to keep Moriarty under control, she needed firepower,

Rowland herself didn’t seem to be at all interested in her surroundings; her eyes never left those of her hostage.

The same thing kept going through her mind. 'This was the man who had stood by while his cronies had beat up her friend, just stood there and watched as though it were some kind of entertainment; and this was the man that had starved them both for two days, and this was the man that had kidnapped her in the first place.'

She jammed the ionizer deeper into his back. She would never sink to his level, but she saw no harm in letting him think she would.

One by one, ‘Team Lestrade’ came out from hiding. Watson was the last to follow. He had picked up Holmes again as gently as he could and was being very careful not to jostle his friend about.

Wiggins would stay behind until Deidre came back to give him the signal. They could not risk losing their advantage over Moriarty until they absolutely had to.

Lestrade had wanted to leave Stayword behind on generator duty, however. Not only was he now so bruised that he could hardly see, but no one felt that he could be trusted to wait for the command from his partner.

He was just too selfish, Deidre had suggested that they leave him behind, but of course as good an idea as it was, he was still a fellow inspector. Besides, Lestrade wanted to see the look on his face when he was put on trial for about fifteen different charges.

"I hope you realize that there is no way you could possibly hold me for any amount of time."

Moriarty’s words brought Lestrade back down to earth.

"Ya, you think what you want, but you're going to be in prison for a long time. Holmes and I’ll see to that."

"You also may think what pleases you, my dear Lestrade; howe- oof."

The ‘oof’ was the result of Rowland jamming Lestrade’s ionizer even further into her charge’s back. That child was turning out to be more trouble then the master criminal had ever thought possible.

They had reached the demolished trapdoor, and feeling around in the corners, Lestrade found a ladder. Watson went up first with Holmes, and then Rowland followed; at which point Moriarty was shoved up next by Lestrade, to be promptly delivered back to the custody of his former prisoner.

Lestrade came up last after the two youngest Irregulars.

"How’s that backup coming, Watson?" she asked him. They had tried to get through to New Scotland Yard before, but for some reason the signal had kept getting blocked.

"Nothing yet. In all likelihood it is the product of the electric output created by the generator. That would explain why none of the guards or Fenwick had wrist communicators; they are quite useless under such conditions.

"I think we need to be outside in order for the signal to reach it’s assigned destination. The interference seems to extend over the entire structure." The compudroid rattled this bit of information off casually, while tightening his grip on his assigned ‘load’.

"All right, MOVE" Lestrade ordered the herd of evildoers out of the building in single file, Moriarty still at the back and being pushed along by his vengeful little sentinel.

Once they were outside the premises of the building, Watson was able to get his signal through.

"They will be here in about two hours, and are informing the local police of our situation; they should be here in about twenty-five minutes."

"That’s more like it! Okay, Deidre, you can go get Wiggins in about twenty minutes -- where is Fenwick?"

Somehow, through all the movement and kerfuffle, Fenwick had managed to slip away without notice.

Watson scanned the area with his free arm. "I am getting a new life reading back in the warehouse, but it is hard to separate because of the interference."

"I’ll go back down to get him. Is there ANY way to let Wiggins know that Fenwick is on the rampage?"

"No. Do hurry, Inspector. He does not have a weapon but he could still hurt the boy." He of course meant Fenwick could hurt Wiggins, not the other preferred way it could be read.

"Don’t worry. And wipe that smirk off your face, clonehead -- no, not you, Watson, this deadbeat," she said, indicating Moriarty with a wave of her hand.

The shocked and hurt look which had appeared on Watson’s face for a moment was quickly replaced by a worried smile. "Do be careful."

And with that, Lestrade made her way back down to the place of evil from whence she had just come.


Chapter Twenty Three: Down Once More

[Okay, I know the POTO references are getting a bit old, but I can’t help myself.]

Lestrade made her way cautiously back down into the underground hallway, being very careful not to catch her uniform on the jagged and scorched metal that now surrounded the enlarged opening.

She could still hear the hammer of the generator pounding away like mad. Then another, more foreboding sound caught her ear -- an electric sounding buzz. She was too late. She ran down the many passages her steps echoing off the metal walls.

As she got closer and closer to her destination, she could hear the faint sound of Fenwick’s harsh raspy breathing and the quick athletic-sounding breaths of Wiggins, barely audible over the constant pulsing and bashing of equipment.

She could tell they were battling over what must be Watson’s ionizer. She turned one last corner and came face to face with the jaundiced visage of the evil Fenwick.

Upon seeing her, he let go of the ionizer, which Wiggins also lost hold of at the sudden loss of force against his grip. In an attempt to catch it in midair he accidentally squeezed the trigger.

"NO!" they all shouted at once.

All three watched in horror as the stray beam of energy collided with the side of the machine, which began to whir in a very menacing fashion, pounding louder and louder, faster and faster.

Smoke began to billow through the air and Lestrade had to cover her face with her hand. Grabbing Wiggins before she lost sight of him in the mounting smog, she ran towards the door, feeling around for the short thin form of Martin Fenwick.

She hit gold, and dragging the half-suffocated minion back down the hall, she managed to get him and the oldest Irregular up the ladder in front of her. Clambering up after them, she leaped onto the floor, hitting her shins on the hard ground just as an explosion racked the whole building.

Grabbing Wiggins, she shoved him, face first, to the ground. She didn’t have time to grab Fenwick, as another explosion rocked the already rusting ground and the ceiling gave way, burying the tiny group,

After about ten minutes of being buried with hands over faces, Lestrade reached her hand up and shoved the piece of metal that had been covering her back, off to the side.

Getting to her feet and wiping the blood away from a fresh cut on her forehead, she pulled her charge up after her. They were both coughing and wheezing, but at least they were alive.

After they had had a moment to catch their breaths, Lestrade decided to voice her rather unenthusiastic-sounding concern.

"Let’s see if we can find Fenwick."

"Ya, I sp’ose we should, even if we do hate his guts."

Lestrade smiled. Yes, even if they did hate his guts they should still try to find him. Oh well. Duty before the pleasure of seeing him convicted and thrown in a cell for the next twenty years.

She felt a tap on the shoulder and looked back at the dusty Wiggins. He had a troubled look on his face.

"Look, I’m sorry about the ionizer. I didn’t mean to squeeze the trigger. I just kind of-"

"It’s okay. It was an accident and it was Fenwick’s fault, and if anyone gets blamed it should be Fenwick or Moriarty, but not you. So don’t feel guilty, okay?"

Wiggins nodded, somewhat relieved of his guilt.

She turned around when she heard a rasping sound, to see a rather blue looking hand reaching through the debris. Lestrade made her way through the knee-deep rubble and pulled, Wiggins got his other side, and together they pulled the dirty bloody Fenwick out into the half light of dawn.

The physical evidence was now destroyed, but they still had Moriarty, Fenwick and their bunch of thugs. They could at least make an argument out of that. They also had Holmes’ condition to back them up; people just don’t go around punching themselves.

And all those guards wouldn’t be there by coincidence. And as an added bonus if they could get Rowland to relate her ‘experience’, they would have the case in the bag. Somehow Lestrade didn’t think it would be very hard to coax it out of her.


Chapter Twenty Four: Oh, Well

Watson went over to the cruiser, and opening it with his key, laid Holmes across the back seat. With his arms now free, he aimed his stunner at the group of criminals. He would have to pay rapt attention if he was to keep what turned out to be seventeen convicts under control.

Watson also took out his handcuffs, and securing a grumbling Moriarty to a convenient metal pipe sticking out of the ground, so that he had to sit down or bend over, he relieved Rowland of her charge.

Deirdre was standing beside Tennyson, who was hovering about two inches off the ground looking worried. The older of the two put her rainbow-nailed hand around his shoulder and hugged him close.

"Don’t worry. Wiggins’ll be all right."

Rowland put her hand on Tennyson’s and squeezed it encouragingly. She glanced over at Stayword; she hated that man like she had never hated anyone else.

Deirdre had her coat back. Watson had not needed it when they had begun to ‘pack up’. It had a few blood stains but they were on the outside of the coat and it was pretty cold outside so she didn’t care.

Rowland stood there with her bare shoulder, trying to warm herself up as best she could.

"You want my coat?"

Rowland shook her head.

"’ay, why don’t you go sit in the cruiser? It's way warmer in there."

Rowland shook her head. She didn’t want to cop out, and leave her new ‘friends’ to do all the work.

"It’s all right; I’ll call you when Inspector Lestrade and Wiggins get back."

Rowland mimed another question. Tennyson was the fastest at understanding her, so he beeped out the message to Deirdre who answered the original asker. Rowland still didn’t understand Tennyson’s form of communication; even back in the warehouse the Irregulars had had to translate.

"Ya, I don’t know why Fenwick looks like that. Just crazy, I guess."

Rowland shrugged. The first time she had seen that man, about 2 hours ago she had wanted to scream. He was just plain creepy, and she couldn’t understand him half the time because of his thick French accent.

She nodded again and made her way over to the car. She got in the front passenger seat and shutting the door, turned around to check on her friend.

Holmes was looking more battered than ever. His breathing was spasmodic and rasping, and he had extensive bruising. She sure hoped Lestrade got back soon; they needed to get him to a hospital as soon as possible.

Suddenly there was a huge BOOM from the direction of the warehouse. She jumped out and joined the two Irregulars in rushing over to the scene of the tragedy. Moriarty was still chained up, and the guards were far enough away that no one got hurt.

But where were Lestrade and Wiggins? Rowland felt her heart plummet into her stomach, but it came up again just as fast.

"HEY! WATSON COULD YOU PLEASE GET OVER HERE!"

It was Lestrade, with Wiggins walking confidently beside her, holding the other arm of a slightly scorched-looking Fenwick. Wiggins’s coat was singed, as was Lestrade’s uniform, but neither seemed to have sustained any kind of injury.

However, there was nothing left of the warehouse -- nothing but a scorched patch of ground where it had once stood.

It was then that the sirens were heard, tons of them. The backup had arrived and was landing on the burnt ground. As they touched down the personnel started to swarm towards them.

Along with a hefty number of medics and officers, which promptly began to set up tents with big red crosses on their fronts. Watson, who had informed them of Holmes's condition, was leading a particularly tired-looking medic in the direction of the cruiser.

Suddenly another BOOM racked the scene, but this one was closer. In fact it was directly in front of the presumably empty fuel pipe that Moriarty had been chained to. The smoke began to lift, revealing a pair of empty handcuffs without even a smudge of blood -- just as one of the cruisers that had come with the barrage of medical staff took off.

Fenwick, who was being held by Lestrade and Wiggins, chose this moment to bite the arm of the former and run for it, grabbing the ladder that was let down by the stolen cruiser, as evil laughter filled the air.


Chapter Twenty Five: Epilogue

Rowland stared glumly at her shoes. She felt terrible: hungry, tired and scared, all rolled into one. Inspector Lestrade and Watson had been gone about an hour now. They had left with a very sullen-looking doctor that seemed to know them fairly well, because he had said their names before the two had seen him.

"Inspector Lestrade," he had said, nodding at them both. "Dr. Watson."

"Well, how is he, Sir Evan?" Lestrade’s eyes had been full of worry, and ‘Sir Evan’ had looked back at her with an expression that said very plainly ‘not here’.

Just those two unspoken words had been enough to reduce Rowland to tears, which she had quickly hidden with her hand before they could streak her dirty face; she of all people knew that talking was nothing to do with sound.

The Irregulars were sitting off in another corner of the waiting room. They all had troubled expressions on their faces that matched hers perfectly, although it was hard to tell with Tennyson because of that bandana that completely covered his mouth and nose.

Perhaps Mr. Holmes never realized how much he meant to so many,

The swinging doors opened again, Lestrade strode into the room; she went straight to the Irregulars and launched into whispered conversation. Rowland didn’t understand. Was this it? Was Lestrade telling them the bad news?

She gripped her seat, looking over at the group again. She saw that they were all nodding; they seemed to be agreeing on something.

But before Rowland could wonder further, or attempt to ask what was going on, Lestrade crossed the room with her characteristic long strides and upon reaching Rowland, bent down on both knees so as to be at eye level to the girl.

"Rowland, would you like to come with me for a minute?" Her tone was kind but sounded very tired. Inspector Stayword had been hospitalized too, so his bruises could be seen to. Maybe they were arresting Rowland for assaulting him? She didn’t care; the idiot had deserved it and she wasn’t the least bit sorry.

She got to her feet, and straightening her torn and bloody shirt as best she could, followed the inspector through the door from which she had just emerged. There were nurses everywhere. All in uniform, doctors were swarming the halls as well but in much smaller numbers. The pair rounded corner after corner until they came right up to what Rowland assumed could only be Inspector Stayword’s room.

Lestrade opened the door very quietly (‘What was she thinking? Why should she be quiet for Stayword? She hated him!’) and nudged Rowland ahead of her through the door.

There, lying propped up in bed on a bunch of pillows, looking almost as good as new, was Sherlock Holmes.

Rowland felt so happy she thought she could do anything, even talk! Forgetting all ‘British’ reserve she ran up and flinging her arms around him gave him a huge hug.

"Oof. Do be careful there, Rowland."

She let go in complete shock.

Holmes had said her name without anyone having told him who it was that was smothering him in this unladylike manner. Stepping back she took stock of his whole appearance.

All the bruises on his face were gone, his wrist didn’t have any bandages, his hair was clean and she could not see any cuts or gashes on his head or face. No blood anywhere. He was under a blanket so she could not tell if his leg was healed as well.

She had never quite comprehended the wonders of modern medicine until now.

But the thing that she noticed above it all, the thing which had startled her, was that Homes was looking at her, straight at her, with that mischievous twinkle in his bright intelligent eyes.

He had a smile on his face too, not an all-out grin, but a secretly humorous expression that said all too plainly that he knew exactly what she was thinking. He answered accordingly. "Yes, apparently it was quite easily fixed." He was talking without difficulty and his breathing spoke of his mended ribs.

Turning around she saw that Watson had joined the inspector at the doorway. Rowland had to resist the reflex to pick up Holmes’s hand, and instead signed to him visually.

"GOOD TO SEE U"

"It is good to finally see you, as well. You do not look at all as I thought you would." He smiled again.

Rowland grinned shyly. At the sound of more footsteps, Holmes looked up from studying his young friends face and beckoned to his Irregulars who had just come in the door. Rowland looked up too.

Talking only to them, Holmes posed the question that would change Rowland’s life forever.

"Are we all agreed?" The group nodded. Even Watson smiled at the ‘in joke’.

However, all Rowland could do was look confused. Were they arresting her?

Holmes turned back to his confused companion.

"Rowland, would you like to be one of my Irregulars?"

She stood there in shocked bliss but then began to sign frantically, as the possible turn of events began to take shape in her mind. With one of his rare laughs Holmes replied.

"Yes, even though you did have a ‘confrontation’ with Inspector Stayword, though I could hardly blame you. And of course we are not about to send you back to your parents; I would sooner trust Moriarty."

She started up again, her hands diving in and out like some systematic dancing tutorial.

"Yes, he will have a great deal of explaining to do; and no doubt he has embarrassed British Intelligence enough to warrant a trial, from what Inspector Lestrade tells me.

"And what your parents don’t know can’t hurt them. We can leave it at that until such a time as it becomes necessary to dredge up the past. There will come a time when the truth should come out."

More signing, but this time Inspector Lestrade and Watson took the liberty of answering.

"It should be easy enough to find you a place to live at a low rent. All we have to do is find you a job; you could work at a school for kids with speech difficulty or something, you’d be great at that," said the inspector.

"Yes, indeed! And until then you can have the spare room at Baker Street. What do you say?" Watson chipped in enthusiastically.

Rowland looked back at Holmes who nodded, and then back at the Irregulars, who erupted into enthusiastic exclamations and beeping.

"Ya, cool."

"Sounds good to me, wha’ do you say?"

"Beep beep beep clock whir."

And with that encouragement, Rowland turned again to her friend and nodded. She would give it a try.

A few minutes later, all four of Holmes’s Irregulars had been led away by Watson to bring them back to Baker Street for dinner, rest and a change of clothes for Rowland. (Deirdre had volunteered some of hers for the use of their newest recruit.)

After all, they had been up for two days straight, not to mention all that waiting at the hospital ever since they had been dropped off by Lestrade and the medics directly after Moriarty’s disappearance. So none of them had eaten for at least seven hours, and in Rowland’s case even more time had elapsed between meals.

Inspector Lestrade sat looking at her colleague. She had never really realized until this moment how frantic she had been to find him, how desperate she had been to get him back, to know that he was safe.

She smiled to herself. Was Sherlock Holmes really ever safe?

"So what are we going to do about Moriarty?" she asked.

"What is there to do, really, Lestrade? Nothing but continue to try and thwart him."

"Ya, I guess so. It was really sweet of you to take her in like that," she hinted with a sly tone in her voice.

"It is no more then she did for me. Besides, it is just until she learns to live on her own. She would hate to be dependent upon anyone for too long, I think."

"Did she ever tell you why she doesn’t speak? I mean, you never told me if she did. And what was all that about her parents?"

"I gave her my word. But I think that if you go to New Scotland Yard and look up the computer file on ‘Rowlands’, you will have some idea of how the matter stands."

"And how are you, Holmes? Ego still intact?" she jested.

"Yes, thank you. I believe I shall make a full recovery." That playful twinkle had returned to his eyes.

"Nice to be able to see again?"

"I must admit that it is something which I shall find very hard to take for granted in future."

"Thanks, Holmes."

"What for?" he inquired, genuinely curious.

"For holding out so long."

"I had a great deal of help," he replied modestly.

"Still, thanks."

And with one last relieved smile in his direction, Lestrade turned and went back down the hall. Holmes’s eyes had said what his words could not.

‘Thank you.’

THE END


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