It was a listlessly hot day in July. The weather had succeeded in
imposing a languid lethargy on the sprawling mass of New London, doing
what few things in history had managed -- sapping the energy out of
the city. Those who could afford it headed out of town in search of
cooler climates; those who couldnít tried to find some other way of
combating the heat. Many headed for the various bars, cinemas, cafes,
leisure centres and other climate-controlled areas that the city had
to offer. Some simply followed the shade of the buildings and
occasional tree in a forgotten green space. All was still and tired in
one long, lazy summer day.
The surprisingly seasonal weather had also succeeded in producing
another minor miracle in the New London Police Headquarters; Sherlock
Holmes was catching up on his paperwork. In the tiny modular space
that had been temporarily assigned to the dead detective, Holmes and
Watson the compudroid attempted to wade through the months of
backlogged paperwork. If it had just been a case of filling in the
appropriate documents on the computer screen, this might not have seemed
so bad, but the centuries had not diminished the great consulting
detective's old habit of hoarding reminders from his past cases. The
tiny space was even smaller, crammed with odd scraps of paper and
assorted curios, as the two friends attempted to wrestle it into some sort
of order. The fact that they had to forego the air-conditioning because
it upset the pile wasnít helping either of them, Watson was afraid
another thirty minutes or so and he would begin to overheat.
"This reminds me of the time you told me of the Misgrave Ritual
Holmes," said Watson, as they finished another case and consigned the
documents to the shredder. "Though I doubt the room was in such a
state even then."
Holmes was almost ankle deep in paper. Watsonís size made it almost
impossible for the droid to move in the tiny room, so Watson had been
left to input the data into the central computer while Holmes had no
choice but to wade through the mountain of junk for the relevant
"I really donít know how Lestrade operates with all this
bureaucracy," muttered Holmes as he pulled a tiny piece of bent metal
from a box and handed it to the droid. "It seems for every case weíve
solved there are thirty documents to complete and cross-reference."
"Lestrade keeps up to date with her filing daily, Holmes," chided
Watson gently as he scanned and downloaded an image of the wire before
dropping it into a labelled evidence bag. "She doesnít let it build up
until she canít move. Where is our friend, anyway, this morning, Holmes?
I havenít seen her since she went to answer the phone."
Holmes wiped the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief and reached
down into the next paper stack. "It seems she had an urgent appointment with
Watson stopped typing, his brow furrowing in concern. "Oh, my. I hope
sheís not in any trouble!"
"Lestrade is rarely not in trouble, my dear Watson, but it does seem
rather early in the day for a lecture from him upstairs. Mind you..."
said Holmes, retrieving another sheet of crumpled paper from the floor,
"...at the moment I would happily trade places. Even a dressing down
by Greyson seems preferable to this administrative equivalent of the
At that particular moment, Holmes was not the only one who would
have happily switched places. Beth Lestrade stood patiently outside
Chief Inspector Greysonís office, trying not to look nervous, seeking a
sense of righteous indignation for whatever she was about to be
shouted at for. It would have helped if she could figure out what it
was she had done. She mused despondently that she was sure to find out
soon. Greyson could never keep her waiting out here long when he was
in a temper; he might explode, for a start.
Eventually the speaker outside the office cackled to life.
"Detective Inspector Lestrade, in here....please." For a full
second Lestrade didnít move. Those was the gruff tones of her
superiorís voice, and it did sound full of barely concealed rage, but
Greyson had never bothered with titles and wouldnít have said please
if he had a gun to his head. Almost wishing she had bought her gun,
and with considerable curiosity outweighing her sense of caution,
she opened the door.
Chief Inspector Greyson stood uncomfortably to one side of the
large plastimix desk and waited until Lestrade closed the door before
looking round. He looked like he was either about to explode, or sink
to his knees sobbing. His eyes quivered with a multitude of emotions.
Beth had almost opened her mouth to speak before she noticed the other
man. Greysonís overstuffed chair faced the window, its large back
turned toward Lestrade. As the door clicked shut the chair swung round,
revealing a ferret-like man with an overly large head, and a tiny
moustache fighting to get a toehold on his upper lip. Greyson
regained a little composure as Lestrade looked from one man to the
"Commander Howsett, this is Detective Inspector Lestrade. Lestrade,
this is Commander Howsett from the law council. He has an assignment
Lestrade decided it was anger; Greysonís voice sounded like
he was swallowing gravel. She also decided she did not like the way
Commander Howsett was trying to smile at her, baring all his teeth
with the faintest twitch of an upturn at the corners of his mouth.
"Ah, Detective Inspector Lestrade. I have been told so much about
you....and your partner Mr Holmes, of course, remarkable man....I have
even heard rumours of a droid that believes it is Doctor Watson. Quite
mad of course, but amusing none the less." As if to prove his point he
gave a small humourless chuckle that made Bethís teeth attempt to
stand on edge.
"There is such a droid, Commander, licensed to Lestrade, and I
"That will do, Chief Inspector." Greyson clamped his mouth shut with
a sharp click; his eyes bulged. Howsett ignored him.
"Chief Inspector Greyson and I have been discussing your record.
"Yes, sir." Lestrade almost relaxed a little.
"Tell me, exactly how many times have you been called up before the
disciplinary board now."
Lestrade stiffened. "Thirty-six, last count, sir."
"As I said, remarkable. And so young as well." The man tapped at a
hidden computer screen on the desk, his eyes gleaming slightly in
Greyson tried again. "Lestrade has also been commended for her actions
no less than...."
"Thatís enough, Greyson." Howsett tapped off the screen and steepled
his hands turning his watery gaze to meet her.
"Your Chief Inspector seems to have a very high opinion of you. In
fact when he heard I had come from the law council, one of the only
bodies in the this country that can immediately strip an officer or
rank, benefits and job, he went out of his way to tell me what a
dedicated and commendable officer you were. This was, I might point out,
quite before he found out what I was actually here for."
Lestrade felt herself begin to grind her teeth; the man was getting
to her. She tried to regain control of the situation.
"What exactly are you here for, sir?"
Howsett laughed again. "Why, to find a suitable officer to show a
foreign official our fair city. He arrives in three hours at Gatwick."
Bethís head reeled. For a moment she had thought the task would be
something profoundly horrible; babysitting a tourist didnít seem so bad.
"The officerís name is Detective Davis. Hereís his file." Lestrade
heard her handheld beep as he transmitted the data. She flipped it
open and staggered. Cold dead eyes stared out at her from the screen,
attached to a face that belonged firmly in a Frankenstein movie. A
mechamide. Howsett continued.
"As you may or may not be aware, there is a conference on
biomechanical issues looming next week -- the press has been full of
little else for a month now -- being held right here in London. As a
result certain....representatives....are travelling to the UK to make
their case. There will be a week of some cross-cultural events: Bio
Mec Gladiators, Mec Strongman and other various activities -- and the
vote will be decided on Thursday. Mr Davis is coming to represent the
law enforcement division of America and will need some....how shall we
say....overseeing to make sure there is no trouble."
"You mean no repeat of last time, the Liverpool Street Riots."
Lestrade saw Greyson flinch this time, she knew he still walked with a
slight limp from the fighting.
Lestrade drew a deep breath. "I donít think Iím suitable for the job, sir!"
Howsett flexed his long bony fingers and raised a single thin eyebrow.
"Oh, and whyís that, pray?"
"I donít like mechamides, sir."
He smiled. It was not a nice smile.
"This is a joke, Greyson," the man said in a quiet voice. "Youíve
put this officer up to this." Lestradeís eyes flicked to Greyson for a
moment and darted back. The Inspector stared at the wall behind her.
His hands were clenched in tight fists at his hips and she swore she
could actually hear him grinding his teeth together in either rage or
frustration. It took a moment for her to realise she was not the focus
of it this time; it seemed she had not been the only one chewed up and
spat out today.
"Lestrade has a right to express her opinion if she feels...."
"....QUIET." The sound made both of them jump, Howsettís face was
going red with fury. He turned his back on Lestrade.
"She is a police officer, Greyson. She will do as she is told, or
there will be consequences. Demotion, for one thing, to constable, until
she learns to obey orders. And a mere constable doesnít need a
compudroid assistant, I could order the droid seized."
"Its memory wiped clean and reprogrammed...."
"I said NO!" Lestrade tried not to shake, it was one thing to
threaten her and her career, it was quite another to threaten a
defenceless droid. Howsett slowly rolled his chair back round to face
her, his lifeless eyes once more locked on hers.
"Then give me a reason not to, Inspector."
"Fine. Iíll babysit the Halflife." Beth turned on her heel and
stalked out of the room, not waiting for another word, not waiting to
look at Howsett -- the thin smile once more on his lips as the door
glided shut behind her.
TO BE CONTINUED