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Sacred Sword

from the memoirs of John H. Watson. M.D.


That Sherlock Holmes was
sans peer as regards the fine art of deduction is uncontested. That
his exploits sparked the halcyon days of the late-Victorian period
with wonder and excitement is universally accepted. But where, pray
tell, would readers be were it not for that staunch and loyal man of
medicine John H. Watson, M.D.? It was his eye for detail and his
facile pen that gave us the adventures of that most unusual
individual, Sherlock Holmes. Without Watson, Holmes would be but a
dim legend, if indeed that.

The Doctor's passing
severed that final living link with those fascinating years during
which his friend reigned supreme and criminals cringed at the mention
of his name. But Watson left his words, thank heaven.

Here's a toast to that
gentle and patient man who so enriched his generation of readers and
all those that followed: To Watson, noble benefactor of both the
science of criminology throughout the world, and fascinated readers

And one last note: I am
grateful to have been on the spot that harrowing night during the
London Blitz when Cox & Company, banking firm of Charing Cross,
was bombed out of existence. For it was then that the famous dispatch
box containing the priceless unpublished cases came into my hands.

Now . . . back to the
days of derring-do and deduction too.

Back to the mists and
moonlight where it is always 1895.

Frank Thomas Los
Angeles, 1980


In transferring Doctor
Watson's word to the printed page, the author benefited from the
assistance and encouragement of that foremost Holmes scholar and
lecturer, John Bennett Shaw of Santa Fe, New Mexico. And Professor L.
L. Aaronson, Institute of Romance Languages, checked the language of
the period.

Elsie Probasco provided
superior research, and Mona and Frank proofed copy and made workable
suggestions. Thank you Mother and Dad.


Dying Man

It was the evening of
one of those rare days when there was an aura of peace at 221B Baker
Street. Sherlock Holmes, with no case of importance at the moment,
was seated at the desk, pipe in mouth, affixing clippings in one of
his great file volumes. The precipitation that had manifested
itself with pugnacious persistence during the afternoon showed
no signs of abating. Globules of moisture were marching earthward in
endless, serried ranks to be whisked from their vertical descent by
gusts of north wind and fired against our windows like tiny pellets
from a massed battery of celestial air guns.

Holmes, like all true
artists, was highly susceptible to moods and influenced by his
surroundings. I anticipated that the inclemency would foster one of
his dark periods, but his manner had been singularly cheerful during
dinner. True, he had remarked somewhat peevishly that the criminal
classes had displayed a deplorable lack of invention of late, but
this was a familiar complaint uttered more from habit than
conviction. To believe him would be to consider that crime was on the
wane, an obviously false contention when one considered the two
casebooks already filled with Holmes's exploits of the past twelve

I was occupied with the
recording of certain of Holmes's doings—before, as he once
said, "they become churned by the undertow of time." I had
just realized that some notes I required were in my bed stand
upstairs when I heard the sound that my subconscious had been waiting
for. The paste-pot was shoved aside, the file volume was closed, and
Holmes was on his feet. Restless, of course. His footsteps crossed
the room and there was the tap of his pipe against the mantel
dislodging dottle from its bowl.

As I rose and crossed to
the back stairs, I made a silent wager that within two minutes he
would begin his nervous pacing of our quarters, his brain yearning
for facts as other men hungered for food. He would become testy,
resentful of the fact that the finest mind in England was without a
puzzle in which to insert the probe of specialized knowledge.
But then, I thought as I entered my bedchamber, we have been through
this before. The wheels due to spin for genius seldom remain dormant
for long. Events proved me right.

There was the ring of
the ground-floor door and when I descended to our sitting room,
Holmes was on the landing gazing down the seventeen steps leading to
our first-floor chambers.

"Come up, man, by
all means," he called down the stairwell. "Billy,"
he continued in a softer voice, "not a word of this to Mrs.

I found this remark
puzzling until a huge form appeared at our door. That in itself was
not surprising since visitors to Baker Street came in all sizes, but
this one was carrying another man in his arms. As he crossed to
deposit his burden on our couch, I instinctively headed for my
medical bag beside the cane rack. Billy, the pageboy, was on the
landing and he gave Holmes a look of understanding as he closed the

When the large man
retreated from the couch to allow me to inspect the body on it,
Holmes muttered, "Watson, this is Burlington Bertie, an
acquaintance of mine."

I nodded in
acknowledgment—and then my breath was dragged into my lungs, an
involuntary reaction to a grimy shirt soaked with blood. Wound around
the middle of the body was a white silk scarf, which I cut loose.
There were three vicious knife wounds in the man's abdomen and chest.
My stethoscope revealed that his heartbeat was so faint I had trouble
finding it. I looked up at a grim-faced Holmes and the huge man
beside him with that, alas, frequent complaint of my profession.

"The man is dying,
and there is nothing I can do."

"Aye," mouthed
Burlington Bertie. "'Twas me thought 'e'd about had it."

As though to disprove my
diagnosis, the body on the couch twitched slightly and from slack
lips came a sound like an exhalation.

"Holmes . . ."

My friend was beside the
body in a trice.

"Yes," he
said, his steely eyes intent on the prostrate figure.

"They . . . they
found it."

The words were barely
audible and there was a froth of blood in the corners of his mouth.
"Chu . . . it's Chu. . . ."

The colorless lips,
stark against an ebony black face, tried to form more words, but the
effort was too much. Suddenly the face fell to one side and the
features sagged. His eyes had been closed tight as though screwed
against pain, but now they opened as a final signal that the end had

My hands moved
automatically, returning instruments to my valise. Then I gently
closed those staring eyes, as inanimate now as two agate marbles.

In deference to a
departed soul, there was a lengthy silence broken only by the
somewhat stentorian breathing of Bertie standing alongside the
whipcord body of my friend. I used pieces of the long silk sash to
clean up the blood around the wounds in the corpse and then rose to
my feet with a sigh.

"'E went out like a
man," said Burlington Bertie to no one in particular.

"Best tell us about

Holmes's eyes found
mine, and after depositing the bloodstained silk in our wastebasket,
I made for the tantalus and gasogene.

"'Ow 'bout 'im?"
A grimy thumb indicated the body.

"He's not going
anywhere." Holmes crossed to the mantel and extracted shag
from the toe of the famous Persian slipper. "Where did it

"East Hindian
Docks, Guv. I was amblin' along mindin' me business loik always, but
I ain't never been deef. There's this rumpus and some shouts and
then, through the rine, I sees this cove battlin' with three boyos
'oo is definitely tryin' to do 'im in. The odds looks a little
rum and while I'm tellin' meself to keep outa trouble, this 'un 'ere,
the Negro, fetches one rascal a sharp crack and 'e comes stumblin'
back agin me. 'E turns, 'e does, and I sees a flash of metal, so I
coshed 'im alongside the ear and 'e staggers back off the end of the
dock and there's a splash. Another one of these 'ere blokes turns on
me and some'ow me foot gets tangled up wiv 'is and 'e goes down. I
figgers 'e best stay there and I gives 'im a clip wiv me boot and
'e's quiet like. Well, by now I'm kinda gettin' me steam up but the
Negro, 'e swings the third boyo in a sorta arm lock and then lets go
of 'im and 'e flies across the dock and goes off the side. But
there's no splash, just a kinda soggy sound like a glob of suet bein'
thrown against a wall. 'E got mixed up with the pilings, you see, so
it's not to worry 'bout 'im. But this 'ere Negro, 'e ain't in such
good shape as I can readily see, so I pulls off my nuck—"

"Nuck?" I
regretted my involuntary question as I handed Bertie a large glass.
He did not choose to answer but thanked me with a wide smile that
disclosed perfectly formed teeth, startlingly white against his
grimy, stubbled skin. As he drained half the tumbler, Holmes filled
the conversational void.

"The silk scarf
around the man's body was Bertie's, my good Watson. A tool of the
trade, one might say."

"Now, Mr. 'Olmes,
yew knows' I've been straight since you give me that break a mite

"We'll not argue
the point now," replied the sleuth. Despite the situation
of the moment, there was a fleeting spark of humor in his clear,
piercing eyes. "What happened then?"

Holmes accepted a glass
from me, and with a look at the body on the couch, we all drank a
toast. Out of common courtesy I was forced to retrieve Burlington
Bertie's glass for a refill, listening intently as I did so.

"Well, Guv, 'e was
sore 'urt but 'e manages to say your nyme . . .
'e said
loik it's the most important fing in the bleedin' world. So I says I
knows yer and 'e slips me a five-pound note and says there's another
one iffen I take 'im to yer. Well, I figgers I gotta do sumpin' wiv
'im and 'sides, maybe Doctor Watson 'ere can patch 'im up. So I gets
'im to an 'ansom and 'ere we is."

"He said nothing
else on the trip here?"

Burlington Bertie shook
his head. "'Twas all 'e could do to breathe, Guv. Coupla times I
figgers I'd be deliverin' a bleedin' cawpse! I didn't miss by much,
at that."

Holmes thought for a
moment, then his features sharpened with decision. "All
right, Bertie, I'm interested in the men on the dock. The assailants.
One went into the water, you say."

"We can forget
'bout 'im, is me thinkin'. 'E'll surface in the Thames estuary iffen
I reads the currents right. The other ain't no better. They'll 'ave
to pry 'im off that pilin' and that's a fack."

"Then it is the
third man." Holmes crossed to the desk, opening the cash drawer
and extracting a bill. "Here is the other fiver you were
promised. Now get back to the docks. The last of the assailants may
still be there, and I want to know who he is and, especially, who he
works for. It's worth—"

"Never mind, Mr.
'Olmes," Bertie's bull neck swiveled and he looked for a long
moment towards the couch. "Whoever that cove was, 'e put up a
good fight. I figgers I owes 'im somethin'. I'll try and snare that
third bird for yer, and hits on the 'ouse."

The burly man made as
though to depart but was arrested by a gesture from Holmes. The
sleuth took a piece of the newspaper from the end table and wrapped
it around the remnants of the silk scarf, which he retrieved from the

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