Journal of Inspector G. Lestrade
Listening to Mr Holmes and Doctor Watson discussing the relationship between Blackwood and Moran, reminded me of something I’d noted earlier. Something in the gesticulatory behaviour of the Baker Street detective bothered me, as if his general demeanour had somehow altered. Thing is, for the life of me, I couldn’t put a finger on what it might be. Then, when the urchin lad arrived to tell Holmes about Mary Watson’s abduction, the boy seemed to be giving Holmes a queer sort of look, as if he weren’t sure what to make of the beady-eyed detective. Course, I knew the lad had run errands for Holmes many times before and must’ve come to know the man quite well (or at least as well as what any urchin would in such circumstances).
Having divested myself of the silly costume and put on my own clothes (which I’d sensibly thought to bring with me), I noticed something else—a distinct rumbling in my tummy.
“If you two don’t mind, I fink I’ll nip down an see if I can rustle up some grub.”
“Good idea,” said Watson, before continuing his conversation with Holmes about some aspect of the case.
Making my way downstairs, I located the back room which doubled as a storeroom and kitchen. The proprietor lounged in an easy chair in the corner but on seeing me, jumped up and gave a small bow.
“Ah, Inspector. Please feel free to help yourself to bread and cheese, or whatever…” He waved a hand at a table at the side of the room, then hurried back through to the shop.
Cutting myself two slabs of bread, I looked around for something to put between them and found my gaze resting on a small figure standing by the window. I presume I hadn’t noticed him due to his slight build and dark clothing.
“Oh. It’s young whatsname, isn’t it?”
“Hopkins, sir,” said the lad. In one hand he held a half-eaten sandwich and in the other a glass of milk. He appeared unwilling to continue eating in front of me.
“Don’t stop on my account—get stuck in.”
The boy gratefully chomped on the meagre meal while I continued with my own provisions. With a slice of Cheddar from a small cupboard that passed for a panty, I completed my preparations and took a bite. Munching thoughtfully, I gazed across at the boy who, in turn, gazed back at me.
It was then that I recalled my earlier observations and decided to quiz the youngster about it.
“You must’ve known those two chaps for a good while, eh?” I said, glancing at the ceiling.
“Suppose Oi must, yeh.”
“Mr Holmes looks funny in his disguise, don’t yer fink?”
The lad grinned for a second then looked sideways at me, a frown creasing his young face.
“You’re one of those proper detectives, ain’t yer, Mr Lestrade?”
“I suppose I am, at that,” said I.
“So, yer must know yer left from yer right, eh?”
Unconsciously, I glanced at my right hand, my fingers still holding the half-chewed sandwich. “I suppose so.”
He went quiet for a moment, so I said, “An I suppose you know your left from your right, too?”
“Course Oi does.” He glanced at each hand, as if thinking about it. “It’s easy for me ter remember, cos Oi wipes me arse wiv me right ‘and—” He reddened slightly and bit his lip. “Scuse me, Inspector. Oi ain’t normally one fer swearin an that.”
“Quite all right, lad. Continue, please.”
“Well, when we was talkin an that, upstairs, Mr ‘Olmes lit that smelly old pipe of his. An of course he always uses those Swan Vesta matches. Doctor Watson uses ‘em too. But that’s the funny fing, yer see? Mr ‘Olmes held the pipe and the matchbox in his right ‘and an struck the match wiv his left ‘and.”
My sandwich dropped to the floor. If I’d been holding a glass of milk, that too, would have cascaded downwards.
The boy blinked. “Did Oi say summat wrong, Inspector?”
“No, lad,” I muttered. “You certainly did not.”
The pair of us fell silent for a moment, my mind racing with possibilities, none of which I could make anything of.
“But Oi suppose,” said the boy, “that using the wrong ‘and might be one of those fings Mr ‘Olmes does, yer know, ter make his brain work better, or summat.”
Knowing Sherlock Holmes as I did, this made perfect sense, but if this were the case, surely Doctor Watson would have made some comment on it, as he often did when Holmes altered some aspect of his behaviour. Thinking back to when the boy was in the upstairs room, I tried to recall what the good doctor had been doing, and more to the point, if he might’ve noticed anything odd.
“Got it,” I said, holding up a finger. “Holmes stood in front of the mirror for a minute or two. If he’d lit his pipe at that precise moment, it would’ve appeared to be with the wrong hand because it would be a reflection.” I clapped my hands together in triumph.
But my conspirator did not agree. “Nah, that weren’t it. Cos the reflection fing did confuse me, an that’s why Oi come down ‘ere ter fink it through before Oi said anyfing, see?”
“You mean, that even looking at him lighting the pipe in the mirror, you say he still used the left hand to strike the match?”
I’d said it before, but it seemed worth saying again. “Bollocks.”