THE PAPER JOURNAL CHRONICLES is a companion piece to my novel, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE ADVENTURE OF THE PAPER JOURNAL. Each chapter is an outtake from the corresponding chapter in the novel, so please read the relevant excerpts from the novel first.
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Harrison Kitteridge asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Copyright © 2016, Harrison Kitteridge.
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Harrison Kitteridge
Cover design copyright Harrison Kitteridge, 2016
Sherlock Holmes was well known among the staff at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and most gave him a wide berth.
That was the word most often used to describe him. Eccentric was another. Impolite, rude, and thoughtless were others. In an edifice crammed with over-weeningly ambitious medical professionals (many of whom very nearly always put their needs, wants and opinions at the head of the queue) Sherlock Holmes had a reputation for being singularly, unforgivably arrogant. It wasn't just that he gave his opinion too freely; it was that those opinions were unwanted. There were unpleasant entries in everyone's Personal Archive Files, but one simply didn't mention them in polite company, and Sherlock Holmes seemed constitutionally incapable of sorting out this basic point of etiquette. But that wasn't the core of the discomfiture he caused, not really.
It was that mind of his, and their inability to follow it.
Sherlock Holmes's infernal cleverness was what really got their backs up. The physicians at Barts (masters of their small universe) were all used to interacting with colleagues whose specialties they were only passingly familiar with, but there was a sense that they could become experts in nearly any area of medical practice as well if they chose to apply themselves. But Holmes's deductions were different. With a glance, just a glance, he could discern nearly everything of importance about a person. When they realised he was not cribbing off some well-hidden or memorised dossier taken from their Personal Archive Files, it seemed like sorcery – a sort of prickly, minimalist clairvoyance made all the more believable by his matter-of-fact, almost throwaway, delivery of his insights. It didn't help that he did nothing to set the mood; he simply plunged them into the freezing waters of his deductions and left them to splutter. The absence of the parlour tricks of obvious charlatans (crystals, rolling eyes, smashed crockery and other dramatics) made it all the more unsettling. His mind moved so quickly that his reasoning was opaque to them, and that was his true transgression – making them wander around in that darkness feeling for the edges of the contours of his thoughts. His mortal sin was making clever people feel stupid.
Had his adeptness been limited to the criminal and forensic sciences, perhaps he would have been better tolerated. But he was also a prodigiously talented organic chemist and an incredibly knowledgeable anatomist. He was as familiar with human physiology as many physicians, and it was clear that had he focussed his particular talents on the study of medicine, he would have been among the best diagnosticians on the planet.
But he chose to become a detective.
A detective. The whole thing was outlandish and preposterous. A parlous waste.
That mind of his... How they coveted it.
These and other thoughts ran through Ian Stamford's mind as he shepherded Dr Pritzker out of the biochemistry labs before things came to blows. He had been watching Sherlock prepare an experiment as they discussed Sherlock's reluctant search for a flatmate. Ian had just posted Sherlock's information to his Personal Archive File to see if he could drum up any leads when Dr Pritzker entered. She was a highly regarded infectious disease specialist whose intelligence and drive seemed to infuse her every motion. She strode across the room to check on an experiment she had left running. She nodded brusquely at Ian and refused to meet Sherlock's eye.
"Still hands-on, I see, Kelly," Ian greeted her warmly.
"I like to keep a close eye on things," she replied. She examined her electrophoresis gels and sighed in frustration, looking ready to smash the apparatus to bits.
"Not what you expected?" Ian inquired.
"No." The single word communicated multitudes.
"It always goes wrong until it goes right," Ian commented sagely. Dr Pritzker managed a small smile at that. She pulled out her Life Management Device, and her eyes' precise movements and blinks navigated her to her Professional Skills Utilisation Sub-File, diving deeper and deeper into the sub-menus until she reached the notes for her experiment. She frowned as she read.
"Something wrong?" Ian asked.
"There are notations here from someone who's not on my team... They're all signed S.H."
Ian looked over at Sherlock, who was suddenly concentrating very hard indeed on preparing the substrate for his experiment.
"Are they helpful?" Ian asked.
"They're nonsense," Dr Pritzker spat out.
"Just because they contradict your view of matters doesn't make them nonsense," Sherlock said coolly as he continued to prepare his Petri dishes.
"It was you, Holmes, wasn't it?" Dr Pritzker looked near apoplexy. "You can't interfere with other people's work like that!"
"I never touched your experiments; I merely perused your work and gave my thoughts." Sherlock's unflappable calm further enraged Dr Pritzker.
"How do you even have access? We're working towards a patent; only members of my team and the Review Board are authorised to access the project!"
That was another sticking point among the staff – all the privileges Sherlock had amassed, his seemingly limitless authorisation to be in places and up to things that should have been closed to him. His disdain for the rules, for the way things were done, won him much ill-favour.
"Read over my notes and peruse the journal articles I cited. I know some of them are rather obscure, but I think you'll find applying some of the methodology from the paper by Carter and Yokohama will very neatly solve your plasmid problem."
Dr Pritzker looked over his dense notes again and found the Carter and Yokohama paper. Ian saw the moment she realised Sherlock was correct and the moment she decided she would be damned straight to hell before she thanked him for his efforts.
"If I need your input, I'll ask for it," Dr Pritzker blustered, embarrassed to have been caught out in front of a colleague.
"I think we can all see that is demonstrably false," Sherlock commented in that infuriating matter-of-fact way of his. He looked up from his experiment and met Dr Pritzker's eye for the first time. "Shouldn't scientists strive for the truth, no matter its source?"
"You're not a scientist!" Dr Pritzker shouted.
Sherlock stared at her. "I found your reasoning, misdirected by incomplete information though it was, rather elegant," he finally proffered. Some slight shift in his demeanour communicated that he had reconsidered his opinion on her intelligence and determined she was no longer worth engaging with. "I won't, as you say, 'interfere' again." He turned back to his experiment, signalling the end of the conversation.
"You arrogant bastard!" Dr Pritzker shouted, taking an aggressive step towards Sherlock.
"Kelly," Ian interrupted sharply. He walked over to her and took her arm, bodily removing her from the room. "I'll see you later, Sherlock," he called over his shoulder. "I hope the experiment goes well." Sherlock hadn't even flinched during the escalation of hostilities; he just kept going through the motions of preparing his materials robotically.
Out in the hallway, Dr Pritzker leaned against the wall, shaking. Her emotional outburst had been out of character, and, as Ian watched her try and fail to gather herself, he put the pieces together. "He's the one who told you about Una," he said. "Everyone knew, but Sherlock is the only one who spoke up about it."
"He destroyed my family." Dr Pritzker was on the verge of tears.
"Una destroyed your family," Ian said gently. He paused. "He thought he was being kind. He thought it was better for you to know."
Dr Pritzker took several deep breaths, slowly bringing herself under control. "How can you stand him?" she asked.
"He tells the truth," Ian said simply. "It's almost lunchtime; why don't we head over to Criterion and grab a drink."
"Day drinking?" Dr Pritzker asked with a small smile.
"It's evening somewhere," Ian said, returning her smile. "Besides, the surgery I came in for has been rescheduled, and you look like you need a pick-me-up."
Dr Pritzker took Ian Stamford up on his offer, but, as they crossed the threshold of the Criterion Bar, her Life Management Device went off.
"You have to go," Ian announced; he knew the drill as well as she did.
"Emergency consult. It's like they've got some sort of radar," she complained. "Kelly Pritzker might have a moment to herself; let's quarantine someone with a common cold and demand a consult."
"Bring you back steak and kidney pie?" Ian asked.
"Cheers," Dr Pritzker called over her shoulder, already bounding out to the street to try and hail a cab.
Ian entered the bar and looked around for a comfortable seat. Across the room, he spotted a familiar profile he couldn't quite place. The man was small – below average height – and there was a frail quality about him. Years spent in hospitals let Ian know he had recently been gravely ill. He was as brown as a nut, but underneath his tan was the sickly pallor of someone whose body had been ravaged by disease. There was also something closed off about him. His gaze was shuttered, and there wasn't the slightest glint of a spark behind his eyes. He was thoroughly cut off from the world, and Ian suddenly found himself thinking of Sherlock, wondering when he would grow tired of never quite fitting in, of rubbing everyone the wrong way, and just give in and move to a remote country cottage and keep bees. The man asked the barkeep to refresh his drink, and, with the added data of his voice, Ian was finally able to identify him.
It was John Watson.
Good Lord, what had happened to him? He thought of the handsome, jovial boy he'd been at medical school then Barts with and was struck dumb by the monumental change in him. The last Ian had heard, John had joined the R.A.M.C. and been deployed to Afghanistan. Something terrible must have happened to him over there, Ian thought, suddenly overwhelmed by a keenly felt sense of shame. He hadn't kept in touch with John; none of them had. They hadn't wanted to think about what it must have been like for him over there. The limitations placed on the Personal Archive Files of the deployed meant that effort had to be exerted to maintain a connection, effort he hadn't been willing to expend.
John shifted a bit in his seat, and for a moment Ian thought he may have seen him, and he very nearly ran out the door. He was frightened of the man wearing John Watson's face, frightened of what he'd seen, of what he'd endured. John, an only child, had lost both his parents to a freak accident during their first year of medical school, and he had borne it amazingly well. He had grieved deeply, but he hadn't allowed it to devastate him or send him off course. Ian remembered being awed by his quiet strength. What terrible events could have brought him so low?
Ashamed of his reticence and determined to make amends, Ian approached his old friend. "John Watson?" he asked.
Those dull eyes looked up at him, and Ian was relieved to see the spark of recognition. "Ian Stamford?" John asked.
The men shook hands warmly and Ian ordered himself a pint. The old friends discussed their lives, Ian avoiding his usual complaints, and John skirting around his health. He was clearly severely depressed, and the way he had to suppress the instinct to jump at any sharp noise indicated likely Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome. Poor thing, Ian thought. He's all alone in the world. No family. No friends. No profession. When John spoke of seeking a flat share, Ian nearly fell off his seat in relief. It wouldn't do for him to remain so isolated. Of course, Sherlock's similar quest crossed his mind, but it would be insanity to send this damaged man to co-habitate with that madman. Or would it?
John Watson had been the most even-tempered man Ian had ever met – calm in a crisis and, more importantly, able to cultivate that sense of serenity in those around him. It had made him an excellent surgeon. But he'd gone too far into himself, got lost in his stoicism. He needed something (or someone) to jolt him out of it. Sherlock may very well be the antidote he needs, Ian thought.
And John may be just what Sherlock needs, Ian mused.
John's kindness was intertwined with a core of steel, and he abhorred injustice in all its forms. He had a particular distaste for those who bullied others for being atypical. He had protected the weaker students – the strange, exceedingly clever ones whom everyone else had disliked. He had almost punched another student through a wall after a particularly nasty prank then taken his punishment without complaint and hadn't felt he was owed anything by the boy he had defended. It had been the right thing to do – that was the sole consideration. He was an honourable man, in a way that hearkened back to a time long past. In hindsight, Ian could see that, for all his amiability, John had long been out of step with the world. He had neither feared nor been enamoured of violence – he employed it competently, as he did the other tools at his disposal, without losing his head. He was quite a paradox: the doctor-soldier, the healer who had been trained to kill. He might just be interesting enough to be a foil for Sherlock, Ian thought. And Sherlock was just the sort of odd duck John had taken under his wing before. Although, unlike the others, Sherlock was no shrinking violet and tended towards chaos and anarchy. But John was drawn to catastrophe – it was why he had chosen trauma surgery as a specialty, why he had joined the army while there was a war on.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: flatmates.
The longer Ian thought about it, the more the madcap idea seemed to make sense. He explained to John that he had a lead on a potential flatmate, but warned that the man was "odd", and, true to form, John leapt to defend him. Ian hid his smile in his pint and agreed to take John to meet Sherlock. He bundled John into a cab and took him to Barts where they found Sherlock still in the labs working on his experiment. For a moment, Ian feared things would run off the rails. Sherlock just couldn't help himself, couldn't find a way to ease into stating his conclusions about people's personal lives. He just punched them right in the face. Ian observed the pulse jumping in John's throat, his clenched fists and the slight tremor in his voice when he challenged Sherlock about how he knew about his background and his injury, and Ian feared a violent reproach. Then Sherlock unleashed a torrent of information, outlining all the minute details he had observed to make his deductions. Ian waited for John's heated remonstrations and braced himself to have to intervene bodily if necessary. But John relaxed and smiled.
That was another thing about John Watson, Ian recalled. He appreciated genius the way lovers of art did the works of the great masters. Watching a brilliant mind at work appealed to his higher emotions. He was elevated, not threatened by it. Ian watched the flush of pleasure spread across Sherlock's cheeks as John expressed his admiration and knew he had made the right decision in bringing the two men together. The brief interaction had already quickened something inside John and taken the sting out of the chill Sherlock usually exuded.
They're already best mates, Ian thought, trying to hide his grin. They just haven't realised it yet.
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Mycroft Holmes had summoned Gertrude Lestrade to discuss the murder of Edwina May Lucas.
Edwina May Lucas, a receptionist at a law office, had been assassinated. Assassinated, not murdered, Lestrade was always sure to emphasise to her team. The precision of the single death blow and the lack of hesitation indicated the work of a professional – a skilled one. But Edwina Lucas had no enemies, possessed no secrets, and hadn't transgressed in any way Lestrade could divine. Yet she had somehow found herself in the crosshairs of an assassin. (Not a murderer, an assassin.)
What was the motive behind the killing?
That was usually the easy part. It almost always came down to injured pride, didn't it? Someone weak trying to prove they were strong. Someone who'd been hurt forging their pain into a weapon. Someone trying to forever silence those who could reveal their true selves to the world. Lestrade had long realised that you could never know what a person was truly capable of until you threatened their self-image – the face they showed the world. Fear of public shaming transformed sane, docile people who'd never put a toe out of line into pitiless destroyers willing to slay anything or anyone who threatened to pull the curtains on their inner lives.
The cover-up was always worse than the crime.
Whom had Edwina Lucas threatened? Whom had she hurt? Why had S.C.A.R.L.E.T. been unable to pick up even a trace of the connection on The Archive?
The case was all dead ends and cold leads. And even that was an overstatement. In truth, there had been nothing to go on from the start. There was something dark and sinister enshrouding the matter and obscuring all paths to resolution.
As Lestrade made her way to Mycroft Holmes's office, she thought back to their first meeting, when he had interviewed her for the position of Chief Interpreter. She had realised she would never make it into the upper echelons of the Met without having to decamp to some godforsaken rural enclave to run a team of half-wits. She hadn't made the right connections, had left too many dead dogs on her colleagues' doorsteps to garner the support she needed to be welcomed into the halls of power.
That was another reason people killed. Because they could. Those were always the hardest cases to crack. The old adage was true: if you want to get away with murder, kill someone to whom you have no connection. Lestrade supposed that's why death in warfare never really counted – the killers and the killed were almost always distant strangers. And that alienation was the core of what made the carnage acceptable.
Was Mycroft Holmes powerful?
Shouldn't a question like that be easy to answer?
Lestrade had first heard of Mycroft Holmes six months earlier. She had foregone the more lucrative privatised side of policing and remained in the pay of the state in the hope that she might one day sit in the Commissioner's chair. But time was a dessicant that had turned her dreams to dust. The longer she went, the slower her climb became, and soon it was too late for her to double back to correct the wrong turns she'd made along the way. She hadn't played the game correctly, and she keenly resented those who had. As she began looking for a position as a consulting detective, she came across an advertisement for The S.C.A.R.L.E.T. Initiative, run through The Archive Liaison Office and supervised by its Chief Technical Officer, the aforementioned Mycroft Holmes.
The Serious Crime Abatement Rubric for Law Enforcement Technology (S.C.A.R.L.E.T.).
The advert had billed the program as "game-changing", and The Archive Liaison Office was looking for "highly motivated C.I.D. veterans" to assist in the beta testing of the program, which claimed to be able to solve crimes. On a daily basis, Lestrade and her colleagues employed software that took much of the load off them, but the programs rarely solved any cases, not really. The determination that a case was closed was always left to the judgement of a human being. The creators of S.C.A.R.L.E.T. claimed their software was different, though. Lestrade hoped so, because, if it was, it would detonate a bomb in the detectives' wing of the police force, and there was a part of her she should have been ashamed of that craved the utter devastation of her soon-to-be-former workplace and colleagues above all else. In addition, if S.C.A.R.L.E.T. could do what was advertised on the tin, it would do for her to be first in the door.
That's not to say Lestrade didn't have her doubts.
She had always thought all computers (even the relatively simple ones) were "intelligent" – just because something wasn't thinking like a human didn't mean it wasn't thinking. But human beings' creativity springs from our irrationality. We do things that don't make sense. Things like rubbing the pigments of the earth onto the walls of caves to make pictures and slaughtering people for practising the wrong religion. And one of the ways the extremes of that irrationality expresses itself is through violent crime. Could elegantly programmed algorithms and logic trees really sort through all that mess?
It hadn't inspired much confidence in Lestrade that S.C.A.R.L.E.T. was the pet project of The Archive Liaison Office (what was it they even did?). Even so, she had applied to be the head of The S.C.A.R.L.E.T. Initiative's Human Interpreter Division in the hope that the change might give her career a lift. "Doesn't them needing human interpreters prove the program is a lemon?" she'd been asked. She had been unable to formulate a response to the perfectly reasonable assertion that if S.C.A.R.L.E.T. could do all it claimed, it should have made people like her redundant. But sheer bloody-mindedness had led Lestrade to ignore her misgivings and placed her in Mycroft Holmes's office all those months ago, sitting under the watchful gaze of his pale eyes. It took all her self-control not to fidget. She wondered if there was something unpleasant caught in her teeth or if any of her clothing was out of place even though she had taken great care with her appearance. Her suit was new and cost a bit more than was prudent, and her makeup was minimal and meticulously applied. Her silver-streaked dark hair had recently been cut, and the lines of the geometric bob were lethally sharp. She knew the style simultaneously complemented her severe features and made her look a bit villainous.
"I see you've not hedged your bets by asking for a secondment," Mycroft had observed.
"No, I haven't," Lestrade had responded.
"That's quite a lot of faith to put into a program so many of your colleagues think is destined to fail rather spectacularly."
"I don't act on faith," Lestrade said. "A.I. in policing is an inevitability. This particular iteration probably won't work, but it will get closer than all the others. Something of value will come out of this. Even if it's something small, me having been here to help shepherd it to fruition will work in my favour in the long run."
"That still doesn't explain why you haven't left one foot in the door at the Met," Mycroft commented.
"It's time for me to move on."
Mycroft examined her closely, and Lestrade got the sense she had passed some sort of test. "Well, we haven't had anyone with your qualifications willing to make a commitment, and I doubt we will, so barring anything unforeseen, the job is yours."
Lestrade had been taken aback. It wasn't just the shock of having been offered the job on the spot; it was the confidence of his decisiveness, his utter dominion. People underestimate him, Lestrade had thought as she watched him manoeuvre his bulk into a more comfortable position. She had put her guard up and kept it up when she realised that was exactly as he wished it. His tranquillity mimicked complacency almost exactly, but anyone who worked with him for any length of time was soon pulled into the ebb of his unrelenting competence. His ideas always won out – not because they were the best, mind you (which they were). Entrenched bureaucracies tend to favour those who fail upwards. Mycroft Holmes's ideas always won because he got you to believe they were your own.
Before Lestrade had even lain eyes on S.C.A.R.L.E.T., she knew it would be a resounding success because Mycroft Holmes willed it to be so. The program churned through unsolved cases and closed them out rapidly, even resolving some that had gone cold decades ago. But it wasn't infallible. And that was where Lestrade and the team of human interpreters she had helped Mycroft Holmes recruit came into play. There were rare cases that S.C.A.R.L.E.T. needed more information to solve, and the human interpreters chased down those leads. S.C.A.R.L.E.T. was their oracle, and they were its devotees.
Nevertheless, the machine sometimes failed despite the best efforts of its human interpreters. The assassination of Edwina May Lucas was one such moment. When she and her team were stumped, Mycroft Holmes's suggestions on how to proceed put them on the right track, but not this time. The matter remained impenetrable. And so he had brought in a pair of fresh eyes – a consultant named Sherlock Holmes.
Lestrade checked the man's Personal Archive File and confirmed her suspicion that he was a relative of Mycroft's – his younger brother to be exact. He was a freelance consulting detective with a patchy history of unimpressive cases. It irritated her that she would have to waste her time showing Mycroft's inept sibling the ropes, but her annoyance was tempered by how much the matter humanised her cold, composed boss. It was a relief to know he had to endure the mundane burden of dealing with shiftless relatives.
Lestrade arrived at Holmes's office and knocked sharply on the door. After a moment, Mycroft called, "Come." Lestrade smoothed her hair and opened the door, striding in confidently. At least she hoped that was the air she exuded. She was always on her back foot with Holmes. He was always well-mannered and civil, but those appraising eyes of his reminded her she was constantly being assessed. Speaking to him gave Lestrade the feeling of taking an oral exam that seemed simple enough on the surface but was riddled with booby-traps, and the consequences of tripping those snares remained frustratingly obscured.
"Lestrade," Mycroft said, beckoning her forward. "Meet my brother, Sherlock, and Dr Watson."
Lestrade greeted the men and took an instant dislike to the brother. He was handsome, if unconventionally so – with those silver eyes and that ridiculous mass of dark curls – but there was no easy charm radiating off him. There was something unforgiving in his countenance, and there was nervous energy emanating off him in waves made Lestrade taste metal on her tongue and set her on edge. He was curt to the point of dismissiveness when he returned her greeting, and Lestrade was scandalised by the lack of respect he showed.
"Don't mind him," Dr Watson said with a smile in his voice as he shook Lestrade's hand. "He's champing at the bit, and he gets a bit of tunnel vision." Mycroft's brother didn't go so far as to seem chagrined, but something in him seemed to quiet.
Lestrade hadn't even noticed the small one, Dr Watson; Sherlock's commanding presence had driven him into the background. But his deft handling of his masterful friend spoke of a quiet strength. I've got to watch that one, Lestrade thought.
Mycroft smiled at Dr Watson and said to Lestrade, "I've given my brother access to S.C.A.R.L.E.T. as a Consulting Human Interpreter. Dr Watson can be listed as a Forensic Science Associate. Show them the interface and take them through the Edwina Lucas file."
"Yes, sir," Lestrade said.
"We'll discuss the N.H.I.s when I return," Mycroft said, gathering his things in preparation to leave.
"Yes, sir," Lestrade replied. "Follow me," she said to her guests.
Lestrade led her charges to the interpreters' bullpen and commandeered an empty desk where she set about educating Sherlock Holmes on the ins and outs of S.C.A.R.L.E.T. He quickly grasped the idiosyncrasies of the interface and proceeded to make quick work of several of the cases marked "Needs Human Interpretation". People underestimate him too, Lestrade thought as she watched him work. It must be a family trait. She quickly added her name to the cases Sherlock solved and updated their files with his deductions. She caught the doctor looking at her chastisingly. She didn't shrug, but it was a near thing – it wasn't as if Sherlock Holmes had a professional ladder to climb, subordinates to cow and superiors to please. She, on the other hand, had to keep her stats up.
They turned their attention to Edwina Lucas's assassination, and Sherlock honed in on a minor detail Lestrade and her team of interpreters had ignored: the pieces of confetti in the missing copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He claimed sorting out the provenance of the confetti was the key to solving the mystery of Edwina Lucas's death. It was an outrageous assertion, and she would have laughed anyone else who had made the suggestion out of the building, but having seen him cut through the N.H.I.s like a warm knife through butter gave Lestrade confidence in his supposition. The unsolvable case didn't seem quite so daunting now that they had taken a step forward.
Lestrade regarded Sherlock covetously. He would be very useful to her, very useful indeed.
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