Prompt from BookRookie12: Midnight.
Also answers an unanswered prompt from a previous year: What happened to Mr Hudson?
Many, many thanks to Hades, for setting this challenge up...this chapter is dedicated to her.
Wishing everyone a peaceful and a happy new year:-)
A/N: All words are part of the poem...
Mrs Hudson: most gracious of landladies; queen of upstairs and downstairs,
Her tenants: Detective and Doctor (the reason she now has so many grey hairs),
Arthur and Alice, the newest Irregulars, small scruffy dog at their side,
Lestrade, ferret-faced, and young Hopkins, his sidekick; a boyish moustache worn with pride,
Mycroft: quite pompous and vain on the surface, fond brotherly feelings concealed,
An unnamed mysterious gaolbird is next, identity not yet revealed,
Assorted Irregulars, Yarders and Henchmen, two rodents, then last but not least...
The friend and the spouse of the landlady mentioned, (small spoiler...they're somewhat deceased)
Is the Baker Street kitchen in chaos, spilled foodstuffs, smashed china and more;
Glass shards tell the tale of a breaking and entry, with footprints in mud on the floor
Which trail through the door to the landlady's bedroom, the scene of a struggle (off stage)
As in strides the Greatest Consulting Detective, his voice fairly trembling with rage.
The loyal physician is two steps behind him, as shocked and alarmed as his friend;
Concerned for his landlady's health and wellbeing and perhaps her unthinkable end.
Holmes—Watson! I fear there has been an abduction!
Our dear Mrs Hudson has gone!
And here is a letter addressed to us both,
And her glove it was resting upon.
I will study the typing, the envelope markings,
The brand of adhesive, the seal,
Then open the letter with painstaking care,
And digest what the contents reveal.
Dr Watson— ( frustrated, takes hold of the missive)
We don't have all day to deduce;
Let us read what they say,
Then by all means dear Holmes,
Put your excellent skills to good use.
Holmes frowns, then a shrug of concession as Watson slits open the note with swift care
His forehead quite furrowed, he unfolds the letter, and Holmes reads aloud the words there...
Holmes:—*If you're reading this message
I'm certain you know Mrs Hudson is mine.
And terrible, horrible things will befall her,
If anyone steps out of line.
My aim is quite simple,
I wish to recover my share of the treasure, my due
And all I require is the right information...
And I will return her to you.
Some papers were filched by the late Mr Hudson,
That villain reneged on a pact.
Return them to me and I'll send back the lady,
With all of her digits intact.
You have until Wednesday, that's forty eight hours,
Till twelve chimes at midnight have struck
Delay it by even a second
And dear Mrs Hudson will run out of luck.
No tricks, no deception; you know I'll be watching,
I'm sure you are up to the task.
According to all I have read in The Strand,
There is no better person to ask.
Inform me of progress, send word through the Times,
I expect you'll be meekly compliant
Regards (from a hidden location of course)
Your rather verbose and worst client.*
A silence, quite dense and subdued has descended, pervading the wrecked, shattered room
As Watson looks up from the ominous scribble, his features now heavy with gloom.
Dr Watson—we face an impossible case...
It is years since those papers were lost!
Holmes— ( fingers steepled) But if we don't try,
Mrs Hudson will bear the full cost!
Holmes picks up the letter to study more closely, and stares at the prints on the floor
Doctor Watson reflects on his landlady's fate, and imagines what might lie in store...
Holmes—(frowning, a terrible thought has occurred)
Dear fellow, this does not make sense;
We know Mr Hudson and sidekick are dead,
Have met with their Maker, past tense.
His sidekick's young daughter's in prison, you know;
We first spoiled her plans at that wedding...
A knock, then Lestrade and young Hopkins barge in; conveying the news Holmes was dreading...
Lestrade—You should know, that despite heavy guard...
There has been an escape from the jail.
A lady of mutual acquaintance has fled,
We are trying to pick up her trail.
We know that she strongly dislikes Mrs Hudson,
Has wished her a horrible fate.
Perhaps you should warn her of...
Holmes— ( interrupting) I am sorry to say, you're too late!
Set in a tumbledown warehouse, a figure sits bound and forlorn
Bewildered and bruised by the turn of events, with her apron quite tattered and torn
She pins all her hopes on her untidy tenants, they've tackled such scrapes in the past
But will this remarkably difficult case turn out to be Sherlock Holmes' last?
Twelve hours later, their landlady's parlour,, with tea cups and papers stacked high,
All possibly relevant items are studied, as each vital minute ticks by.
Holmes is curled up in a pink-patterned armchair, and wreathed in a cloud of grey smoke.
Watson is making a note of his comments, a calm and meticulous bloke.
Lestrade and young Hopkins are reading the papers, an unspoken hint of despair.
A scuffle, a scratching sound down by the wainscot, Lestrade can't believe what is there
A small but quite angular smartly dressed rodent, his friend in a dapper brown suit,
Gaze up at the startled inspector and wave, they are barely as tall as his boot.
Holmes spots them, exclaims, and leans down to their level, it's clear they have something to say...
Basil—: We heard of the dreadful abduction.
We'd like to help out if we may.
You may not recall, we have lived here much longer,
Than you, Mister Holmes, that's a fact;
And we witnessed a scene, which we now understand
Was the late Mr Hudson's last act.
A clang from the kitchen, much later, a gunshot,
Then thuds, something hard hit the ground;
Then footsteps receding, a man who was limping;
A dragging and shuffling sound...
Some further shots heard,
Then your dear Mrs Hudson returning,, her horrified cry;
We could not check further, two cats were out prowling;
We had to stay hidden...or die...
Some seconds passed by as four men and two rodents considered the tale of the mouse;
If bad Mr Hudson, had died in this building, the papers were still in the house
But not in this parlour, nor under the floorboards, the mice would have seen them before...
Holmes: Leave all these papers, let's head for the kitchen,
That carefully polished tiled floor!
In the kitchen, which looks like a bull has run through it, and smashed every tile,
A bundle of papers, retrieved, bringing hope to four desperate men, a brief smile.
Holmes—I have written a coded reply
Which young Arthur can take to The Times;
Then Wiggins can marshal the rest of the urchins,
To track down this mistress of crimes.
Arthur's despatched to the newspaper office, with Alice and small scruffy hound
As Yarders and eager Irregulars move, there is dear Mrs H to be found...
Dr Watson—there's one further task on your list,
Holmes, we must summon your brother;
Mycroft will help,
He enjoys Mrs Hudson's mince pies and fruit tarts like no other!
Is of course near a tumbledown warehouse, in shockingly bad disrepair
Surrounded by equally tumbledown buildings which give it a sinister air.
A cryptic reply in a housekeeping column, deciphered with Holmesian skill;
A message to meet at a certain location, devoid of glad tidings, good will.
As per strict instructions, just Watson and Holmes are to meet for the "package" exchange;
Mad Elsie is ready and waiting, impatient to test out her new weapons range.
Masked henchmen have just been recruited as back up, their advert had caught her keen eye...
Mad Elsie—It's seventh time lucky for me.
I won't let my plans go awry!
She looks at her helpless and tightly bound captive, there's time for another small gloat...
Mad Elsie—My dear Mrs Hudson, I'm winning!
Success brings a lump to my throat.
I've plotted and plotted and plotted in prison,
Checked every conceivable flaw;
And once I've disposed of this thorn in my side,
I shall flee to a sunnier shore!
She sweeps from the room with a twirl and a laugh, which doesn't precisely sound sane;
And leaves Mrs Hudson alone with her thoughts, and a soft tapping sound from the drain
She watches in wonder, two figures appear, both filthy; one thin and one stout...
Dr Dawson—Thank heavens we've found you at last!
One moment, we'll help you get out...
With the aid of a shard from a razor, some twine and, two pairs of quite tiny sharp teeth;
Mrs Hudson is gently released from her bindings, sits down on the floorboards beneath.
And winces and stretches her cramped, stiffened muscles, and grins at her brave little friends...
Mrs H—I believe there is work to be done,
Before this whole enterprise ends...
Outside, the pale moonbeams show Holmes next to Watson, a package held high in one hand;
Alert for the sound of the click of a rifle, the flash of a blade, a last stand...
Holmes—Here is your package, release Mrs Hudson,
And let her move out of harms way.
We know you're still seeking revenge for your father,
Forgetting that crime does not pay.
Mad Elsie_ (with masked, yet familiar henchmen)
You won't get her back, she is mine!
It's time to dispose of my stubborn opponents,
Revenge served so cold is divine!
She raises her pistol, her henchmen raise theirs, but aim them at Elsie instead;
Behind her, the touch of cold steel is apparent, and pressed to the back of her head.
Mrs H—( It is she, who has crept from the shadows)
Mad Elsie, you really should know,
That villains don't advertise skills in the Times,
A shame they bamboozled you so.
Those masks, I can tell Doctor Watson's fine stitching,
Black silk has a wonderful sheen.
She smiles at the Yarders, unmasked and triumphant, Mad Elsie held firmly between.
Mad Elsie—(Indignant at such a deception)
I really don't know which is worse!
A smug Mrs Hudson, or two sneering Yarders.
Just give me a moment to curse!
An incredulous wail, as she spots, on the pavement, two cheerful and filthy small mice...
Mad Elsie—I'll never give up, just you wait!
You will all pay a terrible price!
A clatter on cobbles as Mycroft arrives, in a carriage well-locked, and well-barred.
Mad Elsie sighs once, then is led to the steps, cuffed in derbies, by men of the Yard.
She turns to the team with a pitiful gaze...
Mad Elsie—One final request...
Before I am led to a cold prison cell,
Alone, badly fed, badly dressed;
Can I please see the papers my father wrote out,
The treasure I sought for so long;
A kind of debriefing, I am anxious to know,
Just where my adventure went wrong.
Holmes nodded, unrolling the papers face up; Mad Elsie's expression is frozen...
Oh, irony; harsh and dramatic, the treasure map led to the warehouse she'd chosen...
Has a well-laden table at Simpson's, a group of good friends gathered round;
All thankful and happy that dear Mrs Hudson is sitting there, safe and quite sound.
Young Arthur and Alice, entranced by the treat, (it's Mycroft who's footing the bill)
Gaze out, saucer-eyed, at this opulent, magical spectacle, full of good will.
Lestrade, looks at Watson and ponders past cases, a blackmailers murder, a mask..
He catches the doctor's calm, innocent eye, and judges it's best not to ask...
The time's close to midnight, all glasses are filled, an atmosphere full of good cheer...
Holmes—All raise your glasses, at Mycroft's expense.
A toast to a Happy New Year!
All glasses are raised and a hail of good wishes are passed from good friend, to good friend.
As Big Ben rings clearly the twelve chimes of midnight, and hope lifts all spirits.
A/N 2:Mad Elsie first appeared in the drama section of my "A Study in Genes" and has regularly escaped in December, ever since...