Hounded: A Tale of Baker Street
Short Story by: Ati
The cobblestones rolled like drops of rain under the metal paws of the Hound. The sky had a sick yellow pallor, and glowed weirdly. The cobblestones, slick with fresh rain reflected the
yellow light grimly. The world took on a different hue around the Hound. Smiles, what smiles there could be on such an unnatural day shriveled like poisoned trees. Open doors
shut, and shades came down on windows. Groups of people dispersed, and people vanished indoors. The Hound continued it’s bizarre walk, each stride the twin of the last, every dull
yellow gas lamp gleaming over it’s chrome skin and morphine fangs the same as the one before.
The Hound had come to Baker Street.
Holmes puffed contemplatively, chewing thoughtfully on the stem of his pipe. Tobacco smoke rose like a silent halo around his graying hair, A cheery fire burned in the hearth not far from him, and a small pile of pipe ash had built up carelessly on the armrest of his threadbare red easy chair.
“What do you make of it Watson – arsenic?”
“The sky. You might observe that it has turned a most curious color. Do you think it’s arsenic from the new synthesizing plant?”
“I don’t know. If it is, might it not be wise to get away from the window?”
“Excellent idea. Do we have any more chestnuts?”
“No, I think you ate the last of them.”
“In that case, perhaps some late evening music?”
Holmes gently took his prized violin from the top shelf of the cabinet beside the hearth. Long, pale fingers wrapped expertly around the bow, he raised it to strike a note when the air was pierced by a scream of tortured metal.
“Good God Holmes, was that you?”
“No.” he said, dragging himself to his feet with the aid of the cane, and moved towards the window.He path across the careworn rug was interrupted by a scream in earnest. The scream continued for a second longer, and then was cut short suddenly. Silence echoed through the room, all cheer suddenly drained out of it as if by a hypodermic needle.
I reached the window a moment after Holmes, in time to see something monstrous and alien leap from the cabin of a horse and carriage. A limb body hung in it’s metal jaws, dripping with lethal doses of morphine. The body stirred feebly, and a joint in the chromo torso twisted once, hard, and the body was still. The horses must have been screaming, but I couldn’t hear them from here, though I could see them thrashing, foaming, rending at their harnesses. The… the thing grabbed them, struggled for no more than a second, and then they too, were silent. The whole thing was over in perhaps ten second, and then it fell into it’s monotonous step, paws gripping firmly the slick cobblestones. The policeman who tailed it made a halfhearted attempt to push he carriage and the corpses to the side of the road, and then gave up and ran to take his place at the Hound’s side.
The Hound passed the window, the ruddy glow of it’s eyes burning on the rain-smeared window panes. It turned it’s head to face the door, and the bellows in it’s gut worked silently, a puff of air stirring the dust beneath the doorframe. Finally deciding that everything was in order, it proceeded down the street.
Holmes returned to his chair. He face was blank, but his hands trembled, gently.
“They promised me. They promised me that they would not bring that thing here,” he hissed in a taught whisper.
I had nothing to say. As far as I was concerned, the world had ended, and Cerberus himself had come to take a reckoning.
“That thing… is evil.” I breathed.
“You need to be more than a Turing machine with legs and fangs to possess evil,“ said Holmes, regaining some of his color as he warmed to the subject. “But yes, it’s purpose is evil. It is a machine intended to rule men. It’s a terrible mistake – they couldn’t turn it off if they wanted to. We might make out own heaven, but we make our own demons as well.”
“Good God…” I muttered.
“God has nothing to do it!” snapped Holmes, and then softened.
“I’m sorry Watson. I was personally assured that the Hound would not come to Baker Street. They owed me that one dignity. It might take our work (though how a thing that cannot think would do anything other than the unspeakable is beyond me), but I was assured that it would not come here.”
In a fit of anger that I had never seen in him before, he grabbed his book of closed murder cases (some half of which he had solved in the last half-hour) and hurled it across the room, where it landed face down on the floor.
I was now positively alarmed. I made an attempt to calm him.
”Come Holmes, there must be an explanation. Let’s go and talk to the commissioner, now.”
It took some persuasion, but Holmes finally agreed, and more readily than I had anticipated.
“Come, Watson. The game is afoot, and I intend to stop it.”
Clutching his hat, and leaning slightly on his cane. Holmes entered the night.
When we arrived at police headquarters, it was nearly midnight. The weirdly threatening glow had resolved itself into a spot of neon in a corner of the sky. A ceaseless burn of sickly yellow that was the smoke stack of the General Engineering plant burned night and day. Phosphor and arsenic and radium and a thousand other thing climbed into the air, burning against the night.
The police headquarters was an austere building, black stone and chrome. It was, both literally and figuratively, a façade. In the places the Hound went, the was no crime because everyone there was either terrified or dead. However, in the other places crime was rampant. There were few enough prisoners in the cells below; the Hound did not leave witnesses.
Homes ignored the threatening, modern design of the building, and burst through the door (which, for all the show, was unlocked), angrily, stalking across the long hallway, the walls of which stretched up and out, in an intentionally exaggerated perspective. Within minutes he had arrived at the desk of the commissioner, an old, proud, fat man in a black suit, carrying a small black box that had replaced police batons the year before.
Holmes, even leaning on his cane, towered over the man, and glowered at him.
“Explain yourself.” He said curtly.
“I don’t have to explain anything to you, you old fool,” He said, flecks of saliva flying from his mouth. “But if you must know, there was a robbery on Baker Street last Wednesday. It was about time-“
“Yes, and now an innocent man is dead!” interrupted Holmes pointedly. “But I suppose it’s better that a mechanical monster menaces the populace without restraint, killing at will than a few criminals commit petty crime.”
“Get off your high horse. You’re motivated by base jealousy, nothing more. You’re still bitter that my beautiful Hound can do the job better than you can!”
“Better?!” snorted Holmes, “That piece of murderous scrap couldn’t solve a case if it was laid out on a chessboard.”
“Scrap?! You call my wonderful Hound scrap?”
“I’ll do better than that – I’ll prove it. Take me out to your crime scenes tonight, and I will solve the case faster than your Hound can.”
“And if you don’t?”
“Then I will never bother you about the Hound again. – but if I win, then you will decommission that monster, once and for all.”
“Done, you ignorant fool.”
The crime scene was an old Victorian manor rimmed with dead rose bushes, in some considerable disrepair. The owner had been bankrupted when General Engineering had been founded. The owner’s wife had been missing for days, and the owner was refusing to cooperate with the police. Holmes entered the room first, as “If the Hound goes in first, there won’t be a suspect for me to question.”
With the commissioner manning the stopwatch, Holmes entered the room, and walked over to where the man stood, looking unshaven and hung-over and covered in rain. he had a slight limp, much like Holmes. I’d seen it before; General Engineering spewed all kinds of material into the water. If a fleck of radium entered you bloodstream, it often got lodged in the fat tissue of the thighs, killing the muscle and restricting bone growth, resulting in one leg being an inch or so longer than the other.
“Where were you last Thursday night?”
“I was bowling.”
Holmes considered this for a moment.
“Give me your shoe.”
“Give me your shoe, or I shall have the Hound on you.”
The man complied hastily. Holmes glanced at it, and called
The commissioner waddled up.
“Two and a half minutes!” He crowed.
“So where is the wife?”
“She’s in the yard. Check under the rosebushes.”
The commissioner looked distinctly put out, and he hurried away to prepare something.
“Holmes” said I, “How did you know she was under the rosebushes? I know he couldn’t have been bowling with that leg, but how did you know the rest? His shoes were clean.“
“Exactly. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s raining outside, and the man was soaked to the bone. He changed his shoes after coming inside. The only soil out there that would stick to your shoes was the potting soil around the rosebushes. Simple.”
I sat back, a little wonderstruck.
The commissioner re-entered.
The toad like man grinned sickeningly, and whistled loudly. The Hound burst in, ripping the door off it’s hinges. In seconds, the suspect was fallen, succumbing to morphine and bleeding to death in his own parlor. The Hound hesitated briefly, nose opening and closing in a bizarre parody of a sniff. Then it was off again, ripping the house and yard apart until it finally tore the rosebushes loose and dragged a desiccated corpse from the ground, tearing it nearly in half in the process.
“40 seconds.,” Said the commissioner. “The Hound wins!”
If I go back to that fateful day in my memory, it seems to me that this was the exact moment that everything went wrong.
Holmes turned, tears in his eyes, and kicked the Hound, hard. The beast reacted instantly. It turned and lunged at him. He rolled sideways, allowing his bad leg to crumple under him, and the metal beast struck the still-gloating commissioner behind him. It sank it’s fangs into him, and he died on the spot. Holmes grabbed the black box from the dead man’s belt, and pressed the button to charge it. The Hound turned and lunged at him again, sinking his fangs into Holmes leg. Without hesitation, Holmes grabbed the box, and plunged the double prongs of metal into the single ruby eye of the beast. He drove it back down into the body, while the twin Lyden jars discharged, which sparked and shuddered until the vacuum tubes and rod logic boards split and burned. The hound shuddered, whined very much like a dying dog, and lay still, great meal head sprawled next to Holmes shuddering form.
Holmes looked up, a morphine smile on his face.
“My habit was good for something, then, wasn’t it Watson?”
“I suppose it was, at that.”
As we walked unsteadily back to our apartment, a question occurred to me.
“Holmes – something is bothering me. “
“Why didn’t you notice the upturned earth around the rosebushes when we went in? It seems like that would be more obvious than clean shoes… Although, I did completely miss them both.”
“Simple. I did.”
“This was the only way to make sure that the Hound was dead. Elementary, my dear Watson.”
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