Title: Miracle at No. 5, Garden Place, or the Further Adventures of Dr. Matsumoto Jun
Length: chaptered, this chapter is about 3600 words
Pairing: Junba, Ohmiya, Toma/Sho
Rating: PG-13 for violence
Genre: Historical AU. Late Victorian London (full of historical errors). This sequel is more of a Victorian Christmas story than a Sherlock Holmes detective story.
Summary: Dr. Matsumoto Jun knows exactly what (former) amateur detective Aiba Masaki would like for Christmas. But acquiring it may mean committing grand larceny. Of the London Zoo.
Notes: This is a sequel to "From the Mixed-up Files of Aiba Masaki, (Amateur) Detective." That fic can be found hereThis sequel is dedicated to the wonderful and brilliant darkdropout!
Following Nino, we traversed the labyrinthine alleys that encircled the theater; I had expected us to head for the main thoroughfare, but instead we were moving further away from the light and noise of Christmas revelry with every step. We rounded a corner and Nino halted suddenly; Aiba gasped at the sight that met us, in his shock, he grabbed my elbow to steady himself.
Sho stood leaning against a muddy brick wall, Lord Toma resting heavily upon his back, his arms hanging limply over Sho’s shoulders. There was a mass of black and red at his lordship’s left temple; Sho’s face was smeared with blood.
I moved forward instantly to his lordship, reaching to push back his hair to examine the mottled blood; Sho flinched back as Aiba began wiping at his face, “Do not worry about me, detective,” Sho said sofly, “It is not my blood.”
The injury, thank god, looked worse than it was—the cut was just to the side of the temple. But he would have a terrible bruise, and he must have been faint with shock and blood loss. His lordship, astonishingly, managed to open his eyes slightly as I examined him. “A scratch, doctor,” he mumbled drunkenly, his eyes fluttering shut again, “a mere scratch,” he groaned, head sinking back down onto Sho’s shoulder (it was a great distance for his head to fall, I can assure you).
Sho was speaking to Aiba in a low, rapid voice, “God forgive me, Aiba, but I left Horatio. His lordship lost consciousness—I thought he might never wake. After overpowering his assailant, I took him on my back and followed the back alleys here—he must be taken to the hospital.”
“His assailant?” Aiba cried, all the color leaving his face.
“We were leaving the zoo’s grounds when we realized we were being followed. We changed course and finally ended up taking to the lake, thinking to hide Horatio away somewhere else in the park until we found an alternate route. But they gave chase; when we came ashore near the Zoological Gardens two men surprised us. Toma held them off while I hid Horatio, but when I returned I found Toma unconscious and his attacker near. I knocked him out and dragged his body into the woods. I do not know what happened to the other man.”
I tried to imagine how Sho and his lordship had conveyed a chimpanzee by boat across a lake; or, more amazingly, how Sho had succeeded in knocking someone out and then coolly hiding his body in the Zoological Gardens.
While I was still trying to work out the sequence of events, Nino’s inquiry was, as always, to the point. “Horatio?” he demanded, his voice clipped.
Sho’s next words were whispered, sorrow and mortification equally evident in his countenance, “The greenhouse of the gardens. He is still there, in his box—he should still be sedated. I could not think where else to take him that was warm.”
Aiba placed a hand on Sho’s shoulder (the one unoccupied by his lordship), “I do not blame you in the slightest, my dear man. You did what was right—of course Toma must be treated. That is what is most important.”
I had cleaned the wound as best as I could, but I had nothing more useful with me than a handkerchief; Toma’s eyes were fluttering rapidly again as he struggled to remain conscious. “Take him to the hospital across the back way. And stay with him,” I commanded, “He will need to see you there when he recovers.”
Sho sent me a look of gratitude. “Thank you,” he replied softly. “Good luck,” his voice caught as he turned from us, “And be ready to fight,” he managed, before disappearing with his lordship back into the darkness of the alley.
Nino, Aiba, and I stood as though frozen, each of us examining one another’s countenance; Nino and I were already almost glaring at each other. The detective, I saw, was heartbroken. “Nino…Jun…I…” he began, his voice choked.
“There isn’t time for it, Aiba,” I cut in. “We know what you feel, but we’re coming with you. We all go together.”
The detective stared at us helplessly in turn; Nino turned on his heel and began moving swiftly back towards the thoroughfare. “Come, detective,” he spoke grimly over his shoulder, “The game’s afoot.”
Nino informed us of how he had come to know Sho’s troubles as we rode a cab towards the Zoological Gardens; he peered through the carriage window as he spoke, his eyes flickering anxiously among the passerby as though expecting to catch sight of the professor, “I was backstage—still avoiding Ogura’s knaves—when a young boy tugged at my jacket and handed me a note. It was a messy scrawl, but I recognized the writing as Sho’s—he wrote that their plan had been discovered, and he was at the crossing of two alleys behind the theater, and he needed to speak with us before taking Toma to the hospital. Naturally, the first thing I did was to look for Gackt in the audience—I saw someone approach and pass him a note before he rose to leave.” Nino laughed bitterly, “Our respective messengers must have arrived at almost the same moment. There is only one explanation—the professor has suspected and out-schemed us. He has had the zoo watched, and now he must be heading towards the gardens as well, if his information is as good as ours.”
“Why would he not inform the police?” Aiba demanded, his confusion evident, “He has men watch the zoo—surely their first step would be to inform the police as soon as they witnessed the theft. Have Sho and Toma arrested and our scheme revealed—not attempt to murder them!” he growled.
Nino shook his head, “Consider this from Gackt’s perspective, Masaki. Our insane taxidermist is not your run-of-the-mill enthusiast interested in law and order; he is interested in defeating you. He is a collector, and he wants to take this piece out of your hands himself.”
Aiba was shaking; I reached out to take his hand. His eyes were dark with frustration and grief. The flaming streetlamps, the glittering Christmas displays in the department store windows, the sleigh bells jingling on the horses—all these sights and sounds took on an eerie, nightmarish quality as we rumbled towards the gardens.
Aiba met my gaze. “What should I do, Jun?” he finally spoke in a quiet voice, “Tell me. What do you think should be done? Do I leave him now? Do I let us risk further injury? What is the right thing to do, my dear friend?”
The detective stared at me so seriously, so faithfully—I saw that he did not doubt, even for a moment, that I knew what was best to be done. How he could have formed such a high opinion of my judgment—particularly in light of our recent conflicts—I could not imagine.
And I did not know what should be done. But I still chose to command him. If it were my decision, then perhaps the detective’s conscience would be less tortured should some harm befall one of us, “Horatio is still alive. Nino and I cannot abandon him anymore than you can. As long as there is still some hope that we can rescue him, then it is our duty to attempt it.”
Aiba’s expression lightened; the corners of his mouth quirked upwards. His eyes lost their sadness and grew determined, “You are right, Jun. We cannot abandon him. And we have all the goodness and justice of the case on our side—it is impossible, then, that we should lose to the professor.”
I smiled encouragingly and squeezed the detective’s hand before sending Nino a look intended to suppress whatever rejoinder he was on the verge of making; he was forced to satisfy himself with rolling his eyes and lolling against his seat, muttering something about “noble idiocy” under his breath.
I hope, reader, that you never have cause to experience the Zoological Gardens on a cold, dark winter night. I had wound my way through its environs at night once before; but then Aiba and I had been embracing as we moved towards our planned assignation in the greenhouse. My mind and senses were filled with the detective’s presence, and I did not notice the eeriness of the place.
But now, though accompanied by Aiba and Nino, I was acutely aware of the bitter cold and icy silence, interrupted every so often by a sudden snap or shuffle; all of us, I think, were listening with bated breath as we moved towards the greenhouse, anxious to detect some presence of Professor Gackt or his minions. I had begged Nino and Aiba to go ahead before me, but they had refused—in truth, I did not press the matter because I was relieved, not wishing to let either man out of my sight. I regret keenly that I did not urge them further—speed was of the greatest importance, then, but I think I still maintained some hope that Gackt would not yet know of Horatio’s new location.
These hopes were dashed when we reached the greenhouse; lanterns lit the place from within, making the clouded panes of glass glow and sending out a strange halo onto the black night. I noted that the lock was still on the door, but that the door itself had been shattered; I swallowed, imagining the state Sho must have been in to commit such an act of vandalism.
We met each other’s eyes before we entered, silently asking of each other whether any of us wished to turn back. “Thank you,” Aiba mouthed, reading the determination in our eyes; slowly, careful of the shattered glass, we stepped into the unnatural warmth, immediately surrounded by a thick greenery. Even in the humid air, I shivered at the thought that the last time I had been here, the detective and I had been making love—it seemed impossible now that this was the same place that had sheltered us.
We followed the light to a clearing towards the back; there, as expected, stood Professor Gackt and a dull, gray-looking fellow who seemed to be nursing a painful injury to his jaw. Nearby sat Horatio’s crate; even standing inches apart, I felt the tremble that ran through Aiba’s frame at the sight.
Professor Gackt had been waiting for us, I am certain; he had clearly arranged the scene for dramatic effect, and now a slow smile of satisfaction crept over his coldly elegant features at our approach.
Luckily, we had Nino’s sharp tongue at our disposal; just as the Professor had finished licking his lips and opened his mouth to speak, Nino demanded roughly, “If you’re so clever as to get here first, then, why the devil haven’t you carted him off yet?”
I think the professor was taken aback at the sudden request; but he recovered himself instantly, his smile only growing wider as he answered smoothly, his light, piercing eyes moving between us, “Why, because in spite of your very un-sportsman-like behavior, I do like to think of myself as a gentleman, your lordship. And as a gentleman, I would like to give the distinguished Professor Masaki a choice. A professional courtesy, you know,” he inclined his head in Aiba’s direction, smirking.
Again it was Nino who replied, his tone snide, “Well if you’re offering us a deal, we’ll take it. Just name your price. Or perhaps you’re more interested in fame? We’ll pay to have a plaque commemorating your noble work put up in the Zoological Society. Perhaps I can even get you into the papers.”
The professor’s eyes narrowed; I could see that he was beginning to lose some of his composure. “I am afraid, your lordship, that I am not interested in a “deal,” as you put it.” His look of satisfaction returned as he continued, “The ape is mine. But I am still generous enough to give you a choice. If you turn yourselves—or your foolish companions, whoever you care to blame this absurd scheme on—into the police tonight, then I return the beast to the zoo, and he dies in his own time. Or, you may refuse to confess. In that case, I will never breathe a word of this matter to another living soul. But,” his mouth twisted into an ugly grin as he clearly reveled in the climax of his speech, “I kill the animal and take him to my museum tonight.”
I wondered how Aiba could still be breathing; I had been watching him closely, and it seemed as though the rise and fall of his chest had stopped entirely. His face betrayed no emotion, his eyes almost black—he looked not like the detective I loved, but like some strange automaton as he stood perfectly still, staring expressionlessly at the professor.
“Are you a mental patient escaped from a German asylum? Is that your problem?” came Nino’s hiss. Nino took a step forward; even with his slight frame, he looked surprisingly lethal in his anger.
But he was ignored; the professor was studying Aiba’s expression intently, almost avidly. I realized that he was waiting for the pain that he was sure would appear there—only then would he be satisfied.
I took a step forward to block Aiba from the professor’s view; his lackey, still rubbing his jaw, began to move forward in turn, “Have you never considered, professor,” I finally spoke, “That the odds here are not in your favour? Three against two?”
The professor laughed; I felt my heart sink as he opened his coat to reveal the sword he wore at his waist, smoothly withdrawing the blade with a smile. “My sword, against two boys and a cripple? Pardon me, Professor Masaki, if I betray an unseemly confidence in my success.”
Aiba pushed me gently to the side as he moved forward toward the professor; the man’s lackey made a movement as if to defend his master, but the professor raised a restraining hand. He watched Aiba calmly, an expression of pleased anticipation on his face as the detective moved to stand before him. Aiba raised a hand to halt Nino’s approach; Nino and I exchanged anxious glances as we continued to creep toward him, unable to imagine what Aiba had in mind—I felt as though my heart would stop at the sight of the shining blade so close to Aiba’s face.
“But you’ve forgotten, professor,” Aiba’s soft voice seemed, somehow, to echo through the greenhouse, “That nothing can be more dangerous than to insult a gentleman’s dearest friends.”
Reader, I swear that I had no idea of what the detective intended until the act was already completed; from his expression of dumb shock, it was evident that Professor Gackt had not anticipated it either. I felt as though I were in a dream as I watched Aiba raise his hand—for one wild moment I thought he was planning to slap the professor—and then seize the blade before him with his bare hand, snatching the sword out of the professor’s grip (it had slackened in his astonishment, I can assure you) and throwing the sword in my direction; reflexively, I caught it by the handle.
Nino and I, at first stunned into silence, let out matching cries of terror as dark blood dripped from Aiba’s right hand to the earth as he lowered his arm. But as the professor and his minion moved to restrain him, Nino and I did not hesitate; we rushed forward to defend him.
The events that transpired next could not have taken place over more than a few minutes, I think, but time seemed to slow strangely—I was reminded, horribly, of that day when Aiba was shot and time had seemed to crawl as I waited to see whether he would breathe again. In any case, I was able to keep track of the detective’s and Nino’s movements even as I fought the professor’s knave; I had the advantage of a sword, and I could block him from moving towards the professor while still keep him at arm’s length from myself. The professor had fallen on Aiba, but the tables were quickly turned as Nino and Aiba combined their strength against him, pinning him to the floor.
My advantage did not last long, however, particularly as I hesitated to actually run the man through with the sword. The man was stronger than me, and my leg slowed my reaction. Never, reader, undertake a fight in a greenhouse; when I was thrown against the wall, the glass shattered about me, cutting my face and hands as it spilled onto the floor.
The man was choking me, and it was then that I made my greatest mistake. In my weakness, my eyes flickered towards the detective for assistance—the hot, scalding shame returns as I write this—the detective, as though feeling my gaze upon him, turned and saw my distress; abandoning Professor Gackt, he moved to tackle the man who held me. He succeeded in knocking the man to the ground and, taking a length of twine used to arrange the plants, he worked to immobilize his arms.
I did not assist him, only sinking to the floor and struggling to catch my breath. When we turned our attention back to Nino and the professor, the professor was half sitting upon the ground with Nino struggling furiously in his grasp—the professor held a large piece of the shattered glass up to his windpipe. I can assure the reader that Nino’s combat with the professor had been a manful one—one does not survive years in St. Giles and repeated assassination attempts without a surprising degree of skill in hand-to-hand combat—but the professor had greater height and strength, as well as more ruthlessness.
It was my failure to defend myself that left Nino in that hopeless position.
The lantern illuminated the two struggling figures; I saw the glass knick Nino’s throat, just to the side of his windpipe—a small streak of red appeared. “Stop!” I cried hoarsely, “Nino, stop! For god’s sake, be still before you cut your own throat!”
Nino was shocked but, for the first and only time in our acquaintance, he obeyed me, forcing himself to still in the professor’s grasp.
We were all streaked with blood and dirt—the professor’s meticulous coiffure, in particular, was in a sorry state—I believe he had finally tired of his theatrics. “Untie my man, now,” he hissed, “He will convey the animal to my museum, then we will part and never speak of this again.”
Aiba turned to me as his hand began moving toward the minion’s hands; I do not think he was aware of the tears slipping from the corners of his eyes. “Don’t…” Nino began.
“Wait,” I interrupted, still struggling with my breath, “Wait,” I finally managed, fixing the professor with as hard a glare as I could muster, “You couldn’t kill a man for this. No matter how insane you are, and that’s saying something. You would not kill a man before three witnesses. You must know that you’ll be hanged for this.”
The professor’s forearm came up to crush Nino’s throat as a maniacal gleam entered his eyes. He raised the glass to Nino’s cheek; I will admire Nino to the end of my days for his refusal to flinch as the glass was pressed beneath his eye, “No, perhaps not murder. But disfigure? Blind? Very suitable alternatives. And I wonder how long it would take before you had informed the police—could you have me arrested faster than I could find passage to France? I can assure you, doctor, I have many friends on the Continent who would be happy to shelter me from the English barbarians.”
I lowered my face, hoping to at least deprive the professor of my expression of helplessness, but I think I was not entirely successful; he laughed cruelly.
Ignoring Nino’s cries, Aiba began to untie the confined man’s hands, his face hidden from me as he concentrated on the task. The man’s hands were nearly free when we heard the click; I raised my head to discover Ohno kneeling beside the professor, pressing the head of a pistol—a very familiar-looking pistol—against Professor Gackt’s temple.
Nino’s face, after an instant of utter shock, was suffused with such a complex mixture of emotions that, even in our state of anxiety, I could hardly tear my eyes away from him—I had not seen him so transparent since the night he had shown up at Garden Place with a stab wound, begging to see Satoshi. There was anger—almost fury—in his face, but also relief, love, and total adoration in his eyes as he stared up at the valet.
Ohno, naturally, betrayed no emotion as he spoke, “Sir, I am a humble valet and an artist who has never sold a painting. In contrast with yourself, I have nothing to lose, and I could commit a murder very comfortably.”
Professor Gackt swallowed, trying to compose himself—but there was a twitch at his eyelid. “And if I should kill him first?” he managed to rasp out.
“Then, sir, I would not hesitate to kill you before turning the gun on myself.” Ohno ignored Nino’s strangled noise of protest, “I am very attached to his life, but I have no particular attachment to my own.” The valet raised his other hand to scratch at the side of his nose, “So if you care for your own life, sir, you will release him before my finger slips and I blow your brains out. I ran all the way here, and my hands are shaking.”
Author’s note: Can I just say sorry, like a million times? I’m so, so sorry that it took me so long to post this chapter, my work has been so busy lately (why does real life get in the way of everything?). I promise that the next installment will be posted before the end of this week, but I thought I would go ahead and post what I have since I haven’t been able to find the time to write it all in one big chapter this weekend. Please accept this shorter installment orz
I can’t thank all my readers enough for their patience, I apologize again <3
And, my apologies for excessive violence, I promise much less violence and more hijinks in the next chapters!