West End Blues

Author: MonkeyBard
Rating: PG
Summary: A classic locked-room murder
Date: 20 July 2015
JWP #20: Yankee Doodle Came to London: Doyle seemed to have a fascination for people and things American (three of his four novel-length Sherlock Holmes tales feature someone from North America), and societies as diverse as Pennsylvanian coal-town gangs, the Latter-Day Saints and the KKK appear in Canon. Remember that Watson was whumped by a Chicago gangster in 3GAR. Put something or someone American in your entry, or do an American-based pastiche.

Hopkins ushered them past the police tape in front of a West End building that had scene better days. "The place was a jazz club back in the day. Called it the Starlight Speakeasy. Louis Armstrong played here when he came to London. Sub-rosa, of course. His big gig was at Empress Hall."

John could hear the gritted teeth in Sherlock's reply. "Stop talking unless you have something relevant to say."

"Just 'cause it's historical, it's not relevant?"

John considered intervening, but part of him wanted to see how far Hopkins would go before figuring out for himself what it took to call down Sherlock's wrath.

"The murder occurred last night, not in 1956."

"Oh. So you know when Armstrong was here, then?" The question was innocent enough, but the gleam in Hopkins' eye was not.

Sherlock shot Hopkins a glare and said nothing. John grinned and continued observing the exchange with growing amusement. Perhaps Hopkins wasn't just a star-struck fan boy after all. This could be fun.

They entered the dim and derelict club and joined Lestrade, who waited near the body. "Gentlemen," Lestrade greeted them. "I see Hopkins is briefing you." He and John shared a smirk behind the backs of their compatriots.

Hopkins went on, oblivious. "The club shut down in '73 and sat dormant until the '80s when a developer bought it and renovated it. It shut down again in 2008. Been sitting vacant since then. Estate agent finally had someone interested in the place. She came by this morning to air it out and found this poor bloke. No idea who he is or how he got here. No signs of forced entry. Nowhere for the murderer to have gone. It's a classic locked-room mystery."

Hopkins' enthusiasm was more irritating than infectious. Sherlock looked about to snap--either his patience or Hopkins' neck. It was anyone's guess which would go first. "Listing the multitudinous points of your ignorance won't cure it. Now, stop talking."

At last Hopkins fell silent. John was almost disappointed. Then Sherlock called him over to the body and he dismissed the young inspector from his thoughts.

"What do you observe?"

John looked over the body quickly but carefully. "Male. Eighteen years old, if that. Probably homeless. Habitual drug user, judging by the needle tracks. Shame at such a young age."

"Emotional opinions are irrelevant."

"Right." John knelt and looked again. "Cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. But he didn't fall here, nor was he dragged and dropped. He was struck on the head and then pushed. He landed here and then was left."

"He what?" Hopkins came closer. Lestrade put out a hand to stop him at the same moment Sherlock barked, "Stop!"

Hopkins froze where he stood and Lestrade dropped his hand.

John sat back on his heels. "I think his death was incidental. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"But where was that wrong place?" demanded Hopkins, although this time he had the sense to keep still. "There's nothing here worth killing over."

John ignored him. So did Sherlock. "Very good. Go on, John."

John stood up and gave him a mildly annoyed look. "Really? We're still at the testing stage, Sherlock? It's been several years now. I am not your performing monkey."

"I thought you might enjoy the rare opportunity to show off before a new audience."

"That's your shtick, not mine." But he made no further protest. "Hang on. Hopkins, you said 'speakeasy'." He saw a tiny smile form at the corner of Sherlock's mouth and knew he was on the right track.

"Yeah. So?"

"Speakeasies were an American phenomenon. Why build one in London?"

Hopkins shrugged. "Theme restaurant?"

"And if you're going to build a theme restaurant or bar or what have you, you're going to want to do it right."

"Nearly there," murmured Sherlock encouragingly.

"In which case, there's got to have been a secret room. A bolt-hole for the proprietors during a raid, or a place for the mob bosses to meet in private." He examined the area around the body. The way it had fallen. The way in which the blood had spattered. "If it were me, I'd've put it--" He turned dramatically to face a portion of wall that looked no different from the painted wood-and-plaster to either side. "--right there."

Sherlock and John stood back to watch the manual labour as Lestrade and Hopkins moved in. In moments, they found the mechanism that released the camouflaged door.

"Not your shtick?" teased Sherlock so softly only John could hear him.

"Well, when you give me a perfect set-up, how can I resist?" John replied just as quietly. He began humming an old familiar tune.

"Really, John? 'What a Wonderful World'?"

"You're right. Not so appropriate in the circumstances, but I don't remember the tune to 'West End Blues'."

Sherlock snorted a laugh as Lestrade called back over his shoulder at them.

"You'll want to see this."

They both schooled their features and went see what the inspectors had found.


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