"Come on, Toby! Run!" He didn't have to urge the dog on, but it made him feel better to do so. And it wasn't like he needed the breath for running. Ghosts didn't breathe. Not really.
They reached the vast back lawn at last. It was all set up for Mummy's garden party that evening. Tents, tables, chairs, flowers. Ford hardly noticed any of it as he and Toby raced for the house.
"We've got to get Sherlock. We've got to get Sherlock!" He'd been muttering the mantra the entire way from Weavers Pond. He shuddered. Weavers Pond. What had he been thinking taking John there? He'd thought, 'John's a grown-up. He'll be fine.' He'd been terribly wrong.
A servant with a stack of neatly folded white cloth serviettes came out through a back door. Ghost and dog sped past her.
"Oy! Dog!" she shouted and then clapped her mouth shut in case one of the higher-ups heard her. Determining herself unobserved, she went about her business. The dog was now inside, her job was currently outside. Therefore the dog was not her problem.
Inside the house, Toby was causing similar reactions among the house staff. Shouts of surprise. Cries of indignation. Orders to "Get that beast out of my kitchen!" Ford would have laughed if the situation weren't so dire. Instead he kept encouraging the dog and repeating his mantra.
Toby sniffed about until he found the scent he wanted. Sherlock was this way! He barked once and took off with Ford at his tail. Ford could run very quickly, being a ghost, and had no trouble keeping up with his four-footed guide. The footmen who came after them, on the other hand, were hampered by their corporealness. Toby led a pair of them on a merry chase out of the servants' halls and into the house proper. In his wake, the dog he left footprints that went from muddy to merely dirty by the time they reached the stairs. One footman fell up the stairs trying to catch him and got the wind knocked out of him for his troubles. His compatriot in the chase continued after the scampering hound.
Toby and Ford reached the door they wanted and Ford went straight through it, leaving Toby barking on the other side, much to the dog's frustration.
"Sherlock! You've got to help John! He's hurt. It's all my fault. I took him to the pond and he slipped. You've got to help him!"
Sherlock heard none of Ford's impassioned plea. He heard only the barking and the scuffling on the other side of the bedroom door. He yanked it open to find a footman wrestling to contain the frantically barking and wriggling Toby.
"I'm awfully sorry, sir!" the young man exclaimed. "He's caused havoc running through the house and there's the party and the guests about to arrive any second--"
"Let him go. I'll take him"
"I'll take him," Sherlock said more firmly. "Did he come in with anyone? Doctor Watson, specifically?" John had promised to be back in plenty of time to prepare for the dreaded garden party. The fact that he had not was enough to cause Sherlock concern. The sudden return of Toby, sans John, was more.
The footman let go of the dog, who promptly heeled by Sherlock's left foot, whining. "I don't know, sir. I only saw him when he came out of the kitchen."
"All right. Go."
"Thank you, sir." The young man scurried off. He'd be hard pressed to tidy himself up properly before the party guests arrived, and he dreaded to think what chaos he'd find as he retraced his steps back downstairs.
Sherlock knelt next to Toby, frowning. "Where's John? Why didn't you come back together?"
"I told you!" Ford exclaimed. "He's at the pond! He fell in. He promised he'd get out, but he's hurt and you have to help him!"
Sherlock examined the dog as if he hadn't heard, which of course he hadn't because Sherlock was not a believer in ghosts, per se. He listed aloud the clues he observed. In the past, he'd have done it all in his head, but he'd grown used to the appreciative audience that was John and so the habit had changed. "Grass stains on the fur. Damp, too, despite having run a fair distance. Mud on the paws although you've lost some of it on the way in--and on the footman." He had noticed the prints on the hallway rug and the scuffs on the footman's uniform. He pinched a bit from the dog's paw and peered closely at it, then sniffed the bit of earth. He rubbed it between his fingers. "Not just mud. Clay." His frown deepened. "Where is there clay within easy walking distance?"
Ford was so agitated that he was alternately dancing in place and circling his slow-witted, thick-headed, totally naff brother and the dog to whom said brother was speaking. Finally, he could stand it no more and shouted in Sherlock's ear, knowing it would do no good. "THE POND! HE'S AT WEAVERS POND!"
Accustomed as he was to the occasional inner dialogue (i.e. argument) with his brother Mycroft, Sherlock reacted without thinking about the particulars of the voice he assumed was inside his head. "Don't be ridiculous. We don't go there."
"But you did once! You know where it is!"
That was true. They weren't supposed to go there. It had been forbidden for as long as Sherlock could remember. But he'd grown curious one day as to why, and he'd gone to see it for himself. Mycroft told him not to, but he'd never been much for listening to Mycroft. So Mycroft, knowing Sherlock wouldn't be stopped and taking his role as "responsible big brother" very seriously, had gone with him. There had been nothing remarkable about watering hole, in Sherlock's observation, and so Sherlock had let the matter drop.
"Come on, you daft git! You have to remember! John's counting on you!" Ford railed at him, panic fuelling his ethereal energies. "You know where it is! Toby knows! Follow him if you can't remember."
Toby did know, but Toby was tired. He pawed at Sherlock's foot, clearly anxious, judging by his whine. Sherlock did not want to rely solely on the canine's admittedly extraordinary sense of smell. He stood up straight and turned his attention inward to his mind palace. It was in there somewhere, the location of Weavers Pond.
"You're SO SLOW!" yelled Ford, but Sherlock had tuned him out. Even imaginary Mycroft couldn't get into Sherlock's mind palace, and he was still convinced that it was imaginary Mycroft who was yelling at him. Although why Mycroft should sound like he was ten years old escaped Sherlock at the moment. He would puzzle it out later if he decided it mattered.
He took the twists and turns of the hallways of his mind palace with practised ease. The references he sought were deeply buried, filed away in a dark corner of a subterranean chamber. He unearthed them at last and emerged to the continued ranting of his big brother.
"Shut up, Mycroft!" he snapped at the air. "This isn't the time."
"Mycroft!? God, you are so thick!" exclaimed the ghost of Sherrinford indignantly. "You're right it's not the time, though. Let's goooooooo!" He grabbed Sherlock's sleeve and tried to yank him towards the door.
Sherlock glanced down at the unexpected sensation at his elbow, but saw nothing. He shook off the distraction and spared a moment to rub Toby's floppy ears--brief commendation for a job, thus far, well done. "Come on Toby. John's counting on us."