My name’s Greg Lestrade. You might wonder how I got here – in hospital with my unfortunate leg in one of those chin-strap-things they use to elevate the destroyed limb when you’ve done yourself a right mischief on Christmas Eve. Which tonight is, by the way. At least for another half-hour or so. Not exactly where you’d anticipate finding a quiet, mind-my-own-business middle-aged DI, but there you have it. It all started with a phone call…
Prank calls to the police at Christmas were both expected and numerous, since most of them were made by members of the police being berks, drunk or both but this was voice I unfortunately recognized as being neither of those brands of prats, so I paid attention. I was especially glad for it, too, as I was informed that my assistance was required for a matter of both utmost urgency and delicacy. Delivered in a stern, but uncompromisingly posh, voice.
Which, I think you’ll agree sounded important. Important enough that me being away from my team for awhile without an official purpose, or to dash out for coffee, wouldn’t perturb the more-senior officers, who were already abandoning their post in droves to start on their holiday plans, if they had bothered to make an appearance today at all.
I got a quickly stated location report and a rather sharp instruction to ‘make all haste’ rather than a more specific clarification of the situation but had coat in hand before the call was done. This was starting to sound big. Like national security big. On Christmas Eve! That wasn’t good. Britain being launched into war was always shit but having it happen on Christmas Eve because I stopped for a moment on the way to the crisis to get a much-needed cup of bracing coffee was the stuff of nightmares. Someone’s nightmares. Mine usually involved showing up at a crime scene wearing no pants. Starting a Christmas Eve, multinational combat event came fairly close, though, on the universal nightmare scale.
Fortunately, there were vehicles available for my secret mission and nobody could really be arsed to ask if I had an official reason for signing one out for use. Maybe because it wasn’t common for me to do that, so whatever reason I had must be important. Like coffee. Which has a somewhat religious standing with members of the police service at any level of assignment. Have to say, though, I don’t really like driving, especially in the city, but when you can set the siren wailing and lights flashing, it is rather more fun. Until, of course, you get a phone call telling you not to arrive on scene with full sirens and lights as if the person issuing the demand had predicted already that would be your course of action and, besides denying me Christmas Eve coffee, was denying me that bit of fun, too. This was not at all surprising for someone bearing the surname Holmes.
Since my fun had already been beheaded by a decidedly un-holiday like verbal broadsword, it wasn’t a shock that I got two more calls. each all the more irate, asking why I had yet to arrive. Being informed that there was an genuine reason police vehicles were granted loud noises and bright flashies which was precisely to make the arriving a faster thing than without them was not well-received. Again, this is fully attributable to the individual being a Holmes.
The destination at which the arrival finally happened was a scandalously-nice home in one of the parts of London that boasted residents who would normally ask their footmen to set out and have a word with the stubble-bearing copper who was choosing to desecrate their extremely tasteful and expensive holiday gatherings with a vulgar police vehicle. Which, fully in the spirit of ruining Christmas, wasn’t even flashing bright, festive lights to show willing.
Being both professional and polite, I made for the wreath-sporting front door, but was nearly body-slammed by the force of the hissed ‘over here’ sounding from around the edge of a perfectly manicured hedge. That is not something a trained detective inspector either ignores or treats with anything except extreme caution. Being fooled once by Donovan into walking into a room filled with old dears waiting to deliver their list of complaints about the lack of police presence in their respective neighborhoods, while Donovan traitorously made a self-serving break for it, was more than enough unwelcome examples of curiosity-satisfying for a lifetime.
While giving serious consideration to putting my hand in my pocket in the time-honored tradition of having an imaginary gun at the ready, I cautiously peeked around the vegetation and, honestly, wasn’t filled with disbelief at the glare that hit me as forcefully as the hiss. They were from the same person, after all. Someone very practiced and skilled with glaring individuals from all walks of life and levels of dangerousness into abject quivering terror. I’d been immunized to Holmes glares long ago, though, so I wasn’t worried. Much.
After the seventeen-hours long lecture about punctuality and, for some reason, the unflattering color of my jacket, a sufficiently-long breath was taken for me to insert into the conversation the basic question as to why my plump arse had been dragged out of it’s admittedly not terribly comfortable chair on this cold Christmas Eve night when there, very obviously, were no foreign spies camping on the lawn. After seventeen more hours of being told how my impertinence was instrumental in dismantling the British Empire, I finally got the story.
The cat got out.
Now, most people would consider this an ‘oh dear’ or ‘the poor thing’ situation and they would be right. Most people would not, however, mobilize a Detective Inspector to assist with the search. This contrast in approaches was presented and, seventeen hours later, the rest of the story was revealed.
The cat was not Mr. Holmes’s cat. The cat was a special cat. The cat was the property of Mr. Holmes’s PA who had been dispatched on a government errand, which was not to her liking, on Christmas Eve, which was even less to her liking, when her cat was likely hours away from delivering kittens, which placed Mr. Holmes’s continued existence in more danger than if his wassail was laced with cyanide. This was understandable. I have met Anthea. I fear Anthea. Anyone with intelligence fears Anthea. She’s scary. And does not make threats lightly. It took weeks for the rude word she wrote on my neck with some form of government-use-only pen to come off. And I’d only made a joke about her shoes! Nearly got a rash wearing all those high-collar shirts…
In any case, their deal was she would attend to the errand but Mr. Holmes had to watch the cat and see it immediately to the vet in the event of kitten-happenings happening. Or happenings that were not kitten related. In summary, If anything happened to the cat his life was forfeit and now Fantasia was roaming wild on Christmas Eve, possibly looking for somewhere to give birth. My mention that that the Virgin Mary might not be thrilled with a cat stealing her Christmas thunder was not looked upon with humor. Little was that night.
At this stage, the job was clear – find the cat. Find the cat sooner than later, healthy and hearty and return her to Mr. Holmes’s house so that a certain PA was none the wiser. We were going covert. This was partly due to the aforementioned neighbors and their footmen. Specifically, a certain someone was rather insistent that the cat be found without the discovery of any personal property boundary violations due to skulking and darting about. For reasons of propriety. Which, I was informed for seventeen hours, was not complete bollocks.
The hunt was now on for a cat. A black cat. At night. Who wasn’t particularly fond of Mr. Holmes at the best of times and very likely viewed this as due revenge for something or another. This was not a job for the faint of heart. Or me, really, since I did NOT want to be in any manner implicated should the cat fail to be located in a timely manner, or at all, and subsequently lose my life and bollocks, complete or not, to a strategically placed kick sporting the impact power of a nuclear warhead. However…
This was a poor little cat, a very pregnant cat, lost in a neighborhood it didn’t know, possibly scared and starting the process of moving kittens from their cozy womb to somewhere far less cozy. On Christmas Eve. There were some situations where braving the potential of taking a ballistic missile to the balls was worth it. Especially since it came with the benefit of watching Mr. Holmes scurrying about, in house slippers, trying to affect a kind and patient voice to coax a cat out from hiding. Few things in life were more amusing, truth be told, but it wasn’t smart to actually say that aloud. Not smart at all. Words can hurt, especially when many haven’t been spoken by a human since the reign of Alfred the Great and all were weighty with the heft of multiple syllables. Hissed syllables. Those were the worst.
After that barrage of friendly fire, it was decided we’d split up. More ground would be covered that way and, more importantly, my brain was safe from being turned to liquid from another blast of antique vocabulary. This did mean, though, there were two of us now prowling the grounds, trying to sound welcoming and gentle while actually looking suspicious as fuck peeking under vehicles and shrubbery. There were some close calls, such as when delivery drivers paid a call at one of the houses we appeared to be casing for a robbery, but none actually saw fit to phone the police. This was troubling, for me, since Mycroft Holmes, in house slippers and a jumper pulled hastily and inside-out over his dressing gown should have immediately prompted a call to the police or military and this didn’t speak well of our citizen’s dedication for looking after the welfare of others.
The search continued and, with the exception of being scolded for considering a piss behind a tree because I hadn’t stopped for one en route for fear it would bring about the Apocalypse, it was mostly uneventful. Which was bad. Uneventful mean unsuccessful and there were already too many reasons making success a necessary outcome for one pair of unpracticed cat hunters that the only acceptable option was finding said success, sitting on it, and giving it a proper thump if it tried to squirm away. Though I really didn’t deserve a from-afar thumping when I asked if beer was available. I was thirsty, despite my simultaneous need to water Mr. Holmes’s sycamore.
Perhaps spurred to a higher hunting gear by my various creature comforts going unmet, I finally noticed a shape that seemed out of place for its current location. Looking up at the stars, while sending up a prayer for beer, I’d spied a patch of sky that pointedly lack them. Stars, that is, not beers. Atop what seemed to be a sunroom addition to the stately house next door to Mr. Holmes, was a stygian void that, after a moment’s watching, allowed two glowing orbs to appear in its inky depths. The cat had seen me. We had locked gazes. So, of course, it had to punish me by starting to wail. Being wailed at by an escaped pregnant cat while being berated for being the reason the wailing began is not as relaxing as it sounds. Less relaxing, however, is having to find a way to climb up a wall like bloody Spiderman, an older, less fit and web-lacking Spiderman, to inch along a startlingly slick roof towards a cat.
Who was glaring. More ferociously than Mr. Holmes.
At least Mr. Holmes didn’t attack when he glared.
The good news was that I didn’t drop the cat when I fell. It would have been difficult, actually, what with its claws embedded in my flesh. She didn’t even pull them out when I had to drag myself, with exceedingly minimal help, over the property line because a certain person didn’t want any potential legal entanglements that might arise from my slashed and broken body being found splayed across a neighbor’s elegant, natural stone patio. Said person did drive me to hospital, though. In my vehicle. With siren and lights. And pounding the horn with increasing frequency when we hit the first layer of traffic. It was like having our own holiday parade, with Fantasia howling along with the siren, though much louder. And less melodic.
So here I am, in traction, awaiting the arrival of Christmas with, I must admit, not my typical level of enthusiasm. I won’t be bollocks-kicked, though, by an enraged PA. Fantasia kindly waited until we’d arrived at hospital to begin delivering her kittens and it’s testament to the staff, and Mr. Holmes’s level of influence, that a room was made ready for me immediately and into that room was placed a shipping box provided with a blanket onto which would be born four kittens, none of whom looked like their mum or each other, so I had to reluctantly give credence to Mr. Holmes’s supposition that Fantasia was somewhat of a tart. They will be collected shortly by Anthea, who might be bringing for us a change of clothes, although I suspect they will not to be to our aesthetic liking since she’s already highly suspicious as to why I had a completely random accident and Mr. Holmes was so noble he couldn’t bear to leave the cat alone to her own devices as he accompanied me for treatment. All in all, a Christmas Eve, and Christmas to remember. Until next time, The Files of Greg Lestrade, DI bids you farewell.
Mycroft huffed loudly and hit Stop on his phone to end the recording of his partner’s ridiculous flight of fancy.
“Really, my dear? Such exaggeration and outright untruths.”
“Drama. It was drama. Like that Blair Witch stuff! Or a juicy film noir detective story. I even used a serious voice so it sounded authentic.”
“All for a bit of lunacy.”
“All for you being evil and not telling me why you wanted me to race home like my arse was on fire AND for doing fuck all to get the cat off of me WHILE doing fuck all to move me onto our property so Lord Carstairs didn’t sue us into penury.”
“That is a gross overstatement of the situation. Though, there really is no doubt that if Roger had discovered your presence, he would have launched legal action, unheeding of any appeal to Christmas spirit. The man tried to sue his own daughter for binning his tie after he stained it with mango chutney.”
“You do have a point about that last bit. But I’m happy now. Got my hard-boiled, true crime video and none’s the wiser of our little caper.”
“Which would certainly not be to our benefit. We are agreed on our tale to satisfy Anthea, are we not? She should be arriving shortly.”
“Yep, slipped on ice. She won’t be able to see my thousands of sutures and bandages under this awful hospital shroud so Fantasia doesn’t have to be dragged into the story in any way whatsoever.”
“You have no sutures and only a few plasters and squares of gauze to document any injuries pertaining to your clawed misadventure.”
“You have your story and I have mine. Speaking of, how is mum doing down there?”
Mycroft peered down and, as expected, found the cat gazing up at him with hate in her eyes. Though her offspring were blissfully unaware of their mater’s demonic sensibilities.
“Despite her malevolent nature, Fantasia seems to be performing her motherly duties admirably. The kittens are cleansed and currently nursing most contentedly.”
“You know, Mycroft…”
“I’m the injured party, so I get more votes than you and I’m thinking that a nice little cat would be good to have about the house.”
“There is little good to be found in that scenario.”
“There’s lots of good! Cats are amazing snugglers and we both find ourselves at home alone more often than we’d like because our work hours are rubbish. A cat would be company! Keep us from getting lonely.”
“Keep us covered in hair and quarreling over who must tidy the cat box.”
“We have cleaners! I wager they’ll do it for an extra sum added to the weekly wages.”
“That grey one, Mycroft. That chubby fellow with the grey fur. You can’t say that’s not me as a cat.”
“Your eyes are not blue. And the fellow is female.”
“All their eyes are blue. I think that’s how kittens are born, actually. Besides, yours are blue, so it still fits. And it’s better that it’s a girl kitty. We need a womanly presence the house to keep us on the straight and narrow. Our own Mrs. Hudson!”
“That is nonsensical.”
“We’ll need a name for her, though. Something holiday-ish. Holly! Hello, little Holly. I’m Greg. I rescued your mum at Christmas and saw you had a safe entry into this world. That’s Mycroft. Or, as he shall now be known, Mr. Grinch.”
“Holly and I disagree.”
“The cat’s name is not Holly.”
“It does need a little something else, doesn’t it? Holly Ann Ivy Christmas Star Yuletide. There. Much better.”
“It’s not as if you can do better.”
“I most certainly can.”
“Prove it. Give our little girl something better. If you can.”
“Very well… Holly Berry Tinsel Ann Snow Weihnachtsbaum Ivy.”
“Woo! Bit of Old World flair in there. Very nice.”
“Not quite right, though. We’ll have to workshop it.”
“Like they do for jokes and such! Get the fiddly bits just so before they’re ready for an audience.”
“That sounds laborious.”
“What else do I have to do? On my back, and not in a fun way, for a week, so I can workshop this and text you ideas if you’re at work.”
“I suppose there is sufficient time for that as kittens cannot be taken from their mother for some period after birth.”
“There we have it, then. We need to put something in there about her being silver.”
“Holly is not silver, she is grey.”
“There’s not a lot of sunlight between those two, so get creative.”
“I am always creative.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“On the next episode of From the Files of Greg Lestrade, DI we learn the lengths to which grown men will go to properly name the cutest Christmas kitten in the world.”
“I am placing a block on YouTube to prevent your inevitable attempt to create a video series.”
“That’s no fun. But fair. The adventures of DI Lestrade should stay a bit secret owing to the sensitive nature of certain information.”
“Which could earn us both a visit from a terribly avenging Christmas angel.”
“Who kicks like a mule.”
“Among other things.”