Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Helen Stoner in my novel

For what it's worth, my still unfinished novel is called Deeper in Memory, or DIM for short. And this is a sketch/summary of Helen Stoner's plot in it. It's actually all new, never been posted on my old website either. The scenes are heavy on Helen and Irene Adler for right now, but they will eventually be balanced out with Holmes and Watson. The plot is still subject to change, as you can see in parenthetical questions; I also haven't decided whether Mycroft knows about Helen Stoner or not. I will have to put up the "Reminiscences of Miss Helen Stoner" and "Reichenbach" later, after I've revised them sufficiently to update my current thinking on the SPEC snake and other details.

Despite her terror and anxiety during her case in April 1883, Helen Stoner becomes fascinated by the eccentric detective Holmes, and she at first believes herself to be only so captivated as Watson is. She's engaged to a Percy Armitage and plans to be married in six weeks. However, it's only a lukewarm feeling she has for Percy, who acts very dismissive of her fears. She is just really glad that she isn't doomed to being a spinster, for she's 32 and has already been trapped in the domineering care of her stepfather for eight years.

After the case, she is relieved to finally know the truth, but still feels unhappy that she couldn't have done this two years ago, after Julia's death. Holmes and Watson report Roylott's death, but the county police inspector soon suspects the out-of-towners of deliberately plotting Roylott's murder. Shocked and worried for them, Helen makes up a story about Roylott sleepwalking and being accidentally killed by his secret pet. The police let the detectives go, and Watson tells her that he hopes to publish the story, but Helen is afraid that this will make the police reconsider, so she asks him not to publish until her death. Watson promises, and even gives her his notebook. She leaves for Harrow with her housekeeper Mrs. Beale.

On hearing the surprising outcome of the inquest, Holmes goes to visit Helen at her aunt's in Harrow, ostensibly to get Helen's payment for the case, but really to find out what happened with the verdict. She confesses her lie. Holmes remarks, a little too bluntly, that Helen could no doubt have smooth-talked Constable Tibbs, had he been in charge. Helen blushes, and admits that yes, Tibbs is smitten with her. She might even prefer the local Constable Tibbs to Percy, but she is not sure if this is just her being mixed up after what happened in Stoke Moran. She also feels guilty about lying to Tibbs and misleading the rest of the police on the verdict. She would prefer not to marry at all right now, so she can just breathe and sort things out. She even has to sell the heavily mortgaged property and give the animals to a zoo. On Holmes's advice, which seems to be a mixture of flirtatious joking and real concern, she postpones her wedding again and gets away to New York for a vacation. She leaves Mrs. Beale with her aunt Honoria, and does not bring Percy along.

Holmes writes a letter of introduction for her, and she meets Holmes's American friends, including NYPD detective Wilson Hargreave and the Pinkertons. Through them, she also meets the notorious singer Irene Adler, from New Jersey. Helen keeps writing to Holmes, first to thank him and to ask how Dr. Watson is. They begin discussing the SPEC case again, and Helen says she feels very guilty because Julia had always been suspicious of Roylott; if Helen had only listened to Julia, the girls would not have moved to Stoke Moran in the first place, and Julia would never have died. Holmes tells her not to blame herself. The man was too cunning. Helen also discusses the case with Holmes's friends, who want to hear all the details. So she reads through Watson's notes and writes her own account to sort out her guilty feelings about Julia. Holmes tells her more about his other cases, and his time in America.

Percy writes that he's completed the estate sale and got rid of the animals. He's also annoyed with Helen still being in New York, and he feels that she's behaving erratically. Meanwhile, the correspondence gets friendlier, and eventually Holmes visits Helen (planning to stay for a month) in late 1883. For the first week together, they start to realize that they have fallen for each other. But he backs away from kissing her, wrestling with his conscience about whether he seriously should go back on his old decision to be a mechanical instrument of justice (i.e., a detective) without any distracting emotions.

Irene Adler suddenly visits, having just been jilted by the Crown Prince of Bohemia, and Helen comforts her. Helen decides the next day to tell Holmes that she will end her engagement with Percy, and she kisses him. He at first kisses her back, but pulls away again. He asks what kind of a cunning temptress is she, corrupting him like this? He brings up Constable Tibbs and accuses her of manipulating him too on the Roylott case. (Perhaps also some allusion to the "most winning woman I ever knew" who poisoned children for insurance money.) She's stunned and hurt, calling him a bastard. He leaves and returns to London early, while she cries. Irene Adler now comforts her and tells Helen, "All men are selfish cowards!"

When he arrives in Baker Street, Holmes won't tell Watson what happened. Holmes is determined to rid himself of the taint of love, struggling not to think of Helen any more, or miss her, or write her. He tells himself that she's destructive to his senses, that she's been throwing off his logic since day one. Love is an evil, evil thing, and he was a fool to be so weak! Love is revolting and offensive. Disaster spawns from it, and it's incompatible with justice.

Helen goes back to England to return Percy's engagement ring anyway, and to talk to her Aunt Honoria about being a spinster. She wonders if she should go tell the Surrey county police what really happened, if only to ease her conscience about exonerating Roylott of murder. When she arrives, she sees Tibbs there, and he says that he has now been promoted from Stoke Moran. He sees that she no longer wears her ring, and asks if she would consider marrying him instead of Percy. She's embarrassed and flattered, but says that her heart's too confused just now, and she doesn't want to rush to start something now. He understands that it would look scandalous, but he still wants to know if he could have hopes to woo her later. He is working hard to become an inspector and to be worthy of her. She tells him unsnobbishly that she doesn't care about their class differences and that yes, he can certainly hope. She kisses his cheek and leaves, deciding to not to confess. Leave Roylott's death alone. At least for Watson's sake, if not Holmes's.

She wonders whether she should write to Watson and ask how he is. Holmes was always strangely vague about Watson in his letters. Simply saying that Watson was continuing to write his silly stories even though he was unpublished, and claiming that Watson was flirting with every attractive female client. Helen doesn't think that sounds like the Dr. Watson she met. But maybe writing to Watson would make Holmes think that she was trying to spite him, or win him back? So she just goes back to her Aunt's house to look through Julia's old things stored there.

Irene moves to England (perhaps because Wilhelm is sending burglars after her photo?) and hires a barrister named Godfrey Norton. Helen visits. Seeing that Godfrey is in love with Irene, Helen tries to fix them up, but Irene will not be moved, still hating men.

Meanwhile, Holmes clings desperately to Watson, needing the distraction to keep his mind off of Helen. He's ashamed of himself for still thinking, and dreaming, of her. Even the Milverton blackmail case reminds him of her. His feigned courtship of the maid makes him recall how very badly he'd wanted to kiss Helen, of how deeply he'd been falling in love. He's wrecked with guilt every time he walks with this Agatha girl and whispers sweet nothings in her ear in order to get information. He almost writes a letter to Helen to apologize and confess his love. Almost. After the case, he locks himself in his room again, and Watson hears him repeatedly muttering about the unfairness of life, the destructiveness of love, and the millions of people there must be every day wrecking their lives through desire, adultery, and other irrational excesses of passion.

Watson on the other hand is getting more annoyed by Holmes, and he starts working in a practice (or maybe at Bart's) just to get out of the house. Also goes to clubs and plays billiards with men like Thurston. Learns of Holmes's drug use and lectures him about his health. Meets Doyle, who helps him complete his long unfinished novel STUD in 1886. Will be published in December 1887. After fighting bitterly about cocaine and Holmes's general health, Watson moves out in early 1887, while Holmes goes to France for the Baron Maupertuis case. Watson finally comes back to Baker Street after Holmes's collapse two months later, but he's not happy about it and REIG makes him almost storm out again. But Holmes apologises--or begins to tell him about Moriarty? Watson is not sure that Moriarty is real; Holmes seems ill and distracted lately, but Watson eventually believes Holmes by the time of VALL in early 1888.

Sometime in late 1884, Helen goes back to see Mr. Tibbs, asking if he's still interested in courting her. He actually proposes to her. She's stunned and kisses him, asking him what his first name is. Harry. She warns him that they must get to know each other better. After a while, she accepts his proposal, then goes to Irene to tell her the news.

Irene however is skeptical, claiming that Helen only wants a detective like Holmes. Helen is indignant, insisting that she liked Tibbs before she ever met Holmes. Furthermore, Harry Tibbs is nothing like Holmes. He's affectionate and passionate and warm and tender... Irene looks at her closely. "You've slept with him?"

Helen blushes but confesses that yes, she could not help herself. She's a 33-year-old spinster who should have been married years ago, and after her experience with Holmes, she needed assurance that she would not be frustrated this time. Harry was eager too, having adored her for at least three years in Stoke Moran. Besides, they are engaged, and everything will be made right with their wedding, so it shouldn't really matter.

Irene wonders where her devout Christian faith went? Helen responds, "My devout Christian faith told me to turn the other cheek whenever Roylott abused me. That too was wrong." (Not sure if this is a permanent change in her, or only temporary rebelliousness, because she's been thinking of all that Julia missed.) Helen adds, "It's different for you. You've had affairs in your past, so you can swear off men all you like. I haven't. I need to live now." Irene still argues, "But you're being rash--" Helen interrupts, "Will you please shut up? I came here to ask you to be my maid of honour."

Irene is stunned and flattered. "Really? Scandalous old me?"

"I'm becoming scandalous myself," she jokes. "Anyway, Julia is gone, and you remind me so much of her. We are close friends now, surely?"

"Certainly. But I could just come to sing a song for you. Your aunt should--"

"My aunt is going to give me away. I have no father, you know."

"Oh." Nor stepfather, of course. "Very well." She hugs Helen and finally congratulates her, even though she disapproves. Irene figures that, even if it's a mistake, Helen has her own inherited money which won't become her husband's property. She'll survive.

Helen's engagement continued for a while, and they made many wedding arrangements. (Holmes saw the notice in the paper? Maybe not.) But the engagement was suddenly broken off in 1885. Harry claims that Helen had spoken Holmes's name in bed. She says that's absurd. "I felt something for him once, but not any more. The very reason that I made you wait at first, was so I could be sure I was over him. For heaven's sake, if I secretly loved the man, surely I would use his first name?" Harry still doubts her.

Upset, Helen goes to tell Irene the bad news, and adds that Harry says he'll marry her after all if Helen later finds that she's pregnant. "He proposes a loveless, untrusting marriage to me, after all this?" Now she's sick of men and sick of England. "I'm going away again."


"I don't know." needs a change of pace. Considers getting a job, though she's not qualified for much besides being a housekeeper. Needs something to do.

Irene suggests being her secretary. Helen shakes her head. "I told you. I'm not staying here in England." Irene sighs, "Yes, I suppose you'll want to avoid the scandal."

Helen goes back to New York, is a secretary for the Pinkertons? (No, something more plausible. Maybe gets into Christian charity work.) Anyway, Irene remains in England because of her house with the special hiding place. Through letters, Helen continues to nag her about Godfrey. Irene asks, "How can you still have blind faith in love?"

"If I can't be happy, you should be. He adores you, and you adore him. You are lying to yourself."

Irene still resists and stupidly says the unforgivable comment over the phone, "What do you really know about men? Every one who loved or didn't love you has gone."

Helen hangs up and stops writing to her directly, but she still hears news about more burglary attempts from their circle of friends. Everyone keeps telling Irene to just give the photo back, but she refuses. By 1889, Helen reads a notice in the news that the now King of Bohemia is getting married. He surely will become more determined to retrieve the photo. Helen finally telegrams Irene to warn her to seek Holmes for help against Wilhelm.

"You expect me to hire that detective, after what a bastard he was to you?"

"Bastard or not, he's good at his job. Ask Mrs. Farintosh about the opal tiara. If you don't hire Holmes, Wilhelm surely will. Holmes takes lofty clients now."

"You are still following the man's cases?"

Helen decides to write to Godfrey now, to warn him to do something drastic. She also reluctantly writes Holmes a letter asking him to please let bygones be bygones and help her friend Irene Adler. Holmes receives it after the SCAN case and is shocked. He didn't remember meeting Irene Adler before. Writes her back to tell her what happened. She apologizes for interfering in his case. They start corresponding again, as just friends.

(Or maybe this is way too late. Maybe they should have resumed years earlier? But what would make her forgive him? What would make him answer? Maybe she writes to Watson upon the publication of STUD, to congratulate him, but Holmes intercepts the letter and is jealous. Writes her to stop encouraging Watson's silly stories? Maybe the Pinkertons hear of Birdy Edwards' death [John Douglas in VALL] in Jan 1888? Then Helen hears from them and offers sympathy? Maybe he responds because he's feeling checkmated by Moriarty for now, because he couldn't prove Porlock's murder? He's also fighting with Watson constantly about cocaine and morphine.)

Once Watson marries, Holmes misses him and ups his cocaine use even more. He also has a string of disastrous cases like FIVE and the one involving Struthers, making him feel like a failure. Helen tries to reassure him.

Since he's apparently losing his ability as a detective anyway, Holmes finally gives in to his own emotions in 1890. To test the waters, he writes Helen a telegram: "I was a fool when last we parted. Could you ever have the grace to forgive me?" She writes back that she'll consider it, if he'll send a full letter of apology. So he does, and this time he confesses that he loves her deeply. He even mentions recently thinking of her letter about the goodness of Providence, as proved by flowers. He's open to believing in her optimism now.

Helen is cheered by this and writes back that she forgives him and would like to come visit him soon. He agrees, but makes sure that Watson won't be around, because he wants to be alone with her. Also still insanely jealous.

So Helen briefly and happily visits him in London. He proposes, and she accepts. Does she confess her engagement to Tibbs, or does he already know? She can see his poor health and asks what's wrong. He confesses about his cocaine use, and she says that she's not surprised, after what Watson wrote in SIGN about Holmes's drug habit (published in 1890).

"You read his stories?" insanely jealous.

She smiles. "No matter how angry I was at you, I still liked hearing about the doctor."

He huffs.

She asks to see his arm, pushing back the sleeve. Refers to when he pushed back her own sleeve to show the bruise at her wrist.

So he lets her see. Tension as they touch and meet each other's eyes. Then they kiss and embrace for the first time in years. They spend the night together.

Then he must depart for his case, while she will visit her aunt in Harrow to make arrangements for the wedding. Telegrams Irene too; she's still in hiding with Godfrey on the Continent. Holmes writes and promises to see her after finishing up his Moriarty case. When he is done, he plans to retire as a detective and marry her and move to New York. Has not figured out how to tell Watson all this, and whether he can keep his jealousy in control enough to have Watson as his best man.

However, he is cruelly thwarted by Helen's sudden death in early 1891 (perhaps an accident/disaster during her travel to visit Irene on the Continent). This pushes him over the edge emotionally, so he pursues Moriarty more recklessly from January to April in 1891, and he intends to die at Reichenbach. Which is when Struthers comes to his rescue.

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