Someone close, but not too close. Someone the Great Detective knows well — an old friend, a forgotten lover, a favorite tradesperson, a former coworker — needs help. Not an innocent; they stepped outside the bounds of society out of greed or need or love and now they’re caught with their foot in the trap. Of course he’ll take the case.
Violence and the threat of violence hang in the air. The Great Detective is discomfited; this hits closer to home. Heavy footfalls echo off the walls of the alleyways he turns down; a sleek black car hops the curb and brushes against the hem of his coat. His Archnemesis is playing for keeps this time; the game has grown suddenly serious. The client is killed or kidnapped or beaten into a coma; something horrific that takes them out of the story and raises the stakes.
Too late for the client, but the Great Detective has put the pieces together, pulled back the lid on the city’s seamy underbelly, revealing an elaborate network of crime operating with the implied blessing of the police, the courts, the wealthy; so long as they limit their depredations to the poorer sort, it’s not worth interfering. The Great Detective calls in his Lestrade to bring down the crime ring.
The leaders of the crime ring all die in their cells. Suicide is a plague in the prisons, say the cops, and cough mockingly into their sleeves. A check arrives by mail; for services rendered says the memo.
The Great Detective keeps pushing; Lestrade takes a leave of absence. He holds His Archnemesis at gunpoint, I know it was you. His Archnemesis laughs; you think I could do this all on my own? Give me a name, says the Great Detective. A shot rings out; the window shatters; the smell of gas in the apartment.
When he wakes, there are flowers by his hospital bed, signed by the richest man in town. Best wishes, they say, for services rendered.