11,041 vagabonds plus:
the shadow client
Sherlock Holmes, sitting in the solitary deep-cushioned chair at 221B, aimed square down the barrel of the pistol targeting his comrade at the door.
"My dear Watson, I would never", he laughed. Watson, blood drained from head, fell into the wooden chair of the cherry desk scarred by wax droppings and chemical soup stains. "Easy, my friend, you've faced far worse in war and peace".
"I've become quite brittle in my old age, Holmes", he replied, a smile forming in the last four words, "and perhaps resembling Moriarty", he laughed nervously. He took out a clean white handkerchief to wipe his forehead, but stopped as he gazed on an open letter and yellow envelope tucked in-between some empty test tubes. The Detective followed his gaze. He lowered his voice. "Read it if you would be so kind, Watson".
Holmes watched mouthing words as Watson scanned the addressed envelope, then read four pertinent lines...
Dear Mr. Holmes:
I know not where else to turn in my hour of despair. I must seek your assistance as dark shadows haunt me incessantly. I shall be at Camby's Pub, rear table, at six tonight if that is satisfactory with you, Sir.
I am to be murdered.
...and looked towards the curtained window just as his companion completed the last line of the singular note.
"When did you receive this"?
"Today. You see..dropped off in person".
"How do you know?"
"No postage, Watson", he replied impatiently.
"Why did she just not just have Mrs. Hudson show her up?"
"Shy perhaps". He was silent for many minutes starring at the ceiling, hands prayerful at tight lips. He turned to a heavy-eyelid Watson and whispered, "Do you have your pistol, Watson, and will you accompany me?"
Two derbies and wraps hung from the wooden coat tree in the Camby Pub on London's darkest street, made no more welcome by gaslight, pale faceless people coming and going, walking in straight lines, coughing but no talking, and daring not to look left or right. Watson was comforted by both steel companions, and he thought maybe it was more Holmes than the one-shot wonder at the ready in his jacket pocket. The two men ignored their foamed pints and waited one half-hour past six, Holmes rubbing his hands and chuckling frequently, Watson impatient, wanting to drink but knowing better. Holmes spoke.
"Did you notice the envelope the letter arrived by?"
"Arrived by? No".
"Printed. Envelope from an entirely mismatched stationery. And clumsy block letters."
"Written by someone else, not..a woman's hand..".
Watson was silent, and waited. "What is your guess, Holmes?"
"You know I never guess, Watson", he said, shaking his head disappointingly, "we've clearly been drawn away from Baker Street. There is maybe one point I haven't decided on.."
"But you've told me nothing"!
He started to explain, but looking over Watson's shoulder towards the front window, raspily cried, "Watson! He's moved away! Your pistol! The game's afoot"! Two pints spilled forward as the two bolted past the confused, aproned proprietor, and going out the door Holmes pulled Watson's shoulder down just in time to avoid flying lead. Watson returned fire into the night, running the best he could after Holmes. Rounding the walk onto Baker Street, Holmes stopped and held Watson back with outstretched arm.
"Look there", Holmes pointed up towards their rooms. A candled light was dancing between the three bay windows. The two reached the stairs and strode up two steps at a time, quiet as possible upon the creaky floor. A woman could be heard from inside the flat moaning in hopeless grief. The door at the bottom of the steps at the street slammed and the sound of running could be heard.
"Mrs. Hudson"?, Watson whispered at Holmes.
He shook his head. "I sent her away hours ago", he said aloud. Holmes's confidant expression changed to one of bewilderment. At the door he whispered, "I don't understand, Watson". They entered the dark flat, it was so cold, a small glint of reflection sparked from one glass beaker at Holmes's desk, the sound of glass splintering as though struck with precision. As their eyes adjusted to the dark the shadowy outline of a woman became visible, swimmingly mist-like, there by the middle bay window, arms outstretched to her benefactors in silent screaming agony. Watson recklessly fired once more, shattering the window, apparition dissolving, fireplace flaring up, and Holmes caught the dear old fellow before he hit the floor in a dead faint.
"You see, my dear Watson, that dastardly murderous Ramsey was the lookout at the pub, I recognized him easy enough, if he'd not panicked and stayed put he would have succeeded. Miss Willow died mysteriously many years ago, unsolved, that was easily checked, on the third shelf in my encyclopedia scrapbook - knew that before you arrived - there there, easy, drink that slower...I knew Ramsey wanted something from our rooms, probably had an, um, inebriated woman scrawl that letter jokingly and boldly signed off by the woman he murdered..oh, yes, Watson evidence yes...the door slamming and those hurried steps, his ghost-frightened accomplice fleeing...ransacking our humble abode for the proof of the slow-killing poison that I didn't even knew I possessed. How he knew? That's the one point I never could figure. And obviously I never could've deduced that we would meet Miss Willow in the ..in the.."
"In the flesh, Holmes?" Watson sighed deep and fell asleep at last.
image: Uzengia Aleksander Nedic
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