Although it was late in the morning, Sherlock Holmes still wore his threadbare smoking jacket and slippers. He had foregone breakfast, instead opting for his pipe, and he moved restlessly about our flat, walking first to the window then back to the mantel and around the table, circling like the bird of prey his sharp profile suggested him to be.
I was fully dressed and finished with my morning meal, now sitting at the table and picking through the morning papers. Usually Holmes would have done the same, but this day he seemed unable to sit still long enough. Then finally he stopped at the window and gazed out. “So many people,” I heard him murmur.
“Pardon?” I asked, thinking to draw him out. The past weeks had been dull for him, with no interesting cases to occupy his fantastic mind, and he had, much to my chagrin, returned to his vices. Such habits often caused him to mutter to himself, usually unintelligibly, and then sometimes in French, but since I’d made out the context of this last thought, I felt it might be safe to ask.
He faced me then, and I caught that excited, half-wild expression he sometimes wore, either when in the grip of a good case or the vise of his cocaine. “Have you ever thought that there might be something more to the world? That perhaps you’re beyond this?” He gestured to the window, turning again to look out at the street. “I do.”
I hesitated. “Well, of course, Holmes, you are quite beyond most people.”
“People live by assumptions, Watson. You assume when you set off to go somewhere that you’ll get there. You never think crime, tragedy, despair, death itself might meet you halfway.
“And yet,” he went on darkly, “I think there are people in this world who may never die.”
“You’re getting fanciful, Holmes,” I said gruffly, attempting to cover my unease. “Are you sure your solution wasn’t more than seven per-cent today?”
But he did not answer. He had fallen back into that place he sometimes went, that place truly beyond most people, that place that made him the best private consulting detective of all time as well as perhaps the loneliest man who ever lived.