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.
“And if you balance this equation . . .” The chalk squeaked over the board.
Young Sherlock Holmes’ voice rose from the back of the classroom. “That’s incorrect.” And as an afterthought, “Sir.”
A wave of tittering and whispers fell to silence as Professor Davis turned from his work to stare long and hard at his peculiar and difficult charge. “Mr Holmes,” he sighed, “I don’t recall your brother ever giving me this kind of trouble.”
“He’s too lazy for that,” Sherlock responded honestly to fresh mirth from his classmates.
Professor Davis tipped his head forward to look over his spectacles in the way that had intimidated students ever since his doctor had told him he needed glasses. “Do you have any idea, Mr Holmes, how long I have been teaching?”
“If you mean how long you’ve been misinforming your students . . . No.”
Later Sherlock would wonder, not for the first time in life, at authority’s habit of encouraging honesty up until the moment they were faced with it, at which time they often chose to punish it thoroughly.
Bonus Holmes content for those who enjoyed “The Mystery of the Last Line.”
The mind of a woman is very different from that of a man,” Holmes was lecturing as we left the cab and started up the stairs that led to our brownstone on Baker Street. “So different, in fact, that it would prove extremely difficult for the average male to follow.”
“Well, Holmes, you are certainly far beyond average,” I supplied as we ascended the 17 steps to our rooms.
“You flatter me, Watson, in as much as you are correct,” my friend responded. He threw open the door to our flat, and I followed him inside.
“You know, Holmes, I am rather surprised you never married,” I went on.
Holmes stopped near the mantel of the fireplace, turning his head only slightly in my direction, as if he was not sure he had heard me rightly. “How’s that?” he inquired sharply.
I dropped into a favourite chair. “Only that one would think a woman could do no better than to find a man who understands her way of thinking.”
“Do not mistake understanding for approval,” cautioned Holmes.
“Come now,” I went on in hopes of lightening his humour once more, “you can’t tell me there was never some dainty country girl, or perhaps someone you met abroad who caught your eye?”
Holmes did round on me then, his expression making several things clear: that such an idea was absurd, that the conversation had taken an inconvenient turn, and that Sherlock Holmes resented such familiarity, even from the man who could be counted his closest companion. But he spoke only one word: “Hardly.”
It was also the last thing he said for three days.
You might notice it over in the sidebar, but in case you don’t have the energy to scroll down: It will be a free e-story, written in the Doyle style, meaning it’s set in Holmes’ original era and told from the point of view of Dr Watson. It’s being formatted now; I’ll certainly let you know when it’s available!
Also as another aside, I now have a tumblr, though I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with it, if anything. I’ve already got too much going on, but I like playing around with the different media interfaces and seeing who and what are out there. It’s almost like sending signals out into space and seeing if any alien life responds . . .