Despite everything, they say it would be a violation of my civil liberties to deprive me entirely of outside contact. I have thus been allowed to include three people on my list of 'approved visitors.'
Yours is the only name.
You will be wondering why I'm telling you this (assuming, of course, that Captain Gregson did not immediately inform you – though I suspect he and your Ms. Watson would prefer you never found out. I don't believe you need as much protection as they wish to give). I hardly expect, after all, to see you join the hordes in the visitors' room of a Sunday. But then, I never expected to see you throw over London, that queen of cities. You do continue to surprise me.
Regardless, I write not to beg you for a visit, much as I might wish to see how else you differ from my recollections of you. I only wish you to understand the extent to which my influence has been limited. You need not fear another Moran.
And should you not believe me, as indeed you have no reason to, you may come and hear the truth from me. Face to face.
"I hope you're not trying to convince me that the police have suddenly developed an entirely unexpected level of competence," Moriarty said precisely, "because I find that rather difficult to believe."
"It's not the cops," Danny said. Moriarty raised one eyebrow and was gratified to see him take a step back before continuing more respectfully. "I mean, the cops were there, that's why we scrapped the job, but it's been different cops every time except for one guy."
He dropped a photo on the desk in front of her. She studied it, listening absently as Danny continued. "Name's Holmes. He calls himself a consulting detective, of all things. He's the one who keeps buggering up our plans."
"Indeed?" Moriarty picked up the photo then, waving a hand in dismissal. As the door shut behind Danny, she ran a finger thoughtfully over the determined jawline of the man in the picture.
Forgery was a matter of research as much as talent. The science of sourcing period-specific materials and tools appealed to Moriarty nearly as much as seeing a perfect replica of a work take form through her brush. Though she had long been out of the business, she kept her hand in, producing the occasional piece for a job alongside her own work.
She tuned to studying Sherlock Holmes with the same energy she had applied to sourcing an authentic white lead pigment, with equally illuminating results. She ate at his brother's restaurant, examining the menu with a zeal that made the waiter suspect she was a food critic. Her police scanners became tools not for determining a job's schedule, but for tracking Holmes to crime scenes so she could observe his technique. She even brushed past him on the street once, heavily disguised but still taking an unusual risk. He smelled like honey and ink.
She discovered his drug habit. It would be an easy way to get rid of him. She went so far as to set it up – but his scent lingered in her mind and she decided he deserved her own personal touch.
He was solitary by choice, she realised, but not by nature. She set a trap; she forged some Turners. And thus Irene was born.
The worst part of being incarcerated is the monotony. Did you find the same?
I can see your face now, no doubt indignant as you prepare to protest that you have never been imprisoned involuntarily (yes, I know about your time undercover in the Scrubs; no, I do not include it here). But I have been thinking of you, in my copious spare time, and I rather suspect I feel much the same about prison as you felt about rehab.
I am only guessing, of course, and perhaps you don't wish to compare our situations so closely, yet the parallel seems apt. For those with a need for mental stimulation as great as ours, any sort of extended confinement wears on the nerves in a similar fashion, I should think.
Shall I tell you about my day, dear? They're alike enough that I need only share the one. And even through I don't know whether you're reading these (as much as I suspect – I hope – you are), doing so will at least eat up some of these endless hours.
Everything revolves around counting, checking, being accountable, does it not? Did it choke you as it does me to be kept in one place endlessly, at the mercy of dullards who can't even add properly? The interminable wait for the maths to come out right must be incitement for innumerable relapses (a matter of more seriousness in prison than in rehab).
I won't describe breakfast. I haven't enough synonyms for 'bland.'
The arbitrary nature of the scheduling is perhaps the most frustrating part of each day. Was rehab any different? Did they supply – or were you able to deduce – any rationale behind the organization of our time? Perhaps there, with a rotating population and a defined goal, one may find more of a sense of purpose than here, where we are all merely marking time. And yet I cannot see you responding to a scheduled block of 'morning television time' with any more enthusiasm than do I. Still, they dislike it when I inquire as to the rehabilitative properties of Maury Povich.
After lunch (as unremarkable as breakfast: do you remember the time you cooked eggs at mine, late at night? Not quite so rubbery; I hope you learned from that incident), I have my work rotation, which at least allows me outside into the prison garden. If I'm still here when the snow flies, I shall miss the freedom.
Before you alert security, allow me to point out that I might be moved for an entirely innocuous reason, such as my trial.
It may surprise you to know that dinner is often more palatable than either of the earlier meals. Then again, food is a simple method of drugging us into somnolence and ensuring we sleep through the night. I rarely do, though not for any hidden reason; the constant light and noise keep me awake, and my neighbour often has nightmares. How did you manage, being always in the presence of others?
I wish you joy of your brownstone and your chosen companion. I recognise that they were hard-won.
Moriarty never expected Holmes to interest her, outside of the obvious professional interest she had in understanding his ability to persistently foil her plans. She did, though: even aside from the sex – which was good, inventive and athletic, though she suspected he was still holding something back – she found him... intriguing.
On their second date, as it were, he took her to Old Spitalfields Market. Irene, still touched by the romance of the tunnels, was inclined to let it slide; Moriarty, though, was obscurely disappointed in him and some of her sharp tongue bled through.
"I got over the tourist thing my first week here, you know," she told him, pointedly eyeing the Ripper tour outside the Ten Bells. "You know how I feel about repetitions."
"Then you've seen the best and the worst of the city," he said. "But have you really looked? Beneath the surface, that is. Not literally, this time, not even I would dare to brave the East End sewers without an excellent reason and significant preparation, but I do flatter myself that I can still provide you with some insights into what makes London tick without resorting to the banal." He rocked forward onto his toes eagerly.
She narrowed her eyes at him but took his hand nevertheless, letting him lead her deeper into the East End. They mingled with the crowds of the Brick Lane market, dodging tourists and merchants alike. Moriarty was about to protest again when Holmes pulled her to a stop.
"There's much I can't share about the work I do," he said. "But the history of crime in London is a fascinating topic, and one on which I am particularly well-versed. Tell me, what do you know of the Kray twins?"
Moriarty let Irene smile, managing to choke down her laughter. She forbore to mention that she'd had the history of the Krays from "Mad" Frankie Fraser before he died. Instead she listened to Sherlock's narrative with interest.
His knowledge of the city was quite literally encyclopedic. The picture he painted of the East End in the 50s and 60s was complete down to the type of mud tracked into George Cornell's flat when the Krays killed him. His hands flashed through the air as he wove together the disparate strands of his story. No wonder he was so challenging, she thought, if he saw each part of the cases he investigated as rapidly and thoroughly as he saw the city's history.
"Irene?" he said, and she came back to herself with a start; he had called her more than once, she realised belatedly, while she stared at him. The half-smile playing about his lips suggested he'd more than noticed her inattention. No matter. She could work with that.
"Come on," she said, winding her arm through his. "Let's go to Brick Lane and eat Indian food till we burst."
"Isn't that edging a bit on the tourist side for you?" he asked, swinging into step willingly.
"Never boring, remember?" She smiled. "Anyway, I want to taste something that burns."
I miss Irene. Do you? Or have I tainted all of our past for you? I do hope not.
Irene was a construct. But that doesn't mean there was nothing of me in her.
I am not doing this to be cruel, no matter what you – or Gregson, or Watson – may believe. But sending this letter without explanation would be cruel, I think, no matter my intentions.
Some of the other inmates here know me as Irene. Oh, I can't escape my name, of course. That news reached all the cells before I stepped foot through the door. But not all of us speak to each other; the gardeners rarely mix with those of us awaiting trial and life outdoors is simpler as Irene. I answer to both names, if never in the same place.
I haven't many tools, of course, but I have done a few drawings. That was always mine, not something put on with Irene's clothing or her accent. So much of her was me.
It was an indulgence, she knew. The answer was long since found; her mission had succeeded. She'd even pulled off a job, albeit a small one, without attracting his attention. She understood how to sneak under his radar: the workings of his mind were clear to her. She was done. And yet, she hesitated.
At last, she rescheduled the most recent job he'd interrupted. When it was a success, she prepared to act.
"Let me draw you," she told him the next day, leaning back against his chest. The bedclothes puddled around them and she admired the defined curve of his calf where his legs bracketed hers.
"Hm?" He was distracted, flighty, and though he hadn't said, she suspected it was because of the death he'd failed to prevent. He'd been bringing his version of Moriarty into their bed more and more often lately; she savoured the irony of having him bare the inner workings of his mind to her whilst naked with the very phantom he was chasing.
"Let me draw you," she said, the short a of Irene's American accent sitting oddly in her mouth.
"I'd really rather you didn't," he said shortly.
She turned in surprise. "Why not? I want to." It had been an idle thought, but his dismissal of it made her all the more determined to take a memento of him.
"And I don't want you to, Irene. Leave it." He caressed her shoulder absently, but his eyes remained focused on the other side of the room.
She gaped for a moment. Her cheeks burned in shame, then in fury. "I won't!" she said, shoving him down on the bed. Pinning his shoulders, she swung her leg over and straddled him. "Unless you can give me a logical reason why not." Her fingernails bit into his shoulders and his eyes fixed, suddenly, on hers.
"Let me up!" he said, startled.
She started to move. Pushing off his shoulders, she drove him deeper into the bed. He winced; his pupils dilated.
"Are you sure?" she asked, moving more deliberately. She slid back, feeling his cock harden against her arse, and tightened her grip again.
"Irene," he said softly. His hands fixed on her hips, holding her against him.
"I can make you say yes," she whispered, uncertain for a moment whether it was her or Irene speaking. Leaning down so her breasts pressed against his skin, she kissed him firmly, catching his bottom lip between her teeth and tugging.
He nodded slightly. It was enough.
Later, she sat atop him, holding back her own orgasm as she pushed him toward his. She raked her nails across the marks she'd left earlier and watched as the last tiny pain pushed him past his limit, his head arched back in the tension of release.
"This is how I'm going to draw you," she said between gasps, feeling her cunt tighten and her toes curl. As she shook against him, letting her orgasm take her, she committed his face to memory and prepared to memorialise the way he looked when she hurt him.
Irene isn't the only one, you know – the only other person I've been. I've been several over the years. But you're probably the first to have known me in more than one guise. I don't mind the idea at all.
Do I measure up to your research into Moriarty? Apart from my gender, that is. I do wonder what you knew when. How close did you come? That was the glory of playing off you: I could never take anything for granted. It was a joy learning to understand your mind.
You created Irene as much as I: do you feel guilty for that? She would not have lived were it not for you – but then, nor would she have died.
Nor would she have come back to life.
It's a bit concerning, her revival. I thought I'd washed my hands of you and her both. When I kill someone, they usually stay dead.
Moriarty shut the door behind herself and crossed the room deliberately. The studio wasn't much, but it was hers with the full knowledge and mostly-uncoerced assent of the warden. She bore no misapprehensions about the scrutiny the space underwent when she was elsewhere, but the solitude provided a significant advantage.
She placed the letter against her easel and contemplated it.
It had been opened and read by the guards, then casually stuffed back into the envelope: there was a crease running through her name, but the pen had rolled smoothly when writing. His hand was firm, but he had hesitated: she could see tiny drops of ink near the 'J' of her name where he had put pen to paper and pulled back. Of course, he would know she'd see that; he'd left it as a message. Showing her that he was uncertain about writing to her intimated that it was an academic uncertainty rather than an emotional one. Not that the two couldn't happily co-exist.
The paper's weight was heavy, but not extravagant; the pen ballpoint; the return address printed neatly in capitals that were slightly too large. He was trying very hard to portray nonchalance.
She opened the letter, skimmed it, then read it again, slowly. It was short. His normal exuberant sentences were carefully constrained. Moriarty, he wrote – no salutation, nor, she noticed at the bottom, valediction save for his full name. Careful, again.
The letter was devoid of personal information; he answered none of the questions she had posed in her previous missives. As expected.
The fact of the response, though, told her a great deal. She hadn't expected one so quickly; he remained delightfully unpredictable. She would have to adjust her plans.
Looking around, she considered the various paintings and drawings she had on display. She'd painted herself quite a view; among the landscapes were multiple studies of Sherlock, done in meticulous details. Sherlock as he had been during their affair; Sherlock now, with new tattoos, track marks, and tired eyes. She'd sketched him without his skin, smears of charcoal suggesting movement, and painted him nude from the back, the only point of colour the inflamed red of Proctor's gunshot wound in his shoulder.
And she'd drawn him in extremis, caught forever in the moment of release she'd granted him in London.
She meant them to be seen – meant them to be seen by him, when she could get him there – but clutching his letter, she reconsidered. He knew, or thought he knew, the source of her focus on him. Perhaps it was time to shift that focus.
She thought of Joan Watson, leaning back in her chair and meeting Moriarty's gaze without fear, and her hand twitched, aching to capture those proud eyes. Sherlock would come, she knew, and he would expect her to be ready. She needed to decide what messages she wanted to send.
She passed the letter beneath her nose and inhaled. Ink... and honey.
Thank you for your letter. You can't know what it means to hear from you. With the end of autumn and the drawing in of winter, the prison becomes ever more insular. Yours remains the only name on my approved visitors list, though there are others I could add. I'm not sure I wish to speak to anyone else. I don't believe I have anything to say.
We harvested our last vegetables just before the first frost. The garden is shut to Irene now, and I rarely see her acquaintances. People don't speak to me as easily as they did her, and those that do rarely say anything I wish to hear. The population here is as bland as the food. Still, I have made some improvements to my situation. I have my art back: I find being so closely observed lends a certain touch of bitterness to my paintings, but it is worth it to have an escape, however illusory.
I think you'd like some of my new pieces. I hope you have a chance to see them.
You're quite the popular topic of conversation on the inside, did you know? You needn't worry; I haven't made the depth of our relationship public. I'm not entirely certain whether doing so would elevate or diminish my standing here, come to think.
I could gain a significant amount of social currency from tales of your Ms. Watson, though, I should tell you. People are simply fascinated by her, and by your transition to a duo – as, I must admit, am I. I should have thought your work habits unsustainable in a partnership, yet the two of you work admirably together. Of course, I've seen for myself that her skill is a suitable foil for yours, but it was most unexpected. I find myself – if I'm honest; and I shall be, with you, now – somewhat disconcerted, yet it's hard to believe you can have changed so completely. I did understand you, once; I think I still might.
For a long while now, I've suspected that connection with another person, real connection, simply isn't possible. I'm curious if you disagree, although I suspect you feel as I do in this, as you do in so many other things. So tell me; is it possible to truly know another person? Is it even a worthwhile pursuit?
Yours is the only opinion I'll trust, the only point of view that holds even the faintest interest. I find my diversions, as I always do, but the days are long in this grey place.
I dearly hope you'll write soon.