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I knew Watson would not take it well, but I had to make the effort. He absolutely refused.

“You are in danger here,” I insisted.

“Is there any place where I would not be?” he asked.

“If you go to Walsall, to your wife—” He corresponded with her occasionally. She was teaching at a girls’ school—I assumed Miss Hunter’s. If he was with her, it might look like he was no longer associating with me, and certainly no threat to Moriarty.

“Are you tired of me?” Watson snapped sarcastically. “Is that it? I cannot go there. I doubt Mary will welcome me, and I will not ruin her new life. She is calling herself a widow, Holmes—do you think my presence would bring her anything but scandal?”

“Dammit, Watson, you know why I am suggesting this!”

“I do! And you know what I think. If it is too dangerous for me, then it is too dangerous for you.”

“I have a duty,” I said. “It is my work, my choice—”

“And also mine,” said Watson sharply.

“John—” I said, and was shocked by how strained my voice sounded. He looked at me, and came to put his arm around me, kneeling on the floor next to my chair.

“You will not talk me out of this,” he said.

“I know,” I said bitterly. “Do you know how I will feel if you die because of me?”

“Just as I would if you died because I was not there.”

It was late at night, and we were unlikely to be disturbed. I leaned onto his shoulder—the uninjured one, although by now he was moving with only occasional winces. “It has never been this personal before,” I said.

The bell rang downstairs, and we both turned to look at the door, Watson standing. Shortly there was the sound of Lestrade running up the stairs.

“Mr Holmes,” he said, immediately upon opening the door. “Dr Watson. There’s been a murder.”

I stood; I could feel Watson looking at me. “If you come now, you can see the scene before too many of the public get at it,” said Lestrade.

“Watson?” I asked; he said nothing. “Come along.” I endeavoured to sound confident. Watson strode past me to the coatrack.