Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade has taken up smoking again – aggressively. His lungs already feel like two suffocating lumps of mangled muscle marinated in poison. He stubbornly sucks more smoke down his throat and hopes to choke on it.
“It'll be slow,” Greg mutters through painfully dry lips. “I'll suffer more this way. It's justice.”
The grave of Sherlock Holmes is silent but Greg feels strangely acknowledged in a way that he quietly craved but never seemed to merit while Holmes was alive.
“I didn't know,” Greg begins, but gets lost in the pause. He'd never imagined that he'd be the Judas of their story. He'd never suspected that his own life mattered terribly much to the Great Sherlock Holmes. And he'd never believed that Sherlock could actually die.
“Truth is, I'm doubting you even now. I don't think you're really under this. I won't believe it.”
Greg crouches and stubs out his cigarette in the dirt. Disrespectful to the dearly departed, surely.
“Don't come back, though. Don't. It'll only happen again. We ruin anything we can't understand. That's what I do.”
He resists the impulse to turn up his collar against the wind. Greg's knees protest bitterly as he stands. Arthritis, probably. He digs in a pocket for another shot of future cancer and lights it up against the fog closing in. Before Sherlock Holmes Greg saw everything in black and white. Now all is smudged with shadow – smoke and ash, bloodless skin – and the spaces between words where the truth squeezes in.
“I'm sorry, Sherlock,” Greg whispers.
Later that night Greg wakes in a panic, blearily stumbling out of bed. Someone had just been in his room, watching him. A thief? Someone had been . . .
Greg stares at his dressing table. The thief has made off with his cigarettes and ashtray.
In their place sits a packet of nicotine patches.