Chapter 1: Horses and Milk
My name is John Hamish Watson and I hate diaries.
My name is John Hamish Watson and I hate therapists.
"Well, since your blog didn't work out," she said to me at our last meeting, "I think we should move on to something more private. Something only you can read. I recommend starting a journal, John."
I scoffed. "I'm not a teenage girl."
Her eyebrows rose the slightest millimeter as she flipped through her notes lazily. "I think it's your best option at this point, John."
I frowned, staring very hard at the ugly rug that carpeted her office, concentrating on the vomit brown pattern. "Why?" I said flatly.
She sighed and crossed her legs. "We've tried blogging, meditation, outdoor recreation, and sleep therapy. I convinced you to start playing tennis to clear your mind, so why can't you write in a journal?"
"Diary," I muttered. I could see she struggled not to roll her eyes.
"Try it," she said. "Just until our next appointment."
I did the math in my head. "That's ten days."
She nodded slowly. "Yes. Write down something each day. I won't read it, of course. And if by our next appointment you still feel it isn't working for you, we'll try something else."
"I have to write in it every day?"
"For ten days?"
"Yes, John," she replied, unable to keep a hint of annoyance out of her voice.
I thought on it for a moment. I'd never kept a journal, not even in Afghanistan when some of my fellow soldiers felt the need to jot things down. I'd always figured that if something's important enough, it will stick in your brain. "Okay, I'll do it."
The cashier at the convenience store quickly flashed her eyes up from the magazine plastered with celebrity candids that she was reading to look at me, and then back down. I made my way over to the stationary aisle and looked at the lacking selection.
There were a few leather-bound tomes, miniature little blocks of paper which were completely useless if you wanted to write anything of meaning, and one solitary spiral notebook with a horse prancing through a field as its cover. I went straight for a leather-bound notebook, but then glumly returned it to its shelf after seeing the ridiculous price. The horse looked up at me from the spiral notebook, its coat glossy and sleek. I smirked to myself, thinking, Well, if I'm going to keep a diary, I might as well do it properly. I picked it up and flipped through the pages. It was much less expensive, so I went ahead and found a hideous, glittery pink pen with a tuft of purple sticking out at the back end.
I walked up to the counter with a stupid grin on my face.
The cashier gave me a warm smile in return. "Birthday present?" she asked as she rang up my purchase.
"No, it's for me."
Her eyes widened as she passed me the plastic bag over the counter. "H-have a good day," she mumbled, clearly unsettled.
I chuckled to myself and walked out of the shop, heading towards my flat. People on the sidewalk made way for me and my cane, their eyes sliding quickly away from my crippled self. Of course I wasn't really crippled... No, John. Stop right there. Dangerous line of thought. I sighed and dug my hand into my pocket, fishing around for the flat keys. Once I'd managed to find them and insert them into the lock, I hurried in and slammed the door behind me.
The hallway was dark. I rested against the door and took a deep breath. No John, don't you dare think about it, a snide voice said in the back of my mind. I turned on the light and climbed the stairs to enter my flat. My leg desired a first-floor flat, but there were none in London that were in my price range. I dropped the bag with the journal onto the floor and went to put the kettle on. It was only after I'd had my steaming cup of tea for the night that I remembered the journal.
I settled down at my barren desk with the horse notebook and the pen. On the inside cover there was a label that said, "This diary belongs to..." I filled in the space with "JHW." The pen's ink was a sparkly blue. I felt extremely childish as I turned to the first page. It only took a moment to decide what was on my mind. It took a bit longer to summon the will to write it down.
My name is John Hamish Watson and it's been three months since my best friend died.
That night I had trouble sleeping. Then again, I always had trouble sleeping. Usually I was able to get at least a few hours of shut-eye near the rising of the sun. Tonight I just watched my ceiling lighten, my brain running in an endless cycle.
Don't think about him.
I miss him.
Don't think about him.
I miss him!
Dammit, John! Get some sleep!
I tossed and turned, kicking the blankets off when I was too hot and scrambling for them when I became chilled.
At four in the morning, I'd had enough. I felt around for the light switch and groaned when the artificial white blinded me. As my eyes adjusted, I reached for my cane and heaved myself to my feet. My slippers dragged on the carpet as I shuffled to the kitchen, turning on lights as I went. I passed a hand over my cheek and opened the refrigerator, yawning.
You need a shave, John.
You need to stop talking to yourself, John.
There was a knock on the door, and I dropped the milk carton I was holding, liquid splattering everywhere. It was four in the bloody morning, so who was at the door? I looked down at the pool of white milk seeping into my clothing. "What a right mess," I muttered, and cautiously made my way to the door. I wasn't going to sweep it open in case some crazed murderer or homeless man was lurking on the other side. I cracked it open a sliver. "Molly?" I opened the door wider. "What the bloody hell-"
"Shh," she said, stepping in and closed the door behind her quickly. "I was walking by and saw your lights were on."
"Walking? At this time of night?"
Molly blushed. "Well... no. I just... I need to speak with you, John. If that's okay with you, of course." She was still wearing her lab coat, her hair tied back in the usual ponytail. She peered around me and spotted the mess that had become my kitchen. "Er... Is this not a good time?"
"Sorry, what?" I said, turning distractedly to the milk. "Oh... no... I was just fixing myself some-oh never mind." I walked over and started to clean up. Molly fluttered about, trying to help me. In the end my leg started to complain so I let her take over. When she'd cleaned the floor, I thanked her profusely. It was then that I noticed that I was half-naked in my pajamas. However, Molly didn't seem affected by it.
"Here, why don't we sit down," I said, gesturing to the armchairs by my pitiful excuse of a fireplace. We sat in the semi-darkness, the light from the kitchen not quite reaching us. "So... what's on your mind?" I asked her.
She twisted her hands in her lap, biting her lip as she often did. "Please... don't... freak out, alright?"
"It's just... I know it's been hard for you these past months. It's been hard for everyone."
I swallowed loudly, sure Molly could hear the lump in my throat getting caught.
Molly took a breath, as if to steady herself. She squared her shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. "John, I don't think Sherlock Holmes is dead."
Chapter 2: Umbrella Man
John is lead further down a trail in the hopes that the rumors he hears are true.
The silence seemed to sit there forever between us.
“What do you mean?” I finally said, my voice unusually rough.
Molly fiddled with her hair and wouldn’t meet my gaze. “It might be just a rumor... but I’m hearing it everywhere, John.”
I suddenly realized that my sweaty hands were clamped onto the armrests, white from lack of blood. “I...”
Molly abruptly stood up. “You should go see Mycroft. He has his own way of knowing things.”
I slowly got to my feet, my cane slippery from my perspiration. “One can’t simply ‘go see Mycroft.’ He’s the one that usually finds people.”
Molly slightly inclined her head. “I’m pretty sure Sherlock kept his address somewhere in Baker Street.”
“You know I can’t go back there!” I retorted, suddenly angered. “Look at me--three months and I’m still a mess. I have to write in a damn diary in the hopes that I might move on with my life. And now you come here, at this god-awful hour, to tell me ‘oh he’s not dead. Go poke around your old flat to talk to his brother. Maybe he might know something.’ That’s assuming Mycroft will even talk to me!” Molly seemed to shrink back to the door. I didn’t care. It was too early for all of this. “He’s dead! I saw him, Molly. Maybe you don’t remember, but I saw him! I saw everything, even the blood...” I trailed off.
Molly took a tentative step closer. “John, I understand completely. But we both know how clever he is. Did you ever hope that there was that one chance that he fooled us all?”
I didn’t answer.
“Talk to Mycroft,” Molly repeated. “Please.”
The door closed softly behind her, and I was left alone in my cramped living room.
Could he be alive?
Don’t be absurd, John.
But as I went back to bed, trying desperately to fall asleep and forget the whole thing, there was a spark of doubt in my chest that kept whispering, what if...?
I couldn’t concentrate at work. Several times my patients had to prompt me, for I’d trailed off mid sentence like a lunatic losing his brains. I couldn’t help it. Molly had planted a seed of doubt—one that I’d refused to nourish these past months.
“Just remember to check his fever,” I said to my last patient of the day as she herded her sickly child out of my office, the door clicking shut softly behind them.
I checked my watch. I had an extra hour on my hands since a patient had cancelled. Before I could even think about what I was doing, I was putting on my jacket and leaving the office. There was a light drizzle outside as I hailed a taxi.
“221b Baker Street,” I said, my voice cracking.
The ride was endless. I took out the set of keys that I always carried around. The ones he’d handed to me when we became flat mates. I pressed the warm metal into my skin.
The cab pulled up to the curb, I paid the driver, and got out.
The building was achingly familiar.
Just get in and find Mycroft’s address. No reminiscing, John, I told myself as I unlocked the door with trembling fingers. I closed it softly behind me; I didn’t want Mrs. Hudson to hear and demand what I was doing back here.
Hurry up and get out of here.
The place was covered by an almost sacred blanket of silence. The stairs creaked terribly as I climbed up to our flat.
Our flat? No. His.
I entered it and inhaled loudly. Nothing had changed. The rain pattered softly on the windowpanes as a cool grey light tinted the room. The pillows were still molded to the armchairs, the desk still cluttered with newspaper clippings, the violin still on the coffee table collecting dust. I peered into the kitchen and saw the familiar microscope crowded by forgotten jars filled with foreign things. It struck me as strange that Mrs. Hudson had not cleaned any of it away.
Remembering why I’d come, I started shuffling through papers in search of some kind of address book. Of course it was a hopeless task, for anything worth remembering to him was always tucked away in his mind. He didn’t need a book for people’s contacts; he had a library in his head.
“I didn’t think you had it in you to come back,” a voice said from the door.
I looked up from a Chinese restaurant menu and train schedule that I was leafing through. Mycroft Holmes leaned against the doorframe, inspecting the tip of his damp umbrella.
“Why is it that you can always find me, but I can never find you?” I asked, setting down the papers onto a stack of maps.
“You know very well why,” Mycroft mused, strolling to stand by the fireplace. He passed a long finger on the layer of dust on the mantelpiece. “I have eyes and ears all over England.”
“So you probably know why I wanted to find you.”
Mycroft exhaled slowly, frowning at the violin. “I do,” he said after a moment. “You knew my brother to be clever, John.”
I nodded. “He was more than just clever,” I said, my heart squeezing slightly.
“Even the cleverest man must die,” Mycroft replied, sinking into an armchair. He joined the tips of his fingers together. “My brother was not ignorant of that.”
“But is he alive?”
The question clung to the air with fierce claws until Mycroft plucked it from the suspended stillness. “I believe he is.”
I swayed slightly on my feet, the golden words igniting a warm glow in my chest.
Before I could bask in my sudden flood of relief, Mycroft added in a somber voice, “But I think he’s in danger. He should have made himself heard by now.”
My happiness vanished instantly. “In danger?” I echoed. “In danger how?”
Mycroft looked up at the ceiling, his mind probably going through a long list of possible scenarios. “I don’t think Moriarty was alone.”
“You mean... he had... a sidekick?”
Mycroft chuckled. “I wouldn’t put it that way... but yes. Someone was definitely helping Moriarty. Someone close to him.”
My brain was reeling from all of this information. “But who?”
Mycroft stood, adjusting the sleeves of his suit. “My people tell me a Mr. Moran is a person of interest.” He picked up his umbrella and looked at me evenly.
“Where can I find him?”
A corner of Mycroft’s mouth twitched upward. “I would start looking closer to home.”
He was out the door before I could ask him which home he meant.
Chapter 3: The Note
John contemplates who could have left him a mysterious note, placed conveniently in the place he last saw his best friend.
As I scaled the stairs to my flat, my eyes rested upon the door of the tenant on the first floor. I’d never crossed paths with him, so I didn’t even know his name. All I did know was that he lived alone, and never made any noise.
So paranoid, John.
I shook my head and climbed the rest of the stairs. I’d know if there was trouble going on under my flat.
My dinner consisted of a burnt piece of toast with strawberry jam, as I didn’t think my nervous stomach would be able to handle much more. Just as I took the first crunchy bite, my cell rang. Slightly grumbling, I answered, “Hello?”
“Mr. Watson, this is Lestrade from Scotland Yard.”
“Oh, Lestrade! It’s been a while.”
“Yes, yes it has.”
An awkward pause settled itself comfortably on the line.
“You called because...?” I finally prompted.
“You should come to the cemetery, Mr. Watson. Something a bit... strange has happened. Very strange, actually,” Lestrade answered. Something was a bit off about his voice. He almost sounded frightened. “Someone’s left... a message for you.”
“What? A message?”
Lestrade had already hung up.
I checked the time. It was getting on in the evening, and my leg was starting to ache again. I wasn’t in the mood for another outing.
John, you’re such an old clot, I thought to myself, leaving my untouched toast to don my jacket.
I never thought I’d return to the cemetery. I fought the memories and tears back with a grimace as I made my way to Lestrade’s parked car. Now wasn’t the time to be emotional, especially in front of Lestrade.
He was leaning against his car, hands deep in his jacket pockets, staring off at the headstones—probably towards his. I cleared my throat loudly and Lestrade looked up. “Ah, you’re here.”
Lestrade took out a wrinkled piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. “This was on... his tombstone...” The words tumbled awkwardly out of his mouth. Lestrade looked at them for a moment on the ground, and then turned away.
I smoothed out the paper and read the cramped scrawl, “Come and get him, John Watson.” It was signed with an elaborate “S.M.”
“D-did you check for prints?” I breathed, the paper trembling in my shaking hands.
“There were none. Whoever this S.M is, he was pretty careful. Used your average pen, on your average paper. We can’t trace anything,” Lestrade said.
The scrap of paper crinkled nicely as I crushed it in my fist. “This... S.M,” I said, “Do you have any idea who they might be?”
Lestrade shook his head. “Now John, I know what you’re thinking...”
“You couldn’t possibly know.”
Lestrade’s jaw tightened. “I just want you to keep in mind that it could be anyone... His death had a lot of press coverage... It could be someone just causing trouble.”
“Thank you for telling me about this,” I replied shortly, turning to walk back to the main road.
“Would you like a ride?” Lestrade asked, eyeing my cane.
I took a steadying breath. “No, thank you. I think I need a bit of fresh air. It’s a lovely night.” Then I started walking back along the path.
There was no response when I knocked on the door of the flat below mine. Of course, it was nearing midnight, so the occupant could have been sleeping. But something kept me knocking.
After waiting for a couple minutes, I tried the door handle.
John, what the hell are you doing?
I immediately retreated back to my flat before I could do anything stupid. I ate my abandoned toast, looking dejectedly at my surroundings. My gaze fell upon the notebook on the desk. I’d forgotten about it completely. I walked over to it and flipped through the mostly blank pages.
“John, who are you kidding?” I muttered, opening the drawer to put the notebook away.
That’s when I saw my pistol, hidden away by itself in the drawer.
The metal was cold in my hands, but molded like an old glove to my skin. I immediately felt relaxed holding it.
“Come and get him, John Watson...”