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Poppies

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The first time I saw John Watson was a Wednesday in March.  It was raining that day, like it seems to most days in London during the spring.  He was wearing a brown jacket with leather patches on the elbows.

I don’t normally buy tea, I prefer to make my own.  But that morning I had run out and it was just easier to stop by some place on the way to work.

“Earl Grey with cream, no sugar.” The barista called out, setting the cup on the counter and walking away.  I picked up my umbrella and hurried my way to the counter.  But my hand wasn’t the only one reaching for the cup.

I quickly looked at the owner and found he was looking back at me.

“Sorry.” he said, quickly retracting his hand.

“Oh, no. You go ahead.” I gestured to the cup.

“No, it’s fine. I have to wait for another order.” He assured.

“You’re sure?” I asked.  He smiled. That was the first time he smiled at me.  It was an honest smile, the kind that makes you happy to see it, one of those smiles that you can’t help but returning.

“I’m sure.” He nodded and stepped back.  I picked up the cup.

“Thank you.” I smiled and walked out the door.


Her hair was the color of poppies.  My mother used to grow them when I was a boy in a bed next to the house.  I remember her complaining about how she could never get the deep red hue that she wanted; they always came out a soft red-orange color.  The exact color of this woman’s hair.

She smiled a small smile then turned away.  I watched her leave the coffee shop, walk down the street and turn around the corner.

I stopped by that coffee shop everyday for the next three weeks, hoping to find her.  But she never was there.

Eventually, I had to stop going because I was running out of money, buying tea everyday from a coffee house does not fit into an army pension budget.

But I never stopped looking for the woman with the poppy-colored hair.

 

The next time I saw John Watson was a month later.  Except this time he was on the cover of the London Times.  He was standing with a tall dark haired man that I did not recognize.  I quickly bought the paper and pored over the article as I walked.  Apparently, he and his friend, Sherlock Holmes, had solved a very important case for Scotland Yard, which I probably should have already heard about.  But being a pilot for Air England and consequently spending only a few days in London at a time doesn’t afford much time to pay attention to the news.  Additionally, most of the time the news bores me to death, but not this time.  This was exciting.

At the bottom of the article was a link to the blog that John ran for the team, and as soon as we landed in Washington that evening and I was in my hotel, I found the blog. 

I was hooked.

Even though I had a 7:30 flight back to England the next day, I spent the majority of the night reading page after page of John’s stories.  And through the next few months, I followed their saga.  It was like a mystery novel that unfolded before my eyes, every new case seemed more exciting than the last.  I read the papers, each article filled with glowing descriptions of Sherlock’s genius.  The detective and his blogger were London’s very own Batman and Robin.  They even had a Joker: Jim Moriarty.  I was as outraged as everyone else when he walked away free after his trial.  But even then, I knew that somehow Sherlock and John would find a way to bring about justice.  Everyone else seemed to think so too; at least they did at first.

It started out as rumors, whispers, like it always seems to start.  What began as awe-filled wonderings morphed into cynical questions of just how Sherlock did it.  I read those articles too, but I didn’t believe them.  Somehow I just knew that John, even from the brief time that I met him, would never side with a liar.  I kept up hoping for the day that Batman and Robin would win, but instead they were defeated.


“Good-bye, John.” He said, pausing then tossing the phone behind him on the roof.

I watched, frozen with terror, as Sherlock took a deep breath then leapt off the building.  The black coat flowed sadistically behind him like some sort of cape.  A thousand ways to save him ran through my mind, but my feet wouldn’t move.  They were frozen to the ground as I struggled to run to him.  As he quickly grew closer, I could see the rare expression of fear in his eyes.  The sound of a body-hitting pavement woke me with a gasp.

I had only seen him jump once, but I had relived the moment at least a thousand times.  Every time, I was too late.  I was too late to stop him, too late to help him, too late to protect him.  And he was gone.

He left me here, sitting alone in a fog, trying to pick up the pieces of my life.

But somehow he had managed to place himself in almost every part of it.  It’s hard to put a building back together when someone has taken away all your materials.  So I drifted, like a boat lost in fog.

 

To Be Continued…