A jeering crowd massed at the doors outside, but within the courtroom, all was somber.
Sherlock Holmes floated over the witness stand and watched the man who sat in the box, brown hair lightly sprinkled with grey, moustache unkempt. Throughout the trial, the man was silent, only speaking once: "I did not kill him. Ich habe ihn nicht getötet. Je ne l'ai pas tué. I did not. I could not."
He knew the man spoke the truth, but the jury did not see him, did not hear him, a ghost in the courtroom. There was no halting them, no silencing the cry of "Guilty!"
A prison cell, surprisingly bright and clean, but filled with the lingering odor of illness. Sherlock stood at the door, unseen.
The man lay on the straw pallet, pale and worn, focused on his visitor. "I did not kill him."
The visitor knelt by the man, his rat-like face sympathetic. "I'm not the one you have to convince, Dr. Watson."
"You are, Inspector. The fate of my body is sealed; the fate of my soul I leave to God; but you are my last chance to save what remains of my reputation. Sherlock Holmes was the best and wisest man I have ever known. I would have flung myself into that chasm rather than harm a hair of his head."
The visitor sighed. "I know. But I have seen the evidence."
"Damn the evidence! Do you believe me?"
The silence lingered, broken only by the breath of the wind, the shaky gusts through the dying man's lips.
"Yes," the visitor finally lied, looking away. "Yes, I believe you."
"Thank you." The man clasped the visitor's hand. "It has been a bitter thing, to be held guilty for what one never dreamed of doing, to be judged an evildoer by those who should have had faith in me. But soon I shall see him again, and for that I would face a harsher end than the few days of pain I endure now."
You are wrong, Sherlock thought. You will never see him again.
And he was once again at Reichenbach, hovering over the cliffs, standing at the edge. Falling water, thundering; the cry of "Holmes!" blending with the cry of the falls.
Grappling for his life, grappling with an implacable enemy.
Falling water. Falling body. Falling.
Sherlock sat up, gasping.
Room: mine. Bed: mine. I'm alive. It was only a dream. Ambient light: time anywhere between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Music from flat to north, so after 3:30. Quiet to south, so before 4:00. Look at phone—time: 3:43. Respiration: 75, harsh and shallow. Pulse: 158. Deeper breath. Another. Pulse: 132. More breath. More. More. Pulse: 99. It was only a dream. It was only a dream. Just that bloody family story that I can't delete from my hard drive. It was only a dream.
It was only the dream.
He rose from the bed; after the dream, there was never any point in trying to fall back asleep. And there was still much to pack. Best to finish early, in case Lestrade called about those so-called serial suicides.
He did not need the stream of useless psychiatrists of his youth to tell him why that dream, why tonight, the night before removal day. Thousands of people in London looking for flatmates, possibly a dozen that might be willing to tolerate him, and he had to meet the one who was named John Watson.
It was merely a coincidence.
Sherlock believed in coincidence. The improbable was not the same as the impossible, and it was irrational to think that the improbable carried any special meaning. Clearly, though, part of his brain remained irrational.
The battered leather suitcase sat with the two boxes that contained his other most vital possessions, ready to be moved in the first load; Sherlock stroked its smooth surface, not needing to see the contents. Newspaper articles (mostly prints from microfilm, but one precious original of the London Times with the headline "TRIAL OF HOLMES MURDERER TO BEGIN IN SWITZERLAND"), obituaries, and copies of the court records in the original French as well as in German and English translation. His meagre share of his predecessor's remaining possessions—after the second time he was evicted from a dodgy flat, Mycroft had confiscated the rest, saying that he refused to lose family artifacts to Sherlock's irresponsibility—an old magnifying glass; an improvised measuring tape; a photograph of an unidentified woman; a broken pocketwatch, face mold- and water-damaged; a set of lockpicks.
Today, they would return to their former home, his cousin's former home. Tonight, he would be living in 221B Baker Street, and if it was with a John Watson, well, he would endure Mycroft's amusement and the Yarders' teasing.
Struggling for his life. Falling water.
He shook off the dream. The experimental equipment alone would take another hour to pack.