It was the same constable as before who rapped at her parents' door. (Her parents, no longer hers: the house at Cavendish Place was hers now, was home, and all that was left was to move into it). His name, Mary thought, was Clark, and she thought he was one of the ones John liked, or at least had more use for - she was certain that "Clarky" had figured into John's stories.
She thought this, as he removed his helmet, and at the same time she thought how different his face was. Before, what had lurked behind the stoic facade of officer of the law had been the kind of apprehensive, wicked amusement that you found on boys who were almost certain they were going to get away with something, but not so certain as to let them simply laugh aloud. When her mother had looked out the window and said oh, it's a policeman, that was what Mary had expected to find.
Instead, behind the same facade, there was concern. Maybe actual fear, certainly worry, and the sense that something very bad had happened, indeed.
"Yes?" she asked, and didn't want to, as if not knowing could put it off. The constable's jaw tightens, and he swallows, and she feels light-headed.
"There's been an explosion," he said, carefully, "down in a factory by river." And Mary could have hit him for being so tentative, for drawing it out, but she only drew in her own careful breath instead.
"John was there," she said, quite certain. "And Mr Holmes. How bad is it?" Because she didn't care, truly didn't, about what had actually happened. She could find that out later, and it wasn't important. There was a prayer on her lips waiting to come out, but it stuck, and it seemed like an eternity before Constable Clark answered her.
"The wharf was pretty well destroyed," he said, and her breath caught; "Dr Watson was caught in the explosion," and her heart stopped, her entire body caught rigid and brittle; "but," Constable Clark finished, "he's alive, and he's at the Veteran's Hospital."
If she had not been holding to the bannister, Mary would have fallen like an abandoned puppet; as it was, her heart just started again with a pounding that nearly drowned out the constable's next words: "He was actually quite lucky, Miss, he's not even badly hurt - nothing broken except his skin."
Mary nodded, to show she heard. She had to swallow and wet her mouth before she could speak, and by then a second thought, nearly as awful, had made its way into her mind. "What about Mr Holmes?"
Because however infuriating he was, if the man were dead, John would -
She didn't like to think about it, and chose not to.
Constable Clark's face took on a peculiar woodenness, and his stance became closer to attention. "Mr Sherlock Holmes is still at large, Miss." He said the words as if he were a bad actor, and they were his script, and then added, "He must have run off after the explosion, and before we arrived on the scene, thus escaping arrest."
Mary stared at him. Most of the words didn't make any sense at all, but she heard them anyway, listened and tucked them away to look at later: for now, she just derived the important detail, which was that Mr Holmes was still alive, and apparently well enough to . . . run off.
"I see," she said, out loud. She didn't. This had strayed its course into very deep waters, she was quite sure; she was sure, as well, that she didn't know what to do about it. She just shook her head, and all the other details shook their way out and left her with the one, simple truth. "I need to get to the hospital," she said, as much to her father - standing on the stairs behind her now, for how long she didn't know. She said it half turning. "Now. I really must go now - "
Her father had her coat in hand: he passed it to her, without a word.