The Yuletide season was quite definitively upon us, but even during this time of relentless good cheer the criminal class was wont as ever to practise its dark trade, which meant that the calls upon my friend Sherlock Holmes were no less numerous than at any other time of the year.
Still, in light of certain recent events within the walls of 221B, I had hoped for a somewhat different beginning for the day. My friend frequently accuses me of romanticising our adventures and no doubt he is [as always] correct, but my nature is what it is and I make no apologies for that. My imaginings in the night had been inclined towards we two sharing a quiet breakfast, over which Holmes and I might at last discuss the delicate shifting of our relationship.
Unless, of course, I was simply being a fool and seeing things that were not there.
In the event, any notions I had of an intimate meal and some honest conversation were doomed when the door to my room was loudly thrown open before the sun had done more than peek over the horizon. Holmes stood there, already dressed for the day. Or, at least, that was my first impression. A closer look, however, told me that he was still in the clothing of the previous day, which meant that he had once again spent the night curled on the divan.
One hand was dramatically waving a telegram in the air. “Up, Watson! The game is afoot! Lestrade has sent word of a murder that has him befuddled. As usual.”
It was difficult to believe that this was the same man from the night before. That Holmes had seemed somehow…vulnerable. Open to something new, perhaps. But now he was, once again, Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective, a man devoid of the softer emotions.
Maybe I had indeed constructed a fantasy that my own inner feelings could possibly be shared by this man. “Do you want me to accompany you?” I asked, already pushing aside the blankets.
“Of course,” Holmes replied, sounding bemused at the very question. “What good am I without my Boswell?” Then he whirled around and vanished back down the stairs.
I made my toilet as quickly as possible, but when I walked into the parlour, Holmes was already there, clad in an unwrinkled suit, with his unruly curls brilliantined into submission. He tossed my warm coat into my arms. “Am I not even allowed a cup of tea?” My words were a bit woeful.
Before there was even a response, I was already following him down the stairs and out onto Baker Street. We were seated in the brougham, watching through the glass front as London was starting to awaken, before Holmes held out the telegram to me.
I read the brief message.
Holmes, body found in Westminster Abbey STOP Dean distressed STOP Royal concern STOP Please come swiftly STOP Lestrade
“Oh, dear,” I said. “With the crown and the church both pressuring Lestrade I can understand why the poor man is in a bit of a panic.”
Holmes nodded. “No doubt the government is also involved.”
His tone was glum and [although I am not a consulting detective] I deduced the cause of his gloomy words. “Meaning your brother?” I asked.
A soft hum was the only reply. We travelled on for several minutes before Holmes spoke again. “The only saving grace is that Mycroft’s natural aversion to moving beyond the comfortable confines of his office or his club will no doubt prevent him from actually visiting the scene.”
There were no more words passed between us for the duration of the journey.
Upon our arrival at the Abbey, my friend was immediately in his investigative posture and, as always, I could only watch with my usual awe. And, I was now willing to admit to myself, more than awe. Perhaps I did not have the courage yet to voice my feelings aloud and, although it brings despair to my soul to accept, it is possible that I may never be that courageous.
But there were moments, like the interlude last evening, when I feel more hopeful.
And, in fact, moments like this very one, when Holmes and I were crouched together over the body of an unfortunate curate, and our gazes met. Just fleetingly, in those most lovely grey eyes, I saw a shadow of the man from yesterday. Neither of us spoke and yet I could not help feeling that something very important was being said.
Then we both returned our attention to the matter at hand, especially to the sprig of a most seasonal plant being clutched by the dead man.
Of course, those words that I have just penned will never be seen by anyone. I will toss the page into the fire that is so nicely warming our parlour this evening. Holmes sits across from me and we seem most content with our port and our pipes. And with one another, as well.
I pause in my scribbling to take a swallow of my port.
Holmes is watching me and I see a faint smile tug at his lips. “I am most eager to know what you will title our latest adventure, Watson,” he says.
“There seems to be only one choice,” is my reply.
I pick up the page already covered in my writing and stand to put it into the fire.
“The Canoodling Curate?” he suggests whimsically.
I dismiss that with a wave and return to the desk. Lifting my pen once again, I commence writing.
After a moment, Holmes rises from his chair and steps to the desk. He leans over my shoulder and I can smell the myriad aromas associated with Sherlock Holmes. His hair oil. His particular tobacco. The faint aura of his soap. Most certainly, I would be able to distinguish him in a dark room just by those familiar scents.
It almost seems as if Holmes takes a deeper than usual breath as he presses against my back to look down at the paper.
He gives a snort and returns to his chair.
I smile down at the desk and continue recounting the tale of The Mistletoe Murder case.