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Learning the Right Notes

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“It gets a bit damp down here but I’ve ordered a dehumidifier to help with it. You’ll just need to empty it every few days. I hope that won’t be a problem,” Mrs. Hudson said hopefully to Jamie Reid, a perspective tenant for the newly renovated 221C. Despite new appliances, modern décor, and a convenient location near the underground, it had been hard to find tenants who wanted to live in the dim basement flat. The windows were level with the ground outside, allowing a spectacular view of the feet of the pedestrians on the pavement or the bins in the back. There was also the trouble of the upstairs tenant and the incessant screeching of his violin. Mrs. Hudson didn’t have it in her heart to lie and tell them it wasn’t a regular occurrence.

For the first time in the past three months of showing the flat, there were no sounds coming from upstairs. Mrs. Hudson was hopeful but then the young woman asked, “Are there other tenants in the building?” She cringed only slightly in response, “We have a consulting detective upstairs. He’s a very unique man but completely harmless.”

Jamie scrunched her nose in thought, reading between the lines of what the elderly woman was saying. She had had her fair share of strange people in art school so it took a lot for her to be concerned. She just had no idea what a consulting detective actually did but she could guess enough. The clean flat was the perfect price for her though and it seemed safe. She had checked flats that had left her terrified. The one before this had even had crowbar marks on the doorframe. It had taken the landlord almost an hour to confess that they were having trouble with a string of unsolved break-ins. She promptly left after that.

“If you wanted to move in this month I’d be more than happy to pro-rate it and take a little extra off.”

Her voice was optimistic and he hands were clasped together as if she was unknowingly praying her a positive response. Jamie gave the sitting room and kitchen a once over and said, “I’ll take it.”

“Fantastic!” Mrs. Hudson said, releasing her hands just to clap them together again. As soon as the words left her mouth, a whining noise verberated through the vents. Jamie’s eyebrows met in confusion as she asked aloud, “Is that a violin?”

“That would be Sherlock,” Mrs. Hudson replied with exacerbation. She made a move to confront the noisemaker but stopped when she realized he was playing actual music and not just obnoxious noises. Jamie found herself smiling, “Is that a regular occurrence?”

Mrs. Hudson considered her words and replied, “It can be.”

Jamie looked longingly at the vent that the sound was coming from and said wishfully, “I could get used to that.”
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Jamie tied up her shoulder length brown hair into a loose bun before pulling her knitted cap on her head. She zipped up her purple winter jacket and slipped her feet into her slippers before grabbing her smoking case. Mrs. Hudson kept the building toasty warm during this brutal winter but she strayed outside several times a day to sit on the cold stoop so she could fill her longs with smoke. It was a terrible habit that she knew she should quit. The cost of living was high enough in London without the small fortune she spent on cigarettes but she found it too relaxing to quit. Of course, she tried in the past but found herself compensating with treats or after work drinks and had put on enough weight that her jeans wouldn’t button. She’d rather a slim figure and a set of black lungs but she could thank her ex-husband for that fear of getting fat. He had pointed out the extra weight at every opportunity he had. It was just another on the list of why their marriage had failed.

Her breath was as visible as the smoke she exhaled and she watched it all disappear into the night time air. It was late and hardly any cars drove by at this hour. Speedy’s was well closed for the night, leaving the pedestrian traffic also lacking. It was the closest thing to being alone outside in London that she ever could find. She hated being crowded but she adored London and all it offered.

After graduating with a degree in studio art, Jamie had hopped around the country with her husband taking odd jobs until she was able to secure a position as a curator for a private collection. She did not know exactly who her employer was but only that they had the money to acquire a handsome collection of modern and post-modern art. She had almost cried a week earlier when, with white-gloved hands, she was able to hold one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. It was at the top of the list of experiences along with acquiring a small study of trees by Vincent Van Gogh at an auction at Sotheby’s and negotiating with a firm from China for a Rothko work. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d be in the position to make 6- or 7-figure sum deals.

Jamie heard the inner door before the front door was open and she looked behind her to see a tall man with erratic curls and cheek bones for days. She knew he was her elusive neighbor but had only seen glimpses of him over the past two months of living within spitting distance of each other. She normally would catch the tail of his coat around the corner or his feet stomping up the stairs. His voice was already a familiar sound as it carried down to her flat through vents often along with the sounds of his violin. She could also hear him when he was in Mrs. Hudson’s flat. She knew they had a close bond despite some of the things she heard her complain about.

There was another man that came around often. He was shorter but more solid with grey hair and a kind face. He sometimes brought a small girl around and occasionally she heard her cry or babble words. She could hear the connection between her and the mysterious man upstairs. She knew his name was Sherlock Holmes as she had seen his mail mixed with hers and Mrs. Hudson’s on the floor inside the front door. She had heard him say the names John and Rosie. She felt terrible creepy having heard so much of the lives upstairs without every introducing herself, but the right time never seemed to arrive.

“You’re welcome to smoke in my flat if I can have one,” Sherlock said with his baritone voice. The street lamp caused a shadow to fall across half his face from the doorframe. She was already almost done with her smoke but she could always use another. The idea of smoking indoors made her feel uncomfortable but she smelt smoke and other odd things in the hallway before, so she imagined that he was able to get away with a lot when it came to Mrs. Hudson.

Jamie licked her fingers and pinched out the embers. She said nothing and followed her neighbor upstairs, unzipping her jacket and leaving it on the banister for when she returned downstairs. She left her hat and slippers on and eyed Sherlock’s attire.

Despite it being nearly midnight, Sherlock was still dressed in black dress pants and a nearly pristine white collared shirt. His black shoes were polished and reflected the dim lighting of the stairwell. She toed her slippers off at the entrance to 221B out of respect. The motion had been drilled into her head growing up and she could never understand how anyone could allow shoes in the house. She always bit her tongue and ignored her hosts when they told her she could keep her shoes on.

Sherlock stood in the middle of his sitting room, his back to her and raised his hand out as shadows danced around him from the fireplace. She stared at him in confusion for a moment but when his fingers quickly curled and straightened several times, she understood what he was requesting. She snapped open her case and plucked a cigarette out and rested it on his palm. His hand remained open until she handed him her lighter.

“Are you familiar with the work of Dmitri Shostakovich?” Sherlock said, catching her off guard as she looked around the room and wondered where she should sit. There was an assortment of things piled on the couch and a complex looking chemistry set was visible from the opening to the kitchen. He turned to face her as he lit the cigarette between his lips, sighing contently as he let the smoke escape his lips.

Jamie felt an inkling of recognition in the name, having minored in music composition. She had considered being a pianist as a fallback but found herself less enthusiastic about playing as it had been the source of the introduction between her and Benjamin Crosthy, her ex-husband, a cellist. She replied hesitantly, “Russian composer,” she said, which was easy to guess his nationality by his name, but then paused nervously as she tried to grasp more details. She hummed for a moment and said, “I believe he lived 1906 to 1975 and, uh, produced over a dozen symphonies and string quartets.” Sherlock looked over ambivalently and hummed but said nothing else. He turned to the couch, keeping his cigarette between his lips, and dramatically swept a number of things off it. He waved to it and said, “Sit.”

Jamie wondered to herself if that was some sort of test but she obeyed and sat on the couch. Sherlock began to pace around the room, taking long drags of his cigarette. She ached to smoke another but he had pocketed her lighter and she was afraid to break his train of thought. He was rather bizarre but a look around the sitting room caused her to believe he might be exceptional. She spotted his gorgeous violin and felt a tug of pain in her chest that he owed a Stradivarius. Benjamin had wanted a Stradivarius cello so badly. It was the dream of any string musician and rightfully so. There were incredible instruments. He had always said that if he won the lottery, it would be the first thing he would buy. She doubted he would ever come across the £3 million or more needed to buy one but it didn’t stop him from wiping out the nearly £30,000 in their bank account they intended to use to buy a flat with on a replica the day after she had the divorce papers served to him. As much as she could have used the money, she considered it money well spent if she didn’t have to see him ever again.

Sherlock finished his cigarette, tossing the filter into the fire before grabbing his violin. He looked to her for a moment but remained silent before taking the bow in his head. He began to play and Jamie recognized after a few bars that it was Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor and he was playing it beautifully. She felt the drama and emotion in every note. She could not take her eyes of him though he stared at seemingly nothing.

Jamie forgot how late it was and when he concluded nearly forty-five minutes later she was still in awe. “That was incredible,” she told him sincerely. He looked to her without emotion and replied, “Come back tomorrow at the same time. Bring your cigarettes.”
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Sherlock laid in bed, his head and shoulders inclined on his pillows as he thumbed through text messages on his phone. He found himself going to the one he received nearly a fortnight ago.

Let’s have dinner. Then I want you to play me a song, but not the one when I died. It’s so pitiful.

He had yet to respond. He never responded but he had been considering it. He wanted to find the perfect song. He wanted to meet her prepared. He couldn’t be the vulnerable sap he had been all those years ago when she pierced his armor. He wanted to use her. He wanted to play the games she played but he couldn’t risk compromise again. She knew he was a virgin despite the fact he spat on the concept.

Sherlock knew he was playing with fire. He could bed any woman he wanted if he put forth the miniscule effort required but The Woman was a conquest. She was unfinished business that haunted him for years. Logic screamed at him to move on but he felt an itching feeling in him similar to the desire to get high. He wanted to indulge but he would need to calculate and plan as if it were the perfect dose.

Memories of Irene’s naked form invaded his mind, stealing his attention from the catalogs of sheet music he was sifting through in his mind palace. He had considered writing a new piece for her but that was dangerous territory. It screamed of sentiment. He needed to find a song that would convey his desire to claim her body but let her know that she had no power over him. He was still the victor despite the years since they had played their games. It was just too hard to choose.

Speaking of hard… he palmed his erection through his pajama bottoms, groaning both in annoyance at his own body responding to his thoughts but also in slight satisfaction at the friction. He despised masturbating. It felt like biology was laughing in his face. He was a brilliant man who wanted to be above the needs of the human body. Wanking off was primitive and dirty. Sex was just as bad, but curiosity was getting the better of him. He had never been interested as a teenager but now, he was almost a middle-aged man and he suddenly pondered how sliding into the warm heat of woman would feel.

The consulting detective admitted defeat, lifting his hips enough to push the waist band of his pajama bottoms down his thighs until his cock sprung free, the head already glistening with a few beads of moisture. This was becoming a regular occurrence the past few weeks and he made a mental note to invest in lubricant. He felt chaffed a few days ago from stroking his shaft for nearly an hour as he chased desperately for release.

Sherlock paged through his memories of Irene like he had done before. He particularly enjoyed the view of her wrapped up in his jacket. He changed the scenario, wanting John to have no part in the situation. He moved her outside. They were walking through the streets of London on a cool evening. He could see the bumps on her skin as she shivered, clutching his jacket tighter around her. He knew she was naked underneath and trailed a few paces behind her, hoping that the wind would give him a view that would make him feel a tightness in his groin. He knew what was underneath the jacket, but the teasing nature of the situation excited him. He wondered if she would allow him to steer her into a dark alley. He would pull his cock from his pants while her back still to him before turning her and pressing her against a wall roughly. He imagined her surprise as she gasped at his strength when he picked her up and pinned her against the wall, hearing the sound of the fabric scraping against the bricks. He’d probably scrape his knuckles in the process, but it would be worth it. The jacket would flow open and he’d have her in the perfect position to help her sink on his length.

Just the thought of going that far was enough to cause Sherlock to gasp aloud as he felt the tingly sensation spread across his body. His head was gliding quickly and smoothly on his shaft. He bit his lower lip as he imagined the sounds The Woman would make once he penetrated her and he was gone. Strings of cum shot dribbled on his fist and landed on his leg. His breath was heavy as a frown grew on his face. This was not good. If just the thought of the tip of his penis in a woman was enough to make him cum, he would never be able to expect Irene to take him seriously.

Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident. His fantasies never reached a formal conclusion. He didn’t know how to pace himself. He was going to need to research this matter fully before he progressed further. He considered getting advice from John but he knew that would be an awkward and annoying idea. He could just picture John laughing at him and feeling vindicated that the great Sherlock Holmes was heaving wet dreams and a pre-mature ejaculator. He wasn’t too worried about pleasuring a woman. Janine had taught him well and wasn’t put off when he denied himself pleasure during their faux-relationship. He wondered now if he should have pushed that boundary.

The best choice Sherlock could have made was to forget the idea entirely and focus on cases, no matter how boring or mundane they might be.

But Sherlock didn’t always make the best choices.