I race around a back alley corner, Sherlock behind me. It’s rare that he’s behind me, but Lestrade held him back to shout a warning as I took off running after our man. The suspect may have murdered two women. He got away from us once; he will not get away again.
I feel my gun in the pocket of my coat, but I don’t take it out—not yet. Having something in my hand will only slow me down, and I like being in front for once. I can hear Sherlock behind me, the tap of his dress shoes on pavement. I’ve often wondered how the man runs with such speed in dress shoes. Then again, he does everything like a cat: jump, perch, sprint. He’s the human equivalent of a cheetah.
The sun has almost set, but my eyes are quick to adjust to dim light. I acquired quite a few things in the war, the least of which was a bullet wound. My reflexes are faster, my vision, keener. I hear things other people don’t—like the sound of fumbling footsteps ahead, for instance.
We’ve got him. He won’t shoot another woman dead. As I rush past a dumpster, only now do I pull my weapon. Best to be careful. We know the suspect is armed.
I round another corner. There is a dark shape ten feet ahead of me, frozen in place, blocked by a tall chain link fence. I move to aim, but the suspect already has me in his sights. The world slows.
In Afghanistan, I had no time to prepare for being shot. The bullet hit me in the shoulder like a heavy raindrop. There was no pain, only a dull knowledge that something was wrong. I have time now to prepare. I have time to wince at the sound of the gun going off. I have time to pull my own trigger, but I’m seconds too late. I know that.
Instead of the expected thud and ache of a bullet wound, I see black. I wonder if I’ve been killed. Is this death? No, I don’t suppose death has weight, but there is a weight against me: a heavy, long-limbed weight in a black coat. Only when I hear him moan, softly, do I realize I have Sherlock pressed against me. He slouches until my arms hold him around the chest.
I take steps back until I have Sherlock on the ground. He’s talking about my shot. The suspect is dead, ten feet in front of us. Sherlock’s eyes stare at the sky. His breath puffs out in labored wheezes, and this is not due to our chase. I have a horrible fear that Sherlock Holmes just took a bullet for me.
I kneel next to him and pull at his heavy coat. He wears a black shirt beneath, so I can’t see a blossom of blood. I use my hands to search over his torso until I find warm wetness that spreads across the right side of his upper chest. When I pull my hand away, my palm is red.
“Jesus, Sherlock.” I turn to look down the alley to see if backup has arrived. I hear nothing. Where is Lestrade?
I remove Sherlock’s scarf and shove the material against his shoulder. I can now see red on his throat. Blood has pooled in the triangle at the base of his neck. I push hard on the wound until he hisses. Then, I look back at the dead man in the alley and wish I could kill him again.