I knew exactly what we needed to do first when we arrived in Paris.
This trip was a gift from my long-time friend, business associate, and new lover. We two had spent a fortnight tending a vineyard in the Aquitaine and mending the rift caused by three years of assumed death and separation; between rows of sun-drenched grapevines we had finally wed like Dionysians. Our work in France done, Sherlock Holmes had suggested we remain an equal amount of time for play; I had heartily agreed.
For our first full day in the City of Lights, recreation possibilities were endless. We could view the latest acquisitions at the Louvre, take a boat ride on the Seine, join a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral, watch a cabaret at the Moulin Rouge, ride a lift to the very top of Gustave Eiffel's magnificent new tower, walk the length of the Champs-Élysées. But I know the man I love.
"See the puncture atop this skull, Watson! Clearly delivered well after his or her demise, most likely of cholera or the plague. Very likely a blow from a pickaxe during disinterment from Les Innocents to this new home."
Walls of human bones and skulls filled and lined the underground limestone vaults beneath the city, lit only by our lanterns. Skulls formed hearts, crosses, patterns along walls that contained millions of Paris' dead; tiny chapels built entirely of bones recessed into the walls. Other vaults went back even further, also packed floor to ceiling with human remains.
For me this ossuary was a source of amazement and dread – paired with a small thread of fear that we could lose our way in the Catacombs. But Sherlock Holmes might as well have been a little lad set loose in a toy shop for his glee at the mountains of human evidence telling the history of this grand city.
"It's a great pity we're only here two weeks. With enough time I'm quite sure I could narrow down the location of Robespierre's skull for his eventual re-entombment in the Pantheon where he belongs."
"And I would like to see other parts of Paris in the meantime." I looked ahead, where a stone tunnel unadorned by bones lay ahead promising a safe escape from the necropolis.
Sherlock laughed and embraced me. "Poor John. You spoil me dreadfully." We were the only living souls in this particular passage and the dead said not a word against our kiss. "This was lovely, darling. You must be famished, for I know I am. As I recall, a brasserie near the exit makes a splendid crab cocotte, and I'm quite sure we can find a decent wine to enjoy with our luncheon."