She's supposedly a professor of quantum physics, author of notable papers published in the most prestigious journals and teaches in a small, private university somewhere in London. From her picture, all Joan can see is a beautiful woman with brilliant dark eyes, smooth brown skin and a slight smirk that doesn't look particularly evil ... just a bit of the same arrogance more than one intellectual might be guilty of, even Joan herself during certain points in her life.
Holmes insists that Jeanne Moriarty is much, much more. "You've never heard of her?"
"Never." Joan hands him back the photograph with an apologetic shrug. "What has she done?"
He laughs shortly, without humor. "That's the crux of it, isn't it? She infects the international underworld like a virus, with an elegant finger in nearly every criminal scheme and no one has heard of her. To the world, she's a genius, lost in numbers and the intangible, but in truth her interests run to the blatantly material. "
He sits across from Joan, on the very edge of the seat, his pale face a few inches from hers. His eyes are frantic and bloodshot and for a stomach-dropping moment, Joan wonders if he's started using again.
"I first noticed it in London, that there was a connection, a thin, but obvious thread running between seemingly unrelated crimes. Little things at first -- forgers and petty thefts, then onto serious robberies and finally, murders. It was impossible to prove any of these links, of course -- she's far too clever for that -- but when she introduced herself to me ..." The manically intent look fades from his face, replaced by a grim wistfulness.
It's then Joan knows without a doubt that 'she', Professor Moriarty, is the 'woman from London'. It starts to make sense. Aren't heart-breakers always the worst of criminals in the mind of those they hurt?
But ... a murderer?
"... I understood the force I was dealing with soon enough. She's both diabolical and brilliant, able to not only control the criminal forces of three of the major cities of the world, but if measured in waves, her influence is virtually endless." He pauses, closing his eyes to center himself. Joan jumps a little when they pop open again. "But she's made a mistake, Watson. After all this time. It's a small mistake, but I think I have her this time. In three days ..."
"What happens in three days?" Joan asks, her heartbeat quickening in sympathy with his.
He smiles sadly. "The game should be over and her carefully crafted evil empire will crumble. Unfortunately, she knows me as well as I know her and no doubt realizes that I've set the trap. This complicates things and that's why I'd be grateful for your help. I'm going to head upstate, perhaps you'd join me?"
"Of course," she replies automatically. She knows after all these years that he's brave, but he's also not himself at the moment even if she's no longer suspecting the influence of drugs. There is no way she can leave him now.
"It will be dangerous."
"I don't care."
He regards her with a watery grin. "There isn't anyone like you in this world, my dear Watson."
She isn't sure about that, but she knows that he is one-of-a-kind; the best and wisest man she's ever known, so protecting him comes as naturally as breathing.
Thank goodness she's not too late.
Upstate turns out to be way upstate, all the way to Niagara Falls. It's a popular tourist attraction, traditionally for honeymooning couples, but Joan only feels dread standing there and looking out over the violent spray shrouding a churning abyss. One can't help but get wet standing there, it's a slow, thin soaking that makes her shiver inside her windbreaker.
It doesn't help that Holmes gets a phone call that makes him curse aloud, nearly throwing his cell over the banister into the water. She stops him just in time, but he's inconsolable.
"That was London. She's gone, they got everyone but her, but she gave them the slip at the airport, damn it!" His teeth are grit so hard she can see the muscles working in his jaw. "You need to go home, Watson. It's too dangerous here for you now."
This only makes her tilt her head and frown at him. "Yeah, right. I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm not going to argue with you about this," he growls, but they do argue, right there with the happy couples looking on in consternation, wondering if this is their first married squabble.
It's far from their first. Eventually, with some effort, Joan wins the fight and they go back to the hotel to have a peaceful dinner. The next morning is much quieter, being a Monday and they go walking together, him being observant as always and thankfully, in a better mood.
Like a magnet, the Falls call to them. They end up there again, on the balustrade with Holmes regarding the waters calmly. "It wouldn't be a bad thing, you know. To end my career at this point. I've done so much more than I thought I could, especially with ..." He nudges her shoulder with his. "It wouldn't be so bad, " he whispers.
She's about to reply when a commotion far behind them grabs her attention. A middle-aged woman has collapsed, clutching her chest, her new husband crying out her name. The doctor that still lives and breathes inside Joan springs to life with a nervous twitch and she looks up at Holmes helplessly.
"You should go and help out," he says quietly. He reaches out to touch her hand, thinks better of it and nods instead. "It's all right."
"I'll be right back," she calls out, already running toward the tiny crowd that's gathered, a few hundred yards away.
To her surprise, the woman is fine, getting up the moment Joan reaches her and walking away hurriedly with her 'husband', neither one of them saying a word. Her heart stops and she whirls around, just in time to see Holmes outlined against the Falls, talking closely to a tall, dark-haired woman in black high heels.
For a second, it looks as though they are kissing, but that's just an illusion as both of them struggle, then topple over the fence wrapped in a fierce embrace, disappearing with shocking suddenness.
Joan hears a voice screaming Holmes' name, realizes its her own and there's little more then but the confusion and horror of the crowd, as they run toward the disaster that's already passed through Joan, like a sword, cutting her -- and her heart -- in half.
Numb, she stands, stares and it's only later, when one of the local police put a note in her shaking hand that she comes back to reality. It's his handwriting, addressed to "J. Watson" and no, she doesn't read it right away.
It's a very long time before she can get to that point, to break the seal on his final words.