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Status Quo

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            The plaintive wail of violin strings played through the quiet, abandoned house, the notes reverberating through the silence. Footsteps at the door invaded the fading hum, and moved up the stairs, a heavy thump thump thump toward the landing.  

            The player turned, wan morning sunlight soft on his pale cheek from the open window he stood in front of. Facing the door, he lowered the violin, letting it dangle from his left hand, bow hooked in the loose fingers of his right. The smooth line of his mouth, settled and relaxed, was barely betrayed by the wrinkles at the corners of his tense eyes. Light from the lamp on the heavy oak table in front of him reflected off grey irises, and the dark curls curving around his ears.

            The door banged open; a man stumbled in, face panicked, his eyes wild.

            “Sir, Clerics! We didn’t—I couldn’t—“ the man’s stammering sentence was cut short as a bullet slammed into the back of his skull and exited from his forehead, imbedding itself in the wall behind the violinist. His body folded at the knees. Pushed by a heavy boot, he pitched face-first onto the thick, cream-coloured cashmere carpet, blood and brain matter slowly forming a gory aura around what remained of his head.

            The violin player regarded the spreading red staining the carpet with a twinge of regret for the ruined treasure that felt silk-soft beneath his bare feet. He raised his eyes to the man entering the room, dressed in a leather, knee-length coat, and stepping over the dead body with his heavy black boots. The gun dangling from one hand at his side, a heavily modified Beretta sporting a silencer, trailed faint gun smoke, a mirror of the grey wisps curling into the air from the hole in the back of the dead man’s head.

            “Your intel appears to be a bit behind.” The leather-clad man observed, nudging the body with the toe of his boot. He raised blank eyes to the violinist standing at the window, and the edges of his lips twitched.

            The man holding the violin remained silent, slowly twirling the bow between his fingers with his face carefully composed. The shooter stepped around the body on the floor and moved further into the room.  “I’ve just killed one of your men,” He continued, keeping his eyes on the violin player as the blood splattered carpet muffled his heavy steps. “Doesn’t such an action warrant a reaction?” His gaze sharpened, and the index finger of his gun hand stroked along the handle of the altered weapon.           

            The violinist noted the movement with a flicker of his eyes, before meeting the shooter’s gaze, his lips curving into a slight smile.

            “He doesn’t appear to have been a terribly reliable source of information, does he?” The violin player replied, his voice soft. His head tilted; the sounds of voices and car doors slamming reached him from the yard through the open window behind him. Across the room, the shooter’s face set into a mild, almost bored expression.

            “Yes, good help is so hard to find these days.” The intruder mused. “But I am not here for idle chatter.” He continued, lifting his arm and pointing the muzzle of his handgun at the violinist. “Sherlock Holmes, you are accused of sense offence, refusing Prozium, and exhibiting emotion freely. How do you respond to this accusation?”

            Sherlock tilted his head, his eyes hard, and his smile gentle. “You and I are both aware, Cleric Dimmock of the Tetragrammaton, that there is no longer any need for you to permit sense offenders to mount a defense.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Or are you mimicking the cat that plays with its food before devouring it whole?”

            Dimmock’s mouth moved into the shape of a smile, but it was flat and devoid of any actual feeling. His fingers readjusted themselves on the handle of the gun, and his thumb disabled the safety.

            “One can occasionally hope for a real challenge.” The Cleric replied, and Sherlock’s smile widened.

            “Hope? Interesting choice of word,” He lifted the violin, setting it against his shoulder and beneath his chin, fingers poised over the delicate strings. “Considering you know nothing of the concept behind it.”

            The Cleric’s expression tightened and he braced his feet apart.

            “Words are words. Their concepts are meaningless.” His index finger brushed the curve of the trigger, and Sherlock’s smile widened.

            “Indeed they are, Cleric.” He replied, and he brought the bow to position. Stepping backwards, each movement slow, deliberate, he moved toward the windows. Dimmock followed, hands steady on the gun, beginning to lift his shoulders and level his gaze along the sight.

            Sherlock stroked the bow along the strings of the violin, emitting a piteous whine from the instrument.  The Cleric’s eyes narrowed at the sound; the man at the window continued to smile.

            Dimmock curled his finger, pulling the trigger back, and Sherlock’s smile grew to a grin as he leaned backwards, the back of his knees hitting the window ledge. The muffled report of the gun shot was drowned by another discordant note stroked from the violin, and Sherlock tumbled out the open window.