John Watson knew by just the second day that this whole thing was all an exercise in futility. How did you save a marriage when the two participants couldn’t even bear to be in the same room? When on the honeymoon, the newly minted husband pretended to fall asleep on the sofa rather than get into bed with his wife of one week?
Everything had been fine until their second night at this island paradise.
Well, he said ‘fine’.
Admittedly, their courtship had been brief. Only six weeks, actually, which seemed ridiculous now that he thought about it. Who got married after knowing someone six weeks? B-list movie stars, maybe, who were probably divorced before the year was out.
He was not a movie star of any sort. He was a sporadically employed doctor, with a limp, a tremor, and nightmares. A soldier not returned from war long enough to have slotted back in to civilian life.
Mary was not a movie star either, of course, although he had to give her credit for being a damned good actress. She effectively acted the part of medical receptionist. The part of a sweet and funny homebody who really only wanted to settle down and maybe even start a family. Mary had pretended to be a nice, normal person, which was exactly what an unsettled combat veteran wanted.
Probably. Possibly. Or wanted to want at least.
But, as they sat on this very patio that infamous evening, they both drank far too many of the overly-sweet and deceptively potent rum drinks. With pineapple slices and the damned little umbrellas. He had actually started collecting the umbrellas and was using them on the low brick wall to reconstruct the skirmish in which a bullet had crashed into his shoulder and torn his life to hell. So involved with that was he, that when Mary started talking, he was paying very little attention. She was drunk, he thought, and mumbling and if there was one thing life had taught John Watson, from a very young age, it was that nothing very good ever came from listening to mumbling drunks.
But as he was explaining just where he had been standing when the bullet hit, something she said caught his attention.
“What was that?” he said.
She looked impatient at having to repeat herself. “I said…” she started, but then appeared to have second thoughts. “It doesn’t matter.”
But John thought that it did matter. Rather a lot actually. “You killed someone? In Paris? What the fuck?”
Mary stared at him for a moment and then, unbelievably, seemed indignant. “You said we didn’t have to know everything about the past. You said it didn’t matter.” She swallowed the rest of her drink. “The future was all you cared about.”
Well, yes, that did sound like something he would have said. But at that point, he was mostly just trying to hide the fact of his nickname---Three-Continents Watson---and the various escapades that had spawned the moniker. But hearing the woman he was married to confess to having killed a man in the Eiffel Tower…well, that was a bit different, wasn’t it? That was important
It was logical to ask why, right? She might have had a good reason. Maybe the guy had done something to her. Maybe she was protecting the child he was trying to kidnap. Maybe…
Then she told him that it was only a job.
So. Paid killer to medical receptionist.
Not exactly a typical career path.
And apparently the guy in the Eiffel Tower was not the only one. It seemed that once she started talking, Mary [which, as it turned out was not even her real name] couldn’t shut up. After about twenty minutes, however, John stopped listening and concentrated on drinking instead. It seemed appropriate.
John figured that many people would ask why he was still there. He had his reasons.
1: She had taken charge of their passports and airline tickets.
2: He had no money. Mary had paid for everything, claiming that a recent inheritance from her sadly deceased parents had made her rather rich.
Those were the main reasons he was still hanging around.
Also, he had nowhere else to go [he had moved into her place after a week] and no one to turn to. His moral standard, apparently, was that he would not get into bed with her, a fact that he admitted set the morality bar rather low.
For the most part, he was just glad for those times when he was on his own in the suite, as he was now. Mary[?] had gone out earlier. Maybe to shop. Maybe to kill someone. He didn’t know. The over-sized tote she’d carried could have merely contained all those things some women seemed to carry around all the time. Or it might have held a gun. Who the hell knew?
Occasionally, and quite reasonably, he wondered if Mary might decide to kill him. But that would have to be a freebie, because nobody cared enough about John Watson to pay someone to kill him.
John reached for his tea [it seemed a pretty good idea to stay sober these days] and gazed out across the white sand beach. That is when he saw the man, a newcomer, not one of those whom John had been idly watching over the past couple of days.
He would know if he’d seen this guy before.
Tall, impossibly slender but still powerful looking, with pale skin and a mass of dark curls. The stranger paused and then spread a towel on the sand. It almost seemed as if he had looked right at John, but that was ridiculous. The man pulled the t-shirt he was wearing off, sat down on the towel and began to rub suntan lotion on his body.
John used the tip of his tongue to moisten his upper lip
It had been a while, but one did not get a nickname like his by being parochial in his tastes.
There was a tap on the door of the suite. “Come in, Jimmy,” he called and the young hotel employee walked through the living room and out onto the patio.
“Your sandwich, sir,” he said, setting down the tray. “And a lemonade.”
“Thanks.” As the friendly waiter turned to go, John spoke again. “Hey, Jimmy, you know everybody here. Who’s that?” He pointed at the man on the beach, who now seemed to be engrossed in a paperback.
Jimmy grinned. “Oh, him. That’s Mr Holmes. Sherlock Holmes.”
“Unusual name,” John said, although he thought it fit.
“An interesting fellow. Some kind of private detective from London.” Jimmy leaned closer. “Rumour has it he is here to catch a dangerous international criminal.” With that, Jimmy left.
John slowly ate his chicken sandwich, washing it down with the tart lemonade, never taking his eyes off of Sherlock Holmes.
It was several minutes before it occurred to him that possibly a woman who went around killing people at tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower might well be the subject of a search by detectives.
When his meal was finished, John brushed a few crumbs from his shirt and slipped his sandals back on to walk across the hot sand to where Sherlock Holmes was sitting. He was halfway there before he realised that his cane was still back on the patio.
“May I join you?” he asked. Which was a ridiculous thing to say, of course, but Holmes only nodded.
John dropped onto the other end of the large beach towel.
Holmes ran a green-silver gaze over him, looking as if he were going to say something, but then didn’t.
“My name is John Watson. And you are Sherlock Holmes. Jimmy told me.”
“How disappointing. I had hoped you deduced it,” Holmes said lightly.
John gave a laugh. “Jimmy also said you are a private detective.”
“A consulting detective,” he corrected. “ The only one in the world.”
Whatever that might be. “Good for you.” John stared at him for a moment. “Are you here for my wife?” he asked then.
“Ah, you can deduce.” Holmes looked pleased for some reason. “And how would you feel about that, Mr Watson?” Holmes asked.
John wondered if he should be at least a tiny bit conflicted, but realised that he wasn’t. Not at all. “It’s John,” he said, holding out his hand. “Tell me what you need.”
Holmes blinked at him for a moment, then gave an almost smile. “Sherlock, please.”
They shook hands, looking into one another’s eyes for rather longer than strictly necessary. Or even polite.
Then they spent the rest of the afternoon sitting there on the beach and talking about how to bring down the woman known as Mary Morstan.
It got a bit complicated, however, because she had apparently been aware that Sherlock was there to capture her, so she did not come back to the hotel at all. But that was all right. Sherlock figured it out and John got to be impressed.
There was a chase along a dark beach, several gunshots that hit no one, and a pretty damned good football tackle by a man who was no longer limping. Mary did not go down easily, though, and John ended up with an ugly bruise on his face.
They laughed about the whole thing afterwards, while having a very late meal in a beachside café. They laughed a lot, in fact.
The next day, Sherlock’s mysterious brother made the problem of John’s still-missing passport disappear and a short time later there was a private plane waiting to fly them back to London. Where, coincidentally, it turned out that Sherlock was looking for a flatmate.
John thought his life had gotten very strange of late. But he was surprisingly okay with that.