The Endeavors of Doctor John Watson: The Perfect Crime

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 06, 2017

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Submitted: June 06, 2017

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The Endeavors of Doctor John Watson:

The Perfect Crime

 

It was June of the year 1911 and the season of Summer was just beginning. The warm weather, lengthened days, and pleasant atmosphere drew Londoners out from the solitary restriction of their homes. It was a season of laughing children, charming vacations, and splendid opportunities. Mary and I however prefered to spend our days isolated in the alluring setting of our Baker Street apartment. We each agreed that we had seen our fair share of amusement, and thus elected to enjoy eachother’s company in the security of our household.

I had become familiar with this place. The recent departure of my eccentric roommate prompted us to move in permanently and sell our previous home. I’m sure that my companion would be understanding of this decision, that is to assume he ever returns.

The apartment itself is a rather hospitable residence which rests on the second story of an ordinary complex. Inside three rooms are found, the bedroom, my personal study, and the living area. We spent most of those days in the living area, causally sitting beside each other in our armchairs and gazing admirably out the towering bay window. We would watch as the world passed us by as we occasionally glanced towards one another and exchanged a smile.

I began to feel slightly unfulfilled as those days passed us by. Although this was the sort of life I had dreamed of having for so many years, I felt disappointed. These feelings came about a few weeks into the month as I found myself reminiscing on the memories that my roommate and I had shared. Now, I yearned for the sense of satisfaction that these activities brought me. I hadn’t really taken part in his mad exploits for the thrill though. I’m really not quite sure why I had done those things so many years ago.

These feelings prompted me to act on my desires for fulfillment once opportunity came knocking. It was a day much like any other. I lounged in my chair and admired the bustling community below. Mary had been contently stitching an article of clothing on the couch behind me. The scene was unexpectedly interrupted by a gentle knocking beyond our front door. The mail slot began to twitch and a white envelope was forced through the opening. The paper fell to the ground as Mary looked towards me and asked “What’s that dear?”.

“I’ve got it.” I said as I rose languidly from my seat. I picked up the envelope and, turning it over, I recognized that it was addressed to “Mr. Sherlock Holmes”. Upon reading his name I opened the door and called to the delivery boy who was walking back down the hall. He obediently turned around to see me handing him the envelope.

“I’m afraid he’s not longer at this residence lad.” I informed him coolly.

“Oh, apologies sir.” The uniformed boy answered as he approached. He then failed to accept the letter as he asked “Do you’ve any idea where I might find Mister Holmes? Inspector Stewart said that it was rather urgent.”

“Inspector Stewart?” I inquired. “I don’t think I’m familiar with Stewart. Why, if I might ask, did he summon for Holmes?”

The boy answered decisively, saying “He said somethin’ about a murder near Westminster Bridge. I suppose he needed some help findin’ the killer. Mister Holmes is a famous detective isn’t he? He should be able to assist the constables. I really should be off now to find ‘im.”

I began to consider the opportunity with which I had been presented. I had been retired for years, and I had made a solemn vow to Mary that I’d refrain from accepting my long abandoned lifestyle. Mary was strongly against our endeavors and she had become perturbed of my well-being. These anxieties became too much for her to bear. It is this reason for which she compelled me to forswear my approval of the reckless behavior which I had become accustomed to. Yet, in spite of my promise, I felt that I needed to seek out this seemingly unattainable gratification which had fled from my life so long ago.

After I had considered my motivations, I thoughtfully demanded to know more. I said to the boy “Well, I wouldn’t trouble yourself much over Holmes’s whereabouts. I rather don’t think he would be much help if he were available. So why don’t you tell me where I can find Mister Stewart.”

The boy submitted to my demands as he answered discreetly. “Last I saw of him was down at the old police station. I’m sure he’d see you if you just ask.”

I thanked him and shut the door. Then, turning to my wife I said “I think I should head over to the shelter dear. They sent a letter asking for my medical insight.” I waved the envelope, which I still held as Mary responded with a doubtful yet conceding tone.

“Very well.” she said. “Be safe.”

I then departed from my home. On the street I boarded my newly purchased Matheson automobile and began my drive towards the station. During the drive I considered what I was doing as a sense of guilt began to build within me. I was violating one of the most sacred promises which I had ever made, and yet I still felt compelled to continue. Upon arriving at the illustrious station, I parked my vehicle and disembarked. A small set of stone steps led up to lofty door which was sheltered by a great stone arch. Above the arch was a sign which read “London Police” in stern block letters.

I approached the door and swung it open once near. Inside I was greeted by a harsh, bleak interior. The only movement to be seen was the passive twirling of a ceiling fan which hung from above, and the deliberate tapping of keys from behind the administrative desk. A young lady served as the receptionist as she sluggishly pressed the keys of a typewriter. The only other person in the room was an average looking man who slept upright and stagnantly on a nearby chair.

After I had thoroughly observed the atmosphere I began to move towards the desk. The lady noticed me almost immediately as she offered to be of service. I showed her the envelope and suggested that I was Holmes. She unconditionally received my lie and then directed me down a nearby hall, telling me where to find Stewart. I thanked her and started down the hall. I soon found myself stationed before the desired door. A rectangular name plate read in plain letters “Inspector Lester Stewart”. I knocked confidently only to be answered by an indifferent and muffled voice which resided inside the room.

“Yes, yes come in.” The voice advised as I opened the door with care. The room came into view and I recognized a drab office space.

I located Inspector Stewart, who sat behind a bedraggled work station. He appeared frustrated as he gently rubbed the side of head. Stewart seemed to be a few years younger than myself. His short slicked back hair was slowly being corrupted by age and his wrinkles were becoming apparent. His eyes were small but expressive and they seemed to be in constant motion. Stewart’s attitudes led me to believe that he was a reliable individual, yet one who was unyielding in their authoritarian beliefs. He had undeniably seen the atrocities that humans were capable of during his years of experience.

So I proceeded to kindly greet the inspector once I had made myself known. “Good day sir.” I said formally. “I was told that you were in need of some assistance.”

He looked towards me and said “Oh yes. It seems I have a situation on my hands. I summoned you for this reason, but I’m sure you got my letter. Mister Holmes is it not?” He asked as he eagerly stood from his place and reached for a handshake.

I saw no purpose in preserving my lie as I explained “I’m afraid not. You see, Holmes has been missing for some time now. I know not where he might be but…”

Stewart interrupted me as he withdrew his hand which I was preparing to accept and demanded “Well who are you then?”

I answered, saying “Apologies. Doctor John Watson. I was once Sherlock’s partner, though that was years ago. Anyhow if you’re having difficulties I’m sure I’ll be able to help.” I then forced an awkward smile.

Stewart returned to his embittered state as he retook his place and began running his fingers through his hair. “I see.” he said in a disappointed tone. He spoke disdainfully and said “Do you’ve any idea who I am? I, Mister Watson, am the chief of the London Police, and I do not have time to deal with such…” He paused to think before continuing. “Distractions.”

In spite his apparently haughty attitudes, I remained persistent. I requested to see a more reasonable resource as I said “I’d like to speak with Inspector Lestrade.”

“Inspector Lestrade!” Stewart replied in disgust. “That fool died years ago. I, sir, am ten times the leader that man ever was. This I guarantee. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some important business to tend to.” I considered leaving for a moment and withdrawing my offer. These thoughts however quickly fled my mind as I relentlessly confronted the conceited inspector.

“What’s this I’ve heard about a murder at Westminster Bridge?” I asked assertively.

Stewart looked up from his desk as if in shock. He was clearly not accustomed to such audacious sentiments.

I decided to continue as I explained defiantly “I understand you were expecting Holmes to swiftly alleviate this problem, but I’m afraid you got me instead. Now, inspector, I can help you and I would be happy to do so. I only need your approval.” I paused then took a great gamble out of desperation as I said “I swear to you I will be able to solve the case. That’s a promise I’m willing to make, and I never break my promises.”

Stewart responded with a tone of vague amusement, saying “You, Mister Watson, are no Sherlock Holmes. But nonetheless I am a reasonable man. I’ll allow you to humor me. I have several officers investigating the incident on the north side of Westminster Bridge. Just tell them that Stewart sent you.” He concluded with a sarcastic wave of the arms, exclaiming “I bid you farewell!”

I turned from him and left the station. Again, I started up my automobile and headed for Westminster Bridge. During the commute I briefly considered what I had done. Yes, I was confident, but confidence does not solve cases and expose killers. I began to feel somewhat uncertain.

Soon the bridge came into view as several buildings parted from my sight. From a distance the bridge appeared grand in its composition. The structure was essentially composed of several arches which consecutively spanned the length of the waterway. The somber river flowed past rapidly in a resolute yet irregular pattern. The scene was certainly a picture to behold, but I wasn’t here for sight-seeing. I had a job to do.

I arrived on the north side of the Westminster Bridge and forced my vehicle to an abrupt halt. I inspected hectic city atmosphere. A nearby constable monitored a stone stairway which led to the path below. I acknowledged him and explained that Stewart had sent me to aid in the investigation. He welcomed me gladly and advised that I head down the stairs. The path at the bottom of the steps was likely used to guide pedestrians safely underneath the bridge.

So once I had made it to the solid landing below I turned around and recognized the scene of the crime. A few officers rested beneath the shaded canopy of the bridge as they leaned against the wall. They casually spoke with one another and smoked cigarettes. Each wore untidy uniforms and had neglected their appearances. The group had evidently given up on the task. Before them lay a human-shaped lump of coal. I stopped for a minute at the foot of the stairs as I composed myself and prepared to engage in the unsettling spectacle. I hoped not to provoke the men as I began to draw near.

I converged on the scene and was able to discern that the dark shape on the ground was in fact a body, or at least what remained of one. The men almost instinctively terminated their colloquial conversation as they turned to see me apprehensively. I felt slightly isolated while I introduced myself in an agile tone and stated my intentions. They examined me shrewdly, each in their own way, as one of them made a quick hand motion towards the body. “Found him like that drifting around the river this morning. He was caught on one of those pillars out there. We pulled him out to find that he was all burnt up like that. Fire must’ve started over there.” He explained as he pointed towards an unnoticed dark patch which stained part of the environment. He continued speaking with a sense of pessimism “We’ve looked the scene over at least a hundred times. There aren’t any leads to be found. Someone really knew what they were doing. You’re more than welcome to look things over yourself though.” He then turned back to his friends and resumed the discussion which I had crudely interrupted.

I looked towards the body dismally. It was hard to believe that the dark figure was once a human who walked, spoke and breathed with life. The scene was one of misery aside from the careless officers who had lost all motivation to do their job. I began my examination by studying the river. The water flowed past with considerable force, enough force to gradually push a body along with it. I shifted from the river and began towards the harrowing corpse. It was still soaked in the frigid water from which it had been plucked. From this observation I drew the conclusion that whoever carried out the heinous act had a motive to encourage them. A motive which would push a person to murder another, but a motive nonetheless. They were fully aware of the consequences of their actions and thus decided to take laboriously accurate measures in an attempt to cover up their infraction. They mercilessly burnt the body then tossed it into the river in order to eliminate all evidence of the crime. They failed to consider however that the body could be found.

I attentively knelt by the side of the scorched specimen as if I were comforting a frightened child. The person had been thoroughly incinerated in such a way that their garments had been completely consumed by the unforgiving flames. I recognized that the limbs of the corpse were scrawny and fragile. The muscles had diminished as a result of the brutal burning and all that remained was stale skin and enduring bones. The face too was shriveled and impoverished. It’s neck was flimsy and seemed as though the skull might sever from the body and roll away given the slightest movement. The person’s eyes had withered into ashes and the blackened skin clung tightly to the corpse. I also observed the skull’s exposed teeth which had been revealed when it’s lips had deteriorated. This observation proved to be helpful as I recognized the fine quality and condition of the bones. Teeth in such pristine condition were only available to those who possessed the means to maintain them. This led me to believe that the victim was a person of great wealth.

I had become so invested in my inspection that I’d hardly noticed the blooming young lady who had silently positioned herself at my side. She eventually spoke to me with a sort of liveliness in her voice which only the most exuberant people have.

“Not much to see here.” she said with a regardful tone. She gave me quite a fright as I twitched and turned to her with startled acknowledgement. “My apologies sir. I meant not to frighten you.” she said earnestly upon recognizing the disturbance she had caused.

I studied her for a moment before I forgave the intrusion. She was slim and pale among the unwelcoming blanket which the bridge cast down on us. Her short brown hair gently waved along with the wind which fluttered through the cold tunnel. She had a gracious, friendly looking face which conveyed a sense of trustworthiness. She appeared to be a kindhearted individual who was perhaps in her late twenties. She wore a brown, flowing, dress with an airy coat. In her hand she held a pad of paper along with a pencil, leading me to believe that she had some business here.  After briefly examining her I spoke, saying “Oh it’s nothing really. I was just looking it over, only there’s not much evidence to be found.” I then solemnly turned back to the body and watched it in silence. “Someone was very deliberate in this murder.”

“I see.” The woman replied. She then studied the corpse for a while before speaking. “What’s this?” She asked as she leaned forward and grasped the body’s nearest hand. Soon she revealed a hidden ring on its finger which I had completely overlooked. “A ring! Would you look at that?” she proclaimed, twisting the piece of jewelry off of the claw and dropping in into my awaiting palm.

I began to closely examine the ornament as I remarked “Well done.” in an impressed tone. I noticed than an apparent engravement was displaying itself underneath an even layer of murkiness. I cleaned the ring and inspected the now visible design. It was undeniably a crisp image of the British Parliament’s crest. “This man was a member of the House of Lords.” I mindfully declared. “I believe their most recent meeting was organized yesterday evening. I wonder why this person was not in attendance.” I pondered the idea for a moment then swiftly turned to the young lady and voiced my gratefulness. “You have a fantastic eye for these things ma’am. Though I suppose my sight has begun to flee.” Then I chuckled shortly. “I don’t believe I caught your name. I am Doctor John Watson.” I said kindly so as to make her acquaintance.

“Oh, of course. Detective Irene Barnett.” She replied in an eloquent tone, extending her hand. I cheerfully accepted it with a smile and told her “It’s a pleasure ma'am.”

I then excused myself from the morbid scene. “Now I really ought to look into this.” I said. displaying the ring, as she nodded in agreement. It was then when I discerned that Miss Barnett might be a valuable facet of my ongoing investigation. I decided to invite her to join me, as I suggested in a prudent tone “Won’t you accompany me to my next destination? You have been a great help and I would be rather appreciative. You said you were a detective?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Barnett affirmed with confidence. “I work with the London police. We don’t typically operate with private detectives but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.” She explained as the motioned to the oblivious constables with a frustrated attitude. “I’d be gratified to join you Mister Watson. But how will a ring contribute to the investigation?”

“It will help us identify our victim.” I answered. “And I think I know just the man for the job.” The two of us then abandoned the scene and left the body to the police as we mounted my automobile. I drove heedlessly to our desired location. During the ride I learned that Barnett was a fairly independent individual who approached life with a deal of optimism. She had been employed by the police department for two years and had accumulated a considerable amount of experience during that time. She was an comprehensively resolute person who defiantly faced the world, even when it presented difficulties. A strange sense of interconnection was present as I familiarized myself with my newly found friend. I hadn’t felt such empathy in ages, not since Sherlock had left.

We gradually departed from the industrious city atmosphere as I spurred my vehicle to continue. Eventually we found ourselves in a rural area, speeding along a dirt path. Barnett did not trouble herself by inquiring of our whereabouts, but rather sat in a trusting, reassuring manner beside me. I soon identified the unmistakable location to which we had been headed. It was a modest, refined dwelling located among the dense forests of the outskirts of London. The house had no neighbors to accompany it, only the nearby trees and the expansive, plains which remained untouched by man. I knew the person who lived here well. He was a man of great capacity, but also of personal limitations. He appreciated a life of solitude, and wasn’t very fond of visitors.

Soon, I found that I’d abstractly slowed my vehicle to a halt directly before the threatening residence. “Here we are.” I said passively. I went on to explain my intentions to Miss Barnett. “I know the man who lives here.” I said. “He was once a man of great authority, but that was long ago.” I paused and cleared my throat. “I’m sure he’ll be able to help us identify the victim.”

“Very well.” she replied, steadfastly standing from the passenger seat and exiting the vehicle. “Certainly he’ll see us?”

“Yes, certainly” I said as I escorted her to the entryway. I pounded on the front door with great conviction as the two of us patiently awaited a response. The door soon opened as an inch wide crack permitted light to flood from the room inside. A doubtful middle-aged man poked his eye from the crevice and studied his visitors. “Yes?” he asked with a sense of urgency.

I stepped forth and introduced myself in an outspoken tone, saying “Good day sir. My name is John Watson. My companion and I kindly request to speak with Mycroft if he’s available.”

“Only by appointment.” the man replied with an irritable disapproval as he moved to shut the door. I swiftly planted my foot and prevented him from proceeding. The door rattled and I became insistent.

“Please sir.” I said stubbornly. The man then speechlessly contemplated his next move.

“A moment please.” he affirmed as the door was slammed bitterly.

We were left standing on that porch, in the secluded natural setting for some time after. “That could have gone better.” I observed jokingly.

Soon the door again moaned and swung open, this time completely. The man who answered was clearly one of Mycroft’s many personal servants. He advised simply “Follow me if you will.” The assistant then twisted abruptly and walked through the house. Barnett shot a quick glance of hesitancy my way as we discreetly advanced through the unblemished complex. The aristocratic layout of the place conveyed a feeling of perplexing malignancy as we navigated the rooms.

The thunderous keys of a classical composition, with which I was unfamiliar, filled the house in its entirety. The sounds only grew more powerful as we neared the source. Soon the servant delivered us to an open common room with a high ceiling and wooden floors. An immense piano rested against the wall furthest from us. This was the instrument which produced the divine yet unsettling sounds. The conductor responsible for the uproar was Mycroft Holmes himself. It wasn’t until the servant casually approached him and tapped his shoulder that the music ceased. The house fell silent for the time being and Mycroft composed himself. He sat up moderately as he straightened his coat and fixed his hair with ease. Mycroft cautiously turned from the instrument then, revealing his tranquil face.

He had aged considerably since I had last seen him. His long hair which ran down the back of his neck, had become uniformly white. He had lost a remarkable amount of weight, and looked astonishingly decrepit. His once agile eyes had become drowsy and almost dormant. He wore a pair of fashionable spectacles which teetered precisely on the tip of his thin nose. I hardly recognized the once distinguishable face. I suppose though that I didn’t fare much better than he.

He blinked with a debilitated sort of demeanor. It took a moment for him to determine who I was as the gears shifted about in his dulled mind. He soon asked blatantly “So how long has it been Watson? Five years? Ten maybe?”

“Something like that.” I replied effortlessly as I observed the frail man.

“So what is it you’ve come for then? Is it Money? Because if it’s money I’ve not got any of that for you.” Mycroft stated with a denunciatory tone.

“No, I’ll need none of your money Mycroft.” I responded. “Though I might need your assistance in an ongoing investigation of mine. If you’d be willing that is.”

“Investigation!” he exclaimed with sudden infuriation. “No, no, no. I’ll have no part in any of that. Go on now and tell my dimwitted brother that this is his business, not mine! Those days are far behind me now!”

I defended myself as I explained “You mistake yourself Mycroft. Sherlock’s not been in the business for ages. Not since he’s left that is. It’s only me on this case.” I paused and reflected for a brief moment. “Only me.” I repeated.

I was going to continue but Barnett interrupted. “Sherlock?” She asked “You mean Sherlock Holmes? The detective? You knew him?”

Before I could answer her Mycroft cut in. “Who's this?” He asked as he pointed carelessly towards Miss Barnett.

She instinctively turned to him and introduced herself. “Detective Irene Barnett.” She said. “I’ve been helping Mister Watson with this case. We would certainly be thankful if you would assist in any way possible.”

Mycroft nodded in reverie. “Alright.” The stubbornly refined man said upon meeting Barnett. His relatively aggressive personality had suddenly been reversed. I was, in reality, quite baffled by the unexpected change. “I’ll do what I can. What is it you need?”

I accepted his offer before he could change his mind. “Our victim was wearing this ring.” I said, dropping the piece of jewelry into his fragile hand. “I suppose he was a member of the British Parliament. I understand that the assembly met yesterday evening at the Palace of Westminster. The victim however did not attend. I’d like to know his name.” I politely demanded.

Mycroft then released an unsteady laugh which quickly evolved into a weak cough. He soon composed himself and said “I’ve not been involved with parliamentary affairs for years Watson. My time in the sun ended long ago.”

I felt disappointed upon hearing this as I looked at Barnett with an apologetic sentiment.

“Although…” Mycroft continued thoughtfully after a moment. I listened in anticipation. “It occurs to me now that I’ve been having parliamentary documents delivered to my residence since I retired. Though I never really reference them, I find that it’s best to keep up with my country's affairs. I was, after all, once a major contributor to such national decisions.” Mycroft boasted. “I suppose there could be some useful information in the most recent shipment of papers. Go fetch them won’t you?” he asked a nearby servant authoritatively. The servant left to retrieve the valuable papers as we were marooned in the uncomfortable presence of Mycroft.

“Take a seat.” he suggested sternly. We took out our awkward accommodations in a few seats which rested behind us as Mycroft asked expectantly “So while we wait, why don’t you tell me about this case of yours Watson?”

I submitted to his request and summarized our findings to the old man. Once I had finished my story Mycroft spoke pretentiously. “Sounds to me like the perfect crime.” he observed.

“Perhaps.” I answered, trying not to display my feelings of discouragement and cynicism.

“So what makes you think you can solve the case?” He continued pompously. “What makes you think you can expose the murderer and save the day?”

I didn’t respond, but rather sullenly accepted his lecture. He concluded with an honest yet tormenting statement. “Remember this Watson.” he said. “Sherlock Holmes was a hero to the people of this city. It seems to me that, in this desperate time, London needs another Sherlock Holmes.” He leaned forward eagerly as his servant handed him a small stack of official-looking papers from over his shoulder. Mycroft accepted the papers and presented them to me. “Don’t let them down.” he advised gravely.

I reached for the records and drew them from his weak grasp. Barnett and I promptly departed from Mycroft’s residence, papers in hand. Outside Barnett innocently inquired as to how exactly I knew Sherlock. At first I avoided her question by examining the records with an engrossing sense of exigency. “I want to know about him.” she said longingly as she watched me standing at her side. The subject made me feel remarkably disturbed. Though, in spite of my distress, I decided to explain myself. I admired her unyielding adherence to the case as I conceded to her benevolent demands.

“Alright.” I answered in a relinquished tone. “I’ll recite what I can remember.” Then I leaned on my vehicle vigilantly and disclosed my past. I reluctantly recalled a countless number of ancient memories as I told her about all the adventures we had shared. The sermon was lengthy and drawn out as we stood outside Mycroft’s door for perhaps twenty minutes. I found the affair to be surprisingly enjoyable though and I felt accepted for the first time since Sherlock left. Barnett simply listened with a receptive attitude.

Soon the discussion drew to a close and I glanced at her with apparent susceptibility. She then asked solemnly “And what happened to him?”

That question took me off guard as I stumbled over my words for a moment. I eventually seized my astonished attitudes and clarified. “Well…” I said before wavering shortly “Old Sherlock vanished without a trace last September. I’m not quite sure where he might have gone, but I have my speculations.” Then I unfolded the short stack of papers and started to look them over, skimming through the pools of words in order to distinguish only the most useful information.

“What are your speculations?” Barnett asked profoundly after having granted me a few minutes to examine the documents.

“Well...” I replied candidly like a parent conveying a fairytale to their anxiously awaiting child. “In those weeks leading up to his disappearance, Holmes began to propose a number of bizarre ideas. One day he thought he might board a ship and travel across great oceans to visit faraway lands in the Caribbean. Another day he spoke of touring Africa or South America. These desires continued to thrive as our days of quiet retirement passed. I suppose he cultivated such motives in order to find some purpose. For detective work was the only thing Holmes truly loved in this world. Without it he was a miserable shell of a man. He had nothing to aspire to, nothing to work towards. Travelling the world gave Holmes precisely the substance he so desperately desired.” I was then interrupted by a sudden tremendous gust of wind which mercilessly drowned out all surrounding sound.

The gale passed and I continued “I hadn’t thought much of his whimsical desires.” I said decisively. “It therefore came as a shock when I found that he had vanished one morning. I remember calling his name with an unhurried frustration, but he never did answer. I instinctively thought up a few excuses to justify why my dedicated friend was absent. Perhaps he had run to the market? I thought, but this was not to be. Upon inspecting his bedraggled room, I found that all of his belongings had been evacuated. The closet stood empty, his equipment was missing, even the velvet curtains which once shaded him were gone. The only article of furniture remaining was his bed, though even this had been stripped of its sheets. I quickly recognized a solitary letter resting on top of the exposed mattress. The front of the envelope read, in Sherlock’s handwriting, ‘to Watson’. I opened that letter.” I said simply. “Only to find a short yet poignant message.”

Barnett still followed my narrative with a sentimental sort of attitude. I prudently cleared my throat and continued “I disclosed the creased paper and read the words that were methodically written. ‘Onto the next’ it read.” I stopped momentarily and looked towards Barnett. “Onto the next.” I repeated plainly as I evaluated the sentence over a few times in my head “I still have that letter.” I confessed, briefly reminiscing on the times I had shared with Holmes.

She did not respond but rather speechlessly pondered the weighty words which were all Holmes had left behind. Meanwhile I continued to graze over the papers. I discerned the information which I had been perilously seeking out. At once I had a name to put to the mutilated corpse which had now been cast off somewhere into the unforgiving world. “Here.” I declared breathlessly as I pointed out the name which was tucked away between layers of negligible text. “It looks like they were calling role during the meeting’s introduction.” I explained as Barnett now huddled near. “It says here that the only Lord who failed to attend was a Mister Ruben Poole.” I announced.“Little did they know that Mister Poole had been murdered.”

She considered this conclusion for a moment and responded saying “We ought to head over to the Palace of Westminster then. I’m sure all the Lords have offices there where they conduct their business. Perhaps Poole left something behind which might be of use.”

We charted the quickest course to the Palace as we jumped into my vehicle and cruised back into the city. We made good time as the automobile gasped and heaved over bumps and past overgrown creeks. The journey was pleasant as I casually shifted the wheel and nimbly stuck to the emphasized path.

Soon though Barnett reclined nearer to me so that I might hear her voice over the infrequent blasts of wind and motion. She spoke with a graceful sort of demeanor as she intently equivocated her thoughts. “You know, I used to look up to Sherlock Holmes when I was a young girl.” She stated keenly. I glanced towards her with a look of great interest. She elaborated, saying “I remember hearing stories about a great detective. I remember hearing that he could solve any mystery, no matter how absurd or seemingly impossible it was. I wanted to be like him. That’s why I became a detective.” She paused for a moment and vigilantly surveyed me as I drove along. “He was a hero you know.” She added I revealed a heedful smile. “I’m glad you told me about him.” Barnett concluded cordially.

The remainder of  the journey was one of silence but gratification. A profound understanding of one another now existed between Barnett and I. We soon reached our destination. The iconic Great Bell of the Clock became visible as it proudly displayed itself above the city. We drew near and found ourselves faced with the glorious entrance to the exalted complex. I gradually brought the vehicle to a halt and disembarked onto the finely cobbled road. I had hardly noticed the extensive police presence which gallantly guarded the Palace. Several uniformed constables stood watch by the door and a number of others conversed by their parked automobiles. The atmosphere was suddenly overwhelmed by an ambivalent mood as the officers took notice of my presence.. I hadn't realized this however until Barnett had enlightened me with a gentle nudge of the shoulder.

I understood that the group was fixedly watching me. Our surroundings were afflicted by a dense, adamantine silence. “They must be for us.” I muttered to Barnett conspicuously. Shortly after our arrival, Stewart himself emerged from the crowd. He displayed a furious disposition as he indignantly shouted to the sky. “This man is interfering in our investigation!” The crowd then stirred in accordance with bizarre claim. Stewart continued to challenge me, saying “Now I demand that you vacate the premises immediately Mister Watson.” I was terribly confused and was unable to defend myself from the unjustified libel.

Out of desperation and instinct I said naively, “But I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Done nothing wrong you say!” Stewart exclaimed as he laughed scornfully and turned to see the abiding assembly. He then asserted wildly “You’ve prevented the London police from adequately carrying out their duties! You’ve become involved in an investigation which you were never part of! Now I demand that you leave here at once or so help me I will have you arrested!” I said nothing but rather allowed him to continue his ceaseless rant. He proceeded to turn on Barnett. “And you!” He shouted as he motioned towards her in disgrace. “You choose to help him?”

Barnett evidently knew Stewart. He had adopted an adamant attitude towards her and took every opportunity which presented itself to shame her, or so it seemed. Stewart’s brutal criticisms persisted for what felt like an eternity. He cried out vigorously “I’ll not warn you again. If you insist on helping this lawless vigilante…” he then waved his arm towards me “...I’ll see to it that you’re discharged!” Barnett managed to maintain her refined attitudes as she looked on. “Very well then.” Stewart eventually closed in a satiated tone. “You’re all dismissed. Now go do your job.” he commanded as the group of constables began to shuffle their feet into the Palace. Barnett too followed obediently. However, before she receded into the grand structure, she turned to me and delivered a discreet nod. It wasn’t the sort of nod which indicated her loyalty to Stewart, but was rather the sort of nod which indicated that she had a plan.

Once the clamoring had again settled Stewart engaged me. He arrogantly paced back and forth for a moment. “Be gone.” He said in a supercilious tone.

I defied his demands and I remained standing before him in vexation. “So how’d you know to come here?” I asked solemnly,  still studying his contriving movements.

“It was simple really.” he replied “Your friend Mycroft Holmes gave us a useful tip. He told us you’d be coming here.” Stewart indicated arrogantly.

I felt foolish for having failed to consider Mycroft’s true intentions. My feelings of malice towards him grew as I recognized that he must have looked into the documents himself some time before our visit. He likely sent one of his servants to do his bidding upon perceiving my motives.

Soon Stewart’s ridiculous cantering ceased and he began to question my purposes. “Tell me Mister Watson...” he said “Why are you doing all this?” He went on to elaborate as he asked skeptically “Are you really here to expose a killer and deliver justice?” I stared ahead with immovable fortitude. “Or perhaps this is all because you want to save the day, and be the hero for once?” Stewart suggested in a demoralizing tone. Upon hearing these words my confident attitudes began to waver. I sincerely questioned the reasons for which I had become involved. “That’s it isn’t it? You want to feel like you’re as great as Sherlock Holmes. You want to be the hero.” He then laughed obtrusively and I felt dispirited. The tormenting inspector then careened near and said in a hushed tone “But you and I both know you really aren’t.”

I had taken enough of Stewart’s abuse then as I turned from him and drove off in my automobile. He left after that and joined his assiduous crew of officers who had been diligently raiding the Palace. Little did he know however that I had no intentions of going far. I migrated off the property and swiftly parked on a busy street. The frantic traffic of London sped by as I sat modestly in my vehicle. I discerned that the illustrious Palace of Westminster could be entirely seen from this position. I took a few minutes then to admire the majestic sight as I looked fervently towards the clock tower.

Soon though I recognized a familiar figure navigating the hectic streets. The person was still far off, but judging from their balletic conduct, I was able to decide that it was Barnett. She strolled down the streak of sidewalk on the opposite side of the road and laggardly drew near. Though, as she progressed along the path, it seemed that the masses of commuting civilians only grew denser. She nearly became lost among the cluster of strangers, but I was able to tentatively keep her in my sight. It seemed to me as if the mob collectively worked against her. They resisted her progression by strolling in the wrong direction. Barnett still managed to make gradual progress in spite of the cruel adversity.

I stepped from my vehicle and animatedly waved so as to draw her attention. Upon recognizing me Barnett lunged through the crowd and transversed across the street. I called to her in a responsive manner. “Glad to see you could make it madame.” I announced. She then revealed an expressive smile. “I certainly hope things went well with Stewart.”

“Of course.” she replied. “His tactics are nonsensical. Stewart’s a timid man anyhow, he lacks the courage to act on his contesting threats.” Barnett explained.

It was clear now that she knew how to respond to Stewart’s inclinations. She was fully capable of fending for herself in this harsh world of ours. “So did you find anything in there?” I asked.

“Certainly.” Barnett responded as she divulged a folded scrap of paper from her coat pocket. “I think this’ll help.” She promptly handed it to me. I unfolded the flimsy material and revealed a variety of slovenly written words.

I looked at her incredulously before dubiously deciphering the nearly illegible writing. The paper read “Dinner with source @ 190 Brewer Lane- 1900 tonight

I thought the note over before asking Barnett in a striking tone “Where did you get this?”

“Found it in Lord Poole’s office. Stewart and his men had passed by the door a dozen times without knowing that the key to the investigation sat right before their eyes.” She then continued ecstatically “Stewart interrogated me with an uncompromising sort of demeanor and he demanded to hear the name of the victim. I refused to concede. Once they were occupied in another room, I covertly snuck away into Poole’s office. The note was the only useful bit of evidence in there.” She explained. “They’re still busy pillaging the place like a bunch of idiots.”

“Well done.” I responded justly. Her endeavors had, after all, been rather remarkable. It was then when I first understood how truly capable Irene Barnett was. I silently praised her and again referred to the deposition. “Dinner with Source.” I read aloud. “Sounds like Ruben Poole was busy. It seems to me that this ‘source’ was our killer. He met with him at seven o'clock last night.” I observed.

“Indeed.” Barnett responded plainly. “We really ought to stop by that address. Perhaps Lord Poole left something behind during the dinner.”

I concurred with her suggestion as we blithely fled from the overrun streets of downtown London. I tried to locate the indicated location on a convenient map. Eventually it was discovered that Brewer Lane passed through a serene business district of the city. We plotted a course and executed our commute. Before long we found ourselves cruising through a much more comfortable area. The impenetrable crowds which once lined the road had dispersed. I felt much more welcome here.

I soon diverged onto Brewer Lane after having explored the charming area for a few minutes.. Barnett attentively peered out the side of the wagon and counted the addressed aloud as we drove along. I slowed our speed so as to avoid passing the place up.

“190.” I heard her say optimistically. “That must be the place.” She then glared at the unmistakable structure as I pulled off to the side of the street. My automobile gasped and staggered with jolt of fatigue before coming to an abrupt halt. “So this is where Poole was last night.” Barnett observed. She began to steadily approach the place and I followed shortly behind. I admired the structure in all of its humble splendor. It looked to be an exemplary London restaurant, straightforward and sumptuous.

The ground level of the lanky three story complex displayed a door which would lead us inside. I peered through a window and discerned that the place was a fashionable, yet seemingly abandoned outlet. Inside we were greeted by a desolate, placid atmosphere. It was almost entirely silent in the restaurant, with the exception of a mellow dripping faucet hidden somewhere in a nearby room. I almost instinctively began to inspect the foreign place. I soon concluded my survey by precipitously clearing my throat and turning to Barnett. “Perhaps they’re closed?” I suggested.

We hadn’t been alone in the solitary room though. An urgent commotion could be heard after I had made my impulsive indication. The turbulent sounds bellowed through the room. The uproar soon ceased as a gentleman emerged from a door which I hadn’t initially noticed. “Sorry about the delay.” he said amiably as he sauntered towards us. “I was just cleaning up a bit in the back. So how can I help you this afternoon?” The man was likely an employee of the upscale establishment. I was sure that he could be of assistance.

“My companion and I are here on a police investigation.” I explained. “I understand that one Lord Ruben Poole visited your establishment yesterday evening. Would you happen to know of him young man? Any information would be rather helpful.”

“Ah yes.” The man responded. “He was here last night. What would you like to know?” he inquired.

“Was he accompanied by anyone?” I asked.

“Indeed he was. A slightly older gentleman waited here for him. Said he was awaiting the arrival of a business associate. Said he was going to discuss an opportunity that might interest his accomplice. He also told me it was a lord he was looking for, so I can only assume that was Poole. Once Poole showed up anyway the two of ‘em sat at a table for about an hour. That man later escorted Poole out. I suppose the Lord had a drink too many.” He chuckled in retrospect.

“A drink too many?” I repeated curiously. “And do you remember how he looked? Do you recall any physical characteristics of Poole’s companion?”

“No, not at all. He was rather mysterious though, that’s for sure. Every time I tried to take his order he told me to shove off in a most hostile way. I hardly said a word to him before I was deemed an intruder.”

“Interesting.” I noted as I considered the information which the worker had submitted. I found it strange that Poole would agree to a meeting with this enigmatic source of his, only to be drunk by the end of the night. Something didn’t add up. I thought there might be some evidence elsewhere which could provide some additional insight. “Might I have a look in the kitchen for a moment? I’d like to inspect your dishes if you’d be so kind.” I insinuated.

“Certainly. I was just about to have them cleaned from last night, but I haven't gotten to that yet. You’re more than welcome to have a look.” the worker complied.

He then began to escort Barnett and I to the door from which he had come. Inside was a secluded and compact kitchen. This room was agonizingly dull and couldn’t house more than three people. I found it difficult to understand how anyone could work in the spiteful chamber.

“Dishes are over there in the sink.” The man indicated. “I’ll leave you to it then.” He said as he turned and left the kitchen.

I instantly approached the stack of porcelain plates. The dishes were ornate and of superior quality. The varnished plates however presented no useful characteristics. I’d hardly noticed the assembly of bedraggled glasses which sat on the counter beside the sink. A quick examination of the transparent containers revealed that there was little to be discovered. One of the identical containers however displayed an obvious accumulation of white residue. I recognized that the substance was a pure powdery material. Only a pinch of it was present, but it was distinguishable nonetheless.

“Look at this.” I said to Barnett. I took a diminutive sample of the powder using the tip of my index finger.

“What is it?” she asked surpassingly. I proceeded to bring the material close to my nose then I inhaled slightly. There was no scent to be detected.

“It’s likely rohypnol.” I concluded. My hand then receded and I began to pace back and forth anxiously.

“Rohypnol?” Barnett repeated ambiguously. “Is it a chemical?”

“Yes, it’s a chemical.” I replied “It’s typically used to induce a state of stupor. It is frequently used in kidnappings.” I observed, contemplating the intentions of the murderer.

“So it seems that Lord Poole was kidnapped by this source who he met with last night. Whoever it was proceeded to burn poole’s body and throw it into the river.” Barnett suggested.

“Yes, so it seems.” I said unwittingly. “Whoever we’re dealing with took their crime seriously. They’re top priority was to avoid being caught.” I admitted. “The killer was somehow motivated to go through with the murder. The fact that he was Poole’s source indicates that the two didn’t know eachother very well. The killer likely contacted Poole using an intricate lie. Their deceptive excuses probably involved benefitting Poole in some way. This was undeniably an offer which the lord couldn’t pass up. The killer then purchased a few rohypnol tablets and arranged to meet with his magnanimous victim at this restaurant. Poole was drugged, captured, taken to the Westminster Bridge, and burned to death before being disposed of in the river.”

During my monotonous explanation Barnett had begun to do some digging of her own. She had seized the glass from which the material had been discovered and had begun to scrupulously study it.

Once I had finished she looked towards me with the modest chalice held securely in her grasp. “They’re top priority was to avoid being caught you say?” she denoted skeptically. Barnett then surrendered the glass. I accepted it and thought that perhaps I’d missed something. This proved to be precisely the case as she told me “Turn it over, look on the bottom.” in an advisory tone. I did this with a confiding attitude.

It took me a few moments before the trifling trace revealed itself to my scampering eyes. A microscopic, yet fairly obvious mark was inscribed in the unblemished glass. “Would you look at that?” I said thoughtfully. “It’s some sort of engraving.” I then squinted my eyes, but was unable to discern what the score read. “It’s too small to interpret.” I observed with a hint of irritation.

I sighed intensely but a solution soon emerged from deep within my crippled consciousness. I probed all of my pockets and eventually located the object which I sought. Barnett, all the while, waited in a state of enervated anguish. I drew the crisp metal commodity from my pocket, revealing a simple but suitable hand lens. This got her attention as she watched me operate.

I used the optical device as an expert might, as I beamed towards the inscription. It became apparent that the lines were made with a precise tool, such as a knife. I peered through the lens for a minute or so and prudently made sense of the etching.

I read it aloud after having ascertained the material. “R.A.H 23F 2100” I reiterated meticulously. Then I looked towards Barnett in consideration, hoping that she might have the slightest clue as to what those arbitrary characters might mean. She didn’t though.

I was left to fend for myself. I groaned out of irritation and began to feel entirely powerless. This morbid moment proved to be the most disheartening point of my investigation. The atmosphere became one of merciless destitution. I asked myself why I had done all of this, why I had insisted on becoming involved, and what I expected to accomplish. I should have known that I would never be as great as Sherlock Holmes. My crestfallen nature only supported these sentiments. I was genuinely prepared to withdraw from the investigation.

Barnett however wasn’t. While I stood there feeling sorry for myself she took to dauntlessly striving towards a conclusion. Barnett thought the symbols over in the sullen place of fortuity which she called her mind. She interrupted the random characters with a contemplative explanation. “2100...” She whispered under her breath with that unprecedented grace of hers. “That must be a time. Twenty-one hundred hours. That would be later this evening, just a few hours from now.” I looked towards her then with a vague countenance.

But this wouldn’t make sense. Why would a murderer carry out such a punctual crime, if they were only going to lead their enemies to them in the end. I kept these concerns to myself for the time being as I worked with Barnett to decipher the message. “R.A.H” I declared. “Could that be a place? A location here in London perhaps?” Barnett then delivered a receptive nod as she extracted our map. She unraveled the creased page and displayed it as I gazed in amazement. Both sets of eyes desperately analyzed the map, hoping that a marvelous clue might be disclosed.

I soon identified a potential solution as my hand landed on its target with a pound. “R.A.H” I exclaimed with an exultant cheer. Barnett looked to the spot which I had indicated and our ambiguous destination was at once revealed. We had finally identified the imposing haven which would undoubtedly prove to be the murderer's den.

“Royal Albert Hall.” She recapitulated.

“Exactly!” I announced. “And ‘23F’ must be a seat number.” I then grinned in complacency and studied her expression of realization.

“So this means the killer deliberately furnished the clue.” She noted in an attempt to improve her overall comprehension. “Who ever we’re  dealing with is beckoning us to join them for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall. They want us to meet them there as nine o’clock tonight, in seat 23F.”

“Absolutely.” I proclaimed. Then I took a moment to ruminate on this restive position of ours. We did, after all, have not the slightest hint as to what we might be up against. We had contended with this cryptic killer for the entire day, but had never once stopped to consider the threat that they might present. “We need to get to the hall soon. The killer wants us there in roughly one hour’s time. But I really should stop by my home and acquire my pistol before we go charging in.” I suggested, glancing at my pocket watch urgently. She acquiesced my proposal.

“I’ll go to the hall while you’re occupied. That way we can be certain that we won’t miss the killer.” she proposed. I tolerantly conceded to her resolution and insisted that I might drive her there. Barnett affirmatively refused my offer and asserted that she could get there herself. With this, we bid one another farewell. I accessed my vehicle and embarked on my journey, back to Baker Street, while she navigated the spiraling communities of London.

It was dark by the time we left the restaurant. It seemed to me as though all Londoners dreaded this shadowy atmosphere as they locked themselves into their homes. I didn’t blame them for retreating in this way. London was, after all, a most imperious place at night. I preferred not to be out too late myself. During that ominous drive, I thought about nothing. I did so intentionally, so that I might not have to confront the situation with which I had been presented.

I eventually approached my home and pulled to a halt, then I dismounted and walked to the entrance. I thrust open the door to my apartment complex and the warm interior of my residence became visible. I scaled the stairs and imperatively forced myself way into my home .

It took me only a moment to catch me breath before I began to tend to my business. I stumbled over to the bedroom and shuffled crucially through the closet. My hand soon made contact with an ordinary metallic box which was rooted deep within the wardrobe. I hauled the container from its place and fervently flung it open. Behind the cover I found a burnished revolver. My rapacious hand grasped the handle of the alluring weapon. It was a stunning object indeed but, nonetheless, one capable of invoking great misery.

I twisted about fiercely once I had secured the revolver. Little had I known that my wife, Mary, had been speechlessly watching my every movement from the living room. She stood solemnly, just beyond the doorway in a state of both disturbance and astonishment. I said nothing upon seeing her, but rather crouched in astoundment, with the gun still held firmly in my grasp. Mary too said nothing, but rather stood in her robe with her arms crossed in agitation.

I hesitantly rose from the floor as she demanded in an unsettling tone “What exactly are you doing? I thought you were heading to the shelter?”

It took me a minute to comprehend her inquiry. Mary went on to demur while I thought about the feasible denunciations. “I’ve been worried.” She said, turning from the doorway. “A constable visited a few hours ago. Said he was an inspector.” She was seated on the couch now, staring up at the ceiling in contemplation. “I believe his name was Stewart. Yes, that was his name, Lester Stewart.”

It was obvious now that Mary’s confrontation was fueled by more than mere concern. Yes, I’d gone out and taken a great risk by pursuing this investigation, but her disheartenment originated from a far greater cause. I had intentionally disobeyed my wife’s expectations, and I had done so in a way that she perceived as betrayal. Her disappointed attitudes made me feel guilty, but I’d already prioritized my ambitions. I knew that there was a purpose in all this, one which I intended to fulfill.

Some preeminent sensation compelled me to remain mute and stern as I stepped from the room. “I thought we agreed to abstain from these nonsensical endeavors long ago John.” Mary said in a defeated tone as she watched me. This final statement of hers filled me with an interminable sense of shame.

“I have to do this.” I responded as I holstered my weapon and turned to approach the exit. I moved near and my hand seized the doorknob. “I’m sorry.” I said intuitively as I felt the door swing shut behind me with a harrowing gust.

I stood outside that room for a long time then. I began to feel a great many things. Doubt, regret, contempt. Given time I composed  myself and assembled what strength I had left to finish the job. I snuck to my vehicle on the street below and began my commute, only glancing back to the apartment once before my conviction took over and steered me towards the hall.

The night seemed to ruthlessly immure my vehicle as I pattered along past flashing buildings and street signs. The Royal Albert Hall however unveiled itself after a short time. The dazzling structure diverged with the atrociously encompassing darkness. It was indeed a grand sight to descry within the lonely night. I dubiously converged on the theatre and recognized that a formidable crowd had gathered outside. The churning congregation rested dormantly upon the hall’s lawn. I suppose a concert of some sort was destined to be held at this time. It was a massively fashionable and attractive event without a doubt.

I somehow maneuvered my way through the teeming street leading up to the palace. I felt like my automobile governed itself, as it slithered through the heedless crowd. My mind had been wandering in some long-forgotten place of both superfluous memories, and relinquished dreams. An overwhelming sense of lamentation surmounted inside me as my thoughts began to roam freely. It was at this moment when I summoned the greatest will that I had. I resolutely vowed to defeat this terrible adversity which I had been struggling with for so long. With this valiant pledge, I had all that I needed to achieve greatness.

So I managed to navigate the unorderly swarm. I made a sudden turn onto a side street and gradually pulled to the side of the road. Then, leaping from my vehicle, I found myself trapped in the aimlessly passing crowd. I allowed the undeviating mob to take me wherever it desired. My vision was largely obscured by passing arms and hustling heads as I steadily neared the hall. I caught a few glimpses of the massive theatre which vaguely resembled the Roman Colosseum, during the pinnacle of its existence that is. The architecture of the hall was sumptuous as it towered above the nearby community.

I soon felt my legs carrying me up a short set of stairs, then I perceived that I was passing beneath the imposing archway of an entrance. A stunning gust of cool air impacted me upon entering the dully lit structure. Once inside the dense barrier of people parted a bit, allowing me to break away.

I lunged towards a wall at the soonest opportunity and, leaning against it, caught my breath. The flow of attendees continued to steadily pass by as I waited for a few moments. The interior of the Royal Albert Hall was as ravishing as its external appearance. Primary seating arrangements could be found along a circumferential crater of stairs which descended towards a centered stage. This was likely where the performance would soon be held.

So after resting a moment, I decided to advance through the complex maze of seats. I hastily read the characters aloud as I was nudged along by impatient strangers. “Row A, Row B, Row C, Row D…” I heard myself saying. The identical arrangements simple swept by as I staggered down the aisle. Soon though my eyes made contact with my desired column and I threw myself from the river of rushing patrons. I proceeded to shimmy my way by unsuspecting individuals who had been casually lounging in the hospitable recliners. I studied the numbers on the armrests as I passed by and received a number of unfriendly glares. I tried to look down the row a bit so that I might recognize Barnett’s friendly face, or perhaps the face of the killer. This was precisely what I discerned as I drew near.

Barnett sat patiently a little ways down the row. She blended in quite well with the crowd. One wouldn’t suspect her of being here on such a horrendous assignment. I was compelled to rush to her side and lightheartedly greet her, for I had been worried. Her decision to head off on her own made me feel most uneasy. I concede that I feared the worst.

Somehow I managed to constrain my impulses though, as my pace gradually slowed. I made myself appear as inconspicuous as possible during my approached. My sights were set on an empty seat, which was to the right of Barnett. Shortly after spotting Barnett however, I caught my first glimpse of our suspected murderer. It was an outcast of a man who sat in the seat to the right of that which was empty. His overall demeanor was one of ghastliness and detachment. One might think him to be an exile based solely on his appearance of misery and repose. I was inexplicably repulsed upon seeing him. But, in spite of these sentiments, I forced myself to continue.

I aversely made eye contact with Barnett for an instant. Her eyes were laden with a sense of petrified helplessness. I came near without saying a word. She too understood that we had to continue to conceal ourselves. If this was in fact the killer, we needed to maintain our low-profile. So I took my seat between her and the stranger with a great sigh of complacency.

I doubtfully situated myself in seat 23F with a quick heave, then I allowed all movement to cease. The minute or so that followed was accompanied by apprehensive glances. Barnett, the suspect, and I refused to acknowledge one another out of hostility and tension. I suppose I had hoped that the killer would engage first.

The ensemble soon emerged from some unseen place, hidden by the crowd of greedy patrons. A number of performers haphazardly marched down an aisle and mounted the stage. They assumed their designated positions and drew their instruments. The orchestra’s composer seized the attention of the convulsing stadium with a quick wave or the arm. The harmonized chatter which had filled the complex now began to cease. The entire hall soon settled and the orchestra began.

The cymbals mercilessly crashed, sending reverberations throughout the structure. They fell silent then and allowed the violins to take the lead. The tune started off mellow and kind, but progressively intensified as the cellos and trumpets joined in. It was a sort of classical song, much like that which I had observed Mycroft playing earlier in the day. For a minute even I became infatuated by the splendid performance. I’d nearly forgotten the reason for which I was here. My intentions dawned on me however when the inscrutable man next to me decided to coarsely clear his throat.

With a short cynical glance, he asked “Beautiful day wasn’t it?” then he respired vigorously and studied the committed orchestra.

“Indeed it was.” I replied as I tapped my foot haphazardly.

“An especially brilliant day to schedule such a performance.” he remarked with a subtle indication. He paused then and rubbed his afflicted eyes which were concealed by despair. “Absolutely brilliant.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I allowed him to carry us into the next phase of the conversation.

“I’ve never been here before.” he explained. “But I’m definitely glad I decided to attend tonight’s event. It hasn’t disappointed yet.” The man then snickered with a hint of hollow anguish.

“I’ve not been here either.” I replied honestly. “I do appreciate a good show every now and then though. London, it seems puts on the greatest shows of all. If only I could make more time to attend.” I went on to smile stiffly.

“Ah, finally a man of culture.” The stranger remarked in a tone of approval. “I rather don’t think I caught your name sir.” he noted, exposing a vanquished palm for a handshake.

“John Watson. It’s a pleasure.” I said, graciously accepting his hand.

“Cecil Ingram.” he responded affirmatively.

For a moment we rested, satisfied in one another’s presence. I found him to be a perplexingly amiable fellow. These outrageous thoughts ran their course as I eventually considered that Cecil Ingram might be a barbarous murderer.

“So tell me Mister Ingram…” I said after a minute or so. “What is it you do here in London? Do you have a family?”

“Family? Why of course not!” He replied with a voice full of entitlement and disgust. “I’m a tailor downtown. I operate my own business.” he went on pompously. “And let me tell you sir, there’s not a man in the world who’s as successful as me, but also has a family. They’re too oppressive.” he declared. Ingram’s confident tone then wavered for a moment before he gathered his emotions and continued. “Who needs love in this world of ours anyway? All this nonsensical love and passion never got a person anywhere.” I had been hearing his lecture zealously. Too zealously perhaps, for my intent nature prompted him to terminate his thoughts. I noticed too that his aimless preaching had caught Barnett’s attention. She, like me, listened keenly. I think I speak for both of us though when I say that we were deeply concerned and appalled.

“But I’m rambling.” Ingram indicated upon recognizing my watchful attitudes. “Tell me what it is you do?”

“I’m a doctor.” I replied instinctively. There was no need for elaboration as I tenderly observed the orchestra.

“A doctor, I might have guessed.” Ingram noted. “You’ve got that sort of presumptuous look to you.”

I was offended by this statement, but I made sure not to show it. Ingram went on to deliver a minor amelioration. “I’m usually insulted by people like you.” He explained. “But something tells me you’re different.”

“How’s that?” I asked passively.

“You feel heinous things inside. I can tell.” Ingram commented. “And you’re not afraid to show them.”

His harrowing observation made me feel most disconcerted as I was almost overwhelmed by distress.

“Most people like you are made out to be heros.” He explained disdainfully. “All you doctors and constables and so on. These fools all about perceive that you’re their saviors.” Ingram then waved his arm and looked down upon the congregation. “What they don’t realize is that you’re a lot like them. You’ve got fears of your own.”

I then felt my mind being weighed down by a sense of relentless despondency. “All of these heros are just too insecure. They refuse to allow the world to see them for what they really are…” Ingram said. “Derelicts, Castaways, Failures.” Those last few words of his forced me into compliancy. I didn’t defend myself, nor did I respond. I blankly nodded in arbitration.

“You see doctor…” Ingram went on perceptively. “The only way to truly secure greatness in this life, is to adhere to your own hideous nature.” With this he leaned in close and sighed a wisp of lament.

“It’s been a real pleasure doctor.” Ingram then said in an appeased tone. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I really ought to be going.” The terrible man hoisted himself from his seat and proceeded down the aisle. I watched him move away resentfully.

I would have liked to let him wander off into the world, never to be seen again, but I remembered that I had an obligation to fulfill. I compelled myself to vacate my comforting seat as I began to track the abhorrent suspect. Ingram had nearly vanished into the crowd as quickly as he’d appeared, so I had to move fast. I was entirely determined not to lose sight of the imposing figure.

Although I’d just met Ingram, something told me that he didn’t mean most of what he’d said. He was a broken man, one who had witnessed how unforgiving the world can be to its inhabitants. Nonetheless though, this didn’t make his ideas any less true.

So thinking quickly I looked to Barnett and sternly advised that she stay put. She tried to testify, but was interrupted by my strict tone. “I need to do this.” I told her sincerely. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Barnett nodded and submitted to my expectations. I then hurried down the aisle, not far behind Cecil Ingram. He was completely oblivious to my menacing presence as I moved about with agile resolve. I sprung between sheltering corners and lurched past colloquial conversations during my quest. The pursuit lasted for some time as we bantered out through the hall, transversed vibrant streets, and converged down colorless alleyways. Ingram evidently knew his way well, but I wasn’t sure where he was headed.

We now found ourselves strolling through an abandoned district of London, only a few blocks from the Royal Albert Hall. The streets here ran dry and the overall atmosphere was vacant, desolate, and neglected. At last, as we sauntered down a long stretch of sidewalk, Ingram took a crucial turn. He disappeared behind a sharp corner as my eyes widened and I eagerly quickened my pace. The hidden route manifested itself among the darkness as I trotted near. I prepared to round the corner, just as he had done, but a suffusing sense of anticipation made itself known. I pressed forward, in spite of my apprehensions. This decision however proved to be erroneous. Upon weaving through the corner I was greeted by the sinister barrel of a pistol, pointed directly in my unsuspecting face. I stumbled back in shock and soon discerned that the weapon was held by Cecil Ingram himself.

“Hello again doctor.” he said in a facetious tone. “Something told me you’d be following me tonight.” Ingram stood in the harsh shadows with a tenacious demeanor as he spoke. I soon recognized however that, in spite of his threatening conduct, his hand trembled a bit while is held the gun.

“Thought there was something off about you.” Ingram went on. “So what was it you hoped to do? Kill me perhaps? Arrest me? What did you hope to accomplish in all this doctor?”

His interrogation strategies left me dumbfounded. I had absolutely no means of responding, so instead I deliberately presented my skittish hands in an attempt to ease the tension of the atmosphere. This wasn’t the response he desired. Upon seeing my obedient gesture he decided to hastily shove the gun closer towards my face. The voice of the disconcerted killer only built from there.

“But something tells me doctor, that not even you understand your intentions.” he arrogantly asserted. For a moment I considered going for my own revolver. I thought I might reach into my pocket and swiftly kill the gun-wielding maniac. I suppose Ingram, in his advertent nature, had caught on to my secluded considerations. He was shooting an evil scowl towards me through the impervious night.

“If you’ve got any weapons on you I want you to drop them.” he demanded sorely after a few seconds. I hadn’t planned on obeying his order, but the events which would unfold in the next few moments would fundamentally shift my outlook of the situation.

I had cooperated with his malevolent attitudes for long enough, as I prepared to draw my own pistol out of sheer frustration. My efforts however were obstructed by the unpredictable crack of Ingram’s gun. The entire alleyway was ignited for an instant by the firearm’s brutal ejection. He hadn’t be aiming at me however, but rather at a target which crouched behind me in silence. An abrupt scream of horror followed the resounding blast. I spun about to see Barnett huddled against the nearby brick wall in a state of confounded shock. She hadn’t been hit by the shot, only startled. I rather don’t think Ingram intended to hit either of us, he simply wished to demonstrate his true capabilities.

Upon recognizing Barnett I had no choice but to abide by Ingram’s expectations. In a way I was upset that she’d decided to join me, but I was also genuinely glad to see that I had a companion to accompany me during this time. Ingram must have recognized that she was my partner. This was likely the reason for which he acted in the way he did. He concluded that, by threatening her, he could invoke a response from me, and he was right. I no longer underestimated Ingram and his heartless conviction.

“I said drop it doctor!” Ingram shouted violently. I confided to his demands and cautiously tossed my revolver to the pavement with a sharp clatter. I then allowed my hands to reassume their position of vulnerability.

“Very well.” Ingram continued gaudily. “Now that we have an understanding of one another, I’d like to know what you want.” He then raised his eyebrows and strenuously awaited a response.

“What I want?” I asked him in a disoriented tone. “What do you mean? You were the one who summoned me here. You knew that you’d be caught for the murder.”

“So that’s what all this is about.” Ingram remarked indifferently. A foreign luster now embodied itself in the eyes of the killer as he considered where he was and what he had done. For an instant it seemed as though Cecil Ingram had been forsaken by his own mind. “But you’re not who I was expecting.” he continued aggressively. The dark figure then proceeded to reinforce his hold of the gun as he adjusted his arm and lunged nearer. “Tell me where Sherlock Holmes is.” he necessitated gravely.

I was taken off guard by his belligerent demand. The only way I could think of to respond was to say earnestly “I don’t know.” After muttering these words I beamed down at my feet in shame.

“What do you mean you don’t know? Sherlock Holmes was the only man who could possibly solve that case.” Ingram declared theatrically. “I made it so.”

I continued to study my worn shoes in silence as Ingram was left to debate with himself.

“You know I did!” he screamed harshly. “I made the perfect crime. I made a situation that would outwit even the great Sherlock Holmes! I killed Lord Ruben Poole so that I might defeat a hero.” he admitted in an agonizing tone.

“But you didn’t.” I announced once his awful shrieking had ceased. “You didn’t create the perfect crime, you couldn’t. You knew fully well that in the end you’d be stopped. You knew that somehow, someway, humanity would triumph. You set this unattainable goal for yourself, that you might overthrow goodness, but in the end even you knew that this really wasn’t possible.” As I spoke I realized that Ingram has begun to tremble more severely. He winced as if my words caused him physical affliction. Even his gun had now dropped to his side, and the once horrible being had been torn down at once. He was crying helplessly.

“You intentionally left that ring on the body of Lord Poole. You understood that Sherlock Holmes would somehow manage to identify the victim using the ornament. You understood that the murder of a momentous lord would undoubtedly draw the attention of countless dignitaries. You understood that a lead could be found at the parliamentary offices. You understood that Holmes would find your hidden message on the glass at the restaurant.” I defiantly asserted. “And most of all, you understood that you would fail. You understood that this terrible world of ours needs heros. And, Cecil Ingram, you have failed.” I concluded in a contumacious tone.

It became obvious now that Ingram was a fragmented person. One who had these aspirations of greatness, but no means of securing them. One with dreams, but not the confidence to pursue them. I had said all that I needed to then as I stood firmly before my annihilated oppressor. Once I had adequately deterred him, I decided to glance towards Barnett who was now confiding to the wall triumphantly. As I saw her however, the blaring sound of incoming police sirens became audible. They were undeniable headed for our position. I gasped and twisted towards Ingram who now leaned over with his hands upon his knees. At that point he had appeared most enervated. I watched anxiously from a distance as his hold of the gun tightened and the police cars drew near.

The killer’s intentions evaded me, and I wanted to run from that alley as fast as I could, but I knew that he’d shoot. Soon I heard a number of automobiles grumble to a halt behind me. I closed my eyes at that moment and surrendered myself to faith, allowing the future to take its toll. The sounds of car doors slamming, and the patter of numerous feet could be heard then. Many distraught shouts followed and several guns were discharged. I allowed myself to warily crumble to the ground as an endless surge of bullets flew over my head. The violent exchange lasted only a few seconds before the street again fell into silence. I opened my eyes anemically, only to see a motionless figure settled on the floor a few feet ahead. That was what remained of Cecil Ingram.

I soon perceived that I was resting in a small pool of blood, originating from my thigh. I’d been hit only once during the firefight. I was lucky to be alive, that’s certain. A number of police officers charged towards the scene a few moments later. I was instantly overtaken by a congregation of attentive constables who saw to it that a medic treated my wound.The profuse bleeding ceased after a few minutes of applied pressure as the presiding practitioner insisted that I spend the rest of the night in the hospital. I reluctantly agreed as I was escorted to an eagerly awaiting ambulance. Barnett had been alertly leaning on the vehicle as I retreated from the overwhelming spectacle. She smiled with an expression of great relief upon seeing me. The doctors granted me a few moments to speak with her before I would be wheeled off to the hospital.

“Are you alright?” She inquired with a tone of sudden concern. I suppose she had just taken notice of my wound.

“I’m fine.” I replied. She continued to study me incredulously.

“I know you wanted me to wait in the theatre, but I couldn’t let you do this alone.” Barnett explained in a hushed tone. She might have thought that I was still disappointed, but I wasn’t. I was, in reality, quite proud of her for having faced this terrible situation with me.

“You don’t need to explain. It’s alright.” I told her sympathetically. “It’s over now.” I noted, turning to see Ingram’s body which was being examined by a number of officers in the shadows.

“I had the police come.” she then conceded abruptly. I looked at her with a sense of puzzlement and considered what she had said. “I didn’t want to.” Barnett continued. “But it was just too dangerous.”

She then appeared to retract out of fear. She acted as one might act when anticipating a scolding.  I didn’t abuse her though, for I had no reason to. Her quick thinking might have saved my life. I assumed she’d contacted the police during her trip over to the hall. Irene Barnett was a canny young lady, that’s certain.

“Thank you.” I said wholeheartedly. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”

She then looked at me with an authentic sort of appreciation. “It’s been a pleasure Doctor Watson.” she said harmoniously.

Barnett and I fondly embraced one another then I was loaded up into the ambulance. The vehicle rapidly departed from the scene, leaving her to fend for herself among the darkness. I was confident in her though. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Irene Barnett could accomplish anything in this world. I was sure this wouldn’t be the last time we’d meet, as her obliging silhouette faded into the obscurity of the night.

I rested in a cot for the remainder of that unending day. The doctors checked in on me a few times, occasionally changing out my bandages. I received only one last visit that evening. As I sipped a cup of warm tea I recognized a familiar and oddly affable face intrude into the room. It was Inspector Lester Stewart, dressed cordially in his uniform. He looked exhausted from the unrelenting torment of the day. I half expected him to castigate me for having kept involved in the case. This never did happen though as he steadily shuffled towards me. Instead, once he had come near enough, he benevolently placed his hand on my shoulder. “I’m impressed Doctor Watson...” he said perceptively. “Most impressed.”

The two of us then exchanged an understanding smile as I suggested that he sit and stay a while. He timidly coerced himself to rest in a nearby chair. The hour or so that followed  was one filled with kind laughs and receptive apologies. Stewart concluded the genial encounter saying “You’ve been a great help to this city today. For that, I genuinely thank you.” We then shared a meaningful handshake and the inspector retired back to the street.

I felt uncharacteristically satisfied with myself as I lay in that solitary hospital room. It seemed that for the first time in my life I had fulfilled my yearnings for greatness. A killer had been apprehended, justice had been delivered, and the ideals of humanity had been upheld. All was well as I rested in that bed and pondered the events of that day. I thought about Sherlock Holmes, and where he might be in the world. I questioned whether he was still alive, and I considered the adventures which he had enjoyed without me. Nonetheless though, I was sure that some day Sherlock would turn up again. Perhaps I would encounter him strolling down the street, or shopping at the market one day. Or perhaps I’ll find him where most everyone is too afraid to search, yet too obliged to neglect. In their hearts.

The doctors discharged me the following morning. The hospital workers shuttled me back to Baker Street and dropped me off at the curb in front of the apartment. I disembarked and stared longingly at the imposing structure which stood before me. If only I could waltz into my home and greet my wife with a kiss, and act innocent. If only I could deny that any lines had been crossed and that any promises had been violated. I couldn’t though. These were the results of my choices, and they were something which I would have to live with.

I careened into the barren foyer and caught myself on the door frame. My leg had still been causing me a deal of pain, but I tried not to show it, for Mary’s sake. I drug myself up those stairs for what would be the last feat of my adventure. I stabilized myself on the handrail and clutched my thigh in agony. Soon I found myself faced by the ominous entrance to my own home. I knocked gingerly and stood with a demeanor of tolerance, awaiting an answer. In time, Mary did acknowledge my suppressed overture. The versant door rattled a bit and groaned as it swung open. Mary stood behind it with a disposition of poise and serenity. She recognized me and I recognized her. For an instant she looked at me with a subtle hint of relief. I hardly had any time to react before she fell into my arms, weeping in emotional amelioration. I comforted her for a long time as her tenacity was rejuvenated through heartache.

The days that followed were quiet, serene, and gratifying. I felt entirely at peace with myself as I rested in my armchair and allowed my wounds to heal. I was glad that the affair was finally over, and I was content with my level of success. It was nice, being able to sit in those chairs in the company of my wife once more, and watch the world pass us by. I remember one day I found myself relaxing in the presence of the comfortable little apartment, with only my thoughts for company. Perhaps Mary was running an errand, or perhaps she just needed some time away. So, I sat in the solitude of my home and thought about what was to come. I reclined languidly in my place and allowed my eyes to fall shut. Then I said to myself in a hushed tone “Onto the next.”

 


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