At a laboratory in
“Pour vous, Monsieur Lefitte,” said the boy, tossing him a large envelope.
Holmes placed his notebook aside and examined the envelope with his magnifying glass. When he found the tiny insignia of the Diogenes Club dotting the “i” in his latest alias, he tore it open. Inside were two newspaper clippings; one detailed the murder of Ronald Adair, second son of the Earl of Maynooth, by a soft-nosed bullet fired from an unknown weapon. The other, dated a year earlier, contained the obituary for Mrs. Mary Watson, née Morstan, wife of Dr. John Watson, biographer of the late Sherlock Holmes.
There was no message included, but the two articles were as clear a summons to return to
Holmes was more terrified now than he’d been in the entire three years of his journey.
* * * *
“Dr. Watson, is that you?”
“Oh hello, Mr. Holmes,” I said, squinting at a large, familiar form that crossed the street to meet me.
“Mycroft, please,” he said, extending his hand. He seemed in unusually good spirits.
“Indeed, Mycroft,” I shook his hand. “I do not often see you outside the confines of the Diogenes.”
“Ah yes,” he gave a self-deprecating laugh. “I had some business at the Foreign Office today. How are you, doctor?”
“Right enough, I suppose.” I knew what he was asking me. “She’s been gone just over a year now.”
“Has it been that long? My goodness. I trust your practice is holding up?”
“Going well, thank you,” I lied. The truth was business had waned over the last twelve months. In my unrelenting grief, I had limited my consultations to just under a dozen a week and I was so far unable to regenerate my former number of patients. I was down to one assistant, who was responsible for my housekeeping and cooking as well.
“I’ve also been engaged by Scotland Yard to assist in some of their cases,” I added.
“Then you’ve no doubt heard of the recent murder of Ronald Adair?” he asked me with an unreadable expression.
“As it happens, I’m on my way to meet Inspector Lestrade at
“Well, I’m sure the case will reveal a great deal in due course,” he said, and I swear there was a glimmer of excitement behind his eyes, though for what reason I could not fathom. He had never been as stimulated by crime as his late brother.
We bid each other good day and went our separate ways.
* * * *
Sherlock Holmes appeared in the doorway of his old bedroom at 221b
He raised a gloved hand and crossed the room to where she stood, struggling helplessly for words that emerged only as high-pitched cries. He gently pressed her small body to his chest and quietly soothed her.
“Oh, Mr. Holmes,” she sobbed.
After she had come back to herself, and after Holmes had convinced her that he was indeed as real the nose on her face, he explained his three-year absence. With wide eyes she listened to the story of his escape from the clutches of the devilish man who had visited their rooms in April of that fateful year, how he had traveled extensively and learned much, and that he had returned to put the last remaining member of Moriarty’s gang of criminals in the hands of the police.
“In fact, I shall require your assistance, Mrs. Hudson,” he concluded, and smiled when her face lit up with interest and excitement.
“I’d be thrilled to help out any way I can, sir,” she said.
“Excellent,” said Holmes. “I will be going out shortly, but I shall give you full instructions this afternoon.”
“Have you seen the doctor?”
His heart skipped a beat. “Not yet.”
“Well, I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you, Mr. Holmes. He’s had a time of things since you left, and I gather his practice has suffered, too, since his wife passed.”
She looked over at Holmes whose downcast expression bore signs of his own grief.
Mrs. Hudson spoke again very gently. “To tell you the truth, Mr. Holmes, he was never the same when he returned from the Continent. Even before he lost his wife he was already considerably faded. Oh, he tried to be a good husband. But it seemed to me that—“ she stopped.
He looked up wearily. “What, Mrs. Hudson?”
She straightened herself and looked him in the eye. “It seemed to me, sir, that his heart went over the falls with you.”
He started and slowly lowered himself into a chair. She turned away, straightened the mirror and went downstairs.
Mrs. Hudson always knew when it was time to leave the room.
* * * *
“Mr. Mycroft Holmes, this is Mr. Sigerson, just in from the Continent. He wished to consult you on the matter of our account with his international fishing company.”
“Mr. Sigerson, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Mycroft said, shaking his hand. “Come this way, sir.”
He led him into his private office and closed the door.
“I did not expect you so soon, Sherlock,” Mycroft said as he turned to the wet bar and poured two glasses of whisky. “Given the storms passing over the
Sherlock Holmes removed his disguise and grinned when his brother turned to face him. “The journey was arduous but, thankfully, not a protracted one.”
Mycroft handed his brother a glass. “To your return from the dead,” he declared, and the two toasted and drank.
“So, brother mine, did you find
“There are one or two items missing, but the rest is exactly how I remember. Thank you for seeing to my rooms while I was away,” he added.
“Ah yes, your violin. The doctor wanted as a token to remember you by and I saw no reason to deny him.”
Sherlock frowned and turned his gaze towards the floor.
“It would seem you have not yet told your old friend that you still walk among the living,” Mycroft observed.
Sherlock shook his head.
“Well, you must be very anxious to see him as he will no doubt be overjoyed to see you.”
“So you think…” Sherlock smiled dubiously.
“I know he’ll be relieved and thrilled that you are as alive as he remembers,” Mycroft replied evenly while he scrutinized his brother’s face.
The other sighed. “I am afraid there was more damage done than you realize,” he said.
“Yes, I thought something out of the ordinary had occurred between you two after he left your home to establish his practice. But three years is a long time.”
“Maybe not long enough.”
“Oh, my dear brother, surely you cannot believe that man is capable of carrying bitterness in the same heart that has mourned for you since the day he returned from
Sherlock inhaled sharply and raised his eyes towards the ceiling.
“Suppose you tell me about it,” Mycroft gently pressed.
Sherlock sat in silence for several long moments before addressing the question.
“It may surprise you to hear, Mycroft,” he finally said, glancing over at his brother, “that shortly before certain events took me to Reichenbach, I lost my head. In realizing that my regard for the doctor changed into something rather unwelcome, I did the only sensible thing. I drove him into the arms another, thoroughly abused him for it and then engaged him in a battle of wills that ultimately took a rather salacious turn. An act of rage on his part developed into something entirely different on mine, and I compromised myself in the most egregious manner.”
“Hmm. I hadn’t thought you’d tumble down that road again since that Trevor fellow tied you up in knots at university.” Mycroft drained the remainder of his whisky.
“Yes, well,” Sherlock cleared his throat, “had I not been so foolish in thinking I could lay claim to a man who had every right to plot the course of his own future in whatever fashion best suited him, I might have spared us years of considerable regret.”
“Did he regret as well?”
“I have no doubt he regretted the mar on our friendship and most likely the actions that preceded it, but to my knowledge he did not suffer from his ensuing choices.”
“Because he married.”
“Humph,” Mycroft grunted.
Sherlock looked up in surprise. “What?”
“I may see things a little differently. If you’ll permit me…” Mycroft rose and walked the length of the room to his desk. He unlocked and opened the top drawer, shuffled through some papers and took out a plain foolscap document.
“I saved this for the occasion of your return, thinking it might benefit you to know how deeply Dr. Watson’s affections ran.” He handed his brother the letter and retreated to gaze out the window while he read it.
Dear Mr. Holmes: I am flattered by your request to compose a eulogy befitting your late brother’s contributions to the whole of humanity, and were it merely a hypothetical exercise, I would make every attempt to do the best and wisest man I have ever known full justice in the matter. However, as I have already written of the excruciating events that led him to his watery grave, I find that I am bereft of the strength to continue to write of him in such a capacity. My heart has been newly aggrieved upon learning that shortly before my marriage, a friend of mine held counsel with the great detective which subsequently led him to make a sacrifice that brought irrevocable damage to our working and personal relationship. Had I the capability to right this terrible wrong before it was too late, I might now feel that I was worthy of eulogizing the man I dearly loved. As it stands, however, I must come to terms with my deep and abiding regret before I can in good conscience address the public on the subject of their lost hero. Please accept my full apologies. Yours, Dr. John Watson.
Sherlock’s eyes were rimmed with tears when he at last looked up.
“You commissioned him to write my eulogy?” he asked softly.
“Of course I did, and as you can see he turned it down for reasons that had heretofore escaped me,” Mycroft returned. “Oh, he came to the ceremony, as did half of
“And suffered the loss of his wife not long after,” Sherlock said, sighing and shaking his head.
“Yes, and I attended her funeral as well. He was saddened by the loss, of course, but it paled in comparison to his devastation at losing you. If you cannot now see that, Sherlock, I’m afraid there is no hope for you.” Mycroft smiled gently at his brother in light jest.
“What good would I have been,” Sherlock quietly pleaded, “to a man who desired the companionship of a wife and family? What good would he have been to me, whose very lifeblood is reason and logic, and who has no use for passion?”
“On the contrary, my dear brother. You are the most passionate person I know.”
Sherlock stared it him, parting his lips slightly in astonishment.
“I’ve never seen anyone use their god-given gifts with such unyielding dedication as you have. Like it or not, Sherlock, logic is your passion. And that doctor of yours is no less a part of your work than the great mental powers with which you have been endowed. To my mind, it stands to reason—yes, reason— that you would grow to love someone who had nurtured your talents with as much enthusiasm as yourself. And what of his? His literary gifts have brought both of your names international recognition. Do you not think he was as dependent upon you as you were on him?”
Sherlock furrowed his dark eyebrows as these remarks resonated in his mind. Then, with pursed lips and a grim smile, Sherlock rose from his chair.
“Forgive me, Mycroft, for ending our reunion so prematurely, but I need to pay a visit to someone.” He reached over and clasped his brother’s hand.
“I am greatly indebted to you,” he said gravely. “Thank you. For everything.”
Mycroft chortled softly and patted Sherlock’s hand affectionately.
“Go make amends. When you’re settled and happy you may buy me a plate of oysters.”
Sherlock smiled and went for his hat and coat.
“May I ask how you intend to go about this?” Mycroft called after him.
Sherlock chuckled dryly. “You know I cannot resist a touch of the dramatic,” he said, nodding towards the disguise that lay on Mycroft’s desk as he pulled on his gloves.
“Sherlock,” he warned his brother, “go easy on him. That man has suffered unduly for his mistakes.”
“On the contrary, my dear Mycroft,” he mimicked as he replaced his hat with a flourish and turned on a brilliant smile. “he has suffered unduly for mine.”
And in a graceful sweep, Sherlock Holmes left his brother’s office, exited the Diogenes Club, hailed a cab and sped towards
* * * *
Dr. Watson left the courthouse to return to his office and contemplate the next phases of the case. He was already deep in thought as he descended the staircase, and did not see the crippled bookseller who sat hunched over on the last step. The doctor tripped over him, scattering his books and garnering a startled cry. He apologized profusely as he retrieved the man’s wares before continuing on his way. He stopped once and turned to apologize again, for he thought he had seen tears in the old man’s eyes. But when he turned back the man was already gone.
The bookseller hobbled up the street leaning heavily upon his cane. He was struggling a bit, having taken a foot off his stature for several hours already, no joke for such a tall man. He was on his way to pay a call to an old friend, to talk of forgiveness, of compassion and of love’s recovery.
He had composed a long, carefully-constructed speech in his mind, intending to regale his friend with a chronological account of where he had been, what he had done, who he had seen; that he had learned a great deal about the world and about himself, that he never intended to cause any hurt with his disappearance, though he knew it was inevitable, that he hoped in time they would be able to repair their bond, and perhaps even take up residence under the same roof and continue the work they had been doing.
But when Watson came around from his faint, and reached out to grasp his arm to ensure he was not a spirit, Holmes would stare into those eyes that were the color of England’s summer sky, see them swimming with awe, gratitude, anger, disbelief and love and, knowing he was home at last, his entire speech would desert him, and the only words that he would suddenly see fit to utter would be the culmination of three years spent in a quest for his ultimate and most personal truth: “I have never stopped loving you.”
Mrs. Hudson smiled to herself as she left the store, hugging the bottle of champagne she had just purchased in anticipation of a great celebration. In a short time her boys would return to their rightful place above her head where they belonged. Flurries of activity at all hours of the day would bring 221b
Two weeks later, Mycroft Holmes lay in a lopsided slump at the table. He had fallen fast asleep after finishing just over half of his fifth plate of oysters. The kitchen staff, who had been instructed to keep them in endless supply by the man’s brother, bustled about, smiling whenever he snored, staying careful not to wake him.