“I suppose we may call him a genius in his way, after the appallingly expert fashion in which he drains his victims dry with a perpetual smile on his disgusting face. He has built a fortune in the pursuit of others’ secrets, and no obstacle or challenge is great enough to deter him from reaping the highest possible reward from the procurement of some damning letter, the contents of which often destroy lives as much as pocketbooks.”
Holmes spoke with more harshness and disdain than I have ever heard him employ to describe even the most detestable criminal in London’s seedy underground.
“I have been engaged by a lady acting on behalf of her husband whose life hangs in the balance, based on the certainty of ruin both financial and social, to try to negotiate with this vile creature. My initial meeting with him yielded little, so I have undertaken the role of a plumber in order to penetrate his fortress. I have made some progress.”
“It sounds like you’ve reason to be optimistic then?” I said hopefully.
“Yes, but for what outcome exactly I cannot yet be sure,” Holmes returned, drawing deeply from his cigarette.
“You have yet to tell me why I cannot come home,” I said.
He sighed and gazed for some time at the floor. “At the risk of betraying the confidence of my client, please believe me when I say that your absence from things to this point has been a protective measure.”
“That doesn’t tell me anything,” I argued. “Protect me from what?”
“I am afraid that someone you know may be indirectly mired in this mess, and I do not want your name associated with it until I can be sure that you are not in any danger. And you know as well as I do, Watson, that our recent activities at Baker Street have moved us into the realm of sexual deviance, and while I couldn’t care less what society wants to call it, there are no steps I am unwilling to take to make sure our new arrangement stays between us.”
“Jesus,” I exhaled. As alarming and upsetting as it was to hear all this, I have to admit that hearing Holmes broach the subject of our “arrangement” gave me a certain thrill, for it suggested there was to be some permanence to it. And I have always admired his sense of justice, even more so when his dedication to the good of humanity has flouted law and convention. A sexual relationship with Sherlock Holmes was shaping up to be the very pinnacle of adventure.
“So when can I return to Baker Street?” I pressed him.
“I need forty-eight hours to make a few more inquiries, after which I shall promptly send for you,” he replied, and stubbed out his cigarette on the desk.
“Why did you summon me here tonight, then, instead of simply waiting two more days?”
I caught him off guard with this question. I could tell by the way he smiled shyly and quickly dropped his chin to the floor.
“Selfish reasons, I’m afraid, Watson,” he said, and though it was quite dark I could have sworn I saw a blush colouring his cheeks. He turned his gaze upwards and added, “I wanted to see you.”
He pushed himself from the desk and made to retrieve his hat, but I approached him before he could reach it.
“I missed you, too, Holmes,” I said warmly. “And now that you’ve enlightened me, may I show you how delighted I am to see you?”
There was that shy smile again. “I do not think that would be advisable just now. I cannot afford to sacrifice my mental energies.” He backed away from me, but I maintained a steady course until I had him cornered against the wall.
“Please, Watson, for the sake of the case, do not pursue this,” he nearly begged me not to touch him. But that only made me crave him more.
We stood there nose to nose. I sensed unsatisfied sexual longing radiating from his body, and I did not imagine the shadow of arousal below his waistline.