“I received your telegram,” I said breathlessly, “and got home as fast as I could.”
“Splendid,” he replied without rising from his chair. “Now if you would be so kind as to hand me the leather case that is lying on the settee.”
I was surprised by this display of stoicism. After our heady midnight tryst I presumed he would at least grant me a handshake. Then I looked over at the settee.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Hudson,” I said. I hoped I didn’t sound overly cognizant of the meaning of her presence. She was tidying the pillows and appeared to be oblivious, but she had some sharp senses of her own.
“Dr. Watson,” she nodded. “Welcome home.” She picked up the leather case and handed it to me, which I in turn handed over to Holmes.
“Thank you,” he said, placing it aside and offering me a meaningful stare. I understood perfectly. I took my suitcase to my room and waited another agonizing twenty minutes until I heard Mrs. Hudson’s footsteps descend the stairs. When I re-entered the sitting room, Holmes was scrutinizing the display of small tools on the table in front of him.
“Welcome back,” he said, offering me a sly glance.
“Quite,” I responded with a grin. “What’s all this?”
“The tools I need to burgle Milverton’s house tonight.”
I was horrified. “Has it really come to that, Holmes? Are you certain this is advisable?”
He sighed and looked up from his task. “It’s my only option at this point, Watson. My client cannot pay him, and he is unwilling to come down in his price. The man’s so-called business is impenetrable unless I can destroy his most precious resource.”
“But think of the consequences!” I exclaimed as visions of the next day’s headlines casting irreparable damage to his career passed before me.
“Believe me, Watson,” he said, as he rose from the table and crossed the room, “I have considered every possible outcome and I am fully confident not only in the risk that I am taking, but that this criminal act is in every way morally justified."
"Besides,” he added, lowering his tone when he stopped in front of me, “it will free up some time to explore another morally justifiable act of criminality I have come to enjoy.” He planted a firm kiss on my lips and granted me a brilliant smile before continuing to his bedroom.
“So it must be,” I said, relishing the blush that spread across my face, “I guess you’d better put me to work.”
“Oh, you are not coming,” he called out from the other room.
“Holmes,” I replied sternly. “I give you my word of honour, which I have never broken in my life, that I will take a cab straight to Scotland Yard and turn you in unless you permit me to join you.”
He emerged from his room looking annoyed. He clicked his tongue, but said nothing as I stared him down. He impatiently shifted his weight from leg to leg until he finally gave in.
“Very well,” he said. “Wear dark clothing and your most silent shoes. Have you a mask?”
“I can fashion us a couple from black silk,” I said. That did it, for I believe he then remembered why he so often relies on my assistance, and he smiled and clapped me on the shoulder.
“You’re a natural, my dear fellow,” he said, and continued about his task of gathering his things for the night’s challenge.
I returned to my room to retrieve the black silk from my bureau, and stopped for a moment to run it through my hands. I thought fondly of the fantasy I had shared with him but had not yet chanced to make a reality. As anxious as I was to keep him from being discovered tonight, I wanted just as badly to bring the case to a close. Two days alone in a hotel room was the most fertile possible context for my imagination, which transposed the breathtaking image of him climaxing into my hand into many, many other scenarios, each more delectable than the last. I had to bring myself off twice during that time, which did little more than satiate me until the next fantasy surfaced and my urges swelled anew.
But there would be time for that later, I told myself and closed the drawer firmly. Right now, we were facing what was quite possibly the most dangerous mission we had ever undertaken.