BOOK 6: CHAPTER 17.
It was a dull, damp and foggy Monday morning in London. Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, lay stretched out full-length in his favourite armchair, too overcome by the familiar ennui to even smoke his pipe.
Dr. John H. Watson, M.D., standing at the window of his friend’s consulting rooms at 221B Baker Street looking down on the swell of humanity as it ebbed and flowed like the mighty Thames on the streets below him, very much feared that Holmes was on the verge of having recourse to the dreaded cocaine bottle and syringe once more.
Were it not for the fact that both bottle and syringe currently resided on the high mantelpiece above the fireplace and Holmes in his ennui could not be bothered to get up from his comfortable seat and fetch them, he might be in thrall to them even now. In this instance, Dr. Watson sent up a prayer of thanks to whomever might be listening that Holmes was such an indolent bastard at times.
He was deeply worried for his friend’s mental health. For days now, the dearth of clients and puzzles to keep his genius’s mind sharp and clear had caused him to sink deeper and deeper into a brown study.
He didn’t even want to play some of their favourite games any more, like ‘Doctor and Patient’ and ‘Docky-Wocky Sucky-Wucky Ickle-Wickle Cocky-Wocky.’ When Sherlock Holmes declined to play ‘Docky-Wocky Sucky-Wucky Ickle-Wickle Cocky-Wocky’ with his closest friend, Dr. John H. Watson M.D., then you knew you had a potential catastrophe on your hands. If some business didn’t present itself at their rooms very, very soon, God alone knew on what self-destructive course the bored and depressed famous detective might embark.
‘I say, Holmes, it looks like a case might be presenting itself at last, if I’m not mistaken!’ uttered Watson excitedly now from his vantage point at the window. ‘Yes, indeed, they’re standing now on the path opposite, waiting for a break in the traffic, now they’re looking up at our windows, no doubt wondering if the great detective is in situ. Oh yes, they’re crossing swiftly now that the traffic has eased somewhat, crossing, crossing, and yes! There is the ring at the bell that signifies that we shall soon have a visitor.’
‘Excellent, Watson, excellent! Now hush, not a word, while I endeavour to reconstruct a thumbnail sketch of our visitor from the facts at our disposal.’ Still stretched out in his armchair, he closed his eyes and dramatically placed the two forefingers of each hand over both of his closed eyelids.
‘Now, let me see. Elderly man, rigid military bearing, leathery tanned skin as testament to his long years in India. Not a subaltern, but a high-up officer, a general, or an old major, maybe. Walks with a pronounced limp in the left leg, caught some sniper shrapnel in India, perhaps. Uses a stick made of briar. Addicted to snuff, and the rather dubious confection known as pear drops. Keeps bull mastiffs. Bitten once, on the left ankle, left a scar. Keeps bees, too, like I intend to do when I retire to Sussex. Kept fish as a boy. Sang in a choir in his youth, till nodules on the vocal cords put paid to all that. There. What do you think, Watson? Have I hit the mark again?’
Dr. Watson stared at his friend in astonishment. ‘Why, Holmes, what a marvel you are! But unfortunately, in this instance, I rather fear that…’
What Dr. Watson rather feared, Sherlock Holmes was destined never to know, for at that moment came an urgent rapping at the door and the housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, a stout, matronly woman of a certain age with a permanent expression of harassment and exasperation, bustled into the room followed by a handsomely dressed middle-aged woman of obvious means.
‘Mr. Holmes,’ gasped Mrs. Hudson, out of breath again after the stairs, ‘this is Lady Chastity Wilberforce-Belvedere, or is it Lady Chastity Belvedere-Wilberforce? I declare, those stairs have fair turned my brain!’
She huffed and puffed her way out of the room, leaving the handsome woman standing in the middle of the room.
‘Pray be seated, my Lady,’ said Dr. Watson, a great admirer of the fair sex when his time wasn’t being completely taken up by Holmes, who was needy and a psychic-vampire, someone who drew his own energy from draining the life-force out of the people around him. He pulled out a chair for her, directly across from Holmes’s armchair, because he knew his friend liked to get a good look at his clients during interviews.
‘Is the Major following behind you?’ said Holmes smugly, steepling his long thin fingers and casting anticipatory glances towards the door under languid, partially closed lids.
‘The Major?’ exclaimed the visitor in obvious surprise. ‘What Major? There is no Major, Mr. Holmes! There is only myself.’
Holmes’s long face turned a dull red with embarrassment at being not only wrong, but quite badly wrong, while Watson did his utmost to suppress a snigger. He was only successful inasmuch as he managed to turn the snigger into a cough, but, judging by the way Holmes was glowering at him, he’d still have to spend the entire evening playing ‘Docky-Wocky Sucky-Wucky Ickle-Wickle Cocky-Wocky’ in order to placate his mortified friend.
‘Pray, Lady Charity…’ began Holmes.
‘Chastity, Mr. Holmes, Chastity,’ said the woman sternly.
‘Pray, Lady Chastity,’ tried Holmes again, ‘be so kind as to state the precise nature of your business. Please to leave out all but the most salient facts.’
‘I am here to bring a ‘Missing Persons’ case to your attention, Mr. Holmes.’
‘The person’s name?’ inquired Holmes in his most bored voice. Christ, the man was such a rude prick at times, best friend or no, thought Dr. Watson crossly.
‘Jeremy Wintergreen,’ said the woman. ‘He’s been missing now in Transylvania for some time…’
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: