When Moriarty makes the first move in what will become a deadly game of chess, Holmes will find himself stretched to his mental and physical limits. London will tremble as these lords of darkness a...
In the case of this particular adventure, however, I must admit to not caring if readers find my tale to be of interest.
It has come to my attention that certain members of the public (who shall remain unnamed for the time being, though the observant reader will know exactly to whom I refer) have been publishing false accounts of the past few months in more than one prominent newspaper. This is unacceptable and I have thus decided that it is my duty to inform the public of the true circumstances behind the death of Martha Hudson, the fire at the Tower, and the disappearance of John Watson.
This case is complex and has the potential of becoming tedious if I record the facts from memory. Therefore, I shall be brief in my own commentary and compile other sources in order to present the most accurate account within my power.
Naturally, much to the dismay of his faithful readers, the commentary of John Watson will not appear with the exception of diary accounts that I now make public with his express permission. The reason for this permission will become apparent in time. In addition to these diary entries, I will also include drafts that were composed, as Watson had begun to write up this case before his premature departure.
I shall begin my tale by calling to mind a series of events that will likely be fresh in the reader's mind: the great cholera epidemic, which ended two years previous to the publishing of this account in the year 1895.
The common reader will be unaware of the true villain behind the deliberate spreading of the disease. Suffice it to say that the epidemic was triggered at the hand of the Napoleon of crime, Professor James Moriarty. Not directly, naturally. But it was his doing that sponsored the contagion, if you will. Together with Colonel Sebastian Moran, they set out to secure my attention.
At this point of my story, my friend Watson would surely accuse me of self importance and inform me that the reader would call me vain. But if the reader would care to stretch his mind so far as to read Watson's compilation of this case, he would discover this to be undeniably true. And this simple fact became a great deal more apparent as time when on.
I must crave the reader's indulgence now, before I get to the true narrative. It is my intention to report the facts of this story as they occurred, without any hint of sentiment. But I fear that my own sadness will give the entire tale a hint of sorrow. And for that, I humbly apologize.
As I write these words, my attention now turns to numerous diary pages that litter the table on which my page rests. The crisp, practiced handwriting of Martha Hudson stands out, though the pages are spattered with an unhealthy combination of cooking grease, numerous batters, as well as blood. The scrawl of the accomplished writer John Watson sings proudly from pages with ragged edges and torn accounts.
In addition to these private accounts of sentiment, I am now possessed of a great many letters composed specifically for this project. These letters have been composed by the inspectors frequenting Scotland Yard and I am indebted to them for their assistance.
Any other accounts will be written by myself or other trustworthy eyewitnesses.
And now, I can see no point more fit to begin this tale than that which was decided upon by Watson himself. Therefore, I leave the reader in his capable hands.
The following is the beginning of an account of the case composed by Dr. John H. Watson, which was written 3 June 1896.
Those living at 221B Baker Street had enjoyed relative calm since the grave affair of the cholera epidemic. My good friend Holmes had dabbled in numerous smaller cases, though seldom did he consider those cases to be worthy of his attention.
I can remember the day on which this particular affair began quite clearly. I had been staying at Baker Street for the better part of a week while my wife was away on holiday visiting her sister in the country. Holmes had only been too glad to allow me access to my old room. Immediately after my arrival, he proceeded to regale me with his peculiar habits as though I had never left.
On the day in question, I sat in my preferred armchair by the fire reading the morning paper. It was a quiet, rainy day and the midmorning sun was obscured by the clouds so that it could hardly be seen at all, though the occasional ray attempted desperately to punctuate the cloud before it was swallowed up by the rain.
Holmes had gone out early that morning before I had risen from my bed. The reason for this early excursion was unknown to me, but I didn't particularly worry. It was not at all unusual for him to disappear without warning when he was on a case. The nature of this particular case was that of petty blackmail, a case that I would surely have thought was beneath Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps there was something else that I was unaware of.
In any case, I was interrupted from my reading as Holmes banged open the door to the sitting room and entered with a terrific flourish of one arm before collapsing against the back of an armchair.
"I say, Holmes!" I cried, getting up from my chair and going over to make certain that he was all right. "What's going on?"
Holmes cleared his throat and shook his head, blinking several times before he straightened up again and, with as much dignity as he could muster, walked around the chair and sat down within it. "I'm quite all right, Watson."
"You don't look all right, old thing," I scolded, taking in the blood that appeared to have drenched the pale grey sleeve of his overcoat. "What on earth have you been up to?"
"I suppose that it might comfort you to know that I have sealed my blackmail case." He grimaced as I gently pulled his arm from his sleeve so to examine any injury that he had managed to obtain.
"And why should that comfort me, pray tell?" I asked, inspecting a long gash in his arm. "Well, it doesn't look too deep, but I really do feel that we should stitch it."
As I bustled about, readying my equipment for the task, Holmes watched me with a cunning look in his eye. "You're not even going to ask me what happened, Watson?"
"I am all too aware of the fact that you will tell me what has occurred if and when you want me to know and certainly not before," I said with a shrug.
"Quite so, Watson."
Having gathered my supplies and sterilized my needle, I carefully took his arm and set it on the table. "Now hold still so that I can clean it."
"You will recall that a Mrs. Bridget O'Sullivan asked me to recover a certain letter that she had…misplaced for fear that it would further fall into the wrong hands?"
"I do seem to recall something of that nature."
"If only she had come to me sooner," he sighed, shifting his weight and ignoring my annoyed glance as his injured arm moved in consequence. "I might have avoided the unpleasant scene that it took to recover the letter in question."
"In other words, you failed to take something into account." Having finished cleaning the wound, I proceeded to thread my needle.
"As you say, Watson. The good lady failed to provide me with the rather important information that would have better alerted me to the identity of the thief a great deal sooner. Thus avoiding …this." He gestured to the gash. "But in the end, I did recover the letter."
"And where is it now?" I asked, carefully beginning to stitch the skin together.
"It is in the pocket of my overcoat, which you so unceremoniously threw over the back of your desk chair. Would you kindly take better care of it in the future?" The look on his face scolded me.
However, well accustomed as I am to the shortness of my companion when he was wounded, I didn't take the scolding too seriously. "Would you like me to retrieve it for you? The letter, I mean."
"There is no need," said Holmes with a waft of his good arm. "Tis irrelevant for the time being. I shall return it to Mrs. O'Sullivan at her leisure and the matter will be closed."
"Would you care explaining how you managed to slice your arm open in this manner?" I asked, carefully securing another stitch in the skin.
Holmes gave a dramatic sigh and shrugged his shoulders.
"You know, you really are acting quite childish, Holmes," I chided. "You're not yourself at all. What has come over you?"
"I am preoccupied with another matter, my dear Watson. This case has proven to be more of a distraction than I had anticipated and it displeases me that I will now be at a physical disadvantage."
"That arm will heal up before long," said I. "You're certainly no stranger to physical injury."
"Certainly not, Watson," said Holmes. "You yourself know that better than most." He sighed again, looking as though he was resisting the urge to pull his injured arm from my grasp. "I knew that I would find the thief in the public house around the corner. He frequents there. The Irregulars have told me as much. What I did not expect was that someone had alerted him to my plan to recover the letter. It should have been so simple. And yet, when I entered the pub from the side entrance, I was met with a group of armed ruffians who promptly attacked me. It was most unusual. I fought them off and retrieved the letter, of course, but I was attacked from behind and the man had a rather large dagger."
"Good gracious, Holmes," I said. Having completed the sewing, I carefully tied off the end of the thread. "I thought you said that this was a simple case of blackmail."
"And so it should have been," said Holmes. "There was more to the case than met the eye. If all had gone to plan, those ruffians should never have been present."
"Did you catch the thief?"
"Why, naturally, Watson. He was taken into custody by the police and the matter is now closed. Mrs. O'Sullivan should be quite relieved."
I allowed Holmes to take his arm back after carefully bandaging the wound. "Now try not to strain yourself too much and burst the stitches."
Holmes placed his good hand on the bandage and held the injured arm close against his body. He shook his head and glanced up at the clock. "Mrs. Hudson!" he cried out, his voice booming through the house. "Mrs. Hudson!"
She appeared at the door a moment later, looking slightly cross. The expression melted into concern at the sight of the bloodied water I'd used to clean the injury and the bandage on his arm. "Yes, Mr. Holmes."
"Hot water, if you please," he said smartly. "And I should require a spot of breakfast if it be convenient."
Mrs. Hudson glanced over at me and I could only offer a smile. Then she looked back at Holmes. "Of course, Mr. Holmes."
Once she'd gone, he leaned back in the chair and contemplated the bandage for a long moment. "I think that I shall retire for the time being. It is pointless to consider my other case for I am weary from loss of blood. I shall wash, eat, and then sleep. I shan't be needing you for anything so you may want to go out. I fear that my company will be nonexistent for the remainder of the day."
I nodded, well used to this behavior. "Then I shall see you later, Holmes. I'll be wanting another look at that arm, though, just to make sure that you aren't letting it get infected."
"Don't you trust me, Watson?" His eyes gleamed mischievously.
"In matters of your own well being?" I said thoughtfully. "No. I don't."
He chuckled to himself. "Very well. I shall submit myself to your care until you say otherwise."
"Thank you, Holmes."