(A Sherlock Holmes/Doctor Watson Adventure)
by John Pirillo
A Bobby walked the sidewalk in front of Baker Street 221B whistling the latest tune favorited by the public that year. Something about a sailor and a woman meeting at midnight. He paused a moment when he saw movement near the ally, but when nothing else moved again, he looked up to the window above, and saw the silhouette of Sherlock Holmes in the curtains, gesturing with a long hand.
He smiled, knowing full well who it was and thanking his God that such a smart man lived to thwart the dark-hearted villains that plagued London.
Inside the sitting room Watson warmed his hands against the hearth screen, allowing its warm glow to suffuse his body with a calming presence. He still felt chilled by what he had learned at the museum. "It's just incredible, Holmes. What manner of mummy could come alive after thousands of years and then climb to the ceiling and enter a vent without leaving a mark?"
Holmes, who was pacing near the window, paused a moment, then continued pacing. He held his pipe in his right hand and used it almost like a means of pulling him forward, until he turned to repeat the movement in the opposite direction. "I'm not sure."
"Well, the samples should make everything clear for us." Watson said cheerily.
"Professor Grayson should have them back to us first thing tomorrow morning."
"It was kind of him to interrupt his late class to speak with us."
"It's the kind of man he is, Watson. Driven by the thirst for truth and...justice."
Watson nodded. "Hard to believe he's also the Invisible Man."
"Many things are hard to believe, dear Watson, yet remain so anyway."
Holmes sat down in his favorite chair, crossed his right leg over the left and took a draw of hsi pipe. He blew out small gray circles and watched them expand, then fade away. He repeated that again, then stopped. "Perhaps we're looking at this all the wrong way."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"Perhaps, what we're looking for is impossible to believe and that's why we can't see the truth of it."
"That makes no sense at all, Holmes."
"Ah." Holmes said with a smile. "It makes all the sense in the world."
"Goodnight, Watson." He said and exited into his room.
Watson stood up, startled by the abruptness. "Since when do you go to bed before me."
"Since tonight. Plan on getting up early." Holmes said from behind his door.
Watson shook his head. "Never a moment of peace." He muttered, then settled back into his chair, pulling up the comforter on his lap to warm more of his body. "Puzzles and puzzles. Mysteries and mysteries. When will it ever end?"
He yawned and listened to the pop and crackle of the burning wood several moments, then his eyes drifted shut and he fell asleep.
Missus Van Der Veere was the toast of London. She was always invited to the most posh parties and would show up with diamonds on every finger, her wrist, her arm, her neck, her hair, her bosom. Anywhere, quite frankly, they could be shown off to the maximum benefit of her wealthy position. Never one to believe that hiding one's wealth was a sign of generosity to those less than well off, or as a sign of arrogance to those equally as wealthy, she was brash, bold and...beautiful. For a woman of sixty that is.
Most women never made it to her years because of one thing or another, but usually child birth which was still one of the largest causes of premature death in women during those times, even as advanced and advancing as they were, yet, modern science, and especially the art of delivering a safe baby and mother had not yet fully been arrived at yet.
Surely there were many hucksters and fake doctors who claimed such, and made themselves fortunes on the loss of such women, but there was no easy way out for a woman who lived children, yet had to face the very real prospect of an early death.
So Missus Van Der Veere thought nothing of climbing out of her Tesla Limousine which this night was driven by a famous stage actor, Sir Alex Guiness, a relative of the brother Alec, who had not made much of himself in this life, even after having gone to Americas to be in the movies, where he had failed miserably.
No, Alex, was tall, stately, every inch a gentleman and quite well aware of the fact that his fame rested in the slender hands of Missus Van Der Veere, or Milly, as he called her quietly during those times when he would be reward in other ways than that of fame and fortune. Not one to shy away from womanly pleasures, he found it to just be another avenue of exploration for his acting ablities, and was quite capable of giving her everything he had and then some.
"Alex, dear." She said she got out, waiting for him to close the door. "Would you be so kind as to fetch me a dozen roses for the after show. I want to make sure that that new actress from the Californias..."
"Miss Monroe shall have at least a dozen roses to match her beautiful blonde hair."
Missus Van Der Veere gave him an annoyed look. "Alex, all women's hair are brown as far as I am concerned. If the talented actress wishes to join the millions of us who cherish our bottles of hair dye, then whom am I to complain."
"Consider me warned and I do apologize, Madam."
"You may park the car, fetch the flowers and..."
She gave him a subtle wink.
"I shall make sure our usual place of assignation fits all your expectations."
"Very good of you, Alex. I expect you to go quite far in London Theater."
"Thank you, Madam. I look forward to seeing you there."
"Oh, you shall." She said as she faced the long line of reporters who were waiting to photograph her as she walked on the plush carpet meant for the rich and powerful. As she began walking up the carpet, light bulbs flashing, you looked back and said. "One day, we both shall."
He nodded, then climbed back into the limousine and gunned the electric motor, allowing the back wheels to gain a bit more traction in the snow outside, causing some skittering of the wheels, scattering a spray of snow up the carpet and into the back of Missus Van Der Veere's shiny and quite expensive gown.
The photographers had a heyday catching that one.
Alex saw what he had accidentally done in his rear view and made a fast. "So much for that career."
As he drove around the corner into the alley shortcut he usually took to fetch flowers for her at the end of the performances, he saw something large loom before him. He jammed on the brakes, fearing he was about to strike a homeless person, or an itinerant of some kind.
The limo struck the looming object and a terrible screech struck the night with such awful terror and pain that he felt for sure he had just murdered a woman.
He leapt from the car, and headed towards the side where he had seen the body fly, fearing to see a mass of broken bones, torn clothing and blood. He hated the sight of blood, which is one reason why he always did such fine performances where he had to spill it. He had no problem with showing his disgust for murder and especially blood, because the sight of it caused him to become instantly nauseous. Something he had cultivated, unfortunately from his younger days, when he was but a youth.
Missus Van Der Veere did her best to not show her indignation or shame as she marched up the carpet to the foyer of the theater, but when she heard a man's scream blasting over the laughter of the Photographers, she was horrorified. She heard it one last time and her face turned a horrid shade of gray. "Alex! My God!" She uttered, her voice cracking with fear.
There was a horrible moment of silence as the crowd realized the scream was not part of the opening ceremonies, nor of the actors entering the theater.
Some of them turned around. As they did, they dropped back, crying out in horror.
Alex stumbled forward towards the carpet, his hands outstretched like a zombie's. His entire face was half eaten away and half his right side. How he had managed to get that far no one could ever know. Later in the newspapers it would be reported, and wrongly so, that he had used what little life he had left to make sure that his mistress was safe from harm, but in reality he just wanted to see one last time what he would never see again.
Alex fell at her feet and then his body began to dissolve as if a strong acid were eating it up. The smoke and fumes scattered the crowd even more. But what was worse was Missus Van Der Veere. For it was the first time she realized and the last that this man was gone forever and that she had truly loved him, despite her airs of annoyance and arrogance towards him.
She flung herself down beside him, uncaring of any harm that might come to her, again demonstrating that she was not in her right mind, but that love had blinded her. For when she dared to touch what was left of his face, her hand lit up like a piece of paper and caught on fire.
The crowd all screamed in terror and even as a Medical Wagon and a Bobby Wagon were pulling up, the people panicked and fled in every direction as Missus Van Der Veere screamed in mortal agony and loss for herself and the man she had come to love.
Her scream was the last thing she remembered before she descended into the blissful safety of utter blackness.