The hearth flickered, casting a warm, suffused glow on the legs of Watson as he sat in his favorite chair, with Holmes in his own, tamping his pipe carefully with his right index finger. The street window was flung open and a cool breeze was casting the light curtains around, like dandelions in the wind, but neither man minded. Somehow they felt it necessary to get closer to nature, rinse some of the stench that had pervaded the Tower of London and the death of Sir Elric Bedford Donan, a man neither felt any particular strong love for, because he had a character that was unsavory at the best, despite his adept hand at managing the wharves and trade as he was disposed to do.
No, what touched them was the fact that the serial killer had no apparent purpose of punishment or denial in his process of dealing the hand of God to the people he administered death to in such a horrible fashion. Holmes felt a shiver go through him, as if a cold hand had clutched his heart for a moment, then got up and stood next to the heart, allowing the warmth to gradually soak through his night pants and robe.
His slippered feet wore thick stockings made of a fine cotton imported from the Americas and his night robe was a beautiful rust red silk imported from the Chinas. His sharp nose thrust upwards as he considered curls of smoke from his pipe as they danced towards the ceiling on their merry way to dissolution.
"It worries me that Mrs. Hudson insisted on coming here this time of night." Watson finally said, breaking the silence with an almost explosion of sound.
Watson pulled the blanket over his legs tighter and adjusted them to fit better about his feet, which were barren of slippers.
"You really should wear slippers, Watson. You'll catch your death of cold some day otherwise." Holmes spoke congenially.
"I hardly think a little chill causes a cold, anymore than a lot of heat might." Watson growled in his most professorial...doctor voice.
Holmes nodded. But said no more.
The tinkle of china and silver came from downstairs, then the sound of footsteps. Mrs. Hudson, her cheeks a bright red, and eyes sparkling with happiness saw Watson sitting there and gave him her brightest smile. He didn't notice. He was lost in his contemplation of what he had discovered.
Hiding her disappointment, she began setting the silver and china on the small table in the sitting room, then laying out a plate of scones and finger sandwiches filled with mustard, pickles and sardines.
That snapped Watson back to the real world when his stomach growled like a hungry lion.
"Oh for God's sake, Watson, do eat something. I so hate the sound of your stomach growling like that." Holmes complained.
Watson got up and sat at the small table, giving Mrs. Hudson a warm smile. "I'm sorry, I hadn't noticed you come in until my stomach caught a whiff of your wonderful repast for us."
She giggled like a small girl, then tapped him lightly on his right shoulder with a hand. "Oh, you could never hurt my feelings, John."
Holmes looked over with his piercing eyes and then gave one of his rare smiles. "I do believe she believes that, Watson."
Watson smiled and took her hands in his. "I feel replenished already and I haven't had a drop of food."
She giggled again and gave him a light shove away with her hands on his, then headed back down stairs. "I'll bring up the tea shortly."
"Oh, dear Mrs. Watson." Holmes called after her.
She came back up and looked inside.
"Could you make that tea and coffee?"
"Love to. My grandmother sent me some new stock from Brazil, something mixed with a rare vanilla bean. It's the rage of Paris these days."
Watson, in the midst of a bite of a sandwich, made a sigh of pleasure, then swallowed. "Me too."
"Don't worry, John, I'll have enough for the three of us." She responded warmly.
"I'd like that." Watson told her over a new sandwich in his mouth.
She laughed brightly again and vanished downstairs.
Holmes came over and sat opposite Watson. He didn't touch the food.
"Eat up, Holmes, you need to keep up your strength."
"I practice Hatha Yoga each morning after I get up and before I go to bed."
"What now, another mystical routine?"
Holmes gave Watson a thoughtful look. "I'm sure Mrs. Hudson would love to see you a bit thinner as well."
Watson almost choked on his food. He spit out some into the palm of his left hand and gave Holmes a sour look. "I'll have you know that I am only a touch overweight."
He hurriedly sucked his tummy in so that the bulge wouldn't show.
Holmes was too kind to laugh, so instead he took a scone, buttered its tip and nibbled at it. As he did, his night robe sleeve scattered the scones across the table top.
Holmes froze a moment, then he hurriedly began rearranging the scones in a pattern that resembled the fingers sewn on Elric's chest.
"My God!" Watson declared, no longer hungry. He set down his sandwich and watched as Holmes paused.
"The pattern you discovered on Lord Elric's chest."
Watson, intrigued, leaned forward. "What in bloody hell are you doing with that perfectly fine food?"
Holmes then began adding scones in a new pattern at the base of the pattern.
Watson stood up so suddenly, that he spilled the sandwiches onto the floor.
"Bloody hell! It's the sign of the Druid Cross!"
"Revelation. Dear Watson. Revelation." Holmes replied.
Watson hurriedly began picking up the mess he had made, even as Mrs. Hudson came into the room. She let out a small gasp of distress, then set down the tea and coffee on the table and dropped to her knees to help Watson.
"I'm so sorry, I'll makes some more right away, John."
"Please. Just stay with us and have some coffee." He told her, completing the cleaning of the rug. He set the mess down on a side table topped with old books, then pulled out a chair for her and she sat down.
She poured coffee for the three of them.
"Mmmm. Excellent taste, Mrs. Hudson." Holmes complimented.
"Always." Watson joined in, his eyes twinkling merrily in their sockets.
Mrs. Hudson basked in the glow of the affection a moment, then eyed the Druid Cross of scones. "I've seen that before."
Holmes and Watson both gave her surprised looks.
"You have?" Watson asked, his voice touched with surprise. "But how?"
Watson almost gasped, but Holmes, unseen by Mrs. Watson, put a hand on his knee to stop him. Watson recovered himself and leaned closer. "How so?"
Mrs. Hudson closed her eyes and basked in the fragrance of the imported coffee held in the china between her fingers, then said. "I was a small child. Ten at the time. We lived in Hampshire, but often my father would take us on rides to the Downs, where remains of the Druids exist, even to this day."
Holmes looked into his pipe as she spoke, but he didn't relight it. Instead his fingers seemed to be playing out some kind of ritualistic tune of invisible keys as she spoke.
"Father took me to this small shop. Father Dethers, I believe it was called."
"Peculiar name." Watson joined in.
"Yes, and the man who lived there as well. He lived over the shop and was a very shrivelly, dark man. His name was Mister Dark."
"Tell us about this man, Mrs. Hudson." Holmes urged.
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