A Case Of Identity

When Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson find themselves in a dark cell, without any recollection what might have happened to them and how they got there, they realize that they obviously got caught by Professor Moriarty. And so they plan, with a determination that can only be caused by hopelessness, a spectacular and daring flight...


3. The Encounter

Professor James Moriarty.

The name bode no good.

Could it really be that we were in the hands of the enemy? Were we caught in the web of the 'spider' that was responsible for approximately half of the criminal deeds in all of England (or even in Europe?) Could it be that Holmes had finally been outwitted by this so cunning a fiend?

Now, having not only realized but also spoken out what he was suspecting, Holmes displayed distinct concern upon his features. The silence that had taken over the room seemed terribly oppressive to me. "Do you think this man will really get Moriarty to come?", I asked, just to say anything. Holmes turned his head and looked at me: "I think that he will not need any persuasion..." His grave face then turned into a weak smile. "As far as I know our friend, he will be delighted to come and talk to us." The meaning of these his words made me shiver. I had never seen Moriarty before- nor talked to him.

I wonder whether Holmes will manage to act as polite towards his arch enemy as he was to that most discourteous warden?

We stood in silence, my friend totally absorbed by his thoughts. More than once I opened my mouth to say or ask something, but every time I ventured to do so, I did not want to intrude in his attic of the mind and disturb his thoughts. So I did the only thing that again was left- I waited. I swallowed my impatience that welled up in me every time that Holmes seemed to have an idea which showed in a sparkling of his keen eyes or some clenching of his fists. Finally he said: "I think I have mentioned before how much I value your gift for silence in those moments. And-" He suddenly fell silent again. A second later I knew why: There was a steady sound outside: the sound of footsteps, no doubt.

It must be...

I steeled myself for the encounter. Holmes' hand weighed heavily on my shoulder. His fingers were quivering. And then we saw a figure positioning himself in front of the door to face us. He turned his head, and the light fell fully upon his features.

Professor Moriarty.

He had a clean-shaven face, and grey, relentlessy glistening eyes. "Professor." Holmes adressed him, and his voice sounded determined and firm, but I who knew him so well could hear the slight notion of anxiety that he hid. The enemy's lips curled to form a smile. "Yes. You asked for me to come?"

This voice... It causes my palms to get sweaty and wet... I feel so uncomfortable as I have never felt before.

Holmes smiled politely as well, but it was a display of respect, not of liking: "Indeed. I wanted to know why we are here." The professor couldn't help to look a little surprised, but he quickly hid this display of emotion behind his smile: "Well, my dear,", he said-

- it caused goosebumps on my skin to hear him call Holmes 'dear'-

"You surely understand that I only have to keep you here for your own safety." He seemed to notice me for the first time now. "And that of your friend here."

This fiend!

I clenched my fists in anger. "Who knows what kind of trouble you two would have got yourselves into if my people would not have taken care of you. You certainly are not of the kind who learns from their mistakes." Then he became all serious and continued: "I fear that in the pleasure of our conversation I am about to neglect my duties. So..." Before he could turn away, I burst out: "But you can't just keep us as prisoners here! You must let us go!" Moriarty looked at me, and his cold, emotionless eyes gave me a chill all over. "No. Your stay here is going to be a permanent one, I am afraid." He even managed to sound sympathetic! He tipped his fingers to the brim of his hat, turned on his heel and was gone. My rage quickly gave way to depression and a feeling of helplessness and weakness came over me. I looked to Holmes, hoping for some comfort that he could offer by announcing that he had a plan-

He always had.

But this time my expectations were disappointed. Holmes had sat down on the cell floor, and had- an unusual gesture- buried his face in his hands. I walked over to him, and in a low voice adressed him: "Holmes? Is everything..." He looked up at me, the lines in his pale face seeming deeper and this impression was even exaggerated by the yellow light. "No, my dear fellow. I fear not. I know you think I have a plan. But you are wrong. I am sorry. I think the Professor has won."

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