The Head And The Heart- A collection of Sherlock Holmes stories

A collection of stories about Sherlock Holmes, the well-known and well-loved detective, and his trusted friend and biographer Dr. Watson. "Reichenbach Feels" is set immediately after the unfortunate events of 'The Final Problem'. We follow the landlady of 221B, young Rebecca Hudson, on a quest to fill the void left behind by the untimely death of a lodger. In "A Case of Identity" a nightmare that has haunted our heroes becomes true: Professor Moriarty has finally outwitted them. And so we witness them planning a spectacular flight... "Both or None" depicts the best friendship in literature: Holmes and Watson have often saved each other's life- but what if nothing is safe, and no one is saved? Can one live without the other? Features two bonus stories: "Better Words Than These" describes what an impending war in the early 1900s might mean for a certain retired army surgeon, and his friend... In "The Fourth Wall" our heroes face the problem of an author vexed by his creations...

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5. 4. The Sword And The Pen

"What if the sword kills the pen? [...]

So what if nothing is safe?

So what if no one is saved?

What if each to his own lonely grave?~"

 

12th of May, 1891

I honestly don't know how I got into bed last night. When I woke up, I was sure that everything had been a bad dream. I was convinced it had been a nightmare I just awoke from, until I saw the telegram still lying on my desk. I went over to my chest of drawers and looked into the mirror. It was worse than I thought: My mirrored self was a most deplorable sight. Apart from my hair being tousled due to unquiet sleep, my cheeks looked deadly pale and my eyes were swollen and red.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. I gave a start, probably because I wasn't used to have someone with me in the house any more. Quickly I put on a dressing gown, and answered the door. I saw a worried Watson peeking in:
"Rebecca?- My, you look quite pale. Do you feel unwell?"
So, I almost forgot I had the doctor back...

"Well, I'll be fine...", I tried to leave the room to get ready, but he gently took my arm and made me sit on the bed. "You should maybe get some rest, obviously you're a little weakened..."
Finally, I unresistingly let him put me to bed.
"I'll be back some time later. Don't strain yourself too much, alright?"

He left, and I was again alone with my gloomiest thoughts. I stared at the ceiling asking myself why life was as cruel as it just proved to be. After some minutes, my eyelids slowly became heavier...
When I woke up again, the first thing I perceived was that the doctor was sitting in a chair bedside. "How long have you...", I began, but he replied before I finished:
"Not for too long. How do you feel?"- "Better."
There was silence for a minute. I cleared my throat.
"Doctor, were you there when... it happened?", I finally asked.
He shook his head: "But I know how it did occur. There was an investigation, and-"
I had to interrupt. "Tell me."

Again he shook his head, more determined. "No. It probably would affect you... too much. I wouldn't want to risk it if I were you." I looked away.
"But I want to know. I need to know. Being in my position, you would want that too, no?" Watson sighed, but seemed to understand, and I sat up in bed. He, with one of the gloomiest expressions I have ever seen on his face, started his report:

"So, we had went away in order to- no, I can't say 'flee from', for that was not the point...- well, you know the circumstances of our departure."

"Too well.", I said, rather to myself.

"I'll spare the more trivial parts of our journey, so... On the 3rd, we arrived a village by the name of Meiringen, and our landlord recommended to visit these wretched Reichenbach Falls."
He paused, obviously lost in his memory for a moment.

"The next day, we set off. These falls... I will never forget the impression they caused on my mind. Even before I knew what cruel effect they'd have on this matter, they seemed the most dreadful place: Surrounded by pitch-black rocks forming a demonic abyss, in its depth a boiling pit of roaring green water. When we were still staring into the gaping throat of the falls, we suddenly were approached by a young fellow, apparently a Swiss. He brought a letter from the hotel, being addressed to me.
It said that an Englishwoman also staying in our hotel was very sick but refused to see any doctor but a fellow from her homeland. In the letter, the landlord was literally begging me to come. I didn't want to leave Holmes all alone, first for I worried about him- we were possibly still in danger due to the Professor- second due to my promise I made to you. But he even encouraged me to go, so I hurriedly left for the hotel. When I got there... I soon found out the letter was a hoax.
I quickly realized Holmes was in danger, especially when the landlord, who told me he didn't know about the letter, added that an Englishman who had arrived shortly after we left must have written it."

I burst out: "Moriarty!"
Watson nodded sadly. He continued, after clearing his throat:

"As fast as I never ran, I rapidly returned to where I had last seen Holmes. But there was not a single soul to be found anymore. If you knew how I regret to follow this stupid letter! If I hadn't..."
He paused, and I could see he was struggling to hold back tears.
I couldn't help but to instinctively put my hand on his. He did not withdraw his hand from mine, and went on:

"I went towards the huge rock where he had been standing the last time I ever saw him alive. There I found his things which he had left: His Alpine-stock and a cigarette-case- the silver one, I'm sure you remember it."
I nodded wordlessly.

"At first I tried to make myself believe that he had gone, like we planned, to the next village and just forgotten these items. But the both of us know him well enough to see that such an unprecise way of acting, such a mistake, was totally out of Holmes' character. I realized that something else must have happened. Dazed by the horror that took me by the mere thought of it, I thoughtlessly picked up the silver case. Three loose sheets of paper fluttered to the ground, and when I looked at them, I recognized his writing. Here, read yourself..."

He drew the papers out of his pocket, and held them out to me. My hands were shaking as I took them. I read:

"My dear Watson,

I write these few lines through the courtesy of Mr. Moriarty, who awaits my convenience for the final discussion of those questions which lie between us. He has been giving me a sketch of the methods by which he avoided the English police and kept himself informed of our movements. They certainly confirm the very high opinion which I had formed of his abilities.

I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends, and especially, my dear Watson, to you.

I have already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this.
Indeed, if I may make a full confession to you, I was quite convinced that the letter from Meiringen was a hoax, and I allowed you to depart on that errand under the persuasion that some development of this sort would follow.

Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M., done up in a blue envelope and inscribed "Moriarty." I made every disposition of my property before leaving England and handed it to my brother Mycroft.

Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson and Ms. Hudson,
and believe me to be, my dear fellow,

Very sincerely yours, Sherlock Holmes
_____________________________________________________
 

I quickly held the letter away from me when I saw a big blotch appear on the last page. I had started to cry while I read it, and I didn't want the ink to blur or fade and the letter to be spoiled, for it was the last thing we had left of our friend. Watson took them from me and thrust them, carefully folded, back into his pocket.

"They're both in there." At this remark of his I looked up again, my face glistening with tears.
"The bodies", he continued, "of this- criminal... and him. They couldn't be recovered."
I closed my eyes: "Will there even be a funeral then?" He shook his head.

"Oh dear..." My voice sank to a whisper, and my head back on the pillows.
"I told you, you shouldn't have risked it.", he said, rather to himself, in a worried voice with a tinge of reproach. I asked weakly: "Are you going to... publish the story?"

He looked at me, thinking about it for some time. "Not now. I still... can't."
I fully understood what he meant, and suddenly I noticed something else; I realized how rather insensitive I had been: "I'm so sorry that..." I said.
"Thatwhat?", he looked a little surprised.
"I shouldn't have made you tell me. I didn't care about how you're feeling, I cared only for myself, and not how much it must've hurt you to tell me all over again..."
He looked away, looking downcast.
"Never mind. Sooner or later... I would have had to tell you, so..."

He sighed, and rose from the chair. "I'll leave now, alright?"
"Oh. Yes, sure. I need to get up now anyway." I opened my eyes.

When he was gone, I quickly rolled out of bed, and went over to the window, just in time to see him walk out of the door, put on his hat, and disappear round the corner. I could conceive where he was going. Why did men always think that drinking made their situation better?
I couldn't blame him, though. His nerves were probably more strained than mine.
I knew he was blaming himself for what happened.
I remembered clearly these words he said in his report:
"If I hadn't..."

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