April 4th, 1891
After an occupied noon I had returned to my surgery, and all the way still wondered about the strange case of murder which all London was interested in by the time. It was in fact the scene of the crime where I had been busy. Inspector Lestrade, though he could no longer turn to Holmes for help, had not abandoned the habit of now and then asking for at least my assistance, and so I had come to 427 Park Lane at his request. Nevertheless, I must admit, I had not found out much more than the Inspector's men already did.
The Honourable Ronald Adair had been shot, in the middle of the night, with neither servants nor neighbours and passers-by seeming to have heard it. There had been no traces of an intruder been found, nor the weapon with which the deed was committed.
"Holmes would certainly have been interested in this matter.", I sadly, and slightly bitterly thought. I had little doubt that the mists of mystery shrouding the affair would have been quickly lifted by his extraordinary reasoning powers. How lost we were without him...
I leaned back in my chair and was studying the framed photograph of his upon the mantelpiece, which was even after three years still adorned with a mourning band. My fingers stole away over the desk to stealthily touch the silver cigarette-case I had found on that rock together with his note.
The maid interrupted my reflections when she entered the study: "Excuse me, sir- there's a gentleman to see you, Doctor." I turned around and asked whether he had given her his card. "No, Doctor.", she replied. I was not in the mood to receive visits, and with a sigh I was about to advise the girl to send the mysterious arrival away. Then I heard hobbling footsteps coming up the stairs. Since it was now too late to tell this man I was busy, I reluctantly decided to see him. At the maid I nodded and told her she could withdraw. She had hardly left the room, when the door opened again and an old, crotchety man carrying some books entered. I recognized him at once- this fellow had roughly snatched away his volumes from me when I picked them up after I accidentially bumped into him. Also he had been most unfriendly, though it really had been but a small accident.
While I still was puzzled what he may want, the man began to speak in a croaking voice: "Surprised, are you, sir?" I nodded, and he explained to me that he had come to thank me for my assistance, and wanted to apologize for having been so ill-disposed. Also he asked me whether I wanted to buy some of his obscure volumes- to fill the gap on my shelf, as he said. I turned around to examine said space, but while I did so, I suddenly heard an only too well known voice which I had believed to be silenced forever.
"Watson, do you mind if I smoke a cigarette in your consulting-room?"
I whirled around to perceive a lean, tall figure, and a face in which joy shone brightly. The familiar figure opened his arm wide, and his smile broadened. This... couldn't...
I gave a soundless gasp, and before my eyes everything went dark and foggy. When the mist in front of my sight began to clear, I looked into the grey eyes of Sherlock Holmes.
In a worried and kind tone he said:
"I owe you a thousand apologies, my dear Watson. I had no idea you would be so affected."
An aftertaste of brandy on my lips, I asked with an unsteady voice:
"Holmes... Is it really... you? Can it really be that you're alive?"
Instead of actually saying something, his lips curled for a second to form a smile. He was bending over my chair, and when my mind started to realize that this indeed was my friend whose body I believed to lie at the bottom of the Reichenbach falls, I simply threw my arms around his lean form and helplessly began to cry. After a moment of surprise, Holmes gently returned the embrace, his arms around my shoulders.
How could it be that during three years he had been alive, while almost the whole of London- including myself- had believed him dead, and grieved for him? With this thought I released Holmes, and couldn't help to stare at him. He crossed the room and sat down in the chair opposite mine. "How... did you survive all this...? Where have you been all this time?", I finally stammered. Holmes smiled at me, and said: "If you are already fit enough to discuss things..."
I nodded vividly: "I'm fine...-"
Of course I were.
"My dear fellow, we have a hard and dangerous night of work ahead of us."
How much I had longed to hear a sentence like this, after all this time he had been gone!
"But first you must tell me everything!", I demanded, full of curiosity.
He looked back at me, as alert as always: "But you will come with me tonight?"-
"When you like, where you like!", I happily replied. Holmes burst out with a laugh:
"Ha, Watson-" his voice then almost sunk to a whisper- "this is just like the old days."
My heart skipped a beat when I realized that he was right.
Holmes then told me about the close escape from certain death, and what followed after he had successfully got away from Switzerland.
One part of his narration almost brought me close to tears: He said that when he hid himself from the revengeful Colonel Moran, one of Moriarty's henchmen who witnessed his leader's demise, he chanced to watch me when I found his cigarette case and his note. He had heard when I called his name.
"If I hadn't with all my strength restrained myself, I would have answered your call, Watson. By George- I actually almost called out to you. Your name was already on my lips, when I realized that, would it ever pass them, all would have been in vain."- "But it would have spared me much trouble and sorrow.", I thought.
"It was necessary that you, too, believe me to be dead. Otherwise you would not have written so convincing an account, had you not yourself believed it true.", Holmes told me.
I saw the logic in his words, and knew that he acted for the best, nevertheless...
"I should have thought I was as trustworthy as your brother." I murmured, sitting down in the chair from which I had risen during the discussion. Holmes, realizing that I felt hurt, cast me a look of remorse, and not without affection he said: "Of course you are, Watson!"
He paused, walked up to me and with his hands propped on my desk continued:
"But you have a kinder heart."
Indeed, my heart warmed upon this statement of his. He, who wasn't known for displays of affection, in this regard truly scintillated today.
After Holmes had explained everything, he asked whether I'd mind his occupying the couch in my surgery: "The sea was rough during the channel-crossing, and the prospect of seeing London again, plus the added pleasure to see my old friend Watson, quite prohibited any rest." He stretched out on the couch, and closed his eyes.
I slowly traversed the room and gazed down on his serene face. Holmes was fast asleep, and out of some feeling I gently pulled a blanket over him.
Good heavens... To think that he- he of all men- should be here in my consulting-room...
Later, at nightfall, we were once again seated in a hansom, side by side in pursuit of a criminal. Indeed, how Holmes had put it, this was just like the old days. I felt unspeakable happiness well up anew inside of me. The game was afoot- again!
In the evening, after we had returned to good old 221B- which I would (or so I hoped) soon call home again- from the hunt and capture of Colonel Moran, we sat together to celebrate my friend's return. We were talking all night long. There was so much I needed to say, and still so much Holmes had to tell. Our glasses in our hands, we sat beside each other and at every time when he said something, or when we both broke into light-hearted laughter, I thanked God with all my soul that he was alive.
At some point the room had fallen peacefully silent and the both of us just sat there. Slowly, I felt sleepiness overcome me. Yet I wanted this joyful evening never to end, so I didn't excuse myself to go to bed. I instead listened to Holmes' even, calm breath, and after some time I couldn't help it when my weary eyelids finally closed.
When Mrs. Hudson entered in order to turn down the lamps, she found an empty bottle of wine on the table, and the two reunited friends both asleep, with Dr. Watson's head rested on Holmes' shoulder. In his right Mr. Holmes still held a glass, the other hand lay on his friend's back. Mrs. Hudson left the room with a smile on her face.
She had never witnessed a more peaceful scene.