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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35. II. 9. His Very Last Bow

Rain poured down on Baker Street, and I stood at the window gazing through the veil of drops upon the pane. In the streets, people were running to and fro, busy outside despite the bad weather. I turned away, for I felt the scenery was not exactly lifting my mood.
Aimlessly strolling across the sitting-room, my gaze suddenly fell on the framed photograph on the mantelpiece. I lifted it up, and holding it in my left hand I looked from under heavy eyelids at Watson's face.

"My dear fellow..."
I suddenly seemed to hear his voice, less than a whisper. I whirled round, only to realize I had imagined it- of course. Who was I to believe in things like that?
Nevertheless, this fanciful phantasm triggered something, and for a moment my fingers tightened round the frame. Slowly and gingerly I then put the photograph back, and sank into a chair. When I closed my eyes I felt something warm trail down my cheeks.

Burying my face in my hands, I sat sobbing like a child and couldn't stop myself. I felt slightly embarrassed of letting myself go that way, and upon noticing this I realized that my general objection towards display of emotion had probably been one of the reasons which had led Watson to regard me as 'automaton' sometimes. I was glad to have had the chance to at least show him- while he was still alive- that I was a human being, too.

Then I looked back at the time I had been compelled to spend without my friend at my side, and I could not see any sense behind it. What was I without Watson?
I shook my head, and suddenly the idea of a way out of this misery worked itself into my mind.
What if I took this into my own hands? I could not find any reason to remain here, fighting a lost war, being the last one standing. What if I brought this to an end, as dignified as possible?
This was my 'ultima ratio', as Watson would have put it. But now it was decided, and my decision was final. It would be for the best to get over with it today.
This would be the last day that the dawn saw me alive.

The next thing I'd need to do was to make sure that everything would be carried out in a reasonable way. So I sat down and went over the disposition of my property I had made in the year 1891, before departing to Switzerland. I made some necessary changes, of course, and then put it into an envelope which I did not seal- not yet.
Then I prepared myself for this last day. There still were several things I wanted to do.
A few hours before noon I went out to a prolonged stroll around London. As I traversed Regent's Park, a thought of my friend crossed my mind. The branches of the willows along the way were dripping from rain, lending a blear look to the park, and I noticed how much more emotional I had become of late. Usually I would have restrained feelings of this sort, but now I did no longer care. I returned home, being of a somewhat melancholy mood.
There was a concert today- "...suits me well.", I thought. I spontaneously decided to attend it, and spent the afternoon at the St. James' Hall. Afterwards I dined at a small Italian restaurant, which I had often visited with my friend before.
At nightfall I was back in Baker Street. The time for my farewell had come.

'...hic Rhodos, hic salta.' I murmured, in an almost jovial tone. Sitting down at my desk, I swiftly read over the testament again. After I had approvingly checked it, I sealed the envelope and put it aside, yet in such an obvious way so it would be easily found.
"Even by Scotland Yard.", I said to myself with a smile. Now that I was prepared for the end, I suddenly felt strangely light-hearted.

I also remembered to include a note to explain this was not a homicide, just to make sure. It would be truly tragicomic, would my own death be falsely investigated, and would an innocent person be framed for the murder of Sherlock Holmes- possibly due to (maybe even Lestrade's) ironical effort to find the culprit.

After I had made the legal aspects clear in this fashion, I opened a drawer and took out Watson's old army revolver, putting it down on the desk with a metallic clang. My eyes rested on a black frame; that of his photograph. I again took it and thoughtfully gazed at it.

When my fingers left prints upon the glass over the photograph, my mind suddenly recalled the day when I had been at the undertaker's, in order to pay my respects to my dear Watson. I had been standing next the coffin, and had been gazing at his face which had worn a peaceful expression. His skin had been so pale... He was truly beautific in death.

My back had been shielding me from the curious gazes of the man standing in a distance at the door, so I had dared to reach out and had gently caressed Watson's cheek. The iciness of his skin had painfully recalled that asleep as he seemed, he was never to wake up again.
I suddenly realized that my friend would not want me to do what I was about to. Now that I thought about it, it seemed almost like cowardice. But then I regained my determination.
Just like my friend had written in a story: To the last gasp I would always be the master.
With a last glance at Watson's picture, I whispered: "I am sorry, Watson."

Then I held the muzzle of the gun to my right sleeve. The metal was cold against my skin.

My fingers found the trigger, and I closed my eyes.

 

With a dark thud Sherlock Holmes' hand dropped onto the desk, his fingers tightly closed around the revolver, the left hand still pressed to the glass pane over the photograph. The sheets of paper covering the desk and a corner of the sealed envelope were slowly soaked in red.

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