|The Man in the Trenchcoat
Author: elliequickfall PM
3 years after the Fall, a new tenant moves into 221B Baker Street, but she's not alone... "S-S-Sherlock Holmes?", I stuttered. "Yes," he replied with great irritation,"Now who the devil are you?"Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Mystery/Drama - Sherlock H. - Chapters: 7 - Words: 11,874 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 28 - Updated: 05-10-13 - Published: 02-07-12 - id: 7814840
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The brass doorknocker of 221B Baker Street glistened in the July sun on the Saturday morning that would change my life. I'd been looking for a flat for some months; and finally, as if out of the blue, this place had popped up, the address that had been in the news so much three years previously but these days was just as inconspicuous as the next terrace. Apparently, money for the landlady was tight, so she and the former tenant had agreed that maybe it was time to let the place fall into a fresh face's hands. It was still furnished- apparently the previous tenant had insisted that his former flatmate shouldn't totally be forgotten- but thickly covered in dust, as my new landlady bashfully informed me.
"I'm just like John, you see," Mrs Hudson smiled sadly as she led me up the stairs, "I can't bear to face it. Lives a few streets away now, he does. We meet for dinner in Angelo's every Thursday."
There was a short pause, before I cautiously asked the question burning in my mind. "Mrs Hudson, how did you meet Sherlock Holmes?"
Sighing heavily she replied, "It was during my husband's court case. He helped me when Mr Hudson found himself sentenced to death in Florida."
"Mr Holmes was able to prevent your husband's death sentence?" By this point, we'd reached the entrance to the flat itself.
"No, my dear girl," Mrs Hudson once again found her face forming into that sad smile, "He ensured it." Once again, there was a slight pause, then she turned to me with a curious look on her face. "You don't think he was a fraud, then? Most of the world seems to, but you... You seem different."
I shrugged sheepishly. "I've always found it hard to believe that a man who seemed to be responsible for so much good in the world could turn out to be a fraud. It just doesn't seem... right."
"You're not the only one that thinks that way, you know," Mrs Hudson murmured, "There's a whole group of them. They call themselves Sherlockians- people who just can't accept that he wasn't a genius. Just after..." She paused, clearly searching for the right words, "Just after it happened, they went around putting up posters, all of those "Believe in Sherlock" flyers that were everywhere. They've calmed down a bit now, but sometimes I still see the odd mysterious figure, just gazing at this place..." Her eyes filled with tears. "I just wish that more people thought the way that they do."
Smiling, I placed a comforting hand on her arm as I replied, "So do I."
It was in that moment that I knew I'd gained Mrs Hudson's approval. She slowly smiled, pushed open the door to the living room of the flat and waved me in, apologising for the mess as we walked in together. And indeed, it was a mess; books everywhere, what appeared to be a violin lying on a shelf in the corner, and a (hopefully but probably not artificial) human skull perched on the edge of the mantelpiece. As promised, everything was cloaked in a thick layer of dust, untouched for days, weeks and months that had slowly accumulated into years.
This was certainly an uninhabitable spot for most people; it still had the echoes of another person and another life contained within its walls, an echo that would resound for at least Mrs Hudson and Dr Watson's lifetimes, and there was nothing I could do to change that. I certainly couldn't remove Sherlock's things- it would break Mrs Hudson's heart. Still, as soon as I walked into that room I felt an indescribable pull to it; this flat, Sherlock Holmes' former flat, was to become my home, and there was nothing I could do about it. Call it fate, call it insanity, call it whatever you want- but I knew. This was my home now. So, without hesitation, I gave Mrs Hudson her deposit and rushed to move in my own belongings.
It didn't take a lot of consideration to decide that it was best to leave the late Mr Holmes' possessions as they were- not only would it preserve his memory, but most of the old experiments were either encrusted in various mixtures of chemicals or too unbelievably dirty to touch. For the first few weeks, I pretty much lived in the room that had once belonged to Dr Watson, making occasional journeys into the living room to examine a book or gaze out of the window into bustling Baker Street. I liked how everything seemed to just flow- the same cars and vans passed every day, the same summer sun burned down on the same battered old buildings, the same people strolled past time and time again. It reminded me of the mundane routine of my own life, private tutor to the same spoiled children of MPs and businessman, seeing the same mansions and same old schemes of work each and every day. The work, and most of my pupils, may have been tiresome, but it was something to do at least; now, the summer holidays had started, and I was bored. Very bored.
Hence why, as the days dragged on and the July sun beat down hotter than ever, I found myself sat in front of that window most mornings, drinking the tea that Mrs Hudson often found herself making for me ("Not your housekeeper!") and pondering what to do to amuse myself that day. For a while, the window offered nothing- I got used to seeing the same milkman doing his rounds and lingering for just a little bit too long in the doorway just across the road, the same scrawny teenager delivering the newspapers and looking as if he'd rather be anywhere else, and the same toothless old man having intimate conversations with a bus stop which he seemed to think was his wife. Life went on, and I got used to watching these characters continue with their daily lives.
I had my own life of course; old friends to go to coffee with, the occasional old boyfriend to have a short-lived reunion with, and of course the wonderful Mrs Hudson as company- but somehow, I always found myself back at that window, looking, watching, searching. I didn't exactly know what-or who- I was looking for, not consciously anyway, but suddenly, after three weeks of living in Baker Street, it presented itself to me. Or rather, he presented himself to me; the man in the woollen trench-coat. The man who would change my life.
To this day, I still can't work out why anybody would casually stroll out into a summer's day wearing a coat that belonged in the depths of Russia and not expect to be noticed, but he did it, and I noticed him. Collar turned up high, as if against some imaginary gust of wind, arms folded tightly across his slender body, and some kind of hood shielding his face; this man exuded mystery and suspicion. Somehow, I almost felt like I recognised him; but being new to the area, I disregarded this immediately, and just assumed that he was another of the eccentric lunatics that resided around here. In fact, I even grouped him to be in league with Mr I'm-Married-To-A-Bus-Stop; maybe it was his son? He seemed unhinged enough...
But as the days passed, and the man in the trench-coat kept on appearing, I could tell that something was different about this man. Everybody that usually passed my window when I was doing my usual gaze of solitude seemed immersed in their own lives, just carrying on and living, but this man seemed bizarrely interested in my life; or rather, the life of my flat. Even beneath his heavily cloaked face I could tell that there was a piercing gaze under there that was directed at my very window- he was clearly very interested in 221B Baker Street.
You would think that this would unnerve me; a perfect stranger simply standing there, watching me. But I figured that I knew his type- he was a Sherlockian, one of the people that Mrs Hudson had told me about on my very first day at the flat. He was simply paying homage to his hero, by standing here and staring, every single day.
And it was every single day, every day for a week, that this man appeared- he would stay for at least two or three hours, simply watching, before turning and casually walking on as if nothing had ever happened and as if nothing had caught his interest. But then one day, it stopped; when I made my usual morning trip to the window, all that greeted me was the milkman and the other maniacs, but no man in the trench-coat. A strange sinking feeling overcame me- it was almost as if I had wanted him to be there, maybe to solve the mystery of exactly who he was and why he had chosen to show his support for Sherlock Holmes at this particular time. I mean, the man had been dead for over three years; why suddenly mourn him now? Questions rumbled around my mind for the rest of the day, and I found myself retiring to bed earlier than usual and falling into an unsettled sleep.
It was the creak of the bedroom door that woke me up. My immediate fear was not for me, but for Mrs Hudson; surely she could be the only person with the key to the flat, and surely she would only wake me if something was amiss. But then a low, masculine voice rumbled, "John?", and I became paralysed with fear. There was a dead man walking in my bedroom.
His footsteps slowly creaked closer and closer towards the bed, and I simply lay there, my heart beating with the rhythm of a drum, unsure of what to do and unsure of what was happening- was he a ghost? There had been so many witnesses to him jumping off the roof of the hospital- how could he not be dead? And was it even him? Was it really the famous Sherlock Holmes, or was I in graver danger than I thought?
Eventually, the figure reached my bed, and I blinked back in blindness as a torch shone brightly directly in my face. Sitting up in shock, I saw a mask of surprise and slight irritation settle over the intruder's pale face, and watched as he stepped back and brushed some unruly curls out of his piercing blue eyes, as if this would help him to comprehend the situation.
"S-S-Sherlock Holmes?", I stuttered.
"Yes," he responded with great irritation, "Now who the devil are you?"