The Adventure of the Grasping Ghost

a narrative duet by Beth Einspanier

Disclaimers: Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, and related characters are not mine, with the exception of Miss Emily Cartwright, who is. Any characters that I have borrowed for the course of this fanfiction will be returned in close to the same condition as I found them, though what happens between Mr. Holmes and Miss Cartwright is none of my business. All rights reserved.

Author's note: In this story I will try to alternate the narration between Holmes and Em, in a similar fashion to my previous fic, "The Detective and the Diplomat" - hence, a "narrative duet". The narrators will be indicated at the top of each section. There may be some fluff in this fic, though I'll try to keep it down to a discreet minimum. Consider yourself warned.

Author's other note: This story chronologically follows "The Detective and the Diplomat" and may contain references to and spoilers from the earlier story.


::Sherlock Holmes::

"Really, Holmes," Watson chided, "She's half your age."

This was not entirely accurate - not that Watson paid excessive attention to facts in the sensationalised accounts that he sent to the Strand. Hyperbole, it seemed, was a writer's best friend.

"You're acting like I'm some lovesick suitor trying to win her over with charm and affection," I replied tartly, examining my nails with what I hoped was a sufficient air of indifference to the topic, "two qualities for which you know very well I am not famous. I believe you are simply imagining something that does not exist, and it's getting rather tiring. I would like for you to drop it." I was not in the mood to discuss the matter any further, for my ribs (injured during a case in a faraway city a few months earlier) had not yet entirely ceased to ache.

Said topic, of course, was a young lady of my acquaintance, one Miss Emily Cartwright, whom Watson seemed to think had quite turned my head. Of course, the very idea was absolute rot - the day that simple lust brought on by a pretty face overtakes the precision of my mind is the day that Watson leaves medicine once and for all and takes up professional dart-playing.

This is not, of course, to say that Miss Cartwright - or Emily, as she has insisted I call her - is an unattractive young woman. Though she generally wears her molasses-brown hair in a proper chignon or even a French twist, I have had occasion (though not on purpose) to see it loose, and the image has, strangely, stayed with me till now. Her build is slender and finely-boned, but woe betide anyone who thinks her overly delicate for it - this, of course, has included me. In addition, she has proven her intelligence more than once, possessing a level of rationality keener than is representative of her sex, and she never ceases to surprise me.

She also has managed to drive me up the wall more than once, for despite her keen mind she is also rather hot-tempered and capricious, and not the sort to give up without a fight, either physically or verbally. The last time I saw her, in fact, she still bore the fading marks of a split lip, testament to an encounter we'd had with a crooked deliveryman.

"Holmes, are you even listening to me?" Watson broke into my train of thought. In the course of my reflections I had managed to tune him out briefly, something which never ceases to annoy him.

"Yes," I replied, "And I think you're being silly."

"If I'm being so silly, why haven't you opened any of her letters?"

I allowed my gaze to briefly regard the small stack of unopened envelopes resting benignly on the corner of the mantel. There were five of them, addressed in her elegant script (Fountain pen, fine brass nib, black India ink, slightly smudged from the heel of her dominant left hand briefly resting on the wet ink) and sealed (teal green sealing wax - I could probably hunt down the vendor if I cared to do so - there were only three vendors that I knew of who sold this peculiar shade), with the topmost envelope (fine-quality paper with a medium cotton content) lightly scented (predominantly lilac, with perhaps a hint of jasmine). Why should I open them? I could determine practically everything from the sealed envelopes.

No – I must be honest. I could determine everything but a rational reason not to open them. They'd sat on the mantel (I thought it slightly obscene to impale them on the jack-knife along with the rest of my correspondence) with all the quiet menace of Pandora's Box, had the contents been sent through the post rather than bestowed by the gods for safekeeping.

"My mail is my business," I informed Watson, "And I shall open it whenever I wish."

Watson huffed a long-suffering sigh at me and, shaking his head in amused disbelief, opened his newspaper.

Finally, as a compromise, I resolved that if she wrote me a sixth letter, I would open all of them.

No sooner was the thought formed in my mind than Mrs Hudson came upstairs with the evening mail. It contained two letters, one from Inspector Lestrade - and one from Emily.

Blast it.


::Emily Cartwright::

Where to begin?

I suppose I could begin by telling you my life story up to this point, and in fact I could even make it interesting, but I have found most habitual autobiographers to be rather egotistical, assuming that everyone wishes to know such an awful lot about them that they write it all down and have it bound in a ponderous volume that subsequently accomplishes little more than continually reaffirming the law of gravity until such time (I have yet to discover the exact interval, but between fifty and a hundred years sounds right) as it is declared a classic and force-fed to a whole generation of literature students.

So I shall simply adhere to more recent events, such as my current acquaintance with a certain Englishman who hails from the neighbourhood of Baker Street and who happens to be mildly famous.

Most people, on reflecting upon the character of Mr Sherlock Holmes, would describe him as arrogant, overbearing, and altogether too logical for his own good. His ways are rigid, they say, his manner is cold, and besides which quite unsociable toward most people. (Rumours abound, paradoxically, about the fact that he freely accepts as clients Those Women who work from street-corners and brothels.)

I have found him to be quite polite and well-mannered, if a bit reserved towards women. He can be rather abrupt at times, a trait which takes some getting used to, but once one is in his confidence he can be a fierce ally and a close friend (I am put in mind of the series of events which led to him attacking a very large man who was manhandling yours truly in a trouser role).

In terms of appearance he is no Adonis, with his angular build and avian profile, but he is handsome enough to put most people at ease (my father being a glaring exception, but he is another matter entirely), and his neutral (some would say stony) countenance makes a delightful puzzle of trying to figure out what is going on in that tidily ordered mind of his. His best features, in my opinion, are his hands, with the slender fingers of an artist and the delicate touch of a surgeon. Granted, they are as often as not marked by burns and stains, but these are the calluses of his trade.

Most of all, what sets Holmes apart from most men I've met in London is the fact that he doesn't try to impress me with wealth (of which he has very little) or promises of pampering (which I wouldn't accept) or even simple doting affection (which would either make me quite ill or suspect that he was ill). He sets the rules and expects me to follow them - or rather, he *doesn't* expect me to be able to follow them, so he is surprised when I call his bluff. It has, I think, become a game between us - he pushes, and I push back. He forms certain expectations of my abilities, and I cheerfully defy them. It keeps things interesting - or it would if he weren't being so d-mned stubborn right now in not replying to my letters. I don't think he means anything by it, of course - one could accuse Sherlock Holmes of many things, but deliberate and wilful incivility is not one of them.


End of Part 1.