Elementary, my dear Dawson

By Leoni Venter

"So," said Joe, looking at Methos' bookshelf. "You like Sherlock Holmes stories." This was stating the obvious as Methos had on his shelf an extensive collection, including the four short story collections "The adventures of Sherlock Holmes", "The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes", "The return of Sherlock Holmes" and "The case book of Sherlock Holmes" as well as the full length novels such as "A study in Scarlet", "Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The sign of the four". Apart from that he also had several books in the line of "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" and other popular books like "The life and times of Sherlock Holmes".

Although Joe had appreciation for the stories, and for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote them, he'd never thought enough of them to go to those extents. Still, it was obvious that Methos did, for whatever reason, and Joe smirked a bit to himself, realising that he was using deductive reasoning to come to that conclusion.

Methos, in the process of chopping up vegetables and strips of meat for the stir-fry dinner he'd invited Joe to, paused. "Why shouldn't I like Sherlock Holmes?" he asked. "He was an extraordinary man." Something in the way he spoke told Joe he took the issue very serious indeed.

"But he's fictional!" Joe attempted anyway. He knew he was letting himself in for quite a debate, because Methos always liked to argue for the sake of argument, but he merely sighed irritably, wiped his hands on a cloth and left the kitchen to rummage through a wooden chest that was stowed under his bed.

Finally he found what he was looking for. "Sherlock Holmes was as real as you and I are, Joe," he said, handing Joe an old manuscript, carefully wrapped in bubble pack. "Read that while I finish dinner... read it very carefully." With that he returned to the kitchen and resumed his cooking, while Joe unwrapped the package and read the title.

The mystery of the hidden blade

by James Watson, M.D.

I have, in the past, on numerous occasions been constrained in my chronicling of the extraordinary mysteries solved by my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, by the sure knowledge that such exposure would cause the parties involved serious embarrassment, not to mention financial or emotional ruin. It has always been my intention with these little narratives not to exhaustively give account of all his cases at all costs, but rather to pick those cases of particular interest; those that would serve to showcase his remarkable deductive powers and his keen intellect. Therefore, at the request of the man involved in this adventure, I had refrained from making the case public, even though it had elements of the most bizarre nature, seeming at times to be steeped in the fantastic, and at others the deepest of horrors.

But now, many years after the fact, now that Holmes has retired, and I am thinking of doing so myself, I received a letter from the man, asking me as a personal favour to write my recollection. This tale, then, will still not be made public, but he said, was for his own pleasure; for he had come to greatly admire my friend Holmes and wished to have his adventure with us written by my hand. To this flattering request I gladly agreed, and thus to my friend Ben Adams this is dedicated.

It was in the summer of the year 1890 that I found myself so overwhelmed with cases in my medical practice that I finally conceded reluctantly that I needed help. My neighbour, however glad he was to take my cases when I was about with Holmes, could not cope with my and his cases combined, and so after some thought and a conversation with Holmes, I advertised for the services of a young medical assistant. As there were many freshly graduated doctors in London, I had a number of replies to my advertisement, but after duly interviewing each, I took into my employ a young man named Benjamin Adams.

He came highly recommended and struck me as an intelligent man, somewhat eccentric in his habits, but after my years with Holmes, nothing that I found in the least disturbing. He arrived on the day of his appointment carrying a small doctor's case containing, he said, such medical instruments as he had by then bought for himself. Apart from his case, and the heavy overcoat he always wore outside, he brought nothing of note with him. I settled him in an extra room of my offices, and over the course of the next few weeks, he quietly and very efficiently took over all the cases that I sent his way. He impressed me greatly with his gentle manner and careful dealing with the patients, and I could see he was destined in time to become a sought-after doctor indeed. For the time being, however, he made my life much easier and I never once regretted taking him on.

Even though we had worked well together for several weeks, he seemed to be rather reticent about himself, although he could converse for hours on such disparate topics as Lord Byron's poetry or the cultures of the Middle East. Having myself been in Afghanistan, I found his conversations quite interesting, and never really noticed that he skilfully turned any conversation away from himself to some other subject.

Late one afternoon, just as we were closing up the office, the door opened with a rather violent slam and Mr. Sherlock Holmes blew in on a dusty breeze. He closed the door quickly, but not before the breeze had blown all kinds of papers from my desk and into the corners of the room. With an exclamation of dismay Holmes bent down to pick up the papers at his feet, while Adams, already wearing his overcoat, did the same. The two of them came upright together and I could see Holmes studying my assistant in the same intent way he did everything else. Knowing his methods, I tried to see what he was seeing, but the familiar figure of Adams told me nothing more of himself than he had already told me.

He was tall and lithe, with dark hair grown long to his shoulders and tied back in the nape of his neck. His face was sharply planed, with a rather prominent nose, quite like the appendage which so distinguished Holmes. He had pale skin, no doubt caused by the great amounts of time he spent indoors at my office, and although he carried a hat in his hand, I had seldom seen him wear it.

More than that, I could not tell. I looked up to see Holmes watching me with amusement, as he had discerned what I was trying to do. Into what was quickly becoming an awkward silence, I introduced my two friends.

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said I. "May I present my capable assistant, Mr. Benjamin Adams."

Both bowed.

"My dear sir," said Holmes, with a casual glance at me. "I am certainly surprised to find as good a swordsman as you are, working as a doctor."

Adams, startled in the act of bowing, came abruptly upright. He looked around the room for a moment as if seeking escape, then relaxed, looked at his hands and laughed.

"Ah yes, the calluses." He turned his hands over to show me a curious pattern of calluses on the palms of his hands, around the edges and on the knuckles. "It is true, Mr. Holmes, that I am a swordsman. I have found fencing to be excellent exercise, and have continued with the sport since leaving university."

"Indeed," Holmes agreed. "I am a fencer myself and many times have that skill been of use to me." He turned to me. "Watson, I would find it of great value if you would come with me to inspect a scene of the most curious sort. Lestrade had been, and what he told me sounds of immense interest."

I of course agreed readily and was putting on my hat and coat when Holmes quite surprisingly invited Adams to come along. I must confess I felt a momentary flash of dismay, for I had come to view my adventures with Holmes as something almost private, even though the results of our investigations very often became headline news. I suppressed that feeling as Adams quite avidly agreed, for it was clear that the young man, having talked to me a great deal, was eager to see what Holmes found of such interest.

We took a cab and along the way, as we were winding ever deeper into the smaller back roads of London, Holmes related to us what Lestrade had told him.

On the night before, a clear and balmy night, an old flower seller, one Abraham Smith, on his way home from his stall, happened to pass through an alley between two rows of dilapidated houses. Hearing the clash of metal on metal, and fearing to become involved in what sounded to be a fight of some ferocity, he hid behind some stacked crates to await the outcome, hoping to remain undiscovered, so to reach home unscathed. For that neighbourhood, Holmes said, was often the scene of clashes between gangs of villains, being situated, as it was, near half way between the docks and the railway station.

The fight, if such it was, continued for long minutes, and often the blows seemed to come with such regularity that the old man started to doubt it was a fight at all, and supposed that it might rather have been the sound of a smithy striking iron on his anvil. So convinced became he that, in spite of his very justifiable fear, he left his hiding place to continue home. He turned a corner and, unfortunately for him, walked into the midst of was indeed a sword duel between two men.

One of them, noticing the old man, retreated for a moment from the duel, to give him a hurried warning to run away, but the other, almost casually, stepped by him and ran the old man through. Not mortally wounded, the old man nonetheless fell to the ground and spent the remainder of the fight right there.

The duel resumed with renewed fury, both opponents receiving numerous wounds, but eventually the one who had given warning gained the upper hand and inflicted a mortal wound on his opponent. Then, inexplicably, he used his sword to cut off the dead man's head, as if making doubly sure he had indeed expired. The old man's tale became rather incoherent after that, Holmes reported. Apparently there had been some kind of storm, and the old man had then woken up in hospital, with that bloodhound Lestrade already waiting to hear from him what had occurred.

Such was the tale my friend told us, and I admit I found it strange in the extreme. Adams seemed very quiet, and he thoughtfully looked out of the window as he seemed to withdraw into himself even more than I was used to. I ascribed it to the nature of the tale we had heard, for a young man such as he would have had no experience of the wickedness of this world, as I and Holmes had witnessed so many times.

We came to our destination and was exiting the cab when another pulled up and discharged the unmistakable form of Inspector Lestrade, who has on many occasions received the advice and help of Sherlock Holmes, but who has seldom given due credit for it. Holmes, it seemed to me, did not mind; or rather, he did mind but found these human foibles amusing in others and annoying in himself. He therefore treated Lestrade with politeness that carefully disguised the scorn he sometimes felt for the man.

"Mr. Holmes!" Lestrade greeted us. "Doctor Watson. I felt certain you would want to inspect the scene of the crime. It is of course only a matter of time before we find the murderer."

"Undoubtedly," Holmes agreed blandly. "This case seems to have several points of interest, I am in your debt for bringing it to my attention."

"How could I not?" asked Lestrade. "I know how much you love riddles like this."

"What riddle?" asked Adams, abruptly. "It seems to me there were two men fighting. One killed the other, and left. Isn't that as straightforward as one can get?"

We had all turned to stare at him, a little taken aback by his sudden question, for it had seemed to me that he would be a quiet observer, rather than asking the questions I might ask. Then again, he was a scientifically trained man as myself, so perhaps I had misjudged him by his youthfulness, and did not expect from him the confidence to intrude so on the conversation. I realised that Lestrade was waiting for one of us to explain to him who this young man was, so I belatedly made the introductions. Holmes, meanwhile, was giving the ground, the walls, the railing of the stairs behind the house and the stack of crates his minute attention; little concerned, it seemed, with what Lestrade considered a riddle.

"Well, sir," Lestrade said in reply to Adams' question. "It seems a riddle to me why and how the murderer, having done his evil deed, then contrived to deliver the old man to the hospital, get him admitted, looked to and sewn up, and then vanished without anyone at the hospital ever seeing him."

"What!" I exclaimed. "He was not seen at all?"

"No sir," said Lestrade. "We questioned the staff at the hospital to some great extent, as you can imagine, but not one could describe him to us or even say surely when the old man had been admitted."

"Interesting," Adams said. "But surely you might consider that your perpetrator was acting in self defence. It was the other, after all, who tried to kill the innocent bystander."

"That we will ascertain when we have apprehended him," Lestrade replied, rather pompously.

Lestrade was called away at that time, and Adams and myself found ourselves alone. As my assistant seemed disinclined to talk, I finally turned my attention to the scene of the crime, which Holmes had already examined minutely. The alley, as I had already related, ran between two rows of run-down houses, allowing access to their tiny back yards. Some of the houses had knee-high fences but the one where the murder had taken place had none, creating a somewhat wider space than the width of the alley. The back door of the house was situated some three feet above the level of the alley, and had a small staircase with a metal railing leading up to it. Apart from the run-down appearance of the house, with many of its windows broken, I saw nothing of note. On the cobbled stones of the alley splashes of blood lay, and the police had chalked the positions of the murdered man's body and severed head, as those gruesome relics had been removed from public view earlier in the day. There was also a mark for where one sword had been found. I had no doubt that Holmes found that disturbance of the scene most annoying.

My friend, having prowled along the edges of the alley in both directions, now made his way back to me. "So Watson, what do you make of this?" he asked.

"I must say I am in agreement with both Adams and Lestrade," I had to reply. "It does seem fairly straightforward that two men did fight here, and one did kill the other; but I do not understand how the old man could have been admitted to hospital without anyone seeing the killer."

Holmes smiled indulgently. "It does seem a mystery, does it not? I am inclined to agree with Adams on one count, however. This was no murder."

"Not?" I asked incredulously. "Did not a man die here?"

Adams had come closer at my exclamation to hear Holmes' explanation.

"It is obvious, Watson," my friend replied. "This is a rather wide and open-ended alley. The combatants were not trapped here, nor did one or both try to leave although, by the witness' account, the fight had a long duration. It is clear to me that both chose to stay and fight, and that the outcome was accepted by both."

As was usual in my long history with Holmes and his marvellous deductions, this explanation made such perfect, logical sense to me that I could not think why I had not known it myself. Adams, also, was nodding in agreement, looking at my friend with eyes that seemed to find some hope there, although for the life of me I couldn't understand why.

Holmes continued. "As for the mystery of the old man's admittance to the hospital, Watson, I am somewhat amazed that you cannot tell the simple solution. It would be no mystery at all if you considered that the killer is himself a medical man, well-known at the hospital and intimately acquainted with the hospital's procedures." As he spoke he stepped around Adams and, with a lightning quick move, grabbed hold of something held concealed under Adams' overcoat. "Wouldn't you agree, Doctor Adams?" He pulled the object free to reveal a long, gleaming sword. Not a fencing sword, but a heavy, deadly-looking weapon.

I must admit this turn of events completely astounded me, but Adams' instinctive reaction was all the proof I needed to convince me Holmes was right again. As Holmes pulled clear the sword, Adams moved so swiftly that I could barely see what he did, surprising even my keen friend. One moment Holmes had held the sword, the next Adams brandished it defensively, his back against the wall of the alley, looking as dangerous as I've ever seen a man look. Then I saw him master himself with a tremendous effort of will, and he lowered the sword.

"Well, you have me, Mr. Holmes," he said wryly. "What do you intend to do with me?"

"Adams!" I exclaimed. "You are not saying you did this evil deed?" I was, understandably, quite upset by this. I could not believe that I had been working alongside a murderer, and had liked him and found him a very pleasant companion. That I had been so taken in made me all the more angry and I believe I was on the verge of doing something rash when Holmes restrained me.

"Now then, Watson, let us get to the bottom of this," said Holmes. "There are many elements to this case that I confess I do not understand. Doctor Adams, I believe you fought in self defence, and your attempt to warn the bystander and later efforts to get him medical help speak in your favour. As the good Inspector Lestrade is absent, I propose we retire to Baker street and hear your explanation."

"I am relieved to see, Mr. Holmes," my assistant said. "that Doctor Watson's good opinion of you is fully merited. Very well, I will endeavour to explain to you the events of last night, as fully as is appropriate, for you must understand there is more involved in this than you know, and I am but one small part of it." He indicated his sword. "I will keep this concealed as usual, unless you want to hand it over to Mr. Lestrade."

Somewhat to my surprise, Holmes agreed to this, and asked me to whistle up a cab to convey us back to Baker street. On the way back I watched Adams warily, for I felt as though my trust had been betrayed and I expected him at any moment to jump from the cab and disappear into the streets. He sat, however, silently, as though fully composed, with just the barest amount of concern in his eyes, as if he knew for certain we would decide in his favour, and that he would not see the gallows for his deed.

At our arrival at Baker street, Adams, with a weary sigh, removed his overcoat and hung it, sword and all, on the coat rack. Now that I knew about the sword I could see where its weight pulled the coat, and wondered that I had not seen it before. Holmes as usual could follow my thoughts and commented on it.

"Indeed Watson, when I met Adams at your office today, a medical man concealing a sword, I knew I would need look no further." He lit his pipe. "But the scene of the crime suggested several items that make little sense to me, and I hope Doctor Adams will be so good as to explain them."

Adams sat down on a chair, somehow managing to relax to such a degree that he seemed to melt into the seat. "Mr. Holmes," he began. "When you invited me to come along this afternoon I came because I sincerely wanted to see the way you work. On the way as you related the facts of your case I realised that I was only too well acquainted with it, but could see no way out of the situation. So I resolved to cooperate with you fully, and trust to your discretion, for as you will come to see, I had little choice in the matter." He raised a wan smile. "So ask your questions, and I will try to answer them."

Holmes puffed on his pipe, thinking. At last he spoke. "The events as I read them are thus. You and your opponent agreed to meet in the alley at a specific time. The purpose of the meeting was a duel to the death, which both of you agreed to. Both of you were expert swordsman, used to fighting with heavy weapons. A bystander, Smith, walked in on your duel. You tried to warn him, but your opponent callously tried to kill him. Although wounded in the duel, you managed to overcome you opponent, killing him. Then you decapitated his corpse." He frowned. "Then there seems to have been some kind of electrical discharge, such as lightning. I deduce that this happened after the decapitation because the blood on the ground around the corpse had been charred by the heat. After that you picked up the old man and took him to hospital where, because you are familiar, no-one took note of your actions. In the alley after you had left, a concealed observer emerged and walked around inspecting the ground and the corpse, taking notes with a soft-leaded pencil."

"That is regrettable!" Adams exclaimed. "I had thought there were no Watchers." The news seemed to upset him, as he lost his relaxed pose and sat upright. "Your reconstruction of the events is correct in essence, Mr. Holmes. What can I do to clarify them?"

"A moment please," I interjected before Holmes could speak. "You were wounded? Have you had the wounds looked after?" The doctor in me could not sit by and let this man, be he a killer, continue this interrogation if he was injured.

"I am quite fine, Doctor," he assured me.

"That is of interest to me too, Mr. Adams," said Holmes. "But I would know what compelled you to fight this man. What is your history together, that you would choose to become a killer? And what perplexes me most is the electrical discharge on the scene. I have heard of other cases where similar evidence was found, and would know what caused it."

Adams sighed. "That is such a long tale. And I will say to you beforehand, I will not tell you all of it. Certain things have no bearing directly on this case and have to remain hidden. As for my tale, then. I belong, you might say, to a society that has been kept secret from public knowledge for centuries. The members of this society engage in ritual duels to the death, the reason of which is hidden, even to us. Suffice it to say, if one member issues Challenge to another, the duel must take place, and none may interfere. Lost in time, too, is the reason for the decapitation, but by the rules of the society, the duel is not concluded until the loser has lost his head." He shook his head, sadly, it seemed to me.

"I have," he continued. "tried for many years to avoid these challenges, and have qualified myself as a doctor, for I have no wish to harm my fellow man. But I have kept myself in training for I have no wish to die, either."

"Al right," said I. "But why did you join such a dreadful society in the first place?"

"I was born to it, you might say," he said with a smile. "As I said, I had little choice in the matter."

Holmes, who'd been listening intently, was still frowning. "You leave out more than you say, Mr. Adams. No doubt you feel what you said is adequate, but I will not be satisfied until I understand it all. You have not mentioned the lightning."

"As you say, Mr. Holmes, it was lightning." Adams replied blandly, so much so that I felt sure he was lying. "I was just trying to pick up the wounded old man when a bolt struck from nowhere, hitting the roof of the house, the metal railings and my sword. I was flung to the ground and dropped the old man, after which he lost consciousness; concussion, I dare say, from the fall. I know not what caused the lightning, much as I do not know what causes it in clouds either."

Holmes shook his head. "I feel sure you do know... perhaps this is one of those things you will not tell us. Very well, I..."

He was interrupted by the sound of hoof beats in the street outside, as a cab pulled up outside and footsteps came up to our door. "Watson, I do believe it is Mr. Lestrade," said Holmes, and indeed it was the detective who strode excitedly into our sitting room.

"There has been another one, Mr. Holmes!" he said. "Not an hour ago! My patrolman interrupted the killer this time, but he got away into the night, leaving his dead victim."

Holmes sat bolt upright. "Was the victim decapitated?"

"No sir," Lestrade replied. "We have him in the morgue if you wanted to see him."

"Indeed we do," said Holmes. "Would you please come along, Watson, Adams? I'm sure medical men such as yourselves would be of inestimable value."

Adams did not look at all pleased at this but could say nothing in the presence of Lestrade.

"Very well," Lestrade said. "I will not accompany you, Mr. Holmes, as I have other duties. But I would be most grateful if you could let me know any conclusions you draw on this matter."

He left and we took a cab to the city morgue, where we were escorted to the place they had stowed the corpse. To the great consternation of the attendant, there was nothing there. He left us standing in the cold room as he went on a quest to find what had happened to the corpse in question.

"You said the duel is not concluded until after decapitation, did you not?" Holmes asked thoughtfully of Adams, who looked extremely uncomfortable. "Is it perhaps because the victim is not dead before?"

I had seldom seen a man look so miserable as Adams did at that point. He sighed. "I never should have worked so near such an astute man," he lamented. "So far the only thing that has gone right is that this man has already left, and did not revive to find myself leaning over him."

"Revive?" I could contain it no longer. The day's events were overwhelming me: my assistant turned out to be a sword-wielding killer, there was talk of strange lightning bolts and now of men reviving from death. "What do you mean, man?"

"I think it is becoming clear to me, Watson," Holmes said. "Although I find it hard to believe such fantastic ideas. Mr. Adams here, and such men as are in his society, for some reason escape death even by mortal wounds, unless they are decapitated. At that time, they expire in such violent fashion that windows burst and electrical bolts fly from the corpse to any metal objects in the vicinity. Am I correct, Mr. Adams?"

"Almost," Adams said. "If you don't mind, can we continue this conversation somewhere more private?" For the sound of footsteps indicated that the searching attendant was returning.

Holmes agreed to this and presently we found ourselves back in Baker Street, where Adams finally told us his true tale.

"Most of what I have told you already is absolutely true," he started. "But there is no society, as such; rather we are men and women born differently, who by some inexplicable reason have been fated to be immune to wounds and diseases that would be fatal to mortal men. Lost in time indeed is the reason why we Challenge and fight each other. We know only that in the end, there can be only one. So we duel to death, and the victor decapitates the loser, thus releasing the Quickening; that which can only be described as the life force of the slain man. But the Quickening does not just strike metal and blow out windows, Mr. Holmes. The damage it does on its path is incidental, for it unerringly searches out the nearest of our kind, usually the victor, and transfers violently into that man. It is rather a painful experience."

I know I had been listening with growing incomprehension, for it seemed to me I had somehow become involved in a horror tale reminiscent of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, with dead bodies, electricity and atrocious murders. But Holmes listened with a look of such excitement growing on his face, that I realised that he was deducing even more marvels as Adams was speaking.

"Watson told me you are quite knowledgeable about Lord Byron," Holmes mused. "Did you know him personally?"

Adams smiled with pleasure. "Indeed I do."

That simple statement took even Holmes by surprise. "You do?" He was quiet for a moment as comprehension grew in his eyes. "Who else?"

Adam shook his head. "That I will not tell you. Byron has done with the life he was famous for; he is safe from discovery once again. Others that I call friends I will not expose, and those who are my enemies I will face myself. We have strived through the years to remain unknown, or at least, that our gift - our curse - remain unknown, for we fear the witch hunt that will start once we become public knowledge."

Holmes nodded. "It seems inevitable that such a hunt would start, yes. You risk much to trust us."

"Mr. Holmes, with a man as tenacious as you are, I had no chance at all," Adams laughed. "But I do trust your integrity, and that of Doctor Watson. But the question remains, what do you intend to do with me?"

Holmes shrugged. "I truly have no idea, but I will think on it."

Some time during the conversation I had finally realised what the implication of Adams' story was, even as Holmes had done. My assistant was immortal! And yet he was part of some secret cult whose sole purpose seemed to be to kill each other off. And he kept speaking of years and centuries as if they held little meaning for him.

"How old are you?" I finally blurted out. "How long have you led this terrible existence?"

"Terrible?" Adams asked. "I don't know that I would call it terrible. We have our moments of peace, indeed I have spent centuries living on Holy Ground, studying and marvelling at the world."

"Holy Ground?" Holmes asked. "Some kind of sanctuary?"

"Yes," said Adams. "We do not fight on Holy Ground, and before you ask, that includes any place that has been sanctified. Monasteries have harboured many of us through the years, although eventually anyone would weary of such an existence and leave, once again to face the possibility of Challenge."

"So you are centuries old," I persisted, annoyed at his skilful change of subject.

"My dear Doctor, I see there is no getting away from you either," Adams said. "I am not completely certain how old I am, my first years are shrouded in mystery, but I am reasonably sure of almost five thousand years."

That was too much for me, and I expect for Holmes as well. My reaction must have been characteristic. "You are mad!" I exclaimed, feeling such relief as I've never felt in my life. All this was the delusion of a lunatic; all was well with the world.

Adams smiled. "I fear some demonstration is in order. Have you a pocket knife I could borrow, Mr. Holmes?"

Holmes produced one, and Adams took a handkerchief from his pocket. "I apologise for the mess," he said, and deftly slashed his hand open to the bone. He clenched his teeth and hissed with pain, but held the hand for us to see as Holmes and myself leaped to his assistance. "Just wait," he instructed us. The bleeding was profuse, but slackened in a matter of seconds to a trickle, then to nothing. Adams took the handkerchief and wiped the pooling blood from his hand, revealing that the cut was closing before our very eyes. In less than a minute the awful cut had healed to an angry scar, then the scar faded away and there was nothing to be seen of what had been a serious injury.

I sat down weakly.

Holmes it was who helped Adams clean up the blood, and then called for drinks to be brought, for I am sure he could see I was in need of it. As I slowly recovered my nerves, Adams told us a little of his life; where he had travelled, what he had done in his long life. It is hard now to describe the sense of wonder that I felt as I came to accept his story. Holmes, that master of logic, asked Adams about the great Greek philosophers and was astounded again to learn that Adams had studied with Aristotle and Plato. The uncharitable might say that Adams was spinning the tales we wanted to hear, but he spoke authoritatively about matters that we could verify; proving to the satisfaction of Holmes, and thus to mine, that he was indeed what he claimed to be: a man, thousands of years old, who had met some of the greatest people our civilization had ever produced.

As the evening wore on the question came up again regarding Holmes' intent. My friend, who I could see was completely won over by Adams' amazing presence, spent some minutes seriously thinking before he answered. "I have to know, Adams, what your intentions are. Only then can I make a decision."

"Fair enough," Adams agreed. "I would continue as I were, with Doctor Watson's leave. My intent as always is to help my fellow man, and barring the odd Challenge, I plan to do no violence to anyone. I hope I have made it clear to you that I do not seek out these fights, they come to me, such is the curse of my life."

By then I would have agreed to anything Adams said that would keep him within talking distance of myself, for I had never come across anyone who could tell such amazing tales. Holmes would always amaze me with his fantastic faculties; Adams would astound me with experience. I sincerely hoped Holmes would feel the same way, and he did.

"Then, Doctor Adams," said Holmes. "My intentions are thus: I will say nothing to Lestrade of your involvement in this case, and I would be honoured to receive you as my guest at any time."

To which we all clinked glasses, said our goodnights and went to bed.


Adams stayed on as my assistant for another three years, until Holmes returned from "death" himself and I became a full partner in his detective business. During that time I witnessed several times the Challenges that Adams fought, and was after the first approached by a group called the Watchers who sought to recruit me to chronicle Adams' movements. This I refused to do, not wishing to betray his trust, and I warned him about them.

To my surprise he found it very amusing, hinting that these Watchers owed their existence to himself, but that he was grateful for my discretion.

It was with sadness that I watched him leave in 1893, on his way then to South Africa, where he planned to start a small country practice. I received some letters from him sporadically until 1899, when he wired to tell me he was going to America. After that I'd heard nothing more from him until this letter, dated 7 February 1915, in which he asked me to write these recollections, which I have gladly done. It is comforting somehow, to know that this little manuscript will travel through time with this timeless man, and I wish him well now, and into the future.

The end.

Joe carefully rewrapped the precious manuscript, marvelling silently at the wonderful opportunity he had to share a bit of history with Methos, even if the man was cynical, annoying and in the long run, completely egocentric. It was all made up for by the very fact of his existence. And he made marvellous stir-fry.

(c) Leoni Venter 5-8 February 2004

(revised 13 February 2004)

(Written entirely on computer, I never set pen to paper on this one, which is a first for me

- ah, the electronic world is fast overwhelming me, I fear.)

Note: As I've had some questions with regard to Holmes' return from "death", I thought it well to clarify what I meant. Serious Sherlockian scholars (and the rest of us, who just read and enjoyed the original Conan Doyle's) know that Sir Arthur "killed" Holmes in the story "The final problem", where Holmes faced his archenemy Professor Moriarty. Holmes, however, did not die, but pretended to be dead, hoping to draw out his enemy's right-hand man. He did so in "The Adventure of the Empty House" which is to be found in "The Return of Sherlock Holmes". Holmes, then, did return from "death", but not from death, if you can appreciate the difference.

As for making Holmes immortal .. I cannot think of any torture greater than the curse of Immortality for the great dectective, who, by all accounts, could not bear his tedious life in between cases. How then could I inflict him with never-ending boredom? For he would have to be anonymous, so that mortals wouldn't discover his immortality. Sorry gentle readers, accept that the great man is gone.

Disclaimer: Methos, Joe and Immortal lore belong to Rysher: Panzer/Davis. Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are in the public domain now, but of course their marvellous adventures were the work of the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I don't profit from this and only wrote it to practice long and involved sentences laden with fancy words.