Chapter 25

Well, this is it, folks! Thanks for sticking around and faithfully reviewing. Sherlock and Miss Bassano will be back, I promise. You can read the sequels sometime in the new year. If you've followed this story, please review and let me know what you thought. I do love reviews, as Haley Macrae (my most faithful reviewer) knows. In the meantime, I plan a play date with another tall, thin, and tortured fictional character, this time in the Harry Potter category. Watch for that soon. And what better way to end this fanfiction than in the words of Dr Watson?

It was in the autumn of the year 1894, and I sat with my friend Sherlock Holmes in our old rooms at Baker Street. News of his return had caused a sensation in London, and his services were constantly requested in matters of unsolved crime. With his usual sharp manner, Holmes would dismiss the ones which did not interest him personally, preferring to focus his energies on cases which allowed him to put his logical and creative faculties to good use. It was just such a case from which he had recently returned, and he related its more pertinent details to me as we sat in our customary places.

His pipe and his story ended at the same time, and my friend languorously stood from his seat, emptying the ashes into the fireplace. He moved to his desk, in the locked front drawer of which I had known him to store the vile drug in which he indulged. I had spent many years trying to convince him to give up the habit, and I was loath to see him in its devilish grip so soon after his return to the world of the living.

"Surely you will not return to the use of cocaine, Holmes!" I exclaimed as he inserted a small key into the lock.

He smiled at me as he extracted not the long needle-case, but a leather pouch of tobacco from the drawer.

"I have come around to your way of thinking, my dear Doctor," he said as he calmly transferred the contents of the pouch into the Persian slipper on the mantelpiece. "I no longer rely on cocaine for my recreation."

"I am delighted to hear it," I cried. "So you have at last chosen a more wholesome way of distracting your mind?"

"Yes," Holmes nodded. "I have taken a cottage on the South Downs, and intend to escape there between cases. I have found the fresh air and sunlight to have restorative properties."

"Indeed," I said, amazed at this change in my friend's attitude.

"You may join me on my next sojourn there, if your schedule permits it."

"I would be honoured," I accepted.

So it was that several weeks later I found myself in Holmes' small cottage on the edge of the Channel. We sat in companionable silence in the front room, my friend's long, thin body stretched across the sofa, his eyes closed dreamily. The quiet was interrupted occasionally by the intermittent crackle of the logs in the cast-iron stove.

A noise came from outside, as the wooden gate which led to the cottage's front garden creaked and closed. Holmes' eyes flew open, and he was at the door before a knock had even sounded. The visitor was slightly obscured by Holmes' lanky figure at first, but as he stepped aside, I saw that it was a woman. Next to my friend, she seemed small indeed, but I guessed her height to be just over five feet. She had black hair and eyes; the latter seemed intelligent and lively. Her cheeks were flushed attractively from walking in the crisp autumn wind, and she looked to be about thirty.

"I've just learned of your arrival," she said to Holmes. "I didn't realise you had a visitor," she added, nodding graciously to me.

"Indeed," said Holmes. "This is my friend and colleague Dr Watson, come to visit me from London. Watson, this is my landlady, Miss Beatrice Bassano."

I stepped forward to shake her hand. "Is that Bassano, like the society photographer?" I inquired.

"No relation, I'm afraid," she smiled in reply.

"May I take your coat?" Holmes asked.

"No thank you, I shall not stay long. I merely came to inquire whether you would join us up at the house for dinner this evening. Dr Watson is also invited, of course. It's very informal, just some old friends and—" she smiled again in my direction, "—some new ones. Will you consider coming?"

Holmes and I exchanged glances, surprised at this hospitality. "Dr Watson and I will be pleased to attend," Holmes said.

"Good," Miss Bassano exclaimed. She turned to leave, but paused at the door. "I will send Abigail with some fresh linens for Dr Watson's bed. See you tonight!" She was certainly a very charming woman, and I was pleased that Holmes had been so easily accepted into her company. Though my old friend usually shunned female society, I hoped that his acceptance of Miss Bassano's invitation was a sign of the change in his cold and isolated heart.

Dinner was an entertaining affair. Miss Bassano's uncle, Sir Edgar Smith presided over the table, and though his manner was that of one accustomed to power over men, he was gracious and welcoming to his guests. Our hostess had also invited several masters from a nearby coaching establishment. Holmes, never a man to make friends easily, seemed to genuinely enjoy the company of their director, one Harold Stackhurst. The conversation flowed easily all night, and when we had at last retired back to the little cottage, I was certain that Holmes could only flourish in such surroundings. There, on the Downs, far from London's criminal underworld, Sherlock Holmes could at last find peace.