What We Have to Fear
A/N: This is dedicated to Runa93, who requested it, and to elecktrum, who gave me the kick in the pants to get on with it. Hope you like!
May 3, 1899
I have remained so distraught from the horrifying events of this most horrifying day that I believe I am driving my poor fellow-lodger wholly out of his mind. He has finally dropped off to sleep on the couch here in our sitting room, after sternly telling me I have need of a sedative.
Poor chap, he himself needs it more than I – for reasons of physical pain, rather than mental anguish as my current problem seems to be. I cannot imagine the bruise he is going to be carrying for the next week or two.
Even now, I shiver at the thought that, had it not been for a piece of random luck and a kind Providence's gift to me, I might be trying to release the grief of death into these pages instead of merely pent-up fear and terror.
Watson has always said that releasing emotions rather than bottling them up is not only healthier than doing so but also clears the mind incredibly, and I have found it to be true.
Where to start?
It began two days ago. Watson had coaxed, cajoled, and finally almost dragged me out-of-doors for a walk about London, insisting the weather was much too beautiful to remain inside on such a day. Romantic to the core, my dear Watson certainly is.
But my annoyance about being forcibly removed from writing my new monograph on the uses of the microscope in criminal investigation soon faded, and I was forced to admit he was quite correct – it was indeed a lovely day.
Of course, neither of us knew that the innocence of that spring morning was soon to be shattered for both of us in a violent and quite deadly manner.
We wandered about for the better part of two hours, and I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I was actually quite happy – content in the company of the one man I had ever allowed close enough to me to be called a friend.
Watson has more remarkable qualities than I give him credit for, and one of them is his gift of understanding. He is actually one of the most intelligent beings I have come across, but his gentle self-effacing manner makes him to be, though quite a stimulating conversationalist in his own right, the one thing every man wants to have in a friend – a perfect listener.
As a result, I was enjoying myself so much that I did not realize the time until Watson looked at his watch with an exclamation, saying something about needing to be back in time for tea or suffer the wrath of our worthy landlady.
I laughed – although an incurable romantic, Watson is also most predictable and prosaic at times. Although I seriously doubted that Mrs. Hudson would ever come to the point where she would cease to take care of us, I too did not wish to push my luck further than I already had, and so we turned our steps in the direction of Baker Street.
We were crossing Oxford Street when Watson made some passing remark about how 'perfectly lovely' the day was. Although I agreed with him in my head, out of habit I started into a friendly argument about romantic imaginings, simply for the sake of conversation.
Mid-sentence, I heard the too-loud clattering of horses' hooves, and my instincts told me something was dreadfully wrong. Out of the corner of my vision I saw a four-wheeler bearing down upon us with terrible rapidity.
The image of the cab that had nearly run me down in the Moriarty case flashed through my mind even as I shouted a warning and hurled myself at Watson, who had not seen the vehicle as of yet.
I do not believe I have ever tackled a man before, and I was very afraid I had injured my friend, especially when he did not answer my queries right away. The cab blew by us with a great rush of wind as Watson finally shook his head as if to clear it and looked up at me.
He answered my worried questions in the affirmative and allowed me to help him to his feet, where we both looked at the vehicle now disappearing around the corner.
"That imbecile! We could both have been killed!" I was furious.
Watson muttered something about my tackle being worthy of a rugby field, and I smiled at his humor. But then he stumbled, and his grip on my shoulder tightened convulsively. I became very worried – he really looked dreadfully ill.
I told him as much, and he muttered something about getting a cab. My alarm grew when I heard that his words had started to slur together, and then without warning he just collapsed into my arms, unconscious.
My first reaction was, I must confess, to being absolutely petrified that he had been hurt in that violent fall to the sidewalk. A man came hurrying up to me just as I gently put Watson on the ground and introduced himself as a doctor. I told him what had happened, and he assured me that it was probably just a concussion.
We brought Watson back to Baker Street and after examining him, the man pronounced his earlier diagnosis to be correct and warned me sternly to not allow Watson to exert himself for several hours.
And then the kind man left, without allowing me to pay him for his trouble, insisting that he might need a favor from Sherlock Holmes someday. I still stand amazed sometimes at humanity – perhaps there is hope for us after all, if people like that still live in this world.
I sat by Watson's head, watching him anxiously, for the better part of an hour. When finally he opened his eyes and looked at me, such relief filled me that I slumped backward in my chair with a sigh and got out a badly-needed cigarette.
Hoping Watson could not yet see clearly enough to notice that my hands were shaking, I asked him how he was feeling. He responded slowly, obviously not yet remembering what had happened. I informed him of what the doctor had said, and then he remembered everything and asked after the four-wheeler.
That, indeed, puzzled me. I have a good many people in this capital that would wish to do me an ill turn, but I seriously doubt any of the small fry would have the time or the means to find out that we were out walking, locate us, and then send a cab after us to run us down. Knifing us in an alley would be more their weapon of choice, at any rate.
An incident like that one was faintly reminiscent of a more malignant, widespread power. Almost like that of the Napoleon of Crime's organization. The mere whisper of remembrance chilled me to my very core.
I had no more time to ponder the matter, however, because I heard the front doorbell ring and then without hesitation pounding feet on the stairs and someone shouting an explanation to Mrs. Hudson.
Then the sitting room door burst open and a man barreled into the room, nearly knocking me down as I had risen to meet him.
"Hold up, Lestrade," I said, recognizing the sallow, ferret-faced features of the Yarder, now tinged with a deep worry, "What the deuce is the matter, man?"
"Mr. Holmes, thank God I got here in time! Doctor, what happened to you?" the man gasped, trying to catch his breath, seeing Watson lying on the couch.
I explained hastily about the cab in Oxford Street and then fired an impatient question at the man about his unceremonious entrance.
"I came as soon as I heard the news, Mr. Holmes. I was so afraid he might beat me here!"
"Lestrade," I said warningly, beginning to lose what little patience I possess with the official forces, "Who? Out with it!"
Lestrade gasped in a deep breath of air, and then he went on. And his next statement sent such a chill through my soul I could almost tangibly feel the air grow cold.
"Mr. Holmes, Colonel Sebastian Moran escaped from Dartmoor Prison early this morning. He was seen in London just over an hour ago!"
TBC! Tell me what you think, Runa93!