The singular and most talented Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson et al are the creations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is a work of fan fiction, by a fan, for the enjoyment of other fans and no harm is meant or intended by its creation.
The Case of the Assured Assassin
I: A Most Regrettable Incident
In the recounting of those mysteries in which I had the privilege to assist Mr Sherlock Holmes, I hope I have never given the impression that our alliance was entirely one-sided as I have endeavoured as much as I am able to convey the depth of our friendship.
At the best of times, Holmes is hopelessly inscrutable; at the worst, inexcusably rude. But I flatter myself that, of all people, he has invariably chosen me as his companion in the pursuit of justice and has allowed me to chronicle those cases which have presented him with the most challenging of problems.
I do not pretend, however, that it has always been easy. The occasion of my marriage put a strain on our relationship and made demands upon myself that Holmes was either unwilling or unable to appreciate. Telegrams in the middle of the night, requests to pursue a particular line of enquiry on his behalf, long absences without a word and then a sudden reappearance – I will not pretend that at times Holmes can be the most trying man in London.
Fortunately, I am blessed with a most forgiving and understanding wife in Mary, and I am painfully aware that my acquaintance with Holmes forces me at times to neglect her most abysmally. She has never demanded that I choose between my marriage and my friendship, although I have often seen the disappointment in her eyes when I have told her that I must leave her another night because Holmes has requested it.
Occasionally, however, I feel the need to refine our boundaries, lest my whole being become a mere adjunct to one of Holmes' investigations. On the evening in question, a warm Saturday in the November of 1890, we were preparing to go to the theatre to attend a play that Mary was most eager to see when a most insistent telegram arrived from Holmes. It was not so much the nature of the request, but the curt manner in which he had worded it.
"Come immediately. Whatever you are doing is insignificant compared to this!"
It sometimes crosses my mind that Holmes has no respect for me at all. Strange as though it may appear to him, I do have a life that does not revolve around criminals and the baser side of human nature. Nor do I like to be told that my meagre existence, for what it is worth, is unimportant.
Worse still, he had known of this engagement for over a month, for he had secured the tickets to the opening night for me as a favour. That he should ask this, on this of all nights, struck me as an appalling lack of regard.
My indignation was raised all the more by the sudden appearance of my wife, looking both radiant and happy in the expectation of a rare evening spent together. She saw the telegram in my hand and that patient look of understanding took the place of joy in her eyes. There was nothing for it. The telegram went into the wastepaper basket without a second thought. As I say, at times, boundaries are needed.
The next day, of course, I was plagued with guilt. Holmes had needed me and I had turned my back on him. Amends would have to be made, and so I had journeyed to Baker Street later that day.
His reception was decidedly chilly. His mood was bumptious and his manner off-hand. He would tell me nothing, for, as he stated, it was plainly of no interest to me. I generally hate the hurly-burly of an argument, but it seemed to me that I deserved better than this brusque treatment.
It is rare that our friendship is rocked by disagreements. That afternoon, however, words were exchanged that would have been better not said. Like the genie released from his bottle, harsh words spoken in anger are not easily recaptured. I left, smarting from our row, and vowing never to return.
Several days later, I was torn between my own pride and the certainty that I had made a horrible mistake. I will admit to my faults; Holmes, however, will admit to none. In his mind, this disagreeable affair was entirely my doing. He would never see that his constant demands were unreasonable or at times inconvenient.
All the same, any satisfaction I had gained from stating my case was tempered by the knowledge that I had probably injured him just as severely as he had me. In the closing stages of our dispute, I had accused him of taking advantage of my willingness to assist and accompany him. At the time, I had felt it most deeply; looking back now, I am ashamed beyond words.
For if it was ever so, then it was done with my wholehearted consent. There was not one moment I have ever regretted, nor one adventure I would have missed. There is surely no greater fool in London than me. Worst of all, I had known where to strike to wound the deepest and had done so without mercy.
Before I had no peace, but now I had no comfort. Contrition is never pleasant, but in this case it was a necessary evil.
Mary, I think, was relieved that I had made my mind up to settle my differences with Sherlock Holmes. Since that business in which our paths first crossed, she has carried a torch for my friend, which I am not sure he entirely deserves, especially as he had tried his level best to dissuade me from the match. I had chosen not to heed what I saw as his meddling and I am not sure that he has ever truly forgiven me for defying him.
Perhaps it was because he knew in his heart that I had been in the right. I have never been happier or more content. There are times when I miss those heady bachelor days, and I am always consoled by what I have gained, more than longing for what was lost.
However, it was never my intention to abandon my singular friend. Where there are amends to be made, I have often found that a small gift can ease the path to forgiveness. Accordingly, I had selected the finest single malt whisky money could buy and the peace-offering sat on my desk, waiting for the time when I could leave my practice and head over to Baker Street.
As it happened, patients were few and far between that afternoon, and I had intended to close early. With the clock striking four, I decided that it was time to leave. No sooner had I laid aside my pen than the maid informed me that a gentleman was asking to be seen.
With a sigh, I told her to show him in. In due course, a small middle-aged gentleman was ushered in and I invited him to take a seat.
Dapper and impeccably neat in habit, he regarded me through a pair of thick-lensed glasses in a manner that reminded me of a quizzical bird.
"You are Dr John Watson?" asked he.
"I am, sir. How may I be of assistance?"
He sniffed, a little disdainfully to my mind, and I would not be lying if I said that suddenly I began to have misgivings about this potential patient.
"I had thought you would be older," said the man.
It was a strange opening gambit and one that made me even more on my guard. I began to regret my practice of keeping my old service revolver in the chest of drawers in my dressing room rather than at hand in my desk.
"Your name, sir?"
"My name is of no import, Doctor. Do sit down and listen, sir," said he, seeing my half-hearted attempt to rise from my seat. "You ask how you may be of assistance to me. Well, my dear sir, it is quite simple what I ask."
"Oh, yes. I want you to assist me in the murder of Mr Sherlock Holmes."
Continued in II: The Smiling Assassin
Reviews always gratefully received and very welcome!