The Unwitting Pawn

by J. Rosemary Moss

I stared at Holmes, feeling a fool as he wiped the vaseline from his forehead and the rouge from his cheeks. I had wanted to shout for joy when I first realised that he was feigning his illness—when I first realised that I would not, in fact, lose my friend. His ghastly appearance and feverish mutterings about oysters had been a calculated ruse to surprise a confession out of a villain. But however happy I was to know that Holmes was safe, I could not help but feel bitterly hurt.

He did not notice my expression. He was too preoccupied with his victory and the quality of his performance to spare a thought for the fact that he had monstrously used a friend.

He had led me to believe that he was dying, so that I would, in turn, be a believable messenger when I conveyed the news. Holmes had little faith in my abilities as an actor, and so chose not to take me into his confidence. But neither did he consider what it would do to me to believe him at death's door.

He was explaining his trap in detail now. I could not help but admire his cunning and his determination to bring a murderer to justice—even as I deplored his method. And so I managed a weak smile to encourage him.

"Thank you, Watson," he was saying, "you must help me on with my coat. When we have finished at the police-station I think that something nutritious at Simpson's would not be out of place."

I nodded in agreement as I came to his assistance. Once I had managed to help him shrug his way into the coat, he turned toward me. I'll never forget his face at that moment. It was still showing the effects of too long a fast, but his grey eyes were nonetheless triumphant. That changed in an instant, however, when he at last caught my expression.

We stood there staring at one another for a long moment, until Holmes broke the silence. There was a wry, almost regretful look in his eyes as he forced out the words.

"It was not, perhaps, well done of me to have used you as a pawn in this business," he managed.

I sighed. "No—nor to have used Mrs. Hudson in the same fashion. But I'm not angry, old chap."

"No," he agreed. "But this is the reason you left, is it not? I don't mean this case in particular—"

"Yes," I said, cutting him off. I knew precisely what he meant. It was this ruthless quality of his that had driven me away. Not from our friendship—never from that—but from the more intimate relationship we had shared.

Holmes turned away and resolutely fastened his coat. "We should make all haste to the police-station," he said abruptly. "They will be waiting to hear our account of the matter."

I did not voice an answer. I merely nodded and followed him to the door.