The soft sound of a resonating violin string penetrated the silence in the dark room, a single corner dimly lit by the flickering of a candle.
Holmes plucked absent-mindedly at the wooden instrument as he watched the flame dance in front of him, and cast his mind back to his earlier encounter of the day.
He had been tailing a murder suspect for what seemed like forever (in fact, just a few short hours), fully disguised in order to avoid detection. The streets of London never seemed to end as Holmes pursued his target, inching closer by the minute.
The suspect in question had been wanted for interrogation by Scotland Yard for a long time, yet the case had only landed in Holmes' lap the day previously.
It never failed to amaze him how incompetent the force seemed to be, and yet again he was proving them amateur as he closed in on the subject within the space of 24 hours.
Predicting imminent capture, Holmes almost allowed himself a sigh of relief - knowing that finally there would be answers to the recent string of murders along the banks of the River Thames. If the suspect proved innocent, he was sure at least that he would bring much needed evidence to the fore, and they could finally begin to wrap up the seemingly never-ending case.
As they approached Whitehall, Holmes watched as the man ahead of him slowed down. With no doorway to slip into, or any available form of camouflage, there was nothing for Holmes to do but watch as the man turned slowly and glared in his direction.
He'd been seen.
Before Holmes could rethink his plan of action, the man broke into a sprint, out onto Whitehall and right into the path of a passing hansom. The chase was over, and for the suspect, that wasn't all that came to an end that morning.
As the crowd quickly gathered, Holmes edged closer and elbowed his way forward, just in time to see the cab driver dip his head, and cover the staring, bloodied face with his handkerchief.
Holmes plucked at his violin again, this time with more force as he remembered the man lying in the street, twisted and broken. He could hear the whinnying of the horses, and the sound of their hooves hitting the cobbles in fear, and he could still see the sobbing women, being gently guided away from the scene by their husbands.
It just wouldn't do.
Holmes had never failed so spectacularly. Firstly, he had been seen. Secondly, he should never have allowed such a catastrophe to happen. He should have apprehended the target much earlier and turned him into the police before such atrocities came to bear.
As it stood, he had accomplished nothing but to hinder the investigation further. The only major lead in the case was now lying cold on the mortuary slab; with not a single answer on its lips.
As he propped the violin against the table leg, his eyes fell upon the Moroccan case that held position in its usual resting place. It had been a long time since Holmes had paid any attention to his old friend, and brushing away the fleeting notion of guilt, he laid his fingers upon it, relishing the creaking sound it made as his fingers slowly prised it open.
If ever there was a suitable time for such indulgence, in Holmes' mind, this was it.
Before he had chance to further contemplate the shining needle enclosed inside the velvet case, the door to his room swung open, and in the hallway stood the silhouette of Dr John Watson.
"Holmes, old chap, it is not yet dusk! This is no time at all to be brooding by candlelight!"
The dark shape entered the room and moved swiftly towards the window, and Holmes deduced that the drapes would soon be pinned back, flooding the room with unwanted afternoon sunlight.
His fingers moved quickly and closed the case to, quietly stowing it away in his desk drawer to save himself from the lecture that he would undoubtedly receive from his friend. A dressing down was certainly not needed at a time like this, and he had grown increasingly accustomed to concealing his habit.
As the curtains were flung open, he dropped his head to shield himself from the unforgiving daylight. He heard Watson turn on his heel and waited for the conversation he had been dreading for the past hour.
"I just bumped into Lestrade, just outside, in fact. No doubt he was here to see you, but don't worry, I headed him off. He told me what happened, and I had a feeling you wouldn't be accommodating to visitors right now."
Holmes let out a low groan at Watson's chirpy disposition. The doctor never failed to hit his nerves at times like these, and although Holmes realised it was in an attempt to cheer him up, he couldn't help but be slightly vexed by the effort.
"Oh, come now, Holmes. It can't be as bad as all that. I've requested a nice pot of tea from Mrs Hudson, so come sit on the settee and you can tell me all about it"
Raising his head from his hands, Holmes glared almost aggressively at Watson, but he felt a pinch of regret as he saw him blanch at the stare.
"I do not need your tea and sympathy, Watson. What I need is silence, and to be alone. I have neither if you are hovering over me, Mother Hen. Kindly leave me."
He stood up from his chair and stepped over piles of news clippings as he strode across the room to show Watson out. As he gripped the door handle, he felt a simultaneous grip on his own shoulder, followed by a small pat on his back. As much as he wanted to flinch away, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"Holmes… I'm not leaving. Sit."
Resigned to his fate, Holmes turned back into the room without looking at Watson. He knew there would be a smug grin residing on Watson's face, and he didn't need to add any more fuel to his already raging fire. He had never felt anger quite like it. Not at his friend, but at himself. He wasn't accustomed to being a failure, and his ego was bruised beyond immediate repair. Now certainly wasn't the time for him to discuss his shortcomings, but he was sagacious enough to know that he wasn't going to get out of this anytime soon.
As he sat on the settee, Mrs Hudson arrived with the tea. Glancing over at Watson, she gave a nervous smile, which was met by a curt nod. Holmes grimaced as he realised Watson had already informed her of the nature of Holmes' dark mood, and it pained him to think that they had been discussing him like a pair gossiping widows. To save him from further embarrassment, he swung his legs up onto the settee brashly; leaned back with his arms folded and shot a look of disdain at the poor housekeeper.
"Ah, Nanny… More poison I see? Enjoy your 'tea' Watson, for I shan't be having any of it."
Mrs Hudson rolled her eyes (for this wasn't the first time she'd had such insults), and left the room hurriedly. She had no intention of staying around for the fireworks.