"John, do catch up!"
Pursuit of a suspect was what he lived for, and tonight I found myself in likewise pursuit of the world's only consulting (and equally athletic) detective through a maze of dank London streets. I skidded around yet another brick corner in time to see him fly around another one ahead of me. It only took eight alleyways to confuse my compass of the city, with my only hope of direction being the figure darting in and out of the shadows before me. I picked up the pace at the risk of slipping about in the dark and cursed under my breath. An awful week and my evening off was ruined by ill-timed criminals who insisted on running everywhere.
"Come on, we're losing him!" Sherlock's voice echoed some ten meters ahead.
Hell if we lost him. We should be chasing this guy in a taxi anyway.
As I reached the end of the alley, a hand reached out and slung me back against the shadowed wall.
"He's stopped," Sherlock hissed beside me, releasing his grip on my arm and gesturing to the passage around the corner.
"Well, that's just great. He's probably catching his breath before running across the other half of London," I panted, leaning heavily against the cool stone.
"Really, John. Hardly the time."
"Figured I'd lighten the mood a bit."
Sherlock shifted to peer around the corner before drawing back into the shadows. "He's just standing there. What's he waiting for?"
I rolled my eyes. "Clever you."
Sherlock ignored me and slipped away, dropping immediately into a crouching posture. Following his example, my eye caught the dark figure of a man standing squarely in the middle of the narrow passage. He appeared to be swinging something to his left. I squinted in the hazed, dim light. A cane, perhaps?
The shape darted away as we flew into a run down the lane, and the figure seemed to melt into a sudden swirl of fog that engulfed the end of the passage. A moment later we had come to a halt in the middle of a deserted street, the streetlights casting a sickly light over the stretch of road. It almost hurt to breathe the thick mists in so quickly, and I was soon coughing in turn to catch my breath.
"Damn it!" Sherlock snarled beside me and looked as if he were searching for a place to slam his fist into. Finding none, he shoved his hands deep within his pockets and whirled on me. "Did you see where he went?"
"Direction, John! Did you see which direction?"
"Straight, as far as I could tell."
"Fantastic," he growled, pulling his hands from his jacket to cross his arms. "Perhaps we should have checked the weather beforehand, hmm? If it weren't for this fog, we wouldn't-"
We never heard the car. It was as if it materialized from the very haze around us. We never even saw it coming down the road. But we felt it. Felt metal slam into bone and glass pierce flesh, before the jarring impact of body upon pavement. Then it was gone, as noiselessly as it had come.
When the air returned to my lungs, I felt like retching. Surely I was bleeding somewhere, but was too dazed to check the status of all my limbs. The damp stone felt cool against my face, and I closed my eyes, breathing deeply.
"Hallo there! Are you alright?"
The voice jolted me from my stupor. I lifted my head, slowly opening my eyes. "Yeah. Think so."
"'Fraid I didn't see you, on account of this weather we've been havin'." A strong hand pulled me to my feet, and I was surprised to feel no pain of any sort.
I squinted in an even dimmer light and beheld a smallish man before me, dressed in what appeared to be extremely old-fashioned attire. But I'd seen stranger things after nightfall and let it go for the moment.
"John, reach your hand out in front of you." It was Sherlock's voice at my side, and I almost jumped at the sudden command.
"Sherlock! Well, glad to know you survived all that."
He continued to stare straight ahead. "Put out your hand, John."
"Just do it."
I stretched an arm out into the darkness before me and felt something warm. Alive. Coarse-haired. The thing snorted and I leapt backward.
"There are actually two of them."
"Strange. I didn't know they gave carriage rides so-"
"What's beneath your feet?" Sherlock continued mechanically, as if completing a meticulous evaluation.
I frowned. "Pavement."
I scuffed my shoe across the surface and paused. "Cobblestone."
"And what is lighting the street?"
"Very poor electricity."
"Really look, John."
I shuffled up to the nearest post and gazed upward. I bit my lip. "It looks…well, it looks like a gas lamp."
"Yes, it is."
"I'm not sure where this is going, but-"
Sherlock pulled me past the horses and pointed to the thing behind them. "And what does that look like to you?"
It wasn't a carriage after all. It almost looked like a small antique or contraption straight out of a history museum exhibit. I fumbled for the word then simply muttered, "Don't know."
"Yes, you do." I heard his tone quaver a bit, as if he were fighting a sudden wave of shock. "It's a hansom cab, a particular model that hasn't been used in London since the year 1892."
I shrugged. "So it looks like some collector is just out for a bit of nostalgia and decided to take one of these—what are you doing?"
He had somehow found a collection of trash bins at the end of alleyway and was rummaging furiously through them, tossing rubbish to every side.
I sighed. "Really, Sherlock, I don't see-"
He had sprinted back and was pushing something into my hands. "Read it."
I squinted down. "I've already read today's newspaper, thanks."
"For God's sake, John, read the date." Sherlock's voice was cracking.
I shifted the paper toward the lamplight and staggered back.