by Morgan Stuart

Mrs. Hudson found the envelope marked "Sherlock Holmes" propped against the front door when she returned from her shopping. Minutes later it was in the consulting detective's hands. He studied the quality of the stationery, the seal of the flap, the mechanics of the handwriting, the properties of the ink.

He opened it with gloved fingers, as attentive as if it were a crime scene.

The front of the card carried no words or images. It was embossed with a common geometric design. Unremarkable. Uninformative.

On the inside, the card held three evenly spaced locks of short hair, each secured to the paper with a narrow strip of transparent tape.

The fine strands of the first lock shone a chestnut so deep that in certain lights it might be mistaken for black. A hue preserved chemically, to be certain. A minor concession to vanity. But understated and tasteful enough to be elegant, all the same.

Thicker than the first, the second lock showed rich chocolate strands at different stages of surrender to a glistening silver. The hairs bristled against the confines of the tape, but they fanned out with surprising grace when he brushed them with a fingertip.

The third lock comprised light brown strands burnished to the colour of antique gold. Despite their clipped length, a few stubbornly tried to curl. One lone grey hair shimmered amidst its neighbors as Sherlock tilted the card for closer inspection.

He knew the scent of each lock even before he inhaled: the refined hint of cologne, the traditional spice of aftershave, the clean note of shampoo. Instantly recognizable.

Centered below the three, penned in a bold and deliberate hand, sat a single word:


Moriarty hadn't signed his name.

The End