It was a pitifully small bundle to hold such weight.
Three narrow strips of fabric lay entwined and knotted together: fine silk the colour of aged parchment; worn but clean white Oxford cloth; soft cotton in a cosy, earth-toned plaid. Each piece was stained a telltale crimson-brown at one corner.
Seated at the makeshift laboratory assembled on the kitchen table, Sherlock Holmes lowered himself into the mindset of his nemesis like a diver descending into dark waters. He needed to know what the monster planned for the three men whose blood decorated the cloth before him.
Sherlock could almost hear Moriarty's smooth voice, faint as a whisper in his ear.
"You watch over him, fund his so-called lifestyle, and he repays you by resenting your attention and generosity. But I ask myself: why destroy one Holmes when I can destroy two? You can be my personal project. I'd like to take you apart and see what makes you tick before I throw away the pieces. I'm sure you're aware that you're far too dangerous to be allowed to live. Even if he asked me to spare you, which we both know he won't."
"You're a joke to him, and you always have been, even when you were saving his life and getting him clean. You bend the rules to allow him to do the work he loves – he needs – and you're insulted for it. But I have use for you even if he doesn't. My associates would dearly love to have a play date with a copper. Think of yourself as a night's free entertainment: 'use once and destroy.' Great for group morale, don't you think?"
"I wonder: what would it do to your master, if I put his little pet down for good? Even if – no, especially if – he begs for your life? Would he come apart at those stylish seams? I think it would be great fun to find out. Then again, now that you've shown him the joy of adopting a homeless puppy, he might just discover how simple it would be to replace you. The streets are full of strays, after all. Whatever happens, it seems that you lose."
Shocking, how easily it came to him.
Sherlock's fingers roamed over the three scraps of fabric, brushing against each separate piece where gore thickened its fibres, and then curled the bundle into a tight fist.
Originally completed in May 2011.