I first read The Reigate Puzzle, nearly twenty years ago. I then lost it. I knew that it must be somewhere in the anthology, but could I find it? No. I could not. The problem was, two things I really liked it for were throw away lines which I simply couldn't find again on re-reading. Skimming through I could find the main puzzle, but hadn't connected those details with the two throw away lines so didn't bother re-reading.
Two weeks ago, I opened the anthology randomly, and started reading the first short story I came to. I started hopping around the room with excitement when I found those two little lines!
So here it is.
This one fits into my Canon about 18 months after Garridebs. It will be updated every day, or alternate day.
Grateful thanks to GoldVermilion87 for proof-reading and advising.
John and Mary Watson sitting together on the sofa, watching the television. John was only half concentrating on the programme. He kept casting furtive glances in the direction of his wife. Mary was trying hard not to be irritated by this.
"I was thinking of making a tea. Did you want one?" he asked.
"No thanks. I'm fine."
"I can do coffee if you'd rather?"
"No, I'm fine."
"OK." He was silent for a few minutes. "Do you want anything to eat? You haven't eaten much today."
"I'm fine. I've eaten plenty. Do you think you could stop worrying about me for maybe ten minutes?"
"I'm not worried! I'm just… OK, I'm just a touch worried. I reserve the right to be worried about my wife."
"I'm fine, John. I'm certainly as fine as I'd expect to be. I'd be even better if I didn't have to use all my energy fending off your worry."
"OK. All right, I'm sorry. I'll try to rein it in a bit. You know it's just because I love you, don't you?"
"I know." She kissed him. "If you'd like to get me some ice-cream, I wouldn't hate that."
He smiled at her. "OK. I can get ice-cream. I can be useful for the getting of ice-cream."
As soon as he'd got up, the intercom buzzed.
"Are you expecting anyone?" he asked Mary.
She shook her head and he went to find out who was there.
"John? It's Mycroft. Mycroft Holmes."
"Mycroft? What are you doing here?"
"John, it's raining rather hard. Would you mind letting me in?"
"Yeah, sure. Sorry."
He buzzed him in through the security door downstairs and opened the door to his flat before heading back to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Mycroft appeared in the front room within minutes, dripping wet.
"Mycroft, have you met my wife before? Mary, this is Sherlock's brother, Mycroft."
"I'm pleased to meet you," Mycroft said, taking her hand and bowing slightly.
"Oh, you're soaking!" Mary said. "I'll go and get you a towel!"
"I can do it!" John told her.
"Yes, so can I!" She left the room.
"No, I'll come to the point, John. I need you to go to Rome to collect my Brother."
"What? No, I'm not going to Rome!"
"All your expenses will be paid and you will be generously reimbursed for your time. It should be a simple enough job for the right person."
"What do you mean? Is he in some kind of trouble?"
"It's Sherlock, John. What do you think?"
"Well, you'll have to find someone else! Send the SAS or something, but I can't just drop everything and fly to Rome!"
"Yes you can," Mary said, coming back in and handing Mycroft a towel.
"The SAS are unqualified to deal with this situation, John. I came to you because you are the only person who will do."
"Flattery isn't going to get you anywhere, Mycroft."
"No, John, I'm being sincere. Sherlock has been taken ill. Several doctors have already seen him, and they are baffled."
"Wait, what do you mean? What's wrong with him? How long has he been ill?"
"That we know of, for three days, and if I knew what was wrong with him I wouldn't be here asking for your help. John, Sherlock has just finished a case. It was a complex case spanning several European countries and one that he's been working on continuously for six weeks."
"Oh, it's nervous exhaustion then."
"Yes, John, I know. Or at least I think I know. The difficulty is that Sherlock has been remarkably uncooperative with the doctors that I've sent to help him. Consequently, I've had differing reports of his status, none of which are trustworthy. The first doctor could hardly get into the room. The second doctor insists that there is an underlying physical cause for his state. He has taken vast quantities of blood for testing, and I have to admit I'm concerned that he might be right. The third doctor has insisted it has a psychiatric cause, and suggested moving him by force to a locked institution."
John laughed. Mycroft frowned at him.
"Sorry, Mycroft. You're right, it's not funny at all. But I can't just drop everything to go to Rome because Sherlock's behaving like a stubborn sod."
"Yes you can," Mary repeated.
"No, I can't."
"I think the question is," Mycroft cut in, "whether you trust your diagnosis of 'stubborn sod' without actually having seen the patient? I agree that it would be an accurate diagnosis of his general character, but I've never known him refuse to come home so that he can vegetate in his own flat. John, by the time the second doctor arrived, he was unable to fight him off. He let him take his blood without a fuss."
"OK, that is unusual." John glanced at Mary. He shook his head. "Mycroft, I can't!"
"Yes you can." Mary insisted. "John, please, you're being ridiculous! Besides which, we both know that as soon as Mycroft's gone, you'll start fretting about the possibility of Sherlock being somewhere suffering. "John looked like he'd like to argue. "Please, I'm fine, you should go, work out what Sherlock needs, and then come home again."
"I have a private jet waiting for you," Mycroft said. "You will not need to wait in airports or queue at taxi ranks. The pilot and the plane will wait to bring you home again, ideally with Sherlock, though they have been instructed to return you as soon as you ask to come. The trip can be as short as you think is necessary. Please, John. I merely wish to know whether he is seriously ill, or whether he's just... being Sherlock. You're the only person in the world qualified to answer that question."
John glanced at Mary again. She sighed.
"John, don't even think of suggesting I come too. I'm not going to. Just go, get the job done, come back. I promise I won't spontaneously combust or anything while you're away."
"Fine. All right. Give me a second to pack my bag and I'll be right with you."
Less than six hours later John walked up the stairs to the small Hotel Virgilio on the outskirts of Rome. He was pleased that he hadn't needed to fight the post-club crowds that were staggering drunkenly around the streets.
The hotel staff were extremely accommodating and John got the impression that they were quite eager to have the responsibility of the sick man lifted from them. They gave John a master key, and he was glad they had when there was no answer to his knock. He opened the door to a dark room.
"Sherlock?" He said quietly.
"Who's there?" was the slurred reply.
"Sherlock, it's John. I've come to see how you are." John closed the door behind him and carefully crossed the room to the shape that looked like a bed.
Sherlock didn't reply for a moment. "John? Are you real?"
"Yes. Yes I'm real, Sherlock. I've been sent to assess your sanity. Well, your comparative sanity anyhow. I'm not sure you've ever been entirely sane." He sat down on the bed. "Can I turn the light on?"
There was a grunt from the bed and John found a lamp and turned it on.
Sherlock did not look well. He was extremely pale and thin and his eyes looked red and sunken though he kept them closed against the light. He had a mild rash across his forehead and the skin around his nose looked inflamed. John put his bag down and took Sherlock's wrist, finding his pulse.
"OK, Sherlock, are you going to talk to me a bit?"
"Sherlock, If I can't help you, your brother will let Doctor Pratico cart you off to the sanatorium."
"Tell him I'm fine. It's just flu."
"If it is just flu, I'll gladly tell him that. I won't lie professionally, Sherlock. If you had a problem with that, you probably shouldn't have picked me up and taken me home with you when you did."
Sherlock didn't respond.
"Sherlock, it's about three in the morning, I'm didn't get to sleep on the plane, and I'd much rather be in my fast asleep in my bed with my wife right now. But I'm not. I'm here. I chose to come here and take a look at you instead, so do you think you could cooperate with me a bit please? Seriously, I wouldn't make a house-call like this for just anyone."
Sherlock sighed and nodded. John rummaged through his bag for his thermometer and put it gently into Sherlock's ear for a moment. It beeped and he glanced at the reading, pleased that there was no fever.
"Can you tell me if you were injured on your case?"
"No you weren't injured?"
"No. I wasn't. I'm fine."
"Did you ingest any kind of poison?"
"Have you taken any medication of any time recently? And I'm including non-prescription drugs of any kind in that."
"When did you last eat?"
Sherlock frowned slightly. "Not sure. Don't remember."
"Did you pig out after you finished your case?"
"Have you had any nausea?"
"How have you been sleeping?"
"OK. I'm going to take your blood pressure now."
Sherlock didn't help him, but he didn't fight him either.
"There's a nasty bruise here. Is this where the other doctor took the blood?"
"Mm. Not as good as you."
"No, not many people are." He took Sherlock's blood pressure and examined his fingertips and fingernails. Finally he took his stethoscope out, pulled the covers down slightly and listened to Sherlock's heart and lungs. When he'd finished he sighed and rubbed his face.
"Sherlock, I think, from this rudimentary examination, that you're exhausted, malnourished and probably a bit depressed. And, you have a cold, probably because in your exhausted, malnourished and depressed state, you haven't got the reserves you need to fight off a cold. I'm going to suggest that we stay here tonight, I'll wake you up for a bit of breakfast in the morning, and then I take you home to be fed up and looked after by Mrs Hudson. What do you think?"
"Fine. Can I go back to sleep now?"
"You can when you've had a drink. Do they have room service here?"
"Mini-bar. Rum and coke."
"If I thought for a second you'd drink a rum and coke or that you'd successfully digest it, I'd happily get you one. However, I think we'll start with water tonight, and progress to tea in the morning."
John found a bottle of water in the mini-bar and poured it into a glass. He had to take most of Sherlock's weight to get him upright enough to drink.
"Water's good," Sherlock mumbled.
"Yeah, we've suspected for a while that it's important for sustaining life and health."
"Don't be clever."
"No. Right now I'm not sure I want to be as clever as you are. Right, I'm settling you down to sleep for a bit now. I'll be on the armchair. Shout or croak or something if you need anything, OK?"
"You can sleep in the bed."
"Yes, I would, but to be honest, Sherlock, it smells quite bad. I'll be on the armchair. I won't be sleeping deeply.."
"OK." He settled himself into the pillows. "Thank you, John."
John didn't let Sherlock sleep for much longer in the end. He woke him to give him more water after just two hours, and at eight, he pulled back the curtains. Sherlock rolled over slowly to face away from the light.
"I know, Sherlock, but you have to get up and face the day." John went over and sat on the bed, taking Sherlock's pulse and checking his fingers again. "I think you might manage some tea this morning. I'll call for it in a bit."
He looked at a stack of letters on the bedside table. "What are all of these?" He picked them up and started looking through them. "What on earth was the case, Sherlock? You've got literally hundreds of congratulation notes here! This one's from the queen! She wants to make you a knight! That's exciting!"
"There are twelve notes and letters. Not hundreds."
"Well I didn't mean literally hundreds."
"Why say it then?"
"Good to know that you feel strong enough to correct me anyhow."
"Sherlock, do you think you could open your eyes at all? I just want to check that you do still have eyeballs."
Sherlock winced and frowned but he did manage to open his eyes. As John had expected they were bloodshot and dull.
"See. Literally still there," Sherlock said. He lay back again, exhausted.
"OK, I'm going to order breakfast and run you a bath. Then we'll pack up and get on Mycroft's plane and go home."
"Can we stay here? I don't want to go anywhere."
"No. I have to go home, and you have to come with me."
"I'll stay. I'll look after myself."
"Unfortunately I just don't trust you, Sherlock."
Sherlock didn't answer. He just shut his eyes again.
Over the next two hours John begged, pleaded, cajoled and almost bullied Sherlock into activity. He was feeling quite pleased that he'd managed to get him to have a cup of tea, half a croissant and a bath, until Sherlock fainted while walking from the bed to the armchair. John had managed to catch him and lower him gently to the floor, and it didn't take him long to come round, but nonetheless, John felt guilty.
He waited for a moment for Sherlock to focus properly.
"I've had a thought: Why don't you stay with Mary and me for a while when we get to London? You can stay in our spare room and we can keep an eye on you until you get back to normal?"
"Why can't I just stay here?" Sherlock whined from the floor.
"Because you'll get stiff."
Sherlock looked confused and started to cry. "You're not making any sense!" he wailed.
"No. Sorry," John said, deeply concerned. "I didn't mean Rome; I meant the floor. Sherlock, you need to come home. You're not capable of taking care of yourself at the moment, so you need to be with someone who can help. I can't stay here, I'm sorry, I would if I could, but it's just not possible right now. Besides which, I need you to be in a country where I can write you a prescription. Come on now, calm down. It's a short hop in the plane, then we'll get you settled in our spare room."
"No." Sherlock wiped his face. "Baker Street. I'll come there."
John nodded. "OK, that's good enough. Right, do you think you can get up to the chair? Steady now."
He took most of Sherlock's weight to get him to the chair. He fretted for a while about whether he'd be able to physically hold him up all the way from the hotel room to the plane but he decided that failure wasn't an option. He started to think like a soldier and wrote himself a basic mission: Get Sherlock home.