The Black Queen

In every game, there must be sacrifices. He knew that. His experiences had always supported it.

And wishing was foolish. Wishes solved nothing; only effort and action could make change. He knew that, as well.

But as he stared at the piece in the professor's hand, the black queen held captive by those dexterous fingers, and the blood-stained handkerchief on the board in front of the hand, the detective fervently wished that it were not so.

The black queen had been lost.

He had wondered, when she had not arrived at the dinner she had scheduled, that he had come to in order to convenience her, although he had requested a lunch.

She had had a conflict for lunch. Was that when she was captured?

Was that when the black queen had been lost?

The professor said that it had been tuberculosis. A rare type of tuberculosis that killed her in seconds.

No illness could have taken the black queen.

If he had not taken her letter, if he had not ruined her mission, if he had followed her, if he had even insisted on lunch, would she still be alive?

Such wondering was pointless, but the detective could not seem to help it. He stared at the black queen in the professor's hand, and he saw her turning on a would-be-mugger with his own knife, seamlessly disappearing into a crowd in men's clothing, smiling at him—almost apologetically—as she set her bodyguards on him, winking at him from across a crowded room, kissing him…

Irene. Insufferable Irene. Irresistible Irene. Incomparable Irene. Unconquerable Irene.

Irene Adler, the black queen, the most powerful chess piece, captured and taken from the board.

She was off the board.

The detective shook himself. The black queen was gone, out of the game. He could no longer waste time on thoughts of her, not while the bishop was still in play, still at risk.

He took the handkerchief with him. The black queen's bloody handkerchief.

A tribute to a fallen chess piece.

The professor watched the detective leave. As soon as the detective's back was no longer visible, a slight smirk formed on the professor's face.

He placed the black queen back on its space on the board.