It's never easy to adjust to everyday life after a great tragedy has occurred. Everything feels hollow and useless; nothing will ever be the same again. Even the dull sunlight appears wan and unresponsive. The days are endless and grey. The nights are long and painful, for you have nothing to distract you from the memories. You don't see how you can go on.
London had been devastated in less than two weeks. Death and destruction had run uncurbed throughout the streets and the body count had reached nearly a hundred and fifty people. Residents no longer appeared on the streets; they remained huddled in their homes with their loved ones, praying that they would not contract the disease. The streets were silent and cold with their absence. Even the rats and pigeons had vanished seemingly overnight. The situation had seemed dire, even hopeless. The city had begun to lose heart.
And yet, where this is desolation, there is, by necessity, convalescence. Time has proven itself to be the best therapy for damage done to the mind.
The madman had been apprehended. The spreading of the dreaded disease stopped. And, mercifully, the deaths ceased.
Slowly, the city began to recover. People cautiously trickled onto the streets again. Their voices sounded on streets that had been hushed for so long, faintly at first.
Mothers gathered their children close and kissed their faces while fathers took them on their knees and rumpled their hair fondly. Husbands and wives fell into each others arms and the betrothed rejoiced with their loved one. And they all offered prayers and songs of thanksgiving. Death had thrown everything at them and yet it had not triumphed. They were alive.
Their voices grew in confidence and London came alive with the sound of people. They were people who had reason to talk and to laugh and to sing with the joy that came from simply being alive. Sounds of children dancing and smiling in the streets mingled with the resonance of their elders, their parents no longer too frightened to let them out of the house.
They would never forget the fortnight of terror, as it became known. Countless citizens read their morning papers with a feeling of grim fulfillment as the hanging of the Broad Street executioner (as he became known) was announced. With his death, they could finally allow aching muscles that had been clenched with worry to relax.
The city was healing.
If they had read a little further down the page, they would have discovered that healing was entirely thanks to a man named Sherlock Holmes.
But, alas, they did not. They simply clapped their hands together and proclaimed what a relief it was that the dreadful business was over. Each person took his paper and threw it in his hearth, eager to put the business behind him.
And that suited Sherlock Holmes perfectly.
"Watch out, Sadie!" 8 year old Jeremy Lestrade called to his sister. "My train's comin' through!"
6 year old Sadie Lestrade clutched her doll tightly to her chest and made a face at him. "Be careful, Jemmy!" she scolded. "You'll hurt Lissie."
"Well, she needs to stay off the track! My train's got a busy schedule!" Jemmy crouched down next to his train track and adjusted the wheels of one of the cars so that it could run more smoothly.
Sadie smoothed her doll's pink dress and smiled down at her golden, yarn hair and her button eyes. The red mouth had been stitched onto the face many years ago and the color was beginning to fade. She must remember to ask Mummy for some new thread in order to repair it.
Jemmy pushed the train along the track, imitating the sound of the wheels and the horn. He paused at a stack of blocks that served as the station and looked up expectantly at his sister. "Can I take Lissie for a ride on my train?"
Sadie looked down at her doll uncertainly. "Will you be careful with her?"
"Of course I will, Sadie!" Jemmy sat back on his heels and held his arms out.
"Promise?" Sadie looked doubtfully at him.
Sadie carefully lowered her doll into an empty car and nodded at Jemmy, who immediately began to race the train around the track. "Be careful!" she cried, instantly regretting her decision to allow him to give Lissie a ride.
"I am being careful!" Jemmy crawled, or rather flailed, around the track, moving the train faster and faster.
"Jemmy!" Sadie covered her face in dismay as the train reached top speed and the back cars were flung off of the track and onto the wood floor. They had landed too close to the fireplace for comfort. She ran over as fast as her tiny legs would carry her and rescued Lissie from the edge of the hearth.
Jemmy kicked at the track in annoyance; he had expected his train to be able to go faster than that. "What was that?"
Sadie made a face at her brother, carefully smoothing her doll's skirts and hair. Luckily, she seemed to be all right.
"What's going on in here?"
Both children looked up at the sound of the voice to see a man standing in the doorway. "Daddy!"
The children rushed over to their father, who spread his arms out wide to receive them. He hugged them closely and laughed as they hurriedly began to tell him of what had happened with the train cars.
"Did you see how fast they were going, Daddy?" Jemmy cried. "It must have been a hundred!"
But before Lestrade could ask his son to clarify, Sadie began to chime in. "He promised that he would take care of Lissie, Daddy! And he almost threw her into the fire!"
"Slow down there!" Lestrade chuckled and rumpled Jemmy's hair. "Everything's all right now!"
Annie Lestrade appeared behind her husband and smiled down at him. Her cheeks were red and shining in the firelight and her dark eyes sparkled as she pushed her blonde hair from her forehead. "Hello darling."
Lestrade got to his feet, gently prying Jemmy's fingers from around his waist, and bent down to kiss his wife. "How are you, my love?"
She allowed him to take her into his arms and she sighed with pleasure. Her short, slim figure melted into his tall one and she smiled up at him. "I'm so glad to have you home."
"I'm glad to be home as well." He playfully tossed his hat down to Jemmy, who grabbed at it with enthusiasm and clapped it onto his head. The children scrambled down onto the floor again, contented with their parent's presence and their interest was now aimed towards their playthings. "How have the children been?"
"Oh, they've been good as gold," said Annie, leading him from the dining room where they stood into the kitchen. "They've missed you."
"And I've missed them." Lestrade rued the fact that he had been arriving home from the office very late every night. The children were almost always in bed when he had finally come home. It had been a sadly necessary aspect of his position for the past two weeks and he had hated every second of it. Thankfully, Annie had been waiting for him every night, faithful to the last. "And how are you?"
Annie offered him a brief kiss before turning to set the kettle onto the stove. "I've missed you too. Will you be home early now that the murder business is cleared up?"
"I certainly hope so." Lestrade pulled his coat off and hung it on a hook near to the fire. "You know that I hated leaving you alone with the children for so long."
"I understood that it was necessary," said Annie mildly. "If it meant the capture of a killer like that man, I supposed that I could spare you for a few days. I just hadn't been anticipating it to take that long."
"No one did," said Lestrade, settling himself into one of the straight backed chairs that ringed around the kitchen table. "It shocked everyone."
"Tea?" asked Annie, pulling a pair of cups down from the cupboard and setting them on the dark, smooth countertop.
Annie leaned back against the lower cupboards as she waited for the kettle to boil. "And how is Mr. Holmes faring?" Lestrade had kept her updated on the detective's condition, knowing how concerned she had been.
"Much better," said Lestrade with an air of genuine relief. "Dr. Watson deemed him well enough to take care of himself for a time."
"Have the doctor and his wife moved back home?"
"Yes," said Lestrade. "I can't tell you how relieved we were to hear that. We knew that he would only leave when Holmes was well again."
"I expect that Mary Watson was happy to be home," said Annie, glancing over her shoulder at the stubbornly un-heated kettle.
"I expect she was. But she's a good soul."
"Aye, that she is." Annie smiled down at her apron strings for a moment. Then she looked up at her husband and her face was troubled.
"What's the matter, dearest?" Lestrade got to his feet and moved over to hold her in his strong arms. "Are you all right?"
Annie swallowed, nodding.
"What is it?" Lestrade asked with concern evident in his voice. "What's wrong?"
"I just can't stop thinking about it. The deaths." Annie bit her lip, grateful for the solidness of her husband's arms. "All those people. And for what?" She looked up at him and he could see tears in her eyes. "Why did they die, Geoffrey?"
Lestrade pulled her closer. "I know, my darling. He was a madman. And we can't always understand their intents."
"But there must be more to it than that. More than what you're telling the public. He couldn't have been all mad," said Annie, nestling her head against his chest. "It takes some brains at least to concoct a plot like that. It couldn't have been the random work of a madman. What aren't you telling me?"
There was a long pause as Lestrade struggled to find the words that he so desperately needed. The truth was that he had no idea how to tell her. The concept of a sponsored serial killer was terrifying. But, according to Holmes, that was what had happened. The man known as Moriarty had sponsored Land to infect London. But, as of that moment in time, no one had any idea why this was the case.
"We don't know," he said finally, trying to put as much truth into his statement as he could without frightening his wife. "All we know was that he wasn't in this alone. And that he didn't plan anything. He was merely a puppet."
Annie exhaled slowly. "A puppet?"
"Are you absolutely sure?" she asked, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
"Of course we are." Lestrade looked down at her curiously and tipped her chin up so that he could look at her lovely face. "Why are you asking that?"
"Because whoever employed that puppet is still out there," she answered and the tears had gone from her eyes. They were replaced with fear. "And that means that he could strike again at any time."
"We haven't given up," he soothed. "If he's still in London, we'll find him."
"I only hope that you can, Geoff," she whispered, breaking away from him as the kettle began to sing. "I only hope that you can."
Dr. John Watson knocked several times on the door of 221B Baker Street and leaned back onto his heels, waiting patiently for Mrs. Hudson to answer the door.
It was remarkable to note the changes that had occurred in the city. Streets that had once been grey and lifeless were now full of sunshine and laughter. Children ran up and down the streets, and their parents could watch without fear. It was as though the city itself had given a great sigh of relief and allowed to joy to penetrate the terror.
He found that it was well nigh impossible to look upon the changed streets without a smile appearing over his features. Joy was truly contagious.
The door to the flat opened to reveal Mrs. Hudson. She was greatly changed as well, her face rosy and happy and her body language a great deal more relaxed than he had recently seen it. It was almost as though they had been squeezed by an invisible hand and then let go in order that they may experience true freedom.
"Good morning, Mrs. Hudson," he said, turning his smile upon her. "You're looking very well."
"Oh, good morning, Dr. Watson." She held her arms out and he gratefully entered her embrace. "It's so good to see you again."
"Is Mr. Holmes in?" he asked.
"Yes, please come in." She closed the door behind him and motioned for him to follow her to the sitting room. "He'll be so glad to see you. Now that he doesn't have anything to distract him, he'd complaining something awful about being bored all of the time. One would think that he would be relieved that this awful business is over."
"Not Mr. Holmes," laughed Watson. "You know that he is never satisfied without a case."
Mrs. Hudson shook her head but she couldn't conceal the smile that was growing on her face. "I suppose that you're right." She opened the door to reveal Holmes sitting relaxed in his easy chair, the picture of how he had seen him at the beginning of this case. It was amusing to consider just how much and how little had changed.
"Come in, Watson!" Holmes twisted his neck in order to get a better glimpse of his old friend. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? Not to another social visit?"
"I'm afraid so," said Watson good naturedly, dropping down into his own chair. "No murders walking in my footsteps this time, I hope."
"How dreadfully dull of you," Holmes lit his pipe and Watson could see the slight twinkle in his eyes before the smoke obscured them almost entirely. "I was rather hoping for something a bit more stimulating."
Watson chuckled. "How's the shoulder?"
"On the mend." Holmes shrugged. "It doesn't bother me at all these days. I told you that it was simply a surface wound."
"Is that so?" Watson feigned mockery. "I was rather doubtful of that fact when I found you lying almost dead across the road."
"Mere acting on my part," dismissed Holmes with a wave of his hand. "I knew that the colonel had to be in the vicinity and it was absolutely necessary for me to put him off of his guard."
"I see," said Watson with a shake of his head. "Does this mean that the entire case has been cleared up?"
"The entire case?" echoed Holmes. "My dear Watson, I'm afraid not. We have merely cleared up a fraction. The more public fraction to be precise."
"Then why on earth are you sitting here and complaining that you are bored?"
"I have no reason to continue to pursue a worthless case." Holmes leaned his head back and puffed a smoke ring towards the ceiling.
"Worthless?" Watson raised his eyebrows.
"Yes, worthless. The rest of this business is between myself, Colonel Moran and Professor Moriarty. I have solved this little puzzle that they have put before me. And now, I shall leave the next move to them."
"Even if it means taking another life?"
"I should hardly think that they would try something so drastic," said Holmes dryly. "But, yes. If you like. I shall wait until they…create a bang."
Watson crossed his arms. "Really, Holmes."
"I expect that Lestrade has been taxing you for details of the case as well?" Holmes effectively dodged the comment.
"He wants to know what the motive for poisoning London was."
"As far as Lestrade is concerned, he did so to gain one thing." Holmes shrugged.
"And what would that be?" asked Watson, not particularly keen to hear the answer.
"My attention. And he has received it." Holmes sighed. "It's been quite the experience, hasn't it? Now. Enough of this. I must insist that you stay for tea. Mrs. Hudson is no doubt preparing a meal for you as we speak. Tonight, you are my guest. We shall dine together."
Watson smiled. "I shall telephone Mary."
"So you see, sir, there's nothing more that we can do about Mr. Holmes," said Yorick carefully. "We've done everything we can."
Yorick swallowed hard as he tried not to stare into the shadows at the man to whom he was speaking. He stood in what seemed to be a fine sitting room. Or it would have been if he would have been able to actually see where he was. The room was not lit; in fact, the only light came from what little sunlight was able to penetrate the closed curtains. It wasn't much. The darkness threatened to swallow him up; he hated the feeling of not knowing what was coming.
The sound of someone striking a match sounded and a bony hand lifted a pipe close to the flame that flickered into existence. But it did not light the pipe. The hand brought the match close to the face and the black eyes examined the flame with an air of boredom.
"Sir?" asked Yorick uncertainly.
The pipe was lit and the match discarded. A sigh.
"You've disappointed me, Yorick." A bottomless, clear voice. "I expected more from you."
"But sir -"
"I don't want excuses. Holmes knows and that was the one thing I expected you to keep silent."
"But I had no way of stopping him!"
Another sigh. A hand appeared to wave dismissively towards the tiny pockets of light emitted by the lit pipe.
"You are disposable, Yorick. Moran is not."
Yorick gulped. "But I've told you! There was nothing that I could do! The colonel was the one at fault!"
"I shall deal with the colonel. In the meantime, it is you who needs my undivided attention."
A shot. A cry of pain. A thud as a body hit the floor and Yorick moved no more.
Professor James Moriarty simply stared into the distance. "Until we meet again. Sherlock Holmes."
To Be Continued….
I want to take a moment to thank all of my kind readers, particularly those who took the time to leave their lovely, helpful comments. You are the people that I write for! Thank you so much for giving me a reason to push through and finish this story after so long! You are all amazing!
I think that it's rather obvious by the ending, but this story has become the first in a series. I hope to have the first chapter of the second story (working title is Ethereal) posted soon but there will not be regular updates until Fall 2012. In the meantime, I will be revising this story. Not only will I be fixing grammar mistakes/typos but there will also be new scenes added here and there as well as some rewording. I highly encourage you to check it out!
I hope to see all of you again when I begin to write the sequel! Thank you so much again! I hope that you've enjoyed this story as much as I have!