Disclaimer: See Part One.

Author's note: Here it is - the final chapter! Hopefully this will answer the last few questions some of you have (mainly regarding the romantic subgenre). Enjoy, and THANK YOU for all your reviews!

*****

Mr Cartwright did not, of course, kill me that day; my impending death was warded off by the three police officers catching hold of Mr Cartwright and wrestling him back into the sitting room while Emily smuggled me out the back door. I asked her to fill in the police on the finer points of our investigation in my absence, kissed her hand in farewell, and hurried around to the front yard in time to intercept McKinley and son as they tried to make good their escape while the police were otherwise busy. I tripped McKinley with my stick as he ran towards one of the cabs, knocking him out cold on the walk, and made my own escape in the same vehicle.

Watson was cleared of all charges and released that night, though his watch was kept as evidence in the trial; all the same he was grateful to return to our rooms on Baker Street. It was, of course, comforting to me to have my old friend back, though I had pushed my concerns to the back of my mind during the investigation.

It was not until two weeks later that I received any compensation for this case. I was sitting in my favourite wicker chair after breakfast, engaged in an activity that Watson called napping but which I preferred to think of as meditating, when Mrs. Hudson brought up the late morning post. As Watson flipped through the various bills and letters of entreaty, a name caught my attention.

"What was that last one, Watson?" I asked, not opening my eyes just yet.

"It appears to be an invitation, addressed to both of us."

"From whom?"

"A Mr Edmund Cartwright."

I smiled to myself. "Open it, please. This may prove interesting."

I heard him open the invitation - it sounded like expensive stationary, possibly even parchment. "'You are cordially invited to attend a soiree at the Cartwright Estate to honour Miss Emily Cartwright,'" he read, "Good heavens, Holmes! It doesn't say it directly, but I think we've been invited to his daughter's debutante tonight!"

"Small wonder," I remarked, "considering her first one was ruined by a burglary - the one that led to your being arrested, you may recall."

"Ah, yes. How could I forget? So do you plan to go?" he asked dubiously. He knew me well enough that I was not a social creature.

"You have frequently told me that I need to get out more. I expect this would be an ideal opportunity to do so."

"Holmes, are you feeling all right?"

"Never better. Why do you ask?"

He sighed. "You've been a bit out of sorts lately... and I've never seen you perk up so much at the idea of a social gathering."

"I did not perk," I growled, a bit defensively.

"I thought you did."

"Then you were mistaken."

"Very well, Holmes," he resigned, though there was a note of something slightly false in his voice.

*****

We arrived at the soiree at precisely eight o'clock that evening, dressed in our evening clothes. I acknowledged Leopold with a nod as our cloaks and hats were taken by the attendant. He glanced at my boutonniere - a fresh orchid - with a raised eyebrow but made no comment. The flower had been an absolute pain to find, but I thought it would be a nice touch.

I surmised that the only reason we had been invited was at Emily's urging, considering her father's attitude towards me when I'd left at the close of the investigation. As was my habit when I didn't expect to be otherwise intellectually stimulated by a situation, I started picking out people at random and making deductions about them.

One gentleman, for example, suffered from a slight inflammation in the left shoulder, to judge by the way he carried that arm close to his body and used his non-dominant right hand to gesture and such. Another middle-aged gentleman was having a falling-out with his wife, who was now neglecting such minor services as informing her husband that he missed a spot shaving... just there, in the hollow of his jaw. And there...

I stopped short and inhaled sharply when I reached the next subject of observation. I nudged Watson with my elbow.

"Tell me, Watson," I said to him, "What do you deduce about the young lady in the blue dress?"

Watson peered at her as discreetly as he could, trying not to look like he was staring.

"Well," he said finally, "Her husband is very well-off, if she can afford such a nice dress. French, to judge by the neckline."

"Yes, I believe such decolletage, as they call it, is a recent import amongst the fashionable. Why do you say she is married?"

"Well, she's in her twenties, it looks like. And she's a very attractive young woman. I imagine she was married fairly early on."

"Yes, but I don't see a ring of any sort."

"By Jove, you're right," he said as he looked closer, "I wonder why she hasn't married?"

We watched in silence as a young man approached her and attempted to engage her in conversation. During their brief encounter, he showed her something that sparkled - probably an offering of jewelry - but she brushed him off with an abrupt wave of one gloved hand and a few sharp words and walked away.

"Well," Watson concluded, "That answers that. She seems like quite a heart- breaker, if this is a regular occurrence."

"Oh, I don't know about that," I said whimsically, "You can ask her if you like, though. She's coming this way."

Watson froze in mortification as Miss Emily Cartwright strolled towards the two of us. Blue quite suited her, I thought, as did the smile and the slight blush when she noticed the orchid.

"Good evening, Miss Cartwright," I said, kissing her proffered hand.

"Good evening, Holmes - and I said before that you could call me Emily."

I shot a quick glance at Watson, who was smirking.

"Perhaps you would like to introduce your friend?" Emily prompted, saving me from an explanation I didn't wish to provide just then.

"Yes, of course. Miss Cartwright, may I present to you my friend Dr John Watson. Watson, this is Miss Emily Cartwright, who aided the investigation in your absence."

"Charmed," Emily said as she and Watson clasped hands.

"I expect Holmes must have given you quite a run for your money," said Watson.

"Not as much as you might think," she smiled, "I don't need to be cushioned from a rousing adventure like that. And I certainly don't need to be patronised by the well-meaning." Her manner was pleasant enough, but I heard a note of warning in her words that reminded me of something she'd said earlier.

"Is that what happened to Michael?" I asked, and had the satisfaction of seeing her look surprised by my recall.

"No," she finally said, "Michael was at the last gathering. He'd had a bit too much to drink and he tried to corner me and put his hands where they had no business being. So I dislocated his knee."

Had Watson been taking at drink at that moment, I expect he would have sprayed it over whomever was standing nearby, such was his expression.

"A scream of protest probably would have sufficed," I said wryly.

"Well, of *course* I screamed," she said, "but by that point so did he."

"It's the strangest coincidence," Watson finally said, "Do you know that when I was out that night I treated a young man with that exact injury? I was passing by in a cab and I saw two men carrying him to another carriage. Of course my physician's Oath dictated that I had to help where I could, so I jumped out to see what was the matter. He was rather incoherent, though, and he smelled of alcohol."

"That couldn't be why you were so vague about it," I remarked.

"No," Emily concurred, "It was probably the hatpin."

Watson looked at her and turned scarlet. "Yes... well, that was an operation I felt better suited to a proper hospital," he said, choosing his words with care, "Considering its location."

Even a man without my powers of deduction could have combined that statement with the respective expressions on Watson's and Emily's faces and come up with an accurate conclusion. My eyes watered slightly.

"It was a pleasure to meet you, Dr Watson," Emily said then, "But Holmes and I have a few things to discuss about a few details of the case. If you will excuse us?"

"I wouldn't dream of detaining you," said Watson, sounding like he meant every word and looking a bit fearful for my safety. I offered him a reassuring glance and allowed Emily to lead me away.

"I don't wish to occupy you for long," I said as we crossed the dance floor, "I imagine your dance card is quite full."

She smiled. "Nonsense. This is business, not social, right?" "Of course," I said, mainly for my own sake, "So, what happened after I left so abruptly?"

"Well, after the policemen got my father calmed down, they realised their birds had flown - but oddly enough, somebody had winged them coming down the front walk. It took all three of them to pick up Mr McKinley and carry him back in. I explained what had happened in the delivery office, both the fight with McKinley and also the location of the stash of jewelry. After they checked out our story, they arrested McKinley for the burglaries, and at present they're trying to figure out what jewelry came from whom. You can expect that *that* will take a while."

"From what I learned of the families, I expect no less," I replied.

"I do have one question, though... how did you know where the jewelry was? You seemed to know that whole day we were scouting about. I could have hit you when you finally told me."

I smiled. "Until we found the cardboard box, it was merely a theory that your belongings would not be with the rest. You see, according to the eyewitness accounts from Leopold and yourself, the thieves had no opportunity to dispose of the jewelry someplace outside, but they didn't have it on them by the time they were searched. Thus, they hid the jewelry somewhere within the house. Now young Adam was in the presence of the maid from the time he left the lavatory to the time he returned to the hall, and I'm certain she would have seen any furtive activity in the meantime. The only logical conclusion was that the jewelry was hidden within the main hall. When you have eliminated the impossible--"

"Whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth," she finished for me.

"Very good. And of course, the best hiding-place is one which you expect to take away with you in the future."

"So... what made you choose the centrepiece?"

"You might have noticed, Emily, that I took care to check the bowl before my dramatic unveiling. I would have looked quite foolish had I blindly chosen the wrong vessel - not to mention the fact that your father would have chased me out before I could find the correct one."

She laughed. "True enough. And of course you always make sure to do your research." She tapped the orchid in my lapel. "That was a nice touch." She held her gaze for a few moments longer, then looked away pensively. "I'm glad you could make it to the soiree," she said quietly, "I knew you'd want to hear how everything turned out... and you have no idea how much arm- twisting it took to get my father to let you back here."

I gritted my teeth. This was starting to get awkward. I put my forefinger under her chin and tilted her head up so I could see her face. I was planning only to assess how her injuries from the fight had healed, but in the process I noticed for the first time the soft contours of her face, the fullness of her mouth, the way a stubborn wisp of hair that had escaped the pins trailed down at her left temple and over her cheekbone, and the precise shade of fathomless cerulean blue found in her eyes.

I hadn't noticed, and I always prided myself on noticing details. A dozen thoughts raced through my mind.

The one that came out was: "I see your split lip has healed nicely."

Argh.

She smiled, acknowledging the attempt. "Did your eye swell too badly? It still looks a shade puffy."

"I've had worse injuries than a blackened eye."

There was an awkward pause.

"Well," Emily finally said, "Is this discussion social yet, or is it still business?"

"It seems to have gone in its own direction," I replied stoically, "Leaving us with no choice but to follow." I stepped back and offered her my hand with a bow. "May I have the honour of this dance?"

She smiled and took my hand.

Even now I can't say for certain how long we danced. Suddenly it was 11.30 and Watson was at my elbow.

"Holmes! I've been looking all over for you!"

I blinked and looked over at him, still quite aware of the young woman in my arms. I hurriedly stepped back to a more discreet distance from her.

"It's getting late," Watson continued, "And I'm really quite worried about you."

"Worried?" I echoed, "Why?"

He merely glanced significantly over at Emily. I frowned.

"Watson," I said, "I can assure you that there isn't the least thing wrong with me that wasn't already there two weeks ago - and all that has healed, by your own account."

"Holmes--"

"But of course if you wish to go, we shall go." I was being peevish, I knew.

"Holmes." This was from Emily. I looked over at her. "You're not going to leave before you receive your fee, are you? For services rendered?"

My brain scrambled for a few moments before I remembered what she was talking about. "Ah, yes. For getting your jewelry back. Of course."

Emily flagged down Leopold, who had in an inside pocket an envelope, which she took from him and handed to me. I opened it and looked at the cheque inside, then raised my eyebrows at the amount.

"That's from my father," Emily explained, "though I think he was just glad to get you out of the house."

"He's very generous," I said, tucking the cheque into my breast pocket.

"The cheque is only part of the fee, though," she said, "This part is from me."

Before I could ask, she gently bent my head down with one gloved hand and kissed me softly on the corner of the mouth.

"Good night, Mr Sherlock Holmes," she murmured close to my ear as her hand brushed down my cheek, then she stepped back, inclined her head to Watson, then turned and vanished into the crowd.

Watson looked at me with newfound respect. "Holmes, you devil!" he smirked.

I cleared my throat. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," I lied.

"No?" he asked, "Then why are you blushing?"

I stopped short and glared at him. "I am doing no such thing, Watson," I snarled, "And you know it."

He started laughing as I stalked away to the coat check.

*****

Author's note: Please let me know how I did on the ballroom scene - I was trying really hard to stay away from anything fluffy.

Finis.