Chapter One

The text was from a blocked number. Of course it was from a blocked number. Sherlock Holmes had received numerous texts, and even phone calls from blocked numbers, and he was beginning to suspect that he truly hated technology. There was so little to be learned from a text message, especially an anonymous one, like this one. Sherlock didn't mind going anonymous in some of his own texts, but when others did it to him it was extremely aggravating.

"John, I said pass me my pen."

John Watson had just entered the flat, burdened with laundry fresh from the cleaners. He gave his flatmate an incredulous look. As usual, Sherlock had been talking to the walls.

John gave Sherlock the pen, sitting down heavily in his usual armchair. Sometimes he wondered whether his limp had entirely gone away. He watched his eccentric flatmate scribble away at a page of blank-staff paper.

"Composing again?"

Sherlock glanced up distractedly. His mind had not been on the notes on the page. Although his violin had somehow made its way into his arms, where he now cradled it delicately, he had no recollection of making this happen. His brain was sifting through cyber space, images and concepts flicking by as fast as he could dismiss them.

"Ah, yes." His answer was not a conscious one. Sherlock did not see John, even as he stared at him.

John groaned slightly, and pulled his newspaper towards him. Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, in anticipation of his coming, had prepared a steaming pot of tea. John poured himself a cup and allowed the armchair to swallow him up. He had no doubt that Sherlock would eventually start to talk, as soon as he had come out of his thinking place.

A slight twang got John's attention. Glancing up, he realized that the light had changed and it was now early evening. The sound had been caused by Sherlock dumping his violin roughly on to the sofa table. He began to pace.

"D'you want a cuppa?" John rose to turn on the lamp. Sherlock made an impatient noise. John pressed ruthlessly on. "I'm making one. Sherlock, care to share what's put you into your 'mind palace' all afternoon?"

Sherlock swept brusquely across the room and snatched his coat from the stand. "Going out," he said, rather unnecessarily, tying his scarf.

John shook his head and smiled wryly. As the footsteps of his old flatmate descended the stairs and faded, John headed to the kitchen to make another pot of tea.

Sherlock strode down the street, cursing chatty roommates, tea, and everything in 221B Baker Street in general. He ducked into an alley and withdrew his cellphone from the pocket of his trademark greatcoat. He retrieved the troublesome text again, and read it through.

Meet at Lucetti's
You'll want to

Sherlock clenched his jaw. 6:30 rapidly approached. Could it possibly, improbably, be her? The Woman? The last time he had contacted Irene Adler, she had been in Russia, serving some general or other. Serving. He smirked. But no, this text had none of her trademark style. The Woman would want him, Sherlock, the only person on earth who knew of her survival and whereabouts, to know who was texting him. No, this was certainly NOT Irene Adler.

Who then? Truly, he could think of multiple enemies who would like to ambush him in just such a way, but not a single benign entity. He fingered his long-handled riding crop, tucked into his coat. He had only recently started carrying a weapon. Up until now, he had relied solely on his wits. His weapon of choice, he knew, would not stop a gunman. Only the flight of thought can outstrip the flight of a bullet, and so, Sherlock considered himself well enough armed. His insatiable curiosity led his footsteps on towards Lucetti's Italian Ristaurante.