Fic: The Case of the Kidnapped Corpses

Title: The Case of the Kidnapped Corpses
Beta-read by Random_c
Pairing: W/H
Rating: NC-17
Wordcount: +10k

The gaslight was shining shyly over our breakfast table on a cold morning of the Winter of 1894. From the window, one could see a few people in the street wrapping themselves up in heavy coats to avoid the distasteful caress of the fog. Although I could not discern the reason, I was feeling somewhat depressed at the sight of those people, immersed in their daily troubles and occasional happiness, maybe wandering without purpose, even on such an unfriendly Saturday morning.

Thinking of my own existence as if it were a mere passing shadow, one more of the thousands of souls who live in London, I remembered myself as a young man, full of hopes and expectations, who wanted to get from life adventure, love, friendship… and I believed that it was possible for everybody to get to know those things as I had. Yet, as years go by, one also may see an infinite sadness lying beneath the things we still possess and beneath those that we have already lost.

I turned my sight from the window to our sitting room, and a warm feeling made me smile sadly at those pieces of furniture and objects so familiar to me. I could see Holmes still sitting at the table in his dressing gown, pipe in hand, looking at me quietly. I was accustomed to his ability to interrupt my thread of thoughts, but this time he said nothing. Maybe the mere knowledge of my concern had infected him with my melancholy.

Three weeks have elapsed since his last case, and the active nature of my friend, unable to endure the drab and ordinary life like most of us, had fallen into a sad and worthless languor, aggravated by his use of the pernicious cocaine. This morning, as the others, he would turn the pages of the paper, looking for something of criminal interest and then, he would lie down upon the sofa for hours, with a dreamy expression in his eyes. Only the lust of chase would wake him up to his more energetic self.

“It seems to me, Watson, that unless something extraordinary happens today, we both are going to have a very bad day” said he, looking at me tiredly.

“We could have a walk later, if you like. It may help,” I suggested.

“With this weather? Are you suggesting that we commit suicide by catching pneumonia?”

“At least it will be a more natural death,” said I, pointing to the box in which Holmes kept the bottle of cocaine.

“Yes, and it would allow me to enter that undiscovered country in your pleasant company. Nevertheless, it would be a pity that your frantic public could not read the hasty and rather pathetic end of our uncommon lives.”

“There is no need to be sarcastic, Holmes.”

“I agree, my dear Watson.”

I kept silence and turned again to the window. Holmes and I hardly argued, but when we did, Holmes always said the last word. That time, like many others, Holmes was right, I had to concede that. The weather was almost as awful as our moods, and a stroll would do very little to change it.

Fortunately, something came to turn our luck, and it started with the ring of the doorbell. A few seconds later, we had Lestrade standing at the door of our sitting room, looking at the same time puzzled and somewhat reluctant. Holmes immediately adopted the attitude of someone who has important things in mind but tries to be a good host.

“My dear Lestrade, take a seat near the fire, please. Whatever made you quit your office in such an unpleasant morning, it must be remarkable indeed!”

“I know you are always busy, Holmes, but I also know the interest you have in everything which is out of the common,” he commenced, “and so, I thought you should like to hear about it. It is an extremely weird business Mr. Holmes, of the kind of stories I used to read as a boy. Maybe Dr. Watson here could give us his professional point of view as well, because I’m sure that it’s related to some kind of macabre ritual that only can be conceived by insanity itself.”

“Lestrade, I assure you that you have an innate talent to catch attention, so spare us dramatic introductions and describe the facts.” Although my friend was trying not to look openly interested, I knew him well enough to notice the excitement in his eyes and his tensed pose. Lestrade looked momentarily offended, but in a few seconds he seemed to resign himself and continued his story.

“A year ago YYY prison, in ***, reported the disappearance of a corpse which was about to be conveyed from its mortuary to the cemetery of ***, where the next of kin to the deceased lived. The prison have a small building next to the cemetery where the corpses are kept until a relative claims them, otherwise they are buried in its cemetery. John Woods, the deceased, had an older sister in ***, as I said, who was informed the same evening of the death of his brother. The corpse was carried to the mortuary to remain there till the following morning. At some moment during the night, between ten and six, someone broke into the mortuary and stole the corpse.

The second case occurred three months later, and this time the deceased didn’t have any relatives, at least none known by the authorities of the prison. It was James Hill, the famous counterfeiter who was sent to prison four years ago.”

“I remember it. During the trial I couldn’t help thinking that he had something to do with Moriarty,” Holmes interrupted.

“As I was saying, the body of James Hill was moved from the infirmary to the mortuary together with the body of another convict who had passed away a couple of hours before. The burial was arranged for the following day, but again, the corpse disappeared during the night. We have not found the corpses. Neither of them.

The third and last case happened last week, being similar to the others, save that on this occasion, the corpse was found on the moor three days later. It seemed that it had been object of a macabre ritual, because it had been horribly mutilated. I have here a copy of the forensics report. As it is the only evidence we have, I have thought it would be a good idea to bring it with me in case you were interested.”

“By all means, my dear Lestrade. But I am afraid that I shall need a more detailed report of the three disappearances…”

“I supposed so, and I have brought all the documents concerning the case. None of us is a magician, Mr. Holmes, but if you have any idea, I should be extremely glad of hearing it.”

“And I should be only too happy to provide it, my dear friend. And now, I am sure you have some more important matters at your office… By the way, are you staying there today? Well, well, if I have something I shall let you know.”

When Lestrade had been shown out Holmes looked at me, rubbing his nervous hands together with an expression of pure joy on his face.

“What do you think of that, Watson? Isn’t it gorgeous?”

“Holmes! For Heaven’s sake,” I exclaimed.

“Calm down, my dear fellow, you know what I mean. Besides, these three were already dead,” he said, holding the reports against his chest with one hand while cleaning up the table with the other.

“Holmes, if I did not know you, I should think you are not human. But I suppose it is all right, if it keeps you away from the cocaine.”

We spoke little more after this, for Holmes immersed himself in the documents for the whole day, without even troubling to have lunch.

The following morning when I got up, Holmes was already in the sitting room, bending over a map and studying it intently.

“Come Watson. We have just an hour before our train leaves to ***. Of course, that is presuming that you will come.”

“I should be glad to, if you wish it.”

“Naturally. We have to hurry, my friend, or we’ll be late.”

A few hours later we were on our way to *** prison in a rather shabby carriage we had hired when we arrived at the station. We had already rented a little house that was placed midway between the small village and the prison, to stay during the investigation. Although there were questions in my mind concerning the case, I observed the austere profile of my friend, eyes closed and immersed in his own thoughts, and I stayed silent.

By the time we arrived the prison it was getting dark and the silhouette of the building looked somewhat menacing. A guard was outside waiting for us and he guided us to the office of the Head of the prison. He was a tall man with an imposing figure, broad shoulders and piercing little eyes, who looked down at us coldly.

“I am a very busy man, Mr. Holmes, and I shall not waste my time with amateurs looking for sensationalism. I do not see how your presence here can be of any help. I shall also request that you finish this interview as soon as possible.”

“I assure you I have no desire to waste your time. The reports from Scotland Yard were detailed enough, and so, for now, I have no need of repeating any question that has already been answered. Nevertheless, I should be very pleased if you introduce me to Dr. Smithson, for there are some aspects of this matter I should like to discuss with him.”

“I am afraid that will be impossible, Mr. Holmes. Dr. Smithson left to the continent two days ago. I gave him permission. You may talk to his assistant, Dr. Hughes.” Holmes looked startled for a moment.

“Is that so? How can you condone the absence of a member of your staff in the middle of a criminal investigation?

“Dr. Smithson is an extremely competent doctor with an immaculate reputation. He has already done his best to clear up this matter, as have we all. If you are going to imply that…”

“Do not be offended, Governor, I am not implying anything yet. As you said before, you are a busy man and I do not wish to bother you. So, if you give us permission to see Dr. Hughes, I should be most grateful.”

The Governor appeared outraged. He left the room for a few moments and came back with a guardian, who led us to the infirmary.

The place had a rather oppressive atmosphere, and a few candles that dimly lighted it. There were some beds aligned but no occupants. The guardian conducted us through a small corridor and knocked a door. A nervous little young man with an expressive face opened that door and once we were introduced, he shook our hands enthusiastically.

“Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, my name is Gregory Hughes, and it is an honour to meet you, sirs. I can define myself as a devoted admirer of your work. Please, come in. You see, now I am glad Dr. Smithson is not here, because otherwise I could not have had the chance to help you.”

“But you work here,” I said.

“Well, yes, I do. But most of the time I only assist Dr. Smithson with his routine examinations. I’m married and I live in *** with my wife and daughters. Normally, I leave this place in the afternoons.” We took ours seats around a small, clothed table.

“What can you tell us about Dr. Smithson,” asked Holmes.

“Not much I’m afraid, I don’t have your abilities, Mr. Holmes. He is not a talkative man, he spends most of his time here, and when he doesn’t, I don’t know where he goes. When I arrived here, a year and a half ago, he seemed to be immersed in some kind of project, but I’m not sure. He was always locked in his laboratory, and during my first three months I had nobody to talk to. After that I had the chance to know him more, but only professionally. I can give him my opinion, he corrects me when I do something wrong, and he listens to my comments. I work well with him.”

“Who certifies the deaths of the convicts?”

“He does. He is always here when it happens, and if I am here too, I only assist him.”

“Were you present when John Woods, James Hill and Mortimer Fox passed away?”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“But you examined the corpses.”

“No, I didn’t. What for?”

“It was only a question about procedure.”

“I have already told you. He is the one qualified to do that. I’m only his assistant, and I only can certify a death if he is not here.” Dr. Hughes appeared defensive. “I really wish to help, Mr. Holmes, but I don’t know if…”

“Of course, it is only that we do not have much time. Dr. Smithson seems to be an extremely reserved person. Were you not curious about him at first? And I assure you I appreciate your opinion.”

“Well, yes, I was. But I soon learnt to let him be. For instance, I only entered his laboratory once. He wasn’t there but I didn’t know it, so I went to ask him some questions. There were a few experiments running, and I tried to figure out what they were about. I intended no harm, but he acted as if I were thinking of stealing his discoveries. I felt very offended then, but he didn’t know me, and that project seemed to be important. I suppose it was a normal reaction.”

“I see. Could you show us Dr. Smithson’s laboratory?”

“He gave me the key as I have occasional need of something within. I cannot see your reasons, but if you think it necessary…”

Dr. Hughes looked puzzled. I did not have any clues about Holmes´s interest, either. It was a small square room full of shelves, and a large table was placed in the middle of it. As soon as Holmes entered the room, he appeared to forget our presence, for he started his intended examination of the room, muttering under his breath, his magnifying glass in hand. I observed him as I had done a hundred times before, and I have to say he didn’t look satisfied. Ten minutes later he let out a little cry that startled us. He picked a few envelopes out of his pocket, and proceeded to fill them up with whatever it was he had found. Dr. Hughes looked even more nervous.

“I hope this will help you, Mr. Holmes, because I must ask you to leave this room. I shouldn’t have let you in. If Dr. Smithson knew…”

“I have already finished. You don’t have to worry, Dr. Hughes, and I’m most grateful for your help. Watson here will take good account of your cooperation.”

“I should prefer not to be named, if you don’t mind. Please, gentlemen, I think I have done enough for you.”

“As you wish, of course.”

We left the room and went back to the small office. There, Holmes made an exhibition of his scenic talent, for he excused himself for his stupidity and returned to the laboratory to retrieve his forgotten magnifying glass. Dr. Hughes was obviously too concerned to be aware of Holmes´s trick, although for me it was the only thing I saw clear in the entire evening. My friend returned smiling and then we left leaving behind a very worried Dr. Hughes.

Outside, the same carriage was waiting. The night air was cold but clean, so I welcomed the little trip to our rented house. The rarefied atmosphere of the prison had had an oppressive effect upon my spirit.

I was as clueless as usual about my friend’s discoveries, but I preferred to reach the house before asking him anything. I buried myself in my coat and tried to forget all of our visit, although the little I could discern of the landscape seemed to me as lifeless and hopeless as the prison.

Almost an hour later we arrived at the small cottage which was our destination. Placed in the middle of nowhere, I should have expected it to be old and in disarray, but it happened to be clean and comfortable. As I examined it, Holmes remained outside talking to the driver.

After our dinner, which consisted on a picnic prepared by Mrs. Hudson, Holmes opened his bag and extracted a black case, which was full of little test tubes and a carefully selected set of chemical samples. After clearing the table, he organized his improvised laboratory and started to work in silence.

I had learnt to know when I had best let him alone, and so I decided to have a look around the house. It was an old but clean cottage, with a small kitchen and two bedrooms. It was the kind of place to which I would have wanted to go on holidays. I thought that I could propose Holmes to rent something like it for a week or two after the case were solved.
I was in one of the bedrooms, pulling out my nightshirt and slippers from my bag and smelling the clean scent of the bed clothes, when I heard the voice of my friend calling me from downstairs.

“Watson? Where are you?”

“Up here,” I answered, going down the stairs. “Is there anything you want me to do?”

“Not yet, I’m afraid. Were you thinking of going to bed?” I shrugged my shoulders.

“Well, there is not much to do… this room is rather small and I don’t want to be a distraction.” He smiled at me warmly at that.

“My dear Watson, I don’t deserve you,” he said, fondly. Then, he stood up swiftly and went to the door. “Would you mind waiting here just a few moments, Watson? I need to fetch something from my bag. Did you leave it in one of the bedrooms? The one on the left?” I simply nodded, and he went out. I sat there for a while, wondering first how could he have deduced that, and then if maybe it had been only a guess.

A few minutes later, I realized that I had stopped hearing Holmes upstairs. I stood up and approached the door, listening. I had still my hand on the knob when I heard a strangled noise.

“Holmes!” I called, “Holmes, is there anything wrong?” I asked just before I entered his bedroom. There, kneeling on the floor, with his upper body on the bed, was my friend. I was stunned for an instant before I knelt down to examine him.

“Holmes, Holmes, what is the matter?” He was having a fit of a kind I had never seen. He was making terrible noises as if there was not enough air in his lungs, his eyes were wide open and he was clutching the bed clothes with both hands. I tried to help him upon the bed, but in his state that was a impossible task. After two attempts I finally could raise him and lay him on the bed, and I ran out of the room to fetch my medical bag. My heart was pounding in my chest and my hands were trembling when I picked the bag up. I returned to the room to find Holmes laid on the bed absolutely still. I sat at his side and examined him while my shirt was getting soaked by a cold sweat. There was no pulse. His face was relaxed and his eyes closed. I opened my bag and got everything I thought it could be of use to get him back. I wanted to be sure it had not been a sort of catalepsy, an illness of which I had but a very poor understanding, and whose study was then at the very beginning.

I worked on his body for an hour unsuccessfully, but I did not want to surrender. Nonetheless at some point I knew I had to acknowledge the truth. The tears that had been blurring my eyes the last minutes finally started to run and I felt sick.

In only an instant, my life, my whole world had shattered. Confusion and desolation clouded my mind, and with a stone upon my heart and trembling knees I got out of the room. In my feverish state of mind, I even contemplated some ideas which, had I acted upon them, would have given this tale a very different end. I am grateful to whatever spirit or soul that had compassion on me and protected me from my madness and desperation.

It was with such a state of mind that I went downstairs to pass what were undoubtedly the worst hours of my life.

A few hours later I was sitting still by the side of the window, unable to move or think or see any other thing but the body of my dear friend Sherlock Holmes dying in my arms. There had been so many times I had regretted not having been present at Reichenbach Falls! And then, again, I had failed my friend in front of Death.

Still lost in my thoughts, I heard an indescribable little noise in the bedroom. I used the back of my hand to dry my cheeks, and then I rose to go up to the room. There, it took me a few seconds to set my eyes to the dim light, but after that, I could observe the second miracle of my life: Sherlock Holmes was propping himself on his right arm, his head lifted to me.

“What time is it, Watson?” his voice was weak, but it was undoubtedly a living voice. My eyes widened, and I felt again tears blurring my eyes.

“Holmes!” and I gave two steps to kneel down on the floor and gripped him by the arms. So, it started the least manly episode of my life, for I rested my head on his chest weeping desperately. I had been in such a state of affliction only a few minutes before, that the discovery had broken the nervous tension and led me to find relief in such an improper way.

“Thank God! Thank… God!” I could not say any more. During the following moments, neither of us spoke. I could not understand what could have happened, but in that very instant I did not care. I only wanted to feel the warmth of his body, to feel that I was not dreaming, that those arms and that chest were alive. It did not matter to me either whether my closeness and my emotions were making him feel uncomfortable, because the only thing I had on my mind was that the dreadful night I had suffered had been a nightmare. A little after, Holmes shifted and held my arms.

“Watson… Watson, please, calm yourself!” he requested with an unusual sweetness in his manner, without success. “Watson, please, man! Listen to me! Let me explain it, and then you may knock me out as I deserve.”

“What… what are you talking about?” I asked, trying to control myself.

“Watson, I really am extremely sorry, but you must believe me. I wanted to warn you, but the effects were too fast.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked again.

“The drug, Watson, the drug. I knew you’d try to stop me, so I thought to take it and then inform you… but it was impossible…” The rest of the sentence died behind his lips, for I had tensed my grasp of his arms as the meaning of what he was saying reached my brain.

“A drug? The cause of this was… a drug?” The words were almost hard to pronounce.

“Watson, my friend, try to understand, please. It was the only way to prove my theory. I only took a little dose; I didn’t know it would affect me so soon. I did intend to tell you, so you could observe the effects. I didn’t mean to upset you, my dear friend, and I’m deeply sorry.”

“Upset me?” I barked out. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Watson…”

“How could you? I wonder how could you…” I asked bitterly, as some unwanted tears were filling my eyes and I was unable to steady my voice. “Holmes, you could have died! My God, I thought you had died! How can you be so irresponsible?”

“Watson, you already know me. This is not the first time it has happened.” Holmes was visibly weak, and I could see that he was starting to feel overwhelmed by my unexpected attitude.

“I could have stopped you this time! It was a dangerous thing to do. You… you should have told me. Why? Why didn’t you tell me? What am I here for? Why am I always following you everywhere?” I tried not to sob, although my anger was only aggravating my state of distress. “But of course, I mean nothing to you! Nothing. Your own life means nothing to you. Your cases are the only thing you see, the only thing you expect from life. The rest is simply rubbish. And I’m a fool for believing…”

“Watson, please, just listen! I have told you, it was only a little risk I had to take to prove…”

“Rubbish! Don’t you dare to try to convince me that the agony I’ve felt the last hours… the worst hours of my entire life… don’t say it was worth it. I know you think it is, but please don’t say it aloud!” In vain I was trying to collect myself and tears were running free over my heated cheeks.”You can laugh at it later. At my thickness, at ‘poor old Watson’… It was not so funny before, when I thought I had failed to save your life again. Having your dead body in my arms and being unable to do anything. I was so nervous, so confused! I could not find any explanation. After your return I swore to myself I wouldn’t let you die again, even if that meant losing my own life. But there I was, a common physician, with the corpse of my friend…” Words were failing me and I struggled to find my voice.

Holmes was looking puzzled but he took my hand in a failed attempt to soothe me. He appeared to be totally at a loss.

“Watson, stop. You’re hurting us both. You’re overreacting… you haven’t listened to me.”

“I’ve listened enough! And don’t talk nonsense… hurting you? As if it were even possible! You should have to be human to be hurt.” I made a pause, to see the reaction of Holmes at my words. He was sitting up in the bed, blinking, looking unable to decide what to do or say to mend matters. As I already knew, this was not the kind of situation he was accustomed to manage, but at that moment, that thought only infuriated me further. “I assure you, Holmes, that this is the last time you laugh at me. And I thank you, because this nightmare has helped me to realize many things. And believe me, that was worth it.”

He let my hand go, and then combed his hair with his fingers slowly and unsteadily. Then he gave me a strange look.

“Watson, why don’t you do us both a favour, and think about it later? You’ll see things different in the morning. You’re not yourself now,” he said, uncertainly.

“Of course I’m not! Right now I’m feeling like a fool, I’m feeling alone, and I’m tired of pretending. You have opened my eyes tonight, Holmes.”

“Watson…”

“Don’t!” He kept silence for a moment. Then he spoke again.

“If I had known you would react like this, I should have never done it,” he said, in a soft tone. “I may well not be the most emotional man in the world, my dear Watson,” he made a pause and sighed, “but I’m quite sure that you know I shouldn’t have caused you such torment on purpose.”

“How many times am I going to have to mourn over your death, Holmes?” I asked, in a low voice. I felt too tired to speak louder. “I don’t want to feel like this anymore. It’s too painful. And not for the sake of your cases. That’s your idea of friendship, but not mine.”

He kept silence for a moment, looking pained. Then, he asked in a soft voice and very slowly, seeking my eyes tired, but intently, “You’re not going to…”

“Leave you?” Although I should have wished to disguise it, there was pain in my tone. “After all the efforts you have made to keep me away of my duties, you mean? To go back to my practice, which I sold because you asked me to?” He lowered his eyes a few moments, then he locked them with mine and spoke in a very quiet voice.

“What do you want me to say, Watson?”

“I don’t know, Holmes. I really don’t know. I doubt that anything you do or say can make me feel different.”

He nodded once and passed a hand over his hair. Then looked at me with an air even more disconcerted.

“What do I do now?” he asked me almost soundlessly. “I don’t know what to do, Watson.”

But I did not answer.

“Give me just… one moment. Only a moment… to think. I need to clear my mind.” Saying this he bent down, averting his eyes, and rested his head upon my shoulder.

An instant later he lifted his arms slowly and grasped mine. There, I could feel all his energy struggling to control himself and then, I saw with crystal clarity that a storm of emotions was about to break him in pieces. It was the first time I saw him in that state. Despite all my anger, I put my arms around him, and after that he seemed to relax a little. But it didn’t last long. With a sudden motion he held me close to his chest, so tight I had trouble breathing.

I felt a lump in my throat. I had accused him of ignoring me, but I had always known better. In my angry state I had said that I meant nothing to him, but I had always known I was his only friend. And at that moment, he looked so vulnerable, so lost, so unlike the man I knew! My worst emotions vanished, and I rubbed his back in a soothing movement, leaving me deeply moved and strangely reassured. I embraced him tighter, and murmured comforting words at his ear.

“It’s all right, Holmes… forgive me… I’m sorry… you’re fine, and that’s all that matters,” I sighed, “I don’t know what has happened to me…you’re alive!” I needed to weep and laugh at the same time, “You’re here, my friend,” I kissed his temple, “…it’s all right now.” He shuddered and his hug softened a little. He lifted a hand, placed it softly on my right cheek. Then he kissed me on the left and brushed his cheek against mine. The feeling was comforting, and it calmed somewhat a throbbing headache, one I had not been aware I had till that instant. I kissed him back, turning my head slightly towards his, and after that, slowly and sadly, our lips met. We remained in this way a few seconds, before Holmes left my lips with a sigh and kissed me on the cheek again, lifting his other hand to place it on the back of my neck. And then rested his head on my shoulder. I felt nothing but his body, close to mine, his warmth, and a cloud of happiness bright enough to light the rest of my life.

“You must be tired, my dear Watson, and I’m thoroughly done in.” He said eventually, letting go of me. His voice sounded weak but serious. “We’d better get some sleep now.”

“Are you all right, Holmes?” I asked him, worried again about his health. It surprised me that I had chosen such a dangerous moment to forget my duties as a doctor.

“I shall be, in a few hours. Don’t worry, Watson. I’ll call you if I feel bad, I promise.” He gave me a shy smile.

“I’m not sure I should leave you alone, Holmes. You’re weak and besides, I still don’t know what that damned thing you took was,” I protested, still rather anxious.

“I need to rest now, nothing more, I assure you,” he squeezed my hand, smiling sadly. “Watson…”

“All right, Holmes.” I was still reluctant, but I did not argue. “Good night.”

“Good night.”

I stood up and left the room to get back to my own, where I took off my clothes and got in the bed, falling asleep seconds later.

***

My feelings when I woke up the following morning were contradictory. On one hand, I felt deeply relieved. On the other, I was extremely reluctant to meet Holmes downstairs. The awkwardness of the situation of the previous night kept me in bed thinking a long time before I finally got up.

We had never talked about our feelings for each other, not like that. I had known how important he was to me, but I had never told him before. And I could not avoid being a bit ashamed about my behaviour. I had wept in front of him, and I had made him feel insecure. For a man like Holmes, that was undoubtedly the most embarrassing thing, as it had never happened to him before. How were we going to act afterwards?

And then, there were the other things that had happened, those about which I was almost scared to think. They were too complicated, too intimate, even to give them a name in my mind.

We had kissed. And only remembering it was making me feel anxious, although in that moment it had seemed to be the most natural thing.

We were intimate friends, but not in that manner. Questions as “Why did I have to kiss him?” were tormenting me, together with others as, “but why not?” Why was it so difficult to think about it in the morning? He had kissed me too, and the mere thought sent shivers down my spine.

Eventually I got dressed and came downstairs to the sitting room. Holmes was already there, standing by the fireplace.

“How are you feeling?”

“I have made some tea, Watson, on the table, with some bread and butter. We have a long stroll to the village, where I need to send some telegrams. There we can have a proper breakfast.” He said, without looking at me.

“You have solved the case.”

“I have solved a problem, but not the case. I’m afraid the rest will be left to the police.”

“To catch Smithson?”

“Exactly. Although if I’m not mistaken, he will be already out of reach. It was not a difficult problem, you may believe me. The circumstances were confusing at the beginning, but our doctor is a man of science, not a criminal. His plan was almost childish.”

“If I understood rightly, he must have used this experiment of his on the prisoners. He certified their deaths and left the rest to their accomplices. But… the last one?”

“The last one was a hoax. He probably wanted to stop, but he didn’t know how. The solution to his problem made him a murderer.”

“He administered a larger dose to the last one and left him to die.”

“And then he constructed the Gothic scenario to deviate attention. If I had been there when the police found the body, I could have had some evidence to send him to prison. But now this matter is a bit more complicated.”

“How did you know about the drug?”

“Because I was looking for it. It seemed to me impossible to believe that everything was a coincidence. Two famous criminals disappeared, the doctor of the prison disappeared, and an unknown poor devil on the moor. After examining the facts, the possibilities were reduced to a single one.”

“But, how did you find the poison? Why did Smithson leave behind such an evidence?”

“Watson, every substance, conveniently mixed and prepared, and administered in the proper manner, can be poisonous. I had read a few articles from our doctor about chemistry. None of them about this particular one, of course, but I knew he was an expert on certain substances. And about leaving it behind, my good friend, there were a hundred dangerous drugs in there! Only an expert like him would have been able to find it, and that after analysing them all. It would have taken months! Time enough for him to be out of sight.”

“But how did you know which it was? You could have been mistaken!”

“You know my methods, Watson. That room told me more about our man than his personal diary would have done. I only had to observe.”

Despite the faith I had in my friend’s abilities, I could not help but thinking that it had been too dangerous, and I told him so.

“I promise you that it will not happen again.” He said, in a low voice.

“I hope so.”

“You have my word. And now,” he added, finally turning his head to me, “we have to go to the village. Drink your tea; we’ll come back later to pack our things. I shall give you more details on our way.” He went to the door as I poured me out a cup.

“And, Watson?” He said quietly, giving me his back.

“Yes, Holmes?”

“About last night… don’t think about it now, please. Later, I wish to tell you something.”

I sat there drinking my tea, without knowing what to think or feel. My mind was once more in turmoil. But, I decided to trust Holmes. After all, it was a matter that concerned us both.

***

We strolled back to the cottage in companionable silence for a while. The air was cold and moist around us and the sky conferred on the path an odd sense of unreality, as if the dim and yellowish light were coming from nowhere.

Holmes and I had not talked since we started to walk down the path out of the village. But each step we took towards the cottage was leading us to the event of the previous night.

I was regretting my outburst more than any other thing in my life. I had always been honest with myself about how painful some of Holmes’s words or attitudes were for me. I had written a few times about my feelings. Even my readers knew it, so I was certain he did, too. Why then, should it be so difficult to face a situation like that? And why was I so anxious about what Holmes had to tell me? I had not seen anything in his behaviour that could anticipate more tense moments between us. At least anything excessively awkward, given the circumstances. Nonetheless, I could not help being concerned.

We had walked for a while when we reached a small clearing located at the right side of the path, where large stones were scattered over the ground. There, my friend halted and left the path with long and slow steps. He approached a rock that the elements had sculpted to strange shapes and stopped with one gloved hand on it. I came closer to him.

“After all, Holmes, I am glad that we can breath the clean air of the country. We ought to look for something like this, or a little more cheerful, next Spring. What do you think?” He turned his head to me and smiled.

“A compensation for last night?”

“Holmes, I…”

“I know, I know.” He made a pause. “Watson, there is something I want to apologize for. I have given it some thought, and I have come to the conclusion that I have asked too much from you.”

“Holmes…” but he made a short gesture with his hand to stop me.

“I had expected you to understand, but it is my fault that you did not. You are the kindest person I have ever had the pleasure to meet, my friend, and it is my fault that I tend to forget that.”

I knew then that what was following could not be good, if Holmes was talking in riddles.

“You know, Watson, that I have had only a few friends in my life. I have my peculiarities, as you call them, and not everybody has patience enough to put up with them. The event from last night is the highest example. That is why I owe you an explanation. I cannot expect from you to understand something you do not know.” He took a seat on the ground and gestured me to do the same. He also searched for a cigarette and lit it.

“This is hardly a matter I like to talk about, but after your reaction last night, I saw it was necessary that I gave you what you need to know to understand why I am so careless with the feelings of the heart.

“You have often portrayed me as a cold and emotionally unaffected man. And you already know how important is for my profession to be so… dispassionate. It has been a feature of my personality for a very long time and it suits my purposes well but… I did not become like that due to my profession, I assure you that. It has been more a casualty, a very fortunate one. It was at some point in my youth that I realized that I should not let my heart grow.”

“But why on earth did you do such a thing?” I asked, bewildered, “how can anybody do such a thing?”

“Watson, you don’t understand. I decided it would be inconvenient to pay attention to that matter, and I simply decided to remain blind to the physical and emotional qualities.”

“But why?”

“I thought it would be inconvenient, Watson.” He said that looking at me with the impatience that I knew so well, but mixed with a desperate plea in his eyes and a strangled voice, as if he wanted me to grasp the full meaning of that word. I stared him while my brain struggled to elucidate his words in vain.

He sighed in desperation and looked at me with dismay.

“Watson, you positively are aware that men may develop deviant tendencies.”

When the meaning of his statement struck me, my blood ran cold. He watched me freeze and before I could pull myself together, he declared gravely, “Once I had determined for certain that I could not be attracted to the opposite sex as I was to my own, I decided to ignore the whole matter. I have never regretted it, not once in my life.” He looked me in the eye while he said this. “I have already told you that I have never been a very sociable fellow (now you know one more reason apart from those you know so well), so I have never had to… reprimand myself. I am dedicated to my work as if I were a monk, and it satisfies my needs thoroughly. And when I have no intellectual work to deal with, you already know what I do. My life, as bohemian or weird as it may seem for other people, suits me entirely,” he paused and stared at me seriously with intense eyes. “I mean that I cannot make exceptions, Watson, which sometimes leads me to a certain disregard for other people’s feelings, as happened yesterday.”

I have never felt so overwhelmed as I felt at those words. The worst part was that I could not process such an amount of information in only a few seconds. Of all the things I could have not expected to hear from my friend, this one was the most inconceivable. I was aware of Holmes’s stare and his uneasiness, but I took a few moments to settle my nerves and my stomach. Eventually, I found my voice.

“I’m quite taken aback, Holmes. I… don’t know what to say.”

“I understand.” His face was unreadable.

I examined the first piece of information. Holmes was a deviant, and he seemed to be absolutely aware of that.

“You are sure… I mean, you have no doubts?” He looked at me sharply.

“You know how accurate my conclusions are. You would not expect me to reach this particular one without doing a bit of research.” After saying that, he appeared to be deflated, “Watson, believe me, you don’t want to know the details. That’s all water under the bridge.”

“You can try… maybe it was something transitory,” I persisted, although it sounded foolish even to myself. It was hard to think clearly, but not only for me.

“Transitory! Do I have to tell you the things I dream when I have nocturnal emissions?” He said irritably, but a second later, he added, “I apologize for my bluntness.”

I was shocked at Holmes’s harsh words and, to my shame, I felt myself blush. He continued talking.

“I have never told anyone. I told you to make you understand. You are the closest friend I have, I wish you to understand that I have a flaw, I have tried to prevent terrible consequences and fortunately, that problem does not affect me as it did in the past.” He stopped to look at me with a softer expression. “Pray remember this the next time I hurt your feelings, or anyone else’s. But this is the way I am. I cannot change.”

He lit another cigarette, and I did the same, although my hands were even more unsteady than his. We remained there, thinking, smoking and surrounded by a white and cloudy atmosphere of unreality.

I revised his words once and again, trying to elucidate the inner meaning in them. Why was he so afraid of being more open to his feelings? I knew he had them. I knew he cared for me, even if he only acknowledged it in moments of real danger. I was his closest friend, but he also needed to keep me at distance. And then, slowly and painfully, a thought put itself into words. He was afraid that he could come to love me. If he would let himself. I inhaled the smoke from my cigarette as if I were trying to get from it the strength I needed. My feelings were oddly conflicting: a soothing warmth in my chest was struggling against a mounting anger the source of which I could not fathom.

I was his closest friend. I was a man. He was afraid of himself, afraid of me. I was his humble servant, I admired him, I followed him everywhere and did everything he asked me to. Would it mean that the brave Sherlock Holmes was a coward in front of me? And why did his attempts to repress himself infuriate me so much? I turned my head to stare at him, at the thoughtful profile I had learnt to know so well.

“What you actually are afraid of, Holmes?” I asked, fully aware of where I was leading to. I wanted to force him to say the truth. Or to lie. “Even I cannot be an exception? I have left behind everything to be by your side. Why do I not deserve a little more than the rest? I have put at risk everything for you. I have suffered more than anyone for your cause. Why am I not different from other people to you?”

“But you are already different. What is it exactly what you do want me to say?” he asked through his clenched teeth. “What do you want to hear from me?”

He reached nervously for his cigarette case and picked up one and lit it. He kept the case in his right hand and I observed for a few moments. I remembered our embrace, our kiss.

I reached for his cigarette case but grabbed his hand instead.

“What are we going to do to mend this, Holmes?”

“To mend what?”

“Last night.”

“I think that I have already explained it to you.”

“But I have feelings for you!”

“What kind of feelings?” He said and let his hand go.

“I don’t know what I’m feeling. I don’t know what I feel for you. It was easier before last night.”

“Watson, let us forget that.”

“Why?”

“Watson!” I grabbed his shoulder and squeezed it. I had never hidden myself from him, I had not hidden any single feeling from the beginning. I had let him see my confusion, my loneliness, my needs. In less than twenty four hours I had confessed openly my devotion and my pain. He had opened himself too and had confessed something that very few people knew. Only old acquaintances. It was time to mend things up, at last. We had to move forward.

“We must go back to the cottage or we’ll miss our train,” said Holmes in a low voice, without looking at me.

“Let’s go on, then.”

We stood up and went back to the path. I could barely keep my hands from Holmes’s back. I needed to show him I was there. I needed to give us both reassurance. The complicity between us, our half-words, everything I had ever felt at his side, when he talked to me, when he smiled, every time he looked at me fondly, everything seemed to accompany me down the path. What did it mean that he were a deviant? For me, then, only an open door. A door opened for me only. I wanted to prove to him that my pure devotion for him could make it work. Everything he wanted me to do, only to see him share his inner self with me. I felt sure that I could convince him. I had to let him know that I could be whatever he wanted me to be. For me, it only meant the challenge to show the person I cared for that I could love him as he needed to be loved.

We walked our way back to the cottage with the burden of all the things we had said and those we had kept buried in ourselves. My resolution was one of the last ones. Also my own reaction at the thought of his physical needs intrigued me somewhat. Curiosity, excitement, anticipation. I had never had any doubts about my nature. Could the reward of his love be sufficient to make it change?

I observed his lean form as we walked, and I tried to imagine him with his body pressed to mine, I imagined him hugging me as he had done the previous night. Would I feel free to show him the way I love? Could it be so different from making love with a woman? I reached my hand to his back and rested it between his shoulder blades as we continued walking. He seemed to react but he did not avoid my contact. I had already done that to soothe him when he was suffering from some of his nervous breakdowns, those to which I had referred in my writings without details. When he seemed at the verge of tears or extremely depressed.

I captured a glimpse of the cottage still yards away and my heart started to beat faster. At the moment we were at the front door, Holmes picked the key out of his pocket with a trembling hand. I saw him trying to steady it to open the door, but it took him a few moments.

We entered the house almost at the same time. I still had my hand on his shoulder and once inside, we remained still. My mind was a turmoil; my heart was beating madly and the air I was breathing seemed to be insufficient. Holmes was quiet by my side, but some seconds later he took off his coat. Slowly, he went to the table and remained there with his eyes low. I took my coat off too and went to him, pretending I wanted to appease him. But I put both of my hands on the table, and I tried to think of something to say.

I heard him exhale. He lifted his head and muttered something inaudible. I looked at him but he averted his eyes.

“Please tell me what you want me to say,” he said.

“I don’t want you to say anything.”

“We should go back to London.”

“We could stay here for the night.”

“Watson, what do you want from me?”

“A proof. I need to know. Please.”

“And what happens next? What happens if we cannot?

“Nothing. It changes nothing.”

“Ha!” He let out a dry laugh. I continued talking, lowering my voice to conceal my lack of confidence.

“I need to feel special to you. I have always needed it, but you have not shown it to me. Do it, please. I need to know you tried it, once, at least.”

“Watson…”

“Let me try.”

I put my hands on his arms and lifted my head to meet his lips, keeping in mind that we had already done that. I gave him several kisses on the lips as I would have done to a woman, before directing my attention to the rest of his face. I caressed his jaw, his cheekbones, his eyelids, his brows, with my lips. He was shaved and his skin was smooth and soft, although his features were too sharp to be taken for a female face. I was not expecting a reaction from my friend, for I had merely added a little more to what we had done the night before. I was only trying to make him relax and to feel myself confident enough to continue. I reached again for his lips and kissed them softly, then I made a pause and I took a little distance with my eyes closed.

This was undoubtedly the most difficult task I had ever attempted. Never before I had felt so opened, insecure and brave at the same time. I was not only trying to convince Holmes, but also myself, that the step I had chosen to take was sincere and natural. We were both longtime friends and our relationship had always been deepening, just from the beginning, until that moment. I needed to feel him loving me. I needed to show him how much I loved him. We were not common people.

I decided a bolder approach and took his mouth with my lips parted, encouraging him to part his too, moving the tip of my tongue right and left over the line where his lips met. When he finally did, I felt that some immaterial part of me was sliding inside him along with my tongue.

The still hesitant contact with that wicked organ excited my senses and the stimulus stirred an impulse to dominate it and make it yield. Flicking the tip of my tongue over it, first languidly and then with increasing fervour made my friend shudder and surrender. He sucked my tongue into his mouth and I did not need more self-justification. That he was losing himself in what we were doing was at that point so obvious, that I felt emotionally overwhelmed. I could have tasted the deepest of his soul if that had been possible, feeling him wriggling along my body as I ravished his mouth with all my will.

After a few blissful moments, I abandoned his mouth to breathe. When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me intently as if trying to see if I was having second thoughts. He actually opened his mouth to say something, but I blocked his lips with my fingers. He raised his hand, unhurriedly, grasped my own and very slowly, he lowered it until it rested on his crotch. His eyes never left mine during the time it took that movement. He kept staring at me when I felt his manhood through his trousers. He was aroused. I swallowed. Hesitantly, my hand trembling, I stroked him there and I felt it pulsing, although his face looked unaffected. Somehow I thought that applying more force to my touch could steady my hand, so I kept stroking him for a while until his grip on my wrist hardened. Holmes was now flushed, his white skin softly dyed by the colour of passion, nearly black eyes losing focus for moments, while his breath touched my mouth and my nose in short exhalations. A maddening scent unknown to me until that moment made me search the hot cavern of his mouth, lustfully thirsty of his juice. When he tried to escape from my hand and from my kiss, I kept my face close to his, using my mustache to tickle his ear.

“I’m not going to stop.” My voice sounded raspy.

“As you wish.”

His hand left my wrist, went to my crotch and covered the bulge with his palm. He started to move his hand over my member with a steady rhythm as I exhaled, closed my eyes and invaded his mouth again, fingering his hardness through his garments.

We went on kissing, all eager tongues and playful teeth, teasing each other purposefully through the clothes, as if trying to convince our reluctant fleshy tools to come out and play together. Holmes was eating me as a ravenous man eats a piece of meat, getting in his mouth as much of me as he could, hollowing his cheeks to suck my tongue deeper, savouring me with such a greed that it looked as if he could only feed on me. It felt like a drugged dream, surrounded by rubbing touches, moist tongues and hot breaths, indulging in a mutual but not fulfilling masturbation, fully dressed until he moaned inside me. That sound sent boiling blood through my veins. I groaned freely, and hearing myself so bold aroused me even more, and encouraged me to break off. I undid his fly button, introduced my hand through his trousers reaching past curly harsh hair and then, for the first time, I felt the smooth skin of his phallus. I pulled it out and encircled my fingers around his erected member and I touched him as I had learnt to do it to myself, paying attention to the crown, spreading its moisture with my thumb, teasing lightly the slit with the tip of my index finger. With trembling hands, Holmes undid my flies and slipped his hand to handle my erection, starting to mimic my movements.

Our breaths were laboured and erratic, sharing the air, inhaling our mixed scents, only to be interrupted by sloppy and lewd kisses and groans and panting moans. Without stopping the pumping movement of my hand over his erection, I reached for his buttocks with my free hand, slipped my fingers to grab one of his cheeks and I pulled him closer. He groaned once more, spreading his legs and rubbing himself wantonly against me. Lustfully lost as I was, I tried to reach his anus with my fingers. And when I found the tight hole and rubbed it, I felt his shaft pulse and stiffen even more in my hand. I stroked him faster and seconds later he found his release, coating my fingers with his seed. I observed my friend’s face as he climaxed. His eyes were closed as if in pain, his lips parted, panting softly until he finished and opened his eyes slightly unfocused. I felt a sudden urge to devour his face, to taste his nose, his eyelashes, so my tongue took the lead to his chin and I started to lick at it greedily. Letting go of his member, I grabbed his buttocks pulling him even closer for an instant. Then I covered his still busy hand with my own to pump my erection, thrusting madly until I spurted my own release.

If I had to choose only a single moment of my entire existence to save it from oblivion; if I had to treasure only a feeling, one only from childhood to old age; if I could revive the same few minutes for all the eternity, I should surely choose the first few seconds after our orgasms, those which found our bodies melted in a warm fog of sighs and whispers, which surrounded us tenderly in that lost cottage, far from home. I should treasure forever the joy that made me shed tears of confused happiness and sated relief. I should revive the comfort I felt with him hugging me loosely, the delightful pressure of his head on my shoulder, the sweet words which we shared there, the secret intimacy which I have no way to describe. For those moments of secret bliss, although brief to Time and polluted to God, will remain to my eyes the purest and eternal of my life.

Advertisements
Published in: on 17/04/2010 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://radixpedisdiaboli.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/fic-the-case-of-the-kidnapped-corpses/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: