Monday, January 29, 2007

The Face of the Enemy

A cheesy Sherlock Holmes story I wrote on a whim. I like it but I might be biased.

The young woman walked up the steps of 221b Baker Street and knocked firmly. She smoothed out her skirt and tucked a stray hair back under her hat before the door was opened by an elderly woman. “Hello. My name is Elizabeth Jameson. Is Mr. Holmes available to speak to?”

Considering her for a moment, the woman stepped back into the hall. “Please come inside Miss Jameson. I will go see if he is home.”

Elizabeth stepped inside and watched the woman head upstairs. She listened to the low voices as she was announced, her heart leaping when she was led upstairs and into a large sitting room.

Two men were sitting on opposite sides of the room, one gaunt and thin who was reclined in a chair and considering her almost lazily, she knew him to be Sherlock Holmes. The other, a fuller fleshed man who was smiling pleasantly, rose to his feet to greet her.

Holmes motioned to his companion. “This is-“

“Dr. Watson, it is an honor to meet you.” She said, cutting Holmes off and crossing the room to take his hand. “I have read with great interest your records of Mr. Holmes’ many works. You have a gift for writing sir.”

Watson looked exceedingly pleased by her praise. “Why thank you Miss..?”

She laughed and blushed slightly. “Oh yes, forgive me… my name is Elizabeth Jameson.”

“And you have come today to meet with the great novelist, Dr. Watson? I see you have a book in your coat pocket, perhaps you wish him to sign it for you?” Holmes asked.

Her blush deepened and she backed away from Watson, embarrassed by her display.

Watson laughed and motioned for her to sit down. “Pray, tell us what brings you here.”

Sitting down on the edge of the chair, she ran a hand over the book in her lap before looking up at Holmes again. “I have come to ask for your help Mr. Holmes. I’ve riddled out this mystery as far as my abilities have allowed, but the only conclusion that I have been able to come to is that there is some great danger hovering close to me.”

Holmes shifted in his chair, his eyes drooping. “Tell me everything with great detail.”

She nodded slightly. “Nearly two months ago I began receiving strange letters in the post. And by letters I do mean…” She pulled an envelope out and carefully poured out a handful of letters that had been cut carefully out of newspaper headlines.

Watson leaned forward to inspect the bits and pieces in her extended hand. “How odd. Did anything else come with them?”

She shook her head. “No sir. Just the letters.”

“Did you keep the envelopes?” Holmes asked suddenly.

Smiling, she produced a packet of envelopes and surrendered them to the man. “I wrote the dates they arrived and the letter it contained on the inside flap.”

He flipped through the envelopes slowly. “No message to be deciphered if you go in order of arrival… please continue.”

She set the scraps of paper down on a table. “Every day I received one, they’re marked with the date on the back. I noticed that they were cut in a unique way, rather like puzzle pieces.” She began shifting the letters around on the table. “They fit together only with other certain letters.”

Both men watched with interest as words began to take shape.


Elizabeth straightened up and sighed, looking down at the messages. “I am not easily frightened Mr. Holmes. I thought it was someone playing a joke. Or perhaps even a strange attempt to gain my affection. But then these began arriving, just this week.” She passed over a pile of letters to Holmes, who flipped through them slowly.

“Counting down from ten, I see we still have five days left.” He said before setting the papers aside. “Miss Jameson, can you think of any reason for someone to be harassing you in such a cryptic manner?”

She shook her head. “No sir. I live a fairly quiet life. My mother is very ill and remains in bed at all times, my father passed away some years ago when I was still just a girl. We live off of what was left behind for us. He was not a rich man, but he invested well and saved everything he earned. He was not a healthy man and wanted to be certain we were provided for.”

He considered her slowly. “Any suitors who might want to take revenge after being spurned?”

“No sir. My mother occupies most of my time. I do not go out, so I have not had many suitors. And those who I have attracted have been the ones doing the leaving?”


Watson frowned deeply. “Really Holmes.”

Elizabeth looked between the two men before looking down at her hands. “My mother occupies my every waking thought Mr. Holmes. Most gentlemen want a lady who will dote on them and think only of them. I cannot give them that.” She became lost in her thoughts for a moment before returning to herself. When she lifted her eyes Holmes was staring at her intently. “I’m afraid for my mother sir. If anything were to happen to me I’m afraid it would be the end of her. And these letters… it’s as if I’m living life with a sword hanging over me, just waiting for it to fall.” Her eyes welled with tears and she pulled out a kerchief to wipe at them carefully. “Please Mr. Holmes… can you help me?”

He leaned forward over the messages, staring at them intently. “Your case is one of great interest to me Miss Jameson. I will do all that I can to riddle out this mystery, as you so eloquently put it. Please, return home and tend to your mother. And do take a cab rather than walking. If someone is following you it would be best if you don’t wander much on foot.”

Rising to her feet, she looked down at the messages. “You will let me know if you come to any conclusions, won’t you?”

“Of course we will Miss Jameson.” Watson said with a smile, holding out an arm to lead her to the door. “Rest assured that we will do all we can.”

Smiling, she nodded and left the room. “I have new strength. Thank you both.”


Elizabeth had initially felt renewed and encouraged when Mr. Holmes had agreed to look into her mysterious letters. But three days had passed without hearing so much as a word from the man and she had begun to wonder if other more interesting cases hadn’t caught his attention.

It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when he and Dr. Watson appeared at her door as if there had been a long standing appointment. She rang for tea and sat down, watching the pacing man expectantly. After several minutes she broke the tense silence. “You have news Mr. Holmes?”

“No.” He said simply, his expression for just a moment betraying his disgust at that fact. “No news. No clue. No trail to follow.”

Bowing her head, she tried to swallow back the panic that rose up. He was supposed to have been the one who figured it out. He was supposed to help her, save her.

Her maid, Chloe, entered with a tray of tea. It was a welcome distraction and she busied herself with pouring out cups. Holmes refused his when offered and Watson took his without meeting her eye.

“I have been everywhere. I have been watching you and those around you and still he alludes me.” Holmes burst suddenly, making her jump. “This man is clever. He is cautious. This makes him all the more dangerous…”

Chloe entered the room again. “A telegram for you Miss.”

She took the paper and opened it up, her eyes sliding over the writing before the color drained from her face and she fell to the floor in a faint.

Elizabeth opened her eyes to find Dr. Watson hovering over her, a bottle of smelling salts in his hand. “Oh… I’m sorry I…” Panic sprang up in her eyes again. “I have to run. I have to get out of here.”

“Calm yourself.” Watson said gently. “You’ll faint again if you keep this up.”

She shook her head. “But the letter.”

Holmes was standing in front of the fireplace, holding the letter in one hand. “Three, two, one. Time is up. Tonight.” He read slowly, glancing up when Elizabeth made a soft, terrified sound. “This plays perfectly into our hands. He is impatient and it has gotten the better of him and his caution. Watson tonight you and I will stay here-“

“You know I can’t do that Holmes. Jackson asked me to sit over a patient tonight.” Watson said immediately, shaking his head.

Looking annoyed, Holmes threw himself down into a chair and pulled out his pipe. “Of course. Your legitimate duty calls…” He lit the pipe and took several long draws before leaning forward intently. “Miss Jameson, you need not be alarmed. Tonight I will remain here and we will see just who this mysterious man is.”

She nodded slightly. “Thank you sir.”

Watson stayed for dinner, though he seemed the only person with any appetite. Holmes sat in front of an empty plate and stared meditatively at the ceiling while Elizabeth made occasional attempts to rouse herself to eat, though without much luck. When Watson had departed for the night the pair retired to her sitting room.

It was a decidedly uncomfortable atmosphere in the room. Elizabeth made a few weak attempts at conversation before abandoning it in favor of the heavy silence. Finally she brought out a book to read, trying to distract her from what was to come.

“So you read Watson’s stories, did you?”

His voice broke through the silence and she looked up in surprise. “Yes. I enjoyed them very much. Though…”

He quirked a brow. “Though what?”

She rose and poured two glasses of wine from a carafe, handing one to him. “You must not tell him this, but I found them a touch too romantic. It seems that they might have been used as almost training guides for young detectives and police, but he reduced them to mere stories.”

A smile flickered briefly over his face. “That is an opinion we share.” He fell silent again and she was about to open her book up when he shifted in his seat and leaned towards her. “You said, when you first came for help, that you had riddled it out as far as you could manage. What did you mean?”

Elizabeth blushed slightly. “I don’t pretend to be a detective Mr. Holmes. And I’m sure that my methods, such as they are, may seem laughable to you. But when the letters started arriving I inquired at the post office and at messengers to see if they had any record. I asked them to please keep track of anyone posting letters to this address. When it started to look as if he wasn’t sending them by post or messenger I decided to keep watch, but I could not see how anyone could deliver a letter in a different way. Except perhaps by bribing my servants to deliver messages. Chloe denied it most violently and when I searched the whole house I could find nothing out of the ordinary. I don’t think she’s forgiven me for that just yet.”

Holmes clapped his hands together once and laughed. “Miss Jameson you impress me. You are cleverer than I gave you credit to be.”

The conversation came more easily after that point. Between the two of them the carafe of wine was nearly emptied and the room rang with their mingled laughter as they challenged each others’ wits with complicated riddles.

“I do believe I have outwitted you Mr. Holmes.” Elizabeth said with a smile, watching his expression as he struggled to figure out the cryptic mystery.

He held up a hand, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “Now now, give me half a moment to think…”

She leaned towards him and placed the barrel of the revolver under his chin. “No Mr. Holmes… time is up.” With great satisfaction she watched the little color drain from his face, the smile fade and a blank expression consume his face. “And I have outwitted you.” She rose to her feet and pointed the gun into his face, smiling at the satisfying sound as she cocked it. “You’re sweating. Good. You have every reason to be afraid.”

Straightening in his chair, he eyed the gun before looking up at her. “So you mean to murder me?”

Laughing softly, she walked slowly around his chair. “Brilliantly deduced Mr. Holmes. Though murder is a harsh word. I prefer… settling the score.”

Holmes turned his head slowly to watch her. “I was not aware that we had scores that needed settling.”

“Perhaps because we have not been properly introduced. My name is Elizabeth Moriarty.” She smiled as the stricken look that flashed across his face. “Now you see the score that needs settling.” She placed the barrel of the gun to his temple. “You killed my father. Whatever I might do to you is justified revenge.”

He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. “The police might think otherwise. Your father was a criminal. An infectious disease upon society.”

She struck him hard in the head with the gun, watching as he struggled to remain conscious. “The world was built on the shoulders of men like my father!” She shouted. “There has never been a king or emperor or ruler who was not a criminal at heart. He could have taken the crown if he so chose to. But you… you took him away from me. You killed him in cold blood. He offered you a chance at peace and you killed him!”

He slowly sat up, raising a hand to the lump on his temple. “No more than what he would have done to me.”

“He called me Lizzie.” She said suddenly, her eyes welling with tears. “Told me that I was the most important thing in the world to him. Treated me like a queen…” She pointed the gun at Holmes again. “Killing you is the least I can do for him.”

There was blood trickling down his temple. “And the police?”

“It’s well known that you’ve been investigating a potentially violent attack on my life. A pity that the criminal should get the upper hand over you. But you’ll have died defending my life.”

He looked over at her. “So I die a hero and you live forever indebted to me?”

She smiled again. “No Mr. Holmes. You die a failure and I live to resume my father’s work.” Walking behind the chair where he was sitting, she placed the barrel of the gun to the back of his head. “Shot in the back of the head, too stupid to turn around and face your end. Your supposedly brilliant mind splashed across the room. As undignified an ending as you gave to my father.” She held the gun in both hands, rubbing the trigger with one finger. “Goodbye Mr. Holmes.”

Something hard and cold pushed against the back of her head and she heard the cock of a gun. “Watson…” She breathed softly as the man’s hand slid down her arm and pulled the gun away from her.

Holmes rose to his feet and turned to face her, smiling. “Excellent timing Watson.”

Nodding, Watson moved slowly into her view, still pointing the gun at her. “Happy to help Holmes, as always.”

Elizabeth looked between the two men. “All along? You knew?”

Holmes considered her with an almost pitying expression. “My dear girl you have all the features of your father save that you are perhaps more shapely than he was. I have known since the moment you walked into my room. Though I will admit it was a good act you put on. There were times when I wondered if perhaps I was wrong in my assumptions. It was the telegram that made things clear in my eyes.”

“How?” She demanded angrily.

He walked over to where it was sitting and picked it up, considering it for a moment. “I left word at every telegram office that if anyone should send a telegram to you I was to be notified immediately with a description of the person. When word arrived that you had sent yourself the note, why it was doubtless that I was, in fact, dealing with the spawn of my deceased nemesis.”

Several police officers entered the room. As she was handcuffed, Elizabeth turned to smile at Holmes. “I won’t be in prison for long Holmes. I look forward to our next encounter.”

Bowing slightly to her, Holmes mirrored her smile. “As do I, Miss Moriarty. As do I.”