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A Study in Satin

by Tigger
(C)opyright 2000, all rights reserved.
Part I: Semper Cogitus
Chapter 1. The End
The cold London fog rolled in across the Thames, making the
city's street lights halo eerily. Had there been anyone out and
about that damp, chilly midnight hour, they would have seen only
a single lighted window overlooking Baker Street.
That solitary light issued from the second floor study of the
flat at 221B Baker Street - the rooms of the fabled Mr. Sherlock
Holmes. For a single moment, a shadowy figure peered out into the
night through the parted drapery - a figure bent by age and other
. . . less-natural enfeebling agencies.
The years had not been kind to the great detective. His longtime
friend and principal biographer, Dr. John Watson had been dead
for nigh onto two years. Mycroft Holmes, the brilliant if
eccentric older brother who had used his contacts as a senior
official of His Majesty's Government to send Holmes so many
challenging cases, had also passed away. Both losses had been
devastating to the man in the gloomy rooms for their passings had
left that powerful and restless intellect truly and completely
alone save for memories - and vices.
Sherlock's brother had been, of late, the last influential person
in all of England who had still believed in the great detective's
powers and abilities. With Mycroft's death, Holmes no longer had
any contacts who could or would advise other such men of
consequence to bring their most baffling and sensitive problems
to the rooms at 221B Baker Street. Those whose hands now
controlled the reins of power within the British Empire could see
no point in consulting with a relic of a bygone age - a man who,
in their so-very-knowing estimation, could not possibly
understand the wonders and problems of their modern world.
Their casual dismissal had left Holmes to struggle against the
fiendish power he could not defeat - the utter and debilitating
ennui that gnawed at his very soul when his powerful brain went
unchallenged.
All of which made the loss of Watson even more serious. Watson
had been the stone upon which the great detective had sharpened
his thoughts, tested his hypotheses and tightened his arguments.
In short, Dr. John H. Watson had provided Holmes the intelligent
and appreciative audience his investigative method and his ego
required.
More importantly, a living John Watson would have at least
attempted to dissuade Holmes from resuming his use of the seven
percent solution of cocaine as a salve for his boredom. Holmes
had believed that he'd defeated the need for the drug during his
years abroad after the incident at the Reichenbach Falls with
Professor Moriarty, but over the past two years, he had
discovered that he'd been wrong. Since Watson's death, and
without challenges suited to his curiosity and intellect, Holmes'
use of the drug had steadily increased. Whether that was due to
the unrelenting ennui or to a real and growing addiction, Holmes
did not know.
Nor, at this point in his life, did he very much care.
Every game, in Holmes' opinion, eventually came to a cusp, a
critical moment in which a player's options became distinctly
limited. After a great deal of contemplation and reflection,
Holmes had concluded that his life had arrived at just such a
crossroads.
Holmes had always assumed that when such an important milestone
in his amazing life finally occurred, it would come heralded by
major events and great happenings. A case worthy of his powers
such as the one that had led to the confrontation with Professor
Moriarty at the Falls or an investigation such as the one he'd
conducted on the behest of the King of Bohemia when he had first
met Irene Adler, THE woman. Such a major event in the life of
the greatest detective of his era, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, should
have been presaged by something equally momentous.
Only it had not. Rather, the event had been marked only by a
series of relatively unimportant, disconnected events in the past
sennight.
It had all begun not more than a week earlier, when a
particularly maudlin mood had driven Holmes to take out his case
file. After Watson's death, Holmes had assumed the
responsibility of documenting his investigations, not because he
was vain nor because he harbored any interest in personal fame,
but because the world stood to benefit from accurately rendered
accounts of his method in action. Holmes had been dismayed to
realize that it had been more than a year since the aging
detective had been called in to undertake a case worthy of his
still prodigious powers. It had been mere coincidence that the
date of the final entry in the file, the date that Holmes had
declared that case closed, had been one year ago to the day he
had decided to look over that file.
Mere coincidence.
Later during the same week, Holmes had needed to renew his supply
of cocaine. The meager supply that Watson had kept in his small
surgery had been quickly consumed once Holmes had resumed using
the drug. This had forced Holmes to find another supplier, which
had not been difficult - until this attempt. This time when
Holmes had gone to his chemist, he'd been told that from then on
he would need a prescription signed by a licensed doctor in order
to obtain the drug. That problem had been solved by means of a
judicious bit of forgery, but Holmes knew from personal
experience that forgery was a crime with a very short life.
Eventually, the doctor and the chemist would reconcile their
records and Holmes' forgeries would be uncovered. Holmes might
be able to delay that unfortunate occasion by frequenting a
number of other doctors and chemists, but it was only a matter of
time before that avenue of relief, however reprehensible Watson
had found his use of it, would be closed to Holmes as well.
Holmes had therefore renewed his efforts to secure work from the
various government agencies that had once clamored for his
attentions. Those efforts, however, had been met only with
ridicule and derision. In fact, one officious little dandy had
actually had the unmitigated gall to order the office guards to
"escort" Holmes from the building.
Holmes had been profoundly humiliated by that cavalier dismissal
and treatment. The humiliation had quickly given way to a rage
the likes of which the ordinarily cold and unemotional detective
rarely experienced. Briefly, he had gone so far as to actually
consider turning his talents against those pompous, strutting
fools - to following his greatest foe onto the path of crime, or
even conquest. Then let those smug idiots at Whitehall try
ignoring him. . . let them DARE to ignore King Sherlock the
First.
The images such confrontations conjured up had been momentarily
entertaining for Holmes, but in the end, he had discarded both
notions.
Not because he doubted the feasibility of either option. Holmes
firmly believed that he would have succeeded at either venture,
but his decision to forgo those paths had come from what was to
him, an unexpected source. Holmes was neither a religious nor a
superstitious man, but the thought of how Watson would have
reacted to Holmes turning his skills and will against the Crown
had, in the end, dissuaded him.
Odd that after all the years of amused yet mildly condescending
tolerance toward his longtime companion, Holmes should find that
he needed to feel worthy of Watson's good opinion. *The follies
of age,* he thought not for the first time, *are at least as
numerous of those of youth, and the worst folly of all must be
conscience.*
In truth, Holmes did not need to work - at least not in a
financial sense. Mycroft's estate along with Holmes' own
investments provided him a more than comfortable income that
would last far beyond his expected lifetime. No, work was
something Holmes needed, or perhaps more accurately, something
Holmes craved to fill his mind, not his purse.
*So, those appear to be my only viable and personally acceptable
options,* Holmes mused,*I could continue to live as I am living
at that precise moment. Physically comfortable and either bored
to a state of utter insensibility, or assuming I am somehow able
to continue to obtain the cocaine, drugged into a similar state,
but not caring.* He could continue to be a forgotten creature in
this modern world, or worse yet, a pitied one.
"*Neither* course of action is the least bit acceptable," Holmes
snarled in the barest whisper. "There is yet a third choice.
This abominable maze that has become my life's game still has a
third path open to me, and I choose to follow it!"
Shoving the drapery closed, Holmes strode across his study to his
scientific laboratory. The weak, blue flame of a carefully
adjusted bunsen burner flickered, throwing eerie shadows about
the otherwise darkened room. The scientist in Holmes watched
dispassionately as the heat of the dancing flame caused a clear
liquid in a small glass beaker to boil gently, sending its vapors
billowing up into a distilling unit.
The beaker had been full earlier this evening but now the fluid
filled less than a tenth of its original volume. Holmes picked up
the modestly sized amber-colored apothecary bottle and looked at
the label. Before Holmes had upended the bottle's contents into
his distilling apparatus, it had originally held a spare two
ounces. An entire thirty-day's supply of the solution - at least
that is what the prescription he'd been forced to present had
indicated.
"A prescription," he snorted into the darkness. "They will be
regulating alcohol next. Or trying to, the consummate fools."
Skillfully, Holmes used a pair of metal tongs to snatch the
beaker off the flame and then poured its contents onto a small
metal bottomed dish. He then set the dish upon an ice bath to
cool the concentrated liquid. With practiced efficiency, Holmes
filled his steel hypodermic from the dish, and then stalked off
to his rooms. Briefly, he worried that the contents of the
needle might not be sufficient to the task. Originally, Holmes
had intended to concentrate the entire bottle of cocaine, but his
calculations indicated that the resulting concentrate might be
too thick to pass through his hypodermic needle. Still, what the
needle's reservoir currently contained was nearly three weeks'
dose and that should be more than adequate to Holmes' needs.
As he had always done when embarked on a project worthy of his
mettle, Holmes had planned and prepared thoroughly for this
evening's agenda. Mrs. Hudson's daughter was scheduled to come in
for her twice weekly cleaning day after tomorrow. With luck,
she'd think he'd passed away of natural causes, although the
police would see things for what they were, but Holmes had no
desire to traumatize Miss Hudson either.
Quickly, Holmes went about the nightly rituals a man developed
over a lifetime. A quick wash, a soothing pipeful of his
tobacconist's most excellent rough-cut blend while his Edison
Phonograph played Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for Two
Violins, and fifteen minutes reading the classics (Sophocles'
Antigone in the original Greek) before reaching for his bedside
gas lamp.
Except tonight, rather than reaching for the gas lamp, Holmes
reached for the hypodermic needle. From his meticulous
researches, Holmes had determined that the now-highly
concentrated cocaine solution would immediately shock and then
stop his heart in a not-easily-recognizable simulation of natural
cardiac arrest. If he could just turn the lamp off and throw the
needle out of his immediate vicinity before he succumbed, it was
entirely possible that not even the police would uncover the
truth. That was the only negative aspect of his plan - at least
to Holmes' way of thinking - the possibility of having his name
tarred forever with the stigma of insanity for having taken his
own life. Being pitied for the supposed loss of his keen mind
would be a bad enough legacy, but it would immeasurably worse to
have those buffoons in the government feel vindicated in their
arrogant assessment of the "mad" Sherlock Holmes.
"Then you had best complete the job properly, hadn't you?" Holmes
chided himself rhetorically.
*Reduced to talking to myself,* he thought resignedly, *perhaps I
am losing my mind, after all.* With a sigh, he plunged the needle
home, steadily injecting the cool fluid into his arm. With a
speed and strength born of ego, the Great Detective flung the
needle out the conveniently open window and managed to dowse the
lamp.
The soothing, euphoric haze of the drug came over him much more
quickly than Holmes was used to, but that was only to be
expected, he surmised. At last, the boredom receded as Holmes
gave himself up to the contemplation of what was, for him, the
only mystery he had been unable to investigate properly. At
least, not if he'd wanted to live to tell the tale.
Well, he wasn't going to live, he smiled gently to himself, so
now he was free to investigate what awaited men on the other side
of death's veil. The thought brought a semblance of a happy grin
to his lips and then his eyes drifted closed one last time.
Chapter 2: Life after Death?
"Mr. Holmes?" The piercing sound of a feminine voice calling out
his name roused him, but he didn't want to wake up. "Mr. Holmes,
are you all right?" the voice called out again, louder this time
and with some discernable emotion backing it.
"Who. . ?" Holmes growled, burrowing down into his bed linens.
"'tis me, Mr. Holmes, Miss Hudson. I was just finishing up my
cleanin' of your rooms, but you weren't up for me to change your
beddin'." her voice made the last an accusation. "I have to be
getting on to my own home, sir."
An incredible stench assailed Holmes' nose, forcing him awake,
and with wakefulness, came recognition. The *last* thing he
wanted was for Miss Hudson to realize what had happened. "No,
that's quite all right, Miss Hudson. You just leave out the
clean linens and I will see to the bedding myself when I get up."
"Are you all right, then sir? I've never known you to be a lay-
a-bed, sir," Miss Hudson's voice was less strident now, more
uncertain. "Not in all the years I've known you."
"Just a bit of the ague, Miss Hudson. My doctor prescribed a
concoction that made me sleep. I am better now, but you should
keep your distance. I would not want you to become ill yourself
and possibly pass the illness to your mother or sister."
"No indeed, Mr. Holmes," Miss Hudson quickly agreed. "I've left
some soup simmerin' on your stove, sir. It should do you up
right and tight if you've got the strength to go get it."
Holmes got another whiff of his soiled bed linens and nearly
gagged. The thought of food only made the growing nausea worse.
"That will be quite all right, Miss Hudson. I am feeling much
more the thing. A hot bowl of soup will be exactly what I need
once I have had a chance to bathe." *The bath, at least, is the
truth of the matter,* he thought.
A thought occurred to Holmes and he called out, "Did you come a
day early for some reason, Miss Hudson?"
"Early? Why, today's my regular day, Mr. Holmes," Miss Hudson
replied before pausing, "Oh, I see. That potion your doctor gave
you made you sleep longer than you thought, Mr. Holmes."
*I've been unconscious for more than thirty six hours?* Holmes
asked himself. *That explains the condition of my bed, but I
expected my rest to be far longer than that. What happened?*
Holmes reveries were interrupted by his housekeeper. "Well, since
you're feelin' able, Mr. Holmes, I'll be on my way. Hope you
feel better. Just leave the dirty linens in the hamper in the
kitchen and I will see to them next time. Good day, Mr. Holmes.
Don't worry about the stains. My mum has the same problem, her
bein' of an age, y'know, and I know just how to get them white
and sweet again."
Holmes growled a 'thank you' and a farewell and then listened
carefully for her departure. Quickly, he got out of his bed, as
much to escape the foul odors as to ensure the door was securely
bolted. Whatever was happening, it was definitely NOT what
Holmes expected, and until he understood what was happening, he
wanted no more guests.
Unfortunately, no sooner was he out of bed, then the world began
to spin giddily. Urgently, Holmes reached out toward his bedside
table to steady himself, but it was too far away and too late.
Sherlock Holmes fell to the floor in a swoon.
~--------------~
When next Holmes awoke, this time from his impromptu bed on the
floor, he stood more carefully. Whatever residual effect of the
drug had overcome him on his first arousal would not surprise him
again. What did surprise him, as he carefully stood, was the
absence of pain. Arthritis had begun to attack the old man's
joints in the last year. Mornings had always been the worse.
Knees, hips and elbows that had been permitted to remain
relatively stationary over the course of a long, damp London
night tended to argue vigorously against being forced to move
again.
*Perhaps there is a heaven, after all,* Holmes thought in wonder
before two other circumstances seemed to refute that. The sewer-
like stench of his own bodily wastes again assailed him bringing
back the memories of his conversation with Miss Hudson.
Quickly, he turned to leave the room and its foul odors only to
trip and fall two steps later.
On the hem of his nightshirt.
Slowly, but still without any pain, Holmes eased himself once
again to his feet. He looked down at the hem of his robe and
momentarily gawked. The nightshirt's hem, which had just that
night before been well above Holmes' ankles, now pooled on the
floor about his feet. "Definitely a mystery is afoot here," he
said aloud before turning towards his laboratory. He nearly
tripped again, but caught himself. Deftly, he gathered up a
handful of the nightshirt up in one hand and pulled the garment
off, tossing it to the floor by his bed. Grimly, Holmes took in
the multiple stains marking the nightshirt that had not been
there when he'd first donned it - how long ago had that been? By
the look of the dawn and taking into consideration Miss Hudson's
earlier revelations, Holmes concluded that he'd worn that garment
for at least two days and three nights. *One mystery at a time,*
he told himself as he donned his dressing robe before striding
off again.
Holmes snatched up a pencil and a book as he moved past his desk
towards a large empty wall on the far end of the lab. Holmes
stood, back to the all and rested the book on his head. Holding
the book in place, Holmes stepped out from under the book and
used the pencil to mark the book's position on the wall. A ruler
confirmed what the detective's trained senses had already
discerned.
Sherlock Holmes had somehow shrunk almost three and a half inches
since he'd gone to his bed three nights past. "Amazing," he half
whispered to himself before rushing off to his dressing room
again, this time nearly tripping over his own feet in his haste.
One look in his reflecting glass showed that he was much more
than not dead. In addition to his decreased stature, Holmes saw
that he looked visibly younger. His skin had not been so . . so
smooth and supple in decades.
"Or is this how the afterlife occurs?" he asked himself. "If this
is heaven, however, I would have preferred to keep my normal
height. And I most *definitely* would have preferred not to have
lost control of my bodily functions in so humiliating a manner."
Only a sudden, undeniably urgent call from Nature pulled him away
from his glass, but once in the water closet, another shock
greeted him. It was not just his body's height that had changed.
He was. . . smaller - all over. In fact, he was a great deal
smaller. Although not a vain man, at least where physical prowess
and size were concerned, Holmes was still greatly taken aback
when he opened his dressing gown to relieve his bladder.
His manhood had shrunk, too. Actually, it had *more* than merely
shrunk in proportion this new stature, it had all but
disappeared. Heavens above, but Holmes had seen infants with
greater . . .masculine endowments than he now possessed.
After that momentary shock, Holmes forced his intellect to
reassert itself. He needed to determine whether his mind might
be similarly afflicted. Holmes tested himself by first by
recalling the design and results of a recent chemical experiment
he'd conducted and then by mentally constructing the classic
proof of the Theorem of Pythagoras. Neither problem proved to be
at all difficult, thus confirming that Holmes' mind, at least,
remained . . . adult. That concern dealt with, Holmes was all
the more determined to deal with this situation with his famous
rationality and powers of deduction powers.
Returning to his looking glass, Holmes inventoried and catalogued
his person, comparing it to the old body he remembered so well.
Like his manly parts, the rest of his body had also become
smaller, although by no means as much as had his genitals. His
hands, which had always been long and fine fingered for a male,
were now thinner, almost dainty, and tipped with surprisingly
long nails. Slippers that had once fit him as perfectly as. .
.well, as a well worn slipper, now foundered about a much
smaller, more slender foot.
About the only thing besides his fingernails that was longer
about him was his hair. He'd gone to bed a balding old man, but
now two to three inches of thick, luxuriant almost-black hair
covered his head, and framed a face that while it was still
slender was also somehow less. . .saturnine. . somehow more. . .
"Juvenile is the word you are attempting to deny, Holmes," he
said aloud, not at all surprised to hear a voice markedly
different from his own issue forth from his mouth.
"No, that's not right either," Holmes realized, still speaking
aloud, trying to understand the changes in his voice. "My face,
even when I was much younger, never looked like *that*! In fact,
this face looks like none of the men of my lineage, as recorded
in the paintings in Mycroft's old house. Which means that
whatever has occurred, it not merely a simple age reversal. My
understanding of that monk Mendel's work on heredity is that such
features are statistically very unlikely unless I am somehow no
longer of the Holmes family line. Which I would have thought
impossible were it not for the evidence of my own eyes."
The curiosity that was part and parcel of Sherlock Holmes came to
the fore and focused his full attention on this new and
fascinating problem. The detective studied his reflection as
though it was the face of a stranger's face, using his powers of
observation to assess age, ethnic background, fitness and
physical attributes.
"Age, hmmm," he said as he began to assess the changes he saw in
his mirror, " a bit of a conundrum, that. The size of the head
relative to stature of the total body would seem to be consistent
with adult proportions, yet there is no evidence of beard growth.
Quite peculiar, that." Holmes ran those incredibly soft fingers
over his cheeks. "Not even the slightest indication of stubble
although it has been more than two days since I last shaved. That
factor combined with the significant diminution of my masculine
development would also indicate a pre-pubescent condition.
Rather contradictory indications, all around."
Holmes turned his attention to his torso and bodily extremities,
turning and twisting this way and that so he could examine
himself from every possible angle. "Remarkably supple," he
murmured to himself with a touch of pleasure, "Certainly more so
than I can remember in many a year. On the other hand, muscular
development is also slight. While such an apparent lack of
muscle tissue is often a sign of a rapid growth spurt in the
underlying skeletal structure, there is no evidence of the
corresponding gauntness." Holmes gently pinched the flesh of his
smooth thigh and watched the skin spring back when he released
it. "In point of fact, it seems to be just the opposite as this
body has a smoothing layer of fat - much more than I have ever
possessed before, and certainly more than that aging relic that
went to bed three nights past."
"The face retains a distinctly English appearance. Though the
nose is much shorter than before, it is still quite narrow. The
eyes are slanted upward slightly, not through the presence of an
oriental epicanthic fold, but as though it were a more natural
shape. This is accented by higher than normal cheekbones. It is
almost as if . . . "
"Oh, dear God. I refuse to believe it!"
Shocked at the direction his inquiries seemed to point, Holmes
pulled on a clean dressing gown over the offending body. Thus
attired, Holmes made his way back to his laboratory where the
apparatus he'd used to concentrate the fatal dose of cocaine
still stood. Dazed, Holmes sank slowly onto his favorite chair.
"Is this what happens when you die?" he asked aloud. "You stay
behind as something or someone other than who or what you were in
your previous life? Are the Buddhists of India correct and this
is some type of reincarnation? Is *this* what heaven entails??
Or perhaps more correctly, this is my first taste of hell?"
"Oh," a harsh voice said from the parlor, "I rather suspect that
you will find hell quite pleasant by comparison - when you
finally arrive there. But for the time being, you are,
unfortunately for you, my dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes, quite alive
upon this earthly pale."
Holmes spun out of his chair and saw a large figure coming
through the door; the intruder's features lost in shadow due to
the backlighting of the parlor windows.
"Who *are* you?!?"
Chapter 3: The Professor.
"Surely I have not changed *that* much, Mr. Holmes. Certainly not
as much as you have," he said with a smirk, "I am deeply hurt.
After all, we have been the very *best* of enemies."
"Moriarty? Is that YOU?!?" the last word came out came out in a
shrill tone that shocked Sherlock even as he heard it come from
his mouth.
The large man gave an exaggerated bow. "At your service."
"But. . .but. . you're dead! I saw you die!"
Grinning, Moriarty made a show of patting his very solid and non-
ghostly body. "I don't think so. I am quite alive, Holmes, but I
am rather pleased to know that you thought me dead, and that my
little entrance has upset you this way."
The man stepped further into the light, close enough to see and
be seen clearly. Leaning toward the seated Holmes, his voice took
on a sneering irony as he said, "After all, my dear 'Sherlock',
it's only fair, don't you think? In our long association, I have
so often thought you at last removed from this mortal coil thanks
to one of my brilliant stratagems, only to have you time and
again rise like Lazarus-from-the-grave to thwart me yet again.
This time, however, it is I who have cheated the reaper just as
this time it will be *I* who will win our final battle."
"What have you done to me., Moriarty?" Holmes growled.
"Not precisely what I thought I was doing, I can assure you. Even
now," Moriarty mused almost to himself as he regarded his
greatest enemy, "You quite surprise me. The physical effects have
never been quite so radical nor so rapid during any of my
experimental investigations."
"I'll not be some damnable guinea pig for you!" Holmes shouted as
he leaped from his chair to attack the looming man.
Despite his resolve and the pent-up rage at the changes that had
been inflicted upon him, the attack was ineffectual. In fact, it
was worse than ineffectual. Although well on in years, Moriarty
still had the advantages of size, strength and reach over the now
much smaller Holmes - advantages he used to their fullest as he
toyed with his arch enemy before brushing him aside. Impelled as
he was by Moriarty's strength, Holmes' backside landed hard on
the floor and he rolled into the adjoining room.
Inordinately pleased with his ability to dominate Holmes in such
a satisfyingly physical manner, the still-laughing Moriarty
followed intent on continuing the game, but stopped short the
moment he realized where Holmes had led him. Professional
curiosity replaced sadistic intent as the man Holmes had so often
called "one of the greatest scientific minds in history" began to
study the laboratory of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
~------------~
"Rather primitive, Holmes," Moriarty finally said with a superior
look and a dismissive gesture of his hand. "I had expected much
more of you given your continual harping on your scientific
methods of investigation and deduction."
Still burning with shame at his loss of physical ability and over
the amused ease with which Moriarty had manhandled him, Holmes
glared at the criminal mastermind, "What you see here has served
my needs quite admirably as YOU should well attest given our
long. . . association, Moriarty."
Moriarty continued to explore, almost as if he were a visitor at
a colleague's facility. "I suppose," he murmured when his eye
fell on a large, amber bottle. "Hello, what is this?" he asked as
he picked up the bottle.
Knowing eyes flickered to Holmes as Moriarty read the label, and
then took in the apparatus on the table on which he'd found the
bottle. "Ah, so that answers the question as to why your change
was so unexpectedly rapid, my dear Holmes," Moriarty began to
guffaw - a most inelegant and ungentlemanly sound - before
turning humor-filled eyes back to his long-time adversary.
"Although I would have expected such an overdose to kill you,
*this* is just so deliciously ironic. Fate has played many a
colossal jest on me where you are concerned, Holmes, but this one
goes far beyond my wildest imaginings."
"Perhaps, Professor, you might let me in on your 'jest'." Holmes
said in as low a voice as his new vocal cords could manage. The
best he could do, however, fell well short of sounding menacing.
Moriarty gave one last bark of laughter before regaining control
and turning his mouth up into an odd, almost affable smile
crossing his visage. "You know, Sherlock, I have recently been
forced to the conclusion that Nature herself has for some reason
decreed that I would not be allowed to kill you. Fate has always
conspired against me whenever you involved yourself in my
business, and I could seemingly do nothing about it. My plans
were inevitably foiled from the moment you arrived upon the
scene, though the means you used showed no particular genius -
certainly nothing to match my own. After a great deal of thought,
I concluded that I must find for you a fate worse than death, and
so I have. I substituted your "7% solution" with another
concoction of my own making."
A tremor of unholy mirth erupted from Moriarty. With obvious
effort, he composed himself enough to continue, "And NOW," he
continued still chuckling, "I find that, had I instead done
nothing at all, you would have killed yourself for me. Oh, this
is simply too rich."
Holmes scrambled to his feet and rounded on Moriarty. "What foul
potion have you used on me, Moriarty?"
"Foul? Why, Holmes, how can you be so ungrateful when I have done
you such a monumental favor! Look at yourself, man. I have
provided you with a veritable fountain of youth."
Reflexively, Holmes' fingers flew to his now-smooth face. "Youth?
The effect of your potion is not simple youth! You are even older
than I, Moriarty. If you had somehow discovered such an elixir
vitae, you would surely have used it on yourself and faced me as
a young man at the height of your powers, or waited for me to die
of natural causes."
Moriarty grinned, and then became overtly pensive. "Well, there
is a great deal of truth in that, although I doubt I could have
long resisted the gnawing temptation to taunt you with my strong,
youthful body. However, I am forced to admit that there are a
few. . . side effects that I have not, as yet, been able to
eliminate from that potion. Not to worry, my dear Sherlock, I do
have hopes of resolving them in the near future."
"Side effects? *What* side effects?"
"The most obvious one will soon become quite apparent, my dear
Holmes, but as I must be leaving in short order for the continent
I will, sadly, not be here to savor your torment. In any case,
the drug you so blithely injected into your body will, over time,
systematically and completely change your most basic and
essential self in ways not even you could begin to imagine. I had
hoped that the changes would have come up on you more subtly,
causing you what I dreamed would be a great deal of distress as
you realized what was inevitably, inexorably happening to you."
"Time has not improved you, Moriarty, you are still an
unprincipled fiend."
"Why, thank you for the compliment, Sherlock," Moriarty replied
evenly. "However to continue, if I may? By concentrating the
drug as you did, you made its effects immediate and I suspect
quite obvious. As I mentioned, I find it rather disappointing
that you have denied me that little pleasure, but perhaps seeing
you like this makes it worthwhile after all. That was quite a
display earlier, Holmes - one I shall dine on with relish for
years to come. The greatly intellectual and coldly rational Mr.
Sherlock Holmes behaving like a hopelessly emotional and scatter-
witted female, shrieking, spitting and clawing - quite
ineffectually, I might add - was vastly entertaining."
Holmes felt the rage once again building but managed to restrain
himself with pure force of will. "And the other, less obvious
effects?"
"Ah, my dear *Miss* Holmes, from your utter lack of reaction am I
to conclude that you had perhaps already reached that conclusion
yourself? Yes, I can see that you had. What a pity as I was so
looking forward to your look of horror when I revealed your fate
to you." Moriarty made an insincere clucking sound before
continuing. "My congratulations, dear *lady*. Not that the
insight will do you any good."
The truth of Moriarty's claim, buttressed by Holmes own
deductions from the earlier self-examination, became too much
even for the vaunted self control of the world's greatest
detective. Burning tears forced their way from *her* eyes as she
clenched now-lengthened fingernails painfully into tender palms.
In a voice that Holmes now realized was not truly strange, merely
a woman's low alto, she managed to choke out, "You said there
were other side effects.")
Moriarty shrugged carelessly. "They will become obvious as you
continue to take the drug. I will tell you that all of the
effects are permanent and cumulative. The more you take, the
younger and more female you will become."
"Then I will simply stop taking it," Holmes retorted, giving up
and dashing away at the tears now streaming down her cheeks, "It
is not as if I have any great amount of the drug left."
"Sherlock, Sherlock, please don't cry anymore, little girl,"
Moriarty chided mockingly, "but, surely you don't believe it
would be so simple as that? The drug is highly and irreversibly
addictive. It induces a unreasoning, undeniable need, an
unquenchable thirst if you will, for ever more of the potion.
The hunger spawned by opium and its various derivatives are mild
by comparison. You would have been addicted right now had you
taken but the normal dosage, but since you have obviously taken
several days' dosage in one night, you are now utterly and
irretrievably in the drug's thrall. It would be very amusing to
watch you suffer through the withdrawal symptoms I have
documented in my researches, but as I said, I have pressing
business on the continent which will keep me from watching you
directly."
Moriarty turned toward the door leading to the street. "Moriarty,
you said withdrawal symptoms. What kind of withdrawal symptoms?"
That terrible smile darkened the old professor's features again.
"Oh, those are to be your surprise, so I shan't tell you any more
about them. However, I will tell you that my experimental
animals often went quite mad during withdrawal particularly when
I denied them relief. Only a few were fortunate enough to die
quickly. And don't bother wasting your few remaining hours of
sanity trying to reproduce the elixir. I concocted it of herbs I
discovered during my forced sojourn in the jungles of the Amazon.
You won't find their like anywhere in this hemisphere and you
don't have time to obtain them from their source. So, I will bid
you good day, *Miss* Holmes. We won't meet again. Do try to
survive as long as you can possibly manage, won't you?. I would
truly hate for your suffering to end too quickly."
With that, Moriarty quietly shut the door, and disappeared into
the bustle of London.
Chapter 4: The Hunt Begins
For uncounted minutes, Sherlock Holmes simply stood there, alone
with his tears, clad in his too-long dressing gown and gripped by
the rage that he'd failed to completely suppress when Moriarty
had been present. *I am NOT - I WILL NOT be - merely an
emotionally overwrought, irrational female,* he assured himself.
"But aren't you behaving in just such a manner now?" he asked
himself aloud in that husky yet not-very-masculine voice. "Are
you not giving your emotions free rein and thus clouding your
perceptions and mental processes? Get a grip on yourself, man!"
he ordered. "I. . .AM. . . HOLMES! I am objective! I am in
CONTROL!"
It required a monumental effort, but Holmes ultimately succeeded
in regaining at least some semblance of his famous control.
Objectivity, on the other hand, proved to be, by far, the more
difficult attribute, as this attack had been visited upon Holmes'
very self image and most basic identity. Even the great Holmes,
champion of rationality and cold logic, found it difficult to be
objective about something so personal, something so intrinsic.
Depression yet loomed at the still-ragged edges of his control.
He felt a burning need to rail against this foul machination of
Fate and to demand to know why something so abominable had been
visited upon him, but Holmes resisted that unworthy and useless
display. However, even as he won out against that urge, a
significant question occurred to him.
"Why now?" Holmes asked, voicing that question aloud, "Why did
Moriarty launch this assault now? Clearly, by his own testimony,
he has been experimenting with this compound for some time.
Surely, he has had ample opportunity in recent years to attack me
in this manner. So the key question becomes why move now? Not
sooner, not later, but now?" And just as immediately, an answer
occurred to Holmes. "Because some other factor, critical to his
scheme, must have changed. He has an idea that may help him solve
whatever problems he has with the drug and he is taking steps to
keep me from becoming involved. But WHAT is he doing, curse the
fates?!? How can I stop him if I cannot deduce WHAT he is
planning? Facts, man, you need FACTS!"
An almost forgotten habit had the great detective pausing,
waiting for another voice to answer his, but none did. Watson
was still gone, and Holmes felt more alone than he'd ever felt
before. Grimly, Holmes set aside those thoughts, those feelings,
and began to reconstruct the events of the past three days.
Somewhere, there simply had to be some clue or bit of evidence
that he could use against Moriarty.
Lost in thought, Holmes paced aimlessly about his study until he
found himself near his favorite chair and sat down. Suddenly, he
found himself flailing deep within the chair's embrace, his feet
no longer able to remain in contact with the floor. The
unexpected, forceful reminder of his reduced stature momentarily
startled Holmes out of his reveries, but only momentarily.
Instead, the experience served to harden his determination to
pursue this case to a final, undisputed conclusion.
The disciplined habits of a lifetime returned to the fore,
focusing his powers of concentration and finally quelling the
emotional maelstrom of the past hour. Sherlock Holmes was soon
completely engrossed in reviewing and analyzing his memories.
Without conscious thought, he reached for his famous pipe and the
Persian slipper that Holmes used in lieu of a tobacco pouch.
And promptly began to choke. Then he sneezed hugely. Tears
began to flood his eyes uncontrollably before he realized what
was wrong - an aroma that had once appealed to him was now too
harsh - too strong for his now-youthful, newly-sensitized nasal
tissues.
Eyes streaming, Holmes was forced to rush to an open window and
take several deep, cleansing breaths of the cool morning air
before he could again breathe normally. Frowning, he carefully
took up and examined his pipe. The stench that emanated from the
tar-encrusted bowl nearly made him nauseous. Disgusted, he
tossed the pipe and Persian slipper into the far corner of the
room. "Even my pipe," he growled, "the fiend denies me even that
simple pleasure of my lost manhood. Yet another motivation to
find Moriarty and conclude our business once and for all."
~------------~
Holmes spent the next hour thinking, more than once catching
himself again reaching for now missing pipe. While several
avenues of inquiry appeared open to him at that point in time,
the most significant immediate problem he faced was the imminent
onset of Moriarty's promised withdrawal syndrome.
There would, beyond any doubt, be such a withdrawal. Moriarty had
been too amused by the picture of Holmes suffering through the
condition for it to be a decoy. More importantly, Moriarty had to
be involved with some very large scheme - one so large in scope
that he had been willing to risk exposing his continued existence
to Holmes. Moriarty had to know that, even in this. . .
incomplete form, a fully rational, unencumbered Sherlock Holmes
would prove to be a major threat to any scheme Moriarty might
have planned and, more importantly, to the villain's own freedom
and safety. Achieving his ends would therefore require that
Moriarty put in motion some mechanism that would prevent Holmes
from intervening in the evil Professor's manipulations and games.
Ergo, Holmes concluded, the withdrawal syndrome had to be real.
That conclusion both greatly complicated and simplified Holmes'
plans. Strategically, his time was doubly limited by Moriarty's
cursed brew. Even assuming he had enough of the potion to last
indefinitely, eventually he'd become so young (and so female)
that even his great mind would fall prey to the twin demons of
youth and irrationality, whereupon he would no longer be capable
of successfully dueling with the great Professor Moriarty. All
that aside, if Holmes were to even attempt the battle, he would
need some means to blunt the effects of the syndrome and at this
juncture, Moriarty's potion was the only agent to Holmes'
knowledge that would accomplish this goal.
Holmes checked his bottle of the drug only to find a half to
three quarters of an ounce remaining from his concentration
experiment. "How much time does this buy me," Holmes murmured
thoughtfully. At his typical rate of consumption, Holmes used
approximately two cubic centimeters of the drug at a time. "I
detest making assumptions, but I have no other avenue open to
me," he said. "So, assuming that the ordinarily meticulous
Moriarty wanted the new drug to be taken in approximately
equivalent dosages as the cocaine it masqueraded as, that scant
half to three quarters of an ounce should provide about anywhere
from seven to ten withdrawal-delaying doses of the drug."
*How much time does this afford me?* Holmes wondered again as he
swirled the contents of the dark, amber bottle. "Probably not
much," he breathed, still not used to the musical tones that
issued from his mouth. "Normally, I would take no more than a
single dose a day. That would mean this," he held the bottle
back up to the light, "Might be expected to last a week, perhaps
ten days at the most. Depending on the addictive strength of this
compound, however, it might also be considerably less."
Holmes slammed his fine-boned fist against the desk. He needed
more time! A week simply was not sufficient time to locate, not
to mention, stop Moriarty before the effects of the withdrawal
killed Holmes. He needed to acquire more of the drug. If he could
just balance the withdrawal against the rate of age regression,
he might be able to buy enough time to find Moriarty.
But where would he find more of the drug? He didn't have enough
time or drug to analyze the compound, and even assuming he could
determine its constituents, it very likely required exotic,
unobtainable materials.
Idly, Holmes looked down at the bottle clutched in his hand until
his subconscious scanning of the label impinged on his racing
mind. "A-HA! That's IT!" he cheered, setting the bottle aside.
He'd return to the chemist shop post haste and force the
proprietor to admit to being in league with Moriarty and to give
Holmes more of the drug. At least then he'd have a fighting
chance of stopping Moriarty one last time.
Resolutely, Holmes turned to his dressing room. He must have
something in his disguise case that would let him move about the
city. The chemist shop opened at ten a.m. and Holmes wanted to be
the first person in the door.
Chapter 5: A Very Dead End
Holmes' first challenge was clothing himself. Nothing in his
austere personal wardrobe remotely fit him anymore. Although his
loss of stature was not so much as to preclude him passing as an
adult (albeit a very young adult), the reduction was sufficient
to draw undesired attention to him were he to appear so attired
in public. The cut of the arms of his coats and the legs of his
trousers were obviously too long for his new frame. His
waistcoat was now unfashionably loose about his torso and fell
several inches below his waist. His day-wear hats, he
discovered, looked patently ridiculous on his markedly smaller
head.
*What does that indicate about the measure of my brain?!?* he
wondered in horror as he stared at the reflection of his famous
deerstalker riding low on his forehead, nearly covering his eyes.
Yet another effort of will set that fear aside and Holmes focused
on the problem at hand. "What I need is a messenger," Holmes
mused. "Unfortunate that I have not kept contact with my Baker
Street Irregulars . . . WAIT! Bloody Hell, that's IT!"
Animated by the inspiration, Holmes was shortly examining himself
in his mirror. A pair of old work trousers had been shortened
and strategically holed using a rough hand and a pair of
scissors. A piece of manilla hemp replaced the necessary belt
and held the pants in place. His disguise drawer had given up a
rough seaman's shirt and a leather vest that hung on him, but
served his needs well enough. A ratty, oversized knit beret hung
over his eyes effectively masking his features. For shoes he
wore a pair of decrepit work boots that threatened to slip off
his feet. Coal black from the now cool fireplace dirtied his
features and made him look even more the street orphan that he
wished to portray.
It would work, he thought with a touch of satisfaction, this
time, in any case. He would need better in the future, however.
He'd have to visit a few of his disguise apartments and collect
the raw materials - including his sewing kit. If he had any hope
of presenting and adult appearance, he'd need to alter his
clothing. That would be time consuming, but he'd need at least
one suitable set of attire before he could call upon the pawn and
second hand shops to complete his wardrobe. The proprietors of
those establishments would likely consider a lad such as Holmes
now saw in his glass to be a thief and would show him the door
rather quickly and rather forcefully.
Another thought struck Holmes. He frowned as he tried to find a
suitable argument against that particular course of action, but
found none. He'd go to his special apartments and collect his
few feminine disguises, too. And he would go to the pawns and
second-hand shops for women as well.
"DAMN your black soul to HELL, Moriarty," Holmes snarled, and
then strode to the servants' quarters and the back door of the
Baker Street apartment. Moments later, he returned to his study.
Holmes found what he wanted and quietly slipped into the grimy
back alley.
~------------~
The trip to the chemist took somewhat longer than Holmes had
anticipated primarily because he chose to remain in the shadows
of London's many back streets and alleyways. This disguise would
be noticeably out of place on the busy lanes of a well-to-do
neighborhood. That could draw unnecessary and potentially heated
attention. The very last thing Holmes needed was a confrontation
with some outraged middle class merchant or worse, one of
Scotland Yard's finest. The thought of attempting to explain
himself to some contemporary edition of Inspector LaStrade made
him shudder.
Holmes arrived at the chemist just as Big Ben was tolling the
hour. He stayed in the shadows of a building across the way,
waiting for the blinds to open, the "closed" sign to be taken
down and the proprietor to unlock the front door.
Thirty minutes later he was still waiting. A frisson of anxiety
curled in Holmes' chest as he considered the possibilities.
Quickly, he made his way to the back of the small storefront shop
and located its delivery entrance. Holmes carefully tested the
latch and found the door unlocked. Silently, Holmes pushed the
door open and slipped inside.
He didn't notice a fine gossamer thread breaking as the door
finished its opening swing.
The back of the shop was deserted, but a dim, thin arc of light
directed Holmes to the connecting door into the public areas of
the establishment. Holmes abandoned stealth and moved into the
main shop where he found precisely what his instincts had
anticipated.
The body of the chemist lay in a heap behind the service counter,
an oval of well coagulated, rusty red blood about him. He'd
obviously been dead for some time. *Moriarty must have visited
him immediately after leaving my lodgings. And while *I* was
wallowing in emotion, Professor Moriarty was dealing with this
man,* Holmes thought. "DAMN me for a FOOL!"
A closer examination of the body revealed a cheap, brown envelope
pinned to the man's watch fob. Careful not to step into the
sticky blood, Holmes reached over and retrieved the envelope.
Holmes opened it and was not surprised to find it addressed to
him.
My Dear Holmes,

You are, sadly, too late. Not that
preventing my little murder of the chemist
would have assisted you in any substantive
manner. Our dear departed friend only brewed
the potion for me using herbs and ingredients
I supplied. You won't find any of the
necessary compounds here, or anywhere else in
this hemisphere.

Did you really think it would be so simple,
old enemy? For all you are more than half
female, you are still Holmes, and I, for all
my advanced years and physical infirmities,
am still Moriarty. With each passing day,
the hatred that burns in my breast for you
grows ever hotter and my need to bring about
your death grows ever more intense. However,
more than your death, I want your suffering.

Soon, all too soon for you, the withdrawal
will begin, and you will suffer, Holmes, you
will suffer terribly. And the mental
suffering - the knowledge of what is
happening and that I have caused it - will
far outweigh the physical torment.

Eventually, Holmes, even your iron will begin
to erode and crumble before the onslaught,
and you will seek the only relief this life
might still offer you - oblivion.

Thus I win at last. The hand that takes your
life will be your own, Holmes, not mine so
the foul Fate which denies me taking your
life is satisfied.

Live long and suffer terribly, Holmes, and in
the end, endure the total ignominy of your
final, greatest failure even as you end your
own pathetic existence. We could have been
great together had you but chosen to follow
me as I offered all those many years ago.
Now, I alone will live and, finally freed of
your meddlesome presence, will achieve my
great destiny.

At last.

M.

Rage burned at the back of Holmes' tightly shut eyelids, but all
to soon his fury gave way to a rush of despair. He'd lost. Even
if the chemist actually had the herbs, Holmes did not know what
those were or where they were kept. Nor did he know how to
prepare the infusion. All he had between him and Moriarty's
promised torment was three days supply.
Perhaps he should just give up now. Hadn't he already intended -
ATTEMPTED - to end his life? Why not simply do the deed and be
done with it?
"Because Moriarty is alive," Holmes growled, "And so long as
there is breath in his body and mine, and so long as I have the
slightest grip on my mental faculties, I will oppose Moriarty in
every way, in any way available to me." Holmes carefully
smoothed the now-crumpled piece of foolscap paper in his hand and
quickly reread the letter. "Moriarty has the right of it in at
least one area. I am still Holmes and he is still Moriarty.
There will yet be a reckoning. Somehow, there will be a final
reckoning between us."
Holmes made a quick survey of the room, looking for any clues. A
sulphurous black smudge on a nearby wall pointed to the likely
position of the murderer when the fatal shot was fired. Muddy
boot prints indicated that the killer's point of entry was also
from the rear of the building. Holmes examined those prints and
was surprised to find they did not match with the fashionable
footwear favored by Professor Moriarty. The prints were larger,
and their wear pattern was uneven. The left foot print was fully
formed whereas the right seemed somewhat elongated in the toe.
Another anomaly was that the right heel did not fully contact the
floor except for the prints closest to the powder mark, facing
the counter where the chemist met his end. All of which seeded
to indicate a murderer with a distinctly uneven gait - like a
limp. But Moriarty, bent with age though he'd obviously been, had
not limped.
Holmes stood idly considering those facts when his eyes strayed
to the apothecary's wall of bottles behind the counter.
Suddenly, his mind slipped back to the last day he'd seen the
chemist alive. Holmes famous eidetic memory vividly
reconstructed the picture of the shop owner reaching up to . .
"That very bottle!" Holmes cheered.
Scrambling up onto the counter, Holmes reached up and pulled down
a large, nearly empty amber bottle. The handwritten label read
"Mr. Holmes Cocaine Solution" The preparation date was a mere two
days before Holmes had arrived for his final, supposedly fatal
package.
Holmes removed the stopper and sniffed delicately at the open
bottle. The slightly acrid scent of cocaine was not evident. In
fact, what little odor that was in evidence was very subtle,
almost undetectable and unlike anything in Holmes' long years of
investigative experience. "Herbs," Holmes muttered, "Moriarty
said it was brewed from herbs."
Carefully, Holmes restoppered the bottle and slipped down from
the counter. *Amazing,* he thought, *to be so nimble again. If I
successfully discover a means to blunt the final agonies of this
withdrawal, this youthful suppleness may provide me some small,
as yet undetermined advantages. However, I have not lost all my
masculine strength yet, either. One cannot expect a female to be
this strong or supple.*
Holmes pulled the door behind him as he left, remembering that
while closed, the door had not been locked when he entered.
However, there was no way he could have realized it had
previously been closed with delicate precision. The pressure he
used to ensure the door was seated properly was enough to crush a
tiny ball of acid lodged in the doorframe.
That acid, though minuscule in itself, started a chain of events
that had most dramatic results. A deafening explosion shattered
the pre-noon bustle of the block as the front of the chemist shop
went up in a huge fireball that rapidly enveloped the two stores
immediately on either side.
The concussion's impact threw the unprepared Holmes to the ground
where only blind fate had prevented him from landing on and
shattering the precious apothecary bottle.
"And so the game is once more afoot," Holmes said as he watched
the flames spread up and down the square. Dispassionately, he
watched as men and women who'd been caught in the blast rolled
upon the muddy street to quench flames that licked at their
clothing. Other bodies simply lay where they'd fallen, their
motionless grim testimony to the fury of the initial explosion.
Holmes felt something burn at his eye, and he raised his free
hand to bat away the tears that began to flow. "He must be
stopped," Holmes whispered in an oddly ragged voice, "and in all
of his infernal career, only I have ever succeeded in that
endeavor. So be it."
Holmes resolutely turned his back on the now fully developed
conflagration. There was nothing more he could accomplish here,
but there was a great deal he could accomplish elsewhere. These
men and women would have justice, he swore to himself, even if
they never knew the how or why of it. In the confusion and
tumult of the out of control blaze, no one noticed one ill-
clothed boy disappearing into the shadows.
Holmes was nearly to the back door of his Baker Street rooms when
a large hand locked onto his thin shoulder. "'ere now, and where
do ye think yer goin', me fine lad?"
The powerful hand spun his thin frame and Holmes found himself
facing a huge, filthy man clad in the rough clothes of a London
dockworker. His face had seen rough handling - several scars and
missing teeth attested to years of hard living and fighting. A
nearly overwhelming stench of human waste, bad rum and cooked
onions emanated from man, nearly causing Holmes to wretch. "Oi
think Oi asked ye a question, runt."
Swallowing hard and trying to look frightened. "I'm runnin'
errands for the housekeeper here," he gasped out. "She sent me
to the doctor's for some potion for her master." He held up the
bottle, but then became afraid the bounder might think it
something that might fetch him a copper or two. "She tells me
tis a frightful wicked physic, as the old man she works for can't
seem to do it fer 'imself natural anymore."
"Well, ye listen ter me, youngin', and ye might manage ter grow
into a man someday. I'm here for a fine young gennulman."
"Ye wants to talk ter this gennulman, sa'ar?" Holmes asked, very
deferentially.
"No, runt, Oi want's ter grab 'im. Mother Hell over on the docks
will pay five guineas in silver for such a fine, tender little
pullet for her whorehouse as some of her customers like it that
way, ya see? Oi been told there'd be jest such a one for the
'avin' at this 'ere place if'n Oi was to wait real patient-like -
nice an' skinny, with pretty skin and hair."
"I ain't seen the like of that, sa'ar." Holmes quavered.
"Well, ye'll keep yer eyes open and yer mouth shut, lessen ye
wants me to close both for yer real permanent like. Ya got that,
boy?" Holmes swallowed hard to keep from vomiting in the man's
pockmarked face and managed to nod his acquiescence. "Good.
Oi'll be around, laddie. Yer see anythin', ye'll be tellin' Old
Ned, and Oi might just give ye a coin for it. 'Course, ye don't
tell me, and Oi find out?" He shoved Holmes to the ground and
turned back to leave the alley. "But then, ye'll be tellin' me
so there's no need to go into that."
Holmes watched the man walk away. Only later, back in the
relative safety of his room, did the great detective recall that
his assailant had walked with a pronounced limp that forced him
to drag his right foot.
Chapter 6. Experiments in Time
Shivering uncontrollably, Holmes repeatedly thrust the heavy
black iron poker into the dancing flames, attempting to coax more
heat from the burning coals. He was so bloody cold. He felt as
if his internal organs had been somehow transmuted into ice.
Nothing he'd done since his headlong flight into the house
following his unexpected confrontation with the villain calling
himself "Old Ned" had in any way relieved the fierce bone
chilling cold.
"Is this yet another of those side effects of Moriarty's damnable
brew?" Holmes asked himself through chattering teeth when another
more ominous thought occurred to him. "Or is this the onset of
withdrawal?"
Holmes wrapped a blanket about his body and moved over to his
worktable where the two apothecary bottles stood side by side.
Taking a deep breath in an effort to control his still shivering
hands, Holmes carefully removed the stoppers from each bottle.
He waved a hand over the top of one bottle towards his nose.
Delicately, he sniffed at each bottle, but was unable to discern
any significant scent. Emboldened by that, Holmes brought each
bottle to his nose and carefully inhaled. There was just a hint
of scent from the original bottle, and a stronger scent from the
new one. *I think these are the same concoctions,* Holmes
thought, *But I cannot be certain of that. The scent is simply
too subtle.*
Holmes re-stoppered both bottles, and set them in the center of
the large table for safety. He began to pace the room,
considering his options. Slowly, a plan started to take shape in
his mind. Holmes retreated to his bed chamber and returned with
his medical kit from which he removed two hypodermic needles.
These were thoroughly sanitized using the latest methods of
sterilization approved by the British Journal of Medicine. Once
the needles had cooled, Holmes meticulously filled each needle,
one from each of the two amber bottles, and the set the needle in
front of the bottle from which it had been filled.
His preparations complete, Holmes picked up his experimental
journal, a pen and ink, and then strode back to his favorite
chair. Holmes reconsidered his planned course of action as he
settled himself in the chair's comfortable depths. *If I am to
live with this withdrawal curse, I must first understand it in
the fullness of its effects," he said aloud, "The only way to do
so is to permit its onset and then study it for as long as I can
endure it. Only then will I administer the potion from the new
bottle. If that eases the symptoms, then I can be relatively
assured that it is the same as the potion the chemist dispensed
for me earlier in the week. If it does not ease the symptoms, I
will use the other needle and the time it gains to decide upon my
course of action.*
That certainly appeared to be the best option available to Holmes
for, at the very least, it would provide him with a more complete
understanding of his current circumstance. Holmes tried one last
time to think of some way by which his plan might be improved,
but could not. All that could be done was being done, so Holmes
stretched and settled himself to wait.
Holmes hated waiting. In his line of work, patience was
necessary, even vital to the execution of a successful
investigation, but waiting implied idleness which was something
Holmes' great mind could ill abide. In the old days, it had been
the genial Dr. John Watson with his usually incorrect
suppositions and hypotheses about the case at hand, or his
endless, overly simplistic questions for his historical
compilations, who had distracted Holmes during such periods of
enforced inactivity. In more recent times, such inactivity had
driven Holmes back to the cocaine habit that had ultimately
resulted in this current sad state of affairs.
*Bloody hell*, he thought sadly, *but I do miss Watson. Quite
painfully, if I am being completely honest about the whole damned
situation.*
Only then did Holmes realize that the cold and the shivering had
passed.
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 2, 1911
My Dear Watson,
I have decided, in the throes of a strange mood of whimsy, to
address these journal entries to you. I suspect that such
emotional foolishness is an indication of the cancerous
feminization of my formerly keen mind, but nonetheless, that is
how I shall press on for as long as I am able to do so.
It has now been, by my best estimate, in excess of eighty hours
since I took the massively concentrated dose of Moriarty's youth
serum. I have three primary objectives in the current round of
experiments. First, I wish to document, or at least, begin to
document the symptoms associated with the withdrawal from the
addictive serum. I must know to what extent they diminish my
powers physically and mentally, and how much time I can
anticipate having from the onset of the symptoms before they
become unendurable.
Second, I must ascertain whether or not the newly acquired bottle
also contains the youth serum. That bottle still contains
somewhat more than an ounce of the drug. That, combined with
what is left in my first bottle would provide approximately
twenty one two cubic centimeter doses. Optimistically assuming
that the second bottle does contain the serum, and also assuming
that Moriarty did intend the drug to be taken with approximately
the same relative frequency as the seven percent solution of
cocaine, that would give me almost three weeks to find and thwart
Moriarty's scheme, whatever that may be.
Finally, I must determine if my assumption concerning the
relative duration of the withdrawal inhibition of the drug is
correct. Unfortunately, I cannot measure the period of efficacy
with only this one dose since my first experience was with the
highly concentrated form of the drug. The time period between
this upcoming onset of withdrawal and the next onset will give me
a better single point estimate of what I may expect from the drug
at its current level of concentration.
Once I have collected all this data, I will better know what my
options are as I pursue my life's final goal - The Death of Dr.
Moriarty.
Farewell for now, Watson. I feel the need to rest.
End Journal Entry.
~-----------------~
It was the heat that awakened him. Feverish, burning heat that
flared first in the pit of his stomach and rolled like the
inexorable tide throughout the rest of his body to his
extremities. Grimly, Holmes fought his way out from the cloying
grasp of the blanket he'd wrapped about himself earlier. A
glance at the clock above the hearth told him it was early
morning, perhaps just before dawn.
Holmes marshaled his formidable will, and set himself about the
task of documenting his symptoms. His hand shaking, Holmes took
up his pen, and began to write.
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 3, 1911. Time: 4:23 A.M.
I am clearly in the grips of some abnormal physiological
reaction. I find my manual dexterity is severely limited as I
can barely grip the pen or write without smearing the ink.
I seem to be suffering from a moderate fever. I have stripped
nearly to the skin and am still burning up. Perspiration,
particularly from my underarms and privates, does little or
nothing to assuage the burning heat.
4:37. A new symptom now afflicts me. I cannot seem to draw a
steady breath as I literally pant like a mongrel dog. At the
same time, my pulse rate is accelerating and my heart literally
seems to pound within my chest. I fear this may be a precursor
of some type of heart seizure.
4:46. I seem to be growing steadily more sensitive to physical
stimuli. My skin, particularly in my upper torso, is all but
quivering in response to the lightest touch or breeze of air.
The aforementioned issues with my respiration and heart rate
appear to be growing worse by the minute. I am convinced that
the mechanism by which this withdrawal ultimately kills is some
form of cardiac arrest. My handwriting continues to degrade as
well, and is becoming all but illegible. I do not know how much
longer I will be physically able to continue this experiment.
4:57. I am starting to feel what may be the onset of severe
cramping in my lower abdomen. The large muscles about my lower
torso and back seem to be flexing without any volition of mine,
and in fact, nothing I have attempted seems to relax them.
5:03. Those areas most affected by Moriarty's foul potion are
itching fiercely. It is only by the greatest effort of will that
I can keep myself from clawing them to shreds. There is also
pronounced swelling and a sense of internal pressure that aches
so deeply I can hardly stand upright.
5.12. Can't breathe. Heart racing. Aching so fiercely I feel
faint. Can't continue
End Journal Entry
Holmes' pen trailed off down the page as he turned nearly-palsied
hands to the first needle. Injecting himself, he sat back to
await the effects of the drug, wondering if he would have to use
the original solution, or whether the quantity he had obtained
from the dead chemist was equally effective.
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 3, 1911.
5:20. I have injected myself with the potion from the newer
bottle. Initial indications are that its contents are the same
concoction as the first. Symptoms noted earlier in this entry
began to subside within sixty seconds of the introduction of the
serum into the body. Now, less than five minutes since the
injection, sensitivity, motor control, respiration and pulse rate
are nearly back to normal.
5:26. All body data restored to normal except that I am greatly
fatigued by my ordeal. I must rest before I can further analyze
these results and determine my next course of action.
End Journal Entry.
~-------------~
Interlude: On the English Channel.
The sun exploded from the cold gray dawn sea; its spectacular
colors painting the sky to the portside of the small sailing
craft in bright golds and reds. Except for the sailors on watch,
only one other was awake to appreciate the sun's glory. A
creature of the dark, Moriarty was often still awake when Nature
put on her daily light show. *A most auspicious start to the
day,* he thought with quiet satisfaction.
Moriarty looked about him and was pleased by what he saw. The
sea was calm, for the Channel, with freshening winds that
indicated that pleasant situation would not last long. They
would arrive in Calais in short order. *Soon,* he thought, *Soon
my plans will come to fruition and Europe will be mine.*
The only negative aspect of his adventure so far had to do with,
as seemed only natural to Moriarty, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. A
missive from his man of affairs had been delivered to the
professor just before sailing. The letter had described how the
brutish oaf, Old Ned, had apparently recruited some young
guttersnipe to help watch for Holmes. The guttersnipe was, in
all likelihood, Holmes himself disguised as a boy instead of a
young man as the professor had anticipated when he'd set that
trap for his old enemy.
Moriarty had not honestly believed that the foolish oaf had any
chance of capturing even a greatly diminished Holmes, but the
thug would pose a visible and viable threat that Holmes would be
forced to contend with before he could take any other more direct
action against Moriarty. That in itself would be useful, and
besides, the blundering fool might get incredibly lucky. The
thought of Holmes forced to live out the remainder of his days as
a white-slave prostitute was simply too delicious for words.
Moriarty truly wished he could have taken the time to watch and
fully savor the imminent self destruction of Holmes, but time was
something he needed to carefully hoard, at least until his youth
potion was perfected. Until then, his own age was a factor to be
considered. Surely Fate would not grant him so great a victory
over his arch nemesis only to have him die of old age just as his
final triumph was at hand.
*No,* Moriarty reassured himself, *Fate MUST have far greater
plans for me, otherwise why would I have been gifted with this
great intellect and the will to use it fully?*
No other answer fit the data. Moriarty was great, would be
greater still, because Fate had so decreed it. He would perfect
his drug for both its potentialities, extending his own life in
the process so that he could use the other potential of the drug
to secure his rightful place as ruler of mankind.
Perhaps when he'd finally succeeded he'd go back to London and
see if Holmes still lived. If so, the stubborn fool might still
afford him some small amusement. And there was always the Mother
Hell option, too, once he had tired of tormenting the little
slut.
Chapter 7: Planning, Preparations and Provisions.
The clock tolling eight o'clock roused Holmes from his sleep -
that and an urgent need for the facilities. Moments later,
Holmes was giving heartfelt thanks for the wonders of indoor
plumbing and Mr. Crapper's commode. He would never have made it
to the old outdoor facility without again seriously embarrassing
himself.
Holmes cleaned himself up and realized that he was positively
ravenous. *Not surprising, Holmes,* he told himself, *Given that
the last time you sustained yourself was nearly five days in the
past.* Soon, Holmes was back in his favorite chair, heartily
consuming a simple breakfast of bread, cheese and tea.
Unfortunately, the soup Miss Hudson had prepared for him during
her last visit had long ago petrified in the bottom of the pot.
The bread was actually somewhat stale, and he'd been forced to
trim mold from the chunk of country cheese Miss Hudson had left
for him, but Holmes found himself hard pressed to recall a more
satisfying meal. It simply tasted wonderful. *Another side
effect of the drug? Increased sensitivity of the senses? Might
that explain my violent reaction to the scent of tobacco and
tobacco residue in my pipe?* It was a strong possibility, Holmes
decided.
As he ate, Holmes mentally reviewed his current situation. All
too soon, he would need to pursue his investigations in locales
where his street urchin persona would be decidedly unwelcome.
Unfortunately, the bulk of his disguise attire was not stored at
Baker Street. Holmes would have to visit a number of the other
establishments he maintained about London as repositories for the
various costumes and other masquerade tools he had used as a
matter of course in many of his more sensitive investigations.
That posed an immediate dilemma for the master detective. On the
one hand, the risk of being overcome by the vile withdrawal
symptoms whilst out in the city presented a danger that he dared
not underestimate. Yet, the other hand was the remorseless march
of time - clearly his most limiting resource. Holmes knew that
he could ill afford to simply sit about waiting for the next
attack.
His hunger sated, Holmes set aside his tray and went over to
stand in front of his mirror. He ran his hands over his face and
then down his torso, carefully assessing the person he saw
looking back at him from the silvered glass. His initial
inclination was to take up his journal and carefully measure his
entire body, but he resisted that impulse. *There will be time
enough for that later,* he assured himself, *but the first
priority is to assure my freedom of movement in the face of
Moriarty's henchman.*
Holmes returned his full attention to the reflection in his
looking glass. The street urchin disguise would still serve, he
decided after a long moment, although to his experienced eye, his
visage appeared slightly more feminine than he had the day
previous.
*Thank God the changes are sufficiently subtle that I still may
pass for a callow youth. The cap to hide my eyes, a bit of
lampblack applied judiciously to simulate dirt, and these scruffy
though masculine clothes and I should still appear sufficiently
boyish to pass what little scrutiny I cannot otherwise avoid.*
*If the clothes are loose enough,* he thought as he slid his
hands down his torso again and shook his head in disgust. His
waist was definitely smaller than it had been the day before - he
was sure of that - while his hips seemed unchanged if he read the
fit of his trousers about his lower abdomen correctly. The loose
fit of the shirt and vest would disguise that today, but if only
one very recent application of the drug changed his physique this
significantly, it was only a matter of time - and very little
time at that - before the Baker Street Irregular would find
himself in serious danger of becoming one of Mother Hell's
unwilling employees. Clearly, other options were required and
not solely to provide Holmes access to places his current
disguise could not.
Holmes sighed. If he but had the right materials at hand, then he
could work on his alternative disguises while he waited for the
onset of the withdrawal symptoms. That, at least, would be an
effective dual use of his severely limited time.
Holmes strode from his dressing room, intent on checking the
alleyway for signs of the man who'd accosted him the night
before. The way appeared clear, but Holmes decided to take no
chances. He walked into the bedroom which had been Dr. Watson's
for the last years of his life, and found what he needed.
Carefully, he checked the revolver over, ensuring it was clean
and that the action worked smoothly. Then he loaded the weapon,
carefully aligned the hammer with the single unloaded chamber,
then gingerly slid the weapon beneath his makeshift rope belt.
Only to have the gun's butt dig painfully into the tender flesh
just beneath his ribs. "Bloody hell," Holmes cursed as he
realized what was causing the problem, "I don't have time to deal
with this properly just now!" The barrel of the gun was being
forced outward by the swell of his pelvis, levering the gun's
handle painfully into his side. *At least that confirms my
supposition that my hip-to-waist silhouette has become decidedly
more feminine since yesterday. Calculating precisely how much
more feminine is something that must wait until I have spare time
to take a proper set of initial control measurements.*
The scientist in Holmes looked longingly at his laboratory, his
curiosity about this aspect of his transformation piqued, but the
detective in him firmly rejected the notion. *I will definitely
need quantitative data on this so that I can predict how quickly
I am changing and how long before attempting masculine disguise
will be pointless AND dangerous.* Holmes thought as he extracted
the pistol from the rope belt and slipped it into one of his deep
pockets. *However, there will be time in hand for those inquiries
after I've retrieved what I need from my various hideaways.*
Holmes made one final check of the alley from the upstairs
windows, then left the house and quickly melted into the back-
street-shadows of London.
~------------~
Using a hansom cab to expedite his travels was out of the
question for a destitute street orphan such as the master of
disguise was portraying. Thus relegated to moving about only on
foot, Holmes required several hours to complete his errands.
After some thought, Holmes decided to retrieve whatever emergency
funds he had cached at each of the flats he visited. *This will
not meet all my needs,* he thought grimly as he counted out the
thirty odd pounds in coins and banknotes of various
denominations, *especially given my other obligations and
commitments. I am going to need access to more of my funds.
Somehow, I must develop a stratagem that will provide me access
to my accounts at the Bank of England.*
As a hedge against another encounter with Old Ned, Holmes decided
to carry only a few of the least valued coins in one of his
pockets as a diversionary tactic, while keeping the bulk of his
funds hidden in his heavy boots. Holmes' plan was simple. Old Ned
would take sadistic pleasure at stealing the few paltry coppers
from the supposedly 'helpless' orphan, believing that sum to be
the whole of the boy's money. All Holmes would have to do would
be to slink off, looking afraid and crying, and Ned would be
never be the wiser.
Surprisingly, Holmes managed to complete his journey without any
contact with Old Ned. However, the return trip was not completely
uneventful, punctuated as it was by several near spills. Part of
that was due to Holmes' lack of familiarity with his recently-
changed body. His brain remembered his "old" body, and tried to
move his current one as it had the old. That did not always work
since his center of gravity and center of balance had changed
significantly in a very short period of time.
The far greater problem, however, was the increasing tendency of
his hips to over-rotate as he walked, causing the track of his
feet to converge as though he were walking on a circus tightrope.
More than once, the combination of this unusually narrow support
base and London's rough, uneven cobblestone streets sent Holmes
tumbling to the pavement.
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 3, 1911. Time: 4:37 P.M.
My Dear Watson,
At last I have been able to conduct the measurements that have
been on my mind since rising this morning. Much as I would have
preferred to take this data earlier, I had no confidence that I
would remain in control during my foray into London had I elected
to delay that excursion in favor of conducting these measurements
this morning. It is wiser by far, in my opinion, to face the
next attack in the safety of my rooms with a ready, sanitary
syringe at hand than to have chanced a collapse somewhere in the
dark alleys and back streets of London.
It has been just over eleven hours since I administered the drug.
I will attempt, insofar as I am able, to conduct all further
measurements at approximately the same time relative to my use of
Moriarty's fountain of youth.
Thus far, I feel quite fit with not the slightest discomfort that
can be attributed to withdrawal. However, based on the evidence
I have collected since my return, I am forced to conclude that
Moriarty's statement about the cumulative effect of the drug is
all too true.
I immediately realized something significant had changed when the
revolver levered itself painfully into my lower ribcage when I
attempted to use my rope belt as a makeshift holster. Simply
stated, my waist has become visibly smaller since I first put
this belt on yesterday morning. The midriff of these trousers is
significantly looser than when I first donned this disguise.
Although I do not have a specific measurement from yesterday, my
waist now measures a mere 27 inches as compared to 33.25 inches
before I first injected the concentrated potion.
Along the same vein, I have made a complete set of tailor's
measurements of my changing body. The most compelling finding to
this point is that my loss in stature has not been distributed
uniformly within my previous dimensions. While my height has
been reduced by just under 6 inches (starting at my former height
of 6'0" to my current stature of barely 5'6"), the length of my
legs has been reduced by less than three inches - closer to 2.25
inches, in fact. The greater proportion of my diminished stature
has been manifested in the region between my shoulders and my
waist, confirming that my body is developing female proportions
in the vertical as well as the horizontal axes.
My weight has been reduced by over 2 stone from my starting
weight of 166 lbs to my current weight of 132.25 lbs. I believe
this explains a substantial portion of the excess waste material
which fouled my bed upon my first awakening despite my lack of
food intake during the same period. I also believe that this
sudden loss of body mass explains my muscular weakness relative
to Moriarty during our abortive physical altercation. I know
that I was severely dehydrated at that point, but now that I have
replenished my bodily moisture reserves, I feel much better -
certainly stronger than I did when Moriarty humiliated me by
toying with me.
But back to the measurable data. My hair has also continued to
grow, nearly an inch since yesterday. If it grows much longer,
even that scruffy hat will not contain it. Additionally, there
is not a single strand of gray hair to be found anywhere on my
head.
This cataloging of the changes in my body may well turn out to
be, in the final reckoning, a fool's errand. As a scientist, I
have always believed in the adage "knowledge is power", but even
I wonder precisely what good this knowledge might afford me.
So, Watson, why do I do this - study myself as if I were a
laboratory specimen and Moriarty's foul potion some type of
experimental treatment? Perhaps because the objectivity of an
experimental scientist gives me some needed emotional distance?
Quite likely. I strongly suspect that so long as I can deal with
this. . . horror? Hmmm, horror is an apt term if somewhat
emotional for what I am experiencing at this point in time.
Isn't that how Moriarty described me? Like a hopelessly
emotional and scatterwitted female? Well, so long as I can deal
with this horror scientifically, objectively and rationally, then
I can believe that I am still Sherlock Holmes and that I still
have the wherewithal to find, stop and ultimately, to kill
Professor Moriarty once and for all.
Enough of that! Back to the point of this exercise. I have made
other, less quantitative observations that, although they are not
my preferred numerically verifiable evidence, may cast some more
light on the near-term effects of the drug. As noted above, my
waist is definitely smaller, but neither my hips nor my upper
torso show any corresponding reduction. However, the shape of
those two bodily features do appear to have changed, becoming
somewhat rounder - at least relative my previous form. This is
not yet a factor in the fit of my trousers which seem able to
accommodate the change, but the shoulders of my expertly tailored
shirts and coats now hang down loosely onto my arms while still
fitting snugly about my chest.
Actually, I believe that those items of apparel currently fit
even more snugly about my upper torso. If not, I am certainly
more aware of a constricted sensation about my chest primarily
because my nipples have become rather annoyingly sensitive.
While this increased acuity seems consistent with the previously
noted enhancement of my other senses, notably taste and smell, in
this case it is most distressing. The tight shirt-cloth chafes
my nipples until I want to tear the shirt away. To put a fine
point to it, the irritation makes the things itch intolerably.
My genitals also continue to change. I believe that my scrotum
has become tighter and smaller, although, once again, I have only
subjective observation to confirm that hypothesis.
Yet.
Now that I think on it, I don't believe that I have ever run
across a generally accepted and accurate metric for assessing the
size of the masculine endowments. The most widely accepted
methods appear, on the face of my own observations, to rather
inaccurately overestimate that organ's dimensions. I suspect I
will have to invent my own method in this case.
On another related issue, I am beginning to wonder how young,
physiologically, I have actually become since the first
administration of the concentrated version of the drug. It is
difficult to assess because of the dual, sometimes contradictory,
sometimes complementary nature of the effects of the elixir.
What changes are brought about from the reduction of my age and
what changes are the direct result of the changing of my
fundamental gender? At this point, I cannot tell.
Well, I must beg your pardon, Watson. Miss Hudson arrives
tomorrow and I must be ready for her. I am going to miss her and
her mother, but it will not be safe for her to be around me in
the coming days; Moriarty's henchman being the least of the
horrors she might have to face should she continue to attend me
here. I have a plan, but it will require much work between now
and her usual arrival time tomorrow morning.
Farewell, old friend.
End Journal Entry.
Holmes laid down his pen and reread the journal entry. Even now,
after all the time he'd had to adjust to what was happening, to
what had been done to him, it read like one of George Wells'
fantastic, pseudo-scientific works of fiction that Watson so
enjoyed reading. Except not even H.G. Wells could have conceived
of such an idea. No, only one man had the imagination, the
knowledge and the will to have conceived something like this. The
question was how did one go about stopping such an individual?
At that moment, even the great Sherlock Holmes had to admit that
he had no idea. Sighing, Holmes pushed aside his journal and
reached for the pile of clothes laid out on his table. Perhaps
he'd think of something while he resized these garments.
Chapter 8. Miss Hudson Calls.
The hearth clock was tolling one o'clock when Holmes finally set
down the last piece of altered clothing. Grimacing, he flexed
his aching fingers and tried to relax the tight, cramping muscles
of his right arm. He'd been wielding that damned sewing needle
for the better part of the night, but now at last, he was done.
He had what he needed for at least the next phase of his scheme.
With a sigh, he gathered up his work and trudged into the bedroom
only to be brought up short by the foul stench that filled the
room.
"Curse me for a fool," he swore, "I completely forgot to change
the linen and it has been fermenting almost six days." Holmes
carefully hung his new clothes up in his armoire and set about
changing the linens and airing the room. He would need the room
at least habitable when Miss Hudson arrived. Holmes deposited
the soiled and reeking bed linens in the laundry hamper in the
servants' rooms and then went back to his study. He'd slept well
enough there the previous night and would, no doubt, do so again
especially if he wished to draw a breath without gagging.
~--------------~
Fatigue laid Holmes low and kept him asleep even as the first
fiery tongues of fever again began to rage. It was the
uncomfortably warm sensation, coupled with the ragged, panting
breaths that finally roused him. By then, the other symptoms
were also painfully in evidence - the nearly uncontrollable
shivering, the hypersensitivity and the involuntary flexing of
his back and abdominal muscles.
It was worse this time, Holmes thought as he fought against the
acute discomfort and tried to keep track of the time for his
journal entries. This time, he knew what to expect, and that
anticipation somehow heightened the experience. That, and the
memory of how quickly that single injection had assuaged the
hellish torture.
Finally, he could stand it no longer and grimly made his way back
to his workbench where the second hypodermic still lay fully
charged. Holmes bit his lip as he tried to quell the spasmodic
tremors long enough to safely drive the needle and its torment-
relieving contents home.
He missed on his first attempt, and his second. Fortunately, his
third time was the charm, and he managed to sink the point into
the meaty part of his upper arm. As it had the previous night,
the drug took effect almost immediately. Carefully, Holmes
withdrew the needle, and began to relax.
Holmes glanced back up at the clock. 6:36. The drug had held
off the withdrawal a little more than twenty four hours. He'd
have to remember to enter that data in his journal, he thought
wearily, but later. He'd do that later.
~----------------~
Miss Maude Hudson was hurrying up the steps to Mr. Sherlock
Holmes' second floor rooms as she heard his mantle clock chime
ten o'clock. Mortified at her tardiness, Miss Hudson fumbled
with her key as she stood at the door. She was so flustered at
her highly unusual lateness that she dropped the key and hand to
scramble after it on her hands and knees. By the time she
managed to enter the apartment it was two minutes after ten.
She made a quick survey of the front rooms and saw no sign of Mr.
Holmes. Was he still sick, she thought guiltily? She'd meant to
come back on one of her off days just to check up on him,
especially seeing as how sick he'd been that last day, but then
her Mum had come down with one of her attacks of the lung fever
and it had been all Maude could do to tend to her own.
Maude was terribly worried about her Mother's declining health.
The doctor had told her that she needed to get Mum out of the
city and into the cleaner air of the English country, but Maude
couldn't see how she could accomplish that. What would they do
for money, she'd like to know? It wasn't as if they had much,
and what little they did have came from Maude cleaning other
people's houses, or taking in laundry and mending and the like.
It was the only work she and her sister knew how to do. How much
of that type of work would there be in a poor country village -
that's what Maude Hudson'd like to know. "Doctors!" she
exclaimed with mild disgust.
And it wasn't as if she'd be allowed to abandon Mum's "darlin'
Mr. Holmes," either. If Maude had heard it once, she'd heard it
a thousand times about how Mr. Sherlock Holmes had taken her
Mother in as his housekeeper after her Father had died. Maude
believed her Mother might expire at the very thought of leaving
Mr. Holmes with no one to see to his needs properly.
Miss Hudson gathered up the dirty dishes Mr. Holmes had left in
the main sitting room, and carted them off to kitchen. She found
the fouled linens and had immediately dunked the lot of them in a
strong soap and hot water solution. The strong odor of human
waste quickly had her deciding to take care of the other rooms
and letting most of the stink soak out those sheets.
Miss Hudson was marching purposely toward the water closet, mop
and bucket at the ready when a soft "Pardon me, Ma'am, but are
you Miss Hudson?" stopped her in her tracks.
Maude spun towards the unfamiliar voice, her trusty mop at the
ready. She was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted her
in the doorway to Mr. Holmes' sleeping chambers.
A remarkably . . .ummm. . plain young woman with more than a fair
share of nose and somewhat heavy features was standing there
looking up at Maude, a somewhat quizzical look on her face. She
was perhaps an inch or two shorter than Maude's own height, and
was dressed in a serviceable gown of gray cotton broadcloth with
a large, floor length apron covering her from the shoulders down.
A white cap covered her hair, although a short, stray dark curl
had escaped just above her right eye. That errant curl belied
the initial estimate of this intruder's age based on her angular
features - an estimate Miss Hudson revised downward yet a second
time when she assessed the fine skin texture revealed between the
gown's high collar and the white cap. *A very odd looking sort of
female,* Miss Hudson thought unkindly.
"Excuse me, please," the girl said again, "But are you Miss Maude
Hudson?"
*Well, someone taught this one proper manners, whoever she is,*
Maude thought. *Talks like some of the fancy, she does. Wonder
where she was in service before this?* "I am," Miss Hudson said
staunchly. "And just who might you be, Missie? If you don't
mind me askin', that is."
"Oh no," the woman replied with just a hint of a smile. "I am
Visiting Nurse Joan Hanks, Miss Hudson. I am here to care for
Mr. Holmes."
A shot of fear sliced through Miss Hudson. She needed this
position! "What's wrong with him?" she asked quickly, craning
her neck in an attempt to see around the girl and into the bed
chamber, "He'll be all right, won't he?"
The girl made a shushing noise of her finger to her lips, quietly
closed the bed chamber door, and then motioned Miss Hudson into
the front sitting room.
"Mister Holmes should not be disturbed. We're trying to keep him
as comfortable as we can while we. . . wait."
"Wait for WHAT?!?!" Miss Hudson demanded.
Miss Hanks lowered her eyes and shook her head. "He's very ill,
Miss Hudson. After you left from your last visit, Mr. Holmes
became worse. He managed to summon Dr. March, an old friend and
colleague of Dr. Watson's. After examining Mr. Holmes, he
summoned me to . . ," Miss Hanks voice broke and then recovered,
"to ease his time as much as is possible."
"Then. . . . then. . he's going to . . ?" Miss Hudson tried to
ask the question, but was cut off by a gentle hand on her own.
All Miss Hanks did was nod, and Miss Hudson began to weep.
Miss Hanks offered the older woman a handkerchief and then rose
from her seat. She walked over to the hearth where she picked up
a small packet and then returned to sit beside the silently
sobbing Miss Hudson. Miss Hanks let Maude cry through the
initial shock of the revelation.
"Miss Hudson? When Mr. Holmes realized that he'd soon be. .. be
leaving, he put together the contents of this envelope. He had
originally hoped to present it to you in person, but sadly, that
simply isn't possible." Miss Hanks passed the packet to Miss
Hudson and motioned for her to open it.
The envelope contained a piece of official-looking parchment,
three train tickets and a thick stack of banknotes. Stunned,
Miss Hudson could only stare at the contents, look up wide eyed
at the nurse, and then back down at the money and papers in her
hand. Finally, she managed a weak, "What is this?"
A smile softened the features of the nurse, making her almost
pretty. "Mr. Holmes said it was your pension, Miss Hudson. The
paper is the deed to a solid, well maintained cottage in the
Scottish Lowlands. Mr. Holmes said that he'd chosen it because
the air would be good for your Mother. The tickets are passage
for you and your family to journey there. The rest of it is 250
pounds which should take care of you, your mother and your sister
quite comfortably for the rest of your lives."
"So much money. . ." Miss Hudson said dazed.
"Mr. Holmes said that he would have seen to this sooner, but he
was a selfish man and did not want the bother of trying to find
another housekeeper who was half as effective as you and your
Mother. Now, he wishes to know that you and your family are well
taken care of before. . " Miss Hanks voice fell away.
"Before?" Miss Hudson prompted.
"We both know what before means, Miss Hudson." Miss Hanks said
gravely. Then she rose, taking Miss Hudson with her. "Now, Mr.
Holmes would like you to go home and see to the preparations to
leave for your new home. I will be here with Mr. Holmes and will
see to what little cleaning and cooking he will be needing from
now on."
"Could. . .could I just see him one last time? To thank him, you
see?"
Miss Hanks smiled sadly, but shook her head. "Mr. Holmes is not
awake right now, and it would be a shame to disturb what little
sleep he can get nowadays. I'm sure you understand."
"Oh, no, I wouldn't do that. Do you think I might return at a
later time?"
"I couldn't say, really. It would be hard to predict when he
might be able to receive visitors. He's not . . . entirely
himself, either. I'm afraid he might not appreciate the visit."
"Oh, dear. How sad. How very, very sad. He always took such
pride in his mind."
"Just so, Ma'am, just so."
"Well, if that's what you and the doctor think best," she said
finally as she picked up her cloak and bonnet. "You're young for
this kind of work, aren't you, Miss Hanks?" Miss Hudson asked as
she unbuttoned her bodice and carefully hid the precious envelope
in her impressive bosom.
"I have more experience than you might think. I have worked with
a respected colleague of Dr. Watson for many years."
Miss Hudson rebuttoned her dress, started to put on her cloak,
only to abruptly stop short of that. She turned a concerned eye
on the young nurse. "You're sure you won't be needing any help?
I noticed that you didn't clean up those sheets he soiled the day
I was here."
There was a touch of censure in Miss Hudson's voice and Miss
Hanks flushed at the rebuke. "Dr. March called me in yesterday,
Ma'am. Mr. Holmes was in tolerable bad shape, and I had to clean
him and see to his needs first. It was very late when the Doctor
said all was done and he told me I was to get some rest as I
would be needing it today," she hung her head. "I'm ashamed to
say I forgot them this morning, Miss Hudson."
The girl's obvious remorse touched Miss Hudson's heart. "Well,
it being the case that you was following the Doctor's orders, I
can understand how seeing to Mr. Holmes personal needs would be
more important than those sheets." Miss Hudson nodded and
finished donning her cloak. "Take care of him, Miss. He's a
very good man for all his odd ways. My Mum and me. . . well,
we'll miss him something fierce."
Miss Hanks watched Miss Hudson leave, closing and locking the
door behind her. For several long moments, she simply stood
there, her eyes unfocused, and perhaps, just a little over
bright.
Then, she reached up and slipped off the white cap. "And he . .
. or rather, *I* shall miss the two of you as well, Miss Hudson,"
Sherlock Holmes said quietly to the locked door, "something
fierce."
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 4, 1911. Time: 5:11 P.M.
My Dear Watson,
I am glad that I had already made the arrangements for Miss
Hudson's retirement home before this sorry situation unfolded.
With Old Ned and God knows how many other of Moriarty's henchmen
prowling about, I could not take the chance that they might
attempt to use her in order to get to me. Besides, it is the
correct thing to do. After all, in a few more weeks, Sherlock
Holmes will effectively, if not in reality, be dead. The only
problem is that there will not be a body confirming that death so
the reading of my final will and testament will likely be held up
by the courts, to the detriment of Mrs Hudson and her daughters.
I could not permit that to happen.
The purchase of an appropriate residence along with obtaining the
tickets had been seen to a month ago. As for the 250 pounds,
well, that does pose a problem since it comprises all but about
fifty pounds of my readily available cash. Still, that is enough
to purchase what I will need from the various second hand and
pawn shops. That expedition is scheduled for tomorrow as I have
to finish altering a less "servant-like" dress first. The
clothing I will need for my next course of action must be of a
more genteel nature - a raiment of obvious quality but now
looking a bit shabby.
As to how I shall acquire more money, I have the inkling of a
plan. Hopefully, old friend, you are just as emotionally
sentimental as I have always accused you of being for I shall
need some items I pray you did not dispose of when you moved back
to Baker Street. We shall soon see.
Quantitative effects of the second dose of Moriarty's potion are
consistent with those measured yesterday. Another quarter of an
inch shorter in stature, one and one half pounds lighter and my
waist is another half inch smaller. My hair has grown almost to
collar length and seems to be a bit fuller than yesterday as
well.
The point at which I could no longer stand the withdrawal pains
occurred nearly twenty six hours after the previous
administration. I don't know precisely when the attack began as
I was asleep, and was fully involved when I finally awoke.
Perhaps that is just as well. Rest is vital to the working of
the mind.
One very significant change has been noted just this evening. My
urethra is no longer at the tip end of what is left of my male
organ. It is now located along the bottom of the trunk near what
now passes for the head. What this means is that I can no longer
stand and deliver - at least now without wetting myself, that is.
I must now sit to handle all my bodily eliminations, Watson.
Rather lowering, don't you think?
I must now discuss something that I would rather left unsaid. I
wish you were here in body, Watson, to help me analyze this. For
all your many well documented shortcomings as an objective
observer and deductive investigator, old friend, you always
understood the workings of the human heart and the associated
emotions far better than I ever could. I felt quite. . . bereft
today, Watson, when Miss Hudson left me for the last time. It is
not a pleasant sensation - as if somehow there is suddenly a
large hole inside me that something used to fit in that now lies
empty and barren. I fell into that hole on several occasions
today, Watson, when I would see some little thing that had to be
Miss Hudson's handiwork for I would never have thought of doing
them.
A small cache of potpourri in the back of my armoire. A simple
arrangement of what had once been flowers on the kitchen table.
The scent of beeswax and lemon juice about all of the wooden
furniture.
I do miss her, Watson. . . and you, something fierce.
End Journal Entry.
Chapter 9: Moriarty's Lairs
A freshening dawn breeze had blown in from the sea, clearing away
the morning fog and for the moment, cleansing the normally ever-
present coal-smoke haze from London's skies. Holmes was again
out and about in his Baker Street Irregular disguise. His
objectives for this day's venture were three-fold. First, Holmes
wanted to examine two of Moriarty's old haunts that were within
reasonable walking distance from Baker Street. Perhaps Moriarty
had elected to use one of his old headquarters while in London.
Holmes thought that unlikely - Moriarty knew those would be the
first places that Holmes would look for clues - but it would not
have been the first time that someone as clever as the Professor
had tried hiding something in the most obvious place. Holmes did
not dare overlook such a possibility.
His second objective was to reconnoiter the streets about his
Baker Street lodgings and, if possible, locate Old Ned and any
other watchers Moriarty might have left behind in the area.
Eventually, Holmes knew, he would have to deal with Old Ned,
especially if he harbored any hopes of disguising himself as an
adult male. Besides, it was always better to know the terrain
and the full scope of the forces one was dealing with before
undertaking such a campaign.
Finally, Holmes needed provisions. The kitchen cupboards at
Baker Street were bare, and he no longer had the services of Miss
Hudson to replenish his supplies. Holmes was positively
ravenous.
The night before had gone much the same as had the previous two
nights. The withdrawal attack had struck just before dawn,
approximately twenty-five and one half hours after the previous
attack. Holmes had administered the drug and fallen almost
immediately back to sleep only to reawaken a bare three hours
later with the urgent need to relieve himself. Once that
necessity had been dealt with, the hunger had made itself known.
Holmes had devoured the last crust of bread and bit of cheese,
but that meager offering had scarcely made a dent in his
appetite.
Holmes thought that the problem might be related to some specific
nutritional need that was exacerbated by the radical changes
Moriarty's potion induced in his body. Unfortunately, modern
nutritional research was not a subject Sherlock Holmes had ever
considered of any practical use to a consulting detective, so he
had never bothered to clutter his mind with the results of such
research. However, he knew that the young, particularly the very
young, drank quantities of milk - even as infants suckling at
their mother's breast - and he deduced that milk might be a
solution to his current needs. Certainly the cheese had seemed
particularly satisfying the previous morning, so perhaps milk and
milk products provided something his new and uniquely changing
physiology required. He would visit the dairyman just before
returning to his rooms.
~-----------~
Holmes arrived at his first destination shortly before nine A.M.,
but found nothing - *literally* nothing. The warehouse that had
once served as Moriarty's hideaway had been razed to the ground.
He moved about the outer edge of the rubble pile, but found no
sign of any recent human presence, let alone any type of hidden
access or underground habitation.
*Still,* Holmes mused as he picked his way around the fallen
structure, *I am not the only master of disguise in this little
melodrama. Moriarty is well able to camouflage a subterranean
hideaway somewhere in this apparent destruction.*
Holmes began to move within what had once have been the walls of
the warehouse, attempting to discover a hidden access or door.
He kicked at one sheet of galvanized tin roofing, dislodging it
and then screamed in horror as a veritable explosion of *huge*
rats erupted from beneath the panel. Holmes' screams went up in
both volume and pitch as several of the beasts scurried about and
between Holmes' legs, their coarse fur brushing roughly against
skin left bared where the cut-leg trousers ended. Jarred by the
contact, Holmes ineffectually batted at the mindless hoard,
trying to divert their furry bodies away from him.
The final straw fell when one particularly terrified creature
literally scaled up Holmes' shrieking body and then launched
itself from his shoulder, its long, whip-like tail lashing at
Holmes throat as it flew away. That was more than the self-image
that Holmes had been maintaining through pure force of will could
cope with. The masculine Holmes, the Freudic 'id' that had, to
that point in time dominated the personality of the conflicted
body, vanished beneath an onrushing avalanche of unadulterated
panic.
A now-wholly feminine Holmes screamed in terror and fled from the
room, intent only on escape. She may have stepped on one or more
of the damnable animals, but she didn't care nor did she slow her
headlong charge. Moments later, all signs of the repellent
animals had disappeared, leaving only their memory and the sour
taste of fear in their wake.
Still shaking and frantically waving ineffectual arms at threats
no longer present, Holmes finally slowed when she had made her
escape from the rubble pile that had once been a building. With
the recognition that her escape had been achieved, the panic
receded and Holmes, now different in a fundamental but invisible
way, collapsed to his knees on a clear patch of grass, his
breathing hoarse in his abused throat.
Never in his entire life had Holmes been in the grip of such a
paralyzing emotion. He'd felt fear before - only a fool would
have not been afraid during the struggle with Moriarty at the
Reichenbach Falls - and Sherlock Holmes was not a fool.
Certainly, there had been situations in the past when he'd been
caught unawares by some unexpected and unwelcome surprise, but
never had Holmes felt anything remotely like what he had just
experienced nor reacted as he had in the past ten minutes.
"Bloody hell, but I am still trembling," he said with disgust.
That recognition seemed to break through the emotional grip
Holmes was under. Gradually, his breathing slowed, his pulse
ceased racing, and the roiling of his stomach eased. "All this?"
he asked himself as his control reasserted itself, "because of a
few rats? I am nearly incapacitated because of those vermin?
NEVER!" he roared, ignoring the high toned shrillness of that
oath. "I am HOLMES and I will not surrender to mindless
EMOTION!"
His voice echoed off the old rundown buildings that surrounded
the warehouse site, but Holmes did not notice. His mind had
turned to other things. *The rats are significant,* he thought
quickly. *Moriarty is nothing if not fastidious. The rats might
well have been here, but if he'd used this site, he'd have
poisoned them. The living rats would have consumed their dead
brethren and been poisoned themselves, and yet, I saw no signs of
dead rats in my admittedly short examination of the site. Still.
. . *
Holmes made a more careful reconnaissance of the perimeter than
he had originally, but saw no sign of dead vermin, not even
bones. Holmes decided to go on to the other hideaway and see if
there were any clues to be had there.
As he slipped back into the shadows, Holmes attempted to analyze
the experience with the rats, but was interrupted by a loud, rude
rumbling from his stomach. *Perhaps it is lack of nourishment,*
he thought. *Watson was forever pontificating on the physical
and emotional problems that result from malnutrition. And it has
been well over a day since I had any substantial food. Why,
combined with the stress this forced reconstruction of my entire
body has placed on my reserves, it only stands to reason that I
would not be fully under control when dealing with additional
stress. Such as all those rats.*
Holmes permitted himself a pleased smile at the logic of his
explanation, and ignored the slight shudder that snaked down his
spine even the thought of the word "rat". With an abrupt turn,
Holmes decided to delay his inspection of Moriarty's other
hideaway, and went off in search of the nearest dairyman.
~----------~
The quart of milk and large chunk of cheese had only cost Holmes
a few coins, and looking back on it, the proprietor of the dairy
store had not seemed surprised by the purchase. *Perhaps more
than a few street children feed themselves this way with what
money they can beg borrow or steal. He doesn't care where they
obtained the money so long as he is paid. I wonder how my lads
of the Baker Street Irregulars coped when I was supposedly dead?
Better than this, I hope,* Holmes thought as he carried his
purchases out of the shop.
Holmes found a bench where he could rest while he consumed his
meal. Hopefully, he was right about the milk. Later, Holmes
would be profoundly embarrassed as he recalled the utter greed
with which he inhaled his food. Milk spilled from the corners his
mouth as he tried to literally pour it down faster than his still
raw throat could accommodate. *Well, at least the behavior is, in
all likelihood, more in character than my usual impeccable table
manners,* Holmes mused as he took a huge bite from his wedge of
mild, golden cheese.
All too soon, the cheese and milk had disappeared, and Holmes was
still hungry. For a few moments, he thought about going back and
getting more, but decided against it. That might well make the
storekeeper suspicious, and besides, Holmes thought it might be a
good idea to make sure that he kept what he'd just consumed
inside him. The last thing he needed to do is overeat and become
violently ill. Later, when he had finished his tasks for the
day, he could find another dairyman and buy enough milk and
cheese for his dinner and breakfast. Thankfully, the iceman was
still keeping the icebox at 221B Baker Street stocked. Holmes
would be able to store the milk overnight safely.

~------------~
The factory still stood, but was also abandoned. Holmes picked
the ancient padlock easily enough and was soon inside the dark,
dusty, web-bestrewn building. The main room was eerily empty,
and what little light filtered through the dirty and discolored
windows did little more than throw deeper shadows. Holmes
remembered this building all too well, and swiftly made his way
to where the secret entrance to Moriarty's private lair had been
hidden by tool shelves and worktables.
A stray shaft of light illuminated the floor in front of the work
table. Holmes went to one knee for a closer look. The thick
dirt had been recently disturbed. Two sets of footprints marred
the otherwise evenly dusted floorboards - one approaching the
work table, one departing. By the degree to which the dust had
reclaimed the footprints, making their outlines soft and diffuse
rather than sharply outlined, Holmes deduced that whoever had
made the prints had done so several days in the past - perhaps as
much as a week.
The prints were distinct, however, and showed no signs of a limp
which indicated that these prints had not been made by Old Ned.
The shoes did not show any signs of unusual or uneven wear
either.
Holmes located the hidden mechanism that controlled the door and
activated it. The work table and the wall it was attached to
swung outward with a loud creaking of poorly lubricated hinges.
He crept into the small alcove, following the prints. They
stopped at the next door, and then seemed to turn around, going
no further. Holmes examined the door and saw that it would swing
outward, into the little alcove. However, no dust had been
disturbed indicating that the door had not been opened at the
same time these prints had been made. Frustrated, Holmes began
looking for the latch to open the door anyway.
Then he saw it.
A brown envelope had been pinned to the door - a brown envelope
with writing upon it. Holmes moved closer to door and peered at
the writing, and was stunned to read his name on the envelope.
Holmes took down the packet and went back into the main factory
space where he found a relatively well lighted area. His
curiosity thoroughly aroused, Holmes opened the envelope,
extracted a piece of foolscap from it and began to read.
My Dear Holmes,

I suppose you had to check such mundane
details as this location, but again I must
ask you, old enemy, surely you did not think
it would be so easy?

No, I have not been here, other than to
leave you this note. Why, I have not even
bothered myself to set any traps for you so
you need not worry about them as you leave
this place.

Why, you may well ask? Because, my dear
Holmes, I have no need to kill you twice.
As far as I am concerned, you are already a
dead man. Soon, very soon, you will cease
to be even a minor annoyance to me, and it
will have ultimately been by your own hand.
That is somewhat unsatisfying, but it is as
Fate has decreed. The important thing is
that the Great Sherlock Holmes has at least
met his, or rather *her* master, and you are
no longer a threat to me or to my plans.

Good bye, Holmes. Live long and suffer.

M.

Holmes crumpled the paper in his hand and cursed softly.
Moriarty had anticipated him and had left this calling card to
taunt him. Holmes was inclined to believe the letter as the
other evidence supported Moriarty's claim that he had not, in
fact, done more than plant that damnable note. Moriarty was
unlikely to have turned his scientific mind to something so
mundane as spreading dust evenly. Ergo, the footprints proved
that Moriarty, or one of his henchmen who did not limp, had only
been here once to plant the note.
The sound of the great tower clock tolling twelve noon in the
distance broke Holmes concentration. He folded the note and put
it into one of his pockets before slipping back out the way he'd
arrived. He still had to find Old Ned.
~----------~
Holmes crept cautiously into a dark alleyway a few blocks east of
Baker Street. A very young lad had happily taken a tuppence from
Holmes in exchange for the information that the "big old codger
wot's got the funny limp" was often seen in this vicinity.
Hopefully, the villain's bolt hole was nearby and Holmes would be
able to locate it. Sooner or later, there was going to have to
be a reckoning between the two of them, and Holmes knew he'd need
every advantage he could find.
In the far back of the blind alley, Holmes found a door recessed
into the soot-covered brickwork. He was trying to decide whether
to proceed when the door slammed open and a huge, hairy paw
reached out from the inside and grabbed him before dragging him
inside bodily.
Holmes barely had time to realize he was inside the building when
he went flying into the nearby wall, landing hard and falling to
the filthy floor. A huge shadow loomed above him. "So ye was
lookin' fer Old Ned, was ye, boy? Well, little Tom knows to stay
bought when 'e's been paid fer 'cause 'e knows Oi'd 'ave to 'urt
'im if'n 'e didn't. You ain't so smart, are ye, boy?"
Holmes had to think fast. "But. . .Oi was tryin' to find ye,
sa'ar," he lied, "on account of Oi gots somethin' to tell ye. .
.about that gennulman ye was lookin' fer."
Old Ned reached down, grabbed Holmes by the throat and jerked him
bodily to his feet. He lifted Holmes up to eye level, his fetid,
rotten breath making Holmes stomach turn. "Oi don'ts believe
yer. Oi think maybe ye've sold Old Ned out, and that makes Old
Ned right mad. Oi thinks ye needs to learn what 'appens to a bit
o' nothin' like you what decides to cheat Old Ned."
Old Ned's free hand came down in a thunderous slap that sent
Holmes flying across the room. Holmes rolled to his feet, his
head reeling from the blow only to see the villain closing on him
with a vicious looking knife in his right hand. "Oi thinks ye
needs to bleed a bit, boy. Maybe Oi'll take an ear so's ye'll
know just 'ow easy it'd be fer me to cut yer throat next time."
Holmes rolled to one side, just barely avoiding Ned's grasping
hand. When he came out of the roll, Watson's service revolver
was in his hand. Ned's eyes went wide, and then he charged at
Holmes, the knife raised for an obvious killing stroke.
The first shot took Ned squarely in the chest. Holmes emptied
the revolver into the man's body even as he fell, the last bullet
disintegrated the back of Ned's balding skull.
For the second time that morning, Holmes was overwhelmed by
unfamiliar emotions that he could not even stand. There was just
so much blood - everywhere! On the wall, on the floor, on Ned. .
. on Holmes.
Holmes stifled the urge to scream as he tried to wipe Old Ned's
blood from his vest and instead ended up with it covering his
hands. Still on his knees, Holmes ripped the vest from his body
and tossed it aside. The sickly sweet scent of hot blood mixed
with the sharp taint of burnt gunpowder and cordite made Holmes
feel lightheaded and nauseous. For a brief moment, he feared he
might faint or vomit, but in the end did neither. Holmes managed
to quell the upheaval in his stomach and to remain conscious by
sheer force of will. Finally, he struggled to his feet and
staggered toward the door and escape. At the last instant, he
stopped, remembering to retrieve his vest and Watson's revolver
before finally slipping out the door and into the alley.
Holmes made his way directly back to Baker Street, forgetting to
stop and purchase foodstuffs. He simply wasn't hungry anymore.
~----------~
Interlude: Calais to Paris Train
Moriarty brooded in his private compartment as the train hurtled
through the night. Thoughtfully, he looked down at the missive
that had reached him just before he had boarded the train earlier
in the evening.
So, Holmes had decided to take direct action. Moriarty had
anticipated this, if not quite so soon. According to Moriarty's
informant, someone, most likely Holmes, had retrieved the letter
he'd hidden in the secret passage at the old factory. Moriarty
smiled as he considered the consternation that note would cause
his old enemy. The smile was not a pleasant sight.
The other item discussed in the letter was the sudden,
unexplained disappearance of Old Ned. He had not reported to
Moriarty's informant in over twelve hours which, given the fact
that the old fool was only paid when he reported, indicated that
Ned was likely no longer among the living. Again, Moriarty had
expected Holmes to deal with Ned, but this soon?
Holmes was a strategist by nature - a thinker - and he would not
have had time to have determined Ned's habits and patterns in
order to exploit Ned's many weaknesses. Nor would Holmes have
had time to locate a suitably advantageous site for this final
confrontation. Such impulsive, immediate action was not like the
Holmes Moriarty had come to know and hate. This was out of
character.
Moriarty put his head back against the seat and closed his eyes
in relaxed concentration. Yes, these behaviors were definitely
out of character. Had the youth potion changed something
intrinsic to Holmes' mind along with transforming his body?
Something Moriarty personally needed to be concerned about,
especially since he fully intended to use the drug on himself
once he'd been able to perfect it by eliminating the gender
changing side effect. This other possible side effect had not
been noted during his earlier researches using the lower animals.
Moriarty wanted to be young, but he wanted to be a young Moriarty
at the height of his powers. The last thing he wanted was to
become some youthful, yet irrational fool.
Or perhaps this sudden unpredictability or impulsiveness was not
intrinsic to the age regression aspect of the drug, but rather
was a feminine-based characteristic that even the great mind of
Sherlock Holmes could not control. Moriarty would need more
data. It was too bad that his informant would no longer know
where to send his reports. He'd been unwilling to take the
chance that Holmes might locate his main informant and force
information concerning Moriarty's whereabouts from the man, so
the itinerary he'd provided to his man had been a fabrication.
That was, in part, why Moriarty had gone to Calais instead of
directly to his final destination. There were many ways to hide
his trail in France, and he'd had too many misadventures with
Holmes to believe the detective would not discover where Moriarty
had departed from and where he'd been bound when he'd left
England. Holmes still might track him down, but it would take
far more time with Calais as the starting point on the Continent.
And while time was limited for Moriarty, it was far more so for
Holmes.
Moriarty set the note aside and sighed. It was done. As for the
concern about the mental changes wrought by the drug, Moriarty
could deal with that problem without watching Miss Sherlock
Holmes. He would simply have to be careful with his final
testing once the drug no longer changed males into females. He,
unlike Holmes, at least had enough time to be cautious.
Chapter 10: Recapitulation of a Day Gone Bad
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 6, 1911. Time: 6:16 P.M.
My Dear Watson,
I fear I must admit that I have been remiss in my journal-keeping
and have failed to make even the most basic scientific entries
yesterday. It is an omission for which I have no legitimate
excuse.
In truth, I have spent a great deal of the time since yesterday
dealing with the events of that ill-fated day, and with my own
unexpected reactions to those events. While I am hesitant to
give any degree of importance to those reactions, I must deal
with them somehow, for they occurred, and therefore must be
expected to do so again in the future. But first, the facts -
always a far safer area of discourse.
The withdrawal onset continues to occur in the early hours just
before dawn. As accurately as I can determine, the period of
effectiveness of the drug has been between twenty four and three
quarters hours, and twenty six hours over the four days since I
finally regained my faculties after that first, very concentrated
dose of the drug.
My weight is down to 127.75 pounds and my height is now five feet
five and one eighth inches tall. I have not been eating all that
well due to a recent tendency towards nausea so I suspect that my
weight loss is greater than it might have been otherwise. My
waist measurement continues to shrink in close correlation to my
weight reduction, and is down to just under twenty six inches.
My chest and hip measurements, however, continue to hold fairly
steady, at least when I measure my lower chest. My hair also
continues to grow and I will soon need a haircut if I have any
hope of passing as a young, if somewhat short, gentleman of the
town.
The sensitivity of all my senses continues to increase,
particularly my sense of touch in the vicinity of my nipples.
Their constant and infernal itching bids fair to drive me mad.
So far, one of your herbal lotions, Watson, camomile-based, I
believe, is the only thing that gives me even temporary relief.
One last objective observation before I begin the subjective
analyses. I ventured out this morning to visit the dairyman and
the milk, cheese and other products I purchased again served
admirably in relieving my hunger. However, when biting into the
marvelously flavorful but hard country cheese, I noticed that my
front teeth seemed quite loose. Now, some six hours later, I
find that all of my teeth are easily moved to and fro. The
sensation is quite like my memories of when I began losing my so-
called "baby teeth" except that instead of one or two at a time,
all of my remaining teeth are so afflicted. This is most likely
due to the reduction in my jaw. There isn't room for my
relatively large masculine teeth. I am very much afraid, my dear
Watson, that I will be drinking all of my nourishment in very
short order.
Subjectively, and along the same line as above, my face
definitely seems to be changing. Watson, can you believe this?
My ears and nose are shrinking. I know you will recall my
monograph on the use of the shape and size of the human ear in
detection and identification as you provided a good deal of the
medical research. My ears have become quite noticeably smaller.
Precisely how much smaller, I cannot precisely say since I never
anticipated this change. Ears ordinarily never stop growing as
you well know, but if my entire body can grow smaller under the
influence of Moriarty's drug, then having smaller ears is not
such a great leap. My nose seems to be growing less prominent
and shorter as well. This reduction seems to me greater than
what would be expected from a proportional extrapolation based on
my smaller hat size. While I am not an example of what is
considered feminine beauty, my features continue to grow far less
masculine with each passing day.
Well, that seems to have dealt with the less difficult material,
so I shall proceed to recount my difficulties of the past twenty
four hours.
I checked two of Moriarty's old hideouts yesterday. I found one
destroyed and the other deserted. During my investigations of
the first site, I disturbed a rather large colony of rats and
found myself nearly bowled over by hundreds of the large vermin.
Watson, I was paralyzed by sheer, stark terror - completely
unable to move or react for well over a minute, and afterwards,
all I could do was rush blindly to an open place on the ground
screaming. It must have taken me at *least* five minutes to
recover control of my wits! All because of mere rats, Watson. I
am disgusted with myself!
Then, at the second hideout, I found that Moriarty had
anticipated me yet again, and had left another of his taunting
notes behind. Certainly, after my third misadventure of the day,
my options in this investigation are becoming ever more limited.
My third misadventure will likely have the most far-reaching
consequences for my goals in this misadventure. While trying to
locate Old Ned's hideaway for purposes of putting him under
surveillance, I had the misfortune to stumble upon the bounder.
He had concluded that the boy I appeared to be was betraying him
with the individual he sought to kidnap for Mother Hell's house
of debauchery. As a result, he began to beat me, and then drew a
knife. To make a long story short, Watson, I shot him with your
pistol, and although I know now and knew then that the first shot
was fatal, I then proceeded to empty the entire revolver into his
body.
Oh, God, Watson, the blood! I simply lost what little grip I had
on my control in the face of all that blood. I would have bolted
in terror had I not suddenly gone so weak in the knees. Only the
realization that I needed to be well away from there before the
local constabulary arrived cleared my head sufficiently for me to
act reasonably and make my escape.
That was twice, Watson, that these despicably irrational
reactions overwhelmed my reason for a significant period of time.
I was helpless in their grasp - unable to think, unable to act.
Actually, I must remind myself that it is now THREE times I have
been so overset, Watson, as I experienced a similar bout of
intellectual breakdown at the chemist shop when I found his dead
body in that pool of crusted blood. How am I to face Moriarty if
I cannot rely upon my greatest strength in what will most
assuredly be my moment of greatest need?
One reason that I have delayed this entry so long is that I was
attempting to gain, how was it you used to put it, Watson? Some
emotional distance between myself and the actual experiences.
Before this damnable day, I never understood why someone would
not wish to face such issues immediately while they were fresh in
their memory. I understand now, old friend, and I can state
without qualm that the time delay has in no way dimmed the
clarity of my memories. The one conclusion that I have reached
is that I must be prepared for repetitions of this emotional
overload in the future, but I am damned if I know how one goes
about making such preparations.
On top of all this, killing Old Ned has caused several other
significant problems of a tactical nature that must be dealt with
immediately. First, the boy I paid to help locate Old Ned got an
excellent look at my Baker Street Irregular persona. While I
know from painful experience that few individuals can verbally
describe a random acquaintance of short duration with sufficient
accuracy and detail that an adequate likeness of that person can
be developed, I cannot take the chance that this lad is the
exception that proves the rule. Not if there is the slightest
possibility that the police are even now looking for me in that
guise.
Which is why I spent the better part of today designing my "lady
of genteel poverty going shopping" costume for tomorrow and a
suit I hope I can wear and still pass as a man if. . .or rather
when the need arises.
More importantly, I do not for a moment believe that Old Ned is
Moriarty's only henchman tasked with watching me. Old Ned was
too stupid for Moriarty to rely upon to any degree. Not only
that, but based on his accent and background, it is highly
unlikely that the man could read or write, so how could he
possibly report to Moriarty who is, I firmly believe, already on
the Continent? Therefore, it is only logical to conclude that at
least one other employee of the Good Professor is still at large
- one who was tasked with reporting my condition to Moriarty at
regular intervals. With Old Ned's death, my one link to this
unknown player - the one person who *might* have been able to
point me towards Moriarty - is gone. This is, my dear Watson, a
very grievous loss. I am, at this very moment, unable to
conceive of a new approach by which I might yet have some small
hope of locating Moriarty in the extremely limited time I have
left. If I cannot locate him, I cannot hope to stop him.
To give you some inkling of how distressed I am over these
incidents, I spent a great deal of time today trying to think of
some individual I could enlist to carry on when my time runs out
- when I am too young or too female or both - to successfully
pursue the evil Professor.
If Moriarty is to be stopped after my final demise, I must find
and recruit some person who has at least a reasonable chance of
stopping Moriarty. The effort to identify such a person,
however, has not been very fruitful. The few members of the
French, British and German police forces I have worked with in
the past are good enough for their usual, somewhat limited work,
but none of them would have a prayer against Moriarty. There is
that young Belgian lad with the peculiar mustaches (I forget his
name other than it is an odd, mythologically-derived name for an
equally odd little man) who works for the Brussels Police. I
have read of his work and believe that he shows signs of a true
talent for detection and method, but alas, I fear that he lacks
the experience necessary to challenge the greatest criminal mind
of our time.
I am very tired, old friend, as I have not slept since I awoke
yesterday morning. I must rest. Perhaps a good night's sleep
will help revive my suddenly ineffectual brain.
End Journal Entry.
~-----------~
Moriarty looked up at the imposing building and gave a weary
smile. The trip had been long and very hard on the old man.
From Paris he had taken a westbound train instead of an eastbound
conveyance, and had changed trains several times before dawn.
Finally, he had boarded a train bound for Germany via southern
France. Even at the height of his powers, Holmes would have been
hard pressed to follow that trail with any degree of speed, and
his new gender should already have seriously diminished those
powers. Once in Germany, Moriarty had switched to a carriage
which had brought him here to Karlsruhe.
One of his informants at the Institute had reported that the
Professor's soon-to-be guest had scheduled a fairly long holiday
beginning at the end of classes tomorrow. That had been a
primary reason for Moriarty making his move at this time. The
great Professor Haber would disappear, and no one would think to
look for him for several weeks at the earliest. By then,
Professor Haber would be safely tucked away in Moriarty's
specially prepared hideaway in the Swiss Alps.
Moriarty smiled that mirthless smile and turned to walk back to
his hotel. He was tired and would need his rest. Tomorrow would
be a momentous day, and everything had to go as planned. Which
it would, since Mr. Sherlock Holmes, by now truly Miss Sherlock
Holmes, was no longer a potential problem in his plans.
Chapter 11. Truly Right and Fitting
Sherlock Holmes felt utterly naked and exposed - a feeling, he
acknowledged to himself, that was utterly ridiculous as he had
rarely worn so many layers heavy clothing nor had so much of his
skin covered at one in his life.
He was standing outside a small shop on the fringe of fashionable
London - Madame Jeanne Marie's Quality Couture - dressed from the
skin out in women's clothing. In the past when Holmes had found
it necessary to pose as a woman, such as in the case Watson had
glaringly titled the "Adventure of the Mazarin Stone", he'd
always dispensed with the voluminous and exceedingly
uncomfortable undergarments English Society mandated for women in
favor of more comfortable attire. Unfortunately, Holmes was here
to buy women's clothing which meant he would undergo that
torturous and barbaric custom known as a fitting.
Holmes had chosen this shop for two reasons. First, it was a
fair distance from Baker Street so it was unlikely anyone here
would run into him in the near future. Second, he knew Madam
Jeanne Marie from an old case that had never been told in one of
Watson's anthologies. It had been a momentarily diverting case
involving blackmail and royalty. One of the blackmailer's
victims was the former Mistress of a Duke who had, in turn, asked
Holmes to deal with the situation.
Jenny, or rather, Madame Jeanne Marie had been another of the
blackmailer's intended victims. Furious, she'd immediately
offered to cooperate with Holmes in setting a trap. The villain
of that piece had been the Duke's younger brother, a complete
wastrel who had needed funds to pay off gambling debts incurred
to some very dangerous people.
In the course of that investigation, Holmes had been very
impressed with Madame Jeanne Marie. She was a very intelligent
woman who had, in her youth, invested her only marketable asset
carefully and wisely. In an earlier time, the young, witty and
gorgeous Jenny Deaver would have been described by London Society
as being a member of the Demimonde, or perhaps less kindly as
being some man's "bit o' muslin". The fact of the matter was
that she, like the Duke's blackmailed friend, had been a
professional mistress, a kept woman for whatever wealthy man was
willing to house her, clothe her and provide her with "gifts"
such as fine jewels in return for her intimate favors.
Unlike many of her peers who had lived lavishly for the moment
and then became destitute when their looks began to fade, Jenny
had ruthlessly hoarded her "gifts" and had then used that
accumulated wealth to escape that lifestyle. One day, she'd
simply disappeared from the London scene completely.
A year later, Madame Jeanne Marie had opened her dress shop.
Since men rarely attended their ladies on their shopping trips,
the chance of the Madame Jeanne Marie nee Jenny Deaver meeting a
former protector in her new guise was highly unlikely. Her
little shop prospered which was another reason she'd been
targeted by the Duke's brother, and while it was not quite as
lucrative as her former profession, the fact that she did not
have to pander the egos of doddering old fools or submit sweetly
to arrogant young rakehells more than compensated for the
difference. She was well content with her new lot in life.
Madame Jeanne Marie was well known among the less affluent
nobility for selling quality, fashionable dresses and gowns at a
fair price. She was also known among the somewhat more affluent
ladies of Society for buying dresses and gowns that these
estimable women no longer wanted or that they could no longer
corset themselves into. She would then turn around and sell
such 'secondhand' finery to her customers at a fraction of what a
Bond Street "modiste" would charge for comparable new garments.
Many young debutantes, whose financial situation might otherwise
have forced them to forego a London Season, made their entre into
English Society's infamous Marriage Mart having first passed
through the doors of Madame Jeanne Marie's shop.
That was the second reason Holmes had sought out this shop.
Holmes needed stylish dresses that fit properly if his plan to
gain access to his accounts at the Bank of England were to
succeed. Those could be obtained here, and Madame had a staff of
qualified seamstresses, most of whom were highly skilled with Mr.
Singer's sewing machine, who could quickly alter a new day gown
to fit Holmes properly.
Unfortunately, the part of Holmes that was still male was finding
the concept of having a gaggle of chattering, giggling women with
sharp pins swarming about him, sticking said pins into cloth that
was very tight about his body, rather daunting. Holmes had never
much cared for visiting his tailor, and *this* promised to be far
worse than that mind-numbingly boring experience.
Holmes was trying to build up his courage when a bell ringing
announced the opening of the shop door. "May I help you, Miss?"
a pleasant voice with a slight French accent asked. Holmes
closed his eyes and nodded. Silently, he reached into Mary
Watson's black reticule he had borrowed from his old friend's
rooms at Baker Street, and withdrew a note which he passed to
Madame Jeanne Marie. She looked at the envelope and her eyes
went momentarily wide.
"Well," the older woman said briskly and without a trace of a
French accent, "Don't just stand there out in the cold, Miss.
Come in, come in."
Holmes was motioned to a small table where tea and cakes were
laid out. Madame indicated that he was to serve himself as she
opened and read the letter. Holmes knew the contents since he
had written it personally, careful to ensure that his handwriting
looked as much like his old neat and precise script as he could
manage with his new, smaller fingers.
Dear Madame,

I hope this missive finds you well and
prosperous. It pains me to bring this up but
I find that I do not know where else to turn.
Once long ago, you told me that if you could
ever do me a service, I had but to ask.

The young woman who brought this message to
you is Miss Joan Hanks. She is a
professional home nurse who has been assigned
to my case by Dr. March. I am very much
afraid that I am now bedridden and likely to
remain that way. That said, I have certain
duties, financial and otherwise, that I must
attend to in short order.

Miss Hanks has graciously offered to act as
my agent in these matters. She is a very
intelligent young woman, and would do
admirably in this regard except for the
matter of her manner of dress. You know, as
do I, that many lesser souls unfairly judge
others by such superficial methods as the
quality and fit of their clothing.

Enclosed in this envelope you will find forty
pounds which I took from my household petty
cash account. Please outfit Miss Hanks as
you deem suitable for a young woman of
business. If these funds are insufficient, I
must tell you that Miss Hanks first mission
is to visit the Bank of England on my behalf
so let that guide your selections.

I am,

Yours Most Sincerely,

S. Holmes.
221B Baker Street
London
Madame looked up from the stationary, and there was a suspicious
brightness about her eyes. She dabbed at them delicately with a
lacy handkerchief and then coughed to clear her throat. "Should
I infer, Miss Hanks, that based upon what Mr. Holmes has not said
in this letter that his condition is very serious?"
Holmes nodded gravely. "Mr. Holmes directed me to answer any of
your questions, otherwise I would be unable to answer such a
personal question. Mr. Holmes condition is extremely serious,
Ma'am. He will not be among us much longer."
"I see," Madame answered, the tears now flowing freely and
cutting dark tracks through her face powder. "That is very sad
for he was. . .*is* a remarkable man."
"He spoke very highly of you, Ma'am, and asked me to tell you
that he was most sorry he is not allowed visitors for he would
have enjoyed seeing you one more time."
"Really?" Madame asked. Miss Hanks nodded. "I wish I had known
that. I . . .well, I would have tried just a bit harder to lure
him into a bit of pleasure that time in . . " She stopped
herself short, blushing. "Well, no need to go into that.
Suffice to say he wasn't interested in me, nor I suspect, in any
woman that way."
Holmes was momentarily stunned to find out that this woman had
once tried to seduce him. Even now, in her late forties, she was
still a very attractive woman. How could he, the great Sherlock
Holmes, the finest observer of detail in the known world, have
not realized that this experienced, sensual woman had wanted to
make love with him? *Perhaps because you never thought about such
matters of the flesh, Holmes?* he asked himself rhetorically, and
then continued, *and more interestingly, why do I think I would
notice and be rather responsive to the idea now? Most peculiar.*
In the meantime, Madame had shaken off her tears and had begun to
assess the young woman across from her. *Well, she might be
halfway attractive if she knew what she was doing, but she
obviously doesn't. Bit of a little brown wren. Much too plain
for any really colorful plumage, but that isn't what Holmes asked
for in any case. "A young woman of business" he said. Well,
we'll see what we can do to make her a bit more taking in her
looks. She has nice eyes if you can just get past that nose.
What about her figure?*
"Well, come along, girl," Madame ordered. "Let's measure you and
see what you've got. Give me your bonnet and reticule and I will
lock them up in my desk," she held out her hands to take the
requested items and then turned her head toward a bead-curtained
passage at the back of the shop, "MAISIE?!" she bellowed.
A small, cream complexioned redhead put her head through the
hanging beads. "Oui, Madame?" she responded in a pathetic
attempt at French.
"Oh, don't worry about those French airs, Maisie, this one is a
friend. Get your measuring tape and pin cushion. I'm going to
repay an old debt by helping Miss Hanks here with her wardrobe."
"Back in a jiff, Miss Jenny," the redhaired pixie said with a
huge smile, and then disappeared back through the curtain.
"And bring my decanter of medicinal French brandy, too." Madame
yelled after the girl. Then, with a smile that Holmes found very
unnerving, she turned back to face her customer. "So," Madame
Jeanne Marie said, "Let's see what I have in stock that will suit
you, Miss Hanks. . . Oh, may I call you Joan? And please, do
call me Jenny."
"I. . . I would be honored, Mada. . I mean, Jenny," a slightly
bewildered Holmes replied. "Thank you."
"Oh, thank me in a couple of hours, Joanie," Jenny Deaver said
with a mischievous grin, "If you still want to, that is.'
~------------~
Holmes learned quite a few additional and surprising facts about
his new self in the hours that followed. The first was that his
new body had a very low tolerance for alcohol. He couldn't
recall taking more than a sip or two from the rather generously
filled snifter of very potent brandy Jenny had pressed on him,
but by the beginning of the second hour, he'd definitely been
feeling the effects of overindulgence.
Disguised as Joan, and fully rigged out by Jenny and Maisie,
Holmes was amazed by what he saw in the mirror. He barely caught
himself - for the tenth time - almost releasing a decidedly un-
feminine expletive. Holmes was forced to conclude that this
masquerade that had seemed so trivial when he had begun it, would
require the most complete exercise of his impersonation skills.
Holmes peered pensively at his reflection. Perhaps the brandy
had something to do with the problem in performing adequately
while limiting the impersonation to an intellectual exercise. In
any case, Holmes decided that for the duration of the fitting at
least, *he* would need to accept the mental mindset of a feminine
persona - one that *she* would have to study as thoroughly as any
other skill required for a consulting detective.
The second thing Holmes had discovered, was that trying on
clothes was fun. Jenny seemed to have an endless supply of such
lovely dresses and gloves and bonnets and even shoes - and she
insisted that Mr. Holmes' little nurse try them ALL on so that
she and Maisie could pick what looked best on their new friend.
Holmes changed outfits more times during her time at Jenny's than
her old self would have done in a normal week. And after the
first hour (and all those sips of Jenny's EXCELLENT French
brandy) she'd loved EVERY minute of it.
Well, almost every minute of it. Madame. . .that is, Jenny, had
been shocked to discover that her new very dear friend Miss Hanks
was not properly laced into a corset under that drab, ugly dress
she'd been wearing. No wonder the girl looked like she didn't
have any figure to speak of. Jenny had taken care of that little
problem immediately. In no time at all, she and Maisie had their
friend Joan in a lovely white satin corset complete with a real
whale bone busk, and had it laced down to an honest twenty two
inches.
"But, Mada. . I mean, Jenny," Holmes had protested, "I can't be
fitted like this. There's no one to lace me up at Mr. Holmes
establishment."
"Now, don't worry about that, dear, we'll give you one of these
corset levers," Jenny had responded holding up an odd contraption
of two wooden handles connected by a stout hinge. "See these
hooks in the front? That's how you undo the corset, leaving the
lacings nice and tight. You just attach the levers to the front
of the corset like this," she said demonstrating, "And pull the
front together so you can undo the hooks, or connect them if you
are putting it back on."
"But I don't think I should be laced quite this tightly, Jenny,"
Holmes protested, "Not for everyday wear." The last thing Holmes
wanted was to have to wear this corset just to put on the new
clothes she'd planned on using for her disguises.
"Nonsense, dearie," Maisie said blithely as she looked the now
wasp-waisted Holmes up and down. "Why, look at what it does for
your bosom." she stated as she reached over and started to plump
up that part of Holmes' increasingly feminine physique.
Holmes was totally unprepared for having herself fondled in that
manner and had squealed in shock - only to be scolded by Jenny.
"Now, Joan, don't carry on so. Let Maisie see to that lovely
bosom of yours. She's right, you know, a little pat here, and a
little pull there gives you a lovely figure. Why, I would wager
that you'll show some lovely cleavage in the right gown now.
That had been the point at which Jenny had begun plying her
little subject with yet more brandy. The girl had real
potential, she'd decided, now that they had her properly
corseted. Jenny thought she might even be able to make the girl
halfway attractive if they could just get past the little prude's
inhibitions and dress her properly.
And, in large part thanks to the brandy she'd gotten into the
girl, so she had. Four hours later, Jenny had the pleasantly
inebriated Holmes preening in front of the three sided mirror in
a ball gown made of green satin, with a rather daringly low cut
decolletage. Maisie had even managed to get some expertly
applied cosmetics on the girl's interestingly odd little face and
to do something halfway attractive with that uncontrolled mop of
black hair.
Madame Jeanne Marie cast a critical eye on Joan Hanks. Even with
three snifters of medicinal French brandy in her, Jenny Deavers
could still assess another woman's looks with cold precision. It
was a skill well honed in her days as a professional mistress.
You always had to know when your protector's interest had been
piqued by another woman so that you could either counter what was
catching his attention, or begin looking for a new situation.
The girl's nose was too long and prominent for real beauty, but
Maisie's cosmetic artistry had almost hidden even that flaw.
She'd made the girl's mouth seem a little fuller, and drawn
attention to the girl's incredible dark eyes. There was
something arresting about those eyes, Jenny mused as she swirled
her fourth snifter of brandy, something that transfixed anyone
caught in their gaze. Her smile helped, too, now that Joan had
fallen deeply enough into her cups to smile. And of course, now
that she had a real figure, well, the girl would do all right for
herself. All she needed to do was find herself a nice young man,
preferably one with a good financial position, and hit him square
in his manhood with those eyes, that cleavage and that smile.
Holmes was, at that moment, smiling happily at the elegantly
dressed young woman in the mirror. *My god, I am almost pretty,*
she thought, again through the haze of brandy fumes. She lifted
the skirts and did a slow pirouette while trying to keep her eyes
on her reflection in the mirrors. Tipsy as she was, she would
have fallen on her bottom had not Maisie and Jenny leaped forward
to catch her. Holmes giggled as they helped her back to a stool.
"Now, Joan," Jenny said with a smile, "Maisie has finished
altering the two day gowns and the traveling dress. You can wear
the corset and the new underthings home. The other dresses will
be ready for the final fittings in a few days."
"How. . " Holmes unexpectedly belched in a most unladylike
fashion and blushed prettily, "I beg your pardon," she
apologized, and then blurted out, "How much will I owe you?"
"The money Mr. Holmes gave you will be just fine, dearie," Jenny
reassured her. "Now, I want you to stop by the shop every day at
lunch time so that Maisie and I can teach you how to do your face
and hair properly."
That almost brought Holmes out of his alcohol-induced bliss, and
for just a moment, he forgot his vow to remain mentally and
physically in role as Joan. And yet, he couldn't very well
commit to being here everyday, could he? He had things to do and
places to be . "Ummm. . . Jenny, I don't know if I can get away
everyday. Mr. Holmes might need me, or have errands for me," he
hedged.
Jenny nodded sagely. "Just so, dear, you're right, of course.
You just come here when you can, even if it isn't lunch time and
we'll work with you. You have lovely eyes and we can teach you
to do them up to best advantage. You won't be young forever, and
you don't want to spend your whole life taking care of other
women's families. You'll be wanting children of your own, after
all."
Holmes felt his cheeks burn. "You don't have children," he
accused petulantly.
"Because I couldn't," the older woman answered quietly. "I was
pregnant once, but something went wrong. I lost the baby and
nearly died."
A rush of a new and wholly unfamiliar emotion washed over Holmes.
Once again, the femininity of the situation overwhelmed the
masculine Holmes and she felt an undeniable need to comfort her
new friend. "I am so sorry, Jenny," she said softly, as some
force beyond her ken drove her over to embrace Jenny.
"It's in the past, dear," Jenny said as she returned the hug
warmly and then smiled over at Maisie. "and I make up for it by
taking care of my girls. Now, you need to get home to Mr.
Holmes. You run and change into that blue day gown while I send
a boy for a cab."
The ride home was filled with yet more revelations for the still-
dreamy Holmes. She sat snuggled into the plush upholstery of the
uptown cab Madame had ordered for her. As she was still well
over the hatches from all the brandy, Holmes thought it vastly
amusing to blow at a bonnet feather that kept drooping down to
tickle her nose.
On a whim, Holmes slipped off one of her gloves and stroked
sensuously along the fine material used in the making of her
gown. The cab hit a bump, momentarily discommoding her, but she
grinned happily and shimmied herself back into the comfortable
cushions. As she did, she realized that the wonderful tactile
experience extended to the scandalously soft, wonderfully smooth
cloth of her new undergarments as well. Holmes sighed in pure
sensual appreciation as the silk of her new chemise slid
teasingly over her nipples, and then she realized that the
terrible itching had all but disappeared only to be replaced by
something infinitely more pleasurable.
"How positively delightful," she sighed before nodding off into a
slightly drunken catnap - a happy and gentle smile shaping her
colorful lips.
Holmes fell asleep shortly after arriving at the Baker Street
lodgings. She did not even remember to remove her new corset.
Chapter 12: Man Enough to be a Woman
Holmes woke up choking. He couldn't take a deep breath. He spat
fiercely to clear his mouth and then tried a slow, deliberate
breath, but found he still couldn't get much air in.
*That infernal corset,* Holmes realized as he concentrated on
getting air in and out. He felt himself growing lightheaded
because he wasn't getting in enough oxygen. Deliberately, he
unbuttoned the dress he had been too far inebriated to remove
when he'd arrived home and then found Madame's corset tool. In
moments, he could fully expand his lungs again.
Holmes then became aware of a positively vile taste pervading his
mouth. *The brandy?* Holmes wondered as he went to the water
closet to rinse his mouth. Holmes rinsed several times and found
that the foul taste remained. Concerned, Holmes went to his
mirror and opened his mouth. What he saw was as disgusting as
the taste.
His teeth had become so yellowed that Holmes was certain there
was a greenish hue to them, and a veritable spider's web of
minute cracks embossed the surface of each tooth. Holmes touched
one tooth with the tip of his finger and found it even more loose
than it had been earlier. Stiffening the slender finger, Holmes
pushed at the tooth and felt it shatter beneath his touch. He
steeled himself for the agonizing pain he understood such
destruction entailed, but none came.
Shocked, Holmes moved a lamp nearer the mirror and looked at the
broken tooth more carefully. There, beneath what was left of the
brittle green-yellow shell was a smaller, perfectly formed, white
tooth. "Remarkable," Holmes breathed in wonder. Now caught up in
the wonder of investigation and discovery, Holmes repeated the
experiment on another tooth, and then another, and then yet
another.
In each case, the yellow-green shell shattered to reveal a small,
perfectly formed white tooth, much more in proportion, if a
little undersized, to his current dimensions. Thoroughly
engrossed now, Holmes took up the small, soft bristled brush he'd
taken to using for purposes of oral hygiene and began to brush
vigorously at his teeth, brushing away all of the encapsulating
material. Amazingly, at no time was there the slightest hint of
pain from this cleansing, and much to his relief, the action
finally cleared the foul taste from his mouth as well.
Holmes spent several minutes examining his new dentition when he
realized that, in his haste to clean his new teeth, he had missed
something equally significant. Once, during a case, Holmes had
been struck by one of the villains hard in the face and had lost
one of his canines. Apparently, whatever else he could say
against Moriarty's potion, its effects worked to correct health
problems. He'd already noticed that numerous old scars were
fading, but to have a tooth regenerate? *Remarkable,* Holmes
thought again.
The fiery pleasure of discovery began to fade as Holmes went into
the main rooms and up at the clock. *Nearly four a.m,* he thought
with a sigh. *Within the next two hours, I will again suffer from
the attack of Moriarty's drug.*
Sighing, Holmes settled in his favorite chair and began to ponder
about what mechanism might have resulted in the transformation
and regeneration of his teeth. "Most likely the same mechanism
by which my bones are apparently shrinking. The excess calcium
is somehow being removed and excreted from my body during those
daily and violent trips to water closet. Only with my teeth, the
calcium external to my gums could not be absorbed and somehow it
became reactive and bonded with whatever that plaque-like
material that seems to form on my teeth overnight. That further
embrittled the old enamel. That doesn't explain how the teeth
became smaller or how the canine regenerated, but I don't know if
that will ever be understood fully."
Holmes tried to pursue the problem more deeply, but whether it
was the residual effects of the brandy or lack of sleep, he found
he couldn't concentrate. He'd have to worry about it in the
morning.
"I suppose I will wait for the withdrawal attack and then go back
to bed," he told himself before another thought struck him. "Why
should I wait? I know the characteristics of the drug well
enough by now and the symptoms will strike within the next forty
five to ninety minutes in any event. Why should I wait when all
I want is to go to sleep and forget this ever occurred?"
The thought became deed, and within five minutes, Holmes was back
in his bed, soundly asleep.
~-------------~
The hearth clock was tolling nine o'clock when the now familiar,
urgent need to relieve himself roused Holmes. That matter seen
too, Holmes began his normal morning cleansing rituals.
Holmes couldn't resist taking another look and opened his mouth
to the mirror.
And promptly did a double take. His teeth were now fully
restored, perfectly formed and fitted to his mouth. Even the
missing canine was fully grown.
*I must record this while it is still fresh in my mind,* Holmes
nodded to himself as he replayed that thought back in his mind.
*but first, sustenance. I am quite famished.* He then made his
way to the kitchen to obtain his milk from the icebox before
sitting down to write in his journal.
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 8, 1911. Time: 10:32 A.M.
My Dear Watson,
Another excessive delay in reporting, Watson, but it has been a
most eventful period and I have learned a great deal - about
myself if not about Moriarty. And the part about myself that I
have learned about is the growing feminine aspect of my psyche.
First, however, the measurements. Since the last report, I have
lost another three pounds down to just under 124 pounds, and
slightly less than three quarters of an inch in height and am
down to five feet four and half inches tall. As for my waist, I
have no idea. I forgot to remove the corset last night and I
have discovered that there is apparently some residual effect
from wearing it. My measurement today was nearly two inches less
than yesterday down to nearly twenty four inches. As a result,
putting the corset, that foul and abominable invention from the
pits of the Hell, was much easier today than it was yesterday
even with Jenny's device to help. What my waist would measure
once my internal organs had the opportunity to return to their
normal locations inside my body, I cannot say. As to my
genitals, short of pressing a finger into the folds and finding
that there really is not a fully developed vaginal opening, my
pubic region is visually indistinguishable from that of a born
woman. My scrotal sack now appears to be labia majora, and what
is left of my male organ has withered into a small nubbin that
will apparently soon be a clitoris - perhaps even by tomorrow.
The most significant change is my teeth. Somehow, and by a
mechanism that doesn't seem to bear much analysis, my old teeth
have been replaced by a complete set of new teeth more in keeping
with my current stature and size. This is another of the times,
my dear Watson, that I truly wish you were here. At least I am
not worrying about how to disguise myself as a toothless old
crone.
Now, on to the hard lessons I have learned in the past few days.
I have discovered that strong spirits and my increasingly female
body chemistry are a volatile combination. I visited an old
friend yesterday, Watson. You will recall Madame Jeanne Marie
from that unfortunate blackmail case? Well, I determined that
she was still in business and concluded that she would be an
ideal source for my feminine disguises. She evidently found my
Joan Hanks persona to be somewhat, shall we say, inhibited and
started dispensing a very fine, and I strongly suspect, illegally
imported, French brandy to correct that deficiency.
What is still amazing to me, Watson, is that with very little
encouragement beyond the spirits, I managed to convince myself
that it was in my best interests that I should learn to act as
femininely as possible. It is becoming apparent that such a
disguise is going to be my sole means of moving about with any
degree of ease as my transformation continues.
No, that is not quite true, Watson. I must be honest here if
nowhere else. The honest truth of the matter is that I wasn't
acting female, I WAS female. I was enjoying the frivolities and
gaiety of dressing up in those outlandish dresses and women's
undergarments. I positively reveled in the compliments, and was
enchanted by the lessons on cosmetics and hair styling.
I even consoled Jenny when she mentioned that she had lost a
child during her only opportunity at pregnancy. My God, Watson,
the only time I forgot and began thinking somewhat like a man
again was when she told me I would want children of my own!
Bloody hell, Watson, you know my views on parenting, and those
highly negative views were formulated when all I thought I would
have to do was sow the seed. I assure you that my issues are far
less positive now that it appears that *I* would be the fertile
field to be plowed and into which that seed would be sown.
I am certain, Watson, that if there is a heaven and you are
looking down at me from some cloud, that you are currently
rolling about the skies in uncontrolled mirth. Well, let me give
you something more to laugh at.
I have decided, after much reflection and self analysis, that in
vino veritas is applicable. For whatever reason, my thinking is
that learning to be as feminine and womanly as possible is
somehow necessary. I believe Moriarty when he says there is no
known antidote to this gender change, Watson. Assuming, that
after the drug runs out I somehow manage against all odds to
survive the withdrawal, I will still be female. A female without
an identity and without a place in this world of men. I will
need to be able to function in that male-dominated world without
drawing undue attention to myself - at least until I can locate
and permanently neutralize Moriarty.
Or to put it a different way, if I am to have any hope at all of
success in my campaign against the Professor, I must be man
enough to be a woman.
Therefore, I have decided that I will accept Madame Jeanne
Marie's kind invitation to attend her at lunch today and for the
foreseeable future, and while I am there, I will be Joan - a
woman - and I will learn to be a better woman each day. If that
means learning to think of myself in the feminine tense, then,
distasteful as that currently sounds, I must do so. I shall
start slowly however, by assiduously working towards that mental
shift when I am with Jenny and Maisie.
Now, you must excuse me, I must go and dress for my lessons in
womanliness. One distinct advantage is that the silk and satin
undergarments do not irritate and abrade my skin as the coarser
cottons used in my masculine under-things. Did you ever
prescribe silk for skin rash, Watson?
End of Journal Entry.
~---------------~
"All right, Joan, why did you loosen your stays when I taught you
how to use the corset tool." Jenny Deavers chided as she helped
Holmes out of her walking dress so that they could final fit one
of the "woman of business" dresses Jenny had found for her. "Did
you think I wouldn't notice?"
"But, Jenny," Holmes protested with a pained squeak as the corset
suddenly began to tighten. "I didn't. Heavens, I fell asleep
with it on last night thanks to you and Maisie conspiring to get
me foxed on brandy."
"Ladies don't get foxed, dears, they get nicely tipsy, and don't
fib to me, girl. These laces are loose." Jenny growled as she
efficiently tightened all the laces. She was just finishing
knotting off the corset laces when Maisie walked in with the
dress.
"Goodness, Miss Jenny, but isn't taking her in a whole 'nother
inch a little mean for someone who ain't. . .I mean, isn't used
to stays?"
"Another inch?" Jenny asked confused.
"Yes'm," Maisie replied. "Why, yesterday, you could barely touch
both sides of the corset by putting your hand up and down her
spine. The sides are much closer together now."
Jenny took another look and then slowly nodded. "Give me your
measure tape, Maisie," she ordered. Maisie complied and moments
later, Jenny was reading the tape. "Twenty and three quarters?"
she said in disbelief.
"Guess I'll have to alter this here dress again, Miss Jenny,"
Maisie offered.
"Well, let's get it on her and see what we are dealing with,"
Jenny ordered.
Ten minutes later, they knew precisely what they were facing but
except for Holmes, they didn't understand any of it. Essentially
every major measurement had changed, and become smaller except
for the volume needed to contain Holmes' bosom. Her breasts had
become obviously rounder and fuller since being corseted, even if
the measure of her chest beneath her bosom was over an inch
smaller.
"Maybe it's because I've never been corseted before," Holmes
offered meekly, sensing the distress emanating from the other two
women.
"P'raps," Maisie said not sounding quite convinced. "But that
don't explain why your hem is too long now."
Finally, Jenny smiled. "Well, I must have measured her wrong
yesterday, Maisie. You can fix that dress this afternoon and
I'll have a boy deliver it to you at Mr. Holmes' rooms later
today, Joan. Is that all right?"
"OH, yes, Jenny," Holmes replied. "I don't need it until
tomorrow morning, but I will need it then. Mr. Holmes wants me
to go to his solicitor's office for him at ten a.m., and I want
to look very. . .very. . " she struggled for the correct word.
"Polished and in control, dear," Jenny offered.
"Exactly," Holmes beamed.
"Umm. . Miss Jenny?" Maisie interjected sheepishly, "There might
be a problem getting this done this afternoon."
Jenny turned to her helper, a frown on her face. "Why, dear?
It's just a hem adjustment."
"Miss Jenny, that's not lace on the hem of this dress. That is
hand embroidered. I won't be able to do it with the machine.
I'll have to do it by hand."
Jenny saw the problem. "And even then you'll have to sew around
all the embroidery stitches or it won't hang correctly."
"You did say Miss Joan was to look special in it, Miss Jenny."
the little seamstress offered. "I could work on it all night,
but this isn't the kind of work to do when you're tired."
"No, of course it isn't, Maisie."
Maisie turned to Holmes. "If I start, Miss Joan, I can't stop
until I am finished, and I can't promise to have it done in time
for you to dress and get to that solicitor's office by ten."
"Now, what do I do?" Holmes asked, feeling defeated by the
vagaries of women's wear. She couldn't postpone the trip to the
solicitor another day because in all likelihood, she'd be shorter
still after another dose of the potion. The bloody dress still
wouldn't fit!
"Well, we do have another option, dear," Jenny offered with a
wicked little smile. "Maisie? Go get those shoes with the Cuban
heels, please? It is time our Miss Hanks learned the fine art of
walking on her tip-toes, especially since she has such a well
turned ankle to show off in any case."
Holmes looked baffled. "Heels, Miss Jenny?" she asked.
"Heels, dear. Trust me, you'll hate them until you see how
lovely they look on you."
Holmes, however, wasn't quite so sure about that.
~-------------~
Excerpt from the Experimental Journal of Professor Moriarty
February 8, 1911
Dr. Fritz Haber is now fully briefed on the project and he
understands the dangers of failure. I demonstrated the effects of
one of my more esoteric poisons for him on a lab dog. I think
seeing the animal literally vomit up it's stomach and then bleed
to death was quite effective.
As for the good doctor himself, he now believes that he has been
injected with the same compound and will die a similarly
agonizing death unless I give him the daily antidote which I
supposedly make for him one at a time. It is actually an
ineffectual placebo since the injection he received was a
harmless saline solution, but of course, he doesn't know that.
I have promised him the antidote the day that he succeeds in his
two tasks of making the drug into an effective gaseous weapon and
of eliminating the gender change side effect so that I may use it
on myself.
Sadly, the day he succeeds will end in tragedy for the good Dr.
Haber since the "antidote" I will administer will instead kill
him. But I will be merciful and ensure that his will be a
painless death.
If he does in fact succeed.
End Journal Entry.
Chapter 13. A Woman of Business
Holmes examined his disguise in his mirror, and firmly resisted
to urge to give that surging mane of his one more brushing. It
would not do much good, in any case. Thankfully, when he'd gone
into Watson's rooms in search of the other items this stratagem
would require, he happened upon the personal grooming kit of
Watson's wife, Mary. Now Holmes finally had a hairbrush suitable
to his feminine needs. Certainly, the brush that had been
sufficient for the aged and thinning scalp of the old Sherlock
Holmes had proven completely inadequate to the task of taming the
young and lush tresses of Miss Joan Hanks.
So intent was he on pinning the unruly mop up into something at
least remotely resembling what Maisie and Jenny had taught him
the day before, that Holmes never noticed the pink tongue peaking
out between pert, pursed lips. An objective observer would have
thought it cute, and in keeping with the look of a young miss not
long out of the schoolroom, still learning the grooming tricks of
a young woman.
The hair arranging, however, required his full attention. It was
not until after several attempts, and multiple rebrushings to
groom away the loose wisps that marked Holmes' many failures as a
hair stylist, before dogged determination finally prevailed.
Holmes had elected to dispense with the cosmetics Jenny and
Maisie had pressed on their new friend, primarily because he
considered it highly unlikely he would look like anything better
than a circus clown. However, he also thought that a visiting
nurse would not have the time to worry with such things and that
he would be more in role, so to speak, clean faced.
He had been practicing in the broad-heeled, Cuban-styled shoes
since rising that morning. While he hadn't killed himself by
taking a header, it had been a very near thing on several
occasions. The shoes' tall heels increased Holmes stature by
almost an inch and a half, which was a good thing since that
morning's dose of Moriarty's potion had reduced his height still
further. As it was, Holmes' eye for detail told him that the new
shoes raised the hemline of his "business dress" just slightly
more than was considered "politely fashionable". *Well,* Holmes
thought wryly, *I may be showing a shade too much ankle right
now, but by tomorrow I won't have that problem with these shoes.
May need even higher heels tomorrow. Won't that be simply
wonderful?*
Carefully, he perched the small, round, box-like hat that Jenny
had given to him on top of the mass of pinned up hair. Holmes
thought the thing looked like a child's version of a top hat that
someone had sat upon. Worse yet, he was certain the perfectly
circular item had a front and a back with all the feathers and
other frou frou stuck haphazardly about its brim, but he couldn't
for the life of him figure out which was which. Given the way
his life was going at that moment, Holmes was certain that he
would manage to put it on precisely backwards. He was about to
simply give up and wear it whichever way, when he recalled his
somewhat inebriated ride home the previous night. Those damn
feathers kept tickling his nose, so he positioned the hat so that
the feathers were at their most annoying, and then pinned it in
place.
Holmes twirled in front of the mirror to check his gown and was
satisfied with how he looked. *Thank beneficent Providence that
it was Jenny who selected this ensemble. I never did manage to
put two pieces of clothing together so that Jenny felt they
suited.* The dress itself was a dark wine color that Jenny
insisted showed off Joan Hanks' dark hair and eyes to advantage.
Gold embroidery highlighted his corseted waist and of course, his
hemline.
His dressing complete, Holmes walked over to the chair upon which
he had laid his matching cloak and slipped it over his shoulders
and fastened it down the front. Finally, Holmes slipped on his
gloves, picked up his reticule and made one last check to ensure
that all the required items were inside.
Holmes moved toward the door, but stopped in front of his foyer
mirror. With a last delicate gesture at a still-errant lock of
hair, Sherlock Holmes cloaked himself in the persona of a young
woman.
With a last, somewhat tremulous smile to her mirror, Joan Hanks
swung about and out the door.
~------------~
The hansom cab stopped at the establishment of Carroll and
Nickelsby, Solicitors, at precisely one minute before ten. Joan
almost forgot herself and would have bounded from the carriage
had not the cabbie beat her to the door. With a blush at her
near gaff, Joan let the man take her black-kid-gloved hand in his
own and permitted herself to be assisted to the ground. It was
just as well she had waited, Joan realized moments later. The
heel of her left shoe caught on the threshold of the cab and
would have gone head first into the muddy London street without
the cabbie's quick rescue. Stuttering her gratitude, she paid
him and then blushed yet again when he tipped his hat before
ascending once again to his perch on the rear of the cab.
Joan quickly gathered her skirts to keep the finely embroidered
hems out of the mud and entered the office. A young male clerk
greeted her from an ominously large desk set precisely in the
center of the reception area. "May I assist you, Miss?" he asked
in what Joan thought was a rather condescending tone."
Her back went ramrod straight and her chin tilted up forcefully.
"Yes, my good man," she said stiffly as she pulled off her
gloves, "I am here on business on behalf of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
and I have a ten o'clock appointment with Mr. Carroll. You *may*
announce me *now*, please."
The voice of command, even when pitched in such light, feminine
tones, brought an immediate response from the pompous young fool.
"Immediately, ma'am," he said as he scurried off to one of the
heavy oak doors behind his desk.
Moments later, he returned with a tall, older man in tow.
"Hello, Miss Hanks, I am Jason Carroll," the older man said as he
strode forward, his hand extended.
Instinctively, Joan extended her own hand to shake hands in
greeting and so was greatly surprised when Carroll took her hand
in his, bowed over it and kissed her fingers. She nearly
snatched her hand back, and likely would have had she not been so
shocked by the gesture.
Carroll smiled at the girl's disoriented look and said, "Won't
you join me in my office, please, and we will see what Mr. Holmes
would like me to do."
Still bemused, Joan followed almost meekly in the man's wake, and
took the chair offered, but shook her head at the offer of tea.
Much to her dismay, she had to stand and reseat herself when her
gown billowed in front and bunched beneath her causing her
momentarily to show an unsuitable flash of slender ankle and bit
of calf.
The display was not lost on Joan's host. Realizing that she had
made an immodest display caused Joan to be reminded of the soft
and oh-so-feminine undergarments that continually caressed her
body. Suddenly, very private parts of her anatomy all began to
itch fiercely and she practically had to grip the chair arms to
stop herself from scratching herself. Still, she felt her face
flame under his obvious scrutiny. "How may I be of service, Miss
Hanks?" Carroll asked once he'd seated himself behind his chair.
That, at least, was something Joan could deal with. "Of course,"
she hedged, opening her reticule and removing a large envelope
and a card. She passed the card to Mr. Carroll. It was one of
professional calling cards of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Consulting
Detective.
"Mr. Holmes directed me to give you that," she said, "and this
envelope, sir."
When Carroll accepted the envelope, his fingers inadvertently
collided with Joan, but her focus was now totally on the task at
hand and did not notice it.
Carroll frowned as he opened and read the letter it contained.
Since she'd written, Joan was already aware of what it directed
the solicitor to undertake on Joan's behalf and found herself
watching him as he scanned the letter. *Odd that a man of his
consequence cannot seem to sit still,* she thought as Carroll
shifted back and forth in his chair. *Hemorrhoids, perhaps?*
Dear Mr. Carroll,

A recent bout of illness has confined me to
my rooms, and restricts me from seeing to my
day-to-day business affairs as I would
prefer. Until such time as I have recovered
sufficiently to resume my normal schedule, my
visiting nurse, Miss Joan Hanks from whom you
received this letter, will be acting in my
stead.

You are therefore requested to see to the
following arrangements on my behalf. Please
prepare for my signature a power of attorney
granting Miss Hanks full access to my
accounts and investments until such time as I
revoke that document. Additionally, prepare
any other such documentation you deem
necessary for her to act as my agent while I
am incapacitated. Since you are now already
acquainted with Miss Hanks, I will leave it
to you to make whatever introductions are
necessary at the various banks and other
institutions she will need access to in this
office.

Finally, since I am, as I stated above,
restricted to my rooms, I would ask that you
call on me in my lodgings at 221B Baker
Street with the documents for my signature.
If possible, please make a cash withdrawal
for me in the sum of five hundred pounds as I
have not been able to replenish my household
accounts since being laid low by this
infernal sickness and must needs see to
settling said accounts.

Thank you for your assistance. I am,

Most Sincerely
Sherlock Holmes
"You must be a most remarkable young woman, Miss Hanks," Carroll
said as he raised his bespectacled eyes from the letter.
"I beg your pardon, sir?" Joan asked, somewhat startled by the
comment.
"I have known Mr. Sherlock Holmes for almost fifteen years, Miss
Hanks, and think I know him rather well. This is the first time
I have ever seen him involve a woman in his life, let alone his
business affairs. You must be rather . . ." he hesitated and
smiled winningly, "special to have won the approval of so
particular a fellow."
Joan flushed, and looked down at her hands folded about her
reticule in her lap. "I hope Mr. Holmes has learned that I am
trustworthy and honest, sir," she said quietly.
Still smiling, Carroll waved the paper toward her with one hand.
"So, you are aware of the contents of this note?"
"Not the details, sir. Mr. Holmes said he needed you to call on
him this afternoon so that he could deal with several issues that
have gone wanting since he was afflicted by this illness. Will
there be any problem with you accommodating Mr. Holmes' requests,
Sir?" *And there had better not be any given the exorbitant fees
you demand for your services, Carroll.*
"No, no, my dear. None at all. Will I have the pleasure of
seeing you when I come to call, Miss Hanks?"
Joan stood. "No, Mr. Carroll. Mr. Holmes gave me specific
instructions that I was not to be about when you called. He said
he needed to discuss issues with you in private and that I was to
see to my shopping and other necessities this afternoon after
helping him prepare for your visit."
Carroll rose and came around the desk. He put his arm about Joan
shoulder and gently directed her from his office. "Then I shall
look forward to seeing you again some other time, Miss Hanks. I
shall look forward to it," and his voice dropped into a very low
register, "Very much indeed."
Something seemed to crawl up Joan spine and a frisson of what
might have been panic curled her stomach. She quickly donned her
gloves before the solicitor could again capture her hand, made
her farewells, and all but fled the offices.
~------------~
Three thirty P.M. again found Holmes staring into his mirror
dealing with his hair. A rather hideous blend of wig powder and
gray woodash had dulled his hair to a limp, washed out gray.
With great care, Holmes stuffed the greater proportion of the
dusty mass up into a stocking nightcap, allowing a few, well-
grayed wisps to flutter about his face.
Ah, his face - Holmes was particularly proud of his face just
then. Two hours with his stage cosmetics had succeeded in
restoring a reasonable semblance of his former masculine and aged
visage - at least one that appeared debilitated by illness.
Using the thick, waxy substances, Holmes had succeeded is
sculpting the familiar aquiline nose and the prominent brow
ridges. He'd hollowed his cheeks and then added powder and
other, less pleasant pigments to give his face a grayish,
unhealthy cast.
Holmes donned a pair of thick house gloves and proceeded to the
sitting room. He smiled at what he saw there. *Fortunate that
remembering the cases where I had needed to impersonate a woman
recalled to mind the Count Sylvius affair in the Case of Marazin
Stone. Otherwise I would not have remembered this fine fellow,*
he thought with satisfaction.
The figure in the chair had once been a decoy dummy Holmes had
used to fool a jewel thief into confessing and revealing the
location of a fabulous stolen diamond. Watson, the arch-packrat
and collector that he was, had saved the thing in his little
museum of Holmes Memorabilia. *And a good thing he did, too.*
Still smiling, Holmes opened the "chest" of the dummy and then
slid his legs into those of his avatar. Holmes then seated
himself and slid his arms into place before closing the front of
his costume. Holmes had experimented earlier and had therefore
thought to bolster himself by placing several thick books down
where he sat so that the combination of Holmes and his dummy
looked to be of nearly normal stature.
The disguise was completed by an artful positioning of the
stocking cap over the back of the chair and then bundling a
large, thick comforter about him. Holmes had thought to position
this chair so that he could examine himself in the mirror once
he'd completed his preparations. What he saw there pleased him.
An old man, dressed in a nightshirt and evening robe seated in a
chair. Except for his face and the toes of two very disreputable
house slippers, he was swathed head to foot by a heavy quilt-like
comforter. Holmes would even have fooled himself.
At least for two, maybe three minutes, in any case.
The door bell chimed just as the clock struck four p.m.
"Come in," Holmes said in a querulous, old man's voice, "it's
open."
The door opened to admit Jason Carroll, a hand size portfolio
tucked under his arm. "Good day, Mr. Holmes. I hope you are
feeling better."
"I'm feeling old, Carroll, and there is very little that can be
done to make that better!" Holmes snapped in his best
curmudgeonly fashion, all the while thinking about the awful
irony of that statement. "Well, sit down, sit down. Let's get
this over with before that damned girl gets back here to badger
me back into bed."
Carroll opened his portfolio and removed a series of papers.
"You mean Miss Hanks? She seemed like a very pleasant young
woman. Rather . . . umm. . shall we say decorative, as well? A
young woman like that could do a great deal to keep a man young,
eh?"
The last comment was said with a "man to man" tone that brought
Holmes up short. *What does THAT mean? And why does it put my
back up?* "Hmmmph," Holmes snorted, "If you're in the petticoat
line, I suppose. Do you have my papers, Mr. Carroll?"
Carroll stood and brought the papers over to Holmes. Using his
portfolio as a writing board, he presented a pen to Holmes.
"This first one is the requested Power of Attorney, Mr. Holmes,"
Carroll told him before presenting two other forms for his
signature. "These authorize Miss Hanks to sign checks and
account forms for your accounts at the Bank of England, and this
form, is the withdrawal form for the five hundred pounds you
requested."
"What?" Holmes growled testily, "Does that mean you didn't bring
my money?"
"I couldn't take that much out of your accounts, sir, without
your signature, so I took the money out of accounts held by my
office which I will, in turn, replace with the money you just
authorized to be withdrawn."
"I see. Very thoughtful of you." Holmes took a few moments to
thoroughly examine the other man when something caught his
trained eye's attention. *Odd about his mouth,* Holmes thought,
*unusually full lips for a man of his coloration and background.
Unusually dark ones for his skin tones as well. Not at all what
my studies into anthropological body types would lead my to
expect.*
"Thank you, Sir," Carroll said, interrupting Holmes' line of
thought, "If you don't mind my asking, Mr. Holmes, does Miss
Hanks get any evenings off?"
Holmes frowned. "Eh? No, of course not. She is on duty every
night since that is when I have my hardest time."
"So she stays here, not at home?"
"She stays here, otherwise she lives with the other nurses at the
local hospital, but she doesn't have any time for any dalliances,
sir, as she will be accompanying me to my country estates as soon
as Dr. March says I am again fit to travel."
"I see. Well, hopefully you will soon be back in the first bloom
of health, sir," Carroll said with somewhat less bonhomie than
he'd previously evidenced.
*So you can pay your addresses on Miss Joan Hanks without
offending her employer who also happens to be your richest
client, eh? So sad, you old fool, that Miss Hanks and Mr. Holmes
are one and the same.* "Well, I am told that with a few weeks of
clean, fresh air in the country, I will be as good as new. We
may be back in the city in two or three months." *Which should
give you more than enough time to forget Miss Hanks, providing I
and therefore *she* can survive that long.*
"Yes, well, I am afraid I must be on my way, Mr. Holmes. Do have
Miss Hanks call on my office tomorrow to sign the papers herself.
I have also scheduled time in my day so that I may introduce her
to your account manager at the Bank of England's London Office."
Holmes nodded and then lifted a gloved hand to Carroll in
farewell. Carroll took the proffered hand with some reluctance,
shook it once and then with a final farewell, took his leave.
Holmes watched the door close and heard the downstairs door open
and close as well, then he began to laugh. "You were much more
enthusiastic about taking that hand in yours this morning, you
old goat."
With another, very unladylike bark of laughter, Holmes extricated
himself from the body of his dummy and set about moving it to his
bedroom. "Might be useful to have a conveniently sleeping Holmes
available to deflect the next uninvited visitor who comes
calling."
~------------~
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 9, 1911. Time: 7:41 P.M.
My Dear Watson,
Well, thanks to your tendency to save anything and everything
associated with any of my cases, I was able to replenish my ready
funds reserve today.
Physically, the changes in my body appear to be going apace. I
am again shorter and lighter, by another quarter inch and another
two and one half pounds respectively. My waist must be smaller
because the corset doesn't feel as tight. Interestingly, my hips
and chest are smaller now as well, but I am definitely becoming
ever rounder in those areas of my body. Whether it is a result
of the corset pushing softer flesh up or down or the result of
Moriarty's potion making me ever more feminine in all physical
respects, I am definitely developing a bosom and as Jenny pointed
out, cleavage.
One concern I have about the rate of these changes is that Jenny
and/or Maisie will notice. They are, after all, dressmakers. I
stopped at a shoemaker on the way home from the solicitor's today
and purchased a new pair of high heeled shoes. Unfortunately,
these are not the wide heeled "Cuban heels", but rather another,
much more slender heeled style known as "Spanish heels" and these
are almost four inches in height. Based on my current stature, I
will likely need them by day after tomorrow at the latest.
Unfortunately, I have concluded that I desperately need the
lessons that Jenny imparts to me so I am going to continue seeing
her.
Besides, it is nice having a friend again, Watson. I do wish you
were here, old fellow.
Tomorrow, I must face Mr. Carroll again, hopefully for the last
time. I have checked my society page file, and have discovered
that Mr. Carroll has a well earned reputation as a womanizer. I
must conclude that my attempt to dispense with cosmetics and to
appear businesslike did not turn aside his interest. Most
upsetting.
I am very tired, Watson. I think I must get some rest. DAMME!
Time is running out and all I seem to do is sleep, grow ever
younger and ever smaller, and accomplish NOTHING toward the real
task at hand - finding and stopping Moriarty.
And I still have not thought of anyone to take up the battle
against the Professor when this damnable potion finally runs out
and I die from the withdrawal symptoms.
But, as I said, I am very tired.
Good night, Watson. Perhaps I will be seeing you for real soon.
End Journal Entry
Chapter 14: A Damsel in Distress
Holmes sighed as he brushed out his hair in preparation for
visiting the solicitor's office again. The withdrawal symptoms
had been particularly harsh this morning, and moreover, seemed to
be having heretofore unobserved residual effects. He felt . .
edgy, and perhaps a little off-balance. His body felt wrong in a
way that Holmes did not have words to describe. The culmination
of all this was that Holmes was running late and making mistakes
- two conditions that were all but guaranteed to place the very
punctual, very fastidious Sherlock Holmes in a thoroughly black
mood indeed.
Worse yet, Holmes was unable to set aside an increasingly
prevalent feeling that something was wrong, or that something bad
was about to occur. Staunchly, for perhaps the tenth time since
he'd begun to prepare for this day's outings, Holmes mentally
turned his back on the unwelcome premonition. For all he was
almost completely female now, he was still a man of the modern
times, a man of science, and premonitions, intuitions or unformed
feelings had no place in his world.
Holmes pinned his hair up and donned his hat. At least those two
tasks seemed to go more easily today than they had the day
previous. He'd only made himself wince pulling at his hair with
the brush twice today.
Holmes gave himself one last critical look at himself in the
mirror. His increasingly experienced eye could see where the
gown no longer fit as well as it had. He could see where the
bodice and waist were no longer as snug as they had been when
Jenny had fit him for the gown, and the hem was again in imminent
danger of being muddied on the street. Briefly, Holmes had
considered using his new Spanish heeled ankle boots, but his
attempt to walk in them this morning had been unsuccessful in the
extreme. The Cuban heels were still high enough - barely - and
would have to be sufficient until he could get back from the
Solicitor's and Jenny's whereupon he would practice in the new
footwear.
Holmes reveries were shattered when he realized he was scratching
rather insistently at the skin just above the top of that
infernal corset. He thrust his offending hands to his sides, all
the while mentally upbraiding himself about how such a misstep
would be received in public.
He returned his attentions to the mirror and sighed at what he
saw there. *I also still need at least one other gown, more
likely two or three,* Holmes thought as he reached for his cloak
and gloves. *This one is becoming filthy and the gray one I wore
to Jenny's won't do until I have time to alter it again. Just
another task that will consume time I should be expending in the
search for Moriarty.*
Again the feeling of impending danger enveloped him, actually
making the hair on the back of his neck prickle, only this time,
the feeling was accompanied by a flash of memory. Carroll,
asking all those relatively personal questions about Miss Hanks,
so very off handedly, as if it really didn't matter. And yet, if
it didn't matter, why ask at all? Carroll was a man of business,
a man to whom time was a scarce and therefore vital commodity.
Why would he expend such a valuable resource attempting to gain
such information about Joan Hanks? Then another memory flashed
into his mind - Carroll's little, supposedly inadvertent touches
and brushes while he was supposedly assisting her. Again, why?
*And yet, I have no substantial, non-deductive evidence that this
man intends to do me harm,* Holmes told himself firmly, *and yet,
I can't shake the feeling I need to be prepared to deflect some
form of violence.*
Setting aside his cloak and gloves, some instinct pushed Holmes
to reach for an old friend - his lead shot loaded walking stick.
*How many times in the past,* he mused, *Have I been forced to
use this tool to stop a villain who was about to attack or injure
Watson or myself?* Holmes reached over and hefted the heavy
stick and sighed. It had never felt so heavy before. *But
before, you were not a female, and you were several stones
heavier as well. In any event, it will not serve my needs in
this instance. Women, particularly young women, do not use
walking sticks or canes.*
Holmes sighed as he stepped out of his dressing room and into the
hall where his eyes fell upon his, or rather, Joan's small
reticule. It was little more than a fabric covered, lidded
wooden box supported by two heavy, fabric covered hand straps
with which to hold it. Thoughtfully, he hefted the hand-purse.
*Not quite heavy enough.* he thought before an inspiration hit
him. Part of the five hundred pounds Carroll had delivered the
day before had been in coin of the realm instead of banknotes.
Holmes rushed to his sitting room and found the bag of coinage
which he then transferred to the bottom of the reticule. He
tested its weight and smiled. *It will wear on my hand carrying
it after a while,* he thought, *but it is now well suited to be a
replacement for my walking stick.*
Nodding his satisfaction, Holmes returned to the foyer, retrieved
and donned his cloak and gloves, and then took one last look into
the foyer mirror. As he had the day before, Holmes consciously
took on the mental outlook and mannerisms that completed his
disguise as Joan Hanks.
Then she turned and walked out the door.
~---------------~
Cognizant this day of both her high heeled shoes and her long
skirts, Joan waited patiently for the driver to assist her exit
from the cab. She paid him without comment and then again
entered the offices of Nickleby and Carroll. She was greeted by
the same clerk, but this time he quickly escorted her into
Carroll's office.
"Ah, Miss Hanks," Carroll said rising from his desk and offering
her his hand. When she pointedly did not respond, he smiled and
offered her a seat. She was more than a little pleased when she
managed not to billow her skirts this time. *Practice does make
perfect,* she reminded herself. "Now," Carroll continued, "let's
get these documents signed and then I will take you around to the
Bank and introduce you to Mr. Holmes' account manager."
Carroll came around the desk with a sheaf of papers in his hand
which he placed on his desk near Joan. He then offered her a pen
and began to explain each document in detail. Since Joan, as
Holmes, had already read and understood each document yesterday,
her mind was not occupied when Carroll began his little game.
Throughout the explanations and signing, Carroll would
"accidently" brush against Joan's arm or glide a hand filled with
paper along her bosom or nudge her thigh with his when he bent
over to show her precisely where to sign.
Unfortunately, Joan did not know what to do about the bounder.
She was so close, his very odd cologne was well nigh to
overwhelming, but she couldn't think of anyway to make the man
back off. She needed his introduction to her account manager if
she was to regain control of her funds, so she could not afford
to anger the man by retaliating. *The bastard is taking advantage
because he believes I do not have any one to turn to for
assistance or protection,* she realized. *We'll see about that
once our business is concluded!*
Unfortunately, Carroll's increasingly unwelcome touching and
fondling continued throughout the morning as he escorted her to
the Bank of England for a meeting with Mr. Alfred Stone who
managed Mr. Sherlock Holmes' accounts with the Bank. Joan was
surprised that there were several other documents that Mr. Stone
required signed in addition to those Carroll had required. These
she read with more care since this was the first time she'd seen
them. That process took almost an hour, so it was after one
o'clock with the pair returned to Carroll's offices. Part of the
delay was due to Joan's need to beg the use of the lady's
facility at the Bank. Evidently her bladder was shrinking just
as quickly as the rest of her.
Joan noticed that the clerk was not at his usual station, but
Carroll indicated that the man took his luncheon between one and
two o'clock because the office tended to be busy during the more
traditional luncheon hour of two to three o'clock.
Joan decided that the set down she had been planning for the
damned rogue would wait for another day, and began to take her
leave, only to be physically stopped short. Once again, Carroll
took advantage by putting his arm about Joan's shoulders and half
leading, half forcing her into his office.
Joan's immediate reaction was a sudden, seething rage that this
fool had dared to manhandle him. . . *her* in that heinous
manner. Caught up in a fury unlike anything in her past
experience, Joan shook herself free of Carroll's arm and decided
that this state of affairs was just fine with her. She had more
than just a few tart words she wished to lay upon Mr. Jason
Carroll and his office was as good a place as any and better than
most. She was just beginning to marshal herself for the attack
when she was rudely interrupted by the sound of a key rasping in
a lock. Joan spun on her heels just in time to see a smiling
Carroll slipping a key into his vest pocket.
"What the he. . " she started to scream but Carroll, moving with
unexpected speed, was immediately on top of her, binding her arms
to her sides in a fierce bear-hug and sealing her mouth off with
his own. Joan was so surprised by the suddenness of his attack,
that her mouth had been open when Carroll had forced himself upon
her and his tongue into her mouth.
Joan struggled hard, but Carroll was a much larger man, and
moreover, with her arms restrained had a significant advantage in
leverage. For an instant, it was Moriarty toying with her all
over again, but then, she felt his hand lifting her skirts and
petticoats and forcing his leg between hers. Stark realization
of what he intended hit Joan and her mind went momentarily blank.
A rudely intrusive finger probing none-too-gently about her
genitals brought her wits back with a vengeance. Still unable to
fight him off physically, she did the only thing she could think
of - she bit down on his tongue as hard as she could.
A hot, almost sweet, coppery flavor assailed her senses as
Carroll began hitting her, trying to make her break her hold on
him. A particularly hard blow to her head rocked her and she
fell away, rolling as she hit the floor. She came to rest near
Carroll's desk.
"So you like to play rough, do you, Miss Hanks," Carroll asked
with a positively demonic look on his face as he swiped blood
from his mouth, "Well, so do I - particularly with virginal
little teases like you!"
The solicitor began to move slowly towards the still recumbent
Joan, his hands fisting and unfisting, and an almost insane smile
on his face. Joan bided her time, waiting as he approached.
From deep inside her fear-fogged mind, the part of her that was
Sherlock Holmes examined her situation, predicted probabilities
and plotted stratagems.
And Joan acted on them.
She waited, looking terrified, until Carroll was nearly on top of
her, until he lifted his fist to strike down on her yet again,
and then - only then - did she move. Her right hand flashed out,
swinging her coin-loaded reticle with all her strength like a
mace.
The sharp corners of the wooden purse caught Carroll midway
between his ankles and his knees, squarely on both of his shins
and snapping both carry straps. *Obviously not designed for such
abuse,* some idle part of her mind commented.
The scream that issued from Carroll's throat as he fell was
almost inhuman. He had not even finished when Joan snatched up
the reticule in both hands and brought it up into her assailants
solar plexus with all her strength. Carroll fell to the floor
gagging and gasping for air that simply would not oblige him.
Joan began to shake as she struggled to her knees. She
handwalked her way up his quivering legs and retrieved the key
from Carroll's vest pocket. Her eyes fell on a strange stain
about the cuff of his pants leg, and noticed that it seemed to be
particularly redolent of that strange, half remembered cologne
scent of his, but did not let herself dwell on that. She needed
to make her escape before he recovered his wind. She reached
down, gathering up her broken reticule, and then let herself out
of the office. She was halfway to the main door of the office
when a last a vestige of Holmes fought through the maelstrom of
her wildly swirling emotions. Joan stopped, returned to the
office door, and used Carroll's own key to lock the office before
departing. She took the key with her.
Knowing she must look a sight, Joan fought against the
uncontrolled shaking as she hailed a cab, and then directed the
driver to the only people she knew in all the world that might
care about what had happened to her. The cabbie saw the
incipient terror in her eyes, and hastened to follow her orders.
~-------------~
Her clock chiming two o'clock roused Madame Jeanne Marie from her
thoughts. Time for the midday meal break for many of the local
businesses which meant the street would soon be full of busy
clerks, typists and business people all rushing about for a bit
of luncheon or to run an errand or two. Jenny had about given up
on Joan who'd been showing up on her doorstep the past two days
promptly at one o'clock. *Must be that nurse's training that
makes a woman so cognizant of time,* she thought with a smile.
Jenny was just standing up when a hansom cab raced up to her shop
and stopped suddenly at her doorstep. She watched in amazement
as the driver hastily got down from his driving box in a futile
attempt to help his passenger disembark his cab. A young woman
in a very familiar brandywine colored day dress practically
jumped from the high cab and promptly fell to her hands and knees
in the muddy street. The cab tried to help her to her feet, but
she seemed almost limp in his arms. That was when Jenny
recognized Joan. "Maisie!" she yelled. "Get out here!
Something has happened to Joan!"
~-------------~
Several somewhat-more-than-sips of Jenny's now-familiar medicinal
French brandy later, Joan was finally beginning to calm down.
Recognizing the signs - disarranged clothing including one
missing glove, bruised mouth, hair and eyes wild with emotion -
Jenny did not need to be told the cause of Joan's panic, but she
also knew that the girl needed to talk it out. The brandy would
help.
The emotional purge was well-lubricated by several refillings of
Joan's brandy snifter. Jenny and Maisie simply listened while
the held the shaking girl between them on one of the shop's
sofas. "I. . . I don't even know why I came here," Joan said
almost to herself as the emotion ebbed. "I don't understand what
made me tell the driver to come here instead of to Baker Street."
"Pish and tosh," Jenny said with a glint of humor in her gentle
eyes, "And what would Mr. Sherlock Holmes know about such things,
I'd like to know? Probably just say something about deducing
what had happened based on something no normal person would ever
notice and that it was elementary. Which is nothing of any use
at all just now. What you need is seeing to, and in times like
this, women see to women - friends see to friends. Your heart
knew that even if your head might have been all mixed up."
"I wasn't sure I had earned the privilege of calling us friends
yet, but I am glad you were here for me. I do feel better now,
thank you," Joan said very quietly.
Jenny nodded. "If we are not yet friends, we are friendly
acquaintances Joan. And we are women. I am glad you came here
so that we could be here for you. And now,," Jenny said, deciding
it was time to get the girl focused on something positive again,
but first they had to get a few things out. "Tell me, dear, do
you always carry coins valued at nearly fifty pounds in your
reticule?"
*As if I have ever carried a reticule before this week,* Joan
thought barely suppressing a hysterical giggle. "No, Jenny. I
did it because. . well, something Mr. Holmes said made me think
of it."
"Holmes, again? I don't understand."
*Think fast, Joan Hanks!* "Well, Mr. Holmes had concluded that
Mr. Carroll might have . . . inappropriate intentions toward
me."
"Well, Holmes always did see things others missed, but did he
ever stop to think that sending you to meet with that fool might
have been dangerous? Goodness, girl, didn't YOU think it would
be dangerous?"
*Nothing I couldn't easily control - or so I thought,* Joan
thought. "Well, that was when he told me about that walking
stick of his - the one he filled with lead?"
"I know about it. When I was involved with Mr. Holmes before, I
even saw him use the bloody thing. Damn him, anyway! I am
surprised the man didn't offer it to you," Jenny muttered as she
took a large swallow of her own brandy. "Some men are just so
intelligent they are stupid."
Joan wanted to jump to Mr. Holmes' - that is her own - defense,
but resisted the urge. "I couldn't carry it - it was too heavy,"
Joan said with the first sign of animation since her arrival.
"Besides, it didn't go with my dress."
Jenny acknowledged Joan's attempt at humor with a half smile.
"So you decided to load your reticule instead?" Joan nodded.
"Jenny, Mr. Holmes is a very impressive man, but he *is* MERELY a
man. That cane, and that reticule which is essentially the same
thing, are men's weapons. You are very fortunate you got to use
it, but in most other situations like that, you'd probably have
lost it before you got in a single swing with it."
"What should I have done, then? Carried Mr. Holmes' revolver in
the reticule?"
Jenny threw up her hands in exaggerated disgust. "Didn't your
mother teach you ANYTHING when you were a girl?? You shouldn't
have gotten in the situation in the first place, dear," Jenny
said with heavy emphasis. "As soon as all the papers were signed
at the bank, you should have left then. Once you were back in
his office and you knew you were alone, you should have tried to
get out again. . ."
"But I did!" Joan protested. "And if the reticule wasn't the
answer, what should I have done?"
"First, you shouldn't have lost your temper. You were in deep
trouble and you wasted valuable time thinking about berating him
instead of thinking about getting away from him. That's how he
had the time to lock you in."
"So what should I have done? Especially since he immediately
immobilized my arms and practically choked me with that excuse
for a kiss."
"Biting him was good, but the move that would have freed you and
given you time was to knee him."
"Knee him?" Joan asked with a squeaky break of shock in her
voice. She was certain she hadn't understood Jenny. Surely,
Jenny did not mean Joan should do something so cowardly as . .
"You have a knee, Joan, and he has a groin with that lovely and
very vulnerable male organ that men are so damned proud of.
Well, it may be their bloody pride and joy, but is also their
greatest weakness. Men with their stupid "Marquis of Queensberry
Rules" have made blows to that part of their anatomy something
less than manly, something terribly dishonorable. Women cannot
afford that artificiality when a man intends to rape her. Next
time, hopefully you'll learn from this and there won't BE a next
time, but if there is, position yourself carefully, and then
plant your knee in his groin with every ounce of strength you can
muster. Don't hold back anything because you may get only one
opportunity, but you *will* get that one opportunity. If he's
going to rape you, he has to get those tender little balls of his
in range of your knee."
*She's correct, now that I think of it. Carroll is almost half
again my weight, and he had me dead to rights before I could make
a move against him. I caught him by surprise or the reticule
would never have worked.*
"Do you understand, Joan," Jenny said with the impatience of
someone who has been forced to repeat herself.
Joan smiled sheepishly. "Yes, I understand, Jenny."
"Good, then we need say no more on the subject. No real harm was
done although if you are going to have to do business with him
for Mr. Holmes, we will need to come up with a means of
preventing this in the future. Perhaps have the accounts
transferred to his partner?"
"Perhaps," Joan murmured as she thought about all that had
happened. Suddenly, several things fell into place. "I simply
don't understand why he would attack me in such a manner in any
case. . . given his evident preferences. . .or what I deduce to
be his preferences."
Jenny's eyes went hard and she demanded, "What do you mean,
preferences."
"Mr. Carroll has a marked preference for male. . . . lovers,"
Joan declared with the same certainty that had revealed many a
villain during the career of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
"Male lovers? How can you conclude such a thing? Moreover, how
would you, such a milk and honey country miss know of such
deviancies?" Jenny interjected.
*In the mental satisfaction associated with deduction, I forgot
who I was. . . or rather, who I appear to be which is not
Sherlock Holmes,* Joan thought furiously, *Better think of some
reasonable explanation for knowing what you know, Miss Joan
Hanks,* then an inspiration struck, *Oh, yes, that should do
nicely.*
"As to how I know of such things, I did my training at a hospital
down on the lower East End. Several times we'd get patients. .
.men whose. . .bottoms had been badly cut by a whip or a cane -
sometimes with. . .hemorrhaging . . .ummm. . about the orifice
from which they eliminate. ." Joan looked up and saw Jenny
nodding slowly. "As to Mr. Carroll's involvement in such
activities, that is ele. . .I mean, simple. Several facts point
to Mr. Carroll's involvement in such activities. First, his
trousers were stained with a bath oil whose scent I just recalled
as being similar to that of the men who were injured. I
originally thought he merely had atrocious taste in cologne, but
then I saw the stain when were on the floor after I struck him
with the reticule. The injured men who carried that scent always
came from these . . .bathhouses."
"You might have mistaken the bath oil's scent, dear," Jenny
cautioned.
"Unlikely," Joan said authoritatively, "It is QUITE
unforgettable. However, the second fact is that he always sat
down rather carefully, - as if he was trying to keep weight off
his buttocks, and once seated, could not sit still in one place
for any length of time. The final piece of the puzzle, though I
didn't credit it properly at the time I first noticed it, is that
his lips were oddly discolored and unusually full - almost
swollen. What they were, in actuality, was bruised, much the
same as those men at the hospital were."
"You do realize what you are implying, don't you," Jenny asked,
her opinion of the girl's intelligence taking a marked step
upward.
"That's why I said I didn't understand why he wanted to rape me.
The evidence indicates that he prefers other men."
Jenny shook her head. "Not quite all, dear. Your assessment is
mostly correct, but what he truly prefers is submission. .
.*rough* submission to the will of other men who beat him and use
him as a sexual plaything. I suspect that he preys on young
women such as you in a sick attempt to convince himself he is
still a true man. However, that does give me an idea of how we
can ensure that Mr. Carroll turns over Mr. Holmes' business to
his partner and that he will not attempt to do you any further
harm as well. MAISIE!?!" she called out suddenly.
"Yes, Miss Jenny?" the little seamstress answered as she stuck
her head through the beaded curtain to the workroom.
"Get Miss Joan's other dresses so we can final fit them to her.
She needs something to wear home while we get this once cleaned.
Also, is that black satin day dress we designed for that opera
singer still available?"
"You mean the one that looks like it was painted onto the
dressform? Yes Ma'am. She was so petite, no one else who might
want it could fit in it. 'Specially in the bosom. She was a
little thing, 'cept there."
"That one. I think it would fit Joan if we can tighten her
corset another inch or two. Fetch it and my make up case,
please."
Joan watched all this with some confusion. "What are you doing?
Why a black satin day dress? Isn't that a little unusual."
"Very unusual, but perfect to our purposes. *You*, dear girl, are
about to learn about fighting with a woman's weapons. Now, pick
up your brandy and follow me."
~-----------~
"But, Jenny," Joan whined and hated herself for it, "You just
said I got it right, for the fourth time!"
"It still took you too long. Clean it off your face and do it
again. Once you can apply the cosmetics for that particular
facial look in ten minutes or less, I will let you go home to
rest. Now, use the cream and cleanse your face."
"But I can't go any faster, Jenny. I can barely breathe now that
you and Maisie have tightened the corset again. And that damned
thing itches infernally! It bids fair to drive me insane."
"Hush. If you'd just take the corset off at night, you wouldn't
chafe your skin so badly. I'll give you a cream that will soothe
the irritation."
"Well, every time I take it off, you accuse me of loosening it.
Why can't you just alter the dress so that I don't need the
corset to wear it!?!"
"Because even if we had the time to alter the dress to fit you
that way, which we DON'T, the dress doesn't have sufficient spare
material to let out the darts to fit you uncorseted, girl.
Therefore, we needed to reduce your waist some more. And the
corset can't loosen now because we've laced you to the point
where the edges meet all up and down your back. That let me
connect the hooks and eyes along the back so it can't loosen
anymore. Besides, tightening up the corset like that lifted your
bosom enough that you fill that bodice perfectly and show a
delightful cleavage. It's perfect."
Joan sighed, but the unrelenting force of the corset stays
stopped her in mid-breath. Frowning, she began to cream away the
heavily applied, exotic make up from her face. "You're sure this
will work?"
"Trust me, darling. I had more than one protector who played
rough in hopes of making me angry enough to punish him like a
naughty little boy. What you need to do is get his attention and
then keep him off balance so that you can get that threat in."
"Well, that dress will do it, Jenny."
"A woman's weapons, darling."
~---------------~
Chapter 15. Counterstrike
Holmes grimaced as he stared at the face reflected in the
silvered glass of the small makeup mirror he'd erected on his
laboratory workbench. Not that he wanted it in here, in his
special private place of contemplation and rational thought.
He'd planned on setting it up in his dressing room, but as fate
would have it only his laboratory had sufficient artificial light
for this particular task. The irony of having this very feminine
makeup mirror standing next to the now-idle concentrating and
distilling apparatus was not lost on Holmes - a fact that only
made what he had to do all the more difficult for the Great
Detective.
Holmes had risen at three a.m. that morning, administering
Moriarty's youth elixir a full two hours earlier than the
withdrawal should have made that necessary. This would,
hopefully, ensure that Holmes, or more accurately Joan, would not
be dealing with any lingering aftereffects of the potion when it
was time to face Carroll again. Unfortunately, that stratagem
did not seem to have been very effective. Holmes did not feel
well. His stomach had rebelled violently when he'd attempted to
eat a modest breakfast and his mouth still tasted vile as a
result. His lower back and abdominal muscles were cramping quite
vigorously, and it was only by dint of his fabled and phenomenal
will that he wasn't on his bed groaning and curled into the fetal
position.
Still, for Sherlock Holmes, master detective and scientist, the
worst aspect of this experience was his growing inability to
control his emotions. One reason he was *still* in front of this
thrice cursed mirror, *re*-doing his cosmetics was because he'd
just been possessed of a rather amazing fit of crying - all
because he'd smudged the enamel he'd been oh-so-very-carefully
painting on to his finger nails. It had not even been all that
significant an issue - correcting the smudged surface would have
taken no more than a minute or two to clean the nail with the
solvent before repainting it. Not significant at all, except
that Holmes had first lost his temper and then his composure
because of it, and had finished the debacle by bursting into
tears. Tears which had, naturally, destroyed his already-made-up
face.
Holmes swiped the lip rouge carefully about his full lips and set
down the brush. *Done,* he thought with some relief. He turned
his attention to his hair and was again relieved to see it had
suffered no damage during his crying fit. *Thank Providence,*
Holmes mused, for getting his hair into that ridiculously tight
bun had taken four tries and had cost him uncounted hairs jerked
from his scalp by their roots. Jenny had insisted that every
hair had to be precisely in place for the full effect, and he'd
almost given up on the whole thing after the third try. He would
have given up, except the hat Jenny had provided would not fit on
the wild mane his hair had become when let free of pinned
constraint.
Rising from his stool, Holmes set aside the bed sheet he had used
to protect the dress and strolled carefully back into his
dressing room. Carefully, because he was now wearing the Spanish
heeled boots. His stature this morning was such that the damned
inconvenient skirts of this unpetticoated gown were too long for
the Cubans. He'd nearly fallen face first into his mirror when
the toe of the Cuban had caught on the hem of this infernal
dress. Still, he had no other options if the plan were to work
as he and Jenny had agreed it would, so he'd gotten out the shoe
button hooks and had wrestled the much taller Spanish-style
heeled boots onto his feet. He'd been walking in them ever
since, removing them only when he recalled he'd forgotten to put
on his stockings.
Holmes now regretted his forethought to purchase a pair of shoes
that had been too tight and perhaps a half size too small when
he'd selected these high heeled relics from Torquemada's
Inquisition. Putting the shoes back on to feet that had already
begun to swell was unpleasant in the extreme. *Would have been
far easier to insert some tissue paper into the toes of a larger,
more commodious pair, or to wear thick cotton ankle stockings
beneath Jenny's black silk stockings. I can only hope I will
still be able to walk when this day was done. By all that is
holy,* Holmes growled as his left foot nearly slipped out from
under him on the slick, hardwood floors, *the bindings inflicted
on the feet of Chinese noblewomen could be no less tight and
crippling than these damned shoes.*
He managed to make it to the dressing mirror without further
incident and sighed as he took in the picture he saw within its
depths.
The dress Jenny had pressed upon Joan covered every inch of him
from wrist to shoulder and from throat to floor. The gown's
design was utterly simple, and yet, utterly devastating - nothing
but stark, unrelieved glossy black satin except for specially-
chosen, highly-dramatic, blood-red accents that seized the eyes
and forced them into sharp focus. One accent, a rose corsage,
rode lightly on the gentle swell of his left breast, rising and
falling with the softly exaggerated breaths forced by the tight
corset. The second attention demand took the form of a large
paste ruby sewn to the front of the gown's chin-high collar,
emphasizing the elegance of Holmes' slender neck while enforcing
a regal hauteur.
The virtually unrelieved black of the sleek gown would make even
an ordinary complexion appear cold and colorless, but Jenny's
special makeup application had taken that even further with
deliberately pale tones everywhere except for the bright slash of
matching red on his lips. Lips that seemed to grow more full
every time Holmes examined himself in a mirror.
Looking at that image, there could be no doubt as to the gender
of the person reflected. That was, Holmes mused, perhaps the
most negative aspect of this whole enterprise, for there could no
longer be any pretense. The person reflected in the mirror was
not Sherlock Holmes. The person was female.
The figure, while not sufficiently voluptuous to have drawn the
sculptor Rodan's interest and attention, was still very finely
and femininely shaped. Slender, but with a well rounded bosom,
an extremely tiny waist *Thanks to Jenny and her damnable
corset!* and subtly curved hips and bottom. And the damned gown
did not, in *any* way, attempt to disguise that fact. Rather,
it shouted *FEMALE* to anyone who might be within range of its
power.
But Holmes knew it was not just the dress. He would soon be
having trouble NOT looking feminine and attractive. The dress
merely emphasized what he'd been fighting to deny to himself
since he'd first deduced this effect of the potion just before
Moriarty had appeared on the scene. What the revelation of that
truth, and more importantly, his sudden acceptance of it meant
for him in the near and long term, Holmes did not know.
Unfortunately, with the confrontation with Carroll looming, he
did not have the time to spend analyzing those issues. He'd have
to deal with all that entailed more completely once this day's
adventure was over.
Returning his attention to his appearance, he sighed. "I look
like a bizarre combination of one of Madame Hell's bawds and a
paid governess arrayed like this," Holmes growled, a sound
totally incongruous to his current visage. "Not only, that, but
this gown is also very tight in very uncomfortable places," he
complained as he resisted an urgent need to relieve an itch
immediately beneath that blasted rose.
The clock tolled nine thirty, recalling Holmes to his schedule.
He picked up the bit-of-nothing hat Jenny had provided and
carefully placed it on his head. The hat was a half-bonnet,
designed to conform tightly to the skull and just barely rest
upon the top of the bun. That was why Holmes had been forced to
stay at his hair until it was tamed. Also black, the hat sported
pair of red silk roses that seemed to be pinned in his hair just
above his right ear, and a fine black lace-mesh veil that just
covered his eyes. Holmes positioned the hat and then pinned it
on, and nearly stabbed his scalp doing so. "Curse these damned
clothes to the farthest halls of HELL!" Holmes cursed. "How in
God's name do women tolerate them? WHY *do* women tolerate the
infernal things?"
No one answered, but Holmes felt a bit better for the cursing.
*At least the hair was not disarrayed by the pin. . only my scalp
- but I won't have to rip any more hair out recreating the bun.*
Satisfied that all was done as well as could be, Holmes strode to
the foyer and picked up his cloak. Actually, it was more a cape
than a cloak. From the outside, the cloak was the same
unrelieved black satin as the dress, but the lining was bright
red silk, of the same tone as the roses, ruby and lip rouge.
Holmes slipped his arms through the slits provided for that
purpose and buttoned the cloak before reaching for the gloves.
Oddly enough, they were red, not black. "Contrast" was all Jenny
would say when Joan had questioned her on this. Holmes slipped
them on. They fit like. . . well, like gloves, which had been a
point of concern for Jenny the previous day.
"Are you sure you'll be able to fasten them, dear?" she'd asked
very solicitously, "Button hooks can be the very devil to manage
one handed and those gloves are perhaps just a bit too small for
you. That is too bad, because the color is simply perfect."
Joan, knowing she would likely be just that much smaller in the
morning, had assured Jenny that all would be fine. And so it
was, Holmes mused holding his fine fingered hands splayed in
front of his face. The gloves DID fit perfectly and while he had
had the tiniest bit of trouble fastening them, the result was
clearly worth that effort. The soft, warm leather clung to his
hands and fingers so lovingly that Holmes could even see the
faint outline of his long, lacquered nails beneath the tips of
the finely sewn gloves.
He looked around and found the small reticule Jenny had given her
and the other longer, narrower case as well. Once he had those
in hand, Holmes turned to the foyer mirror and frowned. Jenny
had repeatedly impressed upon Joan the importance of a stern
visage, and to that end, they had attempted to design a cosmetic
look that was a bit older than Joan ordinarily appeared. Now,
however, he felt that he looked neither old or stern enough for
his mission. *How old, physiologically speaking, am I at this
point?* he asked himself. *Mid twenties at the most - a very
young looking mid twenties. How am I going to manage 'stern'
with a face like this?!?! Even all these cosmetics can't
disguise my apparent youth.*
Holmes thought about it for several moments and then recalled his
earlier comment about a combination bawd and governess. He
recalled his own governess - a German woman selected by his
brutal father for her strict approach to child rearing and for
her well known and, unfortunately, well earned reputation for
refusing to coddle her charges in any way. Holmes closed his
eyes and cast his mind back, forcing himself to remember her on
one of her less pleasant days, and then tried to imitate that
look.
Holmes opened his eyes and looked at his reflection. The face
that looked back was harder - certainly a woman not to be taken
lightly. *Still young,* he thought, trying to be objective, but
pleased with the look nonetheless. *No longer quite so dewy-eyed
or virginally vulnerable. It will have to do.* With that, Joan
completed the donning this day's disguise with a haughty toss of
her head.
Joan Hanks gave the mirror a positively chilling smile, then
turned to the door and left the rooms; her only thoughts on
obtaining her rightful justice from Mr. Jason Carroll, Esquire.
~--------------~
The specially hired four-in-hand carriage glided to a stop in
front of the office door of Nickleby and Carroll. Immediately,
two old fashioned footmen jumped down from their perch at the
rear of the equipage, and moved to their assigned tasks. One
placed steps and a small carpet in front of the passenger door
while the other moved to take a firm hold on the bridle of each
lead horse. Only when he and the driver had the still fresh
horses steady, did the first footman open the door of the
passenger compartment for the lady to disembark.
Joan Hanks stepped carefully from the carriage onto the first
step, stopped and rose to her full height. With her head held
regally erect, she gave her free hand to the footman and
permitted him to hand her down the steps and onto the paved walk.
Once there, her face fixed in a stern mask, she nodded her
approval. "You may walk the horses to see that they cool down
properly, but remain close by." she ordered quietly. "This will
not take long, perhaps no more than ten, fifteen minutes at the
most."
"Yes, ma'am. The driver will take them just off the street, and
we will remain here. When you come out, we'll fetch him." the
footman reported quickly.
Again the austere lady nodded her approval. "Very well. I shall
expect to be on my way within sixty seconds of my readiness to
depart. Each of you shall be rewarded if I am not kept waiting
beyond that."
The footman made an abrupt bow. "Yes, ma'am," he said, bowing
yet again.
Satisfied with this reaction, Joan permitted herself a momentary
cold smile before turning to the door. *Well, I would say I must
have the role down fairly well if that reaction is anything to
judge by. If that footman had been anymore respectful of my
august personage, he'd have injured himself with all that bowing
and scraping. Now, for Mr. Jason Carroll!*
Joan entered the office and strode purposefully up the clerk who
looked up at her wide-eyed. She settled Jenny's case and her
reticule under one arm as she unbuttoned her right glove. Eyes
snapping, Joan turned her full attention on the already
overmatched clerk.
"Tell me, young man," Joan directed in quiet, chill tones, "Has
Mr. Carroll arrived at the offices yet?" The clerk started to
look away, in the direction of Carroll's office, but Joan brought
her gloved right hand up under the young man's chin and jerked
his head back around to face her. "LOOK at a lady when she
deigns speak to you!" she ordered, "Now tell me, is he IN his
OFFICE?!?"
"Ye. . ye. . . yes, ma'am," he finally managed to stutter. "If
you wi. . will wait just a moment, I would be happy to announce
you."
Joan rose back up. "No thank you. I shall announce myself." she
replied as she dropped her reticule and a strange long, very
slender carrying case on to his desk. "Watch those for me. I
won't be but a moment."
The clerk watched in silent awe as the frighteningly beautiful
lady in black unbuttoned her cape and strode to Mr. Carroll's
office. When the door latch clicked, he drew his first deep
breath since she'd stormed into his area. Then he took a closer
look at the odd, now-empty case. On it, he saw an engraved metal
plate. It said, "Tattersall's Leather Goods Ltd: Purveyors of
Fine Saddlery and Tack. Madame Jeanne Marie D'evere."
And he couldn't help but wonder, what had fit inside that case's
finely-worked, velvet-lined interior?
~-------------~
Carroll looked up from the paper he was reading with his morning
tea, prepared to deal a thorough set-down to the clerk who had
become, in Carroll's professional opinion, just a bit to slack on
office protocol of late. "Now, Jenkins," he began to berate the
clerk, only to stop short as he saw what, or rather who, had
invaded his sanctum sanctorum uninvited.
For an instant, Carroll did not recognize the vision in black who
was bearing down on him. A cape parted to reveal a crimson
lining that only served to make her stark gown seem all the more
ominous. "Miss Hanks?" he finally blurted out just as the woman
reached his desk.
"Just so, whore-boy." Joan said airily. Her rich ruby lips smiled
playfully, but the depths of her dark eyes seemed to be a window
into a hell beyond darkness. "And I am worse than any nightmare
*your* pitiful perversions could possibly conceive."
The vile name she called him shocked him out of his immobility,
and he began to rise from his seat, outraged. "You can't . ."
Whatever Carroll had intended to say to Joan died instantly in
his throat when Joan drew a wicked-looking riding crop from
beneath her cloak and brought it forcefully down on his shoulder.
The impact, though dulled by the padded shoulders of his suit
coat, had the startled Carroll falling awkwardly back into his
desk chair.
If anything, Joan's smile grew larger. "Stand if you will," she
purred, twirling the crop in front of his face in a manner that
drew his eyes like a bird fascinated by a snake. "But my next
little tap," Carroll flinched as Joan playfully traced his face
from cheek to chin with the slapper of the crop, "will leave your
face marked in a way that will not be as easy to hide as those
stripes on your so well-rounded bottom."
"I beg your pardon," Carroll choked out, feeling the crop's thick
leather stinger tickling beneath his chin. Fearing this black-
dressed bitch might decide to drive it into his soft throat, he
sat very still indeed.
"And well you should, Mr. Carroll, but then, you do so like to
beg, don't you?" Joan asked, mild interest coupled with an
undercurrent of disdain in her voice. Her eyes, though, never
wavered from their implacable stare. "I can arrange things so
that you will do more begging than you could possibly desire."
Joan let the end of the crop dance lightly on his ear, moving it
at the last moment when he tried to grab it. "Naughty, naughty,"
she said with a hint of a laugh that never touched her stormy
eyes. "I only grant *true* men the opportunity to play with *my*
toys, and then only with my permission and at my direction. You
do not qualify for that privilege on *any* count, now do you?"
"You have no right to say things like that about me!" he growled
as he reached for the shoulder and tried to rub away the sting of
her blow.
Joan laughed, a true laugh this time, as she watched him try to
tend his hurt shoulder, but only for a single moment.
The easy smile that had been playing across her full red lips
vanished into a cruel sneer that made it appear that the blood
color was more than merely cosmetic enhancement. "Would you
instead prefer that I say that you are a foul rapist?" she asked.
Joan leaned over his desk, the crop in her hand pushing into his
sternum hard enough to cause an arch up that pressed against his
chin. "Enough of this, little whore-slut. I know that you prefer
men. I know that you think you enjoy being abused, and that you
think you can hide your desires. But you are wrong. Just as your
so-obviously bruised lips and the way you cannot sit comfortably
on your fat arse reveal your secrets to a knowledgeable observer,
so also are you mistaken as to the nature and horror of *true*
abuse. Trust me, you would *not* find the experience with *me*
in *any* way enjoyable. If you doubt me and intend to test my
resolve, then consider carefully the needs of your heirs and
ensure that your affairs are in order."
"You would not kill me," Carroll said, trying to recover his
bluster. "For god's sake, you are only a woman!"
Just as quickly as the sneer had appeared on her face, a taunting
smile now replaced it. Once again Joan twirled the crop in her
hands, the contrast of the whip's black leather and her red
gloves seeming to imply that the tool had often been touched by
the brighter color. After a long pause, where once again her eyes
revealed a formless glimpse into something beyond fear. "Ah, and
so I am a woman," she agreed easily, "Therefore, when. . .or
rather if I do decide to see to your death, it will not be
something that will be done quickly, nor gently."
She slipped the crop under her arm and snapped the blood-red
glove from her right hand with an audible pop that caused her
victim to nearly jump in alarm. The sickeningly sweet, utterly
terrifying smile was firmly in place as Joan reached out to where
Carroll sat in his chair. At first, she simply caressed his
cheek softly, pleased to see his rigid posture and to feel his
attempt to slide as far from her touch as he could manage. Then,
without warning, her nails arched into claws and one - the one
she to which she had previously glued a tiny sharpened wire -
scratched his cheek just deeply enough to leave a line of the
same red her gloves had promised. Carroll reached for his cheek,
then drew down a hand smeared with the evidence of her touch. He
stared at it, not noticing until it was too late the movement of
the crop. It slashed down upon his open palm, causing him to cry
out in shocked anguish.
When he looked up from his temporarily useless hand, the playful
smile still beamed from Joan's face. The crop was back under her
arm, and she was tugging the tight red glove back on to her hand
with sharp, quick movements.
"This is what I require you to do," she said with quiet authority
and confidence. "Unless you want to experience far worse in the
future. First, you will transfer all of Mr. Holmes' accounts and
business interests to your partner, Mr. Nickleby."
Too throughly browbeaten to argue any further, Carroll simply
acquiesced. "And the second thing?"
"Cease preying on supposedly defenseless young women. You do not
want them in any case, and trust me, Mr. Holmes has highly
skilled people watching you. The next time you fail to treat any
young woman, particularly one who comes to you for help, with
absolute respect will herald the revelation of your little
pleasures with other men to your colleagues and clients"
"But damn you, you have no proof! You WOULD have no proof! You
cannot prove any of this! I cannot believe any of this is
happening to me!" he wailed, now nearly in tears.
"Believe it or not, Mr. Carroll, at your own peril," Joan said
quietly, the smile gone for the moment. "I am fully aware -
*fully* aware," she said with heavy emphasis, "of the activities
in certain male-only bathhouses on London's east side and could
easily hire a consulting detective to obtain all the proof I
would need," Joan's smile blossomed anew, cruel and full, "but we
both know that proof would not truly be needed, would it? A few
whispers here, and a hint or two dropped in the right, or in your
view, the wrong ears, and soon all London will be whispering
about you. "Terrible about that solicitor fellow -what's his
name? Oh yes, Carroll - the one who likes other men, canes
across his arse and being sodomized." By the time the gossips
were done with you, you'd be completely without clients within
the week."
Joan began to fastened up her cloak, hiding all color but her
seemingly-bloody hands and lips. Carroll watched her avidly, all
the while praying that she was, at last, leaving. His prayers
were to go unanswered though, when instead of moving to the door,
she stepped around the desk to stand very near to Carroll.
Without warning, the crop speared down to press painfully at the
front of his trousers, literally pinning him to his seat.
She leaned down and whispered in his ear, as though softly
sharing the sweetest promise, "Mr. Holmes has the contacts
throughout London. I work for Mr. Holmes and Mr. Holmes is very,
very unhappy that *I* am unhappy. If you don't believe me, go
ahead and molest another woman you think lacks the protection of
a family." Joan then kissed Carroll's cheek, leaving a vermillion
imprint that seemed to taste of the blood still welling slowly
from his scratch, "but only after, as I said earlier, you put
your affairs in order."
The crop floated back up under her arm as she moved to the door
with languid grace, pausing just before she opened it to look
back with a mocking smile that . . . almost . . . drew his glance
from the pits of darkness that smoldered in her eyes. With a
disdainful sniff she turned to the door and left without another
sign that she knew he existed.
Nor did she deign to acknowledge the existence of the still-
intimidated clerk as she snatched up the crop's case and her
reticule as she sailed through the outer office. Moments later,
she was walking up the steps leading into her carriage. She gave
directions to Jenny's shop, and then settled herself into the
plush, leather-upholstered seat.
Only then, with the danger finally past and her opponent utterly
defeated and routed from the field, did the shaking begin.
Chapter 16. Variations on Reflective Themes.
Entry in the Journal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Date: February 11, 1911. Time: 10:48 P.M.
My Dear Watson,
I am beyond physical exhaustion and should be asleep getting
badly needed rest instead of writing this, but I find that I
cannot. Part of that is I feel absolutely wretched and suspect
that, for some unknown reason, the onset of the withdrawal
symptoms will begin much earlier tonight, but that is not the
only basis to my restlessness. I am in turmoil, Watson; a
veritable maelstrom of conflicting issues that I have not yet
resolved to my mind. It is my hope that writing in my journal
may help resolve the conflicts. And it may also divert my mind
from the other, more physical problems.
Since I have not accurately recorded my measurements recently,
that is the first issue I must address tonight. It is not a
comfortable recitation, I assure you. This data was collected
rather later in the day than my usual measurement schedule, and
additionally, I took the drug almost three hours earlier this
morning than I have done in past days, so there is some time
variation in these measurements. My height is down to five feet,
three and five eighth inches while my weight is barely one
hundred twenty pounds. Heavens above, Watson, that is almost
three and a quarter stone less than I weighed when this started.
I had more weight to me when I first began shaving!
Just writing those numbers is somehow daunting. I suspect a
disciple of Dr. Freud would accuse me of avoiding those issues by
not making and properly recording these precise measurements
every day at the appointed time. At this point in my
transformation, Watson, I do not know if I could honestly or
logically refute that charge.
As to the current true dimension of my waist measurement, I have
no earthly idea. The corset has rearranged my 'figure' as Jenny
is wont to call it, so that my waist is much smaller than would
be predicted by a volumetric cube law. (Which is unlikely to be
accurate, in any case - my shape is changing as much or more than
my stature which invalidates a key assumption of such a
mathematical approximation) Right now, the corset is laced to
its minimum circumference of twenty inches, and it does not feel
nearly as constricting as it ought. What my waist would measure
if I did not wear the corset for a length of time and allowed my
internal organs to redistribute themselves in a more normal
configuration, I do not know. As quickly as I seem to shrinking,
that would most likely not be a useful experiment. Too many
uncontrolled variables for me to hazard even a tentative
hypothesis.
However, that is not the only change in my 'figure', Watson, that
seems to result from this instrument of the devil! When wearing
the corset, I seem to have a thirty six inch bosom and hips to go
along with my twenty inch waist. More on that later, Watson.
Allow me to finish the other observations, first.
I have a vagina, Watson, fully formed and penetrable. I can
insert a finger into myself (a most remarkable sensation, that,
quite indescribable) - not very far, because I soon encounter a
flexible membrane that I must conclude is a hymen. My God,
Watson - I am a damned virgin! Can you believe that? At my age,
I am a virgin. Well, that is one 'pearl beyond price' that shall
never be harvested. I can, will and do unequivocally guarantee
that!
And yet, speaking so cavalierly about the concept of my age begs
the question 'what is my age?' My mind remembers living for all
or part of seven decades, but this body? My best estimate, based
on subjective observations, both of my person and of how people
interact with me as Joan Hanks, is that from a purely
physiological perspective, my body is somewhere in the twenties.
Mid to late twenties, I would guess - say twenty seven for an
operating hypothesis. Isn't it strange, Watson, that I should
have two such fundamental aspects of my personal identity -
gender AND age - called into question?
Well, enough of that maundering. It is done and I shall have to
live about it. Part of that was my, or rather, Joan's
confrontation at the solicitor's this morn. Jenny's plan for
dealing with Mr. Carroll worked perfectly. Once he has
transferred my business interests to his partner, I will contract
with one of the investigative agencies in town to keep an eye on
Mr. Carroll's behavior.
A most remarkable adventure, Watson. It is truly a shame you are
not here to record it (with all of your typically melodramatic
embellishments I am sure) in your own inimitable manner. Mr.
Carroll was at Joan's mercy from the moment he saw me, her, in
his doorway. There is truly great power in a woman's wiles and
ways, Watson. While I have always known or at least suspected
that fact intellectually, this is the first time I have
appreciated and internalized that very significant truth Most
edifying. . . . and most vital.
Why vital? I should think that obvious, Watson. Just review in
your mind the physical statistics I listed earlier tonight. I am
short, slender, fine boned to the point of extreme delicacy, and
light of weight. I am, to put a point on it, a physical
weakling. I will never again be capable of walking into a room
filled with men and intimidating them into complying with and
participating in one of my little post-investigative dramas. The
aspects of my person that enabled such confident behavior on my
part - my sharp voice, stern features and of course, my
relatively imposing physical size, are lost to me forever.
Watson - I am a woman.
What an absolutely amazing thing to say, and moreover, to
understand after decades of being male. I am a woman. God knows,
Carroll *could* have raped me. I don't know if I might have
conceived as a result, but everything else appears to be in
working order. I, Sherlock Holmes, am a woman, and I will, in
all likelihood, be one for the rest of my natural life however
long that will be. Based on my assessment of my physiological
age and assuming I find a way to overcome this damnable
addiction, that life could be more decades than I have already
lived as a male.
Amazing.
Having accepted that fact, Watson, the true importance of today's
exercises with our naughty Mr. Carroll becomes clearly obvious.
I am a woman, and while that deprives me of certain weapons that
were part and parcel of my life as a man, I must now consider
that there are new weapons that I may now employ. MUST employ
for, as I said earlier, the old ways are lost to me forever, and
I still intend to find and stop Moriarty - once and for always.
So, I am a woman. What does that mean? Two responses to that
question come immediately to mind. If I am to be a woman, then I
will, by God, be the best damned woman in the whole of the
British Empire! I absolutely refuse to allow my mind to be
dulled by this effervescent cauldron of bubbling emotion that
seems to be forever simmering within me, ready to boil over at a
moment's notice. As it did this morning after I'd made my exit
from Nickleby and Carroll. Deucedly stupid time to get the
nervous shakes, but it happened. A great many emotions prey upon
me now, Watson, but so long as they do not hamper me at the cusp
of the moment, I can live with that. Surely my brain is capable
of dealing with this challenge, Watson. If anything, my mind and
wits must be all that much sharper - all that much stronger - to
compensate for those skills, strengths and other attributes that
I have lost.
And so it shall be!
The second conclusion that I have reached is that I must learn
the weapons of woman and become highly proficient in their
employment. Gowns, lingerie, shoes, cosmetics, hair styles -
THOSE are a woman's battle armor, Watson, and I must be properly
outfitted for every encounter. On the positive side, I seem to
be (and becoming ever more) suited to the employment of these
armaments. I am forced to conclude that I am becoming not only
fully female, but a very attractive female.
Truly, Watson. I am being absolutely truthful about this.
My hair is a richly colored and highlighted sable that grows
longer and fuller with each passing day. I have already
described my figure, Watson. Well, I now move like a woman with
a woman's grace. My hips seem compelled to swing gently from
side to side even when I concentrate on moving my feet directly
ahead - particularly in those infernal high heeled shoes!
However, even barefoot, it is quite beyond me to move in a
straight, direct line any more.
My face is becoming quite arresting, as well. It took all of
Jenny's not-inconsiderable skill to age my face and make it look
anything but young, fresh and in her words, quite lovely. My
eyes are still quite dark, but the shape has changed becoming
upturned and rather exotic. There is very little of the Holmes-
nose left, old friend, and in its place is a fine, slender
appendage that slopes gracefully to a mouth that needs little in
the way of cosmetic artistry to appear full and lush. I believe
the current term for such lips is "bee stung."
Moreover, every part of me, from my face to my hands and my
limbs, have become much more delicate with each passing day and
each dose of Moriarty's potion. If I had to describe myself,
Watson, I would say I look a great deal like Sir Walter Scott's
Rebecca from his book "Ivanhoe" - a story that not even I could
avoid reading in my school days.
But those are too often a woman's defensive tools, Watson. I
must also discover and develop within myself the offensive powers
wielded by woman, for I do not believe that a wooden-cored
leather riding crop will be suited to every, or even to most
adversarial encounters. I must learn the full nature of these
powers as well as how to employ them most productively, Watson,
for I mean to take the offensive in this war as soon as possible.
For that, I am afraid I will require instruction, but from whom?
Jenny? I don't see how, for she is already confused by my still
shrinking body. She is an intelligent woman, and what she will
make of this, or what she will do once she reaches a decision, is
beyond my still-male thinking processes to assess. Unfortunately,
she is the only person I know of whom I trust in this regard. A
knotty problem indeed.
Of course, all of the above depends on whether I will live to
employ these new weapons against Moriarty. My already meager
supply of the potion dwindles by the day. Although I know that
eventually, I would become too young to pose any threat to
Moriarty (the idea of a five year old girl attempting to confront
the greatest criminal mind of our time is so farcical as to be
laughable if it were only a joke), but I still wish I had more of
it. As it is, I suspect my usage rate is about to increase
because the discomfort I mentioned at the outset of this entry is
nigh onto unendurable.
I am afraid, Watson, that I must leave you in order to administer
a dose of the treatment for the symptoms have suddenly become
quite intense. Assuming it works as always, I will be asleep
within minutes.
Good night, Watson. Thank you for being here when I need you,
but then, you always have been, haven't you?.
End Journal entry.
~---------------~
Moriarty sat in his hidden chamber, sipping the herbal brew he'd
discovered in conjunction with his investigations on perfecting
his Fountain of Youth. While it was not an age regression drug,
it had nigh miraculous effects on the pain of his arthritic
joints. Were he to sell the formula to a company such a Bayer in
Germany, he'd be wealthy beyond most men's dreams. There were
only two problems with that concept, the professor mused as he
forced down another sip of the noxious effusion.
The most significant problem was that *he* was in no way 'most
men' - *he* was Moriarty and his dreams went far, FAR beyond the
accumulation of mere wealth. While money was power, it had its
limits, and what Moriarty thirsted for was power without any such
barriers to its use. Moriarty wanted whole countries - the
entire world - to live and exist only at his continued
sufferance. There wasn't sufficient wealth on the planet to
purchase that type of power. He needed another way to attain the
power for which he lusted.
And in the meantime, it amused him to know he had discovered this
treatment for arthritis pain that was benefitting no one else but
Moriarty. That was power of a sort, as well.
The professor turned his attention back to the large one-way
mirror that looked into the state-of-the-art laboratory he'd
provided for Dr. Haber's efforts on his behalf. The professor
was unusually diligent today. *Only to be expected,* Moriarty
thought with a dark smile.
Progress on the twin projects had not been going as well as
Moriarty had anticipated. Each seeming breakthrough had
ultimately proven to be a dead end - literally. So far, any
avenue of investigation that had shown promise of correcting
either the addictive or gender changing property of the
formulation had resulted in a deadly toxin. That might
ultimately prove useful - Moriarty had no difficulty with
discovering new, more effective methods of murder - but it did
not bring a solution to Moriarty's immediate problem any closer.
The contact (non-injected) formulation for gaseous weapons was
not progressing either. For the most part, that was a conscious
decision on the part of both Haber and Moriarty to concentrate on
the non-addictive, non-gender reversing formulation as their top
priority. Once Moriarty was young and strong again, then they'd
develop his gender-changing terror weapon.
And use it to gain the power he truly desired.
As to Dr. Haber's current assiduous flurry of industry, that
could be laid at Moriarty's door. He had grown concerned that,
perhaps, the good Dr. Haber might be dragging his experimental
feet in some futile hope that he might avoid his destiny of
assisting the Great Professor Moriarty achieve immortality.
The solution was pure Moriarty. Haber's food at the noon meal
had been liberally seasoned with a drug that simulated the early
symptoms the laboratory dog had suffered when Haber had first
arrived at the Riechenbach facility. The doctor had passed out
certain that he was dying. When he'd regained consciousness that
morning, Moriarty had been there holding an empty hypodermic
needle.
"Unless, my dear Haber," Moriarty had said grimly, "I see
progress in your assigned tasks, the next time I will not
administer the antidote. I will, however, administer another
potion which will ensure you are fully alert for the grand moment
of your death. Do I make myself clear, Haber?"
Fritz Haber had all but blathered assuring Moriarty that he
understood and would comply. Moriarty rose from his chair,
satisfied that Haber had indeed been sincere in his assurances.
As he walked from the room, Moriarty's mind drifted to another
man he had recently tricked through the use of a potion. "Are
you going insane yet, old foe?" he asked into the dark night air
as he walked toward his personal living quarters. "Have you
learned yet that there is no escape when your prison and your
jailer are one and the same? When they are, in fact, you
yourself?"
A soft chuckle, self-satisfied and mirth-filled, rolled over the
otherwise tranquil lands, and the cold alpine winds themselves
seemed to shiver in response.
Chapter 17: Revelations
Jenny Deavers stepped down from the cab without waiting for the
cab driver to offer to assist her. Once on the street, she
looked up at the small building immediately in front of her. The
windows of the second floor rooms were shaded and dark - much
like her roiling emotions.
She'd been thinking about this fateful meeting ever since
yesterday when *that* girl had left the shop. For the third day
running, Maisie's hemlines had been too long and also for the
third day, they had needed to tighten the laces on the corset.
Maisie was the best, most conscientious seamstress she'd ever
employed. She *might* have made an error measuring the hem once,
perhaps even twice although Jenny could scarcely credit that
possibility. Three times? No way on God's green earth!
Goodness, as for that damned corset, they should have replaced
the appliance the day before because they'd been able to draw the
two sides together. Yesterday, the girl could have stood another
half inch or more and hardly noticed it. Corset-training simply
did not work that way! And then there were those incredible
heels she had worn trying to pretend she was the same height -
she'd never gotten those things at Madame Jeanne Marie's shop.
Not a bit of it! Why, Jenny hadn't seen shoes like *that* since.
. . . well, since she'd been in a much different line of work for
that one gentleman that had inspired Joan's and her plan for that
bastard solicitor. . . well, that was a completely different
time and place - and a very different Jenny.
Something was very, very wrong, and Jenny feared she knew what
that something was. Whoever this "Joan Hanks" truly was, Jenny
was convinced she was taking advantage of Mr. Holmes. Well,
Jenny Deavers *owed* Mr. Sherlock Holmes a great deal, and Jenny
Deavers ALWAYS paid her debts. There was NO WAY she would permit
some thieving little bitch take unfair advantage of him -
particularly if he was truly ill and unable to care for his own
needs. So she would, by God!
~-----------~
At that precise moment, *Miss* Holmes was indecorously sprawled
on the sitting room settee, huddled into the soft folds of the
comforter she'd stolen from her bed. She was not particularly
concerned that she was not presenting, as she had promised she
would make every effort to do, a demure and ladylike front. she
felt bloody damned awful and nothing she had thus far done had
relieved the symptoms he'd been suffering from since the wee
hours of the morning.
The symptoms were all there as they had been from that first
night. Over-sensitivity, over-emotionalism and a harsh cramping
tightness in her lower abdomen. Only those were far more
prominent this time than they had been at any other withdrawal
onset - and the other symptoms were there, as well, if somewhat
less intense, or even somehow different. The burning heat was
now a fever alternating with chills. She still had bouts of dog-
like (or was that bitch-like?) panting but this time, that
symptom always seemed to portend a violent bout of nausea. That
*was* notably different from anything she had been forced to deal
with thus far.
She had already administered two doses of the precious drug
trying to dispel these withdrawal symptoms. One when she had
awakened at just past two A.M. in the morning and another when
her need to relieve herself had roused her a little more than
three hours later, only to find the symptoms recurring before she
had managed to leave the water closet. Now she was awake again,
suffering again, and not at all certain that she should use the
drug again. It was the same, and yet it was different. Grimly,
Joan tried to analyze the situation and determine a course of
action.
Her concentration was broken by the jarring report of her
doorbell. Joan determined to ignore it, but whoever was outside
simply would not take the hint and continued pealing the bell.
When Joan's overly acute senses and pounding head could not take
anymore she roused herself from her nest and went to the door. A
check through the peephole revealed her visitor was "Jenny?"
Joan opened the door and an angry-visaged Jenny swept into the
room. She came to a stop inside the foyer and rounded on Joan.
"All right, Missie, where is your sister?" she demanded
furiously.
Caught completely off guard by that attack of this avenging
Valkyrie, Joan momentarily goggled at the other woman before
managing a weak, "My sister? What sister, Madame?"
"Oh, just stop the playacting, Missie, because I know
everything."
"You . . you do?" Joan stuttered in disbelief.
Jenny sighed and gave the girl a sardonic smile. "I am a
dressmaker, you silly girl, and have been for a good many years.
Only rarely before have my customers grown smaller in the waist,
but *never* have any of them grown shorter. Something that *you*
have supposedly accomplished every day you've visited my shop for
fittings. For god's sake, girl, why are you and your sisters
taking advantage of Mr. Holmes when she has given Joan fair
employment?"
"But I am Joan," Joan tried one more time, "and I don't have any
sisters."
Jenny only shook her head. "Stuff and nonsense, Missie! Look at
yourself in the mirror, girl. You are much prettier than Joan.
Not only do you lack her unfortunate nose, the rest of your face
- your eyes, lips and cheekbones - is much more attractive than
hers. For another thing, you are a good two, perhaps even three
inches shorter than the woman who came to my shop a week ago and
your figure, with the exception of that lovely bosom, is much
more petite than Joan's. Good lord, Missie, even your hair is
longer, fuller and more richly colored than hers. The pair of
you are simply too different in appearence for you to hope to
carry off this charade."
*Well, I knew she was intelligent,* Joan thought ruefully, *And
as I deduced in my journal last night, in her business, she needs
to be able to assess the female form quickly and accurately. I
never should have gone back there yesterday, but it was in all
likelihood already too late. She had to be suspicious before that
if she is this upset and certain now. Now what do I do?*
Unfortunately, Joan never had time to reach a solution before her
stomach rebelled against the bit of milk he'd just forced down
into it. Frantically, she put her hand to her mouth and ran to
the water closet.
Bemused, Jenny Deavers followed in Joan's wake, but at a more
sedate pace. She had just turned the corner in the hall when a
horror-filled feminine shriek bid fair to deafen her. "Oh God, I
am bleeding! Down THERE??!? That means. . . God DAMN you,
Moriarty, to the darkest pits beyond HELL!"
Jenny was inside the water closet in an instant and saw the
terrified girl, holding up her skirts and petticoats to reveal a
pair of drawers stained a bright, wet red. Relief and then
disgust flooded Jenny. "Oh, have done with it, girl," she
ordered. "By the size of your bosom, I would say you are well
old enough for this not to be your first flux."
Somehow, the words penetrated Joan's emotion-ridden mind, and she
looked at her in confusion. "Flux?" she somehow got out.
Jenny shook her head. The girl simply did not know when to give
up a bad game. "Your monthly flow, as you very well know, you
little schemer. Your little act is not accomplishing anything so
just stop this foolishness now."
But Joan never heard Jenny. All she could think of was that the
transformation had actually reached the point where she was
subject to a woman's lunar cycle. "My god, it's really happened.
I am menstruating. Now, what do I do??!?" Joan almost shrieked in
her complete dismay.
*She certainly sounds as confused as she is trying to appear,*
Jenny thought, *Well, I won't get anything more out of her until
she's dealt with this so I might as well move her along.* "Oh,
come along," she huffed. "Let's get you cleaned up and then I am
going to see Mr. Holmes and get to the bottom of this."
Fifteen minutes later, Joan was back on the settee, cleaned up
thanks to a rather ruthlessly applied scrubbing from Jenny, with
a cup of weak tea in her hand, some dry toast on a plate in her
lap, and a hot water bottle on her still cramping abdomen. And
she did not even like to think about the wad of clean rags Jenny
had oh-so-very-carefully showed her how to position between her
legs.
"All right, young lady," a stern faced Jenny said as she swept
back into the sitting room, "where is Mr. Sherlock Holmes? The
figure on that bed is nothing more than a very clever wax dummy
image like those at Madame Tousseau's museum. Tell me quickly,
girl, for I am about one minute away from calling in Scotland
Yard and sending you and your thieving sisters to the dock.
Joan sighed, and gave in. She trusted Jenny - always had for
some reason she never quite understood - but she had not wanted
to confide in her because there had seemed to be no point. After
all, how could Jenny. . .ANYONE. . . possibly believe her? And
beyond that, she did not want to make Jenny known as her
accomplice to any of Moriarty's still unidentified henchmen.
There was certainly no way Joan could possibly protect her friend
if those villains decided Jenny would make a suitable hostage
against her. But now, there appeared to be no other course, at
least none that presented itself to her in her current mentally
reduced condition of feminine overload.
"I will tell you everything, Jenny, although there is every
reason to expect that you will not believe me." Jenny stood
there, waiting without comment. "Please, sit down, and pour
yourself some of this lovely weak tea. This will take a while."
Jenny sat quite primly, Joan noticed, in one of the straight-
backed chairs he'd always kept for female clients. "Do you trust
Sherlock Holmes, Jenny?" she asked gently.
"What kind of question is that," Jenny retorted, her color rising
furiously.
"A very simple question, Jenny," Joan replied, "for example, do
you trust that Holmes would keep a confidence for you, once you
asked him to guard your secret?"
A sharp nod of her head gave emphasis to Jenny's immediate reply.
"Mr. Holmes is the soul of discretion. His word is worth more
than gold."
"Very well. Then let me tell you how you and I actually first
met. Then you may ask me any questions you like and I will
answer them honestly and completely."
"But we never met until just a few days ago," Jenny retorted
firmly. "No, that is not correct. The person I met then had to
be your older sister, Joan. You and I met only yesterday!"
"Not so, Jenny," Joan said, "let me tell you a story - a story
that only you and one other person should know . . "
"In 1891, you, along with the former mistress of the Duke of
Connamoragh, were victims in a blackmail scheme hatched by the
Duke's younger brother. The youthful fool had been gambling in
the wrong gaming hells and unless he somehow managed to pay his
rather large debts very quickly, his life was in grave danger.
Instead of going to his brother for assistance and a well
deserved tongue lashing, he used certain information gleaned from
his brother's diaries to locate and blackmail women who had at
one time been mistresses to his brother and his brother's
friends, but who had since become respectable members of Society
in one fashion or another."
"How do you *know* that?" Jenny asked, her face no longer stern.
"Let me finish," Joan asked. "You were afraid for two reasons,
Jenny. First, if it became known what you had done before
becoming Madame Jeanne Marie, you would likely have lost a
significant portion of your more class-conscious high society
clientele. The second reason was you did not want the name of
your last protector made public knowledge because you feared for
his marriage to an American Heiress if that became common
knowledge. Since the Duke and his brother have both passed on,
only you and one other person know the name of that gentleman."
Jenny looked at the young girl laying upon the settee. "And you
want me to believe that *you* know that name? Not bloody likely,
Missie. Mr. Sherlock Holmes would die before betraying such a
promise."
Joan drew herself up into a very erect posture, her face very
solemn, "And so *I* would," she said quietly and very distinctly,
"though in many respects, one might say that 'dying' is precisely
what *I* have done."
Jenny's eyes drew sharply together as she looked at the
disheveled girl before her. Something in that voice - despite the
high register, and something in those eyes - *something* made
that outrageous claim she had just heard seem imbued with the
very integrity that had so defined Sherlock Holmes.
And then Joan, again employing that same precise, clipped manner
of speech, told Jenny the name of the popular and well known
English Lord whose marriage would have ended had the facts of his
youthful infatuation and liaison with a young Jenny Deavers
become public knowledge.
Shocked beyond words, Jenny gasped, for once cursing the usually-
comforting constriction of her own corset, and said, "YOU are
Sherlock Holmes?"
"At your service, madame," the girl replied, the formal words so
at odds with her appearance. And yet . . .
"You ARE Sherlock Holmes," Jenny declared, as much to herself as
to the woman who she had just been convinced was in fact the
great Sherlock Holmes. "But. . but. . ."
"Jenny, ask me any question you wish about that case. Let me
prove to you that I am in possession of information that only
Holmes could possibly know."
For almost a minute, Jenny stared at the young girl who claimed
to be Mr. Sherlock Holmes. *Well, we'll just see about that!* she
thought grimly, and began firing off questions only to have them
answered in their turn - concisely, precisely and without
hesitation. "And where did Mr. Holmes and I make love to
celebrate his victory," she finally asked.
That brought forth a burst of laughter from the girl - quite
unfeminine laughter, and at the same time, hauntingly familiar
laughter. "That's not a fair question, Jenny, since just a few
days ago you told me the answer to that question. We never made
love, Jenny," Joan said in a more gentle tone. "In all truth, I
was so absorbed in the case and the thrill of the chase, I never
noticed that you had evidently made the attempt to offer me the
great gift and pleasures of your bed. I apologize for that, for
I now see that my indifference hurt you and I never intended
that."
Jenny's mouth opened and closed twice before she finally managed
to find her tongue. "I almost believed you until that last line,
girl. Mr. Holmes apologizing?"
"I am a rather different Mr. Holmes, would you not say, Jenny?
While the gentler human feelings are often still quite alien to
my nature, I have, in recent times, become on a somewhat more
familiar basis with them. Thus, I know that, without meaning to
have done, I hurt you."
"You certainly don't talk like a young lady just out of the
school room," Jenny said wonderingly, "but if you are really Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, and I find that I truly believe that you are,
what happened to you?"
Joan quickly recounted Moriarty's scheme, leaving out the part
about his intention to take his own life, and the events up to
that very day.
"Well," Jenny said with just a hint of smile, "That certainly
explains you damning this Moriarty fellow to the. . .how did you
put it? To the darkest pits beyond hell when you found out you
were suffering from your flux."
"Damn you, Jenny, don't you dare smile at me like that. This is
definitely NOT funny!" Joan said with exaggerated bluster, "And
suffering is precisely accurate, Jenny. Not only that, but I
evidently expended two of my precious doses of the drug to no
real purpose. That will cost me at least a day of searching time
- once I am physically able to take up the search again."
"Well, I hear tell the first flux is always the hardest, even on
girls who have been taught what to expect by their Mums. Must be
really hard on a fellow who thought he'd slip through life
without ever tasting that little gift of Nature's."
"Just so," Joan replied drily earning a not-very-sympathetic
laugh from Jenny.
The older woman's smile became thoroughly wicked as she
considered the possibilities. "Ah, Holmes, if only you knew how
many times I had wished this exact condition on one of my former
protectors. The arrogant, strutting little peacocks, calling
*me* unclean when they'd leave me disappointed after arriving at
my door unannounced and wanting a bit of sport during my time of
the month. It was as if they were convinced I did it on
purpose," Jenny snarled and then smiled, a very female, very
devious little smile. "So, Holmes, that potion really does what
you say it does? Each time you get a little younger, a little
smaller and a little more feminine?"
"Yes, although since this is, in fact, a woman's cyclic response
to the moon I am suffering through at the moment, I am hard
pressed to come up with any changes that would be more feminine
than this." It was said with a weak smile that surprised Joan.

"Pregnancy is said to be the most feminine of conditions," Jenny
offered ever-so-sweetly.
"Which, praise the merciful providence, requires the physical
intervention of another person - an intervention which I can
assure you will not take place."
Jenny shrugged before smiling again. "So, about that formula,
Holmes. Know how to get more of it? I really do think I have a
use for some of it."
Joan managed a laugh, hoping she'd meant that as a joke. Still,
she wasn't truly certain because she simply kept smiling that
very unnerving smile. "Sadly, Jenny, I do not have the recipe
nor the ingredients - only that one small bottle that has barely
a week's worth of the drug left. And since I cannot reproduce
the formula for you, I wouldn't recommend you go hunting for your
former protectors with a hypodermic needle in your reticule."
"Too bad," Jenny grinned in gentle commiseration. "I guess that
is true enough, Mr. Holmes. . . Lord, but you being so small and
pretty laying there, calling you Mr. Holmes feels. . .well,
cursed strange."
"Joan is fine for now, if you prefer that form of address, Jenny.
Actually, I made a promise to myself to become as womanly and
feminine as possible in the future - especially when I am with
you. My thinking being that you and Maisie could, unwittingly,
help me perfect my disguise."
"I don't think this is the disguise anymore, Joan, not if the
changes are really as permanent as you say."
"Much the same conclusion I arrived at last night myself, Jenny.
However, it is not as if I am going to have to live with it much
longer in any case. As I said earlier, I wasted a dose of my
paltry hoard of the drug today because I thought this 'flux' was
another flare up of the withdrawal symptoms," Joan said
resignedly before something peaked her interest. "I must say,
Jenny, that you were easier to convince than I would have been in
your place."
"Nonsense, dearie. As I said, Mr. Holmes' word was always good
as gold. Only two ways you could have known the story and the
name you just told me. Either because Mr. Holmes told you the
story or because you are, as unbelievable as that sounded, Mr.
Holmes. The thing is, Joan, I simply found it more unbelievable
that Mr. Holmes would have dishonored a promise like that."
A tear formed and ran down Joan' cheek. *The effects of an over
actively female constitution,* she scoffed mentally as she batted
the tear away. "You humble me, Jenny," she said quietly.
"So, what happens now, Joan?"
"Time is running out for me and I have found nothing here in
England to further my investigations. At some point, I will have
to give up on my inquiries here and go to the Continent," Joan
laid her head back. "Somehow, I need to get papers - and a
passport. And I just don't have much time left."
"Papers aren't difficult," Jenny said firmly.
Joan eyes shot open and she looked at Jenny sharply. "I beg your
pardon?"
"Now, now, we'll have none of that, if you please, Missie!" Jenny
scolded with a mischievous smile. "What about your promise to be
womanly in my presence? In any case, what I said was that
obtaining papers is not difficult. I have some friends in the
Home Office. Actually, I have some friends whose husbands are in
the Home Office. Who do you want to be?"
The quiet confidence in her voice convinced Joan who remembered
how many women owed the kindly shop owner who had made them
beautiful when they ventured into the Marriage Mart. "Well, I
have a plan, such as it is, that might permit me to reclaim my
home and property if I survive this experience." Joan said
hesitantly.
"You mean there is a chance you might survive? I thought you
said the withdrawal was ultimately fatal."
"Moriarty is trying to perfect the drug and eliminate the side
effects and the addiction problems. There is a chance that, if I
can find him, I might be able to survive."
Jenny heard the barest hint of hope in the softly feminine voice.
"All right, Joan. Tell me what to do."
Joan nodded and managed a smile for her friend. "My final will
and testament has not changed since Watson died, Jenny. He was
my primary heir. His wife died, leaving him only a brother.
Suppose that brother had a heretofore unknown daughter."
"By the name of Joan, Joan-dear?" Jenny said with a smile.
"Just so, Jenny."
"Well, that might work, if Watson did not have any other
relatives, Joan, either real ones or believable frauds."
"None at all," Joan replied with certainty, "I have checked
through my own sources."
"Come now, dear, you are a man. . .err . . woman of the world.
The Holmes estate, thanks to your brother Mycroft, is substantial
and many a fortune hunter will be looking for ways to get his or
her hands on it before the government can become involved and tie
everything up for years."
"So?" Joan asked, "there really isn't much I can do about that,
is there?"
"It seems to me that the state would be your executor, then,
would they not?" Jenny asked?
Joan puzzled over that for a moment. "As I understand English
law, Jenny. Why do you ask?"
"If you, as Mr. Sherlock Holmes, were to write a letter to
Watson, or in his death, your legal executor, acknowledging
paternity of your unacknowledged girl child, a Miss Sherla Joan
Holmes, and directing him to ensure that she is granted her just
birthright? If there were such a document, would they not comply
with your wishes?"
Joan snapped upright, sitting up and staring at the grinning
Jenny. "Explain yourself," she ordered, just barely remembering
to speak with Joan's soft, feminine lilt."An unacknowledged girl
child, Jenny? Confound it, Madam, what are you talking about?"
"Bear with me, Joan, and please *do* remember to behave like a
lady and not some crude male. Would the government be required
to comply with the wishes in such a letter?"
Something in the nature of a hidden codicil to my final will?"
Joan mused. "That would need to be witnessed and sealed, in much
the same way as the will to work."
Jenny's lovely face fell. "Oh, that is too bad."
"Ah, but that's not the real problem, you see, for the solicitor
who wrote my will and the witnesses thereto, my brother Mycroft
and Dr. Watson, are all deceased. As to the existence of such a
signed and witnessed document, I am, or rather, I was, a rather
skillful forger when the situation demanded it in the past."
"But can you do it now, Joan?"
"Well enough, I suppose. My eye is still good enough to tell if
it s a good forgery. I suspect that I can manage quite handily.
Mother unknown?"
Jenny's eyes twinkled merrily as she smiled at Joan. "Well,
let's just think about that, Miss Sherla Joan Holmes, shall we?
Would not the existence of a maternal parent who could provide
corroborating evidence be useful as well?"
"This is becoming too bizarre, Jenny. Just what are you
proposing?"
"Well, Sherlock Holmes and I were together, dear, twenty years
ago. You could almost pass for twenty years old now, and
presuming you continue to take that drug, you will do so easily
in the very near term. We will say that Holmes and I had an
affair, and I, Madame Jeanne Marie became enciente."
"That won't pass muster, Jenny. The only man with a more
misogynistic reputation than Sherlock Holmes was my brother
Mycroft."
"Foolish boy. . . I mean, girl, of course it will be believed.
Misogynist or not, that was the height of the Victorian era - a
period of English history known for public morals and private
debauchery. Of course Society will believe you are his daughter
because that is what Society will want to believe, regardless of
the facts. Especially if I say you are my daughter by Holmes.
Then, when they search your papers for your will, if they also
find records such as a ledger of you making child support
payments to me or paying tuition to some Swiss boarding school,
or a copy of a birth certificate with your and my names on it. .
. oh blast!" Jenny broke off.
"What's the matter," Joan asked, greatly amused by Jenny's
enthusiasm.
"The papers will be brand new. They won't look twenty years old.
And besides, that bastard Carroll would have had a copy in the
records turned over to him by your old solicitor, wouldn't he?"
Miss Holmes chuckled deep within her throat. "Not necessarily,
if it was a secret codicil of a very special nature -which this
one would have been. As to the aging of the documents, let me
worry about that. There are chemical processes available to me
that will age those papers so that not even another expert will
be able to discern any difference between them and actual
documents of that time frame. It does seem odd, however, that I,
that is, *Sherla*, would turn up suddenly without anyone knowing
about me through my father or through you," she noted.
"Nonsense, dear, that is how many children born on the wrong side
of the blanket are dealt with in Society. After all, the great
Sherlock Holmes had no interest in raising children, and my
reputation would have been utterly ruined by having and then
raising some man's love child. We'll say you were raised from
infancy by a nanny and a governess in the country - some nice
remote place like the far reaches of Cornwall - and then you were
sent to a foreign boarding school on the Continent when you were
old enough. Of course, as your Mother, when I heard that Mr.
Holmes, *your* father, had died, I, of course, summoned his
daughter to come and collect her inheritance. We could even say
that is why you went to his apartments, disguised as Joan, so you
could take care of him in his last hours."
"And you believe we could pull that off?" Joan asked warily.
"With the right papers?" Jenny reposited, "yes, I do." She
stood and walked over to Holmes and cupped the younger woman's
chin in her hand. Jenny turned Holmes' face to the right, then
to the left and then looked directly into her eyes. "You even
have the look of a younger Holmes," she mused aloud, "If one
looks hard enough for him in your visage. Although, the
resemblance does seem to be less each day, doesn't it? You are
really becoming quite lovely."
Miss Holmes jerked her head back and glared at Jenny. "Thank you
ever so much."
"Oh, don't go on like that. If you are going to be a woman, and
you evidently are, my dear, it is far better to be an attractive
woman than an ugly one. You gain much more power that way, trust
me."
Sherla snorted, then realized how unladylike that sounded and
managed a little sniff. *Well, I had already concluded much the
same things in my journal last night. Still, it won't serve to
let her get too much of an upper hand in this partnership. "We'll
see. As to this little disguise, haven't you forgotten one
thing? Won't this little scheme unmask you as an immoral woman
to Society? Won't that endanger your business?"
"It might," Jenny agreed, "but then again, it might not. It
really doesn't signify at this point in my life as I don't need
to work any longer, Sherla. I have more than enough blunt put
aside with Mr. Nickleby to last many more years than I have left
on this earth. Besides, being the Mother of Sherlock Holmes'
daughter just might make me the toast of the town."
"You're quite sure you are not only willing to do this," Miss
Holmes asked softly, "but want to do it?"
Jenny nodded, a suspicious sheen in her eyes. "I told you,
didn't I, that I always wanted to be a Mother?"
"Yes, but I am a little beyond the age of needing one, Jenny,"
the newly named Sherla smiled.
"There you are wrong, dear. You are like a baby you know so
little about being a woman. You need Mothering now more than you
ever needed it as a young lad."
"Well, that would not be difficult since my mother was a weakling
who had been beaten into submission by my bastard of a father."
The tears did flow from Jenny's eyes now. "Then you definitely
need a little mothering, dear. Both of you do.
"If you say so, Mother - Jenny."
"I say so, Sherla. Now, let me get something to write with and
you can tell me what papers and other credentials you are going
to need me to obtain for you."
~--------------------~
Chapter 18: Decision Points
Eventually, Jenny decided she would spend the night at the Baker
Street rooms. "A girl's first flow is always a challenge, Sherla,
and more than just a little frightening. Most girls have their
Mum to help them through it."
An small grin flitted across the other woman's face. "I thought
we decided you *were* my Mum, Jenny."
Jenny went very still. "I believe we have already had this
discussion," she said very softly, almost fearfully."
"Oh, Jenny, I am sorry," Sherla said quickly, before she had a
chance to be surprised at how much Jenny's sad reaction bothered
her "I didn't mean to hurt you! I was just trying to let you
know that I like the idea as well. If you don't want to be
called Mother or Mum, then I won't."
Jenny closed her eyes tightly, and then took a deep, slightly
shuddering breath to calm herself. "I'd like it a great deal,
Sherla," she said, her voice breaking audibly once, "I'm just not
sure if it would be a very good idea. Given your current status
and plans, that is," Jenny added hurriedly.
Something inside Sherla felt and responded to the wistful hunger
in Jenny's soul. "Well, I think that I am more than capable of
handling such things," she said with an intentional arrogance
that had Jenny gaping at her. "My suggestion is that I can call
you Mother or Mum in private until I am in possession of papers
identifying me as the daughter of Miss Jennifer Deavers by Mr.
Sherlock Holmes."
That had both pleased and concerned Jenny. She truly yearned to
mother this girl with the brain of an old man, and yet, part of
her worried that Sherla, still posing as Joan, might err in the
presence of other people. Sighing softly, she said as much.
"I have been disguising myself in one way or another, since I
first escaped from my harpy of a governess - when I was not yet
out of the nursery, Mum. I have always prided myself on my
ability to stay in role. Many's the time that ability has saved
my life. I won't make that type of error."
"If you're sure then, yes, having you call me Mum would make me
very happy." And so it had been agreed. Jenny was as good as
her word, staying home with Sherla throughout that traumatic and
messy first experience with a woman's cycle. Even the Holmes'
mind was not inured to the humiliation of having its body's
hygienic needs explained and then demonstrated upon its person.
Sherla had blushed from hairline to toes, but Jenny had been
gently firm, and they had managed to get through the day in a
good humor.
That evening, over the first decent dinner Sherla had eaten since
the night Sherlock Holmes had concentrated a solution of what
he'd thought to be cocaine, the two woman chatted about the next
step in Miss Holmes plans.
A small flicker of emotion had flared in Jenny's dark eyes. "What
about your . . . what did you call it? Your mission? Won't that
be dangerous?"
Sherla frowned as she considered the implications of that and
finally nodded. "You are correct, of course. I don't want you
to become of a target for Moriarty's men. In fact, when I
arrange for the surveillance on Carroll, I will also arrange for
discreet security for you. As for me? That mission is something
I must do if I at all can. In the past, I was the only one who
was able to stop Moriarty, and by his own words, he believed I
was the only one who might possibly stop him this time, as well.
It would be false modesty on my part not to agree with him."
Jenny became very still and then continued, "It is not just you
and me, Sherla, involved in this situation. Should I send Maisie
away? You have decided this course for yourself, and I have
lived a full life, but she is just beginning to live. I do not
want her harmed in any way."
"I don't think that is a problem, Mother," Sherla said quietly.
"I will see to both your safeties before I depart for the
Continent. In truth, I believe the greatest danger we will face
is during the period before I leave London, or in other words,
during the days when the world still believes Sherlock Holmes to
be alive."
"You have decided how you are going to arrange the death?"
"Some details remain to be worked out yet. It has to look like
an accident, but at the same time, the incident must also be
something that Moriarty can interpret as a suicide disguised to
look like an accident."
"You'll need a body, won't you? One that looks like you enough
to fool the police? How will you do that?"
"Haven't decided yet, Jenny. Suicide at sea, perhaps? Or in a
fiery conflagration. For enough money, it is fairly common for
medical students to purchase cadavers unclaimed by any family
members for surgical and anatomical studies. One of those would
do nicely if it comes to that. That might be more acceptable for
Moriarty. I could arrange an explosion that would cause the
fire. The body would be all but cremated if I do it correctly.
If I do it in a fairly rural area, the local constabulary will
have neither the tools nor the interest to explore the case
further. In fact, the most difficult part of the scheme may be
getting Holmes' name in the paper."
"I see," Jenny said very quietly.
"I could simply disappear - Sherlock Holmes has done that in the
past - and leave a suicide note. Eventually, given my . .. or
rather, his age, they'd have to accept that and probate the will,
but it might take a while. I don't trust Carroll not to try and.
. . benefit unduly from my supposed demise."
"When?" was all Jenny could ask.
"Soon," Sherla said quietly. "I am running out of the drug and
therefore out of time. I have to go to the Continent as soon as
possible. I prepared the way for Holmes to go to the country
when Carroll called on me here. The accident should occur en
route."
"How will Holmes be seen leaving Baker Street?"
"I have an idea on that score, too, Jenny, but it may involve
some risk to you. And I still need the identification papers."
*She calls me Mother or Mum when we are just chatting,* Jenny
thought with fond amusement, *but when she is worried about my
well being or concerned for me, she calls me Jenny. A holdover
from Holmes-the-man? Should I call her on it? No, better to
just let her be as natural as possible.*
"All right then," Jenny said. "Tonight I shall send personal
notes to certain women who owe me favors asking if I might call
upon them tomorrow. That will start the process of your new
papers as Sherla Joan Holmes."
"How long?" Sherla asked.
"Not long," Jenny said assuredly. "I have done similar things
before to get one or two of my girls into or out of England. Day
after tomorrow - the day after that at the very latest."
"I have some things I wish to check on tomorrow around Whitehall.
I think the day dress still fits well enough, doesn't it?"
Jenny grinned. "I will adjust some of the seams and raise the
hem so that you can go back to the Cuban heels tonight, dear.
You have grown sufficiently short that I can turn the embroidery
completely under the hem this time."
Miss Holmes sighed gratefully. "Well, that was a wonderful
dinner, Mum, but I have this strong urgent compulsion to offer
you port and cigars."
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Sherla," Jenny said with an
impish grin, "although I will admit that during my younger,
wilder days, I rather delighted upon intruding upon that male
bastion and demanding my own glass and smoke. Of course, that
only made me more of an original and more highly in demand. Very
desirable in my former profession."
"I unconsciously tried to smoke my pipe that first night and
found that Sherla is incapable of ingesting tobacco in any form.
My formerly beloved shag rough-cut very nearly caused me to
become violently ill and I did not even fill, let alone light the
cursed pipe. And then *you* taught me about my recently
acquired, very low tolerance for alcohol. You got me quite foxed
that first day, Mother."
"Did you good!" Jenny affirmed. "Now, why don't you get ready
for bed and I will see to cleaning up from dinner. I am sure you
are fatigued. I know that I am and I only watched as you went
through your first Penance of Eve."
Sherla rose from her chair and then, very deliberately, pressed a
kiss to Jenny's cheek. "You did much more than simply watch,
Mum. I like to think I would have survived on my own, but you
made it much less difficult for me. Thank you."
"You're very welcome, dear," Jenny said just above a whisper
before firming her voice. "Now, to bed with you and don't forget
to cleanse yourself as I taught you. Call if you need help with
the padding."
Another fiery flush blazed across Sherla's face. "Thank you, but
I believe that won't be necessary. Good night, Mother."
"Good night, dear," Jenny said, turning her head toward the
remnants of their meal in order to hide the small grin that she
could not seem to stop.
~------------~
A stumbling sound awoke Jenny from a sound sleep. She was
momentarily disoriented, and then recalled she was sleeping in
Watson's room at Baker Street. A glance at the moonlit clock
told her it was almost four o'clock in the morning. *What could
that be?* she wondered before the answer came to her. *Sherla?
Having trouble with her flux?*
Jenny drew on a robe and hurried out of the room. She discovered
she was better than half right - it was Sherla and she was in
trouble, but it had nothing to do with her menstruation - at
least not directly. Sherla was struggling to fill a hypodermic
needle from a small amber bottle, but with very little success.
For a few moments, Jenny simply observed, unsure what to do.
Clearly, the withdrawal Sherla had told Jenny about had struck
and struck hard. Sherla's breaths were coming in rapid, shallow
pants, leaving her lips too dry for her tongue to moisten. She
was seated at her desk, her bosom straining against her nightgown
as she wedged her breasts onto the table top in an evidently
vain attempt to help control the shaking of the hypodermic long
enough for her to fill it.
*Those symptoms she told me about, and by the look of her, they
are very harsh today. Why can't she sit still?* Jenny asked
herself. *She is shifting about in that chair as if her bottom
hurts. Why didn't she tell me about that symptom? Likely she
has always been too busy trying to treat herself with the drug to
notice something that doesn't directly affect her ability to
inject herself. Well, she can't hold her hands steady either.
She needs help.*
Her decision made, Jenny stepped into the room and gently put her
hands over Sherla's. "I'll do this," she said softly. "You just
tell me how."
Slowly, Sherla relaxed her knuckle-whitening grip on the bottle
and the needle. Her voice shook with the force of her effort to
control herself as she slowly and deliberately explained how to
fill the needle and administer the potion - which Jenny did with
remarkable aplomb.
As always, the effects of the drug were immediate; the fiery heat
in her abdomen swiftly subsided, the cramping eased, and the
almost painful sensitivity of her skin dulled. "Thank you,"
Sherla said in a rasping whisper.
"What happened?" Jenny demanded.
"I tried to extend my time between doses," Sherla replied. "I
have so little of it left and I wasted a dose yesterday. I
started shaking at about three o'clock. I was determined to
overcome this. . . this abomination by sheer force of will, but
finally just couldn't take it any more. I almost didn't get the
dose this time. Thank you again, Mum."
"So, now we can go back to bed?"
"I will certainly have to," Sherla said with a hint of a smile.
She quickly explained the immediate effects of the drug even as
she made her way back to bed.
*Sounds like I need to use the water closet for myself now, and
make certain I am not in her way when she awakens,* Jenny thought
with a smile.
~--------------~
Miss Sherla Holmes felt much better the next morning when she
came into the small dining room, following the scent of Jenny's
superb breakfast. As they ate, they discussed their plans for
the day. Sherla was going to go farther afield and check out
other known Moriarty hiding places for clues. Jenny, who had
already received positive responses to her notes by return
messenger, would make her calls before opening the shop. There,
she would also collect several other outfits that would (or that
would almost) fit the increasingly diminutive Sherla.
The result of three doses in two days had been a measurable
acceleration in Sherla's rate of reduction in both size and age.
She was almost an inch shorter than before her menses began -
nearly down to five feet, two and three quarters inches, and
between the drugs and the elimination of fluid during her
monthly, down to nearly 115 pounds in weight. Jenny had been
disgusted with the corset since she hardly had to use any force
at all to close it up during lacing. "You get a new one of
these, my girl, today!" She had said, the words a promise and
not a threat.
When they left the room at Bakers Street, they did so by separate
cab. They did not want to have to explain things to Maisie.
Entry in the Journal of Miss Sherla Joan Holmes
Date: February 13, 1911. Time: 6:02 P.M.
My Dear Doctor Watson,
A most interesting two days, John, but I must tell you that
except for Jenny, I could have done quite well, thank you so very
much, without the experience. Did you, in your professional
capacity ever deal with a hysterical woman in the grip of her
monthly? I know that you had Mary, but she was a fine example of
Sturdy English Womanhood and I cannot imagine her doing anything
such at that.
I tell you, John, that had it not been for Jenny, I would have
done something akin to that. Not to put too fine a point on it,
John, Menses is Messy! It is also damned uncomfortable. If it
were not for the alternatives, only one of which is becoming a
man again and therefore the least likely, I should just as soon
never go through that again. However, as the most likely
alternative is death, I *think* I can tolerate menstruation . . .
for a while, anyway.
I am reaching the end of my rope, John. I have, at most, a week
of the drug left - more likely six days, but I am experimenting
with reducing the dose by two tenths of a cubic centimeter to see
if that reduces the time between onsets of the withdrawal effect.
Jenny sent a message earlier that I will have my papers tomorrow,
so I am planning to leave for the south of England the very next
day. En route, Holmes will "die". I believe I have that scheme
all worked out. A medical student whose tuition is now paid for
the remainder of his studies will meet us at a small rest stop I
know of along the road to Dover. I have everything else I need.
As for the financial issues, I drew another two thousand pounds
from my accounts and arranged so that the consulting detective,
the protection agency and the medical student will be paid even
should Mr. Holmes die. They will be able to draw on the accounts
based on the contract I signed using Mr. Holmes power of
attorney.
As to my investigations, those came up empty, much as I expected.
All the known lairs of Moriarty were either deserted, destroyed
or were being occupied for some other, more legal capacity. I
was rather taken with the extreme irony of one such case, John.
One of Moriarty's hideouts is now a factory that manufactures
ladies foundations and other undergarments. Given my own
situation, that seems somehow rather appropriate, don't you
think? I imagine that Jenny will get a chuckle or two out of
this.
I won't go into the measurements tonight, John, except to say
that they are still changing. I won't speculate what will happen
to my waist, hips and bosom once Jenny arrives home with the new
corset she's threatened to lock upon me, but my height and weight
continue to drop - almost a full inch in stature and nearly five
pounds in weight. I can give full blame for the loss of inches
to taking three doses of the drug in less than two days, but the
weight drop had several contributing factors. We will see where
that ends up once my bodily humors are more normal again.
Well, I suppose that is all for now. I must dress for the
marvelous dinner that I am certain Mother Jenny will insist I
eat. It is quite a pleasant change to have an appetite again,
John, and to be able to enjoy the flavor of food as well. There
are, I have discovered to my surprise, benefits to this
transformation, and I believe that I am man enough. . .make that
woman enough, to acknowledge those positive aspects.
However few they may be.
Astounding, isn't it? Or is that perhaps more correctly
confounding? Earlier tonight, as I reread my last entry in this
record, I discovered that one interpretation of what I have
written there is that I have made a perfectly well thought out
and rational decision to accept becoming a woman. Odd isn't it?
Especially when I recall that I have always considered women to
be naturally faulty in their thinking and irrational on top of
that. Well, perhaps I am the vanguard of a new woman.
Well, now I must be off. Oh, pardon me, John, you want to know
about the change in address within this entry? Well, as the
entry now states, this is the journal of 'Miss Sherla Joan
Holmes.' As such, calling you simply 'Watson' is somewhat
inappropriate coming from a woman of my apparent age and
upbringing, and yet, calling you 'Doctor Watson' seems too formal
in the extreme, except on formal occasions such as the opening of
the entry. Still, I must start thinking like such a woman,
particularly socially. Therefore, I will open the journal to
'Doctor Watson' and make my discussions, en famille, with John.
Eh what?
Hmmm. . .back to my age. . . perhaps I shall make you my honorary
Uncle John, instead. I think I will discuss this with Jenny.
Well, that is TRULY all for now, Uncle John. A bientot. I will
talk to you again soon.
End Journal Entry.
Chapter 19. Escape!
The hansom cab clattered to a halt in front of 221B Baker Street
just as the sun was sinking beneath the horizon. Jenny Deavers
paid the driver and hurried inside to escape the chilly, damp
February night. Things had not gone as well as they might have
done this day, and she felt the need to be with Sherla to support
her just then.
As she removed her muffler and bonnet in the downstairs foyer,
Jenny heard a soft, sad, but almost-sweet sound issuing from the
upper rooms. She stopped to listen for a moment, trying to put a
name to source of that sound. She was halfway up the stairs when
a particularly sour note intruded on the otherwise haunting
tones. A stern "Damn!" followed that note, whereupon the music,
for that is what Jenny realized it was, resumed.
Violin music, but not any composition Jenny recognized, and she
considered herself something of an afficionado of such things.
It was a taste she'd developed as a gentleman's mistress. Going
to the symphony had been one of her great pleasures in those days
gone by, and music continued to be something she greatly enjoyed
now that she was a modiste.
Jenny let herself into the Holmes establishment and immediately
saw the source of the music. There, seated in the large
comfortable chair, feet pulled up in front of her, was Sherla
playing on an obviously fine and expensive violin. Her eyes were
closed and there was as soft, utterly sensual smile playing on
her full, angel-bowed lips. Jenny could almost forgive the girl
her grossly unfeminine posture for the lovely sounds she was
making with that beautiful instrument.
Another sour note broke the spell and was followed by another
"Damn!" Sherla opened her eyes and stared at her left hand
poised over the throat of the instrument. The look would have
frozen water and Jenny wondered how those fingers would DARE
misbehave in such a manner ever again.
"Ahem!" Jenny called out.
Sherla's head came up in surprise. "Jen. . I mean, Mother!" she
said with a smile of welcome, "I did not hear you enter."
"Obviously, or you would be seated like a lady in that chair
instead of looking like one of the apes on display down at the
Tower of London."
Sherla managed a creditable blush, but hurriedly put her feet
down on the floor, stood up to shake out her skirts, and then
reseated herself with the grace and care Jenny had taught her
that morning. "I've been practicing," Sherla said with a gamine
grin that surprised Jenny almost as much as the music.
"Not enough if that is how I find you when I get home," she said
trying to be stern, but in the end, her curiosity got the better
of her. "How long have you played? What was that beautiful,
haunting melody? Where did you get the violin - it is
beautiful."
"It is a Stradivarius," Sherla replied as she rubbed her tender
fingertips together. *Hmmm, I seem to have lost my playing
callouses as well.* "It belongs to me. . .I mean, it belonged to
Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I have played since childhood. The melody,
that I was not playing very well thanks to fingers that are
smaller than I am used to playing music with, is not really from
any known work. I was simply playing to try and help me think."
"I see," Jenny said quietly, "About what?"
"Options," Sherla replied, "and how few of them I have. I looked
up the paper-aging process in my chemical monographs today,
Mother. It takes a minimum of twenty four hours. I cannot leave
until all the documents are completed and where they belong.
That delays my start for the Continent another day. Time is
running out for me and Moriarty will win, damn his black soul."
"There is no hope for more of the drug, or better yet, an
antidote?" Jenny asked
Miss Sherla Holmes shook her head. "None. I have no idea what
the ingredients are, and therefore, no way of attempting to
concoct an antidote. By the time we can leave here, day after
tomorrow, I will be down to approximately four doses, perhaps
five if I can stretch the drug a bit, but no more."
"So what were you thinking of so musically, dear?" Jenny asked
gently.
"I've been racking my brains, ever since I returned to Baker
Street from my oh-so-fruitless trip to old Moriarty sites, to
come up with the name of a man, *any* man to whom I could give
the onerous task of stopping that Napoleon of Crime.
"And you can think of none?"
"Nary a one, Mother. I have heard rumors about one or two
fellows, but I have never met them to determine their mettle for
myself. And while I have met very good, honest policemen in my
years of consultation, I have never met even one with the
brilliance to stand a chance even against an age diminished
Moriarty, and I cannot really assume that he has been all that
diminished.
Jenny sat quietly for a long time, saying nothing, her eyes
focused on something far away. Finally, she spoke. "And I don't
suppose, that in all of your years, you ever met a woman who
might have such capabilities?" Jenny shook her head angrily.
"Of course you haven't. Not only does our Society frown upon
intelligent, powerful women, other than Victoria, of course, but
you as Holmes would not have recognized such attributes in a mere
woman."
Taken aback by Jenny's outburst, Sherla sat back in the deep
cushioned chair. "I recognized them in you, Jenny," she
eventually said, then her own eyes became unfocused. "Come to
think of it, there is Irene Adler."
"Who?" Jenny's head perked up.
"An opera singer with a talent for investigations. At least
twice that I know of, she bested me in a battle of wits."
"She was a criminal?" Jenny was clearly appalled that a woman,
an EVIL woman, might have defeated Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
A chuckle relieved her fears. "Nothing like that. In both
cases, it was only honorable that she overcome, and well done of
her to have done so. Still, she did best me. . . I wonder. . "
The violin came back to her chin and soon, the eerie, sweet music
again filled the rooms. Jenny was content to listen, and watch
her friend submerge herself in the joy of playing the violin.
This went on for nearly a half hour when, quite suddenly, the
music changed to something that sounded very much like an Irish
jig.
"By Jove, Mother, you are in the right of it. I must go to
Paris, find Irene, and task her to the stopping of Moriarty. By
Heavens, it is perfect. If he uses the same potion on her, he
will only be creating his own worst enemy. Irene is magnificent
as a woman, but were she to be changed into a man - a YOUNG man -
she would be practically be equal to me at my best!"
Still not certain she trusted a woman who had found it necessary
to "best" Mr. Sherlock Holmes (and not really entirely convinced
this opera singer actually could have done so), Jenny's response
was obviously lukewarm.
Sherla heard the uncertainty, and quickly gave Jenny the
particulars on the Bohemian King case during which, Holmes had
met Irene Adler.
"And she dresses in men's clothing?" she asked incredulously.
When Sherla nodded in the affirmative. "Lord, that is something
I always wanted to do, but never quite had the courage to try in
my youth."
"Odd you should mention that, Jenny. Day after tomorrow, I have
a task for you as part of my plan to escape.
"Oh really? Aren't you going to tell me what that task is?"
Jenny asked, only to smile when she got the expected negative
response from her foster daughter. "Oh very well, then, be that
way. Then you might as well deal with these," she added, tossing
a small bundle to Sherla. "Those are the papers you asked me to
procure for you from my friends and contacts."
Sherla quickly scanned through the various documents, a smile
forming that quickly grew radiant. "Well done, Mother. Thank
you. I will start aging these while you prepare dinner.
~-----------------~
The morning after next, Sherla exited the Baker Street lodgings
dressed in her "Nurse Hanks" uniform and was met by a pale, thin
young man in an ill fitting uniform of London cab driver. Miss
Holmes smiled at the nervous man and inspected the landau
carriage he had driven to her home. After a few moments, she
nodded. *It will do adequately enough,* she thought. Actually,
she had wanted a four horse team, but the need for secrecy had
forced her to use the young medical student as her driver.
Controlling a "four-in-hand" was simply beyond his skill as a
driver.
For all his inadequacy as a driver, using him in that role did
provide additional protection for the mission's secrecy. The
would-be doctor had a great deal riding on the successful outcome
of this mission. Jenny now had written authority to withdraw the
Holmes Estate's financial support that would put the young man
through medical school in some degree of comfort. If he talked
imprudently about this little adventure, his dreams of a medical
career might as well go up the nearest chimney as smoke.
"Everything is in readiness? All three special cargos are here?"
Sherla finally asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," the young would-be doctor replied. "Two in the
back and the other thing in the main compartment. Good thing
it's chilly, though, Ma'am."
"True," Sherla might have said more, but just then the Baker
Street door opened again to allow a very old, bent man to make
his painful way up to the landau. Sherla, as nurse, hurried to
assist her patient into the carriage. "Let us be on our way,"
she ordered as she herself ascended into the cab, "I wish to be
at the way-station by noon."
~------------~
They arrived at the way station about a half hour past noon, but
fortunately still before the normal mid-day meal hour. The
driver drove the landau over to a space behind the outdoor
facilities, and hopped down to help his passengers disembark.
Sherla had chosen this place because she remembered how well
sheltered the outdoor privies were from prying eyes by their own
construction and by the nearby woods on the side opposite the
main inn.
The suddenly spritely old man hurried into the mens' room while
Sherla went into the ladies' convenience. They met outside but a
few moments later. "All clear," they both said simultaneously.
Quickly, the three opened the after baggage compartment. Working
together, they strained to remove two long, narrow and relatively
heavy bags from within the baggage compartment whereupon the two
"men" carried one bag into each of the two restrooms while Sherla
kept watch.
Each bag was then perched upon one of the seats provided inside
the outdoor facilities. Then Sherla opened her portmanteau and
removed a large paper-wrapped package with a clock device affixed
to the top of it. The box was set immediately in front of the
larger of the two bags in the men's side of the privies. In the
meantime, the driver and the "old man" carried in the "third
package", a costume-dummy dressed in women's clothing. Quickly,
the "old man" stripped off the clothing and the makeup to reveal
Jenny.
Sherla helped Jenny don the dummy's more normal feminine attire.
"You are sure everything will burn," Jenny asked one last time.
"Yes, the explosive includes substantial portions of white
phosphorous and magnesium. The explosion will become incendiary
almost immediately, and there is no way, short of allowing it to
burn itself out, to extinguish that type of fire. The dummy was
specifically constructed of particularly flammable materials and
this old buildings are redolent with highly combustible
hydrocarbon compounds. This place, and everything in it will be
reduced to ashes within minutes. Now, you and the driver must go
to the inn and demand meals for four. I will give you two
minutes to get inside the inn, and then I will set the timer for
two minutes and go hide in the woods as we planned."
"As YOU planned, Miss," Jenny said caustically. "I still believe
I should accompany you - young ladies, such as you are *now*, are
expected to travel with companions to protect their virtue."
"And female though I am *now*," Sherla retorted with a gentle
smile, *I am not traveling as a Lady, Jenny, but as an underpaid
companion on my way to France to meet with an English lady living
abroad who wishes to hire me. Such women as I will purport to be
*do* travel alone. In fact, it might raise suspicion if I were
*not* traveling alone." Sherla saw her arguments were having as
little effect on Jenny as the last time they had this . . .
"discussion". "Mother," she finally said in a very quiet voice.
"This could be dangerous. I cannot do what I MUST do if I am
worried about you. Please," she finally added.
Jenny stared at her for a long moment, and then swept the girl
into a fierce hug. "You damn well come home safely, girl!" she
ordered intensely. "I don't want to lose the daughter I have
always yearned for just days after I finally meet her."
"God speed, Mother," Sherla said.
"God speed to you as well, daughter," Jenny said before she
stepped out of the room.
Sherla heard the springs of the landau creak, and the horses'
shod feet clank against the stone drive. She mentally counted
off one hundred twenty seconds while she made one last check to
ensure no one was approaching the privies, and then set the timer
on her explosive device. She snatched up her portmanteau, and
hurried into the woods, away from the Inn. *Thankfully, there
isn't any snow and this stone will not give the local police any
footprint clues.*
One hundred twenty seconds later, the outdoor privy building
exploded in a blaze of white light, red flames and black smoke.
As Sherla had predicted, in less than five minutes, the walls of
the building collapsed under the hellish heat. By the time
anyone from the inn arrived on the scene, there was little left
but ashes.
However, a high pitched feminine squeal told Sherla, that perhaps
something recognizable might have survived from the two cadavers
the medical student had procured and helped them plant on the
scene. *Good bye, Mr. Sherlock Holmes and unknown nurse,* she
thought grimly. *Rest in peace.*
Without a backward glance, Miss Sherla Holmes turned away and
started walking parallel to the road towards Dover. She'd flag
down the next packet along the way. With any luck, she'd be in
Dover by nightfall.
~--------------~
London Times, Morning Edition,
February 16, 1911.

Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street,
well known consulting detective of
yesteryear, was evidently murdered yesterday
at a small traveler's way station south of
London on the Dover Road. According to Chief
Inspector Harley Quinn of Scotland Yard, an
explosive device of great power was placed in
the men's outbuilding necessary while Mr.
Holmes was inside. According to Inspector
Quinn, the device was purpose designed to act
quickly under such conditions. "The
explosion is the most likely cause of death,
but we won't ever likely know," the Chief
told this correspondent, "The fire was so
hot, there is precious little left of him for
the coroner to examine. Even his bones began
to burn."

There were no eye-witnesses, but the driver,
a Mr. David Thomas, and a fellow passenger, a
Miss Jenny Deavers, said that Mr. Holmes did
not appear to be well at the time of the
incident. In fact, Mr. Thomas had been
forced to help Mr. Holmes' nurse to carry him
into the men's facility. "He was like dead
weight," Mr. Thomas said, "Never said a word
to me after I helped him inside, either."

In addition to Mr. Holmes, an as-yet
unidentified young woman - small in stature
according to what little the coroner has been
able to deduce from the few bones left
undamaged, died in the same explosion and
fire. She was trapped in the women's
necessary with the explosive device went off.
Chief Inspector Quinn speculates that this
may have been the Nurse. No name is
available at this time.

Mr. Holmes is not known to be survived by any
living relatives. His home at Baker Street
has been sealed by officials pending a review
of his records and effects before the reading
of his will.


~----------------~
Moriarty smiled as he reread for perhaps the tenth time the
article from the Times, as well as obituaries from several other
prominent papers. So, Holmes had finally decided to take the
easy way out. Too bad in a way, Moriarty mused, for it would
have been quite delightful, once his drug was perfected, to have
a female Holmes at his youthful mercy. What a triumph it would
have been, to force her to accept him as a woman accepts a
superior man.
Well, he had anticipated this. Holmes, like Moriarty himself,
was a creature of pure intellect. Eventually, the creeping
consumption of femininity had eaten away at that magnificent
mind, slowly destroying its power and reason. Naturally, Holmes
must have reached the point where he could no longer tolerate
such a diminution of powers, and had elected to end it all. Much
as he had planned to do before Moriarty had inadvertently
interfered. A chuckle broke the silence. That merely delayed
the death, and it meant Holmes had been forced to deal with his
loss while trying to come up with a means to carry to fight to
Moriarty.
So, in the end, the great Sherlock Holmes had failed, and the
Professor had won. He looked down and read the article once
again. *I wonder how Holmes managed to get the male body to burn?
The driver's comment about dead weight is a dead give away.
Holmes must have set the explosive device himself, and then went
to the women's facility to make it look like an accident,* Then,
another thought struck Moriarty. It would appear that it is just
as well that I resisted the temptation to leave any clues or
false trails to tease Miss Holmes. Waste of time I did not and
still do not have. Most particularly if doing so would not have
added substantially to Miss Holmes' feelings of ill use and
torment."
Moriarty raised his glass in toast. "To Holmes, my old enemy.
Even in your madness and in the method of your death, you were
brilliant. You were almost a matchless foe, but I am Moriarty.
Ultimately, it had to end this way." He finished his drink and
threw the glass into the fireplace. "Good Riddance, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes."
Chapter 20: Adrift on a Sea of Memories
Sherla stood upon the open weather deck of the small sailing
ferry that was making its way through the English Channel. She
was grateful for the small favor of clear if chilly weather for
she had not purchased a first class ticket that would have
granted her access to the interior compartments of the small
vessel. That would have been inconsistent with her role as an
impoverished, traveling gentlewoman, and she preferred to deviate
from that guise as little as possible until she could lose
herself in the French interior.
As fortune would have it, this small but fast ship was actually
the best imaginable solution to Sherla's current problems. The
graceful little sloop permitted her to follow her original plan
of staying in character until she'd arrived in France without
sacrificing the speed she urgently required.
Sherla had already been forced to take some liberties with her
carefully thought out strategy after arriving in Dover the
previous night. She'd hoped to be able to sail for France
immediately upon her arrival in the city, but none of the sailing
schedules were compatible with her drug administration schedule.
That had necessitated taking a private (and rather costly) room
at the White Cliff Inn.
Her planned course of action to maintain as low a profile as
possible during the English leg of her voyage had been, at least
temporarily, abandoned. The unrelenting demand of her body for
Moriarty's drug and the equally vital need for privacy when she
dealt with the potion's aftereffects had ultimately taken
precedence. If bespeaking the room had called her to the
attention of some Moriarty underling, then so be it. She would
deal with that when the consequences arose as best she could.
Staying the night in that room had, however, cost Sherla twelve
critical hours she did not have to spare. That morning over
breakfast, she had decided it was time to abandon her disguise
completely and to make a decisive move. Sherla had looked into
chartering a boat, but as it turned out, none of the available
vessels would have gotten her to France any sooner than this
ferry.
Alone in her thoughts, Sherla made her way around towards the bow
of the ferry. Most of the other second and third class customers
were crowded in behind the deckhouse, trying to stay out of the
wind and thus stay as warm as possible. Miss Holmes decided that
she required privacy more than comfort at that moment.
Happily, she found a small bench set behind the forecastle which
blunted the wind well enough for her purposes. Carefully, she
set down the her small reticule in which she carried the second
set of papers Jenny had provided for her. These identified her
as a Miss Daphne Barnstable of Sussex and had been procured
against the fear that some easily bribed customs official might
find the name "Miss S. Holmes" just a mite too memorable.
Additionally, she laid down a small, brown paper-wrapped parcel
that contained a letter of introduction from Mr. Sherlock Holmes
as well as certain memorabilia that Sherla fervently hoped would
help establish her true identity with the indomitable Irene
Adler.
From her portmanteau, Sherla removed her journal and, after
checking for prying eyes, Mr. Sherlock Holmes' prized reservoir
fountain pen. She had, of necessity, left the violin in Jenny's
keeping, but the pen had seemed too important to leave behind.
It had been a birthday gift from Watson. With a soft sigh for
that memory, Sherla opened the journal and began to write.
Entry in the Journal of Miss Sherla Joan Holmes
Date: February 16, 1911 aboard the English Channel Ferry-Sloop,
Dover Princess.
Time: Approximately 11:00 A.M.
My Dear Doctor Watson,
Since it would be out of character to carry a watch in my current
disguise, an approximate time is the best I am able to do in this
entry. Most annoying because I reach for the thing more times
than I care to admit, John. That is unfortunate, because I have
discovered by recent experience that women who often pat
themselves beneath their bosoms tend to draw undue and unwanted
attention to themselves. Thus far, the only person who has asked
me about this was the innkeeper's wife last evening who was
concerned that her very unremarkable beef pudding might have
caused me gastronomic distress. I allowed her to think what she
would, but retired to my room immediately thereafter.
By the same token, I cannot give you any valid measurements since
I have not had access to scales or measure tapes since I left
Baker Street yesterday. However, my new corset is not impeding
my breathing, and I assure you that most certainly *did* restrict
my inhalations yesterday when Jenny laced me into this whale-
boned version of the Iron Lady. My skirts would be dragging if
not for the higher heeled shoes I put on this morning at the
White Cliff. So I must assume that the drug is working as it has
to date.
On a related note, my experimental reduction in the volume of the
drug I take each time has been unsuccessful. I had hoped that
this strategy might have the benefit of extending my very limited
stores of Moriarty's drug, but thus far, the ten percent
reduction in volume administered has resulted in a nearly
equivalent reduction in the time between withdrawal symptom
onset. So I am not gaining anything in so far as my time until
drug exhaustion occurs, and have lost the very convenient
schedule I was following prior to my attempt at adjusting the
dose.
As is obvious, I have made it to the Channel, John, and will soon
land in France. At that point, I shall, as I planned, cast off
this pretense of poverty and hire the fastest available coach
carriage. By my calculations, it is just over 160 miles from my
point of debarkation to the village outside of Paris where I hope
Irene still resides. Ordinarily, a fast coach can cover one
hundred miles a day, but I intend to pay a premium price for non-
stop service. With any luck, I shall arrive at Irene's front door
within twenty four hours, or one dose, of making landfall in
France.
Once I am certain I am on my way, I will administer a twenty four
hour dose of the drug to ensure that I have no problems doing so
later on the road. I will simply have to ensure that the coach
is sufficiently comfortable for the inevitable sleep and has a
tightly covered chamber pot.
That is a compromise, as I would prefer not to take the drug
until absolutely necessary. There is so very little of the
potion remaining, and therefore, so very little time left before
I face that final withdrawal without any agent to relieve or
blunt its effects. I think I have perhaps four days worth, but
more likely three days supply with some dregs. However, that is
not the only reason that I have made the decision to acquire such
a conveyance and to press for non-stop service.
In truth, I am gambling a very great deal that I know Irene
Adler's current address. She may have moved in recent times and
in those final days before my attempt upon my own life, I would
not have known of it. The implication of this is that I may have
to search for her once I arrive at my destination which will
quite obviously require some time - a commodity that only the
most rapid and direct transport to her last known address might
afford me.
I can only hope that such a change of tactics, along with the
report of my and "Joan's" deaths will deflect any pursuit.
That was the primary motivation behind the admittedly complex
precautions I took when staging my "death". Ordinarily, I have a
marked preference for simpler stratagems as there are less
opportunities to run afoul of some unexpected problem, but in
this case, I felt the complexity was warranted. The
justification for the dressing dummy that was already in the
landau when it arrived at Baker's Street is an example of what I
had in mind. I was concerned that some unusually observant
person might have noted our arrival at the way station's
outbuilding privy and also note the number of people inside the
carriage.
Admittedly, such an individual is extremely rare in my
experience, but if there was ever an opportunity for such an
individual to completely disrupt the best laid plans, that was
such a one. You know, John, that sounds like a rather profound
statement of natural law - "Whatever might go wrong in all
likelihood will go wrong at precisely the least opportune time."
Perhaps if I do live and have the time, I shall investigate a
logical proof of that statement. Holmes' Law. I think I rather
like it.
Whatever.
As I started to discuss, had there been but three people aboard,
and one of those the driver, Jenny's presence at an otherwise
underpopulated inn might have drawn undue interest. So the dress
dummy became the third person inside the landau. It was made of
very old wood and cloth, John. Goodness, you could have used it
for tinder. Thus, Jenny was able to change out of her male garb
and safely appear as a distraught female passenger when the privy
exploded while she ordered dinner from the innkeeper's wife. It
is also why I elected to walk further south before hailing a
passing coach to Dover.
Apparently that particular tactic succeeded for the newspapers
gave no indication that the authorities are looking for a woman
suspect in the murder. Given modern tastes for melodrama, I am
certain that, had there was the most minimal possibility that a
"member of the gentler, fairer sex" was suspected of doing in the
famous Mr. Sherlock Holmes, that supposition would have made the
front page of the Times, at the very least.
We are scheduled to make port sometime after two this afternoon.
As I said earlier, I hope to be able to hire the carriage
immediately and travel straight through. If not, I will do all
that I can before. . . well, before the end.
We've been through this before, haven't we, John? I recall well
our last walk along that mountain trail to Reichenbach Falls just
before that confrontation with Moriarty that left both he and I
dead to the world for so many years. And while we have been
through such hours of finality before, old friend, I find it
feels far different now than it did those many years ago.
I was at peace with myself and my life back then, John, but now,
I feel rather melancholy. I was prepared to die to stop the
great evil that was Professor Moriarty. I am prepared to do so
now, but I know that I will very likely be denied that
opportunity this time. I do not fear death, but I hate leaving
such a malevolent force as James Moriarty loose upon an
unsuspecting world - particularly during such a period of such
international turmoil. A mind such as his might well determine
that a world conflict - one that pits all the major powers of the
world against one another in horrible, senseless bloodshed -
could be quite to his liking and ultimate benefit.
And I will not be here to stop him.
For reasons beyond my power to change, I will be unable to face
him and stop him personally. Well, I have accepted that because
I must accept that. Intellectually, I know there is no shame in
this failure for I will be denied the opportunity through no
fault of my own. But it burns at me, John. God in heaven, how
it burns.
It is quite apparent that he has won this final battle between
the two of us, old friend. The three or four days of sanity I my
remaining supply of his foul drug provide me are insufficient to
ferret out where on this vast continent he has gone to ground.
However, I *refuse* to surrender to him, John! If I cannot be the
direct agent of his final demise, then by all I hold holy, I will
engineer his destruction indirectly. That is why I have invested
all the time that appears to remain to me to find someone to
carry on the fight that I will soon be incapable of prosecuting
myself. Even there, I must admit to some significant misgivings.
Am I correct to entrust this undertaking to Irene Adler instead
of that little Belgian fellow in Brussels? That she has the
intellectual powers needed by this quest is not in doubt, but she
is still a *woman*, John.
I can practically hear you telling me that I am a woman now, and
that Irene is more than simply "a" woman, that she is "the"
woman. True enough. And she has bested me, or rather, she has
bested Mr. Sherlock Holmes twice that I am aware of, and no one
else, not even Moriarty can truthfully make such a claim.
Besides, the die is cast, John. I am close enough to Paris to
have sufficient time to find her if she has moved, if just
barely. The other fellow is too often undercover or god-knows-
where on special assignment. I have a much better chance of
passing on my task to Irene.
And of course, I can always tell her about Atlas. . or whatever
the little Belgian's name is when I see her and entrust Moriarty
to her. That is, if I can convince the lady that I am. . .I WAS
Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I must admit, John, that I am not entirely
certain that my little package will accomplish that bit of
persuasion. If a big, strapping young lad calling himself Ira
Adler had ever shown up at Baker Street, I would have been more
than a trifle difficult to convince that he was the lovely Irene
changed into a man. The entire premise is simply so cursed
preposterous and yet, I now know from my own experience that it
is possible. I suppose that I will have to ad lib as the scene
plays itself out. Ought to be quite a performance, especially if
I somehow manage to succeed.
Once again, I find myself wishing you were here, old friend. I
never told you during out time together how grateful I was, and
am, for your friendship and companionship. How much I missed you
during those years after the Reichenbach Falls or during the
years of your marriage to your Mary. How much I have missed you
since your untimely death. I can state in perfect honesty, John,
that I never envied you her love in the old days, John, but now,
I think I do. Would that I might have lived my own life
differently.
I have learned, in the past few, very intensely lived days, that
there is a difference between being alone and being lonely that I
never truly appreciated before. Or perhaps more correctly, never
permitted myself to appreciate. I certainly never understood the
distinction until now. Thanks to the impact of Jenny and Maisie
on my life, I now understand the difference VERY clearly.
I am lonely, old friend.
And I miss you terribly.
The air here on the sea is very sweet and clean, John. I think I
shall put this tome aside for a time and enjoy the simple act of
breathing. There is little else I can do before we arrive at the
French Port, not that I don't wish it otherwise.
I don't know if or when I will be able to write in this journal
again, John. Once I reach the mainland and begin my headlong
dash toward Irene, I doubt even the most expensive, finely sprung
carriage will permit my hand to be sufficiently steady to write
at all legibly in this book.
God's blessings, old friend.
I remain,
Most sincerely yours,
Sherla (nee Sherlock) Holmes
End Journal Entry
~--------------~
Excerpt from the Experimental Journal of Professor Moriarty
February 16, 1911
With the apparent elimination of Mr. Holmes, some of the pressure
to arrive at a solution to the weapons problem has been relieved.
I have, therefore, directed Dr. Haber to concentrate his efforts
on the addiction/gender changing effects of the preparation.
I was again forced to give the good doctor a modicum of
encouragement as he was, in my estimation, sleeping entirely too
many hours of the day. Three days ago, I administered the
current preparation in concentrated form to one of two
chimpanzees I had acquired as test subjects. Dr. Haber was quite
horrified when I showed him the reports I had received on Mr.
Holmes from my agent before I disappeared and the newspaper
clippings about his unfortunate death. He was even more
horrified when I forced the now female animal into withdrawal by
withholding the drug.
Seeing the subject's former companion forced to kill the now-
female animal in self defense was rather illustrative, I think,
of what he might expect if I should, for some as yet unspecified
reason, be forced to administer a similar injection to him during
one of his entirely too frequent sleep periods.
Some interesting developments have since occurred. Haber has
managed to eliminate the addiction from one preparation, but at
the cost of the rejuvenative effect. Essentially, the subject
still becomes female, but no younger. It may have a future use.
Another formulation caused no rejuvenation or gender change, but
was highly addictive. The possibilities of this preparation as a
revenue source are being considered. Several other attempts were
not addictive, but no longer had either the rejuvenative or
gender changing effects.
Thus far, our research indicates that the rejuvenation effect is
very tightly linked with the two unacceptable side effects. Most
unfortunate since at my age I have very little time. Thus, I
have directed my underlings to begin the search for another
chemistry genius. Two heads are supposedly better than one, and
I am beginning to fear that Dr. Haber's weapon's oriented mind,
while brilliant and *very* highly motivated, is not suited to the
more biochemical needs of this project.
End Journal Entry.
End Part 1