Jeremy and Holmes were waiting for us on the doorstep.
"Our apologies," Holmes said. "Brett and I hadn't realized you'd fallen behind."
Jeremy looked concerned, "Are you doing alright, David?"
I waved away his concern, "Oh, I'm fine. Another dose of painkillers and a little rest and I'll be right as rain."
Holmes and Watson preceded us up the stairs.
"After you," I motioned for Jeremy to go first.
He headed up the stairs and I followed slowly. The next thing I heard was a sharp cry.
"NO!" It was Jeremy. I bounded up the rest of the stairs, heedless of any pain in my arm.
"What! What is is?" I came up behind him and gasped.
He turned to me, stricken. "Not yet. I wasn't ready!"
I stared around me.
We were back. The set looked just as we'd left it. Full of cameras, lights and people...who were all staring at us.
"Your arm!" Jeremy cried and reached out to touch where I had been shot. There was no pain. For that matter, there was no sling and no wound. I looked at my clothes. I was in my costume, the gray suit I'd started this whole adventure in.
"We didn't even get to say good bye," Jeremy said softly. "I'm not ready," he repeated. He collapsed into a nearby chair. Completely overwhelmed, I sank to the floor beside him and slumped forward, my head cradled in my hands. I couldn't even speak.
"David? Jeremy?" It was the director. "What's going on, fellas?"
I stood abruptly, "I'm terribly sorry," I said, "but I need a moment." I turned and walked off the set. Jeremy followed me wordlessly.
"Hey, what's going on?" The director shouted after us. "We're on a tight schedule here!"
We ignored him and went to my dressing room. We sat down and just stared at each other.
"Tell me you remember it," he said softly.
"Every moment," I replied.
"Thank God," he sighed heavily. "So was it real?"
"I don't know how it could have been. And there's no bullet wound in my arm." As I spoke, my arm twinged. I jerked and stared at my appendage like it was a foreign thing.
"What?" Jeremy asked, his eyes wide.
Wordlessly, I shrugged out of my coat and started unbottoning my shirt.
"What are you doing?"
"Just checking something." I pulled my arm out of my sleeve and stared.
Jeremy gasped, "Unbelievable!"
I had a scar. I didn't have a scar when this whole mess began. The bullet had left its mark.
"What is going on here?"
"I don't know," I said helplessly. "This is all beyond me."
Jeremy suddenly stood and dashed off. I was stunned by his sudden movement. I redressed while he was gone. He was back shortly with his volume of the complete stories of Sherlock Holmes. He was flipping quickly through the pages. He found the story and skipped to the end. His face fell.
"It's the same. The story hasn't changed. He's dead."
"We knew that was a possibility, Jeremy."
"Yes, but if nothing was going to change, then why -"
There was a knock at the door, cutting him off.
"Just a moment!" I snapped.
"Mr. Burke, a package just arrived for you," an apologetic voice called through the door.
"Thank you, just leave it there."
"Will do, sir."
There was a soft thump and footsteps moving away. Jeremy got up, opened the door and picked it up. His demeanor changed instantly.
"David, look at this!" He was nearly buzzing with excitement. I was astonished at his abrupt mood shift. He held out the package. I took it and gaped.
It was a rather heavy rectangular package. The return address was Cox & Co. I looked up and met Jeremy's eyes.
"Open it!" he urged.
I did so quickly, tearing at the brown paper packaging. There were two envelopes enclosed sitting on top of a battered tin box. One envelope was addressed with a typewriter. The other was addressed by hand. I tore open the typewritten one first.
Dear Mr. Burke,
We are delivering this package to you at the express wishes of one Doctor John H. Watson. We received these directions long ago and are pleased to have the opportunity to carry them out.
Manager, Cox & Co.
I tossed the letter to Jeremy, and he read it as I tore into the next. The hand addressed envelope with my name on it in neat, bold script.
My dear Burke,
I'm enclosing a letter I recently received from Mr. Hilton Cubitt. I just published 'The Adventure of the Dancing Men' and he wrote to me. Also enclosed is a copy of my reply to him. The third enclosure
is rather large. It is my dispatch box with all of the cases I recorded, the one we shared included. There is also an original manuscript of 'The Dancing Men' that I want you to have. It includes an unpublished
dedication. Take good care of them.
Very sincerely yours,
John H. Watson, M.D.
I handed the letter to Jeremy who was waiting impatiently and found the other enclosed letters.
I just finished reading your story in the Strand. I enjoyed it very much, but was also a great deal surprised. Here I am sitting in the comfort of my library, my wife in the other room, reading about my death and
her attempted suicide!
My dear sir, whatever made you write the story as a failure of Mr. Holmes's? It was a wonderful triumph! We are alive and well and never happier.
I'm not criticizing, my good fellow, but merely curious. The story really was very good. And rather chilling to see how things may have turned out had you and Mr. Holmes not intervened.
Again, thank you for all you have done for us. God bless you and Mr. Holmes.
Yours most sincerely,
My head was spinning. This was just too much! Wordlessly I handed Jeremy Mr. Cubitt's letter and pulled out Watson's response.
Dear Mr. Cubitt,
Thank you for your letter. It was gratifying to hear from you and to know that you and your wife are well.
I'm glad that you enjoyed the story, even though things didn't turn out as you'd expected. You see, though the case itself was a success, Holmes did not consider it a personal success. We had help from some
friends who were with us briefly. They were actually the ones to solve the case. Holmes did not want the credit for it, but I wanted to write up an account because of our friends. Unfortunately, for various
reasons, they could not be included in the account, so I wrote this as a tribute to them. A reminder of, as you say, what could have happened had they not been here and willing to assist us.
So, really you have our friends to thank for your current happiness. I will pass your thanks on to them when I can.
John H. Watson
I passed that letter to Jeremy as well. I lifted the dispatch box onto my lap. Reverently, I ran a hand over the lid. The faded, painted words 'John H. Watson., M.D., Late Indian Army' were smooth under my hand. Slowly I opened the lid. There on top was the manuscript Watson had referred to. The pages were yellowed and brittle. Gently I took it out. I turned past the title page and found the dedication he mentioned. A lump formed in my throat and I could feel my eyes burning.
"Jeremy, look," I managed.
He came over next to me and read aloud over my shoulder, "To Jeremy and David, family who were taken from us much too quickly. Believe it or not, we miss you." He choked up at the last words and had to clear his throat.
"Well," he said huskily, "That was unexpected."
Someone pounded on the door and we both jumped. "Let's go, boys! We gotta get to work!" It was the director again.
I closed the dispatch box quickly and slid it under the table. Jeremy set the letters down. I stood and straightened my suit. We were both smiling widely. Manic grins might be a better description.
"Well, my dear Watson, shall we get to work?"
"There's nothing I'd like better, Holmes."
He slipped his arm through mine and we headed for our sitting room.
A/N: Well, there you have it. I hope it lived up to your expectations. I'm sad to say good bye to the boys. I had a grand time. And thank you to everybody who has made this all the more enjoyable with your great reviews.