The Fall of the Phoenix

Chapter Seven

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)

Holmes and Watson left Lestrade by her car to head home for a couple of hours' sleep. It was late and although Holmes wanted to walk back to Baker Street with his friend, Watson needed to recharge his batteries. As he watched Watson take off in the sky car, Holmes began to think about the day; if it had been earlier he would have gone to see Tennyson, but as it was late he turned his footsteps towards home and hearth.

He headed away from the police station down streets and past the huge shops and markets; although closed they cast light over the street like a window of light in the dark night. After a while Holmes cut into the back streets and began trekking down the alleys he had once stalked as the master detective of the golden age of Victorian England. Footsteps began from the darkness behind him matching his exactly. He slowed, they slowed; he went faster and they speeded up. Eventually Holmes readied his cane and turned to meet his stalker.

The alley was dark and almost empty, but Holmes had walked these streets for years and knew the quirks of New London in dark or light. He caught sight of a pair of shoes peeking out from the darkness of a corner. 'Ho there!' he shouted, brandishing his stick 'Show yourself, man! or are you planning to play cat and mouse across the streets of the city all night?'

The shoes stepped back into the darkness.

'I think, Holmes, that I will stay with cat and mouse just now.' Something in Holmes' brain began jumping up and down to get his attention. He recognised that voice.

'Moriarty.' He put up a tight fighting stance 'Professor James Moriarty.' The darkness in the alley seemed to grow.

'One and the same, Holmes.'

Holmes tried to keep everywhere Moriarty could possibly be hiding in view, which was difficult at best. 'What do you want with me?'

Something moved in the darkness; a silver locket fell at Holmes' feet. 'Pick it up.'

Still with one arm raised, Holmes bent down and ran his fingertips over the ground until he touched the locket. He picked it up.

'Open it.' Holding it at arms' length, Holmes flicked it open. Inside was a portrait of a very beautiful dark-haired woman and on the other side a picture of a small boy. Both were done in the style of the Victorian era.

'Reproductions, I’m afraid, and poor ones at best.'

Holmes closed the locket. 'Your wife and child?' There was silence in the dark for a minute.

'Yes.' The imposing figure of Professor Moriarty stepped out of the darkness and into the light, mottled as it was with the over-spill from the few windows. Holmes threw back the locket and Moriarty caught it thoughtfully before putting it back in a pocket.

'Emily was a very fine lady, with a heart which could vary between the flame and the ashes in a day...I believe that when we were married she was very much in love. However, it cooled and vanished over the few years she lived before her illness overcame her.' Moriarty moved and Holmes followed his movements with the cane in his hand. He moved around Holmes like a tiger ready to pounce -- but tiredly as well, exhausted, in fact.

'Edward was born early in our time together and as her illness grew worse she became frightened what my ‘career’ could do to him. She made me promise two things to her before she died. That Edward would be put in the care of a relative and should have no more to do with his father...It hurt me, but for her sake and the boy’s it was done. The second thing was that no matter what else happened I was always to protect my family.'

Holmes slowly lowered the cane to the ground; Moriarty nodded his head and sat down upon a packing crate.

'You know what has happened then?'

Moriarty nodded. 'One of my agents was there; the useless mongrel couldn’t even get anywhere near the man who crashed into her.'

'Do you have any idea why this happened?'

Moriarty's mouth twitched into a snarl and nodded. 'I suppose you have heard of Scar before.'

'The group?'

'The gang and its mistress. They have been trying to drive me out of New London every since I came back.'

Holmes put a hand to his chin. 'She’s a bargaining chip.'

'Nothing so simple, Mr Holmes. As far as I can understand the workings of this Scar’s mind, I believe she wants me to attempt a rescue...and then she will kill me.' Moriarty stood up.

Holmes raised his cane again. 'Why involve me?'

Moriarty looked at something in the distant darkness of the alley. 'You can go places I would be seen, where I would cause harm to my great granddaughter by being.'

'And why do you think I’ll do it?'

Moriarty smiled the cat-like smile of his. 'I don’t think Tennyson would be at all amused to find his friend murdered.' Moriarty made for the darkness again.

'Why do you care about someone you’ve never met, Professor?'

Moriarty stopped and looked back. 'Mr Holmes, you confuse an emotion with a duty. If it were my choice I would let her die. We will be in touch, Mr Holmes.' With that he turned, and Holmes watched as the darkness consumed him.

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