The Eighth Guest

Chapter Seventeen

by TT (a.m.tilmouth at
"Holmes! I can't tell you how worried we were."
Holmes rubbed his eyes and the droid finally came into view.
"Watson! My dear chap. I take it, then, that last weapon blast was from you."
"Lestrade, actually, Holmes. Looked to me like we arrived in the nick of time."
The whole alley came into view in muted colours. The unfortunate Rat lay face down on the alley floor, silver cuffs pinning both hands together; he was still murmuring to himself even though half-conscious. Lestrade was over the other side of the alley, her police communicator clutched to her mouth.
"...required immediately, I repeat, ambulance required immediately to the bottom of Queens Street in section N. Also send squad car and morgue wagon over, we've got bodies."
She looked up as Holmes and Watson approached and gave them a thin smile. "Watson, get a blanket out the car and bring it over here, Tessa needs more than a jacket to keep warm."
As Watson trundled off to the car Lestrade knelt down next to Peter, who was still sitting behind the dustbins the unconscious border in his arms. Holmes was already crouched next to them. Peter was trying to keep her limp head on his shoulder so that she could breathe.
"She'll be fine," he said in a shaky voice. "She's been worse before -- the fire, that pile up last year, the kidnapping...she'll be fine...she has to be."
There was awkward silence for a moment, broken only by Tessa's shallow rumbling breathing. Eventually Lestrade spoke.
"We should get her to the car, it's warmer...the ambulance will be here soon."
The ambulance came and went, the police cordoned off the area, and the bodies were removed. What had began that night in the restaurant finished in London's Memorial Hospital. Miss Fayre and the Baker Street Irregulars were fetched from the Night Light, fresh clothes were brought up by Watson and Holmes and Lestrade. Both had to be checked out at the hospital. Ling withdrew into himself, in some kind of state of shock after the evening's events and their conclusion.
It was an hour before everybody finally met in the waiting room; there were murmured hellos and the room fell silent again. Soon everybody seemed to split into groups. Holmes, Lestrade and Watson began to piece together the evening's events from the fragments each of them had gathered individually, Miss Fayre and the Irregulars sat talking quietly amongst themselves in a corner. Ling expressed a wish to be alone and was left so.
It was a long time before a doctor finally appeared; once again the room fell silent.
"Is this the group that came in with Miss Moriarty?"
Peter spoke up for the first time in two hours. "Yes...How is she."
The doctor drummed a nervous finger against the bottom of the notebook. "I would like to speak to two of her principal family members if I private." Miss Fayre and Peter Ling stood up, moving as if in a dream. For a moment the motors on Tennyson's hoverchair buzzed as he prepared to move it forward, but his aunt laid a hand on his shoulder.
"No, Tennyson, please, stay here with our friends. We won't be long." Bending down, she kissed him on the cheek and walked after the retreating figures of Peter Ling and the doctor.
Twenty minutes later they reappeared. Miss Fayre was pale but smiling. Peter looked like somebody had punched him in the stomach and sat down heavily on the nearest plastic chair.
"She's going to be fine."
At the sound of the words a collective sigh seemed to escape from everyone, but Peter stared fixedly at the floor and mumbled something unintelligible as Mrs Fayre continued brightly.
"The doctor said she's under heavy sedation at the moment. She has a couple of broken ribs, some minor cuts and bruising and the glass appears to have severed several blood vessels in her hand...."
"She's blind." He came out with it suddenly, let the sentence fall like a lead weight on the rest of the group. Caroline Fayre paused.
"But alive, Peter."
He was on his feet now hands clenching and unclenching, eyes blazing and face pale with any number of raging emotions. Holmes and Lestrade thought for a minute he was going to hit someone and moved to restrain him, but all of a sudden he collapsed back into the chair sobbing. Tennyson moved next to him and grasped one of the sky boarder's hands. Miss Fayre continued slowly.
"There was a blow to her skull; one of her eye sockets fractured and a piece of bone pierced the back of the eye and the optic nerve. They can't repair it."
Peter let out a long shaky breath.
"She was getting better," he managed between sobs, clutching Tennyson's hand like a lifeline. "She was going on the practise board as regularly as if she were racing. She thought...." He broke down again and Miss Fayre lent down to hold him. Lestrade finished his sentence.
"She thought she was going to race again."
All Peter could do was nod. Deidre looked at Holmes pleadingly.
"But they can replace the eye, can't they, grow another one for her -- I mean, they do that now all the time."
"But it won't be good enough for the track, Deidre." Holmes said gently. "The eyes have to be in perfect condition to race; nothing else is fast enough to send information to the brain."
"But it'll be the same, won't it."
Miss Fayre sighed. "There will be scarring on the optic nerve where they have to graft new to the old, my dear; the doctor explained it all to us. The scarring could slow down the information from the eye to the brain by as much as one in one hundredth of a second. She won't be allowed to race but she will be able to see again; they will even replace the other eye for her since the only reason she was refusing replacement surgery was racing."
Tennyson whirred and his aunt nodded. "She'll be fine, Tennyson, the doctors will keep her in for a week and fit a Visual Aid Unit so that she can see and the sight pathways in her brain are kept active. The new eyes will be grown here in the hospital and fitted in a couple of months. She will even be able to choose to have her irises a different colour if she wants."
Lestrade frowned. "Why so long? I lost a toe when I was five and they grew and fitted it within two days."
"It has to grow without the use of hormone enhancers and similar chemicals. The doctor says there's an increased risk of gene mutation if they speed it up and problems as the eyes age, which means more surgery and more scarring. This way is the safest."
It was very early in the morning and now that their friend was out of danger the group decided to go home. In the end only Ling insisted on staying at the hospital, even though the doctors has assured him it would be some hours before they would allow the sedative to wear off enough for Tessa to wake. As they left Holmes heard him on his palm phone to his racing coach Harold Keynes, explaining what had happened and why he wouldn't be at the early practice in a few hours.
Holmes and Watson flew back to 221b Baker Street after returning their friends to their homes. It was beginning to grow lighter again, as dawn spilled onto the city in a dazzling wave of gold and orange fading to gradual blue as the sun rose higher.
"Isn't it a beautiful day!" exclaimed Watson as he guided the car through the sluggish traffic. "It's hard to imagine just four hours ago I was up on those pigeon trapper things reading traffic fumes. I say, Holmes?"
The detective looked up from his brown study and un-knotted his furrowed eyebrows. "Yes, Watson."
"Why do you think Moriarty let her go? I mean, what was the point in all that trouble to kidnap her if all he was going to do was release her later, and why did he intervene when she was attacked?"
Holmes lay back in the car seat and closed his grey eyes.
"As to the first point, I believe we shall only know for sure if Miss Moriarty, now soon to be Mrs Ling, is inclined to divulge the information when she is feeling well; though I believe our cold calculating criminal had a change of heart, which proves such things can happen even to the worst of us."
Holmes rubbed his eyes. He really was getting quite tired now. Such a chase so soon after such a large dinner, when he usually carried out such activities on the knife-edge of starvation, had sapped his strength. He stretched his tired muscles as much as he could in the cramped car.
"And as to the second?"
"As to that I believe that Moriarty has made a near-fatal error. When we met briefly after Miss Moriarty was kidnapped, he said to me a very profound thing."
"And what was that, Holmes?"
"He said to me that I mustn't confuse duty with emotion. He said it to me after I had asked him why he cared for Miss Moriarty so much as to risk his own life for her. But I think it is he who has confused the two, not I. I think he can see something of his late wife somewhere in our Miss Moriarty's face, staring out at him through the generations. A bitter reminder of what he could have had...what they could have had, if he had chosen a different path."
The two friends remained silent for a while before Watson chuckled and said, "You know, Holmes, Lestrade was absolutely livid when I managed to get her back up on the walkway. I actually would have felt sorry for Moriarty if she had managed to get her hands on him just then. Poor Lestrade, it's funny the trouble that red dress of hers has caused. Don't you think, Holmes?"
Holmes stared languidly out the window of the sky car as the city rolled by busily welcoming in a new day. "Yes," he said quietly. "It is."
Miss Tessa Moriarty will be back in 'Symulent Wars'
Coming soon to a computer screen near you.

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