NOTE: This is a continuation of the Misadventure of the Empty Trunk, a Parody.
“It was merely a jest, Watson, a bit of whimsy on my part,” said Holmes, setting down the tea tray beside where I huddled, shivering, before our fireplace.
He was referring to his inexplicably rude behaviour of the previous evening, which had resulted in my being plunged into the Thames in a locked trunk, with an anvil in my lap. But Holmes had seemed genuinely pleased to see me when I appeared at 221B Baker Street at dawn, dripping Thames water. He was suitably contrite and helped me out of my sodden garments and into his own dressing gown.
I sipped the tea and silenced my chattering teeth with a warm buttered scone. “All the same, Holmes,” I grumbled, “if that cheap cardboard trunk hadn’t rapidly disintegrated in the water, I might have drowned.”
“Tut-tut, Watson. All’s well that ends well, and here you are, safe and sound. Another scone?”
“Why, yes, thank you, Holmes.”
“Perhaps some more tea?”
I nodded and he refilled my cup with Darjeeling.
“Cocaine?” he asked, proffering a glittering hypodermic.
“No, thank you.” I began to wonder whether my attempts to wean him from the drug might not be responsible for his recent erratic behaviour.
“What’s on your agenda today, Watson?”
“A hot bath. Sleep. Nip round to the ironmonger’s and pick up a new anvil…”
“Splendid.” Holmes clasped his hands together briskly, then stared out the window at the vacant house across the street. “Perhaps when you awaken, I’ll have a surprise for you.”
“I’d just as soon you didn’t…” I began.
Suddenly, Holmes ducked to one side and pulled down the shade. “Off with you, now. Rest.”
When I awoke at twilight, Holmes was in a frenzy of artistic endeavour. He stuck his head beneath a small curtain at the back of a camera and focused the lens on the chair where he usually sat.
“Ah, Watson. I’ve taken up portrait photography. Come! You’re just in time to pose for me.”
I sat in the indicated place, and Holmes solicitously arranged his dressing gown around my shoulders. “Mustn’t get chilled, Watson, old chum.”
He put his head beneath the curtain once more and refocused. “Something missing. You need a hat.” He took his deerstalker from the mantel and placed it carefully upon my head. “Perfect.”
Holmes lit a carbide lamp on the deal-topped chemistry table. It lit the room bright as day and cast my stark silhouette on the nearest window shade. “This is a timed exposure, Watson, so sit very still. I’ll let you know when we start.”
Glancing out of the corner of my eye at my shadow, I recalled The Adventure of the Empty House. “I say, Holmes, sitting here like this, I’m deuced glad Col. Sebastian Moran is safely behind bars.” I chuckled.
“Sebastian Moran? Who’s he?” Holmes lit his pipe.
“Surely you remember, Holmes. The blighter with the large calibre air rifle who took a pot shot at you from the house across the street? Only it wasn’t you; it was a wax bust that looked like you.”
“Oh. That Sebastian Moran. Here, you need a prop.” Holmes stuck his pipe in my hand.
“Whatever happened to Moran?”
“Jolly good. Deserved worse.”
“–Until last week. He scarpered with three other felons.” Holmes squeezed the bulb. “Hold it!”
I peered sidelong at my shadow on the shade, complete with calabash, deerstalker hat, and dressing gown. I had a sudden premonition of death.
“Sit still, Watson! You’ll ruin the exposure.”
There was a cacophony of shattering glass, then…blackness.