I first saw her at the booksellers. A shadowy beauty glancing at titles.
She’d chosen one at last and took a seat near the window.
We exchanged glances for a brief moment, and I feigned a cough and turned away. My heart raced and my blushing was such that I needed to step outside for a breath of air. Once composed, I turned to the booksellers window and watched as she followed the lines of the page with her forefinger, smiling all the while and shaking her head in disbelief, or agreement, with the author’s audacity.
Then it occurred to me that she wasn’t reading at all, but had caught a glance of my awkward stare and was merely commenting on my schoolboy infatuation.
The thought made me blush even more and I raced home for a brandy and water.
When I entered, Holmes was asleep on the settee. So I prepared myself a drink and sat by the fire. What had been but a five minute infatuation with a beautiful woman, seemed to me the happiest moment of my life.
Who was she? And why had I run away in such a fashion? I sipped at my brandy and sighed.
“Watson,” said Holmes. “I’m glad you’re back. I could use a bit of help.”
”I thought you were sleeping,” I said. ”Hope I didn‘t disturb you.”
”Not at all, Watson,” he said. ”I was merely dwelling on my predicament.”
“Predicament, Holmes?” I said.
“Well,” he said, “do you see that silver coffee pot sitting on the dining table?”
“Yes, of course,” I said.
“If you look closely, you will see a rather distinct indentation, as though it were struck by a projectile of some force.”
On closer inspection I saw that there was, indeed, such a mark on the pot.
“How on earth did you manage it, Holmes?” I said.
“I’ll tell you, old boy,” he said. “It wasn’t easy.”
“Go on,” I said.
“It all started this morning as I tried, in vain, to play Mendelssohn’s Lieder on the violin. As I dove into the piece, this damn fly saw fit to dive into me. I knew no peace from that moment on, Watson. It was a fight to the finish or nothing!”
“I’m all ears, dear boy,” I said. “Pray, please continue.”
“Since, as you know, I started my morning in the foulest of moods, I thought some darts might help to put me in a better humor and rid me of the fly at the same time. But my aim was less than true and that damn fly flitted and flounced its way around me.”
“The devil!” I said. “You might have simply used a rolled up newspaper, Holmes.”
“No sport in that, Watson,” he said.
“We are talking about a common housefly, are we not?”
“We are, Watson,” he said. “But he may as well have been a Bengal tiger for all his cunning and prowess, and I was going to have him even if it meant my own destruction!”
"You have had quite the morning,” I said.
“Yes, dear boy, and I had to make a decision then and there. Pistols or daggers!”
“You can’t be serious, Holmes.”
“Serious as all hell, Watson,” he said. “And you know doubt have guessed my choice.”
“Brilliant, Watson! Brilliant!”
“There isn’t a plaster wall or porcelain tea cup that has not seen the business end of my keen marksmanship! So pistols it was!
"The poor bugger was in for it from the start, Holmes.” I said.
“My thinking exactly, Watson,” he said. “At first I was extremely cautious in my hunt. Then I saw him alit on the silver coffee pot. No doubt attracted by his own reflection. I dared not make a sudden move for fear he’d once again hide from my sight.
“But what do to, old boy?” he continued. “I had been standing there with my arms folded behind my back, as is my want when contemplating a serious matter. So I made a decision to shoot from that very position.”
“You didn’t!” I said.
“I did, Watson.” he said. “I shot the fly a piercing glance and pulled the trigger!”
“My aim was true, dear boy,” he said. “And the devilish fly was annihilated!”
“Bravo! Dear boy.” I said. “Bravo!”
“But there is an unfortunate part to this whole sordid business, Watson. Which is why I seek your help.”
“Yes,” he said. “While getting my prey with the skills of seasoned hunter, I, of all people, didn’t figure in the ricocheting affects of a speeding bullet once it has hit a target it cannot penetrate!”
“Could be dangerous, that,” I said.
“Yes, Watson, dangerous indeed. I’ve come to call it the ‘uh, oh’ factor. For those were my very word as I saw the fly fall and the bullet take a sharp turn at the coffee pot and penetrate - dare I share the shame?”
“Please do!” I demanded.
“My left buttock, Watson!” he said. “I, the world’s greatest consulting detective, shot himself in the buttock!”
“Oh, Holmes!” I said, stifling a chuckle. “You didn’t!”
“But I did, dear boy,” he said. “Which is why you find me narrating this tale while reclining on the settee, instead of pacing about in my usual manner.”
“It must have been pretty painful, Holmes," I said. “Why hadn’t you just called for Mrs. Hudson?”
“Have Mrs. Hudson dress my wounds?” he said. “I think not. She’d have only fetched a stranger from hospital and that wouldn’t have sat well with me, if you’ll pardon the pun. That’s why I waited patiently for your return.”
After plying Holmes with an ample supply of whisky, I removed the offending bullet and dressed the wound as best I could. After which my good friend thanked me and fell fast asleep.
Not wanting to disturb the dear man, I decided once again to take a stroll and purchase the book I had sought earlier this morning.
I approached the booksellers with a certain amount of caution. Hoping, then dreading, that the beauty I had seen earlier would still be there. My heart sank a bit when I saw she was no longer at the window.
As I stood, browsing the shelves, I could no longer remember the volume I was after. My mind was on one thing only. That woman.
“Bronte’s nice,” I hear a voice say. “Or don’t you read the ladies?”
I didn’t turn around straight away, but I knew it was her.
“Ah, a Kipling man, I see,” she said. “I like that. You’re a man of adventure. Take what you want whether anyone wants you to or not.”
I hadn’t realized it, but I had absentmindedly reached for a volume of Kim when she first spoke.
“Do you always ignore women who approach you in book shops?” she said. “Well, if you don’t turn round and take my hand in greeting, I’m going to seem awful foolish standing here with my arm extended at the back of a gentleman’s rather handsome coat.”
I flustered a bit as I turned. And there she was.
I was speechless.
“Of all my luck,” she said. “I meet the handsomest man in all of London and he doesn’t speak my language. Let’s see, spaken ze Deutsch? Spanish? Dutch? Zwahili?”
I finally gained enough composure to utter the immortal words, ‘Me John Watson!’
My groan could no doubt be heard from one end of the shop to other, for many heads turned in my direction as she uttered the immortal reply, ‘Me Abagail Jones!’
I’m hoping the rest will be history.