Once upon a time, a woman who lost her brother killed her father to save her mother. She wanted him back.
She got no answer from the angel on her shoulder, so she found herself calling on the devil 'neath a boulder.
She and her angel had danced with this devil, and when they'd discovered him not on the level they'd yanked on his tail and stepped on his toes, and now when he saw her his temper it rose.
This is the story.
There is a home in the affluent Cleveland Park neighborhood of northwest Washington, DC that does not exist. It does not appear on any map. Its driveway is at the end of the sidewalk on Ordway Street, but even that is a lie, because that driveway also connects to another house that is clearly visible from the curb. All that marks its existence is the fact that the paved part of the drive trails aimlessly off after it should end at the neighbor's garage. It looks like it just heads off to nowhere before terminating.
It goes somewhere. If you're willing to get a little dirt on your tires, you crest a small hill and head down past a few other houses that are tucked away off of the road, until you come to a solitary white post in the middle of a field. Just beyond it lies a small stone path, which begins at the top of a steep hill, and steps you down to the bottom for no apparent reason.
There is a reason. If you tap out the right sequence on the post - anywhere will do, but it's easiest if you do it near the top - and then step on the first, second, third, and fifth stones - not the fourth - and then hop the first stone on the left at the fork to land on the seventh stone the path… if you do it just right, you will see a faint glow under the eleventh stone on the right branch of the path. Lift this stone up - it is surprisingly light - and you will see a complicated panel of whatsits that are scanning your face, measuring your irises and breathing patterns, and possibly taking your horoscope. Then a gruff voice will greet you... or it won't.
"Give me one reason not to hang up right now," said the voice. "Keep it simple, Sherlock. Five. Words. Or. Less."
The woman kneeling in the grass blinked in surprise, and looked rapidly around her, as if taking in her surroundings for the first time. She was young, this woman, but no one was allowed to call you a girl on the day your father died. Her green eyes were puffy; her creamy face tear-stained. A light sheen of perspiration covered her bare arms and forehead: she was wearing a tank top and pajama bottoms, but she’d been working hard.
The pair of bodies laying next to her in the field spoke of the reason. Dual tracks of flattened grass led back to the Audi parked at the top of the rise: she’d dragged the bodies from the car down the hill. It was summer in the District: hot and muggy even at night.
At the sound of the voice on the intercom, she rocked back on her heels, as if she were going to shoot up and run away. Her eyes were wide and panicky, and her breath came rapidly. She didn’t know how she’d gotten here, and there was something wrong with her senses. She blinked, forcefully, but they didn’t clear. She was watching the world through vision blurred to mere human levels. Her ears heard only the whisper of wind and not its cause. Her nose spoke to her of night-scents, but told her nothing of the two varieties of grass competing for light, nor of the sycamore tree that stood in small clump of oaks.
She didn’t know that we had brought her here. But she knew where “here” was, and who was on the other end of the speaker.
She opened her mouth to speak, but for a moment, nothing came out. She closed it, swallowed hard. She looked over her shoulder, up the hill to the Audi. She hesitated. Looked at her parents lying there in the grass, the slow rise of her mother’s chest, and the absolute stillness of her father.
"I have my father's corpse,” she said. Her voice trembled a little.
There was a sound like a grunt from the other end of the line, and it went dead. The woman held her breath.
The hill opened. It was almost soundless: the stuff that looked-like-grass-but-wasn't peeled back to expose a titanium seam that swung slowly outward, becoming an opening eight feet wide and just as tall. A cool blue light rose up from runners along the floor of the hallway that curved down into the earth.
She remained crouched there, frozen. Her thoughts had been a jumbled mess even a short while ago, all creaking ropes and “Gwennie Bear” and a wet pop and “my dear”. We dipped into them again for a moment, but pulled out in as quickly as we’d come. The cacophony in her mind had been replaced by a singular need, an urgency for an answer; she was screaming a name in her mind, over and over.
But we knew that no answer would come. She was close to breaking right now, but if her mind snapped, we would go with it… all of the stories, gone. She had to calm down. Gently, one of us passed a hand invisibly down over her eyelids, and she squeezed them shut. “One… two… three…” whispered the man with the scalpel. Her lips mouthed the numbers in time with him.
From the hole in the hill crept… creatures. The stench of decay came off of them in cloying waves, and the young boy pulled out a grubby chocolate bar from his trousers, waving it under her nose. It was nothing, literally nothing more than the intangible story of the thing, but her nose twitched as she counted, and her eyes did not open.
The man in black stood nearby, hand on the hilt of his rapier, figment-fingers twitching nervously. The woman’s fingers - long, delicate, devoid of any rings or nail polish - twitched in time with those of her invisible guardian. Just in case.
The things were small, humanoid, covered in fur. They ignored the woman, grabbed the two bodies roughly, and started dragging them into the hill. Their movements were fluid, coordinated: one’s arm would raise, and another’s would do the same in unison. The things moved as if they were pieces of a greater whole, bearing the woman’s parents down into darkness.
The woman’s breathing had just come under control when furious barking erupted from the car at the top of the hill, and her eyes snapped open. The ephemeral beings who watched over her dissipated as she stood, passing through them as if they had never been - and indeed, they had not. She whirled just in time to see her father’s bare feet vanish behind the curve of the wall that led from the open door into the earth.
She blinked, catching her breath, scenting the carrion on the air for the first time. She swallowed hard and squeezed her hands tightly into fists, digging her nails painfully into her palms. The concreteness of the pain seemed to ground her, and she released her fists with a little shudder. She looked up the hill to the car.
“Cavill,” she whispered. From nowhere, the man in black nodded his head in respect. She hadn’t needed another guardian. The Faithful Companion was here for her.
Moving with purpose, she climbed the hill and opened the door to the car. The big dog hopped down, his body forming a hard line pointing at the entrance to the hill. His hackles were up, and a low growl rumbled from his throat.
“Yeah,” she whispered. “I know. I know, buddy. This is the kind of idea that gets your head swapped onto someone else’s body. You don’t have to come.”
The animal sat back on his haunches at the sound of her voice, and opened his mouth in a giant grin. Lead on, he seemed to say to her. I’ll follow you into hell itself.
She rested a hand on his head, drawing strength from the solidity of it. She looked down the hill, and scratched the dog absently.
“Okay,” she whispered. “Okay. Just us, then. Let’s do this.”
No, Gwen. We are with you.
She turned her head, as if she’d heard… but that was impossible, and she shrugged her way forward, down the hill. Cavill trotted behind her, his motions deceptively relaxed.
“I’ve been here before,” she explained to him, more for the reassurance of the sound of a voice, any voice, even her own.
“There are… monkeys. Or what used to be monkeys. He’s done something to their brains. They’re not… quite… just don’t try to bite one, okay? They probably have diseases.”
They crossed the threshold, into the hill. Into another’s story. We were not welcome there. The doors swung shut, the hill closed, and they were gone. We couldn’t help. We couldn’t follow. All we could do was listen… listen as Gwen wrote her own story.
My story does not end here, she said, over and over in her mind. My story does not end here. My story does not end here.
My story does not end here. If I kept telling myself that, then maybe, just maybe…
The only light down here was this sepulchral blue coming from the runners along the floor. The walls and ceiling were made from welded steel, giving them an industrial look. Strange shadows moved ahead of us, ghosting across the ceiling as the hallway wound down in a clockwise corkscrew into the earth. The hall was… eight feet or so wide. The grade of the incline was… ah… two percent?
I was estimating. Estimating! Me! The one who’d been disqualified from the eighth grade jelly bean jar guessing competition because I got the number of jelly beans exactly right after looking at the jar for ten seconds.
I didn’t know how wide the corridor was. About eight feet. I shuddered.
As we walked, the path continued to curve tightly around and down, a massive spiral ramp into the earth. A faint squeaking ahead suggested that my father's body had been loaded onto a cart, which was being pushed along just out of sight. We could have caught up, but… maybe it was better if we didn’t.
How was this going to play out? We were visitors to the home of a sociopath who was dangerously obsessed with neurological development and enhancement. Brains - he was really, really excited about brains.
And mine wasn't working properly. I hadn't hit my head or anything... but I'd lost count of how many steps we'd taken since we left the door. I was having trouble determining the grade of the slope we were on... which meant that I didn't know how far underground we were.
I thought back to my previous visit, tried to count my steps and remember the layout of the place... and couldn't.
My pace slowed. I couldn't remember. That was impossible. I remembered everything!
No. Sherlock Holmes remembered everything.
"Oh my..." I covered my mouth with my hand to silence any further babbling.
I was losing my concordance with Holmes. Faintly, imperfectly, I remembered what Doyle had explained on our ride to the hearings. It was rare, super-rare, but when someone stopped acting like their persona, the ties between them broke. When their stories no longer matched, it could cause the persona to vanish for generations.
That was why Sherlock wouldn’t answer. He was fading away, and with him, the superhuman abilities he’d provided me. Perfect memory. Razor-sharp senses. The ability to predict the future based on logical deduction, or see into the past based on present clues.
Why? Wandering away from Holmes-like behavior in order to pretend to be Guinevere hadn't put me far enough off of Holmes to weaken my connection to him. He was a master of disguise, after all: pretending to be someone else was exactly what he would do. And I'd been Holmes with a vengeance all day long: on a case, battling Moriarty! What was more Holmes-like than that? I was living the life. Everything about me was just like him.
Until tonight... until my father died. Moriarty never killed Sherlock Holmes' father.
Really? That? That was enough?
I giggled a bit, despite my hand clapped over my lips. It was insane! I could go from the embodiment of the greatest detective in history to... to just plain old Gwen... all for something that happened to me? To someone I loved? Something I had no control over?
Cavill whined, his head cocked to one side looking up at me.
I'd stopped in my tracks, and he had stopped just ahead. My eyes were brimming with tears.
We were going to die down here. I couldn't do this. I couldn't handle... him. He was too smart, too fast on his feet. His mind was like Holmes’, all angles and deductions. He made the rules down here. He had good reason to hate me, and wouldn't think twice about killing me if he thought it wouldn't be trouble. Holmes could have thought his way out of this. But... just Gwen? I didn't even know who that was! I’d been Sherlock Holmes since I was a baby! What could Gwen do?
I heard the squeaking stop, a short ways ahead of us. It hadn’t mattered that I had quit walking. We… we were there. I couldn’t just stand here. Could I still get back out? No, that was stupid: the door was locked and we’d walked far enough that even if it weren’t, he’d have it clamped tight long before I got there. If I tried to run now, he’d know for sure that something was up. I moved a trembling hand away from my mouth. We were dead for sure if I didn't--
There was something written on the palm. "You're not alone, my dear."
It was my handwriting. I'd left myself a message. No - Holmes had left me a message!
Not alone... not alone...
A rush of relief filled me. Okay... okay, I could do this. I’d been Sherlock my whole life; who knew him better? Maybe I couldn’t count jelly beans, but if I needed to convince someone else that I was still Holmes, I just had to channel him. It was like those bracelets that the kids who went to bible camp wore: What Would Sherlock Do?
He'd eat this guy's lunch, that's what he'd do. He'd already know exactly what would happen next: all he would be looking for would be confirmation that his deductions were correct.
All I had to know was everything.
Ooookay, that was going to be a problem. I didn't know anything.
No. I knew that, somehow, Holmes had sent me here. Desperate, fading away, he'd put me into this, with nothing more than a dog and my own wits. He thought I could do this.
No. He never does anything on a hunch. He knows I can do this.
I took a step forward. Cavill wagged his tail at me.
I was in the underground lair of a genius who had no capacity for human emotion. He was obsessed with perfecting the human brain, exploring its unlimited potential. As a trial run of his consciousness-expanding regimen, he'd made a bunch of monkeys hyperintelligent. They were basically human child-level, but that was still pretty damn impressive for a monkey. He was good with brains. Brains... my parents! Moriarty was still inside my mother's head. If anybody could get her out...
And then there was my father. His brain had been dead for an hour, maybe an hour and a half. But our host had well-documented experience with dead brains. And he'd been perfecting his technique. It was crazy, but... maybe...
Hope flickered. It wasn’t much, but… Sherlock thought I could do it. Knew I could do it. Was I going to make a liar out of him?
A cough from around the corner roused me into taking another step. My heart was beating fast. I thought that I knew why I was there… but how…
"You're not alone, my dear."
We rounded the corner.
He straightened up from inspecting my father's body on a wheeled cart as we approached, pocketing some instrument in his white lab coat as he rose. My mother was draped facedown on a second cart nearby, hanging haphazardly over the edge, as if she were nothing. Goddamn monkeys!
I wanted to go forward to her, set her gently down, cradle her… and then I caught him studying me. I met his eyes. They were piercing, so dark they were almost black. His hair matched his eyes, slicked back Jersey-style. Underneath the lab coat, he wore a dirty white tank top and blue jeans. His chest was tightly-muscled, and overall he gave off a greasy vibe. He looked like a junior Mafioso who was playing doctor. But those eyes... like black holes. They took light in, but gave nothing out. No emotion. No clue. If his eyes were a window to his soul, it was one-way glass.
Or else there was nothing back there.
"Vic," I hailed.
"Sherlock," he jerked his chin in Jersey greeting. "But you don't go for that much, do you? You go by your other name. Why's that, I wonder?"
"Gwen's the name my father gave me." It was close enough to the truth. He'd let me pick whatever I wanted when we came over here from Yemen. He'd given me the chance to become someone new.
Eight years later, I was taking that chance for real as I tried not to look at his corpse. Instead, I met Vic's gaze, dared him to question me while standing over the dead. He might not give a damn about other people's feelings, but he knew how to play the game.
He clucked his tongue, pursed his lips, and let me have this one. "Arright, arright, I get you. What I don't get is how you show your face around here after that shit you pulled a while back."
"Come on, Vic. That was a long time ago."
"Six fuckin' months ago you torched my first human trials!" He spat on the floor. "I been researching this serum since before your boobs came in. It's going to change the world."
My heart lurched at his sudden fury. Those eyes… I clenched my fists. Holmes wouldn’t back down; neither could I. ”It’s going to give people seizures, just like it did six months ago. Two almost died. Maybe you shouldn't have mixed it in with heroin?"
He sneered. "Yeah, yeah, but there was the ones who got better. Kicked the drugs. Some went back to school. I kind of fuckin' lost track, what with not bein' able to show my face above ground if I don't want some gangbanger to blow it off!"
His anger was pure, burning white hot with no thought to consequence. I'd taken his world away, his beloved experiments. He was looking for a chink in my armor. If I faltered, we were dead.
Don’t. Back. Down.
I shook my head. "Your bed. Lie in it. Don't mess with drug dealers."
"My bed? You pointed them at me! They had no clue, but you had to go stickin' your nose in..." I couldn't help but notice that there were at least six monkeys behind him in the hallway. They... stood. Not like monkeys stand. Patiently. They were paying attention.
They were waiting for the order to tear us apart. If I kept winding him up, it was going to be coming aaaany time now...
What Would Sherlock Do? "You're not alone, my dear." My dear... only Moriarty called me that! There was a second message!
"Kay Moira Tanner," I blurted. He stopped. I took a deep breath. I had no idea what I was doing here. "Student. She... got hooked up with some of your special sauce. It made her smart. Crazy-smart. Sherlock Holmes smart. But crazy. Moriarty crazy. I just got through with a run-in: not pretty. Have you looked at the news tonight?"
He stiffened. "That nightclub?"
"Nothing wrong with your brains," I affirmed. "Except that they created another monster."
It was a lie that hit him like a punch to the gut. Moriarty had nothing to do with him, but it was plausible. What Would Sherlock Do? Find a weakness. Exploit it. Remove the threat.
Whatever Vic might be, he understood monsters. And he feared them. He feared seeing himself inside them.
He shook his head. "Not possible. None of the other subjects got violent. The serum bolsters orderly thought processes. She shouldn't have degraded--"
"Oh, her thought processes were very orderly. She had a perfectly ordered plan to kill everyone."
He cocked his head. "Were? Had?"
"Dead," I affirmed.
His demeanor changed in an instant. His eyes were bright. "Where's the body?" All thought of the victims was gone, if it had ever been there in the first place: his obsession was setting in. "I need that body!”
Oh, Sherlock, you genius.
“You’re a smart guy,” I prodded. “Where do the police keep dead bodies?”
He nodded. “The morgue. But thanks to some-fucking-one, I can’t set foot anywhere near that place. You ain’t helping your case too much, Gwen.”
I forced my lips into something like a smile. He was playing along - at least, I thought he was playing along, because I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that I was playing the game that Sherlock had meant for me to play… but if I was… “She murdered over a hundred people, Vic. You go snooping around and they'll figure you out, get you for Accessory. You'll take the rap for everything." Please let this work… please let this work…
I spread my hands. ”Forget about the body. I can get you something better. I can get you her mind. I can get you her masterpiece."
He'd been worked up, but he froze, leaned in. "... I'm listening."
Lecture mode came almost too easily. I clasped my hands behind my back and started to pace back and forth in the hallway. ”She followed in your footsteps, though I doubt she had any idea. Instead of drugs, she built a machine. She uploaded an imprint of her consciousness into it. You don't need her brain. You've got her mind, in binary. Or, I do.”
He looked skeptical. "There are neurological structures that-- the brain matters, is what I'm sayin'. Just an imprint won't..." he trailed off. He was working it out.
I gave him a second to consider, and then prodded, "Why'd you start on all this, anyway? To make sure that your next creation didn't go crazy, that's why. You already figured out how to bring back the dead. You needed to stabilize the mind, so that it didn't snap under the strain. The brain was only the path you chose in order to get there."
"Yeah, but... all my work is on brain-mind interaction. No brain, and I don't know how to--"
"You've got a brain. Two of them. She's inside my parents, Vic. That's why we're here. I want her out of my mom." I gulped. "And I want my dad back."
Emotion washed over me, and I swallowed again, hard. Tears welled up, and the lump in my throat was suddenly going to choke me if my heart didn't explode first. I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into my palms. Hold it together... hold it together...
Slowly, Vic looked down at my father, and then up at my mother on the floor next to me. The pieces were clicking together for him.
"You said there was a machine." He tasted the words as they came out.
"I have it." Close to true: Arthur's people collected it. I had no idea how I would get it from them, but if it could get my parents back...
"You get me this doodad, and I give you your parents..." He pretended to mull it over, but I saw the spark in his eye. It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to know what he was thinking.
A grin spread over his features. "You're going to get me this machine, and it's going to have this girl's digitized brain patterns in it. And until you get it, I've got your parents." He shook his head. "Don't seem like I've got much downside. You must be desperate."
"My father is dead, and my mom's got a psychopath living in her head. She'll try to kill me as soon as she wakes up. How the fuck do you think I am?" My forced smile turned to a snarl, and my hands were fists. All the rage, all the fear, all the loss of the day, and this son of a bitch was goddamn playing with--
"A'ight, a'ight, calm down. We can both get a good thing out of this.” He put his hands up, just as Arthur had hours before. “I bring pops back, and use this doohickey to get his brain back on line. I’ve got your mom as a test case to make sure I know how things work. Yes,” he cut me off, “that’s how it’s going to be, because I don’t have anybody else who got brain-dumped by someone who knew how to use the thing for sure. That’s the deal. When can I expect my new toy?"
I narrowed my eyes. I didn’t like the thought of him playing with my mother like some kind of toy… but it wasn’t like I had a ton of leverage.
”How long until you're ready with my parents?"
"Won't know until you give me what you promised. But... a day? Two? For your old man, mostly. Takes some prep."
My heart leapt. “Right now I made sure it’s where even I couldn’t get to it. Safeguard in case you decided to get really stupid. There’s a timer: you'll have it in two days." He'd take it sooner if I was able to get it, but no sense in seeming uncertain about things. If he thought I wasn't Holmes anymore...
He nodded. “Two days.”
“Keep her under,” I nodded at my mom. Wouldn’t do to have Moriarty undermining me while she was here alone with goddamn Frankenstein. “You really can’t imagine what she’s capable of. What she can make people think. Make them do.”
His imagination filled in the gap. ”Those people at the club," he murmured. "Were they... like us?”
"Yeah," I said. “Personae.”
"You know I don't go for that mystic mumbo-jumbo."
I arched an eyebrow. "You live in an underground mad scientist's lair and work with hyperintelligent monkeys. Tell me that doesn't sound weird to you."
“Don’t call it mad science," he snapped, but the harshness wasn’t really behind his voice anymore. He was distracted, gears turning already. "Anybody could do it. I still think that it's all just causality. You get people who have certain predispositions, biologically-speaking, and filter them through our cultural heritage, the stories we tell ourselves about why the sun rises and why people suck, and there are a limited set of possible outcomes. They act like certain types because that's how those type of people act, given the right models. They look and dress a certain way because when you're six feet tall and lean and blonde and wear glasses, there are only so many possible ways you can dress and look good. European Personae look different over there. Act different, too. Africans... I've met a few. It ain't like what you see here."
"Why are you asking about this?" I was genuinely puzzled. Sherlock might have known, but I didn't.
Vic didn't notice my lacking perspicacity. Instead, his black eyes glittered. “Because someone on my serum went toe-to-toe with you. And won. Oh, sure, she died. But if she’s got a brain-copying toy, then what’s it matter? Maybe she’s still out there, in a new body, just waiting for you. She could be ‘round that next corner. Maybe I think you’re getting a little taste of what you done to me. And maybe I think that if I can take a fuckin’ junkie and make her into that, then I’m on to something, after all…”
He wasn’t going to kill me. He was gloating at the thought that someone else would. The adrenaline swept out of me in a rush. All of a sudden, I was beyond exhausted. “We through here?"
He was already looking down at my father, wheels turning as he prepared in his mind. "Yeah," he said. "You know the way out?"
I looked at my father, and looked quickly away. He was just too... dead. I crossed past Vic to my mother, and kissed her forehead. <<I'll be back,>> I whispered in Arabic. <<I swear.>>
I straightened. "You can do this, right? You can bring him back? Because if you can't--"
He waved it away. "You see these monkeys?" I nodded. "It worked on them."
"Reanimated monkeys with the smarts of a three-year-old. Very reassuring. I want my father back.”
"Get outta here. I can do it." His black eyes glittered. "Unless you want a demonstration? Your pooch over there don’t look too smart. Want to see what I can do to him?”
My lip curled. “You’d just embarrass yourself. His skull’s tougher than bone saws. We'll see you in two days."
I took one last look at my mother. Her brow was furrowed, as if she were suffering.
<<See you soon, mom.>>
It was a long walk back to the surface. I'd been pushing too hard today, and suddenly my reserves were just my own, just Gwen's. I didn't have anybody else to draw on.
My fingers drifted aimlessly to Cavill, scratching him behind the ears.
"You're not alone, my dear," I murmured.
Is this going to work? Come on, Sherlock, just one little whisper. That guy's as twisted as spaghetti in a blender. He killed a bunch of monkeys and brought them back to life, just to see if he could do it! Did you see how they were, Holmes? Did you see?
There was no answer. I spent the rest of the walk in silence, both inside my head and out. The door was open when we got to the surface, but the night air that should have cooled me was hot, sticky, stifling. The breeze on my ears sounded of whispers, almost like a chorus of voices, eager to see me again.
I took a deep breath, feeling bolstered, as if lifted up by invisible hands. I looked up at the sky. There were too many stars to count, even for Sherlock Holmes, but… I thought of the nights of my childhood, lying awake in the summers under those same stars...
... and I could barely remember them. I slowed my pace as I climbed the stone path. I tried to picture my first father, my birth father... and I couldn't. I couldn't remember his face. My brother... the little baby with the hazel eyes... he was faded, foggy, a lump of baby and a color. Was his hair straight... or was he bald? What did his laugh sound like? I couldn't... Oh, god, I’d lost him! I couldn’t remember… I’d lost him!
But I could remember the flames.
I sank to the ground, sobbing, before I was even aware that my legs had failed me. I couldn't remember him! I'd always remembered everything... but now I wasn't that person anymore, and he was gone. The good times... why hadn't I relived the good times as often as the bad? The laughs? The feel of him on my skin? Now I couldn't...
My baby brother was gone. He'd been dead for years, but now he was gone.
I sure goddamn felt like I was alone.
"Fuck you, Sherlock Holmes," I whispered into the grass. "For letting me carry him this long, only to leave me when I fucking needed you, and to take him with you. To leave me alone.”
My vision swam, and I heard the chorus in my ears again. Everything was distant, the whole world flowing like a stream away from me. I was losing myself again, just like before. It was too much. My brother, my parents... gone, gone...
Someone was there. I felt it before I saw anything. Eyes burning, I saw a blurry figure leaning on the Audi, which was parked on the grass at the top of the rise. Dark clothes... tall, lean... a mask... a sword?
I wiped my eyes to clear them. The figure was gone. The car was there, and as I staggered towards it, I saw no footprints in the grass, not even a bent blade.
"You're not alone," came the voice behind me. It came from down low, almost petulant, like a kid. I caught a whiff of chocolate.
I spun around. Only the night.
"No," I put my hands to my temples, sobbing again. I squeezed my eyes shut. "No, no, no, please, don't, just... just let me be..."
"Tho' we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are," declared a new voice. I covered my ears, but still it rang on, not muffled in the slightest. It was ancient, strong: "One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find... and not to yield."
The voice paused, changed again with a twang.
"And we aim to misbehave."
"Please," I begged, blindly, "please leave me alone..."
A new voice. Cold. Harsh. Steel. Familiar. Dearly-missed. ”You are not alone. We will not leave you. The game is afoot."
I felt something pressed into my hands, and my eyes shot open.
For a moment, just a moment, he was there. Tall. Dark coat. Pipe. Hat.
"We carried you this far," he murmured, "and now it is you, Gwen, who will carry us. After what happened at the club tonight, we are untethered. We need a champion to hold us here. To speak for us. To live our stories. You are strong enough. You are smart enough. You are woman enough to succeed where another would have failed.
“Find justice. Save your parents. Save us all. Find Gwen.”
And then my eyes snapped open again, and I was standing in the empty field. A lone scarecrow looked on, affixed to the post at the top of the rise - had that been there before? I couldn't remember. The car door was open, and Cavill was waiting inside, a quizzical expression on his doggy face. He hadn't seen or heard any of what just transpired, I knew.
Had it all been in my head? Was I losing my mind? Was any of it real?
In my hands, I held a small manila file. Its tab read, "Moriarty". I waved it experimentally. Cavill cocked his head.
This. This was real. I opened it.
I remembered it. Not perfectly, not like before, but I knew what this was. It was a series of notes and instructions for what to do if Moriarty did what she always struggled to do. It was what to do if Moriarty killed me.
It was Sherlock Holmes' last will and testament, the disposition of his intellect, his wisdom. It was how to win. It was his every insight into how to beat his nemesis.
But it wasn't about Moriarty. It just took Moriarty into account.
It was about Arthur.