It was more than a bit not good, this idea of mine. Not being an idiot, I knew that very well. But such societal norms have never meant much to me. [I say ‘never’, but that is not strictly true. For a brief period, I did have the use of an external moral compass and it never guided me wrongly. But now I am wandering a bit. Literally and figuratively.]
And obviously such moments of sentimental meandering accomplish nothing.
I confess that it is sometimes difficult to get the balance just right. To quiet the noise and yet remain in control. I used to know how to do that, but my skills are a bit rusty, apparently. No fear, in time I will undoubtedly be as skilled as ever.
The cab let me off at the corner. The road was quiet at that time of the day, as I had known it would be, and I saw no one else as I strolled towards the small, attached house that was my goal. That was, no one save one old lady watching from behind her twitching curtains, but I only gave her a cheerful wave. In her mind, no one with ill intentions would be so bold. She actually gave me a little wave back.
The surroundings were as boring and ordinary as I had known they would be. The only mystery in sight was how a man like John Watson had ever, even for one moment, thought that he would [could] be happy here.
So, for the first time, I approached the front door of the place where John now lived. Not that I had never been invited. But the truth was I could not face the reality of seeing all that domestic bliss first hand. It was difficult enough just hearing others talk about it. At least when I petulantly demanded that all gatherings took place in 221B, I would be in a familiar place.
As anticipated, there was no real subterfuge required to get inside. As I understand it, when people are away, their friends often pop in to water the plants or check the windows. So, while John and Mary were on their sex holiday I was simply doing what any good friend would do.
The door itself was no challenge to get open and if the old biddy across the road happened to still be watching, it would look as if I were just fumbling with an unfamiliar key, not that I was using a pointed tool to gain entry. After just a moment, the lock gave way and I stepped into John’s house, closing the door behind me immediately.
The air inside was a bit stale and smelled of mostly of dust, with a hint of old perfume. Clare d Lune, I noted absently. There was no trace of tea or cosy jumpers, or the desert. There was nothing of John at all in the stuffy ambience of the small foyer.
Not surprisingly, the sitting room was quite unremarkable. Magnolia on the walls, flat-pack furniture, and the sort of art people bought because the size was right to fit over the sofa. A new television stood in one corner, with an out-dated copy of the Radio Times on top. I flipped through it and saw that John still had the habit of marking in yellow hi-lighter programmes that he wanted to watch. In my experience, he usually forgot to watch them anyway. Back in the [good] old days, he would always blame me for missing them. Either I had dragged him out on a case or I was blowing something up in the kitchen. But he usually was hiding a smile as he complained, so I knew he wasn’t actually upset.
This room contained no over-stuffed armchair like the one John loved at home. [My home. His former home. Whatever.] I suppose that they must sit together on the sofa. We used to do that sometimes, most often while going over case files. Sometimes I would stretch out and the only place for my feet would be in John’s lap. He complained, I ignored his complaints and the system worked perfectly.
There was one throw pillow on the sofa, an unappealing lumpy green thing. I picked it up and held it to my nose, inhaling, hoping for a hint of John. Our Union Jack pillow at home had always been redolent of him, although the smells were starting to fade now. This pillow was scented with more Clare d Lune and old coffee. I set it back down in its place.
There were several magazines on the table next to the sofa. Nothing John would read. I wondered where his journals were. He set great store by his journals.
There was no real dining room in the house, only a small alcove that held an Ikea square wooden table and four chairs. On the table, there was a set of salt and pepper shakers. Silver [fake] in the shape of Big Ben. Fairly horrifying, really. The only other item there was a bottle of brown sauce and that was the first real sign that John Watson actually lived here. Odd how sentimental one could get over seeing something as stupid as a bottle of HP Sauce.
Again, I will have to get my mind better balanced.
I moved into the kitchen, which was very tidy, nothing out of place, which made sense. No one would go off on a sex holiday and leave the milk on the table. [“You could, you idiot,” I could hear John saying. I wanted to ask if he ever seriously envisioned me going off on sex holiday. Probably for the best that he wasn’t here.]
For some reason, I pulled out one of the chairs and sat down, trying to imagine why this place must seem so appealing to John. There was a dreadful print of daisies and cavorting lambs hanging on one wall. It almost made my eyes hurt to look at it.
What did John think about while sitting here having his breakfast? Did he ever remember our meals in 221B?
Sometimes when I was sitting on the sofa eating cold chips, I thought about those many meals we shared. Toast and tea for breakfast. Greasy takeaways eaten in the middle of the night. I looked again at the fatuous-faced lambs, hating them irrationally. [As long as one can still recognise his irrationality, things are not too bad, I think.]
Finally, I stood and set the chair back carefully, not wanting to leave any hint of my visit.
There was a tiny powder room next to the kitchen, obviously meant for guests. Pink hand towels and fancy little soaps in a china dish painted [badly] with tiny roses. I was reminded of a visit made to a maiden aunt’s house when I was about six. [Not in a pleasant way.]
I could almost hear Mary’s voice admonishing John not to use the soap or mess up the towels.
Next, I took a peek into what was essentially being used as a box room. Plastic tubs filled with apparently unnecessary items were shoved against one wall. A low pile of cardboard boxes was lined up against another. Some were marked MM and others JHW. No doubt in the near future this room would be used as a place to keep the infant. If it were a girl, that would mean lots of pink and ruffled things.
I was tempted to open one or two of the boxes labelled MM, just to see what secrets she might be hiding. After all, LIAR was still in my Palace as one of her traits. Might be interesting to know just what she was lying about.
But somehow that felt like a betrayal, not of her, but of John and so I left it all alone.
Finally I reached the bedroom and the ensuite. This bathroom was also tidy. No wet towels on the floor, no grisly experiments in the tub. Perhaps John sometimes missed that sort of thing. [Foolishly, I hoped he did, at least just a bit.] The metal cabinet held only the expected items, with gaps for things that had probably been packed for the sex holiday.
Under the sink was a collection of female paraphernalia and I closed the door quickly.
I stepped back into the bedroom. All very tidy. The bed was made in John’s recognisable military style, despite the flouncy duvet. Sometimes, on laundry days, he would make my bed with those same knife-sharp army edges, muttering all the while about lazy gits.
He would probably be surprised to know that I made my bed every day now, as neatly as I could. Mrs Hudson certainly was.
The closet was divided into two parts. One side held all of Mary’s somehow never quite right dresses and trousers. A collection of blouses that fit badly. Sometimes it seemed [to me, at least] as if Mary Morstan [Watson, I suppose, technically.] was dressing to play a role that she had not rehearsed quite enough. [ LIAR.]
John’s side held two of his three of his suits and various other jackets and trousers. Below them, on the floor, sat a suitcase holding John’s folded shirts, which seemed a bit odd, but probably made some kind of sense to him. On the shelf above, there was a pile of John’s hideous jumpers. I took down the most hideous of the lot, the oatmeal-coloured one.
I pressed it to my face.
And finally, finally, there was John. I had found him. All the right smells and with the smells came the memories. And with the memories came a fresh reminder of all I had lost.
[Or, more accurately, I suppose, all that was never mine to lose in the first place.]
It was difficult to admit, but I had been a fool. In so many ways.
After carefully returning the jumper to its place in the pile, I turned to look at the bed, but without any desire to approach it. My reluctance stemmed not from fear of violating some code of privacy for the two people who slept there, of course. It was simply that by not going closer, not touching the marital bed, I was protecting myself.
Apparently, even Sherlock Holmes had some small sense of self-preservation. All previous evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
I decided that there was nothing left to see here. [Nothing I wanted to see.] I walked back through the house and out the front door, relocking it, and then started for the main road to find a cab.
A glance at my watch showed me that it was later than I’d thought, so I moved more quickly. There was a new case to work on. And Wiggins would be wondering where I was. But before I could go meet him, I had to return home and change my clothes. Change into another person altogether, because Wiggins was expecting Shezza to turn up at the house. And there was already the beginning of a slight buzzing in the back of my brain that needed quieting.
Possibly this excursion had not been the wisest choice.
I decided to stop thinking about the sex holiday John was on and the smell of his jumper and eating cold chips alone on the sofa, so that I could concentrate on the important things. Like the Magnussen case. Which was not really a case yet, but I intended to make it into one. To bring the repugnant creature down. That was the most important thing.
Because, after all, I am Sherlock Holmes and I am married to my work. Nothing else matters.