The Midnight Conference
After the abrupt ending of my rendezvous with Holmes, I returned home to have supper with my wife. The next day, after returning from work, I waited for him to call on him, but no summons ever came. Then, at a quarter till midnight I heard a frantic knocking at the door. The maid and my wife were asleep, and I dozing in the parlor, so in a frenzy I made myself decent and opened the door. And there was Sherlock Holmes standing on my front stoop, his clothes drenched with rain and tainted with the smell of tobacco.
Before I could so much as say "good evening", he shouldered past and into the parlor, in the way of a great grizzly bear who does not wish to be disturbed. He sat down upon the stool by the fireplace, kindly leaving my armchair open to me, and took out his pipe while muttering under his breath. When I tried to speak to him again, he set down his pipe and gave me a look that detailed all he meant to project on me.
I left the room and went upstairs after that, to see if the sounds of my friend's arrival had disturbed my wife or the maid. After I'd let him be for a while, it was already midnight, and when I came back to the parlor he permitted me to speak.
"What is the matter, Holmes?" I asked him. "And what on earth could have put you so out of temper?"
"In simple terms, interference." He said. "It seems that the influences of the dearly departed Herr Schindler are extending from beyond the grave. Yesterday, I had two visitors; inspectors from Scotland Yard. Our old friend Lestrade was one of them, but he came with one of his superiors, a great blonde behemoth named Murray. They told me that Mr. Donahue had been arrested, and that I should not take him up on whatever offer he'd made me to clear his name."
"Murray? As in, Arnold Murray?"
Holmes looked at me queerly, and it took me a few moments to realize that the expression on his face was surprise; one I had rarely seen before. My companion was so used to having all the answers, he almost never expected me to ask that many questions. "Yes. How do you know him?"
"Why, he was my orderly while I was a military doctor in Afghanistan." I said, as my mind filled with memories of hot days, old tobacco smoke, and the smell of bloodstained surgeon tools. "He saved my life at the battle of Maiwand. I'd taken an injury to the shoulder, and I almost certainly would have been killed by those murderous Ghazis. But Murray arrived in the nick of time to throw me on top of a horse and carry me to safety."
Sherlock Holmes turned his body slightly closer towards the fire and chewed the end of his pipe, as was his custom upon acquiring new facts. He soon asked me, "Have you spoken to Murray since Afghanistan?"
"Nor written to him?"
"Really? Your own Army manservant saves your life at the hands of savage Muslims, and you negate ever communicating with him again?"
A single second of dislike for Holmes ran through at that remark, for I did not like any man, especially one so devoted and courageous as Murray, being dismissed as a simple "Army manservant". "I was removed to a hospital in Peshawar almost immediately after." I retorted. "Murray stayed at the camp, and after my recovery I was sent to England. But if I was ever given the chance to correspond with him, I would have taken it."
My friend stood up abruptly, wiped the tobacco ash off my clothes, and grinned at me. "Well then, Watson, that's a chance you're going to get. Meet me at Baker Street tomorrow morning at nine. We're going to the Yard to have a little chat."
"But my work-"
"Oh, let your assistant handle the patients. You know, the Scottish fellow, what's his name...Donald?"
"Precisely what I said." replied Holmes. "I'm in desperate need of you once again, Watson. I truly am a dunce when it comes to social relations." He tipped his hat to me, flew towards the front hall, and departed the house quietly as a mouse.
I stared at the glowing embers of the fireplace, trying to make sense of what had just occurred, and came up with nothing I left it to the simple fact Sherlock Holmes, and only Sherlock Holmes, would have called on me in the middle of the night to tell me of a new thread of a case, and then decide what to do about next without so much as blinking.
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