Chapter 1 The First Day by Dr. John H. Watson
Even after several years of working with Sherlock Holmes, I still find it amazing how he is able to pull together all the separate threads of an investigation and weave them as skillfully as any cloth maker until an unmistakable pattern emerges and he solves the case. Of course he loves those moments of his big “reveal” as the faces of those around him register wonder at the way he was able to deduce his conclusions from the tiniest bits of evidence. I think he especially relishes the look on my face since I would have been with him the whole time and saw the same things he did and yet did not arrive at the same conclusion. But as he has told me on numerous occasions, I see but do not observe.
One case, however, stands out because the threads were stretched over three continents and over 45 years but they converged in a flat at 221B Baker Street. Part of the following narrative, I witnessed and am able to write about it that way. The rest, I had to piece together from what Sherlock told me and from what I learned from a woman named Sarah Dunkirk, with maybe just a little embellishment on my part. I’ll begin the story with Sarah who was awakened near dawn by the sound of a helicopter that she thought was going to land on her roof.
It was the beginning of the third day of a major ice storm in southwest Missouri in the United States. Power had gone out when the first wave hit two nights ago and with two more ice storms following that, the situation had only grown worse. The ice had accumulated to the thickness of soda cans on the power lines, pulling them down and snapping the poles like twigs. It would take days, maybe weeks, to repair the damage and restore power to everyone. As the ice coating on the trees grew thicker, huge limbs and entire trees snapped with the sound of gun shots. After the third wave, the snow began in earnest, blanketing most of the county with as much as sixteen inches of wet snow.
By the time Sarah crawled out of her makeshift tent in front of her fireplace and went to her back window and pulled back the blanket covering it to see what was making the noise, the helicopter was flying out over Lake Pomme de Terre. The snow had stopped and the moon was out, but nothing seemed to be amiss. “Maybe it was the Red Cross, dropping us some supplies, you think, Scout?” Scout, Sarah’s Shiba Inu, pawed at the glass door. “No, you’re not going out. You can wait till morning. Come on, girl, let’s go back to bed.” Scout sniffed at the door jam and pawed some more. “OK, but I’m not waiting up to let you back in. You get cold, that’s too bad.” Sarah pulled back the blanket, covering the door and opened it just enough to let the dog through, then shut it quickly. After the first day with no electricity, she had covered the doors and windows to try to conserve heat. Her furnace ran on propane, but it needed electricity. Fortunately, she had a wood-burning fireplace and plenty of wood stacked on her deck just outside the back door. But with a 17-foot- high ceiling in the living room, the heat did not stay downstairs but rose to the loft. She was able to keep the temperature in the house about 45-50 degrees, which was cold, but tolerable. Yesterday she had come up with the idea of using quilts to make a tent in front of the fireplace with the idea of holding some of the warm air inside. The house was also warm enough, hopefully, to keep the pipes from freezing, but unfortunately, the pump was electric, also, so there was no water, other than what was in the big pots that she had filled in the hours before the first wave hit. The covered pans of water filled one of her kitchen counters.
Sarah watched in the moonlight as Scout make a bee line across the backyard, running toward the edge of the cliff that overlooked the lake, but the dog was soon lost in the shadows, so Sarah let the quilt fall back over the door and crawled back into her tent and fell fast asleep. It was almost two hours later that she awoke with a start, realizing that Scout was still out in the cold.
With the doors and windows covered and from inside her tent, it was dark even after the sun came up. But when Sarah uncovered the glass door, the sunrise on the ice-covered trees almost blinded her for a moment. She never ceased to marvel at the beauty of her surroundings with her house perched above the lake, but today she was truly in a crystalline snow palace. She saw Scout lying in the snow at the edge of the cliff. She opened the door and called, but Scout only raised her head and looked at her. “Dumb dog,” she whispered aloud. “You know your name but you never come except if there’s food. I’m too old for this, Scout. You need to come when I call you.”
Sarah threw on a coat that lay over one of the dining table chairs and sat down and pulled on her boots. She grabbed a stocking cap and slipped on her gloves as she opened one of the glass doors and stepped out onto the deck. She had cleared a narrow ice-free path across the deck the day before, but the new snow blanketed it. She gingerly picked her way to the steps and held tightly to the railing as she made her way slowly to the ground. She certainly did not want to risk a fall and broken bones in this weather. She had no landline to call for an ambulance, and evidently the cell tower had suffered damage in the ice storm because her cell phone had stopped getting any kind of signal after the second wave of the ice storm. From the few minutes that she had listened to her battery radio the past two days, it sounded as if the roads were so bad that an ambulance probably would not be able to reach her anyway. The authorities were warning people not to travel on the main roads and Sarah’s cabin was about 15 miles from a highway. Since the storm began, she had not hiked her long driveway out to the county road that ran by her property. But even in normal snow events, it seemed as if it was always the last to be plowed, and now with a layer of ice underneath the snow, she doubted if it would be passable for a few days.
The snow came up halfway to her knees as she waded through it down towards the edge of the cliff to where Scout lay. She had a fleeting image of sliding off the hillside into the lake below. It was not a straight drop down to the water fifty yards below, and protruding rocks or trees probably would have stopped her slide, but the experience still could be deadly. And even if she survived, the climb back up in the ice and snow might prove to be impossible.
As she drew closer to Scout, the dog refused to move and Sarah worried that it might be injured. It was not until she was almost next to the dog that she saw what Scout was guarding. Sarah caught her breath. “That’s no Red Cross bundle.” She knelt down. “Oh, my God.” Scout was lying on top of a man who was almost concealed under the snow and the dog. The man was curled on his side in a fetal position. Scout moved from her protective posture and stood in the snow, whimpering. With the dog out of the way, Sarah saw that the man was completely nude. She took off one of her gloves and hesitantly touched him. He felt warm where Scout had covered him. She brushed the snow from his hair. His face was cold but she now noticed the smallest wisp of frosted air coming from his nostrils. “You’re alive.” Sarah did not realize she had been holding her breath. “Oh, my gosh, you’re alive. But not for long, if I don’t get you inside.”
“Ok. What to do.” Sarah turned and gauged the distance to the house. She whipped off her heavy coat and threw it over the man and put her stocking cap on his head, pulling it down over his ears and face as far as it would go. “I’m going to go get a blanket or something to get you to the house. I’ll be right back.” Scout curled up next to the man and Sarah took off for the cabin, returning with a quilt. She spread the quilt on the ground and struggled to roll the man onto it. He moaned softly—the first sound he had made. “I’m sorry,” Sarah said. “I’m on my own here. I’m just doing the best I can. There’s still no cell phone signal. No help is coming. So it’s just you and me.”
She was oblivious to the cold as she pulled the quilt with the unconscious man through the deep snow, slipping more than once. Scout danced along beside her, nipping at the cover, as if the dog were trying to help. As Sarah tugged on the quilt corner, the thought that the cover might rip in two briefly dismayed her since the quilt was one that her mother had made. She quickly dismissed the memory of her mother sitting in her favorite chair, hand-stitching the pieces together. She knew her mother would agree that this man’s life was more valuable than a piece of material.
Sarah finally reached the bottom of the deck steps and paused to catch her breath and consider how she would get him up them. There were only four steps but they were coated with ice. She had been dragging him with his head away from her, but now she turned the quilt around so his head was near her. She slipped one of her arms under one of his and grasped the quilt with her other hand. She sat down on the icy steps and heaved him up one step at a time, hoping he had no internal damage that was being made worse by her rough treatment. After she had him on the deck she once again could pull the quilt across it and through the open door. After hauling him safely inside, she closed the door and sat down on the floor next to him to gather her strength. Only a few more feet to go and she would have him inside her makeshift tent in front of the fire. But the effort to get him this far had exhausted her. She could feel the sweat coating her back and trickling down her forehead, but at the same time she knew she must be freezing since her coat was still partially covering the stranger.
Scout nosed the man’s face. “We’re almost there, Buddy,” Sarah said to the unconscious man through ragged breaths. “One more heave-ho!” The quilt glided more easily across the smooth wood floor than it had through the deep snow and it did not take her long to reach the tent and the sleeping mat inside that she had made near the hearth. She pulled back the covers and clumsily maneuvered the man off of the wet quilt, rolling him onto her bed which consisted of an several thick quilts and blankets. She removed her coat from him and wrapped the covers tightly about his still form. After poking the fire, she added more logs, then sat back beside him. Retrieving her phone from the stack of magazines next to the pallet, she checked for a signal. Still nothing. “And now, I guess we just have to wait,” she said softly.
The man Sarah Dunkirk found in the snow in her backyard was none other than my friend, Sherlock Holmes. By the time she found him he had been missing for four days but that was not unusual for him. He would often disappear for days, occasionally weeks, without a word to me as to his whereabouts. Sometimes he would tell me he was going to be gone on a case, but not always. I think he just forgot about me from time to time, forgot that I was there to help him, forgot that I worried about him when he was out on his own. I don’t know why I worried. Sherlock could take care of himself better than any man I know, but I worried, nevertheless. On this occasion, I did not know he was gone until the second day. I had gone round to his flat at 221B Baker Street and Mrs. Hudson told me he had left early on the previous morning in the company of two men. As I said, this was not unusual in his case, but on the third day, I contacted Detective Inspector Lestrade with Scotland Yard to find out if he had a clue as to where Sherlock might be. He did not so I called Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother. Normally Mycroft would be the last person that Sherlock would confide in, but Mycroft himself might have sent Sherlock on a mission. I got no information from him, either, so I sat at home with Mary and waited for a text or a call. He was not responding to either of mine.
Back in Missouri, Sarah kept busy the rest of the day while Sherlock remained unconscious. He lay so motionless that almost hourly she checked to see whether he was still breathing. Other than keeping the fire blazing a little hotter, she spent the day as she had done the past two— napping and crocheting and reading and writing (it was the first time in years she had written on one of her books in longhand; she was used to doing everything on her computer). She sat near the man under the blanket tent because it was the warmest place in the house. Scout kept a vigil snuggled as close to the man as she could, only moving when she reluctantly went outdoors to relieve herself. Even in the coldest weather, Scout would often stay outside for a while, but not today. For some reason, the dog had developed a protective attachment to the stranger which was unusual for her because she usually hid under the bed whenever a man came to the house.
It was almost four o’clock in the afternoon when Sherlock finally stirred. Sarah shrank back a little from him. It was one thing sitting next to a strange man when he was unconscious, but it was quite another when he awakened. She knew nothing about him and was all alone in her little cabin in the woods. Her left hand closed around the iron fireplace poker that was lying on the hearth. Sherlock suddenly sat upright, flinging his arms wildly. Sarah had earlier pulled a wool sock over each of his hands to try to warm them and he tore off the socks. “Where am I?” he roared.
“Whoa, Cowboy!” Sarah got to her knees, dropped the poker and grabbed his wrists. She was afraid he would hurl himself into the fireplace. “It’s OK. Calm down. You’re safe.”
“Why is it so dark?” He stopped fighting against her and sat rigid, his back straight..
“The windows are covered to keep out the cold. Your eyes will adjust in a few minutes. It’s not really that dark.”
“No.” Sherlock pulled his hands out of her grip and felt his face. He pulled off the stocking cap that she had kept on his head all day. She had put a different one on him after she had got him settled in the bed since the earlier one had become damp from his wet hair. He ran his hands over his eyes. “I can’t see anything.”
“What? Let me see.” He had stopped thrashing about and Sarah leaned in close. She touched his head to tilt it to the firelight and he jerked away, but then let her hands rest on his face. “Your eyes look OK. There’s a tiny red mark here on the side of your neck, though. If it were summer, I’d say it was a bug bite, but you couldn’t have gotten bitten outside last night.”
Sherlock clapped one hand over the place she had indicated. “Who are you?” he asked.
“My name’s Sarah Dunkirk. Who are you?”
“I’m… I…” He cocked his head. “I …don’t know,” he said slowly. “I…I can’t remember.” He turned his head toward her and his tone brightened. “But first things first and then we’ll try to sort things out. I need to use the loo.”
“Oh, right. Come on. Can you stand?” She parted the covers that formed the door of the tent, and helped him crawl out and get to his feet. “And please keep this blanket around you. You might be blind but I’m not and you don’t have anything on.”
“I seem to have on socks on my feet.”
“Well, yeah, I thought they might help warm you up this morning.” She took his hand, and led him around the eat bar that separated the living room and kitchen.
“Why is it so cold in here?”
“We had an ice storm,” she explained. “There’s no electricity, no water in the pipes—just what I ran up ahead of time. No phone service. It’s like camping, only not so fun.”
Sarah led him to the bathroom that opened off the kitchen. “There are plenty of grab bars in here—just feel along the wall for them. Watch out for the cabinet door here at your knees. I need to leave it open to let what heat there is get to the pipes. And don’t flush. There’s no electricity for the pump. I filled the bathtub with water the night the ice storm hit and I’ll use a bucket from there later to flush. Here’s the sink when you’re finished. There’s a pan of water here on your right. Use this dipper to get some water out of it to wash your hands. It’ll be ice cold, of course. I’ll heat some up later in the fireplace, so you can wash properly.” She guided his hand to feel the things she was pointing out to him. “And here on the counter are some clothes for you. There are some sweatpants and a thermal underwear top and a sweatshirt. They probably won’t fit too well, but I like those kinds of clothes big and baggy. They’re actually men’s clothes, so they might be all right. Oh, and there’s some underwear on top. My brother was here last summer and after he left I found a couple of his in the wash. I really have no idea at all if they’ll fit you.” Sarah stopped. She felt like she was rambling. “Well, I will leave you to your business.” She backed out into the kitchen and closed the door.
Scout tried to follow him in, but Sarah held back the dog who then lay down by the closed door. “You might trip him, Scout. He’ll be out in a few minutes.”
While Sarah waited for him, she opened a can of chicken noodle soup and dipped some water from one of the large pans on the kitchen counter. She put this is a pot and set it on the grill in the fireplace. She already had a kettle of water on the grill. She had bought the grill after the last major ice storm eight years ago. That time when the power was out for four days, she had cooked on a small charcoal grill on her covered front porch. Having a grill inside in the fireplace was much more convenient. Rummaging in one of the lower kitchen cabinets, she found the food tray that her mother had used when she was no longer able to come to the table. Sarah had a matching one that she used all the time since she often ate her meals in the living room while she watched television, but this was the first time in three years that she needed the tray that had been her mother’s.
Sherlock opened the bathroom door. “Do I look presentable?”
Not for the first time, Sarah saw that he was a striking young man. “Well, you have everything on right side out and not backwards, so you did pretty good. I see you found the comb I laid on the counter. I forgot to point it out to you.” His dark curls were less tangled now, but still unruly. If only he had dropped out of the sky into her life thirty years ago, she thought—someone that good-looking with an accent to match.
“I found the comb when I ran my hand over the counter. I also found a toothbrush, but wasn’t sure whether or not it was yours. The bristles felt new and it still smelled of the plastic packaging it must have come in, but I was hesitant to use it.”
“No, I got that out for you. It’s new. My stuff is in the upstairs bathroom. I’m fixing some soup, if you think you can eat something. I’m sure it’s been a while since your last meal.” She walked behind him and picked up the quilt from where he had left it on the bathroom floor. “Do you feel all right? I mean are you dizzy or nauseous or…anything?”
“Slight headache is all.”
“I examined your head for lumps or cuts while you were sleeping. I didn’t find anything. A concussion would be the simplest explanation for your memory loss, I guess.
“When I was dressing just now, I couldn’t find any sign of an injury either.”
“Come back over to the fire and I’ll finish getting supper ready. If you want something hot to drink, we have tea or coffee or I’ve got some powdered hot chocolate. It’s not too bad.”
“Coffee, I think,” he replied.
She got him settled in front of the fire and brought the tray to him. She poured water from the kettle into the cup on the tray. “It’s Earl Grey, hot.”
“That’s from Star Trek. Captain Picard used to say that all the time. Do you know Star Trek?”
Sherlock cocked his head. “No, not really.”
“Maybe you’ll remember when you memory comes back. And it’s probably not tea like you’re used to, if you do come from England. You’re in America now. And also here on your tray is a little bowl of canned peaches. And here are some crackers. The soup should be ready in just a minute or two. I’ve lived on soup and hotdogs for the past three days—and cereal. I have a box of macaroni and cheese in the cabinet—I could try that tomorrow if the power is still out.” After Sarah divided the hot soup between them, she sat back cross-legged and balanced her tray across her knees. “All right. Let’s talk while we eat. What do you remember?”
“Absolutely nothing, until I woke up a few minutes ago. I don’t know my name or where I’m from or how I got here, what I do for a living. And since I can’t see, I don’t even know what I look like.
“Well, for starters, from your accent, I’d say you’re English. Do you know England?”
“Of course,” he said sharply.
“Well, you don’t know Star Trek. How am I supposed to know what you remember and what you don’t? Anyway, continuing...”
“No, wait,” Sherlock interrupted here. “Let me ask a question. Where exactly are we?”
“Southwest Missouri in the United States. My house sits on a high bluff above Lake Pomme de Terre.”
Sherlock did not respond to this information. Sarah was not sure whether he understood what she had just told him. “Anyway, continuing, from the way you act, I don’t think you’ve been blind for very long, so possibly your blindness and your memory loss are related or both occurred at the same time, or were done to you at the same time.”
“What do you mean ‘done to’ me?”
Sarah told him about the pre-dawn helicopter and how she discovered him and brought him inside. “So, it was really Scout here who saved your life.” She laid her hand on the dog who was sitting between them. “If she hadn’t kept you warm until I found you, you might have frozen to death or gotten horrible frostbite, at least. In fact, I can’t believe you didn’t get some frostbite. You were out there a long time.”
Sherlock rested his hand on Scout’s head. “And completely nude?”
“Not a stitch.”
“Who would do that?
“Not a clue. The helicopter was already flying away when I looked out the door, and it was still dark. I couldn’t see any markings on it. But there’s no doubt they are the ones who left you there. When I went out there a few hours ago you could still see not where they landed, but where the snow was swirled around. So, I think they got really close to the ground, pushed you out, and took out over the lake.”
“But if they wanted to kill me, why didn’t they just drop me in the lake or shoot me first and then push me out or any of a number of other scenarios?”
“I don’t know. But maybe they didn’t want you dead. But how could they have known I would find you? In fact since I have most of the windows and doors covered with blankets, how did they even know someone was home? Or you could have woken up and fallen off the cliff. I don’t know—the whole thing just doesn’t make sense.” Sarah sipped some spoonfuls of soup. “Well, back to you. Let’s go with you being English. I’d say from your speech you’re educated.”
“Would you? I’d say the same about you.”
“Thank you,” replied Sarah. “I have a master’s in education. Taught history until I had to stop and take care of my mother.”
“And your mother is dead?”
She took the tea bag from Sherlock’s cup. “Do you want sugar?”
He took a sip. “Yes, I think I do. Two, maybe”
“Here.” She had some packets on her tray and stirred two of them into his cup. “Yeah, she died three years ago.”
“Why did you not go back to teaching?”
“While I was caring for Mom, I started writing and I got lucky. I sold some children’s books and now I have a fairly steady income from a series I write—not a big income, but it pays the bills.”
“And the series is about?”
“They’re called the “Things You Find” books for little kids. They’re like “Things You Find at the Sea Shore” and “Things You Find in the Woods” and “Things You Find at the Airport” and “…In Caves,” and “…at the Grocery Store.” The list goes on and on. As long as they keep selling, I just have to come up with more places and the things you find there.
Sherlock did not respond to that information, but instead said, “These crackers are unlike any I’ve ever had.”
“How would you know if you can’t remember?”
“I know soup and peaches and tea and sugar—and what you put in my tea was not sugar, by the way.”
“I’m sorry. It’s sweetener. I’ll get you some real sugar the next time. Or I use local honey in mine. You might want to try that. But the thing about the crackers proves that you’re English or somewhere where they speak with your accent. Because everybody I know grew up on saltine crackers.”
Sherlock took a small bite of cracker and chewed it before he spoke again and then it was on a different subject. “I take it from your description of the lake and the lack of noise from outside that you are fairly isolated here. I’ve not heard any cars or horns or sirens or the voices of other people.”
“It’s pretty quiet here. That’s why I like it. My house sits about a fourth of a mile off the road—or, if you’re English, I don’t know how far that is in kilometers.”
“Miles will do.”
“Oh, good. I do have a neighbor across the road but his house sits pretty far back, too. He went to Florida for the winter. And there’s an old couple not too far on this side. Oh, darn!”
“What is it?”
“I should have checked on them. Neither one is in good health. Maybe I should hike over there tomorrow. Or maybe they left before the ice hit. They have a daughter in Springfield—she probably came up and got them. But back to you. We keep getting off subject. What do we know so far? You’re English, you’re blindness is a recent thing, you can remember some things but not others, you live in a place that’s noisier, probably a city… but the most important thing…”
“You could tell it was a new toothbrush because you could smell the plastic from the packaging? That’s the craziest thing I ever heard!”
“I felt the bristles, too,” Sherlock said defensively.
Sarah almost tipped over her tray when she leaned forward laughing. “I’m sorry, Cowboy. That is just so funny.” She sat upright again. “Oh, and if you can get clues from the smell of toothbrushes, I can find them, too. For instance, I’m not an expert on how fast men’s beards grow, but I’d say you’re normally clean-shaven and that’s about a three or four days’ growth you have there on your face.”
Sherlock ran one hand over his face. “And I don’t like it at all. It’s annoying.”
“Well, here at the end of the third day without electricity, no lights, no running water, no furnace, no phone or Internet and I can’t get my car out until the snow melts a little, I can honestly say that beard stubble is way down on my list of what’s annoying. I know, there are a lot of people in this world who don’t have all those conveniences, but I’m used to them and do not like it when I have to do without.
“Oh, I understand that all that is annoying, but this…” He rubbed his chin. “This is not right. It has to go.”
“All right,” agreed Sarah, softening her tone. “Tomorrow morning I will heat some water so you can wash up properly and you can shave. I have some shaving crème but I hope you won’t mind using a Lady Schick razor.”
“I look forward to it,” said Sherlock.
“And maybe, just maybe, if we’re really, really, really lucky, the power will be back on tomorrow and civilization will be restored to this cabin on the lake.”
It was already dark outside when Sarah took the trays back to the kitchen and cleaned up the remains of their supper. She fixed Sherlock another cup of tea, this time with honey, and it seemed to meet with his approval. With the two of them sitting in front of the fire, Sarah turned on the radio for a few minutes, but the news was not good, but not all bad either. Six thousand customers in the county were still without power but the roads were improving and the temperatures the next day were supposed to be above freezing for the first time in a week.
She switched off the radio to conserve the batteries. “We usually say, ‘if you don’t like the weather in Missouri, stick around for a few days—it’ll change.’ It will probably be 50 or 60 degrees by the end of the week. That’s happened lots of times. Of course, that’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius. ”
“What day is it?” Sherlock asked.
It’s Monday. The first wave of the ice storm hit Friday night and that’s when the power went out.” Sarah leaned back against the stack of pillows. “It’s only five thirty. It always seems later when it gets dark so early in the winter. Too early to go to sleep. I could read to you, but that would be boring. I could play some fiddle music.”
“You know—violin. Nothing fancy. I play a little Ozarks mountain music.” Sarah crawled out of the tent and retrieved the instrument case from the couch. After tuning the fiddle, she started off with the rousing tune of Arkansas Traveler followed by the Eighth of January and the Ozark Moon Waltz. But halfway through the last one, she stopped abruptly.
“What’s wrong?” asked Sherlock.
“You were air fingering just now and you were bowing. You were playing along with me. You play the violin!”
“I…I don’t know,” Sherlock said hesitantly. “May I see it?” Sarah relinquished the fiddle and he positioned it under his chin and drew the bow across the strings. He tweaked the tuning job that Sarah had done and then followed that with an exquisite rendition of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor
“Oh, my gosh,” said Sarah when he had finished, “I can’t believe you sat there and let me play those fiddle tunes. That was absolutely beautiful.”
“Thank you, John.”
“John?” She laughed aloud. “Who’s John?”
“I…I’ve no idea,” said Sherlock.
“He must be someone you know. A friend? Maybe a co-worker, a business partner? Maybe, well, you know, a …partner?”
“I don’t know,” said Sherlock. “It just came out.”
Sarah reached for her notebook on the stack of magazines next to her. “Well, I’m writing it down. I’m keeping track of every little clue about you. Maybe when we put them all together, they will help us figure out who you are and who we can contact. I’m sure somebody’s missing you by now, somebody’s probably worried sick about you. Maybe John, whoever he is. So,” she said, writing, “plays the violin beautifully and knows someone named John.” She closed the notebook.”Unfortunately, there are lots of people named John in this world. Maybe you’ll blurt out his last name. And now, would you play another piece?”
Sherlock held out the violin. “I’d much rather hear you play.”
“No way. Not after hearing you.”
“Please. That piece rather wore me out. I think after you play a few more songs I will be ready to curl up and go to sleep.”
“OK. One more.”
“Two more.” She played Soldiers Joy and Big Sandy and then put the fiddle and bow back in the case.
“Did you ever play on… stage?” Sherlock asked.
“Oh, no. My family just… played. My Dad was on bass mostly and Mom liked the dulcimer. My two older brothers played guitar or banjo or mandolin—whatever was needed at the time. Some of my best childhood memories are Saturday nights when we’d all get together. Sometimes relatives or neighbors would come over and the living room or front porch, depending on the weather, would be full of music—picking and strumming and singing and dancing—for hours.” Sarah was quiet for a moment. “Whenever I play, I can still hear them. And the laughter and the stories. It was a great time to be a kid. They’re all gone now…or scattered.”
“I hope,” said Sherlock, “that when my memories return, that I, too, can recall such a pleasant childhood. So, you just play mostly for your own enjoyment now?”
“I’m actually involved in a mountain music preservation program at the local university. There were recordings made of some of the old-timers back in the ‘40’s and 50’s, but the sound quality is not too good much of the time. They were made on just personal tape recorders and the tapes have deteriorated and they’re…scratchy. Some of the time they recorded them along with several instruments or people singing along and it’s hard to pick out the tune for people now who are trying to transcribe the music. Many of the old songs have never been written down and some of the ones that have been transcribed are not always accurate. Of course dialect and local variations also come into play. I’m not much use on the transcribing part, because I grew up playing by ear so I can’t even tell you what key something is in. But I can listen to those old recordings and then make a recording with just me on the fiddle and that helps the people who are trying to write the music. That’s probably more than you wanted to know.”
“No, I find that fascinating. You are providing a service that will be appreciated years from now.”
“Yeah, that’s how I look at it. It doesn’t pay anything, but there’s a personal satisfaction in knowing that I’m helping to preserve a part of our Ozark cultural history.”
Sarah brought in more wood for the night and made Scout go out for one last trip before bedtime. While Sherlock was in the bathroom she straightened the covers that made up the sleeping pallet. There was not enough space in her blanket tent in front of the fire for two beds and she did not have enough covers anyway since she was using several blankets and quilts over the doors and windows to keep out the drafts. She figured she would just try to sleep in a sitting positon next to the pillows where she had sat all day.
She heard Sherlock coming through the kitchen and she crawled out and helped him find his way to the tent and got him settled.
“And where are you going to sleep?” he asked.
“Oh, I’ll just sit here and doze.”
“Nonsense. You can sleep here with me. It will be warmer for both of us.”
“I don’t think so. I don’t mind. I’ll be fine.”
“No. Listen. I really don’t know you. And you don’t even know you. I think I’d better just stay over here, keep the fire going, listen for more helicopters…”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” said Sherlock. “Come here under the covers with me. I promise, I won’t try anything if you’ll promise the same. Besides, Scout will protect you, won’t she?” Sherlock was lying on his right side, facing the fire and Scout was snuggled up against his back.
“Promise?” asked Sarah.
“Promise. And you?”
“Promise.” She crawled under the covers and put her back to him.”
He put his left arm over her.
“You said no hanky-panky,” she reminded him.
“I have to put my arm somewhere,” he said. “And it will keep you warm.”
They were both quiet for a few moments and then Sarah chuckled. “I can’t believe it. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever done.”
“And you invaded Afghanistan.”
Sarah bolted upright. “What? Why did you say that?”
“I don’t know,” said Sherlock. “It just came out.”
“I need to write that down before I forget,” said Sarah, reaching for her notebook. “What in the world could have prompted you to talk about invading Afghanistan?” After making another entry in the notebook, she lay back down. “Put your arm back over me, Cowboy, and let’s go to sleep.”