Chapter 4 The Fourth Day
The early morning light cast a pale pink glow on the snow in the front yard of the cabin as I looked out the large bay window. The new coating of snow did not completely obscure the tracks where the helicopter had landed the night before. I hoped that Sherlock was more cooperative this morning and we could head home.
“It’s so quiet here,” I said as I passed through the kitchen to the bathroom. “I slept like a baby. Well, not like my baby. She’s up every few hours.”
“You have a little girl?” asked Sarah.
“Yeah,” I said, closing the bathroom door, “and I want to get back to her—and my wife—today.”
It was just a few minutes before Sarah had breakfast on the table—eggs, bacon, biscuits, a couple of slices of orange for garnishment. The cabin was compact and a table would not fit in the kitchen, but an eat bar separated the kitchen from the small dining area. A pine table with green inlaid tiles on the top and four chairs almost filled the space along with a hutch filled with dishes and more antiques and collectibles. She told me to sit so that I could look out the glass doors and the windows which made up the back wall. The view of the lake was spectacular with the sunlight glistening on the surface and the snow sparkling with a million glints of light.
“Oh, don’t sit down yet,” she said excitedly. “Look there.” She stood at the doors and pointed at something. “There. Just to the right of that largest tree, there on that limb that has part of it broken off. Do you see it?”
And I did. A bald eagle sat in a tree about sixty feet away.
“Here. Use these.” She handed me some binoculars. “There’s a pair that stay here year round. That’s the male, I think.”
“My god, it’s beautiful,” I said. “Do they ever come closer?”
“Not often, but I have seen them in that tree there at the edge of the yard.”
I looked a few seconds more and then handed her the binoculars and sat down. “Have you heard anything this morning from…” and inclined my head toward the bedroom door.
“No. When I came downstairs, I opened his door just enough to let Scout out. She scurried outside and did her business and came right back in and made a beeline to get right back in there. She didn’t even come in here for breakfast. I didn’t know whether to wake him or not.”
“If the smell of this bacon doesn’t wake him, I don’t know what would,” I told her. “This is a wonderful breakfast. You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”
We spent the next fifteen or twenty minutes talking mostly about what all had happened here in the past few days—the ice storm and the power outage, the events next door and Sherlock’s speculation that the old woman had suffocated her husband. Our voices must have awakened Sherlock because he finally emerged from the bedroom. He still wore the sweatpants and sweatshirt from the night before.
“I thought I heard voices,” he said. “John and Mary, I wasn’t expecting you this morning.” He stopped abruptly in the middle of the living room and looked at Sarah at the breakfast table. “Not Mary.” The words came out slowly. He glanced around the living room and I could see the look of confusion on his face.
Sarah and I both stood up from the table. “Sherlock,” I said, “you can see?”
His eyes came back to focus on Sarah. “Not Mary,” he said again. “Sarah?”
“Yeah, I’m Sarah.” She took a step toward him, but he held up his hand, palm facing outward, and she stopped.
He continued to stare at her for a few moments, before saying, “But you can’t be.”
“Sherlock.” I walked over to him. “You need to talk to me. Your sight has returned? What else?”
He suddenly gripped my upper arms. “John! Where’s Mary?”
“She’s home in London, with the baby. You’re here, in Missouri, here at Sarah’s house, where you’ve been for four days now. Do you remember?”
“Of course, I remember.” He let go of me and laid a palm on either side of his head. “Too much…too much information. Too many clues. It’s like a flood and now…now it’s all…it’s all in here…jumbled together. It…I…I need to sort it…” He stumbled back toward the bedroom and I followed.
I closed the door behind us and sat him in the chair.
“Just leave me alone, John. I need…I need to think.”
“Sherlock, we need to get back to London.”
“No! Not until everything’s straight…in here.” He pointed at his head. “John? Sarah…she’s… old.”
“Yeah, I suppose she is. She’s not as old as Mrs. Hudson. She’s probably sixty, maybe a little older...it’s hard to say. Why? Wait a minute.” It just occurred to me. “You didn’t know she was that old, did you? Not until you saw her just now.”
It was Sherlock’s bane in life to ever admit he was wrong about anything. “I thought she was contemporary to us. But I should have known. Of course. The clues…the clues were all there, all the time… and I ignored them.”
It always gave me a certain satisfaction whenever Sherlock missed something—he was always so certain that he was right about everything. But he was in turmoil right now, with his sight returning and his memories flooding back, so I wasn’t quite as gleeful as I would have been if we were back on Baker Street. “Sherlock, you were going through a terrible ordeal and…”
“My ‘ordeal’ didn’t stop me from solving the crime next door—do you know about that?”
“Yeah, Sarah told me. Dreadful story.”
“But I missed every single piece of evidence about her. Although she doesn’t really act like an old person, does she? Anyway, you need to leave me alone for a while, John. I’ll be all right. I just need some time…some time to put everything in its proper place.”
“All right,” I agreed. “But we have to get back, Sherlock. Just call for me if you need anything.”
Sarah was listening to the entire conversation outside the bedroom door. The exchange about her age tickled her and she almost laughed out loud. When Sherlock had stared at her so strangely a few minutes ago, she had assumed it was because his memories had returned and wiped out most of the past four days. The idea that it was the sudden realization that she was twenty-five or thirty years older than him never occurred to her. She hurried over to the table and began clearing it, still chuckling quietly, as John came back into the living room. “Will he be all right?” she asked as she carried dishes to the kitchen.
“Oh, sure,” I said. “He just has to sort things out in his mind. He’s not like other people, you know.”
“He’s not like anyone I’ve ever met, that’s for sure.”
“So I guess we’re going to be here a while longer. Is there anything I can do while I wait?” I asked. “Anything you need?”
“Well,” she said thinking, “You could chop some kindling for me. I went through a lot of wood the past few days.”
“I don’t think that’s something I’ve ever done, but I’m game.”
“Oh, it’s not too hard. Get your coat. I’ll show you how it’s done.”
About an hour later, Sarah knocked softly on the bedroom door, and asked if she could come in. There was no reply, so she quietly opened the door and peeked in. Sherlock was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the unmade bed, his back straight, his eyes closed, elbows resting on his knees and his fingers steepled beneath his chin. Scout was curled between the pillows behind him. “I’ve brought you a cup of coffee.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “You haven’t had anything all morning. I’ll fix you something to eat, if you want.”
His eyes opened wide, but he stared straight ahead and did not look at her. “No. Coffee’s fine. I think better on an empty stomach.” His voice sounded hoarse.
She crossed the room to the bedside table. “I’ll just set it here for you.”
“What’s that sound?” Sherlock asked. An irregular knocking sound could be heard coming from the back of the house.
“That’s just John. He’s chopping me some kindling. In fact, I need to go stop him or he’ll have the rest of my winter’s wood supply reduced to splinters.”
“Why is he doing that?”
“He just needed something to do…you know, while he’s waiting for you. Sherlock, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to deceive you. I just didn’t think about you being blind and not knowing what I looked like. I’m sorry you didn’t know. I’m sorry I’m old.”
“You were listening at the door. You were not meant to hear that.”
“Hollow core doors. Sound passes right through.”
“And you’re not so old.”
Sarah hesitated before replying. “It’s just something that happens and you don’t even realize it. One minute I’m a teenager and it’s 1966 and I’m at a Beatles concert and…and I blink and suddenly it’s 50 years later and my teaching career is over and I’m on a pension and…and my students don’t just have kids, they have grandkids. I don’t even know where the years have gone. They’ve just…gone. The bad news is—it’ll happen to you one day.”
“No, it will never happen to me.”
“And why will you be the exception?”
“With the life I have, I don’t expect to live that long.”
“I suppose not,” said Sarah. “Especially if you keep getting dropped out of helicopters in the snow. Scout won’t always be around to keep you warm until help arrives.” She was glad to see a slight smile return to Sherlock’s features.
“I’m still trying to remember certain things,” said Sherlock. “Don’t you have a violin?”
“Sure. You played it. You want me to bring it in?”
“If you don’t mind. It will help me think.”
Sarah took him her fiddle case. She had not even made it to the back door to call for me before she heard the first notes coming from the bedroom.
After I came in I shaved and showered. I had worked up a sweat outside even in the freezing temperatures, and although I didn’t have a change of clothes, at lease I felt clean. I did not intrude on Sherlock’s solitude all morning. The violin music would often be interrupted by long minutes of silence and then resume. About eleven o’clock local time, Sarah announced to me that she was starting lunch, a big Southern one, she said, in case it was our last meal together. It had to be big, she explained, because she had stored her food from the freezer outside until the electricity had come back on and she was not too sure that some of it had not partially thawed when the temperatures briefly climbed above freezing. So she did not want to refreeze it. She had already put a ham in the oven and was busy cooking corn on the cob, fried okra, fried apples, and broccoli and cheese. She had bought some salad mix when she and Sherlock had gone to the store the day before, and threw some strawberries in it. I sat at the bar and watched her. We both looked at each other when we heard the shower in the bathroom off of the kitchen. It might mean that Sherlock was hopefully recovered enough to finally leave.
At a quarter to twelve, Sherlock emerged from his room, wearing the pants and shirt and jacket and shoes that I had brought for him. His hair was still damp from the shower, the dark curls plastered against his head. “John, you may call whomever you need to and tell them we are ready to depart for London.”
“No!” yelled Sarah. “We have to eat all this food first. It’s going to be ready in a few minutes. John, tell them not to come until at least one o’clock.”
I went over to the bay window and made my phone calls and Sherlock went over to the bar where Sarah’s laptop was open. I had been using it earlier. After contacting the pilots who had both stayed in Bolivar overnight, I went back over to the bar. Sherlock had opened a 60’s music website and was searching for something.
“Sarah,” he said, “I’m still trying to assimilate some things from the past few days. “Did we dance?”
Sarah was at the stove, stirring the fried apples. “Yeah, last night while we were waiting for John to get here.”
“Will you dance one last time with me?”
“What? Now? No, I’m finishing fixing dinner.”
“Oh, John can do that. Come on. John, go stir or whisk or whatever.”
I just looked at him then cleared my throat. “Uh, right.” I moved over to Sarah at the stove.
She looked a little confused and whispered in my ear as she handed me a wooden spoon. “Do you always do what he says?”
“Pretty much,” I confessed. “Saves a lot of time arguing.”
“Don’t let the okra burn. Although I prefer mine well done.” She walked over to Sherlock and he led her to the center of the living room as the music began. It was Different Drum by Stone Poneys. “You clean up real good, Cowboy,” she said to him and he smiled.
You know how when you are watching a horror film and you really do not want to see what is on the screen but you keep your eyes opened just a little because you would not want to miss anything? That’s how I felt watching them dance. It was just so out of character for Sherlock. The music played on, Linda Ronstadt singing:
and I ain't saying you ain't pretty
All I'm saying, I'm not ready
For any person, place or thing
To try and pull the reins in on me**
“Message, Sherlock?” asked Sarah, as they continued to dance.
“None that I am aware of,” he answered. “Perhaps these next words contain a message.”
both live a lot longer
If you live without me**
“I don’t think there were messages in all the sixties songs. Some were just songs,” she replied.
“Perhaps,” he said.
“And now changing the subject…I think. You are such a good dancer, Cowboy. I am so surprised that someone hasn’t snatched you right out of the sky by now.”
“I don’t let them get close enough.”
“Well, maybe you should try flying a little lower so some poor girl can catch you.”
“No. I know myself too well. It would only end in disaster. Sarah, I’m sorry what I said last night about not being able to imagine a place worse than this. I think that came out wrong. It wasn’t anything to do with you. I just meant that your place here is a long ways from anywhere. I’m not comfortable in the country and even though I wasn’t…myself yet last night, that part of me…”
“No need to apologize. I am a long ways from anywhere. I mean, to get here, you have to go to the middle of nowhere and turn left. But I like it like that.”
The song finished and Sarah abruptly broke away from him and returned to the kitchen, grabbing a spatula from my hand. “Oh, John, good job. Now, if you will set the table, I will finish up in here and we’ll be ready to eat.
I was so full after the meal that I commented that I hoped the helicopter would be able to lift off. I helped Sarah put away the leftovers and wash dishes while Sherlock worked on Sarah’s laptop. Neither of us bothered him. I knew that he was not fully recovered from whatever drugs had been given him.
At last the throbbing sound of the helicopter rotor could be heard and the black machine descended onto the front lawn. We pulled on our coats and I grabbed Sherlock’s now almost empty bag that I had brought and went to the door. Sarah and Sherlock followed. “Sarah,” I said, turning back toward her. “Thank you for everything you’ve done…for him… and for hosting me overnight. I’m sorry for this…intrusion into your life. I hope you can get back to normal now.”
“Oh, I always look on everything as an adventure.” She leaned closer to me and whispered, “I’m glad he has such a friend as you, John Watson.”
I went on out to the helicopter while she and Sherlock said their good-byes.
Sherlock had on his long coat and scarf. “I suppose I have to leave the dead man’s duster here.”
“Yeah, I guess I’ll take it back over there if I see any activity around the place,” Sarah said. “I need to get back my Mom’s fur coat that Mrs. Gordon was wearing when she left. Sherlock, I…”
“Sarah,” he interrupted. “Will you come visit London someday?”
“Will you really?”
“Probably not. You know, it’s a pretty big city. Lots of noise, traffic.”
“I personally extend an invitation to you. I will show you all the interesting places.”
“Like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey?”
“Oh, no, those are boring. I’ll show you my London, where all the delicious crimes have been committed. I know where all the bodies are buried.”
Sarah laughed. “Well, yeah, I might come to see all that.” She became serious again. “Sherlock, I wish…I wish I wasn’t old enough to be your…”
“Aunt! I was going to say aunt.”
“Oh. Auntie Sarah,” said Sherlock. “Yep. That’s good. And, Auntie Sarah, I have said this rarely to anyone in my whole life, perhaps never, but I would be honored to call you my friend.”
“Oh, no. Can’t do that.”
“Because of your history. I mean. Look at you. Your best friend slugged you and left that scar on your lip. Your best friend’s wife put a bullet in you. If I were your friend, I’d probably have to stab you or shoot you or something.”
“Yes, but in all fairness, I probably would have provoked you into doing it.”
“Oh. Then we’d still be good?”
“All right. Friends.” She held out her hand and Sherlock shook it as she drew him closer into a hug. “Safe journey, Cowboy.”
“Stay strong, Auntie Sarah.” Scout had come out of hiding after John left and now pawed at Sherlock’s leg to get his attention. He reached down to the dog. “Good-bye, Scout. Thank you for keeping me warm when I needed it.” He focused his attention on Sarah once more. “Good-bye, Auntie Sarah.” And then he was gone.
Sarah stood on the porch and watched the helicopter until it disappeared in the sky then went back inside. Her little cabin on the lake seemed as empty now as it had in the days after her mother had died.