“217B, 219B,” Emma muttered to herself making her way to Baker Street. Her eyes scanned the numbers on the doors, straining on the poorly lit streets. “Bingo.” She finally landed on 221B on a dark, black door. She bounded up the stairs clearing the first three steps. Emma knocked loudly on the door ignoring the pain in her shoulder and knuckles from hitting the door too hard. She was on edge, constantly checking over her shoulder. She wondered if those guys were dumb enough to believe she died from diving into the river. Or rather she hoped they were dumb enough to believe that. Emma knocked again, even louder this time.
Not thirty seconds later the door opened to a small older woman with wispy, graying hair. She had small brown eyes that looked the damp and shivering girl up and down nervously. Emma tried to stop the shivering and smiled apologetically.
“Hi,” Emma began, “I’m so sorry for bothering you this late, but I’m looking for a Mister-”
“Oh! Of course dearie,” the woman cooed, “I should have known. Only he would have clients this late.” She then beckoned Emma to follow her inside the flat, and up the stairs in front of them. She trudged silently behind the woman looking at the fading white walls, listening to the creaking stairs underneath her feet. The kind woman opened the door which led into a lovely flat warmed by a small fire in the living room. Emma relished the warmth of the fireplace and finally being able to feel her limbs again.
Sitting with his head back towards her was a man with short and neatly cut sandy blond hair, tapping away on his laptop. The woman walked further into the room and cleared her throat while Emma stood by the doorway. The man jumped a bit when he heard the cough and immediately shut the screen of his laptop down.
“Mrs. Hudson,” the man said blushing slightly, “You really shouldn’t be startling people like that.” He paused, looking confused. He only expected to see his landlady but was not expecting to see a shivering damp young woman standing in the doorway.
“Wait. Hang on. Who is that?” He asked indicating towards Emma with a jerk of his head.
“Yes,” the woman, Mrs. Hudson, replied, “I believe this is one of your newest clients. This is, um-”
“Emma,” the shivering young woman interjected, “I contacted you a few days ago. I am so sorry for it being so late. I know we said earlier, but I got… Sidetracked.” She winced again, the throbbing pain in her shoulder returning. The man’s face went from confusion to understanding and then back to confusion noticing Emma’s shoulder, slumping slightly, and her continuous shivering.
“Right,” he said a little warily, “Let’s have you come by the fire and warm you up, shall we?”
“I’ll run off and make you all some tea,” Mrs. Hudson said “But only because this is an emergency. I’m still not your maid.” She made her way back down the stairs, while the man, who was about a half head taller than she was, motioned Emma to the couch nearest to the still smoldering fire. She sat down and he made the mistake of patting on her left shoulder. Emma took a sharp inhale of breath, and then tried to smile through the pain. He immediately pulled back his hand as if had just touched a hot frying pan.
“Sorry,” Emma said. The man made a perplexed face.
“Why on earth are you the one saying that? I’m the one who hurt you. What happened?” He asked concernedly.
“She was shot John,” a bored voice said from another room, “Isn’t that obvious?” The man, John Watson Emma assumed now, looked horrified and almost embarrassed.
“No it’s not obvious Sherlock,” John replied hotly, “She’s not bleeding and also, she’s wearing dark colored clothing.”
“You can tell by the way she’s slumping her shoulder,” a tall, thin man said lazily as he emerged into the living room in nothing but pajama bottoms and an opened robe. John made a face at the man, who Emma could only guess to be Mister Sherlock Holmes. Emma watch silently at the exchange between the two men.
“If you knew we had a guest,” John said exasperatedly, “You could have put on a shirt.”
“Be happy I put on pants and instead of remarking on my appearance shouldn’t you be attending to our new client?” He asked. John turned a bright shade a red, whether from embarrassment or anger, Emma couldn’t tell. He got up and left the room leaving her alone with the tall slender man with the swirling sea green eyes. There was an uncomfortable silence between them, making her fidget with the hem of her damp shirt. Emma cleared her throat.
“Hi,” she finally managed, “My name is-”
“Your name is Emily Rose, but you much prefer to go by Emma, probably due to the fact there was too many Emily’s in your home class in primary school. You went to university for music, vocal performance to be more specific, and now are a professional opera singer primarily working with the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. You have an excellent ear to pick up dialects but are obviously from the states. Originally from the central Midwest I’m going to guess. ” Mister Holmes finished leaning against the opposite wall of her, his arm crossed over his bare chest. Emma’s mouth hung open, astonished by Mister Holmes’ deduction skills.
He was good. And she needed good.
John reentered the room med kit in hand and looked at Emma and then at Mister Holmes. “He did the thing didn’t he?” Emma noded in response, while John rolled his eyes. “Trust me, it gets very old, very quick.”
“Now I’m sorry to ask this but you are going to have to ask you to take off your shirt.” Without batting an eye, Emma gingerly peeled off her damp shirt and jacket, tossing it towards the fire, revealing her bullet proof vest. John’s eyes grew quite large, obviously not expecting to see that. He shook it off and began examining her shoulder.
“Sorry,” Emma started, “My wet pants might water stain your couch, which is quite lovely by the way.” John stopped for a moment.
“Will you please stop apologizing,” John said smiling a little bit, “I did mean to ask earlier; why are you and your clothes soaking wet?”
“She took a bit of a late night swim in the Thames,” Mister Holmes interjected, cutting Emma off from explaining. She pursed her lips in annoyance.
“So,” John said as he began to pick out the bullet, “You’re saying that you got shot in the shoulder and then jumped into the Thames River in the middle of winter? Are you insane?”
“I think the word you are looking for is desperate,” Mister Holmes said before Emma could speak. She was getting fed up; John was absolutely right. It only took about ten minutes for her to get completely over Mister Holmes' deducing skills.
“You know,” she said not bothering to look at Mister Holmes, “I can speak for myself.” She then shot him a menacing look, her dark brown eyes locked with Mister Holmes’ green-grey eyes. He tried his best to hide his smirk but it was hard to miss the side of his mouth that twitch upward.
“It seems you can,” he replied not willing to break the eye contact between the two of them. John backed off of her shoulder, looked at the two of them and sighed heavily while shaking his head.
“If we’re quite done with this pissing contest,” he grunted, focusing back on Emma’s shoulder, “I still need to stitch the girl up. Sherlock go make yourself useful and order us some food. Looks like we’ll be up for a while and I know I’m famished.” And as if right on cue Emma’s stomach growled low and loud. It had been about two days since she last had a decent meal. “I think that Miss Emma is agreement with me.” Mister Holmes just sighed and rolled his eyes, muttering something unintelligible as he walked out of the room and Mrs. Hudson strolled in with a tray full of tea and even some cakes.
“Here you go,” She said, placing the tray on a side table near the couch, “I also brought a bit of whiskey if you wanted to maybe make hot toddies. It looks like you might need it.” Mrs. Hudson put a tender hand on Emma’s other shoulder and smiled. This woman is a saint, Emma thought to herself.
“Thank you all so much,” Emma said, wincing slightly as John finished the last stitch, “You all have been far too kind to me. Also I think I have some cash for the food.” She began to dig through her soggy clothing. Luckily all of her plastics and passport were kept safe in a lining of her bra, just not her cash but she felt the soggy bills balled up in her pants. John stopped her.
“Don’t worry about that,” John said smiling, “For now concentrate on healing and whatever lies ahead. I am curious why an opera singer has people wanting her dead.” Emma smiled sheepishly as she lifted a cup of tea to her lips, with just a dash of whiskey and honey. She felt the warmth all throughout her body, goose-pimples raising on her bare skin. John immediately flushed and cleared his throat. Emma looked down nearly forgetting that she was just in her pants, bra and bullet proof vest.
“Would you like to freshen up while we wait for the food? A nice hot shower should warm you up.” John suggested and for the first time since leaving her country Emma smiled genuinely, tears beginning to sting her eyes. She laughed nervously trying to wipe them away before they fell.
“I’m so terribly sorry,” she said, “I’ve just been through a lot I suppose, and a shower sounds absolutely divine. Again you really have been far too kind to me, Dr. Watson.” Emma got off of the couch, wiping her eyes again, flushing fiercely from embarrassment. She dropped her head but John took her chin in his fingers and looked into her eyes.
“Please call me John,” he smiled, his pale green eyes warm, “And stop with all this 'sorry' nonsense. You are allowed to feel overwhelmed. You are human and you haven’t put anyone off, I promise. Now how about we get you in a nice, warm shower?” Emma nodded following behind him. “If anything, I should apologize for the fact that we only have men toiletries, and for Sherlock’s behavior. He can be… Abrasive.” He finished, struggling to find the right words while Emma giggled.
“It’s okay. I only think that he’s a bit of an ass. I’ve dealt with worse before, trust me,” she said as John opened the door of the bathroom for her. “And I could care less if I smelled like a man. All I care about is the shower.” She went in and closed the door behind her, John chuckling all the while.
Emma took a deep breath with her back against the door. She really needed the shower; she needed to cleanse her body and her mind. Emma began to strip, laughing nervously to herself as she took off her bullet proof vest.
This is getting ridiculous, she thought wearily to herself as she turned the dial on the shower all the way to right to get the water scalding. She was now just beginning to feel all of her fingers and toes again.
For whatever reason, Emma was hit with a sudden wave annoyance. Maybe from the exhaustion or the residual fear from earlier, but Mister Holmes didn’t show any concern for her well-being. Not once did he ask if she was okay or not, as if Mister Holmes wrote her off completely.
Emma shook her head thinking, Why should he care? It’s not like he owed her anything at all. They just met tonight, and she could already tell that he was not good with person to person interactions.
Why should I care? Emma took another haggard breath. She was letting silly things bother her, when she had much worse problems at hand. She chucked it off to exhaustion.
Just when she was just about to step into the shower, there was a knock on the door. Emma sighed, and grabbed the nearest towel. She opened the door expecting to see either Mrs. Hudson’s graying hair, or John’s neat and sandy blond hair. Instead she was greeted with a bare chested man; Mister Holmes almost stood a full head and a half taller than herself. She was so surprised that she almost dropped her towel.
“Oh! Wow, whoops,” Emma said with surprise, trying fixing her towel, “I wasn’t expecting it to be you.”
“Here,” Mister Holmes said practically shoving a pile of clothes at Emma. She clumsily took them still trying to keep her towel about her.
“Oh well,” She stammered out, “Thank you very much, Mister Holmes.”
“John thought you’d might need a change of clothes since yours are still wet so don’t thank me.” With that he left and rather quickly. Emma could only guess why; he didn’t her to see the rouge in his high cheek bones. Glad to see he’s human, she laughed to herself as she stepped in the steaming shower.
Emma spent what felt like an eternity under the hot water but it felt so wonderful to feel all of her body warm again, and she didn’t mind smelling like a masculine pine forest. It was probably John’s. She remembered smelling something similar to it when he was working her shoulder, which was still very sore and tender to the touch, but it could have been so much worse. Emma was more than lucky that John Watson was a military medical doctor.
Walking into the living room Emma followed the heavenly scent of something spicy in the air. Was that Kung Pao? How did Mister Holmes know that was her favorite? Never mind; he probably deduced it by the way she blinked or something absurd like that but Emma didn’t really care. She was just happy to have something warm in her stomach, the low rumbles of hunger still echoing.
She walked back into the living room while John fixed some plates full of food. He looked up and smiled at her. “Hope you like it spicy,” he said handing her one of the plates. Emma did in fact love it spicy and she happily took the plate from John. Sitting down on the ottoman crossed legged she inhaled the aroma of the spices in the Chinese dinner on her lap and began to devour her food, almost making noises of ecstasy because it tasted to so exquisite to her. She supposed anything at that point would have.
John quietly ate his food on the couch, while Mister Holmes sat across from her with no food in his lap but stared intently at her, just watching her eat the take-away food. Normally that would have bothered Emma but again at this point, all that mattered to her was the food in front of her. She wasn’t about to let the man ruin her appetite. John looked up from his food and rolled his eyes.
“Will you cut that out Sherlock,” he said, pointing his chop sticks at Mister Homes, “Can’t you just let the poor girl eat in peace?”
“Pointing your chopsticks is considered bad luck in most Asian cultures,” replied Mister Holmes not breaking his gaze on the young woman, “And besides, we need to get started.” The two men continued to bicker back and forth while Emma helped herself to a second serving and almost shoveled the food down. She then let out a rather large belch that immediately quieted the two gentlemen, who sat in an almost awed silence. Finished with the food she sat down the empty on the table in front of her and stretched.
“Pardon me,” she said with a smile, “I guess I ate my dinner too quickly but Mister Holmes is right. Time is of the essence, even if it is almost one o’clock in the morning.” The doctor sighed.
“I suppose you’re right,” John conceded, “After all, this is your life we are talking about.” Smiling weakly Emma tried not to think about the worst scenario; she rather fancied being alive. “Now Emma, when did this all began?”
Emma swallowed hard. “About two weeks ago, I was walking back to my car after a rehearsal for ‘La Bohme’ when I was first assaulted. The man tried to choke me with a leather chord but luckily,” Emma said pausing slightly her eyes darting to the right, “I had pepper spray in my purse and was able to escape with my life.” John’s eyes squinted at her, while Mister Holmes had an amused grin growing on his face. “And then someone tried to jump me outside my apartment but again I was lucky enough to have help.”
“Pepper spray again?” Mister Holmes asked his eyebrows raised high. He obviously was not satisfied with Emma’s previous answer.
“No,” Emma replied defensively, “A neighbor helped me. Scared him off. After that incident I decided that I needed to leave town for a while and that’s when I contacted you Doctor-” She stopped, catching herself, “John. And then I made my away overseas. I thought I would be safe here.”
“Obviously you’re not,” Mister Holmes quipped, “And obviously, you didn’t think so either, otherwise you wouldn’t have worn a bullet proof vest.”
“And why there was a small knife bundled in your pants,” Mister Holmes said brandishing the weapon. Emma’s face went red while John stood up.
“You through her belongings, but more importantly you rummaged through her clothing?” He asked Mister Holmes incredulously but the detective just shrugged.
“Her fault for leaving them in the washroom,” the detective replied coolly, “Now as I was saying, Emma is no idiot, and she does know how to take care of herself. I did some investigation of my own prior to your visit and for the first incident there was pepper spray, but also the man had a broken arm and fractured rib.”
“Curious after that I looked into the second incident and looks like the other unfortunate fellow also landed in the hospital, and this time with a concussion.” He finished smugly and the room fell silent. Both men looked at Emma for an answer or for anything, really. She was really getting fed up with Mister Holmes.
What a passive-aggressive ass, she thought to herself, although she had to admit that he was good at his job. An exasperated sigh left her lips.
“Alright,” she began, “I may have put the guys in hospitals but I still need your help.”
“Why?” John asked, and Emma gave him a dry look.
“I might be able to but it doesn’t mean I want to. It does get tiring after a while,” she retorted, “I would like not to look constantly over my shoulder personally.”
“So why not just go to the police?” John asked her but Mister Holmes tsked him.
“A normal person would be able to do that,” he began, “but our client, Miss Rose, is not a normal person is she?” Mister Holmes looked pointedly at Emma, whose hands were gripping the hem of the over sized white t-shirt he had given her. She huffed in and out trying to calm herself down. The anger she was feeling began to well up inside but she wasn’t going to let him win, not like this.
“I was going to save that bit for later,” Emma said tersely, “But I guess since the cat’s out of the bag I’ll explain myself.”
“While I am an opera singer by trade but I do however have a,” she struggled trying to find the right word, “Hobby we’ll call it, on the side.”
“I’m what you call a cat burglar but I consider myself more of a Robin Hood, if I do say so myself. You know, steal from the rich and give to the poor?” That earned her a quizzical look from the pair. “Anyway, I was in the middle of a heist at a particularly notorious family in Chicago, the Kosevos, who had recently acquired a beautiful vase that I knew they had stolen from some other mobster family.”
“I easily got the vase but as I was leaving, I saw a bit of a disturbance around the back of their mansion. Curiosity got the best of me, so I went to go see what the commotion was about. Turns out they were trying to get a woman to go with them unwillingly so and naturally I could not let that stand. I hid the vase, and went down to break up the fight and the girl got away and called the police while I dealt with the goons. All of them were arrested, including the son of the leader of said mob. Unfortunately, they got a pretty good look at my face during the scuffle.”
“And now you think they’re going after you because you landed the mobster’s son in jail?” John asked.
“I’ve stolen a lot of art pieces in my day, but I haven’t sent that many people to jail, much less gangsters,” she replied, “It only makes sense in my mind.”
“If you don’t mind me asking,” John ventured carefully, “Since you don’t keep the art work, what do you do with them?” Emma smiled warmly.
“I either give them to museums or I sell them and donate the money to local music programs in the city,” She said, looking down for a minute, still smiling. After a few moments of contented silence, her head shot back up. “Now, I’ve asked you for your help because I’d like to send Roman Kosevos, the head honcho himself, to jail without me going with him in the process.”
“But you are breaking the law,” Mister Holmes said, “Theft is theft.”
“True,” she replied, “But I thought you might look past that to put one of the most notorious men in Chicago in jail?”
“How?” John asked, confused.
“By catching them while they’re stealing their next art target,” Mister Holmes said while a shit eating grin spreading across his face. “Oh, this could be fun. I’ve been so bored lately, and this is the most exciting thing to cross our paths in weeks.” Emma beamed as well.
“You mean it? Oh thank you!” She exclaimed, hugging Mister Holmes, who blushed profusely and went rigid. She release immediately. “Oh, I’m sorry. I got carried away but I just can’t thank you enough.” She go up and stretched, wincing from the pain from her left shoulder. Walking away from the couch she began to look about the flat.
“What are you looking for?” John asked her.
“My clothing,” Emma yawned absently, “I should be off. You guys need your sleep and I need to find a hotel or somewhere that will take me in tonight. Once I get my clothes back I’ll be on my way. We can meet up sometime tomorrow and-”
“No, no, no, no,” John interjected, “You’re recovering from a gunshot wound, it is almost two o’clock in the morning and there might be people still after you. You can stay here for now, young lady.” He crossed his arms, metaphorically putting his foot down. Emma looked ready to argue.
“John is right,” Mister Holmes said before she could speak, “We are going to need a cat burglar’s help to catch another one. We can’t have you dying on us. You will stay here.” And with that he left the room, leaving a very perplexed John and Emma. She shook her head, laughing a bit.
“It would be rude of me to refuse,” Emma said, too tired to argue, “So I’ll just thank you for your kindness, again.” John smiled in return.
“It’s really no trouble at all. Here, let me go get some linens from the closet for you. I can attest that he couch is really quite comfy.” He left the room, leaving Emma alone. She meandered around the place,looking at the dark green wall, then her eyes darted to the black and white decorated wall with a yellow smiley face faintly painted on. She took a closer look. Were those bullet holes? Emma decided that she didn’t need to, nor want to know about that. Running her fingers on the dust ridden book shelves that was lined with pages and pages of information, she made her way to the fire place with a bleach white skull sitting on top of the mantle. Not knowing why she found the thing amusing.
Very gingerly Emma picked it up with her hands, examining it. “Sweets to the sweet,” she chuckled to herself remembering the line from Hamlet.
“Here,” John said, his voice carrying from another part of the flat, jarring Emma just a bit. Deftly she put the skull back exactly how it was found and made her way back the couch before he noticed. “I know it doesn’t look like much but I promise you this quilt has kept me warm on many a nights. I sometimes sweat like a pig when I use it.” Emma couldn’t help but laugh, while John looked embarrassed. “I mean, I have washed it since then.” Emma just continued to laugh.
“I’m sorry,” Emma said through chortles, “I don’t mean to laugh. Thank you so much again, John.” She kissed him lightly on the cheek. His face instantly went red, following a silence between them. “Well, we should go to bed,” Emma finally said. John cleared his throat, agreeing and bidding her a good night.
“Right,” he croaked finally, “I’ll, uh, see you in the morning.” And on a turn of his heel, John left the room again. Emma couldn’t help but laugh once more as she made herself comfortable on the couch. If she was ever thankful for being short and petite, this was for times like this where she could stretch out on the couch and still have room to spare. She laid the blankets and quilts over herself, and Emma did find herself surprisingly warm, sleeping very easily that night. A first time in what felt like forever.