It was a grey and bitter twilight in the streets of London, a night demanding one’s warmest coat out of doors. Holmes and I had just bid goodbye to my fiancée, Mary, and were now making our way home. Although the night air was chilling and the moon obscured by waves of rolling grey clouds, we had opted to walk in lieu of taking a carriage as the restaurant in which we had dined was only a few blocks away from Baker Street.
“You are quite contented, then,” I said to Holmes, “that Mary is undeniably a fine woman. Indeed, I haven’t the slightest idea as to how she has put up with your tormenting of her.”
“But, my dear Watson, I had to be sure of her. I will allow no common wench to wed my closest companion.” Holmes had never been of a high opinion of women, excepting one who had outwitted him almost two years ago, for whom he held the deepest respect. Love, however, was not in Holmes’ repertoire. I was about to comment upon Holmes’ erroneous perception of most women as ‘common wenches’ when Holmes stopped short. “Watson, did you hear that?” he whispered, his sharp eyes scanning our location for any sign of the unusual. “An uncommon sound for a London night-” it was then that the figure leapt down from the rooftop above, the force of which knocked Holmes to the ground. Given that the figure was not nearly so tall in stature as Holmes I expected him quite rapidly to fight them off, but nothing of the sort occurred. In fact, Holmes remained completely still, and it soon became apparent that the figure had some sort of weapon aimed at him.
“Get up, slowly, if you please.” Here was an astounding revelation; not due to the nature of the words, but to the vocal qualities of the speaker who was undoubtedly a woman, although she was disguised in a long coat and hat. I had no time to ponder upon such an extraordinary event, however, as I watched Holmes rise slowly and quite calmly to his feet. He was, when standing, a full head taller than his assailant, who kept what appeared to be a knife steady at his throat. “The watch, you must give me the watch,” commanded the woman of Holmes, who seemed surprised – even amused - at such a specific demand.
“And what watch would this be?” he asked evenly.
“Silver with the initials ‘E.V.H’ engraved. Where is it?” As this conversation took place, I gradually and silently began to step towards them as the woman had her back to me, raising my cane as I did so.
“My dear girl, I haven’t the faintest idea as to what you’re talking about,” exclaimed Holmes, slightly sardonically. Even with a dagger to his throat, he seemed in control of the situation. I only hoped such suave bravado would not get him hurt. The knife pressed more firmly against his neck and a flicker of pain flashed through my friend’s eyes.
“It’s no use lying, Mr. Holmes, you must give it to me. I don’t want to hurt you, but I must have the watch.”
“Must you, really?”
“Yes, I must!”
I was upon them now and had only to swing my cane when the woman, who must have sensed my movement, suddenly flung herself around, kicking Holmes to the ground, to grab the cane and hold the knife to my own throat.
“Let go,” she demanded, and I obliged, being in no circumstances to do otherwise. “Turn around.” I did so. I was awaiting either a blow or further instruction when I felt a rush of air, as of the woman turning around, and heard a loud crack, whereupon a body fell heavily to the pavement. I whirled around to see Holmes with his own stick raised, and the girl, for she was hardly older than eighteen, sprawled upon the ground, a great gash upon her brow where her head had struck the fallen dagger.
“My God, Watson, say that I have not killed her! She has fallen upon her blade, see there!” I briskly knelt and felt the girl’s pulse.
“She is not dead, Holmes, but requires medical attention. How far is the hospital?”
“Too far; our abode is closer. Let us take her there, and, besides, I would like to question her when she awakes.” Gently, I picked her up as Holmes gathered my cane and the stray hat and dagger.
“How light she is, Holmes! She can’t have eaten well for days.”
“Most singular,” murmured Holmes as we hastily completed our journey home.