JUST ANOTHER CASE
Holmes is asked to undertake what on the surface seems to be a very strange case.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2014. Word count: 2,370.
It was winter; the snow was falling heavily and covered the pavements, deep drifts clung to buildings and even the tracks from the hansom cabs were quickly covered up again. Holmes had been rather ill, having contracted a particularly nasty bout of influenza and I was somewhat fatigued from caring for him. Due to his illness and my exhaustion, we had not ventured out of our rooms for more than a fortnight and Holmes, now recovered from the actual illness but still somewhat weakened (even if he wouldn't admit it), in particular was starting to get restless.
However, I had stood my ground as a doctor and refused to let him venture out, even for a minute or two, in the appalling weather. Thus, we sat in our sitting room, a fire blazing and warming even the corners of the room. He had his feet up on the sofa and was reading the paper I was half-dozing.
I hoped the snow would cease to fall soon or at least the temperatures would rise somewhat so that I might actually permit my patient to venture out into the world. I feared if he was not allowed out soon, that he might resort to the cocaine bottle. Since we had become more than just friends, Holmes had not reached for the drug even once, and I wished to keep it that way. I still found it slightly strange that we had, that Holmes in particular had, taken a step that could have destroyed our friendship.
I was untroubled by the fact that what we did was technically against the law, albeit only barely so, and presumed Holmes felt the same. The addition to our relationship, with the exception of Holmes ceasing to take cocaine, changed very little. We shared a bed from time to time, a touch might be more intimate than it had been before we became - whatever it is we became - looks were slightly fonder, more personal, lasted just a little longer. However, I truly believe no one other than us would be aware of the change in our relationship. Even the estimable Mrs. Hudson seemed not to notice that sometimes only one bed would show signs of being slept in.
I was content with what we had, I was more than content, and I felt certain Holmes was too. We had never spoken of it, not even on that first evening, and I doubt we ever will talk of it. In some ways it is of too little importance to talk of; in other ways it is of too much importance to talk of.
Suddenly I became aware that Holmes, who was now standing by the window overlooking the street, was staring at me. I blinked several times to clear the faint mist that had covered my eyes as I had half-dozed, sat up straight and met the steady, calm gaze.
"We are about to receive a visitor," Holmes said.
"We are?" I was surprised; who would venture out on a day like today unless they really had to?
"Yes. Mrs. Hudson will bring him up shortly."
"Oh." I stood up and straightened my coat and brushed my hand over the sleeves and checked my watch was straight. Holmes stood and watched me, his hands were in his pockets and his eyes gleamed in a way I never saw unless he was anticipating a case being put into his hands.
A minute or two later Mrs. Hudson tapped on the door and came in. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, but there's a," she paused for a moment and I could see her thinking. Finally she said, "Foreign gentleman asking if he can see you."
Holmes positively beamed. "Show him up, Mrs. Hudson," he said expansively. "Show him up."
She gave him a rather dubious look. "If you're quite sure, sir."
Holmes frowned. "Yes. Yes. I am. Show him up." She hesitated for another moment before turning around and moving towards the door. "Oh, and Mrs. Hudson?"
She paused and turned back around. "Yes, Mr. Holmes?"
"Tea for three," he declared, and then said swiftly. "No, coffee. I doubt the gentleman in question actually drinks tea."
Again she stared at him. "Very good, sir," she said, and left the room.
Holmes rubbed his hands together and hurried over to the fire to throw another log on and encourage it to blaze more with the poker. "A case," he said, looking at me and smiling. "I do believe the gentleman in question has a case for us, Watson."
I smiled. "That's splendid, Holmes," I said. "Let's hope it's one you can solve without you actually having to leave our rooms." He shot me a hard look. However, I stood my ground. "It is still too soon for you to go out given the current weather, Holmes. I simply will not permit it."
"Will you not?" His tone was clipped, and he moved a step or two nearer to me and stared down at me; his gaze just a little hard.
I shook my head and straightened my back a little more, pulling myself up to my full height. "No," I said firmly. "As your doctor I will not allow you to go out until the weather has improved or another few days have gone by."
"As my doctor?" he said softly, and his hard gaze faded and his lips twitched slightly. "Very well, Watson. I shall of course bow to your wishes - in your role as my doctor," he added.
For a moment I pondered as to whether he had found a way to outsmart me. However, before I could question him, there was another light tap on the door and Mrs. Hudson came back in. With her was a man. He had jet black hair, dark brown eyes, his skin was somewhat swarthy and he had very white teeth. One look at him told me he wasn't a 'gentleman' in the technical sense. However, he had an air about him that told me he was somewhat above actual working class men.
"Mr. Abbadelli is here to see you and Dr. Watson, Mr. Holmes," Mrs. Hudson said, nodding at the man to move further into the room. Once he was inside she closed the door and left, no doubt to make the coffee Holmes had asked her to make.
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. Do come closer to the fire, Signor Abbadelli," Holmes said, and held out his hand. "It is a very unpleasant day to be out. You must find it particularly cold."
Abbadelli crossed the room to where Holmes stood and took his proffered hand, shook it and then moved a little closer to the fire and held his hands out. "Si, Signor Holmes," he said. "Is very unpleasant. Much colder, much, much, much colder than Italy. Your room is, however, comfortable." He smiled.
Holmes turned to me. "This is my friend and colleague Dr. Watson. He assists me with my cases; you are here to consult me about a matter, are you not?"
Abbadelli nodded. "Si, Signor Holmes. I see I was correct to come here. You are clever man." He then turned to me and made a half bow. "It is pleasure to meet you, Dottore Watson."
I moved towards him and as Holmes had done offered him my hand. "And you, Signor Abbadelli."
"Shall we sit down?" Holmes said, waving Abbadelli to the chair nearest to the fire. "And you can tell Watson and myself what made you venture out from your undoubtedly warm and pleasant kitchen on such a day as this."
Abbadelli smiled a little. "Grazie, Signor Holmes." He sat down, steepled his hands and stared at Holmes. "Yes, you really are clever man. You will help me."
"If I can, Signor Abbadelli, I certainly shall." Holmes leant back in his chair, took out his cigarette case, offered it to Abbadelli who shook his head and then offered it to me. I took one, allowed Holmes to light it for me and settled back to hear Abbadelli's story.
It turned out he was the head cook for the Italian Count and Countess Fiscella who had a house here in London and who were, if I understood Abbadelli correctly, planning on remaining in England for a number of years. Abbadelli spoke good English, but it was far from perfect and at times he would substitute an Italian word, when he didn't know the English word, and other times, when particularly excited, he launched into Italian completely, only to apologise and retell that part of his story in English.
By the time he had completed his tale and the coffee pot was empty and several spent cigarettes and matches lay in the ashtrays, we had learnt that he was convinced his recipes, which apparently were not only famous, but had been handed down through his family and carefully guarded throughout the generations, were being stolen.
I really couldn't understand firstly why it was such a dreadful crime, he really had become animated and agitated, angry even as he told his tale and secondly, why he had come to Holmes. Surely Holmes would not be interested in undertaking such a trivial case?
However, a moment later I learnt that it maybe wasn't quite so trivial after all. "Is not just they are being stolen. But they are in parts being," he paused and frowned, and I could clearly see him thinking. Finally he shook his head, threw up his hands and said, "Sostituito!" He stared at Holmes and me.
I looked at Holmes and raised an eyebrow. Holmes shook his head. "I'm afraid I do not understand the word, Signor," he said.
Abbadelli looked frustrated and frowned. "Is when something is," again he paused and frowned and thought. "Changed!" he cried. "Is when something is changed for something else. Part of my recipe is being changed for other ingredients. Bad ingredients; not good. Make people ill. Make people very ill. People think is my food! People think is me. Me!" he cried, with a passion I had rarely heard before, "Enzo Abbadelli, I would not try to poison people. You must help me, Signor Holmes; you must help me clear my good name." He had risen to his feet and was pacing around the room as he voice grew louder and louder and his gestures more and more grand. "Will you help me, Signor Holmes? Will you and Dottore Watson help me?"
Holmes stood up and put his hand on Abbadelli's shoulder. "Of course we will help you, Signor Abbadelli. Of course we will help you. Now do sit back down, Watson he so good as to ring for some more coffee whilst Signor Abbadelli answers a few questions."
"I tell you anything you wish to know," Abbadelli declared. Although he did sit back down, he sat on the edge of his chair and stared with intensity at Holmes.
I felt the room was growing a little too warm for my comfort. My throat had become dry and the loudness of Abbadelli's voice together with his enthusiasm was starting to make my head throb. My limbs were also starting to feel heavy and achy. Thus, I decided that rather than ring for Mrs. Hudson I would go down and ask her to make another pot of coffee.
By the time I reached her kitchen I realised my head throbbing had nothing to do with Abbadelli, nor did my aching limbs have anything to do with caring for Holmes; the doctor was about to be his own patient.
I asked Mrs. Hudson if she would be so kind as to make another pot of coffee - for two - and also to tell Holmes I had retired to my bed.
A WEEK LATER
I opened my eyes and blinked in order to bring the room into focus. I know it wasn't the first time I had been awake, but I barely remember anything except a constant, reassuring presence; I was never alone, of that I am quite certain.
As my vision began to clear I made out Holmes, he was sitting in a chair not particularly close to the bed, but not far from it. He appeared to be asleep. Suddenly I was aware someone else is in the room and I turned my head to see Mrs. Hudson.
"It's good to see you properly awake, Dr. Watson," she said, coming over to the bed and putting a cup down on the bedside table. "He's exhausted," she added, nodding at Holmes. "He's barely left your bedside since you were taken poorly."
I looked at Holmes again and saw the dark shadows under his eyes and how his clothes looked a little rumpled. Now I know why during the times I did wake up I knew I wasn't alone; I know why I felt reassured.
"The case?" I managed, aware of how hoarse my voice sounded. "Did Holmes solve it?"
Mrs. Hudson began to fuss with my pillows. "Och, that. That was nothing. Mr. Holmes had it solved by the evening."
"He didn't go out, did he?" I asked anxiously.
"No. We sent one of the boys with a message for Mr. Abbadelli. I'm sure Mr. Holmes will tell you all about it soon. He's all right for a foreigner, Mr. Abbadelli is. Sent some of his food for you and Mr. Holmes as a thank you, and said when you've recovered the Count and Countess want you both to go to dinner. I don't usually hold with all that foreign food, but it was quite nice."
Coming from Mrs. Hudson that was high praise indeed. I managed to smile at her, "I shall look forward to trying it myself," I said. My eyes grew heavy again, but I fought to try to keep them open.
Mrs. Hudson patted my shoulder. "You go back to sleep, Doctor. Sleep's the best medicine of all." She patted my shoulder again, tucked the bedclothes a little more around me and left the room. I turned my head to where Holmes sat, and with a gentle smile on my lips I slipped back into a healing sleep.
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