A short time ago I was given an extraordinary set of recordings to transcribe by a courier who stipulated that, in exchange, I must maintain his anonymity. After agreeing to the condition, I was commissioned to set down the spoken words in book form and then publish them under my own name. To this I also agreed.
We then listened to the audio (it had been transferred neatly onto a compact disc made from the antique tapes out of which it was recorded) so that the courier could be certain I fully understood the gravity of the content. When the disc had run its course I could barely believe my own ears, and asked him why I specifically was chosen for the task.
I was informed that he represented the wealthy British gentleman who possessed the original recordings, and to whom it was of the utmost importance that a foreign, overseas writer be utilized; if at all possible an American. That was the only explanation I received as to how I was selected for the assignment. After some consideration I thought it best not to ask any further questions, and so now that brings me to the matter at hand.
The words you are about to read were spoken well over seven decades ago by none other than Dr. John H. Watson, M.D., friend and confidant to the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. With them, Dr. Watson explains that the decision as to whether the tale contained within his recordings should ever be published would be left entirely to fate. Clearly fate has at last opted to intervene, and has made its choice.
Not to belabor or overstate the point, but the story which lies ahead is simply astonishing. I’m not certain that I would have believed it had the words not come directly from Dr. Watson himself. I now invite you to decide for yourself whether or not you believe.
Christopher J. Gay
April 13th, 2013
Hartford, Connecticut USA
In the years since the demise of my cherished friend, it has been frequently inquired of me just how many of our great adventures remain un-catalogued. While there was a long period in which I might confidently offer an accurate rejoinder, the present truth is that as more time passes even my best efforts can provide merely an estimate. Still, at this late stage I seem to find myself with more occasions to reflect on the rather diminutive selection of our stories that, for one reason or another, I had failed to chronicle. In point of fact, to be precise, one tale in particular.
As I now embark on my ninth decade of shuffling across this mortal coil, I have little doubt that the time is nearly upon when I shall once again have the opportunity to reminisce with my old companion in person. Time and its inexorable connection to mortality is a reality from which no man escapes. That truth being what it is I feel the moment has now arrived to set the record straight.
You’ll forgive me if I appear hesitant to continue, as I’m quite certain that this will prove the concluding narrative to cap off what has been called of late, somewhat to my amusement, the Sherlock Holmes “Canon.” (A generously over-descriptive noun which elevates my writing skills to an undeserved level) As such, I may linger somewhat in relaying the facts of this case, just as I might had I the foreknowledge that on a given day I would be viewing my last sunset.
As arthritis has stolen nearly all of my power to write, I’ll instead take this opportunity to use my Dictaphone to document what I am about to relate. This wondrous machine was a gift to Holmes, later bequeathed to me, in appreciation for his solving a case for the American inventor Alexander Graham Bell. That case in itself was worthy of the telling, and surely would have been if not for Holmes’s promise to Mr. Bell to forever maintain its secrecy. In that spirit, I too shall carry it to my grave.
Moreover, I will be so bold as to state that the following account will certainly prove to be the more memorable tale; in fact it’s likely to top them all. If you are wondering why it hasn’t been previously disclosed, the reason will become self-evident as the story unfolds. If not, it surely will by its conclusion.
As I have no desire to see the publication of this communication prior to my own end, once completed these tapes will be carefully concealed within my current residence in London. I shall leave it to fate that they should be discovered by some future owner and transcribed for public consumption. In the event they someday are, I should like to state for the ages that I have never known a more talented man; a greater champion of good, than my friend Sherlock Holmes. If only I could have measured up to his standards, I should have been much the better for it.
Dr. John H. Watson, M.D.
30 June 1940
It was a seasonably warm day, which was to be expected as the calendar page had recently turned to July. I had only just entered my study and sat down when my housekeeper knocked upon the door.
“Come in, Sara,” said I.
“There’s a telegram for you, Doctor.”
I glanced around while simultaneously patting the breast pocket of my shirt, and realized I’d left my reading glasses in my bed chamber. Sara, having been witness to this same act of forgetfulness on my part for some time now, right away understood its meaning.
“Shall I retrieve your glasses for you, sir?”
“No, thank you. Please read the missive aloud and save us both some inconvenience. I apologize for having grown old and absent-minded in your care, Sara. The steady erosion of one’s faculties is indeed a nuisance.”
Having heard on many prior occasions my complaints on the matter; she offered a silent smile in acknowledgement as she unfolded the telegram.
“It is dated 3 July, Doctor.”
“Yes. Please do go on.”
Sara cleared her throat and proceeded. “Watson. My end draws near. If no bother I should like to say good-bye to my dearest friend. If you’re agreeable, please call on me soon. Holmes.” Sara read the last part with a slight tremor in her voice. She then walked over to my desk and laid the paper down upon it.
“There, there now,” I offered in an attempt to comfort her; but my heart wasn’t in the effort.
“My sincerest condolences, sir. When will you be leaving?”
“At once.” I picked up a train schedule from the corner of my desk and looked it over. “There’s a 3:30 to Sussex; that’s the one. I’ll go pack.”
“How long will you be gone?” She asked in that same slightly quivering voice.
“As long as it takes, my dear. As long as it takes.”
* * *
A motor-carriage taxi brought me to the station, at which point I boarded the 3:30 train for Sussex Downs. Once situated in my compartment I was finally alone with my thoughts. I am set to turn seventy-eight next week, and yet it seemed no more than a fortnight since Holmes and I had spent our first night together as flat mates in Baker Street. But as the saying goes, time and tide wait for no man. And as the wheels on the track drew me closer to my friend and his last dance with life before facing the inevitability we all must, I found myself in a state of reflection.
There were so many cases; so many adventures. Though I could not have known or at least appreciated it then, I realized now that I was indeed a lucky man; and in more ways than one. Having access to such a titanic intellect for so long was a blessing. Still, there was one thing on which I pondered greatly. A still-unsettled case that Holmes never fully solved, though on that fact I am quite certain he remains completely oblivious. The question became should I bother him with it, or let him go to his reward believing his perfect record remained intact? (While he has always considered the Irene Adler case a loss, I do not. And as Holmes’s de facto biographer, what I say literally goes.)
As the scenery rolled by I thought further on this; even moreso as the train reached the Sussex station. I hired another motor-carriage taxi to take me the rest of the way to the farm and it was there, on the final leg of my journey, that I decided Holmes should know. Moreover, that he deserved to know. At several times throughout our lengthy partnership he made it a point to mention that, for honour’s sake, I should register his mistakes along with his successes. And while I was reticent to do that, fearing a reduction in the high esteem with which the public held him; in this instance it was all but certain only he would ever know.
As the taxi took me down the long driveway to the main house, I could see the remains of Holmes’ once-thriving apiary. A few wooden hives, long bereft of bees, were all that was left of his post-detecting occupation. I was let out near the door and paid the driver. As he pulled away I turned and stared for a moment at the front door; at a threshold which I had not crossed for some time. I might have stayed in my stationary position for an hour longer if I didn’t hear a very familiar voice carry through an open window.
“It’s open, Watson.”
Without response I stepped forward and entered the dwelling; not sure in which condition I might find him. I walked through the front hallway and into his ground-floor living room, where I was surprised at the sight before me. If not for his affliction it might have been the 1880’s in Baker Street once again. Holmes stood near the unlit fireplace; pipe in hand, a fragile, gaunt figure leaning against its mantle for support.
My instincts as a doctor involuntarily kicked in and, without applying much thought, I chastised him. “Really Holmes; smoking during the end stages of cancer?”
He smiled. “The operative words in your rebuke are “end stages,” Watson. The fact is I would have been better served to have taken more seriously your reprimands on this filthy habit years ago. Now though as a man of medicine I must ask you: really, what difference does it make?”
Of course he was right. “Not much, I’m afraid.”
“To deny myself even the simplest pleasures at this stage would be utterly pointless.”
“Quite so,” I agreed.
‘Now then Watson, please. Have a seat.” No sooner had he gestured toward an overstuffed chair did he break out in an ugly cough.
“Goodness, Holmes. Let me call for your nurse.”
“I’m all right, my friend. Besides I’ve dismissed her from her duties for the next week.”
“Dismissed her? What on Earth for?”
“It was not an easy task, Watson,” he stated as if he hadn’t heard my question. “As I have been in decline for some time, she has been with me for quite awhile. And I am rather certain I’ll not see her again in this world.” Holmes continued. “What for, you ask? My answer is two-fold. There is no need for her to see the sight which will shortly come to pass, and surely you’ll be staying with me to the last. Who better should I hope to have by my side than the talented Dr. John H. Watson?”
Now it was my turn to smile. “A “talented” doctor who has long-since retired but, yes; of course I will be staying on with you as long as need be.”
“Excellent. Before dispatching my nurse with your telegram I asked her to prepare an upstairs bedroom for you. I trust you will find your accommodations satisfactory, Watson. If not, take comfort in that you will not need to endure them very long.”
“Come now, Holmes. A simple cot would be satisfactory. My only concern here is for your welfare.”
“I’m afraid we are past that, my good fellow. Now, pray unpack your things and re-join me here for some brandy and reminiscing.”
“Certainly. Ah, Holmes-“ he cut me off.
“Second door on your right, Watson. Do take your time.”
Want to read the rest? Click here to purchase your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Final reveal by Chris Gay, either in paperback or on Kindle. Also available on amazon.com. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this book or excerpt may be reproduced in any way without written consent from the author.)
What if a late 20th Century Jack the Ripper tearing apart a small Connecticut town was the result of a pancake shop bet between God and the devil? Imagine if Satan’s impact on the world in the new millennium hinged entirely on one police officer’s skill in hunting down a ruthless killer…hiding in plain sight. Detective Danny Seabrook is an unwitting pawn in a divine chess match with immeasurable consequences for all mankind. Set primarily in 1995, this action-packed suspense thriller features clever dialogue, humor and romance-with an ending you will never forget.
* * * *
As the end draws near for long-retired Sherlock Holmes in Sussex Downs, he calls one last time for the company of his best friend and colleague, Dr. John Watson. What was meant to be four last days of camaraderie and reminiscing instead leads to the most shocking, explosive revelation both of the great detective’s career, and his life.
Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal is a Holmes tale like none other ever conceived. Fans of Baker Street’s legendary detective will be left with the insatiable need to contemplate its extraordinary conclusion forevermore.
* * * *
Chris Gay is an author, freelance writer, voice-over artist, broadcaster and actor. He writes and broadcasts a daily, minute radio humor spot in Hartford, Connecticut. He’s also written the paranormal, theological thriller novel Ghost of a Chance and three humor books: And That’s the Way It Was…Give or Take: A Daily Dose of My Radio Writings, Shouldn’t Ice Cold Beer Be Frozen? My 365 Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota, and The Bachelor Cookbook: Edible Meals with a Side of Sarcasm. He’s been published nationally in Writer’s Digest and is currently writing his fourth and fifth humor books, Another Round of Ice Cold Beer: My 365 More Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota and Something Witty this Way Comes; the latter being a collection of pieces written for his humor blog. Look soon for his book Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal, an original, extraordinary short story on the great detective. Also, he’s writing the Ghost of a Chance sequel Perdition’s Wrath, and has written and voiced radio commercials, authored both comedic and non-comedic freelance articles, scripts, press releases, website, media and technical content, done occasional radio color commentary for local sports, and acted in a couple of movies and plays. His website is chrisjgay.com, and his humor blog can be found at chrisgay.wordpress.com.
Hope Springs (Barfly)