In the moonless darkness, in the autumn cold, in the murky fog, Holmes had one gloved hand clamped tightly over my mouth and the other wrapped round my waist, holding my body to hers in an unforgiving grip. My back was to her front, and her back was pressed as close as humanly possible to the alley wall.
I wasn’t about to make any noise, and I wasn’t about to move, but I let her manhandle me anyway.
We were not alone in the alley.
“Frank, you’ve been a bad boy, haven’t you?”
“Yes, Miss Cordelia.”
“What happens to bad boys?”
“They get their comeuppance.”
“They get their comeuppance.”
Holmes and I had been stalking a criminal named Six-Fingered Sylvester when the fog had rolled in, quick and thick and totally unexpected. The change in weather had effectively put an end to our surveillance and ruined our plans for the night. We had made the decision to return to Baker Street on foot because that seemed just as swift as a cab given the circumstances.
We’d turned a corner, and who should we almost run into but Six-Fingered Steve himself. Holmes had immediately ducked into the nearest alley, pulling me with her.
That was when we discovered we had company.
Or they had us.
“Did you hear something?”
Holmes and I didn’t make a collective peep. I don’t even think we breathed.
The pitch darkness and the layers of fog, I supposed, formed a curtain to visibility as well as sound, but I heard the other two well enough.
“Only the throbbing of my heart, Miss Cordelia.”
“It’s not your heart I want throbbing, Frank.”
The dialogue ended there, and what followed was a series of gasps and grunts and groans from Frank and the rustling of garments.
I confess I began to try to imagine just what they were getting up to, based on the auditory clues. But I didn’t have to try long, for, in a few moments, Holmes was pantomiming the gestures, using the flat of her hand sweeping down my face and torso to indicate the wall into which Frank was pressed, face-first. I had no intention, even for the sake of verisimilitude, of putting my own face to the grimy wall and would’ve squawked something very embarrassing if Holmes had tried it.
She didn’t try it.
She did touch me, but I scarcely believed what her hands were telling me.
Had that person, Miss Cordelia, really shoved poor Frank against the wall and then, adjusting both sets of garments, attached a cock-in-harness to herself, and commenced to sod her ‘bad boy’? In public? In a filthy alley? On a cold autumn night? It seemed highly, highly improbable, yet that was what Holmes’s hands and my own ears were telling me.
Dear me, I thought, dear me. What the younger generation got up to!
Of course, hypocrite that I was, I was thoroughly enjoying Holmes’s grinding upon my arse in imitation of Miss Cordelia’s act in public in a filthy alley on a cold autumn night. I even closed my eyes and let my body go somewhat slack, feeling the noises Frank made and becoming aroused all the more by them.
Finally, Frank’s tiny whimpers seemed to be in crescendo.
Holmes wrapped a hand round me to show Miss Cordelia was frigging him while she sodded him.
I was highly aroused but, given my body’s peculiarities, there was no way I would find my release with Holmes behind me, and I wasn’t about risk turning around and alerting the two to our presence.
It was all a moot point in the end because a moment later, our little scene was invaded from the street.
“Oy! What in the devil—?”
In hindsight, I am deeply grateful for all the irritating afternoons in which Holmes had practiced her ventriloquism by throwing her voice across the room into a wooden parrot on a perch.
In this instance, she didn’t sing bawdy shanties or call me obscene names, she said,
“Excuse me, Constable Dobbs? Have you seen Doctor Watson?”
The light turned away from the alley, and a hard, ruthless shove from behind sent me spilling out of the alley and into the street. There was a moment of confusion and a moment of panic as I fell and was almost trampled under the hooves of a slow-passing hansom. Constable Dobbs, bless him, saved my neck, literally.
“Oh, Mister Holmes, it’s you. He’s right here. Doctor, where did you come from? You nearly got yourself killed.”
Holmes jerked her head toward the opposite side of the street, and Constable Dobbs hauled me there.
“I wouldn’t reveal this to just anyone, but I know you, Dobbs, and I trust you. Watson and I are on the trail of Six-Fingered Sylvester.”
“Oh,” responded Constable Dobbs knowingly. Whether actually he knew or not, I’ll never know.
“It’s a secret,” said Holmes.
“Of course, sir. Mum’s the world.”
I glanced over Dobbs’ shoulder to see the two figures emerge from the alley, the skirted one going in the opposite direction of the trousered one.
Holmes continued. “We’ve been tracking him all night, but now my friend is done in,” I tried to look done in, “and I think we’ll go home.”
“I think you’d better, sir, Doctor. Would you like a cab, sir?”
“Yes, sound idea, Dobbs. Will you help us?”
I didn’t say a word. It was enough to get home safely and see to some hot water for a thorough wash. Of course, Holmes demanded that we reenact the scene, first with her playing the role of Frank and then with me as Frank, or a pseudo Frank, because while I had no qualms about wearing a cock-in-harness for Holmes’s pleasure, I wasn’t in the mood to be on the receiving end of one. Holmes didn’t insist, and I will say that the wall of Holmes’s bedroom was much more hygienic than that of the alley.
We ended up in each other’s arms giggling and marveling and sighing.
The next day brought a kind of coda.
“For you, Mister Holmes.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson.”
Holmes studied the envelope, then slit it open. She removed the card and studied it, too.
It was a single rectangle with no name, no address, no salutation. It held four words.
Holmes asked, “What shall Cordelia speak?”
And I answered, reading from the card where it was written in a neat, feminine hand,
“Love, and be silent.”
“King Lear,” said Holmes.
I knew damned well it was King Lear! I swore.