: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is the creation of Joss Whedon. Sherlock Holmes
was created by Arthur Conan Doyle. I'm just borrowing their characters for a bit.
To Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler was and remains the
woman. It was a mark of his respect for her that he never referred to her as anything but that. He does, however, in addition to the
woman, occasionally refer to the
girl, after a most curious incident to which he only rarely afterwards alluded.
Many of Holmes’ cases were unusual, which is why they exerted such interest on the public consciousness when I begin to publish my carefully edited accounts of his exploits. It was, however, utterly impossible that the most unusual of his adventures should ever appear in print. Holmes himself never felt it necessary to put the restriction into words, trusting to my discretion. But I am certain had I attempted it, his brother Mycroft would have put a swift stop to publication.
Had it reached the press, the true facts surrounding the sudden death of the monarch’s third son at his yacht club in France would have created a sensation. It did not, of course. Mycroft saw to it that the exact circumstances of the death were kept in strictest confidence, and dispatched his brother to investigate. I did not accompany Holmes on his trip to France. It was still early in our association, and the trust he would come to repose in me was not yet strong enough to allow my inclusion on an errand of state secrecy.
I could not, however, be ignorant of the state of Holmes’ agitation upon his return to Baker Street. He was in high dudgeon. Clearly the case had not been as simple to clear up as he had expected. Knowing it was an extremely delicate matter, I endeavored to restrain my curiosity. It was not a long exercise, as Holmes confided in me almost immediately.
“Never, Watson, have I encountered such a frustrating case. On the face of it, the matter is absurdly simple. The Duke of Albany bled to death. Hardly surprising, given his condition.”
“The Duke of Albany, Holmes? But I thought he died in a fall at his club!”
“Tut tut, Watson! I had expected better of you than to believe the excuses given to the press. One cannot, after all say nothing about the death about the death of the man twelfth in line for the British throne.”
“The truth was more shocking, then?”
“Quite. The fall at Cercle Nautique and the injury to the knee are correct enough. Unimpeachable witnesses corroborate the story. All agree that there was immediate concern, given the Duke’s malady. The injured man was carried to his lodgings, and his personal physician summoned without delay. This, Watson, is where the actual account diverges from the pretty tale told to the press.”
“His injury was not severe, then?”
“The physician was concerned, but not unduly so. No contusions were noted, nor did he find any reason to suspect internal hemorrhage. He administered a dose of morphine, and counseled a quiet evening. He himself remained in the Duke’s household, to be available at once should his condition worsen overnight. The Duke dined with several guests, who arrived shortly past six. While normally not an abstemious man, in light of his injury and the morphine he drank only sparingly- two small glasses of claret over the course of the evening.”
“Certainly not enough to incapacitate him.”
“Quite. The last of the guests departed at about quarter past ten. An early evening compared to the Duke’s usual habits, but in keeping with the physician’s recommendation. The Duke retired for the evening. When the physician checked upon him at midnight, his patient was alive, sleeping soundly, and showed every sign of good health. The next check, at two in the morning, found the Duke dead, with no sign of violence aside from two curious wounds on his neck.”
“The neck wounds were the cause of death, then?”
“Indubitably. The most curious aspect, however, is the total lack of blood.”
“But Holmes, given the Duke’s condition-“
“Precisely, Watson. How could a known haemophiliac receive such a wound and not leave even the faintest traces of blood on the bedclothes?”
“Have you any theories?”
“Beyond the fanciful, you mean? None.”
“Any suspects, then?”
“Two of the Duke’s dinner companions vanished from Cannes the night of the Duke’s death. Their disappearance is almost certainly connected to the case. Mr. William Pratt and his wife were last seen at the Duke’s residence. No witness can be found who actually saw them leave the property, although they certainly excused themselves from dinner early, on the grounds that Mrs. Pratt was unwell. I cannot, however, determine whether the Pratts are victims, accomplices, or culprits in the case.”
“But they cannot have simply vanished without a trace, Holmes. There must have been something left behind!”
“The only possible clue concerning them is a ladies’ handkerchief found in the Duke’s bedroom. It is similar to the one the Duke’s dinner companions recall Mrs. Pratt using. The handkerchief, however, is highly circumstantial. Alone, it proves nothing. It may be that that Mrs. Pratt was indeed in the Duke’s room. Equally, she may have left it behind, and the Duke picked it up intending to return it when he next saw her- the Pratts were engaged to dine with the Duke on Saturday also.”
He shook his head.
“I am certain the Pratts are in some way connected to the death, but without further evidence, I can form no theory! It is most vexing, Watson. And the worst of it is that I must present my findings to Mycroft this afternoon.”
I was surprised at his next words.
“Watson, it would gratify me if you would come with me to that meeting. While Mycroft is a man of information, he is also indolent and tends to the impatient. If he has any questions regarding the medical evidence, your expertise might be valuable. And I should introduce you to brother Mycroft in any case.”
“Certainly, Holmes. I’m glad to be of assistance if I can.”
Thus it was that I found myself following Holmes down Whitehall that afternoon. Mycroft was expecting us at quarter past four, so that Holmes could give his findings and then accompany him to dinner at his club. If Holmes’ brother was surprised to see me, he showed no sign of it.
Mycroft listened carefully as Holmes laid out the facts, although with certain additional details, that he had given me in the morning. He asked only a few questions, including a rather odd one about whether the autopsy had found blood in the stomach. Finally, he shook his head.
“Your findings confirm my suspicions. It’s out of your department, Sherlock. I know it goes against the grain, but I must tell you to leave the case as it is. If your own curiosity requires an explanation, suffice it to say that Mr. Pratt and his companion are the killers of His Royal Highness the Duke of Albany.”
“His companion?” Holmes asked sharply.
“From the description, the woman accompanying his is known to us as Drusilla, and she is certainly not his wife.”
“You are aware of these two, then?” I asked. I knew it was bold to pose the question, but to my surprise, Mycroft answered it.
“Yes. Mr. Pratt has been known to us for several years, since a string of curious murders in north London. His companion is somewhat harder to trace, but we believe she has been involved in murders as far back as twenty years ago.”
“She must have acquired a taste for blood at a very early age, then,” Holmes replied. “Her dinner companions estimated she was no older than twenty-five.”
“I suppose if you haven’t already become aware of the phenomenon, it is time to let you in on the secret, Sherlock. You will vouch for your friend’s discretion, I trust?”
Holmes regarded his brother sharply.
“I know Watson to be a loyal subject and a man of honor. He can certainly be relied upon not to reveal any information he has been enjoined to keep.”
“Very well, then. There are only a select few in the government aware that vampires are not in fact a child’s tale. They exist, Sherlock. They are often cruel, enjoy killing, and are entirely without remorse. Fortunately, there also exists an organization dedicated to eradicating them. You need not worry about Mr. Pratt and his lady. They will be dealt with.”
He rang a bell. A few moments later, the door to his office opened, and a gentleman ushered in a young lady of about sixteen.
“This, gentlemen, is Miss Snowcroft. Sherlock, if in any of your cases you encounter her, you are to leave the case to her at once
. If you come across any case where you suspect vampire involvement, contact her guardian Mr. Fairweather.”
“What has Miss Snowcroft to do with vampires?” Holmes asked sharply.
The question had been directed to Mycroft. It was Mr. Fairweather, however who answered.
“Miss Snowcroft, gentlemen, is the Vampire Slayer.”