From the Diary of Doctor Watson
“Just what I said, dearie.” Her breath was no less fetid than before, but I had taken the precaution of inhaling though my mouth. She squeezed my hand. “The Thirty-nine steps to Heaven.”
I felt my irritation growing, and rather disturbingly, my ardour. “No, I mean, what do you mean about the thirty-nine steps?”
She rolled her blood-shot eyes. “Step one – we go upstairs. Step two, we enter my boudoir. Step three…”
“Yes, yes, I think I get the picture.” I cast her hand away from me and moved backwards. “I thought you meant something else, that’s all.” I folded my arms. “Anyway, I’m going upstairs. Alone.”
“Fine. If yer don’t want ter know about the thirty-nine steps, then…”
“For God’s sake shut the fuck up about the thirty-nine bloody steps!”
“Language, Watson.” My companion’s familiar drawl brought me up sharply and I felt myself flush.
“Ah, Holmes, there you are. I was just…”
Holmes put his mouth to my ear. His voice was low and I could feel his hot breath on my neck. “I warned you to be vigilant, Watson.”
He turned to the little woman and grasped her shoulder, squeezing it in a not unaffectionate fashion. “Now, my dear, you were saying. About the thirty-nine steps…?”
For the first time, the woman appeared to lose her confidence. Her eyes flicked between myself and Holmes. Her lips quivered and she clasped her bony fingers together. “Look, I don’t know, I just did what he said, that’s all.”
Holmes smiled kindly. “What who said?”
I felt a sudden jolt in my stomach. I glanced at Holmes but his gaze was on the old woman.
She shrugged. “Maury Artie. Why, d’you know him?”
Holmes turned to me. “Watson, I think a certain phrase is called for.”
I stared at him. “You mean…?”
“Yes,” he nodded solemnly. “Oh, shit…”
To be continued.