10th December. I awoke this morning and stepped into the lounge of 221B. The room was in darkness, with a single lamp aiding the flickering fire in their struggle to provide enough illumination. For the first time since the events at Tower Bridge, I found myself alone in the study. The quietness of the moment left me surprised and unsteady.

Sherlock was sleeping after one of his nights of restless research. Files, books, and loose papers scattered to cover the floor like litter blown in the wind. Test tubes and scientific liquids lay strewn across his workbench. I looked at the table, which Mrs. Hudson laid every morning with a breakfast spread, and noted that Quincey had taken his fill before us. He and the dog would be out at the park, enjoying their first exercise of the day, albeit earlier than usual.

The untidy room, which had been the starting point of so many remarkable adventures, was its usual reassuring mess. Leaning against the corner wall was Sherlock’s black leather violin case. The coal scuttle contained his collection of old pipes and their spent tobacco. Signs of a recovery, a return to normality, perhaps. It could mean that Sherlock was back to his form, and that there was something on his mind, something he would not let go of until he had it resolved.

A large volume of our old files lay open on the floor in front of the fire. My writings collected. Descriptions and records of the cases that Sherlock and I had solved, and there were many to choose. Bending to retrieve the book, I grappled my fingers around it without losing the page at which it was open. Then, with little control over my position, I slumped back into my seat. The weight of the book rested with a dull slap on my lap. As I inspected the volume, I found it marked at the chapter titled ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.’ After a moment of thought, I recalled the details of the case. The investigation began with Sherlock’s remark, which now came to mind. Then, after reading a letter delivered to 221B, Holmes tossed it to me and said, with a dry chuckle.

“For a mixture of the modern and the medieval, of the practical and the wildly fanciful, I think this is the limit,” he said. “What do you make of it, Watson?”

The note relayed a tale of vampires, in which Sherlock proved to be nothing more than a doting mother protecting her baby. Now, though, after the events written about in Lifeblood, thoughts that allegations of such occurrences were only ‘wildly fanciful’ were more difficult to accommodate. I closed the volume, leaned forward, and placed the book on the shelves beside the hearth.

I blinked to find the room bathed in sunlight. Time had moved fast towards mid-morning. Outside, the winter day has gained a few degrees of warmth, the sun burning away the haze from the skyline and replacing it with a wash of blue that was England. It always gladdened my heart to stare out over the city on days like this. Even the gray of the rising pillars of industrial smoke had a color about it.

Downstairs, the front door of 221B opened and closed with a slam, marking the return of Quincey with Prince. They both bounded up the stairs, the dog running close at the boy’s heels, a position the pup always seemed to fill as a duty.

“Good morning, Quincey.”

“Morning, Dr.”

“There’s a lot of energy to be dispelled from that pup, eh?”

“Yes, sir, he runs like the clappers on the trail, so he does.”

Prince stood at the table and then sat, waiting for his customary stray sausage, which he received with some joy. Prince chewed at the meat and swallowed his prize with a gulp. The energy which had filled the dog before his run out at Regent’s Park was now dissipated, replaced with a full stomach. An exhausted tongue hung from the side of his mouth like a shelled oyster as his legs folded beneath his body, and he took his usual spot in front of the fire. Prince curled into a ball, his eyes closed and flittered. He thumped his tail three times and then slept.

Twice around the inner circle of the park was more than enough to keep them both quiet for the rest of the day. Then, as the pup lay in a half-moon against the fire, it struck me how much the animal had mushroomed in size.

The boy and dog had become the best of partners. Prince’s energetic but gentle nature is perfect for the boy and this household. Sherlock was, without a doubt, correct in his decision to enable this partnership. Mrs. Hudson’s outward, and continued reluctance to accept the dog, covers her camouflaged affection which lays beneath. The kindness she shows when she thinks no one is there to observe. Prince understands a good thing when he is the benefactor. The pup maintains the shared secret at the price of a rasher of bacon, a link of sausage, or a slice of black pudding, any of which is allowed as an acceptable ransom. Even exchanging a passing growl to maintain the deception.

As we paused, Sherlock brushed into the room without a word and returned, flopping his weight into his chair. A concerned expression ran over his face like a winter waterfall. Holmes’ complexion tightened, and his long bony fingers played their tips against each other as his hand formed the familiar spire of a confident thought.

“Everything all right, old boy?” I asked.

 He did not reply. Instead, he turned and removed his violin from its case and played. After a few minutes, Holmes placed the Stradivari and its bow back in its container and secured the lid with its double clasps, propping it back in its place. Sherlock moved to face Quincey. His expression held a thought.

“We need to get you some lessons in the art of defense, my boy.”

“This knife is good enough,” Quincey says, patting the sheath of the kukri.

“Sometimes, you may find laying your hands on your weapon impossible. And you should prepare for the moment if that is the case.”

“What do you suggest, Sir?”

“I have made acquaintance with a fellow named Barton-Wright. He has studied many forms of self-defense, including the eastern ways of the martial arts.”

“I believe you are referring to the art of Bartitsu, which I have read mentioned in the Observer,” I said.

“Indeed, I am Watson, a mix of boxing, the French self-defense of savate, combined with skills of la canne as exposed by the Swiss master Pierre Vigny. Barton-Wright returned a few weeks ago to London from Tokyo, Japan, where he studied and became a master in two styles of jujutsu, Shinden Fudo, and Kodokan.”

 “How on earth did you come across this man?”

“We formed a passing acquaintance at the Diogenes Club, exchanging a brief conversation in the Stranger’s Room when I overheard him speaking of hand-to-hand fighting, with which, you know, I have a special interest. It was by chance, as I should remind you, Watson, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed elsewhere in the Club at a penalty of expulsion.”

“Is that where you have been disappearing each Wednesday evening, Holmes?”

“Not to the Diogenes, but to a small studio on Shaftesbury Avenue where Barton-Wright holds private tuition class. He plans to introduce his art to a wider audience. So, now is the best time to engage his skills one-to-one. I have observed his methods; they provide a perfect vehicle for the boy to learn more than the basics.”

“What think you, Quincey?” I asked.

“I know you prefer that I not take my kukri around town. You know my attachment to the instrument and why I would not be without it, Dr. Watson. However, I understand that such training may give me the will to travel without my blade at certain times. So, I will attend. But only if Prince can accompany me.”

“That is a matter for Barton-Wright. However, the dog is well-behaved and can hold itself in good humor. That may be a possibility.” Said, Sherlock.

Quincey and Prince would attend Barton-Wright’s class each Wednesday evening for six months. As a result, the boy gained confidence, which increased to a point where he indeed replaced the comfort of the kukri with a simple walking stick when he ventured onto the streets.

A stick on which his life would lean in the months ahead.