The Letter Opener Experiment

Image Credit: Amelia M., Pheonix, AZ The author's comments: The year is 1891, imagine yourself in a tattered room, lodgings just fit for the middling ones of decent Victorian London society. You're seated on a plush armchair, head tilted slightly to the right after an exhausting round of cards. You peer through the suffocating darkness, darkness singlehandedly caused by a lone, smoking pipe, to see a silhouetted figure. Your mind is addled after the night's events, so you aren't quite sure where you are or who the man is. The haunting siren of a violin jogs your memory slightly, but then the man begins to speak. It all comes back at the sound of his voice; he had said those very words just this morning, "The game's afoot..." “Mr. Holmes,” It takes three tries for my gloved hands to rap hard enough upon the door of the famed Holmes’ abode for anyone to hear me. My fingers are trembling so badly, whether because I am terrified or anxious to meet him, I don’t know. Eventually, the man himself comes to the door. I clear my throat as daintily as I can manage, “You wanted to speak to me?” A man in his thirties with a cascade of shining curls and a sign of stubble set stubbornly on his jaw, opened the door with so little flourish and fanfare that I’d assume he wanted nothing to do with a fellow human, let alone a woman. He didn’t speak, nor did he make any move to break the discourteous silence. He only… watched me with eyes so dark I’d assume they’d belong to a member of the Fae. Instead, it was the woman, I, who needed to “man up” and utter the first word, “You requested my services recently, and—“ “Oh,” His facial expression lifted upwards into a semblance of delight, “Seeing, by the looks of you, I’d observe I’d first met you on the iced bridge over the river Thames?” “No.” “My favorite club of a certain perverted notoriety, which I frequent often?” “I’d never--!” “Possibly my dear Watson’s bachelor party then?” He paused and clapped his hands together for effect, “As one of the cabaret, not a guest, obviously… You were an Italian, oho no, Spanish dancer! Ahem, you gave an immaculate performance by the way… in the bedroom.” “Sir, I warn you that I will give you a total of three seconds to explain yourself before I take a dagger and slit your throat!” My fingers twitched, wanting to reach for the letter opener I’d tucked in my corset but then forcing myself to calm. Think of the children, starving on the streets, all of my siblings are under my care. They depend on me, and if that means dealing with this man… “Ah, ah, and no. So I’d humble myself to wonder at if my powers of deduction have so deteriorated that I’d forgotten you were part of some macabre—!” This is it, the blackout moment where my Spanish blood courses through my veins and I lose all control… Damn you Holmes. I took the glove I held in my free hand and slapped it across his face. He didn’t even turn his cheek in shame. He only blinked, as if stunned I’d do such a thing as be offended at his atrocious lack of etiquette. “That’s quite enough of your games, sir. I only came here asking for employment as your maid so I can avoid any such cabaret performances, Mr. Holmes. Mrs. Hudson, bless her soul, recommended you…of all people.” He paused, looked quite serious, and cocked his head back and forth in thought. He then, with all theatricality lost from his voice, remarked, “Of course, miss, I’ll expect you tomorrow at approximately midnight, wearing the appropriate lacy garters and corset.” His eyes flicked to my breasts, and I blushed for all the wrong reasons. I was wont to slap him again when he spoke, “You do realize that, as in most places, I’d consider a letter opener to be a very strange accessory for a woman’s, ahem…pride and joy.” I gawked, wondering how on earth he knew I had a concealed letter opener, of all things. He refused to let me have a single word more and remarked, quite seriously to my face, “You know, if you were to be a man at that very moment, I could have very well taken it as a threat and killed you. Even with you being a woman, I realize that your exact thoughts right now revolve around how the devil I’ve managed to read your mind.” “Naturally.” I laughed to heal my wounded pride, “It wouldn’t take any intelligence to deduce that one. Just like it wouldn’t take any effort to say that I think that your thoughts right now revolve around becoming better acquainted with my letter opener. Now, sir, the job? Can I receive a direct answer or will I have to resort to asking if the good doctor behind your shoulder is in need of a maid?” He paused, inhaled sharply, then turned to face away from me and speak to an unseen figure within the room, “Alright, Watson, I took the bet! I could hold a conversation with an unfascinating woman for a set amount of time without any ulterior motive, nor killing her as I constantly kill your dog, now may I carry out my newest experiment on you?” The door is shut rudely on me, and I hear a heated conversation from behind the mahogany door. I shudder at the cold that quickly replaces the warmth of where Holmes once stood. This time, it only takes me one try to knock on the door, and only half the time for it to swing open and reveal just the man I was looking for. “Let’s start over. Mr. Holmes, you requested my services for an experiment of some sort? You know, the one you were about to perform on Watson and thus most likely kill him or his dog? Seeing as to the doctor’s completely dumbfounded reaction, I’m probably the first person to ever wish to volunteer. It means I’m probably mad or desperate, but we’ll deal with specifics later. The experiment, Mr. Holmes?” A smile chock full of boyish enthusiasm and thing I could not place was instantly upon Mr. Holmes’ face. I had never felt so afraid as I did now. “Watson, dear, you were wrong about this one. It seems my first impression was uncharacteristically flawed, she’s a woman actually worth my time! She’s a volunteer!” I couldn’t resist a parting quip, “If I were a man, I would kill you for that insult.” “Don’t overplay a hand, sweetheart, it just isn’t done in the circles of polite society. And yes, now I actually care about that sort of thing, simply for the sake of a true lady being in my male presence. By the way, you being hired at all was Watson’s idea, so if you have any problems, talk to him. I’ll pay you, you clean, this will be the basis of our relationship until the day every single one of your poverty-stricken siblings marries or gets a job.” He leaned in close, and this time, I shivered for very different reasons when I felt his rough, unshaven skin against mine, “Just in case you cannot follow my brilliance, darling, I meant you as that aforementioned lady. You are a lady, right? Oh, but wait, I’m never wrong. Why? Deduce this, darling: I’m Sherlock Holmes.” …hijo de puta…



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