FROM VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES:
CHAPTER SIX: THE FINAL PROBLEM
We ran all the way from the cafe back to Baker Street, leaving Moriarty behind. When we got there, Mary was gone. She had left us a note, though:
"Joseph Barnett sent word that he wants to meet me back at my room. I feel a certain obligation toward him. I have no wish to marry, but he must be told that he is to be a father. I shall be back to Baker Street as soon as possible."
My heart sank. How long ago had Mary written this note? Had she already stuck it to our door when I went out to investigate the empty house? I had forgotten to take any kind of precautions at 221-B before I rushed off with Moriarty. Had Mary still been there then? Could I have prevented her from going to Miller's Court? Oh, gosh, how stupid could I be, anyhow? The Ripper was Joseph Barnett, or vice versa. That had to be it.
"Dear God, Valis!" Holmes cried. "We haven't a moment to lose. We must get to Miss Kelly immediately!"
We got a hansom cab, and Holmes made a total nuisance of himself, pestering the driver to go faster. I didn't blame him. I'd have done it myself if Holmes hadn't had it so totally covered. Anyhow, I was busy trying to convince myself that Mary Kelly was okay and I wasn't to blame for anything.
"Vionna is the girl that won't be blamed for nothing."
The sun had climbed well above the rooftops by the time we got to Miller's Court. Holmes literally threw a handful of money at the cab driver.
We made our way Number 13. Holmes tried the door and found it locked. He banged on it for a few seconds, but that didn't accomplish anything. He went over to the little window and discovered that one of the panes was broken out. He put his hand in, pulled back the curtain, and peeked inside. He stayed that way, slightly crouched down with his eye to the opening, for a very long time. I began to notice a terrible smell coming from someplace. Holmes kept on not moving or speaking, and I could not make myself move from where I was standing, or make myself say anything, either.
I knew what Holmes was looking at. I had a picture in my mind that came from somewhere else-- I couldn't explain it, but I knew it was for real. Poor Mary Kelly, lying dead in that room. And not just dead-- the Ripper had outdone himself this time. The mutilations he had inflicted went way beyond the stuff he had done before. I couldn't think of any words to describe it. I just stood there, crying, without making a sound.
Finally, after about a million years, Holmes turned around to face me.
It was too, too late. I could tell by the look in Holmes' eyes. I had never seen anything like it. He was trembling, and all the blood had drained out of his face. The terrible smell got worse and worse and I imagined all sorts of things, and I knew that none of them could be as bad as what Sherlock Holmes had seen.
I felt like my head had been hollowed out completely. I couldn't move. As Holmes stood there, looking at me, I thought I saw a very bright light shine through the thin fabric of the curtain for just a second. Then, a few moments later, it seemed to me that I could hear my own voice coming from inside the room. I shook my head. I was losing my grip.
"We... We should go, Valis," he said.
"The police..?" I said.
Holmes closed his eyes. "To hell with the police," he said in someone else's voice. "And Her Majesty's government, too. To hell with sorcerers and vampires and all their bloody games. And, most of all, to hell with the brilliant Mister Sherlock Holmes."
I didn't like the sound of that. I knew I had just heard someone die, and I don't mean Mary Kelly.
Just then, a man came around a corner and started walking up the alleyway in our direction. I have no idea what he looked like. I couldn't really see anything just then. The man was tall or short or young or old or well-dressed or shabby. I hated him immediately, just because he was there.
"I don't imagine you know a Miss Mary Kelly that lives in that room there?" he said. I wanted to hit him.
"No, not really," Holmes replied dully.
The man gave us a curious look. I prayed that he would make a smart remark so I'd have an excuse to crack his head open. The nerve of him, standing there like that, running his mouth, while Mary Kelly...
"I've had the devil of a time pinning her down," the man was saying. "My name's Thomas Bowyer. I work for Mister M'Carthy, the landlord. Miss Kelly is seriously in arrears on her rent. In fact, it has reached the crisis point. If she comes up with one more tale about being skint..."
"I shouldn't worry about that," Holmes said in a hollow voice. "I shouldn't worry about that at all." He grabbed me by the wrist and led me away. Mister Thomas Bowyer stood scratching his stupid head.
We were almost three blocks away when we heard Thomas Bowyer scream. I hoped he would never, never, ever forget what he was seeing. I hoped his hair would turn white.
Neither Holmes nor I said a single word. We just kept walking until we reached 221-B Baker Street. Everything we passed looked and smelled funny. The sky itself seemed to be smeared with blood-- it had soaked into the ragged little clouds, and the smell of it filled the whole world.
When we finally reached 221-B, we found an envelope stuck to the door, addressed to Mister Sherlock Holmes. The handwriting on the front of it was familiar. We both knew who it was from, and neither of us wanted to open it up. We plodded up the stairs, and Holmes tossed the envelope onto the floor. He slumped into his chair and refused to answer any questions, or to speak at all. I sat down in the basket chair.
We sat there like that, totally silent, for a very long time. Hours, probably. I really can't be sure. I might even have nodded off for a while. At some point, I became aware that Holmes had gotten to his feet. He did not speak or even look at me as he moved over to the fireplace.
Sherlock Holmes took a bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and a hypodermic syringe from a neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction, and ...
I stood up, too. I picked up the envelope that Jack the Ripper had affixed to our front door from the floor where Holmes had tossed it, and stuck it in my pocket. Then I just sort of wandered out into the street. I wanted to go someplace, but I didn't know where.