༺ The Scandal of the Bohemian Queen ༻
A few dozen minutes before a lady of unknown identity knocked on the door of the boarding house—
“Hello, Mrs. Hudson.”
“Miss Watson. You came quite early today.”
Dr. Rachel Watson, who had returned home earlier than usual, was scratching her head in response to the inquiry of the housekeeper— Mrs. Hudson.
“Yes. There weren’t many people at the hospital today.”
“I don’t know whether to be happy or sad about that.”
Watson laughed at Mrs. Hudson’s light joke as she made her way to her room.
– Bang! Boom!
She frowned slightly at the sound of gunfire coming from a distance.
“What is she up to now?”
Normally, when one heard a gunshot, the common reaction would be to panic or call the police.
But at 221B Baker Street, where she resided, such common sense didn’t apply.
“Holmes. What on earth are you doing now?”
The most eccentric figure in the entirety of London. The reason for the shattering of the average common sense was because her roommate— Holmes, who was significantly older than Watson in age, lived here.
“…Watson? You came early today.”
Opening the door, as Watson asked with a puzzling look on her face… A young woman, sprawled out like a corpse on the armchair with a white robe loosely draped around her body, picked up a cigarette and waved her hand in greeting.
“Want to try some Arcadia tobacco?”
Watching her, Watson quietly leaked a tired sigh.
Usually, her sharp grey eyes would shine brightly with luster, but now they were dull and clouded. Similarly, her once lustrous black hair had lost its shine and looked very dry and brittle at this moment.
Yet, even as Holmes offered her a cigarette with a dark smile on her face, an unmistakable air of charm and mystery could be felt from her very being.
“What were you doing just now?”
“As you can see, I was decorating the room.”
Had she not been shooting the wall in front of her in the shape of a phallus, it would’ve looked quite enchanting.
“Why did you drop your usual manner of speaking and start doing this absurd thing?”
“Well, isn’t a softer tone nice sometimes?”
Watson, looking down at Holmes with a look of disdain, shook her head in disbelief and sighed once more.
The longer there was no case for Holmes to tackle, the more bizarre her behavior seemed to get.
“Wait, were you experimenting with Mana Stones again?”
Thinking about this, Watson, who was heading to her usual spot, noticed the traces of an experiment on a table in the corner of the room. She frowned and spoke up.
“I distinctly told you that excessive experimentation can lead to mana poisoning, right?”
“It’s fine, Watson.”
Holmes, carelessly throwing her gun onto a distant sofa, responded with a languid expression on her face.
“For the advancement of investigative science, such a risk is a trivial matter. In fact, I’ve been conducting the experiments safely…”
“Holmes, I was a military officer. I’m now a practicing doctor. Do you think I can’t recognize the symptoms of mana poisoning when it’s blatantly displayed right in front of me?”
However, at the sound of Watson’s icy tone, Holmes stopped speaking and quietly looked away.
“Pretending not to know won’t help. No matter how skilled you are, in this matter, you have to listen to me.”
“Just cut me some slack, Watson.”
Upon Watson’s firm declaration, Holmes, letting out a deep sigh, stood up and began to lament.
“If I don’t conduct Mana Stone experiments, I might die of sheer boredom.”
“Then take on a case…”
“A case. Exactly, there’s no case. Not a single case in London to satisfy me, Watson.”
Murmuring as such, Holmes, with a slight tremble in her hand, offered the newspaper to Watson.
“For the past few months, there hasn’t been any significant case. The few strange incidents that did occur were mostly natural phenomena. The requests coming in or the incidents reported in the newspapers are all trivial.”
“It feels as if my brain is getting stiff from disuse. Maybe it’s actually solidifying. It’s truly lamentable.”
And after grumbling for quite a while, whether exhausted or not remaining unknown, Holmes eventually sank back into her armchair.
“When bizarre incidents began happening all over the world, how was I back then, Watson?”
“You were brimming with energy. You didn’t even glance at those experimental tools that cause mana poisoning.”
Responding to her query, Watson looked at Holmes with a slightly regretful expression.
“Yes, that’s right. I used to believe that, without praying for incidents every single night, significant cases that would make my heart race would greet me.”
Holmes, who had continued her words while gazing listlessly at Watson’s rosy eyes, eventually turned her gaze quietly towards the window.
“But Watson, I feel as though I’m living in a world of fools.”
Before they knew it, the streets of London were enveloped in a thick fog.
“For months now, every night, this unidentified fog has covered the streets, yet not a single crime exploiting this situation has emerged. The criminals of London really are…”
Holmes, who had been blankly staring out and murmuring out in a lethargic tone, suddenly stopped speaking.
“Why is that?”
A moment later, seeing that a smile had manifested on her previously stiff lips, Watson tilted her head and inquired about the reason for her sudden behavior.
“Did you witness a crime or a bizarre incident?”
“No, not exactly…”
Vitality could be seen returning again to Holmes’ previously listless eyes as she responded to that question.
“…I’m planning to witness it indirectly, though.”
This was because an unidentified lady, knocking on the door of the boarding house, had come into Holmes’ view.
A little while later, as a knocking sound came from the door, the previously listless demeanor of Holmes had completely vanished, and she called out with a lively squeak in her voice.
Then, the door cautiously opened, revealing a guest wearing a black robe and a mask.
Hesitating for a moment at Holmes’ gesture, the lady sat on the sofa. As she removed her robe, she revealed extravagant clothing and a voluptuous figure.
“Which one of you is Charlotte Holmes?”
The lady posed the quiet question to Holmes and Watson, who had been intently observing her.
“I am Charlotte Holmes.”
“…I’d like to speak with you alone. I apologize to your friend, but could she please step out for a moment?”
Watson was about to rise from her seat upon hearing those words, but Holmes stretched out her hand to stop her and opened her mouth.
“If she cannot listen, then I won’t either.”
The lady began to ponder, biting her lip.
For some reason, a faint blue tinge was noticeable on the part of her face that peeked out from beneath her mask.
Even Watson could easily deduce the emotion hidden behind the eyes shielded by her mask.
“Alright, but promise me that you won’t speak of this to anyone, at least until I die. It’s a matter of such gravity that it could turn the entirety of Europe upside down.”
With that, the lady began to speak in a slightly trembling voice.
“It concerns a grave matter involving a royal family of Europe.”
“The House of Ormstein of the Kingdom of Bohemia, am I correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct. Though I am here as a representative and cannot reveal it to you…”
But the lady halted her words before finishing it in full, fixing her gaze on Holmes.
“What did you just say…”
“Your Majesty, if you wanted to conceal your identity, you shouldn’t have worn such a luxurious outfit.”
Upon hearing Holmes’s words, the lady’s eyes widened in utter astonishment.
“Trying to deceive me, when you are so well-known throughout the whole world was a mistake, to begin with.”
A momentary silence then engulfed the room.
The lady, who had been quivering slightly as she looked at Holmes, threw off her mask and began to speak with a resigned look.
“I am the Queen of the Kingdom of Bohemia.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I’ve known from the moment you entered our humble boarding house that you are Lillia Goetzreich Zigeismund von Ormstein.”
“I apologize for my indiscretion. But I had no choice…”
“Well, there are situations that can’t be helped in this world. So, would you please begin by telling us what has transpired for you to come to me?”
Interrupting her, Holmes began to speak with as much politeness as she could muster in her being.
“To summarize briefly, it’s like this…”
The queen, momentarily furrowing her brow, began her story while covering her face with both of her hands.
“Isaac Adler. I’m on the brink of ruin because of that infamous young man. Do you happen to know him?”
“Watson, check my index.”
Holmes gestured to a file containing information on numerous individuals. However, Watson shook her head in response to that gesture before speaking.
“No need. I’m quite familiar with him.”
She then began to explain to Holmes in a chilling tone.
“The biggest rascal in London. A charmer who has beguiled countless women. A despicable person who takes pleasure in destroying the women he gets involved with, both physically and emotionally.”
“You seem to know quite a bit about him?”
“My patients, at the hospital I work at, are his victims.”
Holmes, sneaking a glance at Watson, whose face was burning with anger, soon shifted her gaze to the queen and posed a question.
“So, what kind of leverage does this Isaac Adler have over you?”
“A handwritten… um… that is… no, slave contract…”
The queen stammered with a look of unbridled embarrassment on her face.
“…He has something resembling a love letter from me.”
As she avoided eye contact and stumbled over her words, Holmes, who was scratching her head, began to pose another question.
“Did you perhaps have a secret marriage with the young man? Or did you engage in any legal contracts with him?”
“That’s not the case.”
“Then I don’t see a problem. Handwriting can easily be imitated, and even if there’s a seal or stamp, you can claim it’s a forgery.”
The queen responded, her head lowered.
“He has a photograph.”
“Any photograph of Your Majesty can easily be procured…”
“He has a photograph of the two of us together.”
“Oh, dear… What exactly is in the photograph, Your Majesty…?”
The queen, her face a shade of deep red at this point, hesitated for a moment before continuing her statement in a faltering voice.
“To be precise… I… I’m lying face down on the floor with a collar around my neck… and the young man is stepping on my head…”
Holmes and Watson looked at her with a stunned expression.
“Why on earth did you do such a thing?”
“I… I was out of my mind back then. I was young. Despite being a princess of a country, I believed I could give my everything to him.”
“I can’t really comprehend this situation.”
“Looking back now, neither can I. However, it definitely happened, and since yesterday, Isaac started to use this incident as a pretext to blackmail me.”
The queen, now with her ears turning the same shade as her face, poured her heart out to Holmes with a pleading voice.
“Actually, there’s no time to discuss this. My wedding is set for the day after tomorrow. But if he releases that photograph and the document… it will be the end of my life.”
“So, I’m asking for your help. I know it’s a quite challenging favor, but please retrieve the photograph and document within 36 hours.”
“How do you intend to compensate?”
“If you want, I can even give you half of my kingdom.”
“What about the immediate expenses required for the task?”
As Holmes raised an eyebrow inquisitively, the queen took out a hefty purse from her attire.
“I’ll pay 300 pounds in gold coins along with 700 pounds in cash as a down payment.”
Holmes ripped out a page from her notebook to write a receipt and handed it to the queen, wearing a satisfied smile.
“Please write the man’s address here, and Your Majesty should go back and get some rest.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ll bring you good news soon.”
Only then did the queen, seemingly relieved, rise from her seat.
As she put on her mask and robe again, she warned Holmes in a soft voice, despite her confident demeanor.
“Although he looks innocent and pure-faced, there’s a devil lurking within Isaac.”
With that being said, the queen quietly left the room.
“Anyway, I just can’t comprehend it.”
Holmes, who had remained seated in silence for quite some time after she left, murmured as she rose from her chair.
“People get carried away by this inefficient emotion called love, ruining everything.”
Then, suddenly looking at Watson, Holmes spoke.
“I believe I will never understand such people, not till the day I die, Watson.”
By now, her tone had reverted to its usual self.
Considering Holmes’ age, her previous manner of speaking was more natural, after all.
“Well, at least this case should serve as a distraction.”
“But isn’t the timeframe too tight? What are you planning to do?”
As Holmes was getting ready to hastily head out, she answered Watson’s question with a gleam in her eye.
“I have a good plan in mind.”
The day after the first encounter with Professor Moriarty—
On the weekend, I was on my way to what would soon be my home.
“Hey, you there. Stop for a moment.”
“Give me everything you have, and I’ll spare your life.”
As I entered an alleyway in the neighborhood of my home, a group of vagrants suddenly surrounded and began to threaten me.
I looked with a troubled expression at the thugs brandishing a club and a knife when suddenly a voice echoed from afar.
“Stop this at once!”
A seemingly frail young nun was approaching the scene, heading towards me and the vagrants.
Only then did I fully grasp the situation.
‘…This is 100% Holmes.’
It was as if the unfolding of the ‘Scandal in Bohemia’ was being reenacted right before my eyes.
Even though Holmes was dressed as a nun instead of a priest, regardless.
As a die-hard fan of the Sherlock Holmes series, this was truly a bittersweet moment for me.