by elfin

My days were never dull.  Just as in his previous incarnation, Holmes found trouble with little effort and his exploits kept us both on our toes.  But the most frightening moments were those when the thin veil of my pretence was threatened, and those rare occurrences happened almost always by chance.

A man approached us as we made our way along Porter Street this morning, heading for the bakery at the end of that row of small shops.  He was dressed like a military man, although I didn�t recognise the uniform.  I noticed him initially because of his manner, which wasn�t so much a stroll as a swagger, and while Holmes will undoubtedly have read much more about the man into that than I ever could, I did think that it made him looked somewhat out of place.

As there were two of us and only one of him, I thought he would move to his right to let us pass, but instead he deliberately came to a stop directly in front of us, and having put himself in our path he was subjected to the usual appraisal from Holmes who � I glanced to my side to see � was looking him up from behind his curious round Bohemian spectacles and down from under the wide brim of his hat.  But it was the way the stranger seemed to be assessing Holmes that started my heart beating faster � as if he was sure that he recognised my friend, but could not place him.

Holmes thankfully soon tired of the scrutiny and pulling his specs a little way down his nose peered over the circular rims to ask, �Do we know each other, Sir?�

To which the stranger replied with a smile, �Apparently not.�  He was an American!  Which made me doubly sure we had not met him before.

�Then if you�ve no business with me, if we might pass...?�  Holmes spoke with boredom in his tone.  �We are in something of a hurry.�

The man bowed slightly, stepped aside and we took a couple of steps forward.  I took a deep breath just a moment too early it turned out, because before we could put any distance between us he asked, �Could I trouble you for the time, Sir?�

I wasn�t fast enough.  Holmes had already pulled his pocket watch from his waistcoat and even as he opened it to read the exact hour a glance at the stranger�s face confirmed my worst fears.  He recognised the markings on the watch; he knew what it was � what it really was � only God alone knew how.  I glared at him and as I hoped he looked directly at me, undoubtedly trying to work out who I was.  Minutely I shook my head, praying whoever he was, he would read the situation right and knew enough to leave well alone.  To my relief, he nodded once.

�Four minutes before noon precisely,� Holmes told him, remaining oblivious to our silent exchange if my luck held, and put the watch back in his pocket with a sharp movement.  �Now, if you don�t mind....�

With a nod and a flourish of his arm the man bade us continue on our way, but when our backs were to him I heard him say, �Thank you, Doctor.�  Then he was gone, and I glanced at my companion who was looking at me with that frustration in his eyes that�s so familiar to me and always tests my resolve to keep my promise to him.

�Why did he thank you?� he queried, �When I was the one to give him the time?�

I shrugged, and for a moment I thought he might press the question.  But he just smiled brightly, tucked his arm through mine and swung his cane as we walked on.