Hello and welcome to Teaser Tuesday where every week I’ll be posting a teaser from a range of books and genres. This post is all about fun, so sit back with a coffee and enjoy a short tease from talented authors.
This week we have The Adventure of Colonial Boy by Narrelle M. Harris
1893. Dr Watson, still in mourning for the death of his great friend Sherlock Holmes, is now triply bereaved, with his wife Mary’s death in childbirth. Then a telegram from Melbourne, Australia intrudes into his grief:
“Come at once if convenient.”
Both suspicious and desperate to believe that Holmes may not, after all, be dead, Watson goes as immediately as the sea voyage will allow. Soon Holmes and Watson are together again, on an adventure through Bohemian Melbourne and rural Victoria, following a series of murders linked by a repulsive red leech and one of Moriarty’s lieutenants.
But things are not as they were. Too many words lie unsaid between the Great Detective and his biographer. Too much that they feel is a secret.
Solve a crime, save a life, forgive a friend, rediscover trust and admit to love. Surely that is not beyond that legendary duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson?
Watson moodily left his carefully constructed mound of twigs and dry leaves to investigate the bank of the river. He stomped in the grass and peered carefully about.
‘I’m clearing away the snakes,’ said Watson tersely. Sure enough, a few yards away, a dark shape slithered away from the ruckus. ‘The blighted things gather at watering places. They are terribly venomous but not on the whole aggressive. If they hear you coming, they leave quickly enough.’ He bent to inspect the drier stones by the riverbank.
‘I have matches…’ Holmes began.
Watson, finding the stone he sought, picked up the piece of quartz and dusted it off. Next, he examined the stirrups of the saddles Holmes had laid aside.
‘Watson, a flint is unnecessary, I have…’ Holmes took the box of matches from his pocket.
‘I know how to use a flint, Holmes,’ Watson said through gritted teeth, ‘Matches are best saved for when we have greater need of them.’
‘You make work for yourself,’ responded Holmes, irritated.
‘That is surely my business and not yours.’
‘It‘s my business when you go to disassemble my riding tack in search of steel for your stubborn adherence to starting fires with flint sparks.’
‘I’m perfectly capable of caring for riding tack, you arrogant…’ His teeth snapped shut on a suitable epithet.
‘I was not aware you were a light-horseman, Watson. I thought I knew all your secrets,’ Holmes responded lightly, acidity unmissable.
Watson rose with one fist clenched around the quartz, the other into a fist. ‘There are a good many things you don’t know about me, Holmes. Even if I were an open book to you and your amazing powers of observation, you have not been here to observe me these past years. Do not presume to know my secrets.’
‘And here we are again. I have explained my absence. I have apologised for it. I had not taken you for such an unforgiving fellow, but so be it. I have sinned outrageously and must pay for it with your ill temper.’ Once more, the light-hearted tone carried acid in it.
Watson’s mouth was set hard with fury. ‘Don’t take that tone with me, Holmes. You led me to believe you had died. You sent me away on that path and I returned to find only a letter telling me you had expected to meet your death. And it is revealed that you watched me weep for you on that cursed path, with not a care for me – only some excuse that the cruel pretence was necessary for my safety.’
Holmes was bristling, too. ‘I left you to your wife and your practice. You hardly had need of me in London. You had everything a man could wish for.’
‘I mourned for you!’ snarled Watson, ‘For nearly three years, I have mourned for the man I loved and I…’
He was struck suddenly dumb by his own unguarded words.
And then he scowled, because they were spoken now, with none to hear but the man who did not care, and they didn’t matter anymore. None of it could possibly matter anymore, for he was a man without hope.
‘You died,’ he said, still angry, still heartbroken, ‘And took half my soul with you, and it was all for nothing. All that grieving I did, for nothing.’
Holmes was not softened. Watson had never thought he would be, though the words Holmes spoke next were a different kind of blow.
‘Yes, you loved me,’ sneered Holmes, ‘Against your will. You didn’t want to. Did you think I couldn’t deduce your desire for me? Or how hard you fought against it? Why, when it seemed you would finally declare yourself, you took such fright that you pursued the first woman you saw who seemed likely to have you, and married her. ’
‘And I was right to,’ Watson shouted, his voice thick, ‘You are repulsed. Disgusted by my feelings.’
‘As ever, Doctor Watson, you see nothing and observe less.’
‘I understand that you find my feelings ludicrous and offensive. Certainly they counted as less than nothing to you when you left.’
‘You understand nothing. You looked at me with love, and you were filled with self-loathing. You began to feel compelled to act on your unwanted desires, and instead married and moved away from me. When I took the opportunity that was offered to me to disappear, I was attempting to make it easier for you to cleanly choose your wife, and save myself the ongoing grief of knowing my inversion would mortify you, as you were mortified by your own.’
So much was packed into that angry speech, but Watson fathomed the crux of it.
‘Your own… mortify me?’
‘You battled your own instincts with such savage energy, there is no doubt that mine could cause you nothing but revulsion.’
As he realised the import of Holmes’s speech, it was as though his very breath was knocked out of him. The rage in him slackened. It was not done with him yet, though a wounded confusion overlaid it now.
‘Yes, I fought my nature. I fought…,’ he determined to say the words, however Holmes may scathe them, ‘…wanting you as well as loving you. But I also fought it because you made it clear that yours was not a… romantic nature. Nor, indeed, a… a sexual one. Such advances would have been anathema to you, I believed. But more than that, these… these inversions are dangerous. I have seen the cruel consequences of allowing them expression.’
Holmes’s raised eyebrow, clearly visible in this silver-and-ink light, was more sardonic and challenging than all the words in the world.
Anger flared, but it was swallowed by dreadful memories.
About the author:
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer of crime, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica and non-fiction. Her books include Fly By Night (nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Novel), fantasies Witch Honour and Witch Faith (both short-listed for the George Turner Prize) and vampire book, The Opposite of Life, set in Melbourne.
In March 2012, her short story collection, Showtime, became the fifth of the 12 Planets series (released by World Fantasy Award winning Twelfth Planet Press). Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, was released by Clan Destine Press in June 2012, and was nominated for the Chronos Awards for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing.
In 2013, Narrelle also began writing erotic romance with Encounters (Clan Destine Press) and Escape Publishing. Six short stories have been published to date. Her first full-length work, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy – a Holmes/Watson crime story and romance set in Australia in 1893 – was published by Improbable Press in 2016.
New works, in fantasy, romance and adventure, are in the pipelines with Clan Destine and Improbable Press.
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