Battle Is joined
The Act Begins
Isolate her, and however abundant the food or favourable the temperature, she will expire in a few days not of hunger or cold, but of loneliness.
This is the worst chapter so far. I know I’ve kind of been saying that for each chapter, but they’re getting successively worse as I read on. I promise to you that I will burn this book and record it. While I laugh manically.
Mary and Holmes are getting on the boat back to to England. Holmes describes the trip as ‘simple pleasures for simple minds’ which seems a very appropriate summary of Mary’s character. The captain of the boat has a package for Holmes from Mycroft. While praising again the methods of the female villain (why.), Holmes opens up the package which is full of analysis of the Clues. It turns out the bomb that injured Holmes was just supposed to injure his pride. And kill his friends. So Mary will have to be alienated. And Watson left to Mycroft, because it’s not like Holmes cares about him or anything.
this book. this fucking book.
Anyway, it turns out that all the bombers hired by the villainess were family men and it seems as if she was paying them handsomely, even the one who blew himself up through his own incompetence.
‘She is a person with international connection, or so the large quantity of American currency would tend to indicate, yet she carries through on her agreement with a dead man. On top of everything else we know about her, she’s a murder with a sense of honour. Most subtle.’
Subtle? Is that really the right word to use here?
Mycroft has discovered a Clue when a street urchin talks to him in cockney rhyming slang. This is the message for Holmes:
Lefty says there’s Glasgow Rangers with buckets of bees in town, the pitch and toss is somebody’s trouble.
It means that strangers with a great deal of money and the boss is somebody’s wife. Thank you for being so specific with your Clue! Thanks for playing the game.
Another Clue is the slashed taxi cab seat from a couple of chapters ago. It’s a Secret Message!
It goes like this: X V X I I X X I I X I I X X I I X X I V X X X I
‘Roman numerals?’ I wondered. ‘Does this mean anything to you?’
It means that they are numerals. That are Roman.
Anyway, they don’t make any sense. They don’t know what numbers they should make or whether they’re letters, or whether they even mean anything. But it doesn’t matter, as Holmes and Mary have a PLAN. Well, I think they do, it doesn’t come up in the text until they suddenly start talking about it. It starts with Mary discussing whether the villain’s next move would have been to injure Watson if the two of them hadn’t run away to Palestine – which she might have done anyway while you were gone. And then suddenly PLAN. She just casually drops that Holmes and her are going to pretend to be divided and the ‘trauma’ has made Mary into an empty wreck.
Where in seven hells did that come from? It came right out of nowhere, with no real build-up or prelude. It just happens. And the next day on the boat, the two just act as if they hate each other.
We had to assume that we were being watched at every moment, and a slight slip of affection could be disastrous.
Okay, I can buy that. What happens next though… it ruins the entire premise.
After the second day, Mary breaks the premise of alienation and just goes to Holmes and chats to him, as she normally would. Are you stupid? You went on and on about how ‘every moment’ you were being watched. Look! There’s the quote right there! That is showing affection! You are shitty at this Mary! And age doesn’t help; Holmes relents immediately and says he’ll continue writing her letters when she’s back in Oxford. Wow. The villain who is able to follow you with an intelligence to match Holmes at his best is not going to be fooled for a single solitary second by this charade. It broke after two days!
And then it’s a nightmare scene.
I came up from it to find myself huddled on the floor with my arms over my head, a shriek of complete hopelessness and terror echoing off the walls. All the old symptoms washed over me: cold, copious sweat, sour vomit in the back of my throat, heart bursting, lungs heaving. Then the door was flung open and Holmes was kneeling beside me with his strong hands on my shoulders.
It’s very common in Sue fics to have the Mary Sue have a nightmare from her incredibly tragic back story, and her designated love interest will comfort her. Through their shared experience and compassion, the two will grow closer and go further on the path to lurve. I just never expected to read this done in a published book. With Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes was still beside me, tying the belt of his dressing gown, smoothing his hair back from his temples with both hands.
I think I just vomited a little in my mouth. That… that just sounds so wrong.
But we are finally going to learn Mary’s tragic back story. Oh goodie. We know it is SRS BISNES because she went all over Europe to talk to psychiatrists (because it’s not like they were in America) but couldn’t find any help for her night terrors, which were pretty bad.
One morning my aunt had become too persistent in her questions about my ‘nightmares’, and I had hit her in the face and knocked her to the floor.
The character we are supposed to sympathise with, ladies and gentlemen. Physically abuses those who try to help her.
Here it is. The whole thing. The entire dark inner turmoil of Mary’s psyche. Let’s do this thang.
‘My brother – my brother was a genius. Reading by three, complex geometry by five. His potential was huge. He was nine when he died, five years younger than I. And I, I – killed him.’
You murdered your brother? That is dark. And entirely believable with the character presented.
‘We were in a car, you see, driving along the coast south of San Francisco. My father was going into the army the following week. He had been rejected because of his bad leg, but finally he persuaded them to put him into Intelligence work. We were taking a last family weekend at our cabin in the woods, but I was – being difficult, as my mother put it. I was fourteen, and had wanted to go with some school friends to Yosemite, but had to go to the cabin instead. My brother was being particularly beastly, my mother was upset over Dad leaving, and Dad was distracted by business and the army. A merry company, you see. Well, the road is bad there, and at several places it runs along the top of some cliffs over the Pacific. A drop of a couple hundred feet. To make a long story short, we were just coming up to one of these, with a blind corner to the left at the top of it, when I started screaming at my brother. My father turned around at the wheel to tell us to shut up, and the car drifted across the centre. There was another car coming around the corner, going very fast, and the last I saw was the outline of my brother’s head through the back window as the car went over the side. Dad had just filled the petrol tank. There was nothing left of them. Any of them. They scraped together enough pieces for the funeral.’
So even in 1914 all cars were pintos? And um, how did Mary not get blown up/thrown over a cliff/choose which one you think the text was saying because it’s not exactly clear? Did she just fly out, as if by magic, through the car? How did she get out, and not her brother or her parents? How? Where are the physics in this universe?
The Dream had escaped my control, my past had freed itself to destroy me and the love I had for this man.
‘I went crazy for a while, kept having to be restrained from throwing myself off things.’
Sweetheart, there are far better ways of killing yourself. Why not use those handy over the counter supplies of opium or heroin? Or just slit your wrists or something. Throwing yourself off things suggests a desire for drama, rather than a real urgent desire for death.
‘I finally came across a very good psychiatrist. She told me that the only way I could make up for it was not to kill myself, but to make myself worth something. In effect, though she didn’t say it so simply, to be my brother’s stand-in. It was an effective piece of therapy, in a way. I no longer tried to jump from high places. But the Dream started that same week.’
… why not tell your therapist? It’s what she’s there for. Mary explains that she’s never told a soul about the Dream, blah blah blah, and now she’s so hopeful. She’s told Holmes, a man she loves and respects, and hoping to find redemption…
‘Of course you killed them. It was not murder, or even manslaughter, but you are certainly guilty of provoking a fatal accident. That will remain on your hands..’
REAL COMFORTING THANKS HOLMES
And uh, a fatal accident is what manslaughter is. Practically. That I remember. From an Elvis film.
Holmes stays the night in Mary’s room, while she cries silently. But she feel soooo much ~*better*~ now! And the two of them chat each night in her room for a few minutes.
Do you remember that cover you’re meant to have? That you hate each other now? What happened to that? Have you forgotten about it? Is it still there? I mean, Mary says it is, but the crew would have noticed this by now.
They land in England and scream at each other, and Mary solemnly informs us that they will not see each other for two months.
less than a hundred pages to go. i can do this.