It was in the spring of 18– when I returned to Baker Street after a lengthy sojurn in the wilds of Dorsetshire. It had been some months since I had last called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes and so I found myself quite anxious to renew that acquaintance which had, over the years, led to my involvement in various grotesque and singular events, many of which I have subsequently recounted for the interest of readers.
I was let in by Mrs Hudson and climbed the 19 steps up to the rooms which I had once shared with Holmes before my marriage, the old wound from the jezail bullet troubling me but a little.
I found Holmes slumped in an armchair, smoking a long clay pipe and seemingly locked in a brown study. He barely responded to my halloas, giving only the faintest twitch of one of his eyebrows to acknowledge my arrival.
Well used to my strange friend’s extremes of mood and temper, and the sullenness which was wont to affect him during fallow periods when he happened to have no case to stimulate his restless desire for intellectual work, I did not take offence. Instead I sat myself down opposite him before the fireside and regarded Holmes with a watchfulness which I found it hard to disguise.
How well I recalled the years when I, a bachelor in those days, had shared these rooms, these chairs, this fireside with the most brilliant consulting detective in the world.
It seemed an age before Holmes took full notice of my presence.
“Watson,” he said through the gritted teeth clamped around the stem of the pipe, “you have been in Dorsetshire, I see. How was the 12.22? I usually find it rather inclined to be tardy. I observe that you stopped by at Romano’s on the way here. Did you enjoy your kippers?”
“Oh fuck off Holmes,” I said. And walked out.