Back to Issue Ten.

from The Adventure of the Hooded Woman

BY BRITTANY CAVALLARO



I.

My previous experience accompanying my constant companion had not adequately prepared me for the depraved situation upon which Sherlock Holmes had stumbled. It was the summer of ’95, and we had few cases at that moment; some rather embarrassing business with the French ambassador had just been straightened out, but the situation had so overtaken Holmes’ time that he had turned away a surfeit of clients just before his culprit more or less placed himself in my dear friend’s exacting hands. We celebrated. We slept. The sun set. Then the girl in white at the window, then at the door, then pleading, bent-kneed, at my friend’s unworthy feet. I stood with my notebook: small white shoes, buttoned at the ankle. She could not, or would not, open her pink mouth. This is what I am prepared to tell you: a fortnight found us bedded down in a Berkshire stable. A duke’s fists full of needles. The cellar below our feet filled with the dying girls sunk down in their skirts. I could not know. I thought neither of us could. Each horse a renowned runner. Her mouth had bled for weeks.

II.

My previous experience accompanying my constant companion had not adequately prepared me for the depraved situation upon which Sherlock Holmes had stumbled. Much later, when the two of us were in our cups, he would blame the entirety of the mess on my propensity to watch the pretty parasoled girls out the window. You see, Doctor, but you do not observe, he said, bowing wretchedly away at his violin. It was the summer of ’95, and we had few cases at that moment; some rather embarrassing business with the French ambassador and his rosebush of a daughter had just been straightened out, but the situation had so overtaken Holmes’ time that he had turned away a surfeit of clients just before his culprit more or less placed himself in my dear friend’s exacting hands. Then? A fortnight of death; another of silence. Indeed, a single day of Holmes taking that most abhorrent cure—the black moods in which he cursed every petty aristocrat by exact indiscretion before he lapsed into a twitching silence punctuated only by his gnawing at his raw lower lip—that is to say, I passed long hours at my club. I became a rather dab hand at euchre. I saw her still: the beautiful girl in the street, her dusty skirts, the shock of leather in her mouth.

III. 

I’ll say that I developed a fair amount of skill propping bruised men against myself, but my God, your wasted mouth. Later, when the two of us were in our cups, you would blame the entirety of the mess on my propensity to stare at you across the room. You see, Doctor, but you do not observe, you said, sliding the needle behind a shaking hand. It was the summer of ’95, and we had few cases after that rather embarrassing business between the French ambassador and his filly of a daughter—you naturally had straightened the situation out before I came home from the track. The girls there like spit and grease. Send me on an errand to the horses again and I could conceivably mouth the pistol myself. Your exacting hands. Then? A fortnight of silence. Indeed, a single day of your black moods, the women sussed out down to boot size, to brain, your evident hatred, the twitching silence, the hawker’s punctuation, you gnawing and gnawing at your raw lower lip—that is to say, I passed long hours at my club. I became a rather dab hand at the cold. And then that beautiful girl in the street, like some blessedly silent memory—all I had now three years past—her dusty fingers, the shock of love in her mouth. I am a kind man. You cannot be the last thing in this world for me.

 

 

Cavallaro 10

Brittany Cavallaro’s first collection of poems, GIRL-KING, is forthcoming from the University of Akron Press in 2015. Individual poems have appeared in AGNI, Tin House, and Best New Poets, among others. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.