IRENE ADLER AT THE REICHENBACH FALLS

 

My name used to be Irene Adler. I was the lover of two kings: the King of Bohemia, and the King of Crime, Sherlock Holmes - or perhaps he was better known as its chief opponent. I was fascinated by him; and although he would never call me by my name (I was only “The Woman” to him), I knew he was fascinated by me. He was my prey. At last I caught him,  and for one night we dallied like eagles on the wind. But it made him bitter to have been possessed, and he said that for him, I was the King’s Evil. Like the scrofula.

I thought I had better take myself off. It was easy to fake a death in those days. But the world is more welcoming to a fugitive if they are of the male gender, especially if they want to enter  the world of crime. And I did: I wanted to be its apogee, I wanted to engage in fabulous deceptions that even Holmes could not fathom. But I needed a male identity. I met one innocuous Professor Moriarty when I was masquerading as Lola Montez in a music hall. He was bewitched, and followed my beckoning hand into my dressing room.

 

Reader, I murdered him. I used his identity from that day forth. It was easy to cut my hair and to bind my breasts, to apply a false moustache and to use a little padding for the generative part. Then I strode out on my grand scheme. I stole, I lied, I invested, I reached all the ambitious heights I had envisaged. But Holmes had me in his sights. I was his prey now. He hunted me across the days and the years, until finally we came face to face at the Reichenbach Falls.

 

We stood three yards apart. “Professor Moriarty, the day  has come at last”, said he. I took off my tall hat, and laid it on the ground. I ruffled my hair. I took off my jacket and the tight waistcoat. I pulled off the moustache. I undid my shirt, and showed him my breasts. “Sherlock, it is I”, I said. “I am Irene Adler.”

 

He came at me then. But whether it was  out of fear, desire or anger, I never knew. We struggled fiercely, with our arms and legs entwined, looking at each other all the while.  Then we fell into the torrent, and the waters bore him away from me for ever. 

 

I scrambled to the bank, and ran back to my lodging. Professor Moriarty had played his part well and could now be disposed of a second time. I had hidden some women’s clothing in my luggage. I donned it, and set out with a chest full of money and jewels to the nearest town.

 

After some time, I took on the disguise of a Russian Countess called Catherina Yourievky. I gave people to understand that she was in flight from her husband and wished to lead a quiet life. No-one troubled me. I heard that Sherlock had survived, but he never came after me again.

 

I began to feel like one of the great rivers in Russia at the end of summer. First, a slight  rime covers the water. Then, as winter progresses, the ice becomes several feet thick. In the end, you can drive a coach-and-four over it. My heart was  now like the Volga in winter. But for me there would be no spring melting: nor for him either, I suppose.

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |