He kept the photograph, along with the letter, neatly pressed within the small book. It sat in his shelf – filed, secure and contained – amidst the various biographies and references, to be kept there until work required its reappearance.
And that, he had decided, was the end of that.
Yet weeks later, while perusing his indices for a case involving tobacco ash, he found his hand reaching for the small bound book instead.
Why he should be reading it when he had more pressing matters to attend to, he couldn’t say. The case was closed. There was no more information to be gleaned from within her letter, or from the photograph itself. The Woman’s face stared at him with condescension, and just a touch of mischief, between the pages of the book. He snapped the book shut and slid it back into its place.
It did not stay there for long. When Watson was out, he found himself reaching for the book and the photograph, absentmindedly at first, then with increasing urgency, and a mild sense of guilt – as if he were engaging in something illicit or sinful – with every encounter.
It was as if the Woman within refused to be contained inside the book and shelved. He should have known, truly, that she was simply too much – too clever, too real, too unsolvable a mystery – to be boxed into a single photograph, a simple footnote.
Every time he opened the book and stared at her face within, studied her handwriting, it seemed to him that she came alive and taunted him. And yet, he could not leave it alone. She would not let him.
The next morning, he packed his luggage. Unwilling to leave the photograph which had so enslaved him, he plucked the item from its home in the shelf, and without thinking about it, he placed it within his watch.
With a hurried goodbye to his landlady, Sherlock Holmes set off to Montenegro.