When she woke up, the sun was beating down harshly on her blonde, wavy hair. Puzzled, she threw a darting glance around the small, dingy room she was in, taking in the netted window, the newly painted door, and the metal frame of her bed, painted in green. Wait a minute, this isn’t Nashville! A startled Tay jumped straight out of bed, fumbling around to find her phone. A strange static noise suddenly drew her attention, and her eyes soon found its source. Stowed away in a corner of the room, a grey television screen stuck out like a sore thumb. The static noise grew louder and louder, only to suddenly stop and give way to a much clearer picture.
A masked man stared straight at her from the other side of the screen. Hello, Taylor. A robotic voice emanated from the screen. Tay felt a chill creep up her spine, as her mind clambered to make sense of the absurd situation she’d found herself in. “Who are you?” She yelled in confusion. I thought I’d been in enough movies to not have to hear this question again… There was a tinge of disappointment in his tone. I am Jigsaw, and my mission is to make sure no one under-appreciates their life on my watch. “Huh what? And why on earth am I trying to strike up a conversation with you? Let me go this instant. Do you think no one will notice I’m missing back home?” Oh dear, calm down. You’re here for a bigger cause than you. We are all the way on the other side of the globe. So I wouldn’t worry about being caught so soon, and maybe your best chance to get back home is to listen to me?
“That’s it, I’m leaving this instant.” An exasperated Taylor turned deftly towards the door and tried with all her might to fling it open, but she realized that it was bolted shut and she suspected that it was being blocked with something heavy, as it just wouldn’t give way no matter how hard she tried. Realizing that all the windows were grated shut and that she was truly locked in, she yelled at the screen in fury. “What do you want from me?” Ah, you’ve finally come around. It’s simple my dear, all I want from you, is a song. You see, for a very special someone who is possibly on his way to find you. But we can’t hand it to him straight, can we? Could you be a darling and craft me a musical trace?”
As the sun playfully peeked through the tinted windows, something was brewing at Bakers Street. Sherlock was preoccupied in his infamous mind palace while John marched up with hesitation. Yes, Mycroft had another assignment for his little brother.
John made just the right amount of noise pulling out a pendrive and playing its contents to exasperate Sherlock. “What are you?, an idiot John” remarked Sherlock as he grooved to the music. To no one’s astonishment, Sherlock disregarded the case, fitted his jacket and sprang out with enthusiasm. Predictably, John followed with nothing but questions.
“Miss me?” were the only recurring words in Sherlock’s head as they boarded the plane. Just one day ago, he was enjoying his leisure time listening to Wagner’s soulful violin strains while John frantically announced that Holmes was summoned to America by a Mr. Swift, who wanted his help in tracking down his missing daughter. As Holmes looked askance, John hastily added that the girl was an American pop music sensation and Mr.Swift wanted to get the best help that his daughter deserved ‘at any cost’. Holmes sighed, and agreed. Once on land, he took straight to business and broke into her palatial residence. After a quick investigative analysis, he headed out with a feeling of complete dubiety.
As he risked past a shallow edifice, a voice broke the silence.
“Well, hello there Holmes, I am quite disappointed to see you here!”, she hissed as she rose from the silhouette. Irene Adler. He just had one confrontation left, “Why?”.
“Because sometimes sentiment is not a chemical defect.”
“Oh Sherlock, I expected better from you.”
Exasperated, he hurried out in a fit of pique, but stopped as he sensed Irene walking towards him.
She whispered. “Great men resurrect even after they fall, ’cos they are more devious than the most treacherous of the falls”. Sherlock’s ears perked and he turned around swiftly to face her. Irene smiled softly, “I can see you have taken the hint. Perhaps you can set things right, once and for all? There’s more pride than yours, which is at stake”
He sat down in solitude to tickle his mind, the only palace he ever cared about. It all came together when he pieced the missing musical notes of the horrendous music Mycroft had sent them. They rearranged to say “The Pride Of India”. Once again, he was outsmarted by his big brother. He recalled the conversation with Mycroft.
“Isn’t Pride of India a mere sobriquet- an expression that can denote just about any place?”
“Not just any place, little brother”. Mycroft broke into a rare smile, emphasising his answer using air quotes.
Holmes landed in Trichy, jetlagged, momentarily blinded and scorched by the searing heat. The old Holmes would have preferred alerting the college authorities (since he got to know that NITT was an engineering institution) but now, he felt this would only make things worse. How on earth was he going to explain to the administration that an ‘acquaintance’ of his had kidnapped a celebrity singer and held her hostage in their college? As he sat in a car that was speeding to NITT from the airport, he carefully arranged his appearance to look more Indian. He changed into workman clothing, carrying an assortment of tools. He looked carefully at the pictures the ‘jigsaw killer’ had sent. Since the lighting was dim, he couldn’t make out much from the picture, apart from a dingy room with a green, metal-framed bed and a window that looked grainy(was it meshed?). He alighted from the car a few metres away from the college, to survey his surroundings. Everything seemed to be ordinary, with very less traffic on the roads. He soon changed his opinion as he saw fishy eyes staring at him as if he was figured out. I’ve to be on my guard all the time, he said to John. He approached a few youngsters, who seemed to be neutral to the environment. He pulled out a picture which he thought was most clear and approached them. “Do you know where I can find this place, on your campus?” The youngsters edged near him, cursorily glanced at the picture and immediately howled with laughter. When Holmes looked confused, they said “You aren’t the first and certainly, you wouldn’t be the last either”. They added “It’s Opal, the women’s hostel. Walk for about 20 feet, you’d see a shallow wall. Leap across it and you’ll be in.” Holmes smiled, he didn’t really have the necessity to leap across, since he already had a duplicate work permit (obtained from a seedy looking man in exchange for cargo). He thanked them politely and left.
One of those boys gasped,”Wait, was it Taylor Swift in the frame?”
“Slick photoshopping skills, huh?” said another
“But that’s weird, what is she doing in Opal?” said the former.
“Focus on your studies, pa”, the other guy said in tones eerily reminiscent of the head of lab CHEM69.
Having parted ways with John , Sherlock entered Opal, gazed around and saw that he was being beckoned by an older man in baggy overalls. “Ah, you are finally here. You should have actually been in 221B.” Coincidence? Holmes hoped not. “Anyway, we got a service request from the occupants of that room which seems to be a troublesome lot. You must be able to set things right, eh?” Holmes did not reply and sped. As he stood in front of B 221, the door opened on its own. Holmes clutched his gun and stood face to face with his arch-nemesis.
“There there, you don’t want to shoot me, do you?” Moriarty grinned. “Of Course you don’t, Holmes. Who will act as the mastermind to all those crimes which you seem to unerringly solve? Apart from sordid things like money and fame, I give your life purpose. Regardless of whether you realise it, your existence depends on me.”
A lesser man wouldn’t have noticed Moriarty’s hand close over the other. Holmes did and ducked as the wardrobe behind him got charred, by the high-intensity beam from a tiny device in Moriarty’s palm. By the time Holmes stood up, Moriarty was gone and he could hear faint whimpering emanating from under the bed. He swiftly released Taylor Swift, who had been gagged and bound under the bed. He left her gasping on the floor and sped out, in search of Moriarty. He felt lucky, because Moriarty wasn’t as young and spry as he was. And he also had a fair idea of where Moriarty would have headed. As he climbed atop the water tank, he spotted Moriarty breathing evenly and calmly waiting for him, despite having broken into a run.
“Hark, do you hear the pipes sing?” Moriarty guffawed. “This is the closest we could get to a waterfall. For we already have water and..” In one swift movement, Holmes blocked Moriarty and soon both were rolling on the floor clutching each other and kicking, like unruly bears. As Holmes finally cornered Moriarty against the edge of the tank, Moriarty smiled and mouthed ‘Good-Bye Loser’. And he plummeted down.
Startled, Holmes gazed down. He quickly ran down the stairs and peered through every bush, nook and corner that Moriarty could have landed into, by a stroke of luck. There was no sign of Moriarty. Had he escaped? Again? Distraught, Holmes retreated slowly into B 221 while John was set about moving Taylor Swift discretely out of the campus.
Sherlock sat meditatively on the airplane flying to Heathrow. Despite having saved Taylor Swift (the Swifts had been very generous, both in praise and otherwise- John wryly remarked), he felt he had failed in his mission. He was also haunted by another thought- why did Irene perform this rigmarole to make him come to India and face Moriarty? Was she also in cahoots with him? Nevertheless, this only increased his admiration for her.