“Terrific deduction,” Holmes commended. “As I said, you really do have a remarkable talent for this line of work, my oriental friend. There really are no words to describe your brilliance!”
He was about to say more,, but the music had started, so Holmes retreated to his seat. He clasped his hands and straightened his knees, ready to savor the performance.
This new opera was called “Carmen.” The author George Bizet was French. Extremely talented, he sadly died at the young age of 37. This play, which told of a tragic tale of love in Seville, Spain, was completed a year before his passing
The story told about Carmen, a beautiful and unfettered gypsy girl that worked at a cigarette factory. Don Jose, the military squad leader, fell head over heels for her, abandoning his lover, the kind and gentle Micaela by the countryside. He even violated strict military discipline and let Carmen go when she got involved in a fight with a fellow female worker. When Jose was released from prison, he joined the group of smugglers that Carmen belonged to. Alas, the days that followed saw the two young lovers hit a rough patch. Carmen quickly moved on and fell in love with Escamillo, the bullfighter. While the crowd was cheered for Escamillo’s victory over the bull, Carmen perished under Don Jose’s dagger. Love and destruction were the themes of this play. Unlike the previous stories where the main characters were heroes or mythological personalities, the protagonist, Carmen, was a female factory worker and a low-level military officer. It was an incredibly bold attempt, which was why Irene Adler disguised herself as a gypsy busker in the East End to search for inspiration.
Ms. Adler wore a red dress that drew everyone’s eyes to her.
Tonight, she was even more dazzling than ever, with a certain wild disposition. The 3/8-beat aria she sang as she seduced Don Jose was the climax of the first act.
But just as the audience was indulging her performance, Holmes patted Zhang Heng on the shoulder and whispered, “We have to make a move.”
The pair got up from their seats and tiptoed as gingerly as they could to the aisle, crouching low to avoid attention.
“Do you see that waiter in the box on the second floor?” asked Holmes.
“He delivers fruit platters to each of the boxes. And normally, the same person does it throughout the night. Just ten minutes ago, another guy took his spot.”
“Do you think it could be Mr. M observing his target up close?”
“I don’t think it’s Mr. M himself, but this bloke is obviously connected. If we get our hands on him, at least we’ll be able to find out who Mr. M is targeting now,” Holmes continued.
When they looked up, though, they spotted the waiter staring at them suspiciously.
“He seemed to have… noticed us,” Zhang Heng sighed.
“… Looks like it,” agreed Holmes.
Without warning, the waiter abruptly threw the platter he was carrying and ran to a nearby box.
“Let’s split up. I’m going up!”
“I’ll take the outside then,” said Zhang Heng.
After a quick discourse, Holmes ran up to the second floor and Zhang Heng exited the building.
Sherlock Holmes’ sudden appearance at the stairway alerted the guards beside the Prime Minister’s box. It was then that he dashed into the box next door.
Holmes pushed the doors open. The table was a mess. Food and wine were all over the floor, and the windows were wide ajar. A man who seemed like a businessman, together with his wife and daughter, huddled together, trembling in fear.
Holmes didn’t stop there, placing his left feet on the window sill. He was about to leave when he noticed that the family seemed more aggravated than relieved.
He quickly understood that the person he was after must be still in the box.
But the waiter was also quick to realize that his pursuer had seen through his plan, so he rolled out from under the seat and stabbed Holmes’ calf with a knife. Sherlock managed to block the attack with his cane and knocked the dagger off his attacker’s hand. The man, however, pushed himself off the ground and grabbed hold of Holmes. As Holmes struggled to free himself, the pair stumbled backward and fell onto the floor.
The situation was utter terror and chaos. The wife of the businessman screamed at the top of her lungs, but it pitched exactly with the peak of the crescendo, the perfect cover for the scuffle in the box.
Sherlock’s boxing skills were no use to him in such a cramped space, and on top of that, he hit his head on something during the fall. The waiter sat on top of Holmes and coiled his hands around the detective’s neck. Holmes desperately tried to reach for his cane but the waiter merely kicked it out of the way.
Presently, Holmes could only hope that the family watching from the sidelines would somehow help him. The businessman was the first to snap out of his temporary paralysis. He pushed the door open and left with his wife and daughter, leaving his coat behind.
“Great!!! You’ve been really helpful,” Holmes growled through gritted teeth.
Now, his only option was to do try his best and pry away the hands strangling his neck.
Although Holmes looked thin and lean, he was certainly not weak. But tonight, his opponent way overpowered him, and there wasn’t much space to move either.
Holmes was struggling to breathe, and his grip gradually weakened.
Just as he started to see his vision getting cloudy, a figure jumped in from the window, kicking the waiter on the ribs, and sending him through the door towards the corridor. Vindicated, Holmes greedily drew in his critical supply of fresh air.
“Am I dead? Why else would you be here?!” he sputtered and choked between words.
“I didn’t see him on the streets so I assumed he hadn’t left the box. I was worried that you were in danger, so I climbed up,” Zhang Heng explained.
“Climbed up?! You mean you climbed up all the way here? But how?! There’s no ladder or stairs,” Sherlock asked in bewilderment. “Have you worked in a circus before?”
“I guess you can put it that way. If you’re fine, I’ll be chasing after our guy, then,” Zhang Heng replied, not wanting to let slip the opportunity. “Go ahead. I’ll lie down for a bit. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Holmes panted, his face now as white as a ghost, and his eyeballs bulging.
Zhang Heng ran out of the box and saw that instead of leaving, the waiter had proceeded to the prime minister’s box, telling something to the guards outside. After hearing what the waiter had to say, both guards charged towards Zhang Heng in a menacing hurry.