DUE TO AN ABRUPT CHANGE IN PLANS, MORIARTY’S REFIC HAS BEEN CHANGED. CONGRATULATIONS TO NARRATIVEDILLETANTE.
My dear Watson,
I wish to correct some of the misapprehensions you seem to have regarding recent events. I am
afraid you released a story to the public without sufficient information to tell this story accurately,
nor sufficient care to ensure the public reacted in an appropriate manner.
Though I am sure you are familiar with the subject matter, I’ve learned not to trust memories
other than my own, so I have enclosed your account of “The Great Confrontation” for your
"The Great Confrontation"
By Dr. John Watson
I have written many accounts of the adventures I had with my friend, Sherlock Holmes. You, the
reader, may feel that you have gained an understanding of his character. Indeed, I imagined that
I knew him quite well. I imagined I could trust him. I imagined he was a good person at heart.
I imagined he valued my friendship as much as I valued his. As I learned in the account I now
provide to you, I was mistaken.
Sherlock Holmes was a man given to great obsession. When one took him, he neither slept nor
ate until it was resolved. I had known him for several years, and was familiar with his patterns,
when he began his obsession with a supposed criminal known as Moriarty. This was the first I’d
heard of Moriarty, but Holmes claimed that he’d been tracing crimes to this source for years. The
only reason I’d been unaware, said Holmes, was that he lacked sufficient evidence to convince
even himself that Moriarty was as significant in the world of crime as he appeared to be.
Naturally, I took everything Holmes said for the truth. Over the years I’d known him, he’d
convinced me that his instincts and deductions were more trustworthy than anything. I assisted
Holmes in his investigation where I could. After a month of Holmes pacing and playing the
violin to himself and smoking and rearranging notes, he told me he had what he needed.
“What makes Moriarty so fiendishly difficult to trace,” he told me, “is that he never gets directly
involved in a crime. He merely orchestrates them from afar, apparently for his own pleasure
more than any material gain. I have, however, ascertained his weakness.
“Every crime is committed because someone wants something badly enough to break the law for
it. This level of desperate desire is what makes common criminals so easy to catch. They lack
forethought, and lose themselves in the drive to achieve their fiendish goals. They make mistakes
of the sort that I can spot a mile away, and that even you, Watson, will sometimes notice when
you’re being careful about it.
“Moriarty’s success is at least partly due to his detachment from the crimes he oversees. He
has no personal investment in them, so he doesn’t make the mistakes people do when they care
deeply about what’s going on. But tomorrow, a crime will be committed in which Moriarty has a
great deal of emotional investment.”
Holmes explained to me that a robbery had been planned for the household of a Mr. Harold
Burke, who was then on holiday. Criminals would frequently make such plans, when a house
was empty, so that they could coordinate an effective robbery with lookouts and the like.
However, this robbery plan included a special order: a particular book was to be retained by a
particular person, who, according to Holmes, was one of Moriarty’s closest accomplices.
This book was the real reason for the robbery. Mr. Burke would lose everything he possessed, so
that Moriarty could gain a single object. Naturally, I expected Holmes to attempt to prevent the
robbery. But he insisted that the robbery must take place, for without that robbery, there was no
physical evidence linking Moriarty to any crime. But, if the day after the robbery, he were to be
found in the possession of this unique and priceless book, then he would at last be caught.
Holmes enacted a plan whereby I would pay a visit to Moriarty, upon the pretense of gathering
extra information about a treatise he had written. My visit would be timed such that, shortly after
I arrived, he would receive delivery of the book, an hour after the robbery. I would then report to
Holmes, who would bring the Scotland Yard down on the scoundrel.
So it was that I found myself entering the office of Professor Moriarty, whom I had been told
was the single most dangerous man in the entire country, possibly the world. Naturally, I was
“Professor Moriarty,” I began, “I’m here to enquire about a treatise you wrote, called--”
“No, you’re not here about any of my treatises,” Moriarty interrupted me. “I know exactly why
you’re here, Dr. Watson.” I was somewhat surprised to hear him speak my name, for I had yet to
give it. However, I recalled that Holmes claimed Moriarty to be nearly his intellectual equal, so
I ought to expect surprising insights from him. “Your associate, Mr. Holmes, has been harassing
my colleagues for weeks now. I expected you would show up eventually. As anyone who pays a
bit of attention to the news is aware, where Holmes leads, Watson follows. Please, won’t you sit
We were seated on either side of Moriarty’s desk, and he continued to talk. “I can only imagine
what Holmes has told you of me. I hear shocking slander enough from those of my friends to
whom he has spoken. Apparently I’m a criminal mastermind of some sort, the... what’s that
phrase he used...”
“The Napoleon of Crime,” I offered, for that is what Holmes had called Moriarty when first
describing him to me.
“The Napoleon of Crime,” Moriarty repeated, with a soft chuckle. Then, in a more serious tone
of voice, “So, if Holmes has sent his closest friend to meet with me, he must have some sort of
plan. I expect you’re here to find evidence of some crime? I don’t know what you might have
hoped to find, but there’s no other reason Holmes would have risked sending you here. Go
ahead, look through the office if you wish. I have nothing to hide.”
I wasn’t expecting the book to be there already, as Holmes had planned my visit to coincide
with its delivery. However, looking around from where I sat, I did notice a book that fit the
description Holmes had given me. I stood up to retrieve it from its spot on the shelf. Upon close
inspection, it could only be the book Holmes had described, unless said book was less unique
and rare than he had thought.
The book was bound in wood, carved with a pattern of celtic knots and painted green. I turned to
Moriarty. “This is all I need.”
“I’m sorry?” Said Moriarty. “I don’t understand how my private library is relevant to my alleged
life of crime. Or is Holmes claiming that books have driven me to criminality?”
I returned to the desk and laid the book down in front of Moriarty. “Until today, this book
resided in the home of Mr. Harold Burke. His house was just robbed. This book was among the
stolen items. However, it seems that special orders penetrated the ranks of thieves who invaded
the house, and each of them knew that they must not keep the book for themselves, but leave it
for a man who would deliver it here.”
Moriarty laughed freely at my assertion. “Why, I’ve been in possession of this book for the
last two days! Indeed, I expected to take it earlier, but due to a miscommunication and some
poorly timed travel, it wound up in Burke’s library instead of my own. Only recently was I able
to contact Burke and arrange to take possession of my book. Though I certainly hope he hasn’t
been robbed, as you say, let us pay him a visit and see for ourselves.”
Moriarty donned a hat, coat, and gloves, and we left his office to visit Burke’s house. During
the walk, he described to me the various encounters he’d had with Holmes. None of them were
direct, but all of them, he claimed, were frightening. The famed detective drew connections
between Moriarty and crimes that took place hundreds of miles from him. “Though his
accusations are ridiculous, they are made by the great detective Sherlock Holmes. The only thing
that has kept me out of public notoriety is his apparent fear of the repercussions my supposed
network of criminals would visit upon him.”
We arrived at the house of Harold Burke, and found it untouched. Burke was not home, but
there was no evidence of a robbery. The doors and windows were all sealed and locked. Nothing
appeared broken, and looking inside, the furniture and household objects were all in their places.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “But I’m sure Holmes would. Perhaps the circulating order changed,
once it became known you already possessed the book...”
“Don’t make Holmes’ excuses for him. He told you this robbery would happen, and it hasn’t. He
owes you a proper explanation. And I hope it’s better than the one I offer.
“Holmes has never had an equal in the criminal world. He thrives on challenge, as I’ve gathered
from your accounts. Mundane crimes and mundane criminals could only keep him invested for
so long. He longed for a challenge. But, there are no criminals with anything near his abilities.
So he invented one.
“I don’t know why he settled on me. Perhaps he saw in me an intelligent and dedicated man who
doubtless has more to him than what is visible on the surface. Beneath that surface, though, he
imagined a darkness beyond what could possess any mortal man. He came to attribute me as the
source, not just of some crimes, but of all crimes. He built me up in his mind to the extent that
I was capable of anything. At first, I think he just skewed real-world evidence to paint me in a
negative light. Eventually, though, it seems he began fabricating connections where there was
nothing to connect. I’m sorry, Watson. There never was a robbery. Any hint that there would be
is just a product of Holmes’ imagination.”
Moriarty put a hand on my shoulder in reassurance. “I’m sorry. I know you are his closest friend.
It must be difficult for you to accept that his mind is so far gone. Understand that if there is
anything I can do to-”
“Watson!” A call from Holmes cut him off. I looked up to see Holmes standing a block away,
holding a long sword. At the time, that didn’t strike me as unusual, though looking back I must
say I don’t know where he obtained the sword or for what purpose. Just then, he seemed ready to
use it to attack. “Step away from him, Watson. Your life depends on it.”
After so little warning, Holmes charged forward, sword outstretched in front of him.
Until that moment, I had not been convinced of Moriarty’s words. I trusted Holmes with my life.
It would take more than the claims of his greatest enemy and a single event not going as he’d
predicted for me to stop trusting him. Now, though, with Holmes approaching, intent on killing
Moriarty, or me if I didn’t get out of the way, I realized that the friend I had known was gone. I
remembered my military training, drew my weapon, and fired at my dearest friend.
I cannot say I didn’t hesitate, but when I shot, I held steady. Holmes collapsed immediately and
died within seconds.
Moriarty faced me, speechless, with an expression of complete shock. “I... couldn’t let him hurt
anyone,” was the only explanation I could give.
Later, Moriarty explained to me what he thought had happened. When Holmes saw me with
Moriarty, the betrayal was too much for him. “Seeing his closest friend and his worst enemy,
together, having a civil conversation, must have set him off. Nothing in the world could have
made him angrier than that. I don’t know whether he aimed to attack you for daring to come
close to me, or whether he aimed to attack me under the impression that I was manipulating you.
Perhaps both. I truly am sorry. He was a good man, and this mad obsession of his took him in the
Despite Moriarty’s assertion that Holmes was a good man, I find myself doubting what I knew of
him. If Holmes could be so wrong about something, then for all I know he may have been wrong
about several of our cases. I could have been assisting a madman all those years.
And I’ll never forget that his last act was one of aggression. Holmes as I thought I knew him
would never have harmed someone, except to prevent harm from coming to another. I don’t
know how to resolve the person that I am with my new picture of myself as an unwitting
At least I know I did the right thing in the end. Goodbye, Sherlock Holmes. May you rest in
peace, thought that is more than you deserve.
You have managed to both misrepresent my character and misunderstand the events that
occurred. I have allowed this misunderstanding to continue for as long as it was useful, but I
now wish for you to know the truth.
I will ignore your account’s minor problems, such as reporting as absolute dialogue what are at
best paraphrased conversations. Instead I will focus on more important matters, such as your
complete disregard for the true significance of the book.
I described the book to you somewhat, but you seemed uninterested. A casual reader may have
wondered why I would go to such trouble over an ordinary book, even one with an intricately
engraved cover as you describe. You didn’t report the book’s legendary origin. I have to assume
you forgot what I’d told you about it, so I’ll risk repeating myself to be sure you understand.
The book once belonged to Morgan Le Fey, and constitutes her personal diary and spellbook.
You may protest that Le Fey is a myth, but educated men know that myths have their origins in
reality, and while a fairy sorceress is unlikely to have ever existed in our land, the stories about
her exist because there was a real woman who inspired them.
I have always felt a peculiar affinity for Le Fey, and have sought this book for as long as I knew
it existed. Now that I possess it, I cannot imagine life without it. I read from it every day. There
are portions that I feel are written just for me, as if she is speaking to me through its pages, from
across the centuries. This book was definitely worth the risk of stealing for myself.
Yes, I admit that this book was stolen from Burke, as Holmes thought. However, the plan that
Holmes became aware of was not the actual plan for the theft, but a plan that I circulated for the
sole purpose of deceiving Holmes.
I am not the sort of man I convinced you I was. I would apologize for misleading you, but I am
not sorry. My plan worked precisely as I intended it to, and you helped tremendously.
While you came to my office to meet with me and learn to doubt Holmes’ veracity, Holmes
encountered an entirely different arrangement of mine. The story of how he came to be holding
that sword... would be wasted on you, so I’ll omit it.
What I must tell you is the truth about the action that you mistook for an attack. It was, in fact, an
attempt at a rescue. You see, the gloves I was wearing that day were coated on their exteriors
in a slow-acting poison. If I had maintained contact between my glove and your skin for an
extended period of time, you would have dropped dead. I doubt you noticed that my hand on
your shoulder was also in light contact with your neck. Sherlock Holmes would have recognized
the distinctive russet color of the poison immediately. Since he had no way of knowing for how
long you had been exposed to the poison, he acted immediately to rescue you from it.
You see, what drove him to a mad dash forward wasn’t a sense of betrayal, but a sense of
preservation. Nothing could anger Holmes more than a threat to Watson. He was attempting
to save your life, and for that, you killed him. I had hardly dared to hope that my plan would
conclude so beautifully.
I am sure that you will never again report events with so little regard for accuracy.
Professor James Moriarty
I hope you finish reading this letter before the assassin finishes his task. I’d hate to think you
died without learning the truth.