Henry James and Sherlock Holmes walk into a bar

The Fifth Heart - Dan Simmons

Henry James, in Paris and set on ending his life, is standing on a pier over the Seine when he recognizes Sherlock Holmes who is also peering into the river -- the same Sherlock Holmes who, two years ago, went over the Reichenbach Falls and is presumed dead.


After a few minutes of "comedy of errors," and each one swallowing their annoyance at the other for the interruption, they realize that the time to jump has come and gone, and leave the river to find a place for a bite and a glass of wine.  Sherlock has just explained that the whole Moriarty and the Fall to Death thing was an illusion.


"Henry James . . . said, 'But why carry out such a hoax, sir? Why betray your good friend Dr. Watson and thousands of your loyal readers with such a ruse if there was no grand criminal conspiracy -- no Napolean of Crime -- pursuing you?  What could be your motive?  Sheer perversity?'


Holmes set his spoon down and stared directly at the writer.  'I wish it had been something so simple, Mr. James.  No, I decided that I had to fake my own death and disappear completely because of discovering through my own ratiocination . . . through the inductive and deductive  process by which I've become the most famous consulting detective in the world . . . a fact so shocking that it not only irrevocably changed my life but led me, as you found me tonight by le Pont Neuf, ready to end it.'


'What single fact could possibly . . . ' began Henry James and then closed his mouth.  It would be the worst of manners and presumptuousness to ask.


Holmes smiled tightly.  'I discovered, Mr. James,' he said as he leaned closer, 'that I was not a real person.  I am . . . how would a literary person such as yourself put it?  I am, the evidence has proven to me most conclusively, a literary construct.  Some ink-stained scribbler's creation.  A mere fictional character.'"


Aaaaand, the game's afoot!