Bonus: It’s a Sherlock story! And no one can possibly grumble about that… other than the grumbling about the unfinished bit.
And don’t ask me when I’m going to finish it because I really don’t know. I am feeling a lot “bleh” lately!
Sherlock Holmes is a Bit Not Right in the Head
(not the title of the story… but it will do for now)
the less they will do for themselves. –Jane Austen
And it’s not my usual blend.
That unfortunate sort which Americans are so fond.
For iced tea.
Suddenly, the door to my flat shuts.
And I can hear feet on the stairs.
As if trying to make a quick escape.
The front door.
An automobile, no, a taxicab–TX4 model–pulls away from the kerb.
And all is quiet within 221B.
Just me. And, I’m certain, a steaming cup of tea.
From Mrs. Hudson.
She got into the habit of purchasing this type of tea from her time in America.
Unbidden, the image of Mrs. Hudson dancing on YouTube pushes itself to the forefront of my brain.
Shaking my head, I set the image away; far, far away, to the very back of my mind palace.
It is 7 a.m.
I lift myself off the bed, wrapping myself in the sheet, scratching my head as I wander into the kitchen to make my own tea.
Opening the cupboard, I discover I don’t have any tea. In fact, I don’t have any coffee. Or biscuits. Or anything.
I open the refrigerator. A curse word leaves my lips when I notice its near empty state.
Thumbs, all gone. The liver of a 55 year old alcoholic, tossed out. The urine of a Hereford suspected of Foot and Mouth disease, likely flushed down the drain.
I glance next to my bare feet, noticing that for once I am not sticking to the floor. The linoleum has a shine.
Obviously, Mrs. Hudson has been cleaning. Again. Hence the mad dash for the door this morning.
If she’s been dusting…
And deep breath in…
The case ended late last evening, and now, of course, I’m hungry, having not eaten anything beyond a bag of crisps in the last three days.
I look back into the refrigerator, hoping to discover something other than the bottle of brown mustard and tray of ice.
God, I am going to have to go to the shops… like ordinary people.
And I hate being ordinary; it’s so boring, so irritatingly mundane.
I decide to text John.
JOHN.H.WATSON: Yes Sherlock, of course; of course I am going to leave my pregnant wife, to do your shopping. Shall I do your laundry, as well?
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Light starch in the collars. Don’t forget the tea and a packet of shortbread would be nice!
John texts a few other words after that, which leads me to deduce that he is not, in fact, doing my shopping nor my laundry.
Which leads me to inspect the current clean laundry situation. I have:
One pair of men’s boxer-briefs;One men’s cotton vest, torn–three cases ago—into bin;
One pair of men’s sized medium, relaxed-fit, Chino trousers (I have no idea where these even came from)
One men’s sized medium, polo shirt, light green, with… is that an alligator
on the chest? (I have no idea where this… ah! Parent’s last trip to
Oklahoma—line dancing / golfing holiday, hence the rather unattractive
golfing attire. I hope this is not a suggestion for anything).
Realize that I have missed, or rather, Mrs. Hudson has missed, the pick-up and/or drop-off service which, I assume, one of the local dry-cleaning establishments provides.
Realize I must do my own picking up and/or dropping off today or I will have no clothes to speak of for the rest of the week.
Realize I have no earthly idea where my local dry cleaning establishment is.
Down the stairs I go to pick the lock to Mrs. Hudson’s flat. As I rummage through the kitchen drawers looking for a clue as to the location of my local dry cleaner, I frown as I see a hastily scribbled note, addressed to me, magnetized to the refrigerator.
Reminding you, once again, that I am not your housekeeper nor your mother. But Sherlock, really, the state of your flat… especially the fridge! I could not endure it another moment and gave it a thorough clear-out and cleaning. Keep it that way, from now on, will you? Also, not that you’d notice, but I did your lino and tidied up a bit. I DID NOT dust!Off on holiday for the week, you’ll have to do without me for a while, I’m afraid. My sister and I are going in on a shared cottage down in…
I drop the note on the table, ready to continue my search, until I realize the magnet which had held up Mrs. Hudson’s note on the refrigerator is emblazoned with the name, address, and telephone number of one Sunshine Cleaners which is three doors down on the corner.
The game is on!
Anil Bakshi really has no need to be quite so rude. He seemed completely unreasonable in light of my need for clean clothes.
And actually, I was doing him a favour by getting him out of bed. What has 7:15 a.m. got to do with anything?
And really, if he actually put his customers’ needs first, as the sign in his window suggests, he wouldn’t have cause to be quite so put out.
And really, his son wasn’t going to finish that scone.
And actually, no one else has ever taken offense to my dressing gown and bare feet before.
And slips? What can he mean by repeating: bring in the slips, the slips, the slips?
Since I am now overwhelmed by a multitude of tasks, the production of some sort of list seems advisable.
I search for a pad of paper on my desktop, deducing within five seconds, that, in addition to her unauthorized cleaning of my flat, Mrs. Hudson has moved things around on the top of my desk.
I lift several newspapers, move both the laptops, and I check under all my vintage True Detective magazines.
In the drawer! What a stupid place for it!
Now, for that list.
List of things to do.
1. Shopping, as in, food and various.
2. Laundry, as in, picking up and/or dropping off.
Not certain which I should do first or which is more important. I steeple my hands before me and think for a moment.
List of things to get someone else to do.
1. Have someone do the shopping, as in, food and various.
2. Have someone pick up and/or drop off laundry, i.e., Sunshine Cleaners,
since now, I am, apparently, banned from the premises. For life.
Now, as for the whom? Who can I get to do this? Who? Someone who is used to doing another’s bidding… without complaint. Who?
Hiya, this is Molly Hooper!
I can’t come to the telephone right now. If you’d care to leave your name and number…
I have never gone straight to voicemail on Molly’s mobile before. Obviously there is some sort of mistake.
I will try again.
Hiya, this is Molly Hooper!
I can’t come to the telephone right now. If you’d care to leave your name and number…
I consider this new development for some minutes. Obviously, Molly is deep into a cadaver dissection or possibly analysing cells. Or possibly—or—or… This is all nonsense! She’ll pick up this time.
Hiya, this is Molly Hooper!
Since Molly is obviously off being irresponsible and derelict in her duties to the St. Bartholomew morgue, I now require someone else. Someone who is used to doing another’s bidding without complaint. A responsible someone, who isn’t swanning off, being derelict…
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Need your help! VERY URGENT AND IMPORTANT!
AKA.ANTHEA: How did you get this number?
SHERLOCKHOLMES: The question you should probably be asking yourself is: why is security for the British Government so lax?
There is an unexplainable pause of ten minutes.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Are you going to help me or not?
AKA.ANTHEA: Since I am well acquainted with your ideas of what qualifies as help, let me remind you, again, that while I do work for a Mr. Holmes, that Mr. Holmes is certainly not you.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Helping me, in a way, actually helps my brother.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: And my brother hates to see me unhappy. Well, mostly.
AKA.ANTHEA: Your last statement suggests sentiment, and, as we both know, that is an emotion which your brother decidedly lacks.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Still angry because Mycroft wouldn’t give you your sister’s birthday off. You really should let that go, you know.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Growing up, neither my brother nor I celebrated birthdays.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: Birthdays are a mechanism to keep greeting card companies from going under…
SHERLOCKHOLMES: …and a method to assuage parental guilt for the many ways they’ve messed up their children’s brains during the year.
SHERLOCKHOLMES: And look at Mycroft and me now; look how well we’ve turned out!
AKA.ANTHEA: Precisely. Good day, Mr. Holmes.
A few minutes later, my text alert sounds.
M_HOLMES: Brother dear, I really wish you would not annoy Anthea quite so early in the morning. When Anthea has a disagreeable day, it means that I shall have a disagreeable day.
Mycroft and Anthea are obviously choosing to be unhelpful.
Luckily, I have always been able to count on the kindness of my friends.
Hiya, this is Molly Hooper!
And when I say friends…
I choose to send another text.
To someone who can actually be relied on.
To someone who won’t be swanning off, being derelict in their…
SHERLOCKHOLMES: How would you like to make £50?
WIGGY: Be there in half a mo.
Unfortunately, my suit from the previous day is not fit for a repeat wearing (after having managed to get a fair amount of the Thames–and dead people on it). I am forced to reconsider my mother’s idea of appropriate clothing.
Wiggins, after clomping up the stairs twenty minutes later, appears completely scandalized by my appearance.
“It’s the shoes.” he says.
“What’s wrong with my shoes?” I ask, peering down at my black oxfords.
“Well, them’s dress shoes, innit? Outta place. You need to be wearin’ golf shoes with that get up—or trainers.”
As usual, Wiggins’ observations are spot on.
Fortunately, I don’t happen to own any golf shoes and the only trainers in my possession are over ten years old.
I root around in the bottom of my wardrobe for a few minutes.
Right, trainers now in place, I regard myself in the mirror.
I look like an utter…
My phone rings.
“Where?” I ask.
“What?” he says, momentarily confused. “Oh, no, Sherlock; I don’t have a case.”
“Why are you calling me, then?” I ask, only slightly irritated.
“Your gloves. You left your gloves at the scene last night. You’ll need to pop round here, if you want them back.”
I regard myself one more time in the mirror. I don’t even want my own mother to see me in this green and tan polyester monstrosity.
“Nope. Not today. Very busy. Busy day.”
“Right,” he exclaims, as if he doesn’t believe me. “Look, I know Mrs. Hudson is on holiday, and your brother can never be bothered. John is on baby watch and Molly is… well, never mind that. You’re likely bored senseless right now.”
What was that about Molly?
“I have a very important guest at the moment,” I say. “We are about to discuss very significant matters.”
“Wha? Who, me?” cries Wiggins, just loud enough for Lestrade to hear.
Lestrade laughs. “My regards to the homeless network. Goodbye, Sherlock.”
“Goodbye, Gary!” I snap into my mobile before pressing ‘End Call’.
And deep breath in…
I open the drawer to my desk and take out my money box. I remove £100.
“I have several very important tasks for you to complete today, Billy. If you do them correctly, I will give you the £50, as promised.”
“Wha’? Like, keep an eye out for some lowlife bloke down the docks? Follow some bloke all quiet like? Makes sure sumfing shady don’t ‘appen to some uver shady bloke?”
I huff and my shoulders sag.
“No, I need you to do the shopping.”
“And then go to Sunshine Cleaners down the road to pick up and drop off my laundry.” I vaguely gesture to the bag of my soiled garments in the corner.
Incredulous, he screws up his face. “Shoppin’? Laundry? I thought you was trainin’ me up to be your prot-a-jay?”
It would seem that Billy has now developed principles.
“Do you want the £50 or not?”
“I mean, why can’t you do it ya’self. I mean, the cleaners is just down the corner.”
I sigh. “Well, you see, I um–I might have been banned–just do it, will you?”
I hold out the cash.
“Just this once, mind,” he says, pointing at me, then snatching the money away, counting out the notes as if I am cheating him out of my own money.
“Now, where’s your shoppin’ list?” he asks.
“God, do I have to do everything?”
I sit and pull out my pad of paper again and begin writing, Wiggins hovering over me the entire time.
Waitrose shopping list
“‘ERE!” he exclaims, “I ain’t goin’ in one of those posh places!”
I turn my head a hair. “If you want the £50, you will!”
He mumbles something about discount markets and Shepherds Bush and I turn my attention back to my list.
Waitrose shopping list
Yorkshire Tea (the red NOT the blue)
One box of sugar cubes
One packet of shortbread
One loaf of thin-sliced white bread
One jar of raspberry jam
“By the way,” I add, not looking up, “Mr Bakshi from the cleaners said something about bringing him slips. I have no idea what he means. You’ll have to investigate that bit of information for yourself.” I pop my head up and make an approximation of a smile. “There you go: Investigating! Happy now?”
Wiggins sighs like he is very tired… or irritated. I can’t determine which.
“I think you mean your claim tickets.”
Perplexed, I look up again and stare at him.
“You know,” he continues, “to claim your clothes when you picks ‘em up.”
I tilt my head. Is that how they do that?
“You will need to have a look around the flat, then,” I say. “I don’t have any idea where these claim tickets are.”
Billy starts walking around, mumbling something about world-famous consulting detectives in a manner I begin to suspect is not very complementary to me.
“You mean these?” he asks.
I cease what I am doing and turn around. He is standing by the mantle and pulls the knife, pinned there, out of the wood and brandishes several pieces of yellow paper before me.
“Excellent work, Billy! Now do you see? I’ve turned you into a proper protégée.”
Spinning back round, I write the most important thing down…
From the chemist
Three cartons of nicotine patches
…I stand and hold out the completed list.
He looks it over, folds it, and puts it into his coat pocket.
“And what might you be doin’ while I’m doin’ all your shoppin’,” he asks, distastefully.
“I am the world’s only Consulting Detective, Billy. There are a great many essential matters which need my attention. Then, there’s my inbox to check for new cases, experiments to be plan, important calls to make…”
“So, layin’ about all day, is it?”
Exasperated, I shove my laundry bag into his arms.
He doesn’t leave immediately, because, (oh goodie!) he has more to say.
“Cuz you see, I was wondering, you’re not goin’ down to see Dr. Molly at the ‘ospital, right?”
I furrow my brow. That’s the third time Molly Hooper has come up today.
“And why might I be—I mean, why is that, exactly?”
“It’s like you told me, keep a look out. On the ladies; you know? Don’t need to look out for that Missus Watson, now, do I? Scary, that one. Takes care of ‘erself. And Mrs. ‘udson, well, she done went off this mornin’ in a cab. On ‘oliday. Had her wheel case wid her and everything?”
“Yes, yes; but we were speaking of Molly Hooper.”
“Well, ain’t you noticed? Been lookin’ kinda… different, lately.”
“How do you mean?”
“Some could say… dressin’ right nice lately, all made up and wearin’ lipstick. Some could say, laughin’ a bit more. I would say prit-ee and ‘appy and smilin’ and sort of con-fee-dent, all a sudden.”
“Molly? Molly Hooper?”
I think back to the last time I’d seen Molly.
Has it really been three weeks?
Two weeks? At most!
Wiggins is studying me closely for some reason.
“Something else on your mind?”
“You’ll be nice, right? I mean, when you sees ‘er?”
“I’m always nice.”
“No–you’re not!” he drawls, shaking his head back and forth.
I open the door wider hoping he will take the hint.
“Cuz if she ‘appy, don’t you think she should stay that way? Don’t need nobody down there, you know, messin’ that up.” He pauses dramatically, tracking my face with that penetrating gaze of his.
“Do run along, Billy,”
With a final raise of his eyebrows, Wiggins turns to go and I turn to lay down on the sofa. I press my hands together under my chin to think.
The last time I saw Molly, her hair was pulled back and slightly unkempt.
The last time I saw Molly, she was wearing a wrinkled red checked shirt, baggy brown trousers with cat hair on them, black clogs, yellow jumper, and of course, to complete the look: chapped lips.
Anyway, not important!
Boring, in fact.
I turn on my side and close my eyes.
I will just lie here and forget about it all. Rest my mind. Focus.
Within my mind-palace, there is no snappish Mrs. Hudson, dusting and cleaning and throwing my experiments away.
There’s no one with the self-centeredness of John and Mary Watson.
Add to that, the unhelpful duo of Mycroft and Anthea.
I go to a place where Mr. Bakshi isn’t yelling at me from down the road.
No such a thing as Lestrade’s irritating laughter…
…or Wiggins’ outrage here either.
There are no arch-enemies to track down or to come back from the dead.
In this place there is a single individual: only me…
…with only the most interesting cases to solve.
All eights and nines, with the occasional satisfaction of a perfect ten.
I sigh and all is right with the world.
What does Wiggins mean by: pretty and happy and confident?
And wearing lipstick?
“Right,” I say, leaping to my feet, calculating the quickest possible route to St. Barts, satisfied that my ridiculous golfing attire has all the beginnings of the perfect disguise.
Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced and the
inconvenience is often considerable.–Jane Austen
Mike Stamford is walking towards me with a horde of medical students trailing in his wake.My text alert ping is a sudden and irritating interruption.
JOHN.H.WATSON: I believe Mary has started having...
I press IGNORE.
I step to the side, pull down my deerstalker and button up the coat collar to partially conceal my face.
Covering the unfortunate golfing outfit, is John’s old, and long forgotten, green army coat. Having dressed in this unassuming manner, Mike doesn’t notice me, doesn’t even glance my way. And yet, it immediately becomes apparent that one of his students has taken an unusual amount of interest.
She is staring so closely that I have to angle my body away and pretend to have noticed something of a particularly curious nature on the wall.
This doesn’t seem to deter her, because she doubles back, stands before me, and grins broadly.
“Oh my, God,” she exclaims, rather too loudly for my taste. “I thought that was you!”
“No, no, you are mistaken; I’m no one. Go away.”
“You’re Sherlock Holmes!”
By the way she rolls her R’s and puts extra emphasis at the end of her sentences, her accent is clearly Scottish. Glasgow. Her long, straight black hair, heavy eyeliner, deep-red lipstick, and nose-ring, clearly say: Goth—a Goth… with a penchant for strawberry jam–
–as evidenced by the red staining on the cuff of her white lab coat, the cuff I can’t help but notice because she has fished-out her mobile from inside her pocket and has raised her arms in preparation to snap a photo of me.
Then, as if seized by a sudden thought, she pauses, furrows her brow, and lowers her voice.
“What you doin’ here? Are you workin’ a case?”
I reach out to lower the hand clutching the camera-phone.
“Yes.” I say, with false brightness, before dropping my own voice an octave. “Undercover. Very hush-hush.”
It’s not exactly a lie; not exactly the truth either, but she shakes her head, clearly having some difficulty with my cover story.
“I don’t think you should’ve worn the hat, then,” she says, sceptical.
“And why is that,” I ask, peevishly, while peeking around the corner to look down the passage for my avenue of escape.
“It’s what gave you away.”
The hat! I grimace, balling up my fist.
Then, her eyes brighten. “Can I help, with your case, that is?”
“No.” I say, as I quickly glance down the corridor in the opposite direction.
“But I am very good at investigating. I even switched from studying geriatrics to pathology, and I’ve read up on all your cases on Doctor Watson’s blog–”
Oh lord: a fan.
“—like the Speckled Blonde, A Study in Pink–and, I have developed several excellent theories on how you survived your fall.”
Oh lord: one of Anderson’s.
“–but what I haven’t yet figured out, is how you got a dummy up on the roof so quickly.”
I roll my eyes before turning to regard her seriously.
“Laura! Laura Fraser!”
“Yes. Laura. Actually, yes; yes you may help me and this is what I want you to do: I want you to remain here and keep watch.”
“Keep watch?” she says, incredulously. “But, I can do so much more; I can—”
“And remain absolutely still and quiet. Can you do that for me?”
At her enthusiastic nod, I start to back away, but she stops me.
“Wait,” she whispers. “What am I watching for?”
It only takes me a beat to come up with the perfect answer.
“Mor-ee-arty,” I mouth, silently.
“Fuckin’ hell!” she cries, at the top of her voice.
I press my hands in a downward motion to indicate her need for silence. Chastened, she brings her index finger up to her lips to show me that she understands.
“Just keep watch.” I say, again, quietly. “Nothing more.”
I back away quickly this time, not turning until I’m round the corner and moving at a rapid pace along the long corridor leading to the morgue.
I peer down through the glass of the observation booth.And there is Molly Hooper, washing her hands, having just pushed a corpse back into its drawer.
Just washing her hands? Is that all? Like she probably did everyday last month.
And last week.
Wiggins is correct. There is something very different about Molly.
Molly Hooper does look… she looks…
Suddenly, Molly glances up towards the glass, which separates us, and I shrink back, hoping I have gone unobserved.
I wait for several moments before I chance a look out of the window once again.
JOHN.H.WATSON: 10 mins. apart. So definitely contract...
I press IGNORE.
Molly is now leaning over the examination table, making notations on a chart. Her hair falls forward and I notice for the first time that it is down and curled loosely about her shoulders. She takes her hand to brush it back from her face, then completes the movement, by slowly stretching, first one, then both of her arms up high above her head in a languid, feline-like movement.
As she stretches, her lab coat parts and I notice that underneath she is wearing pearls with an expensive silk blouse. Pink. With dark grey dress trousers. And on her feet are heels. Actual high heels. Pointed-toe, sling-back, black patent leather, and gleaming from the overhead lights.
Especially in a lab.
I can make no deductions from this current scenario.
I need to get closer.
I need to talk to Molly.
I need to–
The door on the left side of the room opens and in walks a man.
The man is blond. Tallish. And tanned in a manner which suggests long hours spent at the seaside. But not sun-bathing. Surfing. He is wearing a braided cord about his wrist and carries himself in a loose, casual, relaxed sort of way. Hmm? Possibly Australian?
His teeth are extremely white. So, American, then.
About my age.
Handsome… to those who go in for that sort of trivial thing.
Long lab coat. Hmm? A doctor.
I cannot read his name badge from this angle no matter how hard I press my face into the glass.
What I do know, is the fact that I have never seen this person within the halls of St. Bart’s before.
The man calls out to Molly. I cannot hear what he says to her. I suddenly think to switch-on the intercom system, but my hand stills in that moment with what I see.
Molly is laughing.
So, she’s happy to see him. Nothing exceptional about that.
Molly is blushing and having trouble meeting his eyes.
Well, she has always been a bit shy.
Molly tilts her head, smiles again, and fingers a lock of her hair.
Touching ones hair when speaking to a member of the opposite sex, is a clear indicator of flirtation and sexual attraction.
My mind-palace obviously knows this information and has just sort of… spit it out.
For some reason.
This man then tilts his own head to mirror hers, while gesturing with his thumb to the back towards the door he’s just come through.
Molly seems to hesitate, but he tilts his head the other way, raising his eyebrows coyly as if pleading for some other sort of answer from her. And, as if to put an exclamation point on his actions, he widens his smile even further, flashing those bio-luminescent teeth of his.
Molly responds by smiling widely herself, and tilting her head in the opposite direction to mirror his. Then she nods in apparent agreement, shyly glancing up from underneath her eyelashes.
Obviously, she has agreed to do something either for him or with him.
Obviously, she is taken in by his blondness and tallness and tanned…ness.
“He’s Doctor Mark Cooper!”
I jump, startled. Laura is standing directly behind me, talking into my ear.
“From America!” she adds.
“Yes, I had–I had gotten that far already,” I say.
“He’s a very famous doctor there and has his own programme on the telly,” she says.
“He’s very nice and everybody here likes him,” she exclaims.
“He’s very funny and tells such amusing stories,” she pontificates from on-high.
Laura stops; hopefully finished cataloguing all of his very fine qualities.
“Oh, really, Laura!” I say. “Very famous and very funny and from America! By that glowing account, which you have given in such minute detail, you’d lead me to believe that he can do nothing else to be more perfect in your eyes!”
“Well, he treats sick children in a refugee camp.”
Of course he does, I think to myself as I close my eyes. I don’t like him.
As if reading my thoughts, Laura, once again, feels the need to speak.
“Doctor Hooper likes him. They go to lunch together sometimes. That’s probably why he’s here now, to ask her to lunch again today.”
“Doctor Hooper has been helping him get to know London. I think he fancies her!”
“Why are you here?”
“Oh, I—uh–I just came to tell you that I don’t think Moriarty is in the hospital,” she says, shaking her head. “That police inspector fellow, that Detective Lestrade, was here all morning talking to Doctor Hooper and Doctor Cooper and” —she breaks off, laughing hysterically— “Hooper and Cooper! Did you hear that? That’s so cute! That’s just perfect!”
No, I think to myself; no, it is not.
I race home.Well, when I say race…
Just very efficient in my movements.
JOHN.H.WATSON: We’re just leaving now.
I press IGNORE.
Handing over the payment, I slip from the cab, only to realize that the knocker on the front door has been straightened.
I don’t have time for my brother and his OCD today, I think as I simultaneously reach for the knocker and shove my key into the lock.
Mycroft is naturally sitting in my chair, awaiting me.
“Not today, Mycroft,” I say, as I enter.
“Sherlock,” he says, unsuccessfully hiding his smirk behind his umbrella handle when he notices my clothes. “If you had not annoyed my assistant quite so early in the day, I might just have had reason to remain where I was. As much as I detest interruptions to my schedule, I thought it best to check up on you.”
I stop and turn to him. “Check up? On me? Why?”
“You are an adult male of a certain age, who, no matter how brilliant you are at chemistry and solving crimes, has no concept of how an actual household works. I found that friend of yours here upon my arrival performing his role as house-boy admirably. After he put away your clothes and replenished your cupboards, I paid him two-hundred pounds and sent him on his way.”
“Then you were cheated, brother mine, as I only promised him fifty.”
“And slavery has been abolished in Great Britain for nearly two-hundred years. Clearly you need my help if your only outlets for aid while Mrs. Hudson is away, are people who have their own lives to lead and former drug dealers.”
“He wasn’t a drug dealer, Mycroft; he only managed that crack house!”
Exasperated, I turn away to walk towards my bedroom.
“And now, Mycroft, since my house-boy has been so well-compensated, you may leave now. Clearly, there is nothing left for you to do.”
“Not do, brother mine, done. I’ve rung Mummy.”
His self-satisfied smirk irritates me to no end.
“Mycroft,” I sneer. “If she’s on her way down…”
“No, thank heaven.” He stands and moves towards my desk. “However,” he adds as he lifts a magazine, “I have dispatched a car, and, no doubt, several Shepherd’s pies and custard tarts are currently speeding down the M1.”
Groaning, I enter my bedroom and open my wardrobe. Wiggins has been thorough. My suits and coats are all lined-up inside, perfectly. Opening a drawer, I reach for one of my white shirts, only to think better of it, before reaching for a purple one.
For no particular reason.
I am in the mirror tucking it into my black trousers when my brother strolls up the hall and leans on the door frame.
He observes me for a moment, smirks for the third time in as many minutes, and turns his head away in seemingly amused nonchalance.
I stare at his reflection in the mirror.
“What,” I say.
“It is never nothing with you, Mycroft.”
“Just making an observation.”
I turn round. “Do you care to share this observation?”
“How is Ms. Hooper today?” he asks, smiling one of his more calculating smiles.
“Molly? Molly Hooper? I haven’t spoken to Molly Hooper in ages.”
“Haven’t spoken to her: clearly.”
“The Science of Colour Choice, brother dear. You know, Sherlock, if I were to write a book, that is what I would call it. Your selection of shirt colours alone is enough to fill Chapter Three.”
“For instance; you routinely select of a white shirt on more… inconsequential occasions. You invariably select a black shirt when you wish to be considered mysterious or are in a thrill-seeking mood. Now, as for your current choice, the purple, or perhaps it is better described as aubergine, well, that’s another matter entirely.”
“I notice you only wear that colour when you want a certain amount of attention drawn to you, attention from certain female persons, to be exact. And since there has only ever been two such persons in recent memory and with The Woman no longer in the picture, that leaves only one left to dazzle with your appearance.”
“I don’t understand what you hope to suggest, Mycroft.”
“And everyone always asks me why I am considered the smart one. Shall I put it another way, Sherlock?” My brother pauses for effect. “You’ve never been very fond of change, have you, brother? You prefer those around you to remain the same. In a box. Confined. Convenient. You get one whiff that change is afoot, and nothing remains but for you to act.”
“Are you insinuating that I might have a problem with boundaries?”
“Insinuating!” He laughs harshly at that. “I need never insinuate anything when I clearly possess all the facts. John Watson’s—” Mycroft pauses to check his watch, “fatherhood is imminent, and what have you chosen to do rather than face up to it, you’ve chosen to ignore it and put your own needs first. Ms. Hooper is perhaps on the verge of personal and professional happiness, and what do you choose to do before she can finally make her escape? You come home and immediately change into your purple shirt.”
I turn away. Mycroft can be so– is so—
All I see are the words bursting about my head. Mycroft is so—
“What have you done?”
Rubbish big brother.
“I’m not lonely, Sherlock.”
“The noise, the people!”
“I’m the smart one.”
The British Government.
“You can take over at the interval.”
“I’ll be mother.”
“It would break my heart.”
And deep breath in…
“Are you finished?”
“Yes, Sherlock, finished. But let me just say this one final thing: that whiff of air you caught this morning, that smell of change; perhaps that’s the east wind blowing and perhaps it blows for thee.”