otter_nanowrimo: (Ooh a bookstore)
So... my prologue is ten thousand words and actually completely boring. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN.

It's just a retelling of A Study in Pink. Didn't even manage to work in any of the metaphorical resonances I wanted. DAMMIT. Ugh. So... yeah. Boring!

A lot of this, then, has already been posted here, and a lot hasn't, but it's a single complete section so I'm posting it all together here so I don't have to figure out which bits are new and you, dear readers, don't have to figure out which bits fit where.

I'm seriously tempted to count the words in John Green's prologue and then try to cut this down to that length. Surely some of this shit don't matter, right?

Or maybe this can be Part One: The Strings, and the prologue will be... something else.


The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all of the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the flats in all the streets in all of London, I ended up living with Sherlock Holmes.

After my "honorable discharge" from the RAMC, I was bleeding my pension into the hotel room I was staying in and seeing a government-appointed therapist for PTSD and "trust issues," writing nothing into my pointless blog and enduring, but barely, the pointlessness of my own existence.

My evening ritual helped, bizarrely. I sat at the desk and meticulously cleaned my stolen Army-issue gun--not my own, of course, that would've been stupid. I'd taken it from a squadmate, an arse called Richardson, and filed off the serial numbers. Each night, I took the gun apart, cleaned each already-clean piece, put it back together, loaded it, and touched the muzzle to my temple, or my forehead, or my lips. I closed my eyes and waited to pull the trigger, or sometimes I stared at the gun. I thought about Harry, and Mum, and I thought about the day I'd just lived, and I thought about the day I might live tomorrow.

I still don't know why I never did pull that trigger.

I met Sherlock Holmes by chance on a day six weeks after my discharge. I woke that morning from another nightmare (though in truth, it was never the dreams I minded; in the dreams I had a purpose, and things were happening. It was the waking up that hurt), showered, and stared at my blog for ten minutes without writing anything. There was nothing to write about.

I went for a walk that day. I usually did, until the aching of my leg forced me back to the hotel. I couldn't afford cabs, so I always ended up walking to the Tube, and then standing more often than not, despite the cane.

It didn't matter where I walked. Today it was Russell Square Park, and later I would look back on that decision, made without knowing why, and thank whatever subconscious force was bringing me to Sherlock.

Because in Russell Square Park that day, I bumped into Mike Stamford, who stuck his foot in his mouth, bought me a coffee, and then suggested I find a flatshare.

"Who'd want me as a flatmate?" I asked, thinking of my nightly gun cleaning ritual and my screaming nightmares.

Mike laughed.

"What?" I demanded.

He just smiled. "Well, you're the second person to say that to me today."

It took me a second to process his meaning--that someone else needed somewhere to live. Christ, they couldn't be worse to live with than I would be. "Who's the first?"

The hallways at Barts were the same as always. Mike led me through the halls to the chemical laboratory, and as I limped into the room I took in how much it had changed. There was only one other person in the room.

"Bit different from my day," I commented, trying not to stare at the stranger but keeping him, out of habit, in my peripheral vision. He was tall, and slim almost to the point of gangliness but for the incredible grace and self-possession he carried himself with. Dark hair in curls that were either carelessly left to their own devices, or else fussed over for hours to achieve the perfect state of mussed nonchalance.

"You've no idea," Mike answered.

"Mike, can I borrow your phone?" the stranger cut in, not even looking up. His voice was low and flat, and I disliked him immediately. "There's no signal on mine."

"And what's wrong with the land line?" Mike asked, even though he was already patting his pockets.

"I prefer to text," he said, still not looking up.

"Sorry," Mike said. "It's in my coat."

"Er, here," I said, because I felt invisible enough without the two of them talking like I wasn't even there. "Use mine."

He looked up at me then, surprised, and said, "Oh. Thank you." His eyes were incredibly pale, almost alien in their colorlessness. He had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting his every endeavor. He was gorgeous, otherworldly, and I almost missed it when he asked, "Afghanistan or Iraq?"

I blinked at him. "Sorry?"

"Which was it," he asked, tapping away at my phone, "Afghanistan or Iraq?" He glanced up at me, those piercing eye meeting mine for only a moment before he looked back down at my phone.

I looked over to Mike. Who the hell is this guy, anyway? Mike just grinned at me, smug bastard. "Afghanistan," I said to the tall gorgeous alien. "Sorry, how did you know ...?"

The door banged open, and he looked past me, smiling. "Ah, Molly, coffee. Thank you," he said, taking the mug from the woman who entered. She was small and timid-looking, and despite the smile and the polite words I got the distinct feeling that he was talking to her like a servant. "What happened to the lipstick?" he asked her.

"It, ah, wasn't working for me," she told him.

"Really?" He shut my phone, handed it back to me. "I thought it was a big improvement. Your mouth's too..." He waved a hand in the air. "...small, now." And then he turned his back, as though just like that the conversation were over.

"... Okay," the girl--Molly--said, awkwardly, and headed back toward the door. I shifted over to make room for her.

"How do you feel about the violin?" he asked, laying his hands on the keyboard of a laptop.

I glanced around at Molly, but she was already out the door, and then at Mike, who still had that smug grin on his face. This guy was talking to me? "I'm sorry, what?"

He didn't stop typing as he talked, all in a rush, but not hurried, like his thoughts were moving faster than his mouth was capable of. "I play the when I'm thinking. Sometimes I don't talk for days on end." Finally, he paused in his typing and looked at me. "Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other." He flashed a bright grin that didn't meet his eyes. I couldn't tell if he was being a total prick on purpose, or if he came by it naturally.

"Oh," I said to Mike, "you told him about me?"

"Not a word," Mike said, his smug grin not wavering.

"Then who," I asked the prick, "said anything about flatmates?"

"I did," he said. "Told Mike this morning that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for. Now here he is just after lunch with an old friend, clearly just home from military service in Afghanistan. Wasn't that difficult a leap."

And that was as good an opportunity as I expected to get from him. "Yes, how did you know about Afghanistan?"

He ignored me, wrapping his scarf around his neck and picking up his mobile. After a moment he said, "Got my eye on a nice little place in central London. Together we ought to be able to afford it." He put the phone in his pocket and started walking toward me. "We'll meet there tomorrow evening; seven o'clock. Sorry – gotta dash. I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary." And again, as though the conversation was just over, he walked past me and to the door.

"Is that it?" I asked, fed up.

He took a few steps back into the room. " Is that what?"

Oh, like he didn't know exactly what I meant. "We've only just met and we're gonna go and look at a flat?"


Yes, problem! "We don't know a thing about each other; I don't know where we're meeting; I don't even know your name."

He just looked at me a moment, and I got the impression that he was really looking for the first time. Then he started to speak, and blew my mind. "I know you're an Army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got a brother who's worried about you but you won't go to him for help because you don't approve of him – possibly because he's an alcoholic; more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And I know that your therapist thinks your limp's psychosomatic – quite correctly, I'm afraid."

This was too much to process all at once. These were incredibly personal details about my life that he was tossing casually at me like they were nothing. He was wrong about Harry, but only about her sex; in everything else he was exactly right.

"That's enough to be going on with, don't you think?" he added smugly, and whirled artfully out the door. After a second he leaned back in and added, "The name's Sherlock Holmes, and the address is two-two-one-B Baker Street." He flashed me a wink, said "Afternoon," to Mike, and... vanished.

I looked at Mike, stunned, looking for an explanation for this superhuman man I'd just met.

Mike just kept grinning. "Yeah," he said. "He's always like that."

"He's a prick," I said.

But he was the most interesting thing to happen to me since I'd been shot.

I left the hospital, returned to my tiny flat, and ate pasta for dinner because it was cheap. It was the same thing I'd do on any other day, but it didn't feel the same. I kept thinking about Sherlock Holmes. He'd barely looked at me, and he'd been a total prick to, what was her name, Molly. He'd masked his utter contempt with a thin veneer of politeness, but it was clear that interacting with people was not his thing. The way he'd looked at me and seen everything about me--it was incredible, it was unbelievable. But Mike had sworn up and down that he hadn't told Sherlock a word about me--not even that I existed. He couldn't have done; Mike and I had met that day by chance. So how had Sherlock Holmes known all those things about me?

I flipped my phone open, expecting that he'd have erased the sent message--I hadn't gotten any response--but it was there, at the top of my empty Sent folder:

If brother has green ladder
arrest brother.

Arrest...? This guy hadn't looked like a cop. Maybe like a film noir style PI, but...

Well, I'd find out more the next day. In the meantime, might as well learn what I could. I crossed the room to the desk, opened my laptop, and typed his name into the search engine.

Change of plans.
Landlady expecting us at 4pm.

I took the Tube to Baker Street and walked the few blocks toward 221, scanning addresses as I went. 221 was obvious: a sturdy black door with brass numbers. No sign yet of Sherlock. He was either late or already inside; either way, the text he'd sent had said I'd be expected, so I reached for the knocker.

Just as I was stepping back down, a car door shut behind me. I turned to see Sherlock Holmes stepping out of a cab. "Hello," he said cheerfully as he paid the cabbie--and thanked him, which seemed outside his character. Well, who was I to judge--I'd known him for less than ten minutes.

Well, if he was going to be polite this time around, I may as well respond in kind. "Mr Holmes," I said, shifting my cane and offering m hand to shake.

"Sherlock, please," he said, and smiled. He had a nice smile, warm. Maybe he'd just had a bad day yesterday.

"This is a prime spot," I said. "Must be expensive."

"Mrs Hudson, the landlady, she's giving me a special deal," he said, still grinning. "Owes me a favour. A few years back, her husband got himself sentenced to death in Florida. I was able to help out."

I blinked. "Sorry, you stopped her husband being executed?"

"Oh no," he said, and his grin widened. I was reminded strongly of a wolf. "I ensured it."

The door opened then, and a tiny older woman stepped out. "Sherlock," she said, reaching out for a hug, her voice warm, "hello." He leaned down to return the hug. Clearly Sherlock was either joking about her husband, or I had met some very strange people.

Sherlock stepped back, waving a hand between the landlady and myself. "Mrs Hudson, Dr John Watson," he said, introducing us.

We exchanged pleasantries and went up together. An upstairs flat--of course the landlady had the ground-floor flat, and I was determined not to be limited by my leg. But still, it annoyed me.

The flat itself was warm and comfortable-looking, very welcoming. And very cluttered: papers and books and other assorted junk everywhere. Boxes stacked in corners.

"Thin could be very nice," I said. "Very nice indeed."

"Yes," Sherlock said, "yes, I think so. My thoughts precisely."

"Soon as we get all this rubbish cleaned out," I added, and at the exact same moment he said, "So I went straight ahead and moved in."

"So this is all..." I started.

"Well," he said, embarrassed, "obviously I can, um, straighten things up a bit."

He turned away and began shuffling papers together. Picked up a multitool, a Leatherman from what I could see, and stabbed the blade into a pile of mail on the mantle, where it rested next to a stuffed bat and a human skull.

"That's a skull," I said, gesturing at it with my cane.

"Friend of mine," he said, and then shot me a wry grin. "Well, I say 'friend'."

"What do you think, then, Dr Watson?" the landlady asked. "There's another bedroom upstairs, if you'll be needing two bedrooms."

"Of course we'll be needing two," I said, blinking at her, nonplussed. What could she have seen in our body language to imply that we were anything other than strangers to each other?

"Oh, don't worry," she said hastily, "there's all sorts round here. Mrs Turner next door's got married ones." She finished in a whisper, as though a married gay couple were either scandalous or exotic--or both. Clearly no need to worry at all, then, round here. She moved away, into the kitchen, and began to scold. "Sherlock, the mess you've made...!"

I sat down heavily in one of the armchairs and looked over at Sherlock, who seemed on the verge of giving up on his halfhearted attempts to 'straighten things up a bit'. "Looked you up on the Internet last night," I said.

He turned to face me. "Anything interesting?"

"Found your website," I said. "The 'Science of Deduction'." The claims he made wouldn't have sounded out of place on a psychic's website, except that he'd claimed logic as his informer, not mystical spirits.

"What did you think?" he asked, eager, looking for praise.

I gave him a look. His face fell into a scowl. "You said you could identify a software designer by his tie, and an airline pilot by his left thumb," I said, letting my disbelief show plain.

"Yes," he said, defensive. "And I can read your military career in your face and your leg, and your brother's drinking habits in your mobile phone."


He just smirked and turned away slightly.

"How about these suicides then, Sherlock?" Mrs Hudson said from the kitchen. "I'd thought that would be right up your street. Three exactly the same."

"Four," Sherlock corrected her, looking out the window. "There's been a fourth, and there's something different."

"A fourth?" she said.

I opened my mouth to respond, but there were already footsteps on the stairs.

"Where?" Sherlock demanded of the greying police officer that entered the room.

"Brixton, Lauriston Gardens," the man said.

"What's different? You wouldn't be coming to get me if there wasn't something different."

"You know how they never leave notes?"

Sherlock grunted in agreement.

"Well, this one did."

Sherlock paused to think. "Who's on Forensics?"

The detective said, almost apologetically, "Anderson."

Sherlock scowled. "Anderson won't work with me."

"Well, he won't be your assistant!" the detective said.

"I need an assistant," Sherlock growled.

The detective looked frazzled and desperate. "Will you come?" he begged.

"Not in the police car, I'll be right behind," Sherlock said begrudgingly.

"Thank you," the policeman said, visibly relieved. He cast me a curious glance, but left without saying anything. As his footsteps clattered down the stairs, I watched Sherlock's frame become tense, watched the smile spread across his face, and then the instant the street door shut he jumped into the air like a giddy schoolgirl.

"Yes!" he shouted. "Oh, this is brilliant, four serial suicides and now a note! I'm going out, Mrs Hudson, won't be back till late, might need something to eat."

"I'm your landlady, dear, not your housekeeper."

"Something cold will do!" Sherlock whirled about the flat in a sudden perfusion of energy. "Doctor Watson, make yourself at home, don't wait up!" And with that he whirled out of the flat, clattering down the stairs and out the door.

I stayed where I was, trying to think. Whatever Sherlock's relationship was to this cop, they clearly knew each other. So why would Sherlock feel the need to fake reluctance in front of him, but felt no such need to act in front of me?

The answer was clear. I simply wasn't important, just a second income to help pay the rent. Sherlock didn't need to fake in front of me because Sherlock didn't give a crap what I thought of him. I picked up the newspaper as the landlady tried to engage me in useless small talk, frightened her with my pent-up frustration over my useless leg, and then--

"You're a doctor," Sherlock Holmes said from the doorway, reappearing out of nowhere like a genie from a lamp. "In fact, you're an Army doctor."

"Yes," I said, and grabbed my cane, using it to push myself to my feet.

"Any good?" he asked, looking at the gloves he was working his hands into instead of at me.

"Very good," I said. Not arrogance, only truth. I had been good at my job, before I could no longer do it.

"Seen a lot of injuries, then. Violent deaths."

"Well, yes," I said. Surely that was obvious.

"Bit of trouble, too, I bet."

"Of course, yes," I said, and then added, "enough for a lifetime, far too much."

"Want to see some more?" he said, the corner of his mouth twitching as he looked down at me.

Christ. I shouldn't, I knew I shouldn't; this ran contrary to everything Ella had been telling me about "readjusting to civilian life." But something about Sherlock was compelling, exciting. Dangerous. There was only one thing I could say.

"Oh, God, yes."

"Okay, you've got questions," he said in the cab.

I sure as hell did. "Yeah, where are we going?"

"Crime scene. Next?"

"Who are you? What do you do?"

"What do you think?"

"I'd say private detective, but..."

"But?" he prompted.

"But the police don't go to private detectives."

He snorted. "I'm a consulting detective. Only one in the world; I invented the job."

"What does that mean?"

"It means when the police are out of their depth, which is always, they consult me."

I snorted. "The police don't consult amateurs," I said.

He glanced at me, irritated, and said, "When I met you for the first time yesterday, I said, 'Afghanistan or Iraq?' You looked surprised."

"Yes," I said, glad of the chance to finally get an answer out of him, "how did you know?"

"I didn't know, I saw," he said dismissively. "Your haircut, the way you hold yourself, says military. Your conversation as you entered the room said 'trained at Barts', so, Army doctor. Your face is tan, but no tan above the wrists; you've been abroad, but not sunbathing. Your limp's really bad when you walk but you don't ask for a chair when you stand, like you've forgotten about it--so it's at least partly psychosomatic, means the original circumstances of the injury were traumatic. Wounded in action, then. Wounded in action, suntan--Afghanistan or Iraq."

"You said I had a therapist," I said. He couldn't have just read that in my, my sleeves or something, could he have?

"You've got a psychosomatic limp; of course you've got a therapist," he said dismissively. After a pause, he went on. "Then there's your brother. Your phone--" he held his hand out' and I handed it to him "--it's expensive. Email enabled, MP3 player. You're looking for a flatshare; you wouldn't waste money on this; it's a gift, then. Scratches--not one, many, over time; it's been in the same pocket as keys and coins. The man sitting next to me wouldn't treat his one luxury item like this, so it's had a previous owner. Next bit's easy; you know it already."

"The engraving," I said, when his rapid-fire speech had paused.

"Harry Watson," he said, taking the line I'd fed him with satisfaction, "clearly a family member who's given you his old phone. Not your father; this is a young man's gadget. Could be a cousin, but you're a war hero who can't find a place to live. Unlikely you've got an extended family, certainly not one you're close to, so, brother it is. Now, Clara. Who's Clara? Three kisses says it's a romantic attachment; the expense of the phone says wife, not girlfriend. She must have given it to him recently--this model's only six months old. Marriage in trouble, then--six months on, he's just giving it away? If she'd left him he'd have kept it--people do, sentiment. But no, he wanted rid of it. He left her. He gave the phone to you; that says he wants you to stay in touch. You're looking for cheap accommodation, but you're not going to your brother for help: that says you've got problems with him. Maybe you liked his wife; maybe you don't like his drinking."

"How," I said, "can you possibly know about the drinking?"

He grinned. "Shot in the dark. Good one, though. Power connection: tiny little scuff marks around the edge of it. Every night he goes to plug it in to charge, but his hands are shaking. You never see those marks on a sober man's phone; never see a drunk's without them." He handed the phone back to me and said, "There you go, see--you were right."

"I was right?" I asked. "Right about what?"

"The police don't consult amateurs," he said, sharply enunciated and cold, and turned away, looking out the window.

I stayed silent for a long moment. Clearly the conversation was over--he'd given me the answers I'd been waiting for since last night to make his point, and now he was done. But I found myself wanting more. He was brilliant, and my life had been utterly dim since I'd been shot. Of course I wanted more of his light focused on me.
"That..." I said, looking for the right word, "was amazing."

He looked round and just stared at me, silent for a full four seconds. Then he said, "Do you think so?"

"Of course it was," I said. Surely he couldn't miss how unprecedented this ability of his was? "It was extraordinary," I went on, and then thought that might seem too fawning--he must hear stuff like this all the time. "It was quite extraordinary."

"That's not what people normally say."

That seemed entirely insensible to me. "What do people normally say?"

"‘Piss off'!"

He grinned at me then, and I grinned back and looked out the window. I could just see police light ahead of us. As the cab pulled over outside the police tape and I started to climb out, he said, "Did I get anything wrong?"

I forced a straight face as I touched briefly on his points about my 'brother'. We started walking toward the crime scene. "Harry and me don't get on, never have. Clara and Harry split up three months ago, and they're getting a divorce. Harry is a drinker."

"Spot on then," he said, sounding pleased. "I didn't expect to be right about everything."

I had to work so hard to keep from laughing that my voice sounded flat. "And Harry's short for Harriet."

He stopped dead in his tracks. "Harry's your sister," he said.

"Look," I said, continuing stubbornly toward the police tape, "what exactly am I supposed to be doing here?"

"Sister!" Sherlock repeated from behind me, sounding furious. Not funny, then.

"No, seriously, what am I doing here?"

He walks past me--effortless, with his two whole strong legs. "There's always something," he says as I catch up to him, just at the tape.

"Hello, freak," the officer waiting there says, in a tone so genial and warm it's like ice.

"I'm here to see Detective Inspector Lestrade," Sherlock says, voice clipped, like he's holding back a venomous retort.


"I was invited," he points out coldly.

"Why?" she says again, clearly obstructing Sherlock just for the hell of it.

"Think he wants me to take a look," Sherlock says sharply, his patience clearly worn thin.

"Well, you know what I think, don't you?"

"Always, Sally," he said, and lifted the tape himself, clearly tired of being made to wait outside. "I even know you didn't make it home last night."

She splutters for a moment. "I don't..." Then she changes the subject, looking at me. "Who's this?" The question is addressed to Sherlock.

"Colleague of mine," he says, "Doctor Watson." Then, turning to me, he introduces her: "Doctor Watson, Sergeant Sally Donovan."

"Colleague?" she repeats. "How do you get a colleague?" She turns to me. "What, did he follow you home?"

Rather the opposite, but her vitriol is getting to me. "Look," I say to Sherlock, "would it be better if I just waited and--"

"No," Sherlock said, lifting the tape. I had no clearance, I was clearly not supposed to be here, but I ducked under the tape anyway. They'd kick me out if I wasn't wanted, and until then I wanted to see more of what Sherlock did.

"He's gone."

I turned to see Sally Donovan looking at me with a smug sort of pity. "Who, Sherlock Holmes?"

"Yeah," she said. "He just took off. He does that." She seemed just as vitriolic even when she wasn't actively baiting Sherlock Holmes.

"Is he coming back?" I asked shortly, thinking maybe he'd paused to exchange barbs with her and had let something slip in the process.

"Didn't look like it."

"Right." I looked around for a cob. "Right..." When I turned back to ask her, she'd already turned away. "Yes, sorry, where am I?"

"Brixton," she said. Helpful.

"Do you know where I can get a cab?" I asked. "It's just, er... well..." I hated to bring it up, hated drawing attention to it. Hated that it existed. "My leg."

She sighed. Annoyed, apparently, at my disability. Fuck her. "Try the main road," she said, holding the tape up for me.

"Thanks," I said shortly, ducking under, ready to be far away from here.

"But you're not his friend," she said, calling me back. "He doesn't have friends. So who are you?"

I hated her. I hated that she made such blatant assumptions about him and I hated that she seemed to hate everyone and I hated that she couldn't speak without that bitter twist to her voice. "Nobody," I said, unwilling to tell her anything to satisfy her jealous curiosity about Sherlock. "I'm nobody, I just met him."

"Piece of advice, then: stay away from that guy."

I blinked. "Why?"

She gave an incredulous sort of half-laugh. "You know why he's here?" she asked. "He's not paid or anything. He likes it. He gets off on it. The weirder the crime, the more he gets off. And you know what? One day just showing up won't be enough. One day we'll be standing round a body and Sherlock Holmes'll be the one that put it there."

"Why would he do that?"

"Because he's a psychopath," she said simply. "Psychopaths get bored."

"Donovan?" Detective Inspector Lestrade's voice.

"Coming!" she called back, and then to me said, "Stay away from Sherlock Holmes."

The ringing of the phones followed me all the way down the street, cutting off whenever someone seemed about to answer. None of the cabs were stopping for me, and so I finally ducked into a pay phone and answered.

A smooth voice directed my attention to the security cameras, all pointedly looking away from me, and ordered me by name into a car as it pulled up. I got in. My leg was tired, and whoever this was was clearly determined.

It took me to an abandoned factory or power station, where the owner of the smooth voice stood leaning on his umbrella. It was all so very dramatic, obviously designed to frighten me, but I wasn't frightened. Whatever this was about specifically, it was an easy guess to assume it was nothing to do with me.

It wasn't. It was about Sherlock. Whoever this prick was--using big dramatic gestures to try to be intimidating, bribing me to spy on Sherlock--I wasn't interested. "Arch-enemy" indeed.

I turned to go, and was halfway to the car when his voice called me back. "Trust issues, it says here," he said, taking a notebook from his pocket.

My therapist's notes. "Where did you get that," I demanded.

"Could it be you've decided to trust Sherlock Holmes of all people?"

"Who says I trust him?"

"You don't seem the kind to make friends easily."

"Are we done?"

He looked up from the notebook to me. "You tell me," he said, low and threatening.

I turned and walked back toward the car. Least he could do, after kidnapping a crippled veteran, was give me a ride back home.

"Sorry--what are we doing? Did I just text a murderer?" I demanded. "What good will that do?"

My phone went off. I picked it up. Number withheld.

"A few hours after his last victim," Sherlock said, his voice soft, eyes riveted on the phone in my hand as it continued to ring, "and now he receives a text that can only be from her. If somebody had just found that phone, they'd ignore a text like that, but the murderer..." The phone went silent in my hand. "Would panic!" he finished, flipping the pink case closed in a burst of energy that carried him up out of his chair and toward the door.

"Have you talked to the police?" I asked.

"Four people are dead; there isn't time to talk to the police."

As though he cared about those people. "So why are you talking to me?"

"Mrs Hudson took my skull," he said, sounding like a child whose teddy bear has been taken away.

I looked. Indeed, the skull had vanished from its perch atop the mantle. "So I'm basically filling in for your skull?" I asked. Christ, he had a real talent for making me feel useless.

"Relax," he said, "you're doing fine."

I had nothing to say to that.

"Well?" he prompted, shrugging on his coat.

"Well what?"

"Well, you could just sit there and watch telly," he said disdainfully.

"What, you want me to come with you?"

"I like company when I go out," he said. A blatant lie if ever I'd heard one. "And I think better when I talk aloud. Skull just attracts attention, so..."

I rolled my eyes.


"Yeah," I said. "Sergeant Donovan."

"What about her?" he said, tying his scarf on, voice totally flat. Clearly I'd lost his interest, whatever of it I'd had, anyway.

But I needed to know how much of what she'd said was true. "She said. You like this. You get off on it."

"And I said 'dangerous'," he said, smirking, "and here you are."

He left. I stayed where I was a moment, thinking about what the man who'd kidnapped me had said--You're not haunted by the war, Dr Watson. You miss it.--and about the overwhelming longing that washed over me whenever I woke from one of my frequent nightmares.

"Damn it," I said, and stood to follow him.

Despite his much longer and fully functional legs, I caught up to him easily. I wasn't stupid enough to think that wasn't deliberate. "Where are we going?"

"Northumberland Street's a five-minute walk from here."

"You think he's stupid enough to go there?"

"No, I think he's brilliant enough!" This, I thought, was the real Sherlock, the one who had jumped for joy as the DI had left the flat. "I love the brilliant ones; they're all so desperate to get caught."

"Why?" I asked. Seemed completely illogical--totally opposed to brilliance.

"Appreciation!" he said. "Applause! At long last, the spotlight. That's the frailty of genius, John; it needs an audience."

"Yeah," I said, looking at him. No kidding.

"This is his hunting ground," he said. "Right here in the heart of the city. Now that we know his victims were abducted, that changes everything. Because all of his victims disappeared from busy streets, crowded places, but nobody saw them go. Think!" he shouted suddenly. "Who do we trust, even though we don't know them? Who passes unnoticed wherever they go? Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?"

"Dunno, who?"

"I haven't the faintest," he said. "Hungry?"

He steered me into a little Italian place, nodding thanks at the host Billy and taking a seat at a table by the window. Within seconds of sitting down, the owner had greeted us warmly, offered to feed us for free, and insinuated that I was Sherlock's date.

"I'm not his date," I protested, to deaf ears.

The owner--whose name turned out to be Angelo--and Sherlock both ignored me, in favor of talking back and forth about how amazing Sherlock was and how he'd cleared Angelo's name. "I cleared it a bit," Sherlock said. "Anything happening opposite?"

"Nothing," Angelo said, and returned to his praise of Sherlock, then left, saying, "I'll get a candle for the table. It's more romantic."

"I'm not his date!" I said to his retreating back. Hell. Maybe this was Sherlock's idea of a date. Maybe he brought all his conquests here, and Angelo knew something I didn't.

I would ask, but not yet. "People don't have arch-enemies," I said, after my meal came, as he stared across the street.

He blinked and looked at me. "I'm sorry?"

"In real life," I clarified. "There are no arch-enemies in real life. Doesn't happen."

"Doesn't it?" he said, returning his eternal stare to the street outside. "Sounds a bit dull."

"So who did I meet?" I asked. Clearly he knew.

"What do real people have, then," he said, sounding disdainful, "in their real lives?"

"Friends?" I said. Was he really that clueless? "People they like, people they don't like..." Phrase this right and I might get two answers for one. Or, as seemed to be his wont, he might ignore both questions until he felt like answering. "Girlfriends, boyfriends."

"Yess, well, as I was saying, dull."

"You don't have a girlfriend then?"

"Girlfriend, no," he said. "Not really my area."

"Oh, right." Maybe he did mean this as a date. He seemed the kind of guy to make a stakeout pull double duty like that. "Do you have a boyfriend?" I asked, trying to stay casual. He looked at me sharply, so I added, "which is fine, by the way."

He scowled. "I know it's fine."

"So you've got a boyfriend, then."

"No," he said quickly, almost before I'd finished the question.

"Right. Okay." He was studying me intently, not saying anything, and I tried to fill the silence. "You're unattached. Like me. Fine. Good." I went back to my food, not looking at him, and from the silence I assumed he was still staring out the window, the conversation probably dismissed from his mind entirely.

I looked up again when he started to speak, rapidly but quietly, as though he were embarrassed. "Listen, John, I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work, and while I'm flattered by your interest, I'm really not--"

"No," I said cutting him off. "No, I'm not... asking. No." Wasn't interested? That was a lie--he was the most interesting thing to happen to me since I'd been shot. But I hadn't been trying to proposition him. "I'm just saying. It's all fine."

"Good." He paused, and then added, "Thank you," as though he thought the conversation needed some kind of polite punctuation, a full stop in words, and didn't know which phrase to use.

'Thank you' for what? I thought, but went back to my food.

"Look across the street," he said, suddenly intense. "Taxi. Stopped. Nobody getting in, nobody getting out." I looked, automatically noting the license plate number--OVO4PYG--and the cab number--91197. Sherlock continued his monologue. "Why a taxi? ...Oh, that's clever. Is it clever? Why is it clever?"

"That's him?"

"Don't stare," he said, staring, instead of answering.

"You're staring," I said.

"Can't both stare," he said, because he was more character than person, and the rules are different for characters. And then, instead of staring, he got up and left the restaurant.

Without thinking, I got up and ran after the mad bastard. He ran out into the street, not looking, and took a car in the thigh. Wasn't enough to slow him down, though, running after the cab, so I followed.

"Got the cab number," I said.

"Good for you," he said. Then: "Right turn, one way, traffic lights, bus lane, pedestrian crossing, left turn only, traffic lights." And then he started running again, and all I could do was follow.

But it wasn't the man in the cab. "Welcome to London," he said, and then came another chase, this time with us as the prey. It was easy to lose the policeman and then make our way back to Baker Street, where we collapsed, panting, against the wall just inside the door.

"That was," I said, gasping for breath, "the most ridiculous thing I've ever done."

"You invaded Afghanistan," he pointed out, and I laughed, my voice embarrassingly high-pitched. And then he was laughing too, his voice dark and rich and full of abandon, and I didn't care.

"That wasn't just me," I pointed out. "Why aren't we back at the restaurant?"

"They can keep an eye out," he said, still breathing hard. "It was a long shot anyway."

"So what were we doing there?" I asked.

He caught his breath and cleared his throat. "Oh, just passing the time," he said in his normal voice, which suddenly sounded a lot more put on than it had. "And proving a point."

"What point?"

"You." And then, calling in the direction of 221a, "Mrs Hudson! Dr Watson will take the room upstairs!"

"Says who?" I asked.

"Says the man at the door."

I looked at the door. The bell hadn't rung, and there had been no--Oh. There was a knock, three sharp raps. I answered it, and there stood Angelo, grinning, and holding out--

--My cane. My cane, without which I had just run a mile entirely without pain.

"Sherlock texted me," Angelo said. "He said you forgot this."

"Ah," I said, momentarily unable to speak, or to stop my face from smiling. I looked back in through the door; Sherlock was watching me and grinning. "Thank you," I said to Angelo, and took the cane. "Thank you," again, still unable to stop smiling, and went back inside.

"Sherlock," Mrs Hudson said, hurrying toward us, "what have you done?"

"Mrs Hudson?" he asked, puzzled.

"Upstairs," she said, sounding on the verge of tears.

He went up the steps easily, two at a time, and I followed, the cane in my hand, still high off the exercise and the realization that somehow, Sherlock Holmes had cured me of my limp.

"What are you doing?" he demanded almost before he was even in the door.

The Detective Inspector from the crime scene, Lestrade, sat sprawled in the green leather armchair. "I knew you'd find the case," he said. "I'm not stupid."

"You can't just break in to my flat!" Sherlock protested.

"Well, you can't withhold evidence!" the DI shot back. "Anyway, I didn't break in to your flat."

"What do you call this, then?" Sherlock demanded, gesturing at the sizable number of police rifling through his stuff.

"Drugs bust," the DI said, grinning.

"Seriously?" I asked, incredulous. "This guy, a junkie? Have you met him?"

"John," Sherlock said.

"I'm pretty sure you could search this flat all day, and you wouldn't find anything you could call recreational."

"John," Sherlock said again, "you probably want to shut up, now."

"Yeah, but come on," I said, and looked at him. His face was surprisingly close to mine. He said nothing, just stared at me, intent. "No," I said. Sherlock Holmes, an addict? I couldn't imagine him doing anything to jeopardize that immense brain.

"What?" he said, defensive.

"You?" I asked. I mean, really!

"Shut up!" he said, and finally turned away, back to the DI. "I'm not your sniffer dog!"

"No, Anderson's my sniffer dog," the DI said. The forensics investigator popped out from behind thi kitchen door and waved.

"Anderson, what are you doing here on a drugs bust?" Sherlock demanded.

"Oh, I volunteered," Anderson said cheerfully.

"They all did," Lestrade added. "They're not strictly speaking on the drug squad, but they're very keen."

Given the way Sherlock had treated Anderson and Donovan, and the way they'd spoken to him in turn, I found that incredibly easy to believe.

"Are these human eyes?" Donovan asked.

"Put those back!" Sherlock snapped.

"They were in the microwave," she protested.

"It's an experiment," he sneered.

"Keep looking, guys," Lestrade called. "Or," he said to Sherlock, "you could start helping us properly and I'll stand them down."

"This is childish," Sherlock spat.

"Well, I'm dealing with a child. Sherlock, this is our case. I am letting you in, but you do not go off on your own! Clear?" He was speaking as though he were a father scolding a disobedient child.

"Oh, so--so--so you set up a pretend drugs bust to bully me?" Sherlock sputtered.

"Stops being pretend if they find anything," Lestrade warned.

"I am clean!" Sherlock insisted.

"Is your flat?" Lestrade shot back. "All of it?"

"I don't even smoke," Sherlock said, rolling back his sleeve to reveal a nicotine patch--just one, thankfully..

"Neither do I," Lestrade said, and rolled back his own to reveal a matching patch. "So let's work together." He shook his sleeve back down and buttoned it. "We've found Rachel."

"Who is she?" Sherlock demanded.

"Jennifer Wilson's only daughter."

"Her daughter?" Sherlock asked. "Why would she write her daughter's name? Why?"

"Never mind that," Anderson said from the kitchen. "We found the case." He emerged just far enough to point at the pink suitcase in the sitting room. "According to someone, the murderer has the case, and we found it in the hands of our favorite psychopath." Apparently Donovan wasn't the only one to believe that Sherlock was made for crime.

"I'm not a psychopath, Anderson. I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research," Sherlock snapped, hardly sparing Anderson a glance. "You need to bring Rachel in," he told Lestrade. "You need to question her. I need to question her."

"She's dead," Lestrade said.

I liked to think I was getting the measure of Sherlock, but I still didn't expect him to say, "Excellent!" He rattled of a train of questions at Lestrade: "How, when and why? Is there a connection? There has to be."

"Well, I doubt it," Lestrade disagreed, "since she's been dead for fourteen years. Technically, she was never alive. Rachel was Jennifer Wilson's stillborn daughter, fourteen years ago."

I felt my mouth twist in sympathy, but apparently Sherlock Holmes didn't feel such things. "No," he said, "that's ... that's not right. How ... Why would she do that? Why?"

"Why would she think of her daughter in her last moments?" Anderson said rhetorically. "Yeah--sociopath; I'm seeing it now."

"She didn't think about her daughter," Sherlock snapped. "She scratched her name on the floor with her fingernails. She was dying. It took effort. It would have hurt." He started to pace the room, all agitated fury and frustrated logic.

"You said that the victims all took the poison themselves," I said, "that he makes them take it. Well, maybe he... I don't know, talks to them? Maybe he used the death of her daughter somehow."

"Yeah, but that was ages ago," Sherlock disagreed. "Why would she still be upset?"

I just stared. Clearly this man was clueless, but could he really be that completely blind to emotion? I was beginning to see where Anderson was coming from. If Sherlock Holmes were indeed a sociopath, this behavior would make sense.

He looked around briefly, then his attention landed on me. "Not good?" he asked, sounding like a small child.

"Bit not good, yeah," I answered.

"Yeah," he said, visibly shaking off my disapproval, "but if you were dying, if you'd been murdered: in your very last few seconds what would you say?"

Well. That was one question I knew the answer to. "'Please, God, let me live.'"

"Oh, use your imagination!" he spat. Bored with me and my real life, no doubt.

"I don't have to," I said, flatly.

His eyes dropped just for a moment, feet shuffling, and I figured that was all the apology I was going to get out of him. "Yeah, but if you were clever," he goes on, "really clever... Jennifer Wilson, running all those lovers? She was clever." He started to pace again. "She's trying to tell us something."

"Isn't the doorbell working?" Mrs Hudson's voice came from the doorway. "Your taxi's here, Sherlock."

"I didn't order a taxi. Go away."

"Oh, dear. They're making such a mess. What are they looking for?"

Sherlock was clearly ignoring her, so I stepped in. "It's a drugs bust, Mrs Hudson," I explained.

"But they're just for my hip," she protested. "They're herbal soothers."

"Shut up, everybody, shut up!" Sherlock shouted. "Don't move, don't speak, don't breathe. I'm trying to think. Anderson, face the other way! You're putting me off."

"What?" Anderson spluttered. "My face is?!"

"Everybody quiet and still," Lestrade called. "Anderson, turn your back."

"Oh, for God's sake!"

"Your back, now, please!" Lestrade shouted.

"Come on, think. Quick!" Sherlock muttered.

"What about your taxi?" Mrs Hudson pressed.

"MRS HUDSON!" Sherlock roared, whirling to face her.

She turned and hurried away down the stairs. Sherlock glared after her a moment, and then his face transformed with realization. "Oh," he said, delighted. "Ah! She was clever, clever, yes! She's cleverer than you lot and she's dead. Do you see, do you get it? She didn't lose her phone, she never lost it. She planted it on him." He started pacing again. "When she got out of the car, she knew that she was going to her death. She left the phone in order to lead us to her killer."

"But how?" Lestrade asked.

Sherlock stopped and stared. "Wha...? What do you mean, how?"

Lestrade shrugged. I could offer nothing more constructive than that to the conversation, so I kept quiet.

"Rachel!" Sherlock said, as though in were the key to everything. "Don't you see?" he demanded, growing more frustrated. "Rachel!"

No one said anything. Sherlock laughed in disbelief. "Oh, look at you lot," he said disdainfully. "You're all so vacant. Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing. Rachel is not a name."

I was fed up with his holier-than-thou-idiots act. "Then what is it?" I demanded.

Instead of answering the question, he started bossing me around. "John, on the luggage, there's a label. E-mail address."

I bent to look at the label. "Er, jennie dot pink at mephone dot org dot uk."

Sherlock sat at the table and pulled his laptop to him. "Oh, I've been too slow. She didn't have a laptop, which means she did her business on her phone, so it's a smartphone, it's e-mail enabled." He started typing furiously. "So there was a website for her account. The username is her e-mail address... and all together now, the password is?"

Finally, I got it. "Rachel."

"So we can read her e-mails," said Anderson. "So what?"

"Anderson, don't talk out loud," Sherlock said, sounding less venomous and more tired now. "You lower the I.Q. of the whole street. We can do much more than just read her e-mails. It's a smartphone, it's got GPS, which means if you lose it you can locate it online. She's leading us directly to the man who killed her."

"Unless he got rid of it," Lestrade pointed out.

"We know he didn't," I said. We'd texted him; he'd called back.

"Come on, come on. Quickly!" Sherlock stared at the computer screen.

"Sherlock, dear." Mrs Hudson again, from the doorway. "This taxi driver..."

Sherlock got up and stalked toward her. "Mrs Hudson, isn't it time for your evening soother?" he sneered.

I sat down at the computer and watched it search for the phone. A clock icon spun on the screen, claiming that the phone wold be located in under three minutes. Sherlock turned to Lestrade.

"We need to get vehicles, get a helicopter," he said. "We're gonna have to move fast. This phone battery won't last forever."

"We'll just have a map reference," Lestrade protested, "not a name."

"It's a start!" Sherlock snapped.

The computer beeped. I looked away from Sherlock and Lestrade's argument to see what it said. It was zooming in to a location on the map, it was zooming in to...

"Sherlock," I said.

"It narrows it down from just anyone in London," Sherlock was saying. "It's the first proper lead that we've had."

"Sherlock," I said again.

He hurried across the room to look over my shoulder. I could feel his breath warm on my neck as he spoke. "What is it? Quickly, where?"

"It's here," I said slowly. "It's in two two one Baker Street."

He straightened, pulling himself away from me. My neck felt cold where he'd been breathing on it. "How can it be here?" he demanded of the universe at large. "How?"

"Well, maybe it was in the case when you brought it back and it fell out somewhere," Lestrade theorized.

"What, and I didn't notice it? Me? I didn't notice?"

"Anyway," I said, thinking this better evidence than Sherlock's arrogance, "we texted him and he called back."

Lestrade turned to call instructions to his officers still searching the flat. "Guys, we're also looking for a mobile somewhere here, belonged to the victim..."

I tuned him out and watched Sherlock. He seemed to have disconnected entirely from his surroundings; he was standing, turning in place, hands in constant frantic motion. Then his feet went still and just his head turned, like he was trying to shake a mosquito out of his ear in slow motion.

Past him, I saw a man mounting the steps behind Mrs Hudson. Short, plain, easily overlooked, a flat cap on his head and a cabbie's tag around his neck.

Sherlock's phone trilled. He went still, looked at it. He seemed dazed.

"Sherlock, you okay?" I asked.

"What?" he said vaguely. "Yeah, yeah, I-I'm fine."

"So, how can the phone be here?" I pressed, wanting to see more of his genius. Surely he'd figured it all out by now.

"Dunno," he said, voice still vague and distant.

"I'll try it again," I suggested.

"Good idea," he said, and started for the door.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"Fresh air," he said. "Just popping outside for a moment. Won't be long."

I frowned. He still sounded strange and distant. Maybe he needed the fresh air. I called after him, "You sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine," he called back, and the street door opened and shut.

I sighed. The computer kept on searching for the phone, and found it a moment later. Same result: here, in 221 Baker Street. But if it was here, there was one way to get a better, more specific idea of its location. I pulled my phone from my pocket, checked the luggage tag for the number, and dialed.

It was all quiet in the flat for several minutes. Just the sounds of police officers halfheartedly shuffling Sherlock's things around. The Mephone website was taking longer to find the phone this time, and the phone was ringing out. Once. Again.

I heard a car pull away on the street and looked out the window. I could just see Sherlock's silhouette in the back. "He just got in a cab," I said, dumbfounded.

I turned to Lestrade, who looked confused. "It's Sherlock," I explained. "He just drove off in a cab."

Donovan made a noise of irritation. "I told you, he does that," she said scornfully, and turned to Lestrade. "He bloody left again." Then she walked into the kitchen, seemingly addressing the whole room. "We're wasting our time!"

Lestrade looked helpless and lost. "I'm calling the phone," I told him. "It's ringing out."

"If it's ringing, it's not here," he said.

I put down the phone and pulled the laptop to me. "I'll try the search again."

"Does it matter?" Donovan said spitefully. "Does any of it? You know he's just a lunatic, and he'll always let you down, and you're wasting your time. All our time."

I tried to ignore her, but it was hard to ignore Lestrade's loud sigh. "Okay, everybody," he said loudly. "Done 'ere."

I turned away from the laptop--it was doing its thing already--and watched the officers put down the things they'd been searching through or moving and flow as one out the door. Lestrade grabbed his coat, then hesitated and turned to me.

"Why did he do that? Why did he have to leave?" Lestrade asked, the frustration bleeding into his voice.

I shrugged. "You know him better than I do."

Lestrade looked at me then. "I've known him for five years," he said, and I thought he was agreeing with me, but then he added, "and no, I don't."

But I don't know anything about him, I wanted to say, but instead I said, "So why do you put up with him?"

"Because I'm desperate, that's why." Lestrade turned to go, but turned back as he reached the door. "And because Sherlock Holmes is a great man. And I think one day, if we're very, very lucky, he might even be a good one." He left.

At a loss, left alone in this flat that wasn't (yet, my mind whispered) mine, I stood still for a moment, trying to decide what to do. Clearly the investigation--or at least my part in it--had come to an end. I tried not to be disappointed.

Finally, I decided to head home. Back to the hotel. I'd sleep there tonight, hash out the details of this flatshare tomorrow, and then either check out and move my stuff here, or else keep looking. I made for the door, then paused, thinking I ought to bring my cane even if I no longer needed it. There was no telling if the pain might return, after all.

I grabbed the cane and was at the door when the laptop started chiming triumphantly. I went and picked it up, expecting to see the pink phone inexplicably here at Baker Street--

But no. It was in the city. I rushed down the stairs, clutching the notebook, and hailed a cab.

"Roland-Kerr Further Education College! And hurry!" I demanded. It was all coming together for me. Who do we trust, even if we don't know them? Who passes unnoticed wherever they go? Cab drivers!

I dialed the police station. Got the after-hours receptionist. Demanded to talk to Lestrade. Finally got him--barked, "John Watson--get to Roland Kerr Further Education College, now!" and hung up.


Shoved a twenty at the driver and got out. Hesitated. There were two buildings in front of me--which one? No time! Picked one. Searched it, calling Sherlock's name, banging open doors, running down halls. Taking too long.

Taking too long!

Found him, finally--in the other building. Two windows and an open strip of grass between us. "SHERLOCK!"

He didn't hear.

There was a pill in his hand. His shaking hand. The cabbie--looked vaguely familiar, but he had one of those faces--was talking, his grin menacing and predatory as he held the other pill.

He was mad, and I barely knew him, but he was brilliant and he had cured my limp and I already knew that I needed him. I needed him, and I couldn't let this unassuming cabbie kill him.

I took the gun from my waistband, lined up the shot, and squeezed the trigger. I didn't wait to see if I had made the shot--I knew I had. I got the hell out of there.

"That's how you get your kicks. You risk your life to prove you're clever."

"Why would I do that?"

"Because you're an idiot."

He grinned at me. "Dinner?"

I grinned back. "Starving."

He took me to a Chinese place, and I actually saw him eat for the first time. He ate ravenously, and I wondered if he'd had anything at all to eat all day. I tucked in at a more sedate pace.

"You could have had backup," I said, halfway through the meal.

"I knew you'd turn up," he said again, around a mouthful of rice.

"Bullshit," I said. "What'd he do to make you take that pill? Promise never to tell you which one was poison?"

He scowled in the way that told me I was right.

"Right. Well, here's the thing, Sherlock. I've seen that movie. Both pills were poison."

Sherlock blinked at me, shocked. "But he lived through four murders," he said. "He must have known something!"

"Or he'd taken an antidote beforehand," I pointed out. "Or he had an immunity to the poison. Iocane powder, Sherlock. The only correct choice was to walk away."

"Iocane powder? I've made extensive study of poisons, and I've never heard of iocane powder."

I rolled my eyes. "It's fictional. It's out of a movie. That doesn't change the fact that I'm right, Sherlock."

His eyes narrowed and his lips pursed. After a moment he said, "You are moving in." It was phrased like a statement and inflected like a statement, but it still sounded like a question.

"Yes," I said, and then, "assuming I can afford it."

"You can," he said, haughty and imperious.

"Doing research on me now?" I asked. "Hacked into my bank records? Got a copy of my therapist's notes, too, have you? Courtesy of Mycroft, perhaps?"

He scowled. "I'm perfectly capable of violating doctor-patient confidentiality without Mycroft's assistance," he said stiffly. Then he added, "But no, I haven't been researching you or hacking your bank records."

"Then how do you know I can afford the rent?"

He paused. Then he said, "You did wash the powder off your fingers, yes?"

"Of course I did, Sherlock, I'm not an idiot." I let the question go. If he wanted to be mysterious, let him.

"That was an excellent shot," he said several bites later.

I swallowed and said, "Could have been better. Could have got him in the head, or the heart. Something more instant."

"Actually, I'm pleased with the way it happened," he said. "Gave me a chance to get the name out of him." His gaze became unfocused and his voice softened. "'Moriarty'," he said. "Irish. Means 'expert navigator'.
Likely an alias."

"What makes you say that?"

His eyes focused on me for one scornful moment. "Who," he said pointedly, "would use their real name whilst committing and organizing crimes? No, it's an alias. Must be."

I shrugged. "It still can't hurt to Google the name, can it?" I just wanted him to keep talking--that deep voice tense with the excitement of almost knowing things, making me feel like something important was happening to me.

"Certainly not," he agreed, eyes going unfocused again, alien. "Though there are other methods of gaining information. I'm sure whoever Moriarty is, he's perfectly aware of what's said about him on the Internet. He might even have a tracker to trace the addresses of anyone who searches the name. Most likely, my next lead won't be until he commits some other crime."

I grinned. "And in the meantime, you and I are watching The Princess Bride. It's a classic."

He blinked at me. "The Princess Bride?" he echoed, faintly scornful.

"The movie with iocane powder," I explained.

"Ah." He smiled. "All right. You and I will watch The Princess Bride, then."

Sherlock always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe he loved mysteries so much that he became one.
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The Lap Otter

November 2013

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