Sherlock stared despondently at the empty space upon the mantelpiece.
‘Mrs Hudson took my skull again…’
John wandered out of the kitchen, leaving the shopping to look after itself for a moment, and stared too.
‘I’ve been thinking about Mrs Hudson. Wanted to speak to you about it. Do you think…’
‘Constantly. Unlike ordinary people.’
‘No. Listen to me. I know it sounds completely and utterly absurd, but…’
‘Well, do you think there’s the remotest possibility that Mrs Hudson might be dealing?’
Sherlock’s hard stare swung from where the skull wasn’t to where he might reasonably assume John’s brain wasn’t either.
‘Dealing? In what? Skulls? Body parts? Illegal organ trade? For goodness’ sake she’s an elderly lady with a bad hip!’
‘Exactly!’ John declared, pleased with himself to be one step ahead of the Consulting Detective. Maybe there were two full moons scheduled for this month.
‘She’s got a dodgy hip which causes her pain, and we both know what she uses to ease that.’
Sherlock strode into the kitchen, retrieved a large packet of Starmix from a slumped carrier bag, and returned to slump himself onto the sofa.
‘Herbal soothers. Go on.’
John claimed the armchair, leaning forward and clutching the Union Flag cushion in his enthusiasm to unravel the trail of clues.
‘Herbal soothers,' he nodded. 'Now, I’ve noticed of late that there has been an increasing number of visitors to Mrs Hudson’s flat. Sometimes they’ve rung the wrong bell and I’ve had to go down and let them in.’
‘Probably just friends coming round for tea,’ Sherlock suggested through a mouthful of fruity jelly.
‘No, I’m certain they’re not. They’re not on first name terms for a start, and they’re almost all, well, not that I’m doing Mrs Hudson down or anything, but…’
‘But what? Want one?’
John waved away the proffered packet.
‘Well, they’re all rather, sort of, posh. Posh women. No men, ever…’
Sherlock swallowed hard and regarded his companion.
‘So you’re suggesting that Mrs Hudson is making a little extra income by providing a discreet service supplying cannabis to ladies of distinction, is that it?’
John nodded, a little uncertain now that Sherlock had himself voiced the theory that he was on the right track after all. The Consulting Detective sprang up and disappeared, only to reappear with a family sized box of liquorice allsorts. He chewed thoughtfully, brain processing John’s data only, no doubt, to spit it out like he had that time he’d tried Tangfastics.
‘There could…’ he mused, ‘There could be something in it…’
John dropped the cushion and would have fallen off the armchair if it hadn’t been so deep and squashy.
‘I said there could be something in it. She does grow her own, after all.’
‘Mmmm….’ He rooted around for a blue spog, rejecting the pink ones with unconcealed disdain in contrast with John’s unconcealed amazement.
‘State of the art hydroponic system complete with high pressure sodium HID lighting in the airing cupboard.’
‘And how the hell do you know that?’
Sherlock smirked, maybe because of the answer he was about to give, maybe because he’d just discovered a cache of rogue blue spogs at the bottom of the box.
‘I know, John, because I installed it for her in lieu of rent in April last year when there was a complete dearth of cases. So – she’ll have harvested by now, no doubt she’s got more than she requires for her own needs, found herself a niche market. Doctor Watson, I believe you have solved the conundrum! Have an allsort. Oh, sorry, they’ve all sort of disappeared…’
John leaned back into the armchair, without need of a celebratory sweet in his moment of triumph. Deducing what was going on right beneath their noses before Sherlock had even clocked it was all the reward he required.
‘She’d better not get raided…’
‘Mycroft will see to that. He loves his chats with Mrs H over tea and biscuits. There’s only one thing that still puzzles me, John…’
John frowned. There was always something, dammit.
‘What on earth has all this got to do with Mrs Hudson taking my skull?’
Mrs Hudson sang softly to herself as she prepared for her next customer. Lady Donnington was becoming a regular, always cash in hand, more than happy to spread the word amongst her friends as to where she was obtaining such exotic and intoxicating goods. Mrs Hudson’s little business was thriving.
Two short rings at the doorbell followed by one long one. Lady Donnington was here.
Mrs Hudson rose, brushed herself down, glanced briefly in the mirror and tidied her hair.
‘Now then!’ She announced to her silent companion, ‘You stay right there looking gorgeous and I’m sure Lady D will be thrilled. Whatever would I do without you? You really are perfect for the job!’
Pleasantries were exchanged and Lady Donnington made her way into the tiny cramped workroom. What Mrs Hudson had to offer was amazing and she was becoming seriously addicted.
They only thing she could never quite fathom was why this wonderfully talented if eccentric milliner always chose to display her latest creation on a human skull, of all things…