It had been a rather boring day at 221B Baker Street. Or a boring week. Or month. A boring while, that was for sure. There had been no new cases for what felt like an eternity. John had been working an awful lot at the hospital, and thus had offered no distractions worth mentioning. Sherlock was disappointed: he had carefully planed several gruesome experiments just to see his reaction, and the man was too tired to even notice them. And the experiments themselves had turned out to be disappointing too, resulting only in the rather annoying smell of rotting flesh and mixed chemicals.
He wasn't even sure which day they were. He was well past beyond caring about something as trivial as that. He could certainly find out easily enough if he wanted -all he needed to do was check on what boring program John was watching at the moment -but even that was too boring. He wanted something to happen. Something. Anything. Even Moriarty would have been good news at that point, but no, the world had decided he would die of boredom.
Had to be a Sunday.
Sundays were always particularly dull. Nothing interesting ever happened on Sundays. Nothing at all ever happened on Sundays.
But then, somewhere downstairs, there was the sound of a knock on the door, the footsteps of Mrs Hudson, her voice and that of someone else, a woman. Not any of their landlady's friends, as far as he could tell. Potential client then, with any hope. Or one of John's girlfriends. Did he even have one at the moment? He had stopped keeping track of them. All dull and boring. Every single one of them. One might have thought John, as a man of taste -he thought Sherlock was incredible after all -would have found interesting sexual partners, but no. Always brought home the boring ones. Someone else might have realized that with all the excitement and adventures he had with Sherlock, John probably felt the need to be around someone normal one in a while. But the detective refused to think on his flatmate's love life more than strictly necessary. Such a dull subject.
A knock on their door was heard, and Mrs Hudson's head appeared.
"There's a young lady for you, Sherlock. I hope you're decent my dear. And just so we're clear, wearing your spare sheets isn't decent."
"Oh, he's dressed this time," John answered. "I think he's even wearing a clean shirt, if you can believe it."
Mrs Hudson nodded approvingly, then turned to the woman still outside.
"Come in dear, they're here. If anyone can help you, it's Sherlock Holmes, don't worry."
"Oh, I'm certainly not worrying, came the answer. I am many things, but not worried."
And she came in.
She was.... ordinary. Nothing special. Red hair, very red. Age between thirty-five and forty. Still living with her mother, working as a secretary but had recently quit. Trying to get a new start in life, as shown by the brand new clothes to which she wasn't used yet. Tried to appear confident, but wasn't used to having anything but a low self-esteem yet, and she would still eat her nails when worried. Which she was, no matter what she said. In one word: ordinary. Dull. Boring.
But a dull case was better than no case.
"Please, take a seat, Mrs..."
"Miss. Miss... Morstan. But call me Mary, please."
Fake name. Had found the first name very quickly but the last name had been more difficult to find. Why the fake name? Did not want him to find out who she was. Afraid of family's reaction if they found out what she was doing. Possible passive-aggressive bouts with mother who didn't approve of recent changes, worried father who tended to be overprotective.
"Very well, miss Morstan. What do you want? Straight to the point, if you can manage."
She smiled. Used to being treated as she was wasting someone's time, and usually agreed on that. Still seemed certain that this was worth being a bother.
"Well, you see, I'm a secretary. Or I used to be. Not the best of jobs, but I'm good at it. And not long ago, my boss came from some sort of... lunch business or something like that, with that weird pearl. Only it wasn't a real pearl, it was way too big, almost like an egg. A chicken egg. And all... bluish. Weird sort of blue. He said it was a present from a partner, and that it would make a great paperweight. Which was daft because that thing was very pretty. Don't think it was a real pearl, not at that size, but very pretty, and..."
"To the point, miss Morstan."
"We're getting to it, skinny boy."
Just in time, John managed to hide his laugh behind a forced cough. Sherlock glared at him for being amused, and at her for calling him that. He didn't mind insults as a rule, was in fact quite used to them, but this was... undignified.
"Anyway," said Mary Morstan, "the other morning, I come to work, and Mr Hughes isn't there, and neither is the paperweight. I know, because I needed some bits of paperwork from his office, so I went there even though he wasn't in -wouldn't have been the first time he decided not to come because of a hangover -and the... pearl thingy was gone, and on top of his pile of paper, there was that thing."
The thing in question is a piece of what appears to be paper, but to the touch feels nothing like Sherlock had ever known. Soft, think, but strangely heavy, with strange symbols drawn on it.
"Won't the police mind your stealing evidences?" He asks with a grin.
"The police didn't seem to worry about Mr Oldman, Mr Davis and Mrs Gilliam disappearing, and I know they were also at that lunch and had been given a pearl just like Mr Hughes's. They think they all went on an impromptu holiday. All three of them. And if they're not going to do a bloody thing about this, well, I am. And I'd rather like to have your help, because I've been told you're a bit smarter than most people, so why don't you prove it instead of asking stupid questions."
Sherlock's grin disappears. It is getting annoying, the way he has to prove his cleverness every time. But it can't be helped of course. People are stupid. With a sigh, he gets ready to tell her the story of her life. That usually does it.
"Oh, I know who I am, thank you very much," Mary interrupts him straight away. "I asked you to be clever, not to use that party trick of yours. Can't believe you're the one. You might be yet another skinny string of nothingness, you seem thick as hell."
"Come on, tell me what that paper is! Is it even paper? What do the drawings mean? Ever seen anything like this?"
"Am I losing my time here? You're my one chance, mister Sherlock Holmes, and I don't want to be wasting my time. So hurry up and be clever, or I'll just have to go!"
"Then shut up and let me speak, will you?"
She glares at him angrily, but stops talking. Thank heaven, Sherlock thinks, before looking again at the piece of paper, bending it, smelling it, and doing virtually everything that it is possible to do to an unfortunate piece of paper.
"It's not paper, obviously. New material. The lines look drawn on it, but it's more likely to be some sort of screen showing a picture of the original drawing: the lines looks like they slightly damaged the paper, yet to the touch it's still perfectly smooth. As for what the drawings mean, I'd say they are some sort of language, but not one I've ever seen. Possibly a secret code. You said the four of them had had lunch together, and been given the same pearl. How likely is it that they were part of a secret organization?"
The answer he expected was not likely. People never really thought anyone they knew did that sort of things. People were stupid.
"Of course I thought so," Mary said. "Why do you think I went to work for him? He was an annoying old man and the pay was awfully cheap, but there was something weird about him and how successful his business was, because I don't think that many people would honestly want to buy silly little cardboard dinosaurs, but he was making an awful lot of money anyway, and I thought..."
"You thought you could investigate, but you failed and now you're turning to someone who actually knows what they're doing."
She frowned at that, clearly annoyed, and Sherlock sighed. He didn't like having to deal with amateurs who had messed up their little game of an investigation. They were always so cross when he'd point out how obvious everything was.
He included the police in that category, of course.
However he couldn't refuse that case. He was far too bored, and it was mildly interesting, if only on account of that little treasure of new technology. There was something strange about it. Something wrong. Something... alien.
He sighed again.
"Very well, miss Morstan. First I'll need to see Mr Hughes's office."