Sherlock Holmes had long since come to the conclusion that he would rather have stayed in London and risked being blown into tiny pieces than to be where he was now. Not that home had been such a marvellous place to be before his departure. Father was so busy telling Churchill how to fight the war and Mummy so preoccupied with her many wartime charities that they had no time to even notice their younger son very often. And Mycroft, the pompous sod, had become even more pompous after being allowed to leave school and take on a job at the Admiralty. He liked to pretend that what he was doing was secret and very important, but Sherlock had eavesdropped and so he knew that his fatty brother was nothing but a messenger boy.
Was there any reason that Sherlock could not be doing the same thing? Just because he was only ten and not seventeen didn’t mean he was an idiot. And if a message was really, really urgent, he could certainly run a lot faster than Mycroft to get it delivered.
After a few days of pouting about how everybody got to do interesting things but him, Sherlock had made a wonderful discovery. Being ignored and neglected gave him enormous freedom. He became a creature of London, exploring the streets and the alleyways, learning the rhythm of the city, becoming a part of it. Day or night he could sneak away from the Mayfair house and run free. He could stalk the posh gits leaving their clubs after midnight and sit to drink strong tea with the cabbies at their green huts. One night he even followed a petty thief from the shop the man had just robbed all the way to his lair by Tower Bridge. That had gotten a bit…precarious when the thief realised he’d been followed. But luckily Sherlock was, indeed, a very fast runner. That night, safely home, he lay in his bed and giggled over the whole incident.
But sadly all that lovely freedom came to an end when Mummy insisted that he be evacuated to safety. Safety! Was there anything more boring in the world?
So now here he was, trapped in this sad little village at the end of nowhere. The vicar and his old-maid sister who had taken him in were unbelievably dull and pious. Not to mention that they never even noticed the sly bullying their other evacuee, Sebastian, inflicted on Sherlock daily.
It had only been a week and already madness was threatening to set in.
Sherlock’s only respite was to take his leather journal and retreat to this small rise on the fringe of St. Whatever village. Here he could lie on the grass and think.
And aeroplane spot.
He opened the journal and studied the entries. His goal was to spot a Hawker Hurricane soon. Father had given him an A-2 sheet of paper with illustrations and specifications of many different kinds of aeroplanes, both British and German. He had planned to mount it on his [hopefully] temporary bedroom wall, but once he’d met Sebastian he did not dare to do that. Instead, he folded it carefully and tucked it into the journal.
When Father had gifted him with the aeroplane guide and the journal, Mycroft had given his horsey haw-haw laugh. “Maybe they’ll take him for a spy and hang him at dawn,” he’d said, grabbing the last slice of toast.
Well, that sounded interesting. Right up until the hanging part, anyway.
Sherlock was so lost in thought that he didn’t even hear that anyone was approaching until the intruder spoke. “Hello, there. What are you doing?” he said in a light, obviously London voice. So: another evacuee.
Sherlock kept his eyes on the journal. “Minding my own business,” he said snippily. “Something you might consider doing as well.”
Instead of the expected snappish response or an angry huffing away or even a punch to the face, all that happened was a soft chuckle, followed by a figure dropping into the grass next to him. “Is that supposed to scare me off? If so, you obviously have not met my sister Harriet.”
Finally Sherlock looked up, prepared to say something even meaner. But at the sight of the smiling blond boy in the rather dreadful striped jumper, he could not think of one nasty thing to say. “I am aeroplane spotting,” he said instead, feeling, strangely, that he wanted to impress this boy.
The brown eyes brightened even more. “Cor, really? Can I help?”
Sherlock pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, I doubt if you will be of any real help,” he said, but then as the smile started to fade a bit, he hastened to continue. “But you can stay. I wouldn’t mind and maybe you might help a bit.”
The smile returned.
After exchanging names and discovering that they were the same age, they lay in the grass together, talking about nothing really in particular. Sherlock related some of his [only slightly exaggerated] adventures in London and John reacted very nicely with an amazed look and frequent low whistles. John nattered on about football, which Sherlock ignored, but it was still fine because he liked watching John explain things. Somehow the subject of pirates came up. But too soon, an hour had gone by and no planes had appeared. Finally, Sherlock sat up with a sigh. “I guess this was something of a failure,” he said gloomily. “I expect you won’t want to try again another day.”
But John only grinned. “’Course I would.”
Sherlock expelled a breath that he hadn’t even realised he’d been holding.
They both stood and started walking back towards the village centre, John, who had rather short legs, moving efficiently to keep up. “Have you heard about the mystery at the teashop?” he asked suddenly.
Sherlock stopped short. “Mystery? What mystery? I didn’t hear about any mystery.”
John gave a laugh. “Well, it’s not much of one. Someone stole two pies that Miss Brown had put on the sill to cool. Constable Riley is on the case, but…”
Stolen pies. Honestly, as John had said, not much of a mystery, but since the most obvious culprit in any pie theft [in Sherlock’s opinion] was actually in London at the moment, plodding through the corridors of the Admiralty, there might be something mildly interesting to the case.
Suddenly Sherlock grabbed John’s hand. “Come on, John! There’s a thief to be caught.”
They ran hand in hand all the way to the teashop, both grinning.
It took Sherlock just two hours to discover that, of course, the pie thief was none other than Sebastian. When confronted, the boy blustered and threatened to bloody Sherlock’s busybody nose. At that, John shifted his position slightly so that he was between the two boys. He was the smallest of the three, but he bristled rather well.
At that moment, Constable Riley rather belatedly appeared on the scene. “Hey, hey,” he said. “What’s going on here, then?”
“Here is the pie thief,” Sherlock said, pointing at Sebastian.
“You don’t say,” the Constable intoned. “And who might you be?”
Sherlock straightened his shoulders. “We are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson,” he announced grandly.
Then he glanced at John and grinned.