“We’ve met before,” said the woman in red.
Sherlock Holmes glanced up from the screen of his phone.
“No. No, we haven’t.”
“You have that good a memory for faces, eh?”
The corners of Sherlock’s mouth pushed complacently at his cheeks. “As a matter of fact, I do. In any case, I’d remember yours.”
It was true; her face was not forgettable. Much of it was false, of course - from her long, dark eyelashes, to the colour of her hair, which was about as natural a hue as Heinz tomato ketchup. Her teeth had been sharpened to points by some impressive feat of dentistry. But the wide smile, faintly recognisable from distressing Victorian illustrations that had been imposed on Sherlock as a child, was all her own. He felt sure that people may not compliment her on it, but they certainly didn’t forget it.
Apart from that, she was ordinary. It was nearing midnight on the final day of 2010. The cuffs of her jeans were damp, the toes of her red high heels were scuffed white and her (clearly cherished) blood-red coat hung somewhere above her elbows. She was just another goth teetering home from a party. It was only unfortunate for her that she’d been walking down the opposite end of a street where Sherlock Holmes and John Watson had been chasing a forger. It had all happened rather quickly, but when he had seen the woman approaching, he had stopped, put a gun to his head and fired.
The woman took out her own phone. After looking at it for a moment she turned to Sherlock and smiled, “Sorry, gorgeous, I‘m off. I’d stay, but you’re so dull.”
John quickly took her by the elbow, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait here,” he said evenly, “Some police officers will be arriving in a few minutes. They’ll want to speak to you.”
The woman shook herself free and patted John patronisingly on the head. She was about Sherlock’s height, if not a little taller, in the heels.
“I’m done here,” she said, “I’ve got business elsewhere.”
“You don’t have business that’s more important than this,” John insisted.
The woman pressed a hand to her padded chest with dramatic relish. “You have no idea what business I have! I answer to a very high authority!”
“Oh for… You’re not another government employee?” John frowned, “Are you people always drunk?”
“For one thing, I am not drunk,” the woman grinned, “For a second, the Empire’s dead. Little England and its little politicians aren’t as all powerful as you seem to think. ‘There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…’”
“Sherlock, he’s quoting Shakespeare.”
“Shut him up with Milton or Jack Kerouac or whoever it is you like,” murmured Sherlock, who had turned back to his phone screen and refused to be distracted.
The woman pouted. “So, have times changed? Are you two still hording away your silly little feelings like they could self-destruct on discovery? I never understood you people. Writing books that weren’t supposed to be understood, covering up statues with fig leaves, always going on about the ‘Fallen Woman’. It was utter confusion living here in the 19th century - and I had to sit through all those stories about the time so-and-so never did this, and the time he almost did that…”
“All right, slow down. What are you talking about?” John sighed.
“Oh, right. I didn’t mention it, did I? The last time I saw your friend, we were on the Sussex Downs together.”
John hastily suppressed a smirk. Sherlock did not attempt to hide his own smile.
“He was very interested in bees back then. Don't ask me what the fascination was. Anyway, he loved you. Spent years of his life not wanting to be touched. Got older, felt more comfortable, thought he’d tell you. Decided against it. Took up beekeeping. Then he died. Not very interesting, really.”
The woman yawned and stretched like she’d just woken. The electric light of the lamps glinted off her smile and, for a moment, John felt the world turn to gaslight and fog. Sherlock’s head lifted.
The woman shrugged her coat onto her shoulders and turned on her heel with a flourish of coattails and long red hair.
“Well, ta ta, boys. I’m certain we’ll bump into one another again one day.”
Sherlock and John said nothing. They watched her walk back down the road.