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I am certain there is a distinct difference between the pollen of Urtica dioica and that of Parietaria judaica, but I have no mental record of having learnt it, and given that Samuel Wheaton of the Sainsbury Laboratory is currently in Papeete and not answering my texts, and that his sniveling underling Daniel Thronson-Daimler has taken what John calls a "rather strong dislike" to me, I find myself using Google images, and my GOD why can't a specific and simple search string produce more striking microscopy? I am going to have to

"would rather put needles in my own eyes than spend another day soaking the crust off the eyes of toddlers with pinkeye and explaining how to pick nits out of a child's hair, which in case you hadn't thought about it, actually requires me to pick nits"

resubscribe to the Society for Experimental Biology so I can read old issues of the Journal of Experimental Botany, and I had so hoped not to send money their way again after the president ridiculously questioned my inference on

"no beans for my toast"

the Wilkins case last month. Trifling, he said. TRIFLING! A petty man who still believes academic credentials signal expertise, and little does he know that I could have ruined his marriage with that little tidbit about the graduate student, but I chose to be the better man

"Sherlock"

only John pointed out that I'm not really much the better man if I choose not to delete the graduate student. Does each nettle pollen grain look so much like every other nettle pollen grain? What is the key to differentiating them? Regardless of what the Journal says, I will be obliged to go to St. Bart's because my eyepiece lens cracked

"Right."

A change in tone, a sharpness. John is annoyed now. I look up. There is sunlight streaming in the window. John has slept late; has been sleeping later, these days.

"Sorry?" I offer, hoping to indicate a momentary distraction.

"Honest to God, Sherlock. That's just one more thing. Between Mary and the divorce and the bloody clinic and your ridiculous seed obsession I - "

"Pollen," I say.

"What?"

"It's pollen, not seeds. Certainly, pollen is necessary for seeds in the same way sperm is necessary for fetuses, but they are hardly the same thing."

He glares at me. Baleful would be the correct adjective, I believe.

"Between Mary and the clinic and your ridiculous pollen obsession, I sometimes think I'd do well to... disappear. Go where no one knows me or Mary. Start fresh. I could do it, you know. I've got money. Pack a bag and go to Venezuela. British Columbia. Tahiti."

He stops talking. He seems to be done.

"If you go to Tahiti," I say, "Would you visit Samuel Wheaton and ask him to respond to my texts? He's assisting at the Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens. A murder investigation hinges on it."

I wait an appropriate amount of time. John's voice does not resume talking.

my eyepiece lens cracked when Wilkins' henchmen ransacked Baker Street looking for the SIM card, which I obviously would not store at Baker Street. Idiots. So I will have to go to Bart's to study and photograph the pollen slides, and even that will not help me if I cannot differentiate between Urtica and Parietaria.


***


I leave the clinic at half seven. Anna, the newly-promoted receptionist, gives me a sad smile, as she does every evening now. I make my way down the pavement and settle on the tube. Even in the rumble and press of bodies I could fall asleep. I make an effort to not relax back against the seat, to not close my eyes.

It's not lack of opportunity for sleep that's killing me; it's nighttime wakefulness. Every night between one and two, my brain - subconsciously and without my willing participation - considers my ridiculous life, senses the need for fight-or-flight alertness, and wakens me. And I lie there, thinking of nothing in particular, browsing "Fifteen Hot Stars Who Haven't Aged Well" or "Cats Sleeping on Dogs." It's going on five weeks now. I ought to consider melatonin or, hell, a sleep study. Or gin. That’s Harry’s poison.

It's dark when I get back to Baker Street, finally. Sherlock is playing the violin. Case must be settled, then. I sink into my chair with the paper. Holland has beaten Spain in the second day of the World Cup. England will play Italy tonight, but I can feel sleep settling on me even now.

Sherlock's voice mutters something over the violin. England will play Uruguay on Thursday. Rain tomorrow.

"Urtica," Sherlock's voice repeats.

Urticaria. Hives. Three cases today. Take diphenhydramine. It might make you drowsy. Call the clinic tomorrow if the itching is not any better.

"What's that?" I say.

"The pollen grains were Urtica dioica and not Parietaria judaica."

"Right... and that means what?"

"The victim was found lying near a garden wall where Parietaria judaica grew. But the pollen grains embedded in his skull by the shovel were Urtica dioica. None of the cousin's belongings showed any trace of Urtica. But the girlfriend - she was crawling with the stuff. Perfection!"

"Hm." I return to the newspaper. Rain for the next three days. The music is pleasant this evening. Familiar. I don't know. Soothing.

Sherlock's voice again. Christ, I'm just trying to read the sports section before I fall asleep.

"--Find you," he says.

"What?"

"I would find you."

I sigh and put the paper down.

"Find me when?"

"If you disappeared."

Now I'm paying attention. And confused.

"What the hell are you talking about? Do you know something I don't know?"

He stops playing; lowers the violin.

"You said you wanted to disappear to Venezuela."

My mind stumbles - what the hell? - but then I manage to recall the half-focused morning conversation. I close my eyes for a moment; I'm too tired for this.

"Well, never mind," I say. "I don't have the energy."

I wait for the violin to begin again, but it doesn't. I look at Sherlock.

"You leave an electronic trail everywhere you go. And even if we lived in the days before the Internet, I could use Mycroft's contacts to learn your whereabouts."

I squint my eyes.

"That leans a bit toward stalker behavior," I say. "If there comes a day when I decide to take off for Venezuela, you damned well better leave me take off for bloody Venezuela."

"Yes, yes," he says, waving his bow hand dismissively. Balletically. "Of course. I'm not saying I would contact you. But I would know. Where you were."

"And why would you need to know that?"

He looks at me, confused, as if I have surprised him.

"In case someday you might need something."

"Need something?"

"Of course. You might need to be bailed out of jail in Caracas."

I can hardly tell if he's serious or joking. I raise my eyebrows at him. He's serious.

"Or a kidney transplant. It's not as if you can get a transplant from your alcoholic sister, or that disastrous ex-wife of yours."

I hear Sherlock's words, blink five staccato times, then three more, consider the incubation period and early symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis.

"Though, you really ought to come back to London if surgery is involved. One hears horror stories about organ trafficking in Latin America."

Sherlock puts the violin back to his chin, turns toward the fireplace, and resumes playing. Something different. That sad piece by Mendelssohn. One of my favorites.

My eyes grow heavy. I imagine the purloined kidney of Sherlock Holmes: iced, in a rusting cooler, dangling from a long stick slung over the bare shoulders of two native men, transported through the Amazon rain forest to the hidey-hole of a drug runner. Demoted. Destined to filter less rarified blood.

"Right," I say. "Hardly worth it, then."