30th March 2008
Sherringford looked at the young woman standing in front of him and wondered why she seemed so familiar. And why she was visiting his house, so far at the edge of the little town that it couldn’t really be counted as part of it anymore. He glanced around for a broken down car or any signs of why she would ring a stranger’s doorbell after 10pm, but there was neither a car nor any sign of how she arrived here. Sherringford hadn’t had a proper visitor at all in over two years and it took him a moment to remember the proper social procedure. Once he’d reminded himself that it was rather rude to let a woman stand on one’s doorstep, he asked her to come inside. She hadn’t actually said anything yet and that was slightly disconcerting. He noticed the small bundle in her arms. A baby.
“Hello, Sherringford,” the woman said, once she was inside, and suddenly she wasn’t a stranger anymore. This was Irene. Little Irene - only, she was all grown up now.
“Listen. I don’t have much time.” She spoke hurriedly. Sherringford closed the door behind her. The baby in her arms seemed to be asleep, it didn’t stir or make a sound.
“Irene,” he said, voice rough, memories threatening to close in on him. “What is going on?”
She turned to look at him. “I need your help.” She held the sleeping child out to him. “This is Seraphine. I need you to look after her.”
Sherringford reached for the baby instinctively, settling her into the crook of his arm. She couldn’t be more than a couple months old, still so small, and fast asleep. He hadn’t held a baby since... well, since he’d held Irene such a long time ago, but the motions came back easily.
He looked at his sister, then, really looked at her. She was too pale. He could see exhaustion and sadness in her face. She’d seen too much in too short a time. Not for the first time he wondered what happened to her after she ran away. He wished he could ask, wished he could take her into his arms like he used to, before father sent her away, but knew she wouldn’t allow it.
“Irene, what’s wrong?” he asked quietly.
She shook her head, turned away from him. “Nothing. I just can’t keep her for the moment. Too much going on. I remembered how you cared for me when I was little and Mummy was so ill. I know you’re the best person to look after her. It won’t be for long.” She still spoke too fast, the words tumbling out. She had a strange accent now, like she’d almost forgotten how to speak her mother tongue.
Sherringford could tell that this last bit was a lie. She’d always found it easy to tell half-truths when she was a little girl. But she’d never been able to lie to him, even though he rarely ever let her know that he saw through her tales. Right now, he knew Irene wasn’t sure when or if she would be back. Something was going on, something she didn’t wish to speak about. Dangerous, then. Mycroft probably knew more, but Sherringford would have to think carefully about involving him. He had turned into a dangerous man, his younger brother.
Sherringford reached out, stroked a lock of hair back from Irene’s forehead. It was a gesture he’d used many a time when she was still a little girl. Somehow it still seemed right. She closed her eyes for a moment, leaned into the touch like she remembered it too. Then she pulled back, lips tightening, cold determination in her face. It made her look older than her years.
Before he could say another word, she was out of the door again and Sherringford was left alone with the baby. Seraphine. A lovely name. He took the baby into the study and sat down, already composing a mental list of things he would need to take care of her properly. It would have to wait until morning, though, until the shops open. And he should probably drive down to Bayonne, to avoid starting the rumours in town earlier than was absolutely necessary.
It was only much later that he remembered the absence of a car, and he wondered how Irene got away.
27th September 2010
“I would try to convince you,” Moriarty spread his arms, “But everything I’m about to say has already crossed your mind.”
“Probably my answer has crossed yours,” Sherlock answered, turned and lowered the gun.
At that precise point, all the lights went out. A few seconds later, the doors burst open with a bang.
“Police! Everyone, lower your weapons and put your hands behind your heads,” Lestrade’s voice rang through the hall.
By the time everything had calmed down, Moriarty had slipped away.
1st June 1989
He was bored. God he was so bored. The world was nothing but a dreary, dull, boring place. And he’d just used the word ‘boring’ three times in a row, even if only in his thoughts. Was it possible to lower ones IQ from being so bored that the brain found it impossible to comprehend?
He was sitting in the back of the classroom while Mr Mawkings was droning on about Henry V or VIII or some other insipid, long-dead monarch. No wonder everyone around him was so stupid, the British school system was designed to make children’s brains bleed out their ears. If he hadn’t been so sure that the country’s ruling elite was just as stupid as the people surrounding him, Sherlock would have agreed with Mycroft that this was some clever government ploy to keep the population obedient.
Since he’d finished the copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy - the man, though terribly predictable, had had at least some imagination - that he’d stolen from his father’s library, during Maths in period three. Now he didn’t have anything left to occupy his mind with.
With a sigh of resignation he turned to his Last Resort. He’d finished with the Ls yesterday during double science, so he’d start on the Ms. There were some prime specimens in this classroom.
First was Mawkings. Around 45 years old, but looking at least five years older. His sallow, oily looking complexion spoke of his habit of eating unhealthy junk food, most likely procured on the way home instead of being home-cooked. The down-turned mouth indicated an unhappy marriage. Rumor had it that Mawkings’ wife was having a lesbian affair with the school nurse. Sherlock knew the rumor was incorrect. He had no intention of correcting people, though. One never knew when blackmailing material was needed. He had to be prepared or he’d find himself in yet another undeserved after-school detention.
Next came Phillip Mishkin, sitting in the front row. He was a thin boy, pale and lanky, having grown too fast over the summer. A heavy pair of glasses was pressing down on his nose, already giving him the pinch-faced look of the bent librarian he’d one day become.
A paper ball flicked against the back of Mishkin’s head. Sherlock turned his head slightly to regard Guy McDonald. Thug, he thought, first criminal offence within the next three years, first term of imprisonment before the age of 25, death in his late thirties, probably alcohol or drug related, then turned his attention to McDonald’s neighbour, who was a much more interesting specimen.
Sebastian Moran was not as easy to place. He was handsome, tall, with the muscular physique of someone regularly playing sports. But from what Sherlock had observed in class, he was also smart. Not as smart as Sherlock - no one even came close to him, well, apart from Mycroft - but intelligent enough to have a conversation with over lunch. Moran was good with numbers and good with people - there was always a gaggle of boys hanging around him at breaktimes - so he’d probably end up in the banking sector. It might be worthwhile to keep an eye on him.
There were no other Ms in this class, so he moved onto Jeremy Naylor. Nondescript boy, decent upper middle-class family, boring. Same with Peter Noon and Jordan Oakland. All would end up married rather sooner than later, buy a house and have their statistical 1.4 children. Office jobs. Boring.
He was just getting started on Brendan Opperman, when Mawkings’ nasal voice cut through his thoughts. “Holmes, am I boring you?”
The “Yes,” slipped out automatically, before Sherlock could think better of it. He mentally cursed himself.
Mawkings dealt out the expected detention immediately. Sherlock would have to decide if it was worth using up his leverage to get out of this one. Maybe it wasn’t worth it. He might still need Mycroft’s photographs of Mawkings and the school nurse going at it in the Language’s Office for future exploits.
4th September 2011
Sherlock pressed himself back into the sofa cushions until the springs underneath were digging painfully into his shoulders and ribs. He was bored. So bored, yet again.
For a fleeting moment he considered calling John, but John was at work - if one could call it that - and he wouldn’t be pleased. Pulling his robe tight, he dragged himself off the sofa to check his emails. Once upon a time, he’d found the new technology interesting, but the Internet had long ago lost it’s appeal to Sherlock. There was no order to it. Heaps and heaps of information - most of it faulty in one way or another - but no order. Just a chaotic jumble of voices, screaming in the dark, clamoring to be heard. Maybe, one day, he’d write that treatise about the Modern Age as equivalent to Dante’s nine circles of hell.
No new emails. Sherlock sighed and closed the computer. This was the point where, in the past - before John; and he took a moment to marvel at the fact that his life had somehow separated itself into two categories: Before John and After John - he’d have gone into his secret stash. One shot would have been enough to brighten the dullness of life for at least a few hours. But John didn’t approve. In fact, John - displaying a surprising feat of intelligence - had found his drug hiding place only two days after he’d caught Sherlock with a bag of cocaine. He’d been so angry, Sherlock had expected him to walk out and never return.
But John had stayed. He’d paced up and down the living room carpet - along Sherlock’s usual route - and ranted and raved about “idiots” and “averse effects” and “intelligent people who should know better than to kill themselves with an overdose”. Sherlock still wasn’t quite sure why he’d been so angry, it wasn’t like he didn’t know the consequences of a wrongly judged dose. He knew how to be careful, knew just how much his body could take without endangering his one priceless possession. Besides, it wasn’t like he was back on heroine.
He was just about to start searching for John’s gun - which would take him about five minutes to find - when his phone buzzed.
Dinner at mother’s, 8pm. Father is coming. Do not forget.
Sherlock growled at the phone and threw it back onto the coffee table. He’d almost managed to forget about dinner. He hated going to them, hated the stilted conversation, the forced civility, the unspoken secrets. He wasn’t sure if he could make it through another one without starting a killing spree right afterwards. And - even though he was loathe to admit it - he’d been looking forward to spending the evening with John. Somehow he’d become fond of their mundane conversations, the banter that inevitably ensued when John discovered yet another one of Sherlock’s knowledge gaps; the impromptu lectures when Sherlock discovered one of John’s.
Sherlock stared at the phone on the table. Then, making a decision, he grabbed it again and quickly typed out a text.
Plans for tonight. Be home at 6pm at the latest.
He allowed himself a smile as he sent it off. If he had to, he’d use John’s secret little gambling habit to blackmail him into coming along. But he was almost sure it wouldn’t come that far.
John walked in at 5.30pm looking tired. Sherlock - who was already dressed and ready to go - held back any comments in favour of pushing John towards the shower and - once that was done - his bedroom, where Sherlock had already laid out a change of clothes for him.
John raised a sceptical eyebrow, but before he could say anything, Sherlock said, “We’re having dinner at my parents’. Mycroft will be coming too, so everyone is going to be there. Those clothes will do best for the occasion.”
John blinked. “You’re taking me to dinner with your parents?”
“Does it help in some way if you repeat things?” Sherlock picked up the socks and held them out to John.
“You want me to meet your parents. As your... date?” John looked ready to faint or bolt out the door.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re just coming along as a friend.”
“Right. Because that’s exactly what your parents are going to think.”
“I don’t see how that is of any importance.”
John shook his head, rubbed a hand over his face. “Why?”
“Because I need someone there to keep me from going insane.” Surprisingly, it wasn’t half as hard to admit it than he’d thought.
Sherlock shrugged. “You were the most reasonable choice.”
“Okay.” John said, finally taking the socks from Sherlock and putting them on. Sherlock considered this battle won. It was almost disturbing how easy it had been. He’d have to look into how far he could push John before he refused to do something Sherlock asked him. The possibilities were intriguing.
“But before I agree to this, I want to know more about your family. I’m not going in without any prior information,” John said.
No real victory was ever won without losing something as well. It was a fair request. Sherlock sat down on the bed. “Fine. What do you want to know?”
The interesting part of the Holmes’ family history - Sherlock reasoned - started with Sherlock’s grandfather. Considering he’d never told an outsider about his family’s history, he found it surprisingly easy to tell John about them.
“My grandparents, Dysart Holmes and Irena Wagner had three children, Siger, Quirin and a girl called Oda. Siger, the first one and my father, was to be the only one who married and had children. He was recruited by the government straight out of university, although no one - besides maybe Mycroft - knows what exactly he does. My mother, Violet Sherringford, is the sister of one of Siger's university friends. They met first when he was 19 and she was 11, but - and that's how Mummy always tells it - they fell in love immediately. He married her as soon as she turned 18. Mycroft maintains that Siger only married her because she was the only girl he ever met who was smart enough to have a proper conversation with.”
John grinned that knowing grin that made Sherlock want to ask him stupid questions. But he pushed the thought away for later.
“My aunt Oda,” Sherlock smiled, remembering her, “She was always a little strange. When she was a girl, she used to paint her bedroom walls with very accurate renderings of exotic flowers. You can still see them in her old room. She travelled the world a lot, spent many years in the US and joined the feminist movement in the 70s. Later in life, she moved back to London and lived in a flat in Vauxhall for the rest of her life. She was known in the area as ‘Soda Oda’, because she always drank Scotch and Soda when going out - and she went out a lot.”
Sherlock paused for a moment, before continuing. “I... was rather fond of her. She died in 2002, just went to sleep one night and didn't wake up the next morning.”
“I’m sorry,” John said quietly.
Sherlock shook his head. Then he winked at John. “Now, about Mycroft.”
John looked pained. “Do I need to know?”
“Probably, yes. Especially since you’re going to meet them.”
“Mycroft’s wife and children. Mary - who used to be his boss' secretary - isn't the sharpest tool in the box, but she's pretty, good with numbers and a good mother, I guess. She and the kids live on the Holmes' estate, together with Mummy and Granny Holmes, while Mycroft spends most of his time in his flat in London - or rather, in his office.”
John blinked. “Mycroft has a family.”
“Trust me, you’re not the only one to be shocked about this. If you ask me, he only got married because - well, that's what you do when you work for the government.”
John hrphmed. Probably in agreement. The arrival of the taxi disrupted Sherlock’s narrative for a while.
“I probably should mention Irene,” Sherlock said, once they were on their way to the station.
John turned his eyes away from the streets rolling by outside the cab to look at Sherlock.
“My sister. She is the youngest of us.” Sherlock gazed out the window, expression pensive.
John waited patiently for Sherlock to continue.
“When Irene was ten, she stole a valuable painting from the parish church, just because she could. Father sent her to a girl's boarding school, to try and teach her some restraint. That didn't work out so well, Irene only stayed there for three months. In the end, father sent her to Switzerland.She proceeded to run away from that school at age 16. Shortly afterwards she got herself married to a rich Austrian man, called Hans Adler, who died in a car crash about a year and a half later. After inheriting all his money, Irene vanished off the face of the earth, before father could find her and bring her back. I think, Sherringford went to look for her as well, but he couldn’t find her either.”
John held up a hand to stop him. “Wait. Sherringford?”
“My brother. He’s the oldest. Lives somewhere in Europe, if I am not mistaken. He rarely comes home at all. Would you like to hear the rest?”
John waved a hand. “By all means.”
Sherlock took a deep breath. “Since then Irene has surfaced here and there, committing a number or rather outrageous crimes, but so far she has not returned to Britain. No matter how much we’ve tried - and Mycroft is still not over this - none of us have managed to catch up with her since then. Anyway, it's important to remember at Holmes family dinners, not to mention the name Irene...”
And Sherlock realised, just as he got to this point in his story, that John hadn't even known he had a sister before Sherlock told him just now. Which begged the question, why Sherlock found himself compelled to tell him in the first place. It wasn’t like John needed to know about Sherlock’s sister, and the chances of John mentioning the name ‘Irene’ in general conversation were practically zero.
Strangely enough, Sherlock couldn’t work out why he’d felt the need to tell John one of the best guarded secrets of the Holmes family. It bore further scrutiny, lest Sherlock found himself one day divulging something that really shouldn't ever be mentioned. It was alarming really, how John could get under his skin, get Sherlock to trust him and reveal things he’d never considered telling anyone else.
For now, though, they had a train to catch.
Dinner was just as horrible as Sherlock had imagined it would be. But even though, he found himself enjoying it a lot more than he’d done on previous occasions. It started with the look that his father shot him after having been introduced to John. And yes, Sherlock had known that John had been right about being mistaken as a date, but it had been too good an opportunity to pass by. He’d always been the black sheep in his father’s eyes - at least Irene had gone all the way and cut ties with the family completely - and the part of Sherlock that still resented his father for all the disappointed sighs he’d had to endure over the years was gleefully taking note of the badly veiled shock on his father’s face when he came to the - and oh, this was so good - wrong conclusion.
John, Sherlock had to admit, acquitted himself admirably. He fielded all of Siger’s questions without giving much away and refused to be baited into discussing Sherlock’s less favourable habits. He was polite towards Sherlock’s mother and seemed to hit it off with Granny Holmes immediately. He mostly ignored Mycroft and his nondescript wife - who was busy shushing Gero and getting Margaret to eat - but the few times the two men did speak, they were able to do so with polite civility. Sherlock was almost impressed.
They had dinner at the big table in the dining hall - of course - and then moved into the salon for drinks and cigarettes. Mycroft and his father quickly occupied the two overstuffed leather armchairs and started talking politics. Sherlock’s mother invited John onto the sofa between her and Granny, and it didn’t take long for them to become absorbed in conversation. Mycroft’s wife - after having put the children to bed - sat at the other end of the sofa and was slowly drinking herself into oblivion. She rarely spoke to anyone whenever the family came together.
Which left Sherlock standing at the fireplace by himself, observing the scene. Normally, his mother and grandmother would have excused themselves by now and gone off to bed, leaving Sherlock to field Mycroft’s attempts to pull him into a conversation with his father. But today he had, so far, refrained from doing so. It was amazing how just one new player could change the whole dynamic of the game. Looking at the scene in front of him, Sherlock found that, today, they almost appeared normal. He would have to consider the possibility of making John’s attendance a permanent feature.
Not long afterwards, John extracted himself from his conversation and came over to the fireplace. He seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Your mum said that this is the house you grew up in.” John said, leaning close to Sherlock, alcohol making him cross the boundaries of their established personal space. “I want to see your old bedroom.”
Sherlock blinked in surprise.
3rd June 1989
When Sherlock got home - at five, instead the planned four thirty to avoid running into his father coming home from work - he opened the door to a screaming match worthy of the lowest commoners. That meant Irene had probably been caught stealing again. Stupid girl, she really should have learned by now how not to get caught or, at least, get her instincts under control. She wasn’t five anymore, if she wasn’t careful she’d end up in prison.
“... explain to me why you thought it a good idea to steal the Headmistress’ entire butterfly collection at Wycombe...” Father’s voice drifted through the half-open door.
Sherlock slipped quietly past the living room and made it up the stairs without anyone noticing him. He entered his room and checked his traps for any signs of an intruder in his absence. The hair at the bottom of the door was gone. Someone had been in his room during the day. He checked the wardrobe doors. The hairs there were gone too. He opened the doors, smelled the laundry detergent and saw a fresh stack of shirts. The maid, then.
Next he checked his desk. His papers and things seemed to be in the exact same position he’d left them in this morning, but still, something felt off. It took him a moment to spot the re-positioned pencils in the cup. Mycroft had been in as well, then. If it had been any of his parents they wouldn’t have bothered to put everything back the way it was. Sherringford was still at university. And Irene had been at school all day, just as him. Which only left Mycroft.
Mycroft and his sneaking around, meddling in other people’s business. It pissed Sherlock off. The fact that Sherlock did the same to his brother didn’t count. He had to be informed to be prepared. Someone needed to keep Mycroft in line, after all.
4th September 2011
Sherlock led John up the stairs and down the hall to his old bedroom. He was still puzzling over the question of why John would want to see it. It wasn’t like he’d been in there much in the last fifteen years. Whatever did John want to find there? But John had been kind enough to accompany him and he’d not complained once this entire evening, so Sherlock thought he could give him the satisfaction.
Sherlock watched John closely as he ushered him into the room. John looked around the sparsely furnished room - bed, desk, dresser and wardrobe, all plain wood - and raised his eyebrows. “This is how you lived?”
Sherlock shrugged. “I used to have a chemistry set over there,” he gestured towards the dresser in the corner. “And of course there were my clothes and books-”
“Not to mention papers everywhere. And I sometimes still wonder where you always got the dead rats from.” Mycroft’s voice interrupted from the doorway.
Sherlock suppressed the flare of anger at the disturbance. He’d long ago learned to deal with Mycroft’s impertinence. “I sure hope you’re better at finding out where your own dead rats are coming from,” he shot back.
Mycroft grimaced, but refused to raise to the bait. “The others have gone to bed. I am leaving. Long day tomorrow.”
“Good Night, Mycroft,” Sherlock dismissed him. He could hear Mycroft’s chuckle as he made his way back down the stairs.
John was watching him. “I take it this wasn’t the first time he snuck into your room.”
“You’re angry,” John raised his hands, forestalling Sherlock’s argument. “Keep the deflections. I know you well enough to see when you’re upset about something. And I know enough about Mycroft to deduce that he wasn’t the kind of child that respected other people’s privacy.”
Sherlock couldn’t suppress his grin at that. John was learning fast. One day, he might even be able to actually keep up with Sherlock.
“And I am guessing that neither were you,” John said.
Sherlock shrugged. “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
John did a double-take, then started laughing. “Did you just quote the Mountie?”
Sherlock pouted. “He does have a point. And anyway, it’s your fault for making me watch it.”
John sat down on the bed, still smiling, and regarded the room again. “So, lots of papers, eh? About what?”
Sherlock allowed himself a small smile and settled down for more story-telling.
John woke to the sound of a bell. It took him a moment to remember where he was - the Holmes’ estate, in Sherlock’s old bedroom. He must have fallen asleep on the bed, because he was still dressed. Someone moved next to him and a moment later Sherlock murmured something unintelligible and got up.
John blinked sleep out of his eyes. “Was that the doorbell?”
“At 3 am in the morning, yes.” Sherlock’s eyes glittered in the semi-darkness of the bedroom. He flashed John a grin and dashed out of the room.
John followed a little more slowly. By the time he reached the entrance hall, the visitors had already entered and stood with Sherlock. The maid - who had undoubtedly let them in - was gone. John stayed halfway up the stairs, not wanting to intrude upon the scene.
Sherlock was standing near the door with two people. One was a middle-aged man, tall and thin, with curly brown hair that was already greying at the temples and a trimmed beard. Something about him seemed familiar, but John couldn’t quite place it. The other person was a little girl of about three years. She held on tightly to the man’s hand and seemed to be paying close attention to the conversation between Sherlock and the stranger.
It was only a few moments later, that the stranger began to take off his coat, evidently telling the little girl to do the same as she started to unbutton hers as well. At the same time, Sherlock’s voice rang out. “It’s only Sherringford. You can all come out.”
The next few minutes passed a flurry of activities. The other members of the Holmes family appeared, dressed in pyjamas and hurriedly thrown on bathrobes. Greetings were exchanged and sleepy staff ordered around to fetch food and drinks, until they all finally settled in the drawing room.
John stayed on the sidelines, not wanting to disturb what was clearly a surprising and long-awaited family reunion.
Once everyone was settled down - the little girl having fallen asleep on Sherringford’s lap - Sherlock’s oldest brother told his story.
“This is Seraphine,” Sherringford said and gently stroked the sleeping girl’s hair. “She’s Irene’s daughter.”
Siger Holmes’ made a small noise at the mention of Irene’s name, but everyone ignored him.
“Irene came to me, three years ago, with a baby girl in her arms. She refused to tell me who Seraphine’s father is, but I did find out that she now goes under then name of Irene Adler. I have looked further into this and it seems she is a well known opera singer in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe.” Sherringford paused. When no one interrupted him, he continued.
“She asked me to take the baby in and look after her for a while, because she couldn't care for her and there was so much she still had to see and do and she promised she'd come back for Seraphine soon. And she has, on some Christmases and Birthdays, but she never stays for very long.”
“She never showed up here,” Siger said.
“I wonder why,” Sherlock murmured.
Before it could turn into a proper argument, Granny Holmes cleared her voice. “And what brings you to us now?” she asked Sherringford calmly.
Sherringford smiled and John was sure this wasn’t the first time the old matriarch had derailed a family argument in this way.
“I heard about the family re-union and decided it was time Seraphine met you all. Unfortunately, our train got delayed, which is why we arrived at such an uncivilised hour. My apologies for that.”
With the mystery solved, the conversation soon turned to other news about family and friends. John remained in the background, still uncomfortably aware of being a stranger, but unwilling to call any attention to himself by leaving.
Shortly after, the guest bedroom for Sherringford and Seraphine had been sorted out and everyone went back to their beds to try and catch a few more hours of sleep. There was no need to waste a whole night, when Sherringford had reassured them all that he had no intention of leaving soon.
Sherlock stayed in the drawing room, even after everyone had gone back to bed, and so John stayed too.
“Something is wrong,” Sherlock said into the silence, fingers steepled in front of him.
“What makes you think that?” John asked.
Before Sherlock could answer, the door opened and Sherringford entered. “I knew you’d be waiting.”
Sherlock nodded. “Why don’t you tell me the real reason you came?”
“I didn’t want to alarm the parents.”
Sherringford sat down opposite Sherlock. “The last time Irene visited us was only a week ago. She just showed up, out of the blue, and she didn’t want to say anything at first, but eventually told me that something was wrong, that she was in a bad situation and she didn’t know how to get out of it. She didn’t give me any details, but she did mention a name. And that you’re in danger, Sherlock.” he ended gravely.
Sherlock sat forward in his chair, focused completely on his brother. “That name.”
John twitched involuntarily. Sherringford looked at him. “I take it this isn’t the first time you have heard this name.”
“No.” Sherlock said, voice hard.
5th February 1984
The problem with school, Sherlock learned at the age of six, was that you had to deal with people. It wasn’t enough to go there, do the tasks and pretend to not be bored. No, you had to interact if you wanted to or not. And Sherlock did not want to. Which didn’t matter anyway, since it seemed that everyone expected him to answer questions, join clubs, make friends and socialise. It sucked, but he did it anyway. Because it was what he was told to do.
Sherlock’s father maintained that the IQ of a group of people was always lower than that of an individual and now Sherlock learned that he was right. The teachers were stupid, the other students were stupid and Sherlock’s life was miserable.
Until Patricia arrived. Patricia, it turned out, was everything but stupid. Apart from that, she was also everything that Sherlock wasn’t.
She was small and plump and she was mean. From day one, Patricia spent most of her afternoons in detention. Within a few months there wasn’t a school rule she hadn’t broken. She argued with the teachers, she scratched rude messages into the table, she threw food around and got into fights with everyone. She refused to work during lessons, she went to the boy’s toilets instead of the girl’s and she smoked cigarettes she’d stolen from her parents. And she seemed to enjoy every single moment of it. It was fascinating.
Sherlock had never known that a person could rebel against the system like that. Grandma Holmes ran a very strict household and at the times that Sherlock’s father was home, nobody even dared breathe a wrong word. Well, nobody apart from Sherringford, but he had left now and hadn’t been home for a long time.
For as long as Sherlock could remember, he had been told and taught how to behave properly in the presence of adults. He was courteous to women and respectful to men, he knew not to speak when adults were talking and he had perfect table manners. Patricia didn’t seem to care about any sort of social convention at all. She did as she wanted and consequences be damned.
Even though they never spoke and she left the school again after only one term, Patricia changed Sherlock’s life.
5th September 2011
After they had finally gone to bed, two hours later, Sherlock lay awake on top of the duvet, hands clasped over his breast and sorted the new information into a sensible pattern.
Seeing Sherringford again had awoken emotions he’d thought long buried. When Sherringford had left, shortly after Mummy finally got better and Father returned from London, Sherlock had felt abandoned. And even though he'd received the odd letter here and there, there was never an address to write back to, and when he tried to look for his brother, he was always a step of two behind, and could never find out where he was at the moment. Eventually he had given up. If Sherringford had been so eager to be shot of them, then it wasn't as though he was going to care enough to confront him about it.
He wondered now if Irene had felt similarly. She’d always been closest to Sherringford - he’d practically raised her. And after he left, things did take a turn for the worse. And then she ran away... She’d always liked excitement, being able to do whatever she wanted. It made perfect sense for her to have joined up with Moriarty. The allure of being a part of such a vast, powerful organisation must have been impossible to resist. She must have known she could one day rise to a place of respect and power in it. Sherlock could see how it all unfolded. How she did so well that Moriarty came to see her, and she just knew it was really him, the Moriarty. How they started this torrid affair, and she could see it all within her grasp. And then...
Then she was pregnant.
There was no way to prove it was Moriarty’s daughter, not right now, but to Sherlock there was no doubt as to the truth of that fact.
He got up and knocked at the door that divided his room from John’s. There was a moment’s silence, then John’s weary voice told him to come in.
John was sitting in his bed, the bedside lamp on.
Sherlock flopped onto the bed next to John. “Seraphine is Moriarty’s daughter.”
John watched him in silence for a few minutes. Sherlock had to give him credit for not even looking surprised by this revelation.
“I hope very much you are not going to try and use the child against him in whatever scenarios you are concocting in that brain of yours right now.”
“No, but if we can contact Irene-”
“She’s your sister, Sherlock,” John interrupted.
Sherlock sat up and faced John. “She’s working for him.”
“You’d be putting her in danger.”
“Then tell me a better way.” Sherlock stared at John, and for a moment he wished that John would - could - come up with a better plan. A plan that kept them all safe and away from Moriarty.
The thought surprised him. Safety, his own and that of others, didn’t use to be very high on his list of priorities. Until recently, if it got the job done, he wouldn’t think twice about putting lives in danger. Not that he actually wanted people to get hurt, but he he’d been more than willing to take the calculated risk, had done so on numerous occasions and almost always come out on top.
When had he started to worry about other people’s safety? The answer came quickly, unexpected. The pool. That night, seeing John with a bomb strapped to his chest. His own urgent words - Are you alright? - ringing loudly in the empty space.
Things had changed that night. Sherlock had changed and he’d just been too busy to notice it until now.
He glanced back at John who was watching him intently.
“You alright?” John asked quietly, unintentionally echoing Sherlock’s own words from nine months ago.
“Yes,” Sherlock said quickly, getting up. “You should get some sleep.”
7th April 1984
“We can’t do that. We’ll get in trouble,” Sherlock said quietly.
“But I want them,” Irene insisted, hands balled into fists, her expression determined.
“Get them yourself then.”
She grabbed him, eyes big and pleading. “I’m too small, you know that.”
Sherlock pushed her away. “Don’t, Irene. That only works on the servants and the dumb villagers.”
She scooted backwards until she hit the wall of their little hiding place underneath the attic stairs and pouted. “Fine. Don’t help me then.”
Sherlock smiled. “I didn’t say that. Now be quiet, I need to think.”
Irene, showing more patience than could be expected from a four-year-old, waited quietly until he’d worked it all out. When he explained the plan, she giggled happily.
“We’ll do it tonight,” Sherlock finished, “I’ll wake you when they’re all asleep.”
It took a bit of doing, but Sherlock managed to jiggle the lock open with the hairpin he’d borrowed from Mummy’s dresser earlier in the day. Irene stood next to him, biting her fist with excitement, her eyes glittering in the dim light.
“Got it,” Sherlock whispered at last.
She pushed past him into the pantry and aimed straight for the shelf in the back. She stopped in front of it and pointed up. “There,” she whispered, waving Sherlock over.
He followed her and - sure enough - there was their prize. Irene had been right, she was still way to small to reach them. But Sherlock, four years older than her, was just tall enough if he stood on his toes.
He reached up and had just closed his fingers around the box of Cadbury Creme Eggs, when someone turned on the lights.
Both children froze.
“Qu'est-ce qui se passe?” a voice asked from behind them.
Sherlock winced and slowly turned around. Sure enough, Granny Holmes was standing there, in the pantry doorway, looking none too pleased.
“He made me come,” Irene said.
Granny Holmes narrowed her eyes at the girl, “Schwindlerin. You should not lie, Irene.”
Irene sniffed and looked at the floor.
“Out, both of you.”
They marched past their grandmother and sat down at the kitchen table when she told them so.
Once they were all seated, she looked at them sternly. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”
Sherlock decided it was best to stick to the truth. “Irene wanted the chocolates. I thought it was a good challenge.”
“You thought breaking into a locked room and stealing chocolates you knew you were not supposed to have was a ‘good challenge’?”
Sherlock shrugged. Irene stayed silent, biting her lip.
Granny Holmes shook her head. “What is going to become of you, eh?”
There wasn’t anything they could say to that. The silence dragged on.
Eventually, Granny Holmes heaved a sigh and said, “This once, I will let you go. But be warned, there will be no chocolate for either of you for the next two weeks. Now, off to bed, both of you.”
Irene clambered off the chair and was gone within a few seconds. Coward, Sherlock thought, then reminded himself that she was only little.
“Are you going to tell Father?” he asked.
“Es bleibt unter uns,” She promised and gave him a small smile. “No need to bother him, yes? Off you go, now.”
Sherlock smiled at her gratefully, then went to follow his sister.
5th September 2011
Mycroft arrived back at the estate late that night. He’d sent a text message to Sherlock’s mobile shortly after Sherringford’s arrival, thus proving - according to Sherlock - that he either had the house bugged or was paying someone on the staff to spy.
“Most likely both,” he said to John.
Again, they convened in the drawing room after the older generation and the servants had gone to bed. This time, joined by Mycroft. Sherringford quickly recounted his tale from the night before and Sherlock added whatever information he had been able to gather about Moriarty.
Afterwards they looked expectantly at Mycroft. John suppressed a smile at the similarity in the brothers’ expressions.
“Well, this is very interesting.” Mycroft said quietly. “This definitely puts a new perspective on things.”
“Would you care to elaborate?” Sherlock asked pointedly.
Mycroft smiled condescendingly. “Irene has been working for Moriarty for the last seven years, maybe even longer.”
A stunned silence followed. Sherlock’s lips thinned into a hard line and Sherringford - even though he’d obviously never heard of Moriarty before Irene mentioned him - looked troubled. John tried to wrap his head around the idea that a member of the Holmes family, someone as brilliant as Sherlock and Mycroft, had been working for the same man who was responsible for almost blowing him up.
“What kind of work?” Sherlock asked eventually.
Mycroft waved a hand. “Nothing too worrying. Mostly small cons and minor thievery. Her specialty is wealthy people too stupid to know how to keep their assets safe.”
From what Sherlock had said earlier and what John knew about Mycroft’s work, he assumed that ‘small’ and ‘minor’ were relative terms here.
The door to the study opened. Mycroft stopped talking and they all looked at the intruder.
Granny Holmes eyed their little gathering with a shrewd look. “What are you boys up to in the middle of the night?”
“Nothing,” all three Holmes’ brothers said simultaneously. John had never seen a group of adults display more fake innocence.
“Konspirative Knackwürste, alle zusammen,” Granny Homes muttered under her breath. She shook her head at them.
John had no idea what she’d just said, but it sounded German and from the faintly amused look on the three Holmes brother’s faces it had to have been something funny. It was also astonishing to note that they all, apparently, understood their grandmother’s native language.
“Just don’t do anything stupid,” she continued. She took a bottle of Manzanilla out of the cabinet, then turned and left the room again.
“Where is she now?” Sherlock asked when the door had safely closed behind their grandmother.
“She returned to London ten hours ago,” Mycroft said.
Mycroft nodded. “With her.”
“Then it is time for a plan.”
Two hours later, they still didn’t have a plan that would even have a chance at working. Anything Sherlock had come up with, Mycroft had shot down as impossible. Moriarty was just too well protected.
“Why don’t you come up with something, then,” Sherlock snarled at last, glaring at Mycroft.
“We need more information,” Sherringford said calmly. “Without more information on how Moriarty’s organisation works, we won’t have much chance.”
“Irene,” Mycroft muttered.
“No,” Sherringford’s voice was harsh. “She’s in enough danger as it is. You are not going to make her situation worse.”
Mycroft shook his head. “She’s only got herself to blame for it. And she’s the only one with enough access and knowledge to help us. I’m afraid we don’t have much choice in the matter.”
“I don’t like it.” Sherringford shook his head.
“Can you contact her without Moriarty knowing?” Sherlock asked Mycroft.
“Yes. But it won’t be easy. Or cheap.”
18th December 1995
Sherlock’s teeth were chattering. The cold winter air stung his cheeks and bare hands. The coat he was wearing was not suitable for this kind of weather, but it was the only one available to him at the moment. It would have to do. He reached his destination and rang the doorbell.
No one answered.
Sherlock swore under his breath and sat down on the front steps. He could have walked on to try and find a coffee shop or some other warm place, but he didn’t much feel like moving. Besides, he had no money. Which was the whole point for his visit here.
Three hours later, it wasn’t only Sherlock’s teeth that were moving involuntarily. He was cold and hungry and tired and he felt like shit. In fact, he wasn’t quite sure if the shivering was due to the cold or the beginnings of withdrawal. That was the downside of addiction. You needed money to keep going.
A black government car drove up the road and stopped in front of the house. The back door opened and a person emerged. The car drove on. The man walked towards the house, saw Sherlock and stopped a few steps away.
“What do you want?” Mycroft asked.
“What do you think,” Sherlock said, voice rough from the cold.
“I’m done helping you. I believe I already told you so three weeks ago when you decided to leave the clinic.”
“I just need some money-” Sherlock started, but Mycroft stepped right past him.
“No. And don’t bother coming back until you’ve cleaned up. I will not have Mummy see you like that again.” With that, he closed the door behind him.
Sherlock swore under his breath and got up. His joints ached and his fingers and toes were numb. Where to now?
He found Aunt Oda exactly where the friendly neighbour had said she would be - at the bar of the Vauxhall Tavern. Even though he hadn’t seen her for at least ten years, he recognised her immediately. Her mane of dyed-red hair hadn’t changed much.
He slid on the bar stool next to her. It was early enough for the pub to be nearly empty.
“Hey auntie,” Sherlock said.
Oda looked at him and raised a perfect eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
Sherlock put on his best fake smile. “It’s your favourite nephew.”
She looked at him more closely. “You look terrible. You here for money? ‘Cause I don’t have any. At least not for junkies, no matter if they’re related to me or not.”
There went his last option. Maybe he could at least get a drink for his troubles. It would at least take the edge off. It had taken him the better part of two days to find her. In his current situation, it hadn’t been an easy task.
“Got enough money to buy your junkie relation a drink?”
“No. But I’ve got a guest bed and a well-stocked kitchen if you’re hungry.”
Not what he’d been looking for. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Sherlock decided to make one last attempt. “How about a tenner, so I can get myself some new shoes?”
“The way I see it,” she said conversationally, as if she hadn’t heard him, “you have a choice. You can continue down the road you’re currently on, start turning tricks in a week or two and be dead by the end of next year. Or you can take my offer and get your life under control.”
“You know, my brother has already tried that one. It didn’t work.” Sherlock said.
She looked at him shrewdly. “I’m not trying anything. To be quite frank, I couldn’t care less if you live or die. Never liked Siger much, you know. But if I remember correctly, you weren’t completely dim when you were a kid, so I trust you’ll make the right choices. Have a good life.”
Sherlock snorted. “I’m one of the smartest men you’ll ever meet.”
“You’re an idiot.” She finished her drink and stood up. “See you when I see you, Sherlock.”
“How’re you feeling?” Oda asked from the doorway.
“Good. Have some soup. It’ll help.”
Sherlock groaned, but pushed himself up into a sitting position and reached for the bowl of lukewarm chicken soup. Not for the first time he wondered what had made him take up aunt Oda’s offer. Withdrawal sucked.
She sat down next to him. “Have you thought about what you’re going to do with your life once you’re back on your feet?”
Sherlock ignored her. He hadn’t. In fact, he’d done his best not to think about the future. All he could see was a black pit of never-ending boredom.
“I’ve noticed your interest in Criminology.”
Oda pointed to the stack of newspapers on the floor. All of them had been opened to articles about crimes. Working out motives, sequence of events and possible solutions had been his way of distracting himself for the past two weeks. It was better than counting the flowers on the wallpaper (3567).
Sherlock shrugged and wiped his nose on his sleeve.
“Did you ever finish school? Go to university?”
“Degrees in Chemistry, Law, Linguistics and Anthropology. Did some courses in other subjects as well, but all the jobs out there are terribly boring. And I have a criminal record, so I won’t get a job with the police, if that’s what you were thinking about.”
“It wasn’t.” Oda smiled. “I was thinking more along the lines of private investigation.”
Sherlock looked up, surprised. He’d never even considered such an option. “Don’t I need a license for that?”
“No. Anyone can be a PI.”
“Even me,” Sherlock said quietly.
Oda patted his knee affectionately. “You’d be brilliant at it.”
She got up and took the half-empty bowl back into the kitchen. Sherlock lay back onto the sofa and steepled his fingers.
Private Investigation... might be worth thinking about.
12th September 2011
“I think-,” John started.
“I should hope so,” Sherlock cut in.
John rolled his eyes. “Ha, bloody ha.”
Sherlock winked and smiled. “I’m sorry. You were saying?”
Before John could continue, Sherlock’s mobile beeped. He read the text, then put the phone back into his pocket.
John put the newspaper down. “Any news?”
“Mycroft. He wants us to meet him tonight, nine o’clock. Are you free?”
“I’ll make time. You should eat something.” John pointed at the toast he’d put on Sherlock’s plate only a few minutes ago.
“A couple pieces of toast won’t stop your brain from functioning.”
“John.” Sherlock’s tone was flat, all humor gone. John knew it as the warning it was, but couldn’t just leave it be. If they were meeting with Mycroft later today things might get a lot more hectic soon and who knew when they’d next have time for a proper meal.
Sherlock sighed. “Fine. I’ll eat something for lunch.”
John wasn’t completely convinced, but decided to leave it at that.
Mycroft opened the door himself to let them in. When they entered the sparsely furnished living room, Sherringford greeted them from the only armchair. Sherlock and John took the sofa. Mycroft remained standing.
“Did you speak with Irene?” Sherringford asked.
“Not personally. But she was able to give my contact some usable information,” Mycroft said, “It appears that Moriarty is currently trying to get his hands on a certain letter, which, should it fall into the wrong hands, could stir up quite a bit of trouble, politically speaking.”
John tried to imagine what kind of letter someone might have written that could do that in this day and age. Then decided he didn’t really want to know about it. Sometimes, ignorance was bliss.
“The letter in question is currently in the possession of an English diplomat in Switzerland. Moriarty plans to have one of his people infiltrate said diplomat’s house to get his hands on the letter.”
“Irene?” Sherringford asked.
“Is going to be the one doing the infiltrating. It appears that Moriarty places a lot of trust in her abilities to charm the diplomat in question enough to gain access to his house.”
“She’ll manage it,” Sherlock said.
“No doubt.” Mycroft smiled.
“That’s our in?” Sherlock asked. “A letter?”
“It’s the best in we’re going to get. Moriarty will arrive in Switzerland in three days. Irene is already there and will attend a party in Bern tonight where she will make the acquaintance of our diplomat in question-”
“I’m sorry,” John said, “But can’t we just use his name - or any name - instead of constantly calling him ‘a diplomat’?”
Mycroft raised his eyebrows, Sherlock smiled. “Fine. Let’s call him ‘Miller’, shall we?”
“Irene will meet ‘Miller’ tonight and I am sure it won’t take her long until she is invited to his house in Interlaken, where he keeps the letter locked in a safe.”
“Where do we come in?” John asked.
“That is what we need to decide.”
“How close will Moriarty stick to Irene?” Sherlock asked.
“He will keep a safe distance as long as he thinks that everything is going according to plan.”
“Do we know where he’ll stay?”
“Not exactly, no. He is too well protected for even my people to find out.” Mycroft didn’t sound very pleased.
“We need to flush him out,” Sherringford said.
“We could go to Switzerland ourselves. Get him when he meets with Irene to get the letter.” John said.
“He’ll only meet her in a crowded place for the exchange. It’s his MO since the pool incident,” Mycroft glanced at Sherlock, “And the risk of him slipping away again is too high.”
“Then we need to get our hands on the letter. Pretend to be some third party who beat Irene to it and offer it to him for a high sum. That way we can pick the meeting place and inform the Swiss police in advance,“ John copied Mycroft’s earlier glance at Sherlock as he spoke. “If we’re smart about it, we should be able to lay our hands on him, right?”
“That could work. But Moriarty has seen and heard John and me already and I am sure he knows who Mycroft is. That only leaves you,” Sherlock said the last to Sherringford. “You can meet with Irene, get the letter and then arrange the exchange with Moriarty. I will do the actual exchange, of course.”
“Won’t that put Irene in danger?” Sherringford said.
“Not if I do it right.”
“We,” John said quietly. “I’ll come with you.”
Sherlock gave him a long, thoughtful look, but then nodded. “Agreed.”
Mycroft arranged for a private plane to take them to Luzern that same night. Sherringford was not too happy with the plan, but since he couldn’t come up with a better alternative he had eventually agreed to it. Seraphine would spend the time at the Holmes’ estate, where she would be safe.
The next day, Sherringford - equipped with some battered-looking painting utensils - set off to get a look at ‘Miller’s’ house, while Sherlock and John remained in their small hotel to avoid being seen. They didn’t know how many agents Moriarty had in the area and didn’t want to risk being spotted.
When he returned that night, Sherringford carried a bunch of sketches of the house’s surrounding area.
“No Irene,” Sherringford reported.
“I wish she’d hurry up a bit.”
“I wish we wouldn’t have to use her at all.” Sherringford sat down on the edge of the bed.
“She brought this on herself, you know. I doubt that anyone forced her to join Moriarty’s organisation.”
“She’s your sister. You could show at least some concern.”
“The kind of concern you showed us when you took off to god-knows-where?” Sherlock said coldly.
“I couldn’t stay, Sherlock,” Sherringford sounded tired.
“Why? Because you’re gay and Father didn’t approve? Boohoo.”
“You know about that?”
Sherringford shook his head. “Of course you know. Look, I’m sorry I left you the way I did, but at the time it seemed the only option.”
“You could have at least answered some of my letters.” Sherlock knew he sounded petulant, but he couldn’t stop himself.
“I never got any.” Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “That bastard.”
“Well, I am glad that whatever influence he was trying to stop you from having on me, I still turned out queer,” Sherlock said.
“I’m sure he only tried to do what he thought was best.”
“Yes. For him.”
By the end of day three, Sherlock was ready to climb the walls. John tried his best to keep him occupied, but even with the help of some truly horrendous German TV, there was only so much a man could do while being cooped up in a room.
Sherlock was stretched out on the bed, a pillow over his face when he suddenly said, “I think I may go so far as to say that, should we catch Moriarty and bring him to justice, I have not lived in vain.”
John looked up from his email to Harry. “What?”
“I have solved over a thousand cases, John, and yet I have never much cared about whether the culprit was brought to justice. You will be the first to agree that I view my cases mostly as an intellectual challenge. But Moriarty – I want him brought to justice.”
“Because he tried to blow you up?” John tried to joke.
Sherlock turned his head to look directly at John. “Because he tried to blow you up.”
John swallowed. He was saved from having to find an appropriate answer to this sudden revelation – because John knew exactly what Sherlock was saying there – by the phone.
It turned out to be Sherringford, who told them of Irene’s arrival at ‘Miller’s’ house. Their enforced wait would soon end and Sherlock’s focus shifted immediately. The moment was gone.
The plan was to let Irene take the letter, then fake an attack and robbery when she was on her way to meet Moriarty. Mycroft - through some unknown channel - had informed her of the plan to avoid anyone getting hurt.
Mycroft still hadn’t been able to find out where exactly Moriarty was, so they would have to stick to their original plan of drawing Moriarty out of his hiding place.
Irene spent two days at ‘Miller’s’ house. Two more days of waiting for her to get the letter out of the safe. On the second evening, Mycroft called to let them know that Irene had ordered a taxi to take her back to Luzern the next morning.
5th November 1942
Local Child Drowned
Authorities say Quirin Holmes, youngest son of the Holmes’ family, drowned after he was left unsupervised near the family pond.
A report from the local police says Quirin Holmes drowned on Tuesday, 3rd November between 5 and 6pm. The report says the boy, who turned 6 in April, was not properly supervised.
Police Constable Mike Smith says Quirin was playing in the garden when his mother stepped inside. Smith says when she returned a few minutes later, Quirin was face-down in the pond. Attempts at resuscitation failed.
The mother has not been charged.
Holmes Boy Drowns In Family Pond
The drowning of 6-year old Quirin Holmes marks a devastating start to the winter in the county.
The youngster drowned while playing in the garden, near the family pond. Many are asking how it could have happened.
The investigation was still ongoing Wednesday night, but the local police department has said very little about the incident. Authorities say he was found face down in the family’s goldfish pond by his older brother, Siger, who tried to give Quirin CPR, but he didn't respond.
Quirin Holmes, a lively and intelligent young boy was well known in the community. “He was always asking questions, running around, collecting animals and plants and playing with the goldfish in the pond,” says Ruth Henshaw, a neighbour.
The main question is now, why a young boy was being left unsupervised long enough to drown without anyone noticing it. Could this tragic accident have been avoided if someone in the Holmes’ household had bothered to supervise him properly?
27th September 2011
It had all be too easy, John thought as he tried to catch his breath. Of course something had to go wrong eventually. He was running up a steep hill behind Sherlock, whose coat tails he could see flapping around a bend in the path ahead of him. Somewhere above them, James Moriarty was on the run.
Everything had been going according to plan, until the actual meet. The Swiss police had been informed and was hidden at strategic points surrounding the arranged meeting place. Unfortunately Moriarty had smelled a rat - or, more likely, had a very well placed informant - and had managed to slip through their fingers. The only positive thing about it all was that he’d been forced to flee on foot.
Sherlock had taken up his trail and he and John had been chasing him through the wooded countryside for the best part of two hours. They’d gone past several small villages - where Sherlock had muttered quick thanks to the cautious Swiss for always locking their car doors - and were going up a steep hill path. According to the last sign, they would reach the Reichenbach Fälle in about 800 meters.
John stopped to try and catch his breath, taking a moment to look at his surroundings. Up ahead, the path left the wooded area and was leading along a cliff with a steep wall on one side, a sheer drop on the other. From the distance, John saw the twinkle of water at the bottom of the cliff. John couldn’t see where the path led, because it curved around the shoulder of a hill, but from the sound of falling water and the sign he’d seen earlier, he guessed there had to be a waterfall nearby.
Sherlock was up ahead and John saw him run around the bend and out of sight. He took a deep breath and went after him. He’d almost reached the bend when he heard a scream, loud enough to carry over the roaring of the water.
Swearing to himself John picked up his speed.
The path came to an abrupt end near the edge of a waterfall and as far as John could see, there was no way anyone could have gone on in that direction. By rights, he should have caught up with both Sherlock and Moriarty here. But there was no one in sight.
John stopped and looked around, forcing himself to stay calm. He shouted Sherlock’s name, but his only answer was his own voice reverberating in an echo from the cliffs around him.
Taking a deep breath to keep the panic at bay, John started to inspect the path, slowly working his way towards its end. The air was moist from the spray of the fall and the ground was wet enough to allow clear impressions. John was no tracker, but even he was able to distinguish two sets of footprints leading towards the fall. There were no returning prints.
At the end of the path, the ground was disturbed and the ferns that fringed the edges were torn up and bedraggled. John crouched down and peered over the edge. A few meters down a scraggly bush of some sort was growing in the rock. It’s thin branches were broken as if something heavy had fallen against it.
A piece of dark blue fabric had been caught in one of the broken ends. John pressed his lips together. There was no doubt that it was Sherlock’s scarf, caught halfway down the side of the cliff.
John shouted Sherlock’s name again, hoping against all hope to hear an answering voice. But there was nothing. He swallowed hard and stood up again. He took out his cellphone and walked back along the path until the sound of the waterfall was quiet enough to allow him to make a phone call. The roaring in John’s head, however, remained loud.
He made the phone call and reported Moriarty’s and Sherlock’s death, leaving it to Mycroft to sort out whatever needed to be sorted. When he was finished, he put the phone away and sat down on a rock.
John suddenly felt very, very tired.
The next few days went past John in a blur.
Mycroft had his people examine the area and they came to the same conclusion as John. He arranged for a plane to take John, Sherringford and Irene back to London. Once landed, a black car took John to their flat.
He didn’t want it to be his flat.
Mrs Hudson hugged him long and hard when he told her, then said resolutely that he better not mention moving out ever again. She made some tea and spent the night with him in the living room. John didn’t say much - there was nothing left for him to say - but he was glad for the company.
Mycroft phoned the next day to inform him that there would be a small memorial service for Sherlock the next Sunday at the family church. Granny Holmes had insisted on it. John was invited.
The service was tasteful and thankfully short. John heard Irene say that she and Seraphine would go back to the continent with Sherringford as soon as possible and stay with him for a while. Everyone seemed to be strangely unaffected by the loss of their family member, but John supposed that was just their way of dealing with it.
John made his excuses as soon as possible. He had an early shift the next day.
He didn’t want to see the Holmes family ever again.
6th December 1935
Dysart Holmes pulled the front of his jacket down to straighten it, then stroked a hand over his slicked-back hair. He took a deep breath and pushed open the doors to Aux Nuit Bleues.
He sent a quick prayer to any gods that might be listening - if they existed - that Clifford had been right.
She’s dead. Because of you, she’s dead. Herr Wagner’s words rang in his mind.
He’d later found out that the police believed Irena had jumped off the Weissensee cliffs after her secret lover (Dysart had snorted in disgust at the phrasing) had left her without explanation. Her body had not been discovered.
It had been three months, since he’d returned to Weissensee to find that the woman he loved was believed dead. Dysart had been devastated. Then he’d been angry. Irena was not the type to kill herself, just because he’d had to leave unexpectedly. She’d known about his work. Something didn’t add up.
Which was why he was here now, in Paris, about to enter the Aux Nuit Bleues Cabaret. Clifford had been adamant that it was Irena, who was doing the main performance. Apparently, she now went under the name ‘Irene Moureau’.
Dysart found a place near the stage, ordered a drink and waited.
It had taken a rather ridiculous amount of money - damn Frenchmen - but Dysart had managed to get backstage. He knocked on Irene Moureau’s dressing room door. As the main act, she didn’t have to share with the chorus girls.
She’d been brilliant, of course. He’d told her when he first met her a year ago that she was a born singer.
“Entrez,” someone called from inside.
Dysart entered. “Irena?”
She was sat in front of her dresser table and turned at his question.
“Dysart,” she beamed, “I knew you’d find me!”
She sprang up and flew into his arms. “I am so sorry, Liebster! But I just had to get away. It was becoming unbearable. Father just wouldn’t let me be. You are not mad at me, are you?”
Dysart kissed her gently. “It’s all fine, now. I found you.”
“Oui,” she laughed. “Now you’ll ask me to marry you, yes?”
He laughed as well. “But of course.”